This week and next week I will be working with our sixth grade students, preparing them for their research projects by teaching them how to take notes, evaluate websites and cite sources. All of this comes, of course, after I have worked with them on several occasions with other teachers. Every time I work with students I tell them that our State Library's DISCUS databases and digital offerings are the best sources for them to use while looking for information online.
While I was working with another class I looked across the library to see what the class in the computer lab was doing. I noticed that the students in the lab were visiting the sites: wiki answers, and yahoo answers to get the answers to their research questions. I listened closely to the teacher as the next class began to see if she recommended certain sites to the students. I was relieved to hear her tell the class that they should try DISCUS, but disappointed when I saw them go right to wiki and yahoo answers. It reminded me of the time when my three-year-old niece asked me for some money. I gave her a dollar and she ripped it up saying, "This isn't money! This paper! I want real money!" I handed her a handful of nickles and she was happy as a clam.
Today, this same group of students was sitting in front of me as I presented a note taking lesson to them. I asked them, "Why? Why, after I have explained to you that DISCUS has THE BEST online resources, do you choose to visit sites such as wiki and yahoo answers?" Their answer was, "Because it is easier. The answer just comes right up. I don't have to read and scroll as much to get the answer." I am not surprised. If all they need is a short answer to a question like, "How far is the sun from the earth?" of course they will choose the path of least resistance.
Next week's lesson, where I will give explicit examples of misinformation on wiki and yahoo answers and examples of bogus sites will hopefully give them some incentives to use better online resources. But should I be concerned about their use of these sites for simple assignments? Is it truly a problem for students to choose sites like wiki answers and yahoo answers over better resources if they get the right answers in the end? Am I wasting my time? Of, course it might be wise to build site quality requirements into assignments as well. Should I try that route? Maybe I will ask for wiki and yahoo answers to be blocked. Suggestions or comments? Guidance? I'd love to hear from you.