Reflecting on This Week's Lesson

I worked with my sixth graders this week. The topic at hand was evaluating online information sources, basic search tips and Google tips. We used RAD CAB , You Tube Videos and had some hands on practice since the lesson was in the library's computer lab. I really enjoy this lesson. The students are always impressed with the "secret powers" of Google like the calculator, translator, dictionary and time. They love looking at questionable websites such as:

I have recently griped on this blog about my students overuse of Yahoo Answers for quick research. I know these sites offer quick and easy answers and they may be more good than bad. I was able to find a convincing example as to why Yahoo Answers and sites similar to it should be used very cautiously.

I remember years ago, sitting in front of Alan November as he spoke about validating online information and told a story about a student doing online research for a report on the holocaust. The student found holocaust revisionist information that was posted by a  math professor on a university website under the professor's "personal" server space. Since information was posted under the university's address, the information seemed  trustworthy and university endorsed.  The tilde ~ symbol in the address would have helped give away the personal directory to a savvy user. The unsuspecting student ended up using information suppporting the views of holocaust revisionists in his paper. The professor's site was taken down from the university's server long ago. However, this same paper is still online on The Committee for Open Debate of the Holocaust's website. I searched for the professor and used the Google tool "link to:" to find the same article that was previously located on the university page.

 A response on Yahoo Answers links to it now and if my students need evidence as to why this is not the best site to use for research, there it is. The response and the answers are five years old. The link is still there. I wonder why nobody has reported it? The person who asked the question chose another response as the best answer and Leon 007's answer is listed as the last one. (Does that mean his was the first answer?) This makes the whole thing seem innocuous, but I think it is still a good example. I used the link to show students that they can click at the end of the url and backspace until they get to the main page to see where the page they are using is located. The CODOH website has remade their image recently. It used to be much more confrontational. It now has a more friendly look.

I think the lesson was successful. Now my sixth grade students have a better picture of the vast spectrum of information available online: unbiased facts and information, extremist information, propaganda,  just plain silly fun and more! All the more reason to be a critical consumer when shopping for good information.