Having the ability to recognize good and bad sources of information is absolutely essential to thriving in our society. We are constantly being bombarded with claims, statistics, and opinions left and right at nearly every moment of our lives. It seems you can't even walk 10 feet without someone trying to sell you something or convince you of their ideas. It's exhausting but it’s the way our world works and to deal with it people need to be equipped with the knowledge and skill set to decipher the true meaning behind all this information. Enter our friend, digital information literacy, with him we can give ourselves the ability to choose what information we accept as credible and what information is just poppy cock.
Finding Reputable SourcesEdit
As a teacher, I need to get my students ready for more than just the Science test at the end of the year. I need to provide them with the analytical skills of a scientist that are very helpful when deciphering the mass amounts of information we’re exposed to. You need to be able to look at an advertisement or website through a critical lens to see what they’re actually saying. There’s a lot of crazy people and companies out there and it’s just becoming easier and easier for them to get their ideas out to the masses through the Internet. But thankfully for all the bad stuff out there, there’s a lot of great, informative, and unbiased websites. The trick is to know where to look and how to get there.
Wikipedia is a great launching point for getting information. It can give you the general idea or summary of a topic to give you an idea of what you’re researching. However, being a wiki, anyone can access it to change the information on the page. That leaves it open to a lot of people with bad information and strong opinions that can skew what you read in Wikipedia so it should always be taken with a grain of salt. However there are always some great outside sources of information on the wiki near the bottom in the “References” section. These are the references that people have used to edit the information on the topic and they are often really great sources.
See my wiki on wikis for more info: http://laurenthesciencegal.wikia.com/wiki/Wikis
So after you’ve found some sources how are you supposed to decide if they should be trusted or not? Well first impressions are always a good place to start. Just looking at the aesthetics of the site can tell you a lot about the quality of information. If the website looks professionally done and is very organized it’s usually a good sign that the creator/s care enough to put time and effort into the looks of their website and are probably professionals on some level. On the other hand if the site looks unorganized and quickly thrown together it’s a sign that the creator/s don’t have the resources or the desire to create a professional façade. These types of websites should be avoided when doing research. The next thing to look for is the source of the information; who or what organization wrote the article or webpage. If you know it’s a reputable source or if the person is well qualified to speak on the topic then your set. There are some websites and authors to look out for though. If you see a name or organization you don’t recognize you should do some research of your own to find out if they are to be trusted in providing information that you can confidently use.
I also want my students to be able to look towards other sources of information like real books (gasp!). I think the library is a great source for a wealth of information on a multitude of topics. I personally prefer to use books for all my research papers because I can be sure that the information is reputable. I also just find it easier to have a tangible object that I can sift through to find what I need. I will definitely require that my students use books as research materials so they can have the experience of using many sources of information and make their own judgment of what works best for them.