As teachers, we have so much to tell our students and share with them. With content standards looming and the constraints of time peeking in, it’s almost inevitable that teachers would focus on the content and covering as much material as they can. The same goes for information. Now more than ever, with the advent of social media and rapid developments in technology, information is coming to the users instead of being sought out by users. What one knows only becomes secondary now as finding out is just as easy as a few clicks. Academic sources are no longer the only sources of information as everyday a huge wealth of content is being produced and published by people everyday in knowledge bases, review sites, content blogs, news sites. Some of this content is valuable and legitimate, but some are not. For a good many people, their main source of information is Facebook as it allows them to connect not only with their friends, but also with groups and organizations that would supply them with information from the weather, the traffic situation, an update on the krazy life of the Kardashians, or Taylor Swift’s latest beau. We’re at an age of information explosion or information abundance that it is no longer a problem of how to get information, but determining information that is credible, accurate and veritable. We seldom realise that more often than not, all these come to us with filters, and what gets filtered is based on who is relaying the information and this person’s beliefs, philosophies and affiliations (UC Berkeley, 2012). Just as it is in the non-digital world, a person’s name, authority and image would lend credibility to the information being presented (Schrock, 2002). But as receivers of information, we don’t have a say on what gets in, and most importantly, we don’t know what gets edited out. Given this, it becomes very clear that we need to look beyond the headlines and search words that are merely designed to catch viewership and increase visibility; we need to evaluate the information and the arguments along with the source to identify validity (Schrock, 2002). In this age that we live in, library literacy or the knowledge of the Dewey Digital System and bibliographic literacy have been phased out and replaced by information literacy. This will enable our students to be successful, effective and judicious information seekers with critical inquiry skills to process, field and evaluate the usefulness of information. Simply put, students need to develop feelers and keep it up to detect crap in the internet.
For most students, their go-to source in finding out information is Youtube and social networking sites. Admittedly, it is not the traditional source of information, nor is it a trusted leader in churning out valuable and credible information, but these sites have become a portal to other ‘more complex’ sources. Relying on social media to gather information makes students more susceptible to being ‘misinformed’ or ‘misdirected’. The very nature of social media, to connect people and allow quick uploads and sharing of information means there is very little skill to be able to share information. Anyone with a cellphone and too much time in their hands could very easily post anything on Facebook, and it takes a few seconds for this to go viral. This has been made clearer in the recently concluded elections as memes, hoax news, ‘doctored’ or Photoshopped images were liked and shared at an alarming rate. The rate that information was being created was at an all-time mindblowing rate that even journalists may very well have been prey to sharing erroneous “news”. Second, the personal nature of Facebook and the art of posting in itself also means that it is open to bias, and the social nature means that scams, jokes, and the occurrence of fake posts is much more likely than it is in any other site.
So how does a teacher ensure information literacy in a generation that’s beholden to Facebook? Surely students will not go to great lengths doing elaborate sleuthing strategies to identify the credibility of a particular piece of information. According to my readings, the quickest way to go about it is to find out about:
Source – Find out who wrote it and his qualifications. Establish his credentials and affiliations and objectives.
Origin – Is this a primary source or a secondary source? naturally the most credible will be the primary since the secondary would already have been twisted and subjected to interpretations much like in the game of Chinese Whispers.
Date – Find out when it was created and updated. An old source or research may not necessarily hold true anymore at a later date.
While students are not necessarily dealing with breaking news that holds significance to a majority of people, it is still prudent that they apply critical thinking and information literacy to anything they might cull from social media.. This makes them informed individuals with critical awareness and not just gongs and chinwaggers. It only teaches them to have an open mind about the world around them and not be one-dimensional individuals. This is after all what it means to be a 21st century citizen of the world.
Home – Evaluating resources – Library Guides at UC Berkeley. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://guides.lib.berkeley.edu/evaluating-resources
Brookdale Community College. (2016). Five criteria for evaluation web pages. Retrieved from http://ux.brookdalecc.edu/library/5criteria.pdf
Schhrock, K. (2002). The ABC’s of Website Evaluation. Retrieved from http://www.schrockguide.net/uploads/3/9/2/2/392267/weval_02.pdf
Image Retrived from http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/427561-on-the-internet-nobody-knows-youre-a-dog