Sunday, May 13, 2018

Vetting Sources

A couple months ago, my Curriculum Coordinator mentioned an article in the March 19th edition of the weekly The Marshall Memo, which provides a weekly "roundup" of information related to k-12 education. The article called "Why Students Should Not Use a Checklist to Assess Websites" discusses a Stanford University Study of the CRAAP test created and promoted by California State University at Chico.

The problem, say the [Stanford] authors, is that checklists don’t equip people to deal with “an Internet populated by websites that cunningly obscure their true backers: corporate-funded sites posing as grassroots initiatives (a practice commonly known as astroturfing); supposedly nonpartisan think tanks created by lobbying firms, and extremist groups mimicking established professional organizations. By focusing on features of websites that are easy to manipulate, checklists are not just ineffective but misleading. The Internet teems with individuals and organizations cloaking their true intentions. At their worst, checklists provide cover to such sites” (Marshall Memo, March 19, 2018)

I told my Curriculum Coordinator, "I agree and disagree with the article. It's not just about handing students a checklist. It's about using the checklist as a scaffold, explaining what each part of the checklist means, and having students justify their decisions."  I am providing you the checklist below.  It serves as a useful tool for my freshman and sophomores to think about what goes into a good web site. I wholeheartedly promote the benefits of using a checklist to discuss the validity and authority of information.

When teaching my freshmen to evaluate sites, I talk about Kim Jong Un and the Chinese government being fooled by an article in the Onion. I also talk about my student years ago who was trying to determine if a hatched Luna moth ate straight for a week and then died, or didn't eat at all for a week  and then died. The student had found two sites with .edu extensions with conflicting information. It turned out one was written by a lepidopterist and the other was written by a second grade class. The checklist reminds my students to consider individual things such as web extensions and web site intent, but forces them to then consider these individual elements as part of a larger whole. In the end, they must use critical thinking skills to determine the validity of a web site.

There is a lot that goes into evaluating web sites. A checklist, which a teacher/librarian can use to support students and model good searching habits, is a good starting point.

“Why We Need a New Approach to Teaching Digital Literacy” by Joel Breakstone, Sarah McGrew, Mark Smith, Teresa Ortega, and Sam Wineburg in Phi Delta Kappan, March 2018 (Vol. 99, #6, p. 27-31), Cited in The Marshall Memo.

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