Another 6th grade teacher, Scott Ritter, and I were talking the other day about how researching using the internet demands a scholarly, critical approach. We often talk about how you can't rely on the internet for information, but the fact of the matter is, you can't expect TV and Newspaper media to be wholly unbiased either. That said, people approach (and if they don't, they should) web resources with a healthy bit of skepticism. You have to evaluate the merit of the websites you go to, check resources, and triangulate with more resources. But most don't treat their LA Times with the same degree of skepticism, and that is a mistake.
Another criticism of web based material is that it is often written by independent, non-affiliated writers. Obviously that could be bad, but it also means that because anyone can publish freely, you can be sure that there are more writers online that aren't "bought" by their investors. I rather like the fact that I can find independent journalists that do not suffer from the conflict of interest that other journalists often do. Scott also brought up that many web-based journalists specialize in one area; he's seen them avidly covering sporting events. Their blog entries are based on their first-hand observations not just what an "eyewitness" (who chooses to remain anonymous) said.
I think of internet media as a cluster of data; the truth lay somewhere in the middle of that cluster. By sampling more points, your chance of finding that middle goes up. By reading news or getting information from only one source (like a textbook), you have a greater possibility of getting information that is on the fringe.
My wife bought a book recently called: History Lessons. It shows what other countries' textbooks have to say about history. The difference between accounts is astounding. People don't think to question the validity of their history text, but... there it is.
Anyhow, I found this article on Edutopia on much the same thing today. It goes further and talks about how you can set up research tasks for your students to collect information from the web in a systematically-approached, critically-judged way. I can't think of a better skill for our future participants of democracy to have.
Posted by David Lindsay |