Thursday, January 31, 2013

Critical Evaluation of Internet Sources

Information is all around us!  For the past few weeks in enrichment/library the fourth graders have been focusing on developing an awareness of the information that they consume.  From paper to digital media we have been working to be more aware information consumers.

( In addition to consumers, we have also taken on the role of creators of media. You can find blog posts about these creative activities at:,,,

This week we have turned our critical thinking skills to the Internet.  We have been discussing the best way to analyze Internet sources.  Through the use of several 'hoax' websites and an excellent website rating scale from Common Sense Media ( we have been analyzing potential sources of research information.  When we began this discussion we found that many students had not considered the possibility that someone may post something on the Internet that was false.  We had particularly lively discussion when I proposed that I create a website about my world travels to places I have never been. Several students felt that there must be someone regulating information and were surprised to hear that anyone can post anything!  Our discussion continued as we worked together to rate a fairly reputable website.  Students began to see the value of certain information in helping them to determine whether sources were worth using (or even believing!)  We looked at the author and the content with a critical lens.  Students also realized the value of our school website as a source of 'vetted' information. 

Individuals went on to rate several recommended websites, and lively discussions about whether or not there were Rennets or Tree Octopuses or Jackalopes ensued.  Students reasoned, they argued, they sought proof to back up their statements AND they learned the value of consuming the Internet with a critical eye!  As teachers, we did not direct their opinion, instead we asked open ended questions "Why" "Are You Sure?" and "Prove It!"  Although some of the hoax websites were extreme examples of false information, our hope is that students will use these developing analytical skills and apply it to all of their Internet use. We are still thinking about how we could add to our rating web sheet to include advertisements and web author purpose, and we have not decided how many errors a website can have before we consider the whole site invalid--but we are now an awesome group of thinking consumers of media!!

If you are interested in seeing if you can determine the validity of some interesting sites, or if you want to look at some of these sites with students, check out:

Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus
The Jackalope Conspiracy (
Save the Rennets ( )

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