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EdTech TrendsEdTech Trends

InterActive: Teaching students to be critical of the internet

OpinionSecondary Education
By Heather McLean | 21 July 2017
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Create DateJuly 21, 2017
Last UpdatedJuly 17, 2017

By Jeremy Shulman, learning resources manager at InterActive.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, education has never truly been synonymous with evolution. As educators, we are often stuck in our methods and don’t typically stray into new territory without significant care.

However, where education has progressed tremendously and where it has the most potential for continued growth is in its application of technology. Distance learning and online tutorial training are common in education today, while students spend their downtime reading Facebook-sponsored articles and watching countless instructional videos on a variety of topics. Never has information been more accessible to the masses.

And this is part of the problem. While it is important not to discourage our students from seeking out information, educators now have a new responsibility; to teach students how to be critical of the information they find.

 Information overload

NYU new media professor Clay Shirkey gave a keynote address at the Web 2.0 Expo in 2008. Though it was some time ago, Shirkey understood the issue at hand. In his speech, he stated: “Thinking about information overload isn't accurately describing the problem; thinking about filter failure is.” It is precisely this failure to filter that puts students in the precarious position of attempting to pass off misinformation as fact and the inexperienced as field experts.

So, while technological advances and the internet have put a bevy of information quite literally at our fingertips, we still struggle, at large, to be discriminating in our acceptance of that information. And our students, and their work, are suffering because of it.

When you grow up within a system, within a culture of doing things a particular way, the act of questioning ‘why’ is often an afterthought. Young people who don’t have experience of a world pre-internet have little reason to wonder if what the internet offers them is credible. It seems to be widely accepted that any site that looks polished and provides content is valuable.

But the same reason educators advise against the use of Wikipedia and other user-modified information sites is the same reason students value them; they have been reviewed and edited by thousands, and are easily accessed.

Informed masses

The new generation seems to be moving away from the schooled scholar and toward the informed masses. While this is not altogether troubling, it is causing a paradigm shift in the way we can and should view information on the internet.

So, while we should be a bit more accepting of sources of information as educators, the fact remains that students must be less accepting. Teaching them how to evaluate, critique, and question the information they find is now of paramount concern.

We must arm them with the tools to determine source credibility. We must model a discerning eye when choosing the information we share. We must leverage resources available on the internet to enhance student learning and supplement the information we already provide them.

In the information age, it is now more important than ever that students know which information to ignore and reject, and how to go about that process.

Since 2008, InterActive has helped thousands of people fulfil their academic and professional ambitions through online education. 


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