Saturday, August 3, 2013

Module 3

Students are often challenged when evaluating the credibility and relevance of online information. Have you ever been fooled by information you read online?

Before social media websites were popular, I got a number of alarming emails from friends who had forwarded them from their friends.  Is canola oil lethal?  Is there a missing girl in Texas?  When I joined Facebook, I figured out why the alarming emails had stopped.  They were in a new medium where they could become viral more quickly than ever. When I reposted something that surprised me, a friend said, "Check Snopes."  I did, and a new world was opened to me! I live by it on Facebook - or I completely ignore the hype.

I came from the public library system.  There we had three computers with internet access and we had dial-up at home.  Twelve years ago, I started working at Abbott Tech, in the CT Technical HS system. By the time we got enough computers at for reasonable class instruction, I had read some sources the previous librarian had purchased on internet instruction, mostly because I didn't know anything!  A lesson involved looking up a site about Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) and evaluating it as a source. The computer science professor who constructed the site, Tom Way, did a good job of making it fact-filled, though the information is explained in the same breathlessly alarming way the Facebook untruths are told.  I learned a lot, both about the substance and about evaluating websites.

For those of you unfamiliar with the site, DHMO is a main component of acid rain, you can die if you inhale it, and it contributes to soil erosion.  The website is  Those of you with a science background may have already figured out the other name for DHMO is H2O or water.  

Now that I have had tons of practice navigating the internet for both work and for my own reasons, I scan site descriptions without thinking about it, I quickly read the first page of a site, I cross reference sites, I check authors... quickly and efficiently.  This ORMS module opened my eyes to the fact that these are not innate skills for everyone who can read text.  There is a learning curve, and student need to be taught, step by step, the way to efficiently navigate the wild west of the web.

Someone posted a TED talk about how web browsers customize your searches according to your internet habits.  I always wondered why students were finding different information in their web searches than I was.  Students are always clicking in and out of sneaker ads, the latest music on YouTube, and unblocked social network sites like Tumblr. It depends on who is sitting at that computer.  The search engine customizing software must get a real workout!

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