Greetings, readers! As January continues onward, we’re continuing our series of learning tools that pair well with Inspiration products. The post below comes from Rob James, a teacher in the United Kingdom.
How Reliable is the Internet as a Learning Resource?
by Rob James
Most people now rely on the Internet as a learning resource, whether that means checking facts on Wikipedia or using extensive Google searches. However, while there is a huge potential for finding information online, as a learning resource the Internet can have its problems. When encouraging students on how to best use the Internet for their research, it’s important to emphasise critical thinking, and being able to evaluate different sources. At the same time, it’s worth considering the benefits of apps that can help you to organise and compare different sources as part of projects and revision.
It’s crucial to never take anything at face value when researching online; if you’re trying to help students be more critical with their online activities, try to point out that Wikipedia is a useful starting point but not the definitive answer on subjects. Find examples of where Wikipedia has made mistakes in the past and demonstrate the benefits of checking bibliographies as well as tracking sources from pages, while also cross referencing information through Google searches.
Moreover, it’s important to make a list of reputable newspapers and sites that can be used by students; this might include the BBC website, The New York Times, or blogs on The Huffington Post and Slate. Emphasise the importance of using professionally written content from journalists and bloggers, while still being wary to double check information. At the same time, point out where you may be likely to receive contradictory information on message boards or personal blogs.
In the same way, it’s worth urging students to make use of Google Book Search and databases of newspapers and journals, as this can allow them to read published and checked work. This information can also be used as the basis for finding books in the library, and can generally be trusted as more reliable than some Internet searches.
You can also, however, make use of apps that allow students to package and organise their research in different ways. For the iPad, it’s worth looking at apps such as Inspiration Maps ‘Lite’; this app uses brainstorming maps and diagrams to both break down information and mix up different sources to compare their reliability. Particularly recommended for students, this app can be colour coded and combined with hyperlinks to make it easier for students to visualise all of the different resources that they may have found online.
Uses for Inspiration Maps might include comparing different sources for a history project and being able to make up a timeline of different events. For an essay on film and book adaptations, students can draw up tables of different examples from both, and can use video clips and images to help make comparisons. Other apps that work well, in this respect, for allowing students to compare their sources, include Evernote and Zotero; Evernote allows you to combine multiple sources into one program as a series of notes, while Zotero can be used to create a running bibliography of everything you’ve read online that might be useful for a project.
With a combination of discerning minds and helpful tools, students can produce high quality work—and enjoy the research process more as well.
Rob James is a secondary school teacher in the UK. He found his job by looking through GSL Education’s teacher jobs in London. Over the years he has had many different roles. Rob likes to blog about the different aspects of inspiring young minds.
Anon. ‘Is the Internet Reliable for Research? How to Determine Trustworthiness Online.’ HugPages. 29 Oct 2010. http://findyoursearch.hubpages.com/hub/Is-the-Internet-Reliable-for-Research-How-to-Determine-Trustworthiness-Online. Last Accessed: 22 Dec 2012.
Kavanagh, Sarah and Ojalvo, Holly Epstein. ‘Just Google It? Developing Internet Search Skills.’ The New York Times. 22 Feb 2010. http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/just-google-it-developing-internet-search-skills/. Last Accessed: 22 Dec 2012.
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