Part Five of the series Five Things Today's Digital Generation Cannot do (and what you can do to help) discusses how searchers have to invent their own evaluation standards because schools are not teaching them.
Every school administrator wants to maintain a safe distance between objectionable material and impressionable students. Blocking students from potential contact with sexual predators and other mal-information is absolutely well-intended. However, blocking sites does not help students think critically about the quality of the information they retrieve or prepare them for the real world of information they encounter outside of school.
Teachers may contribute to the problem by introducing filters of their own into learning experiences. In practice, it works like this: a teacher wants her class to access digital information, so she conducts a search ahead of time and selects web pages she finds credible and appropriate. Students then engage in a Web quest using pages or sites that have approved content. Aside from the intended benefits of the exercise, the students have missed an opportunity to learn skills in searching and evaluating that they need in the 21st century.
Our research suggests that students who search for digital information are better able to judge its credibility than students who are handed information. In a pilot study, over 100 middle school students were given a question and three relevant web pages for answering it. Two of these pages were credible. The success rate for answering the question using relevant information was 73% when the task involved reading the three pre-selected pages.
I am a life long educator. I won a Milken National Educator Award in 1995. The Milken Family Foundation introduced me to online education. After 25 years of classroom teaching I retired from k-12 education to pursue online teaching and instructional design full time. I have 39 years of teaching experience.