Evaluating information online
Criteria to consider:
- Is the information easy for us to read? Well organised with navigation guide, subheadings etc.?
- Does it use photos, videos etc. effectively?
- Does it help answer our questions?
- Is it reliable?
Reading the web
1. A website that has information about Australia that is clear, age appropriate (Stage 3) and a good model for a lesson about note taking and reading online.
Whilst not entirely visually appealing (and there are a lot of ads on the site), there is a lot of good, simple information that can be used by students to develop their own notes without copying entire blocks of text. There is not too much information on the page. This means that students only need to read a small chunk of information at a time and could skip straight to the questions or purpose attached with the activity (e.g. fauna / tourist activities). The website actually answers all of the questions we are looking for (population, main cities, fauna, tourist activities).
2. A short video about Australia that is age appropriate (Stage 3), which could also be used to model note taking using the visual and aural aspects.
I had real difficulty finding a video as I was not satisfied that videos hit all of the above criteria. In particular, I was conscious of not selecting a video that was inappropriate for Stage 3, for example by dumbing things down with a cartoon or song.
While not totally satisfied with this video, I have chosen the below as I think it is stage appropriate, touches on population and is a good prompt to explore further information about Australian culture to complement other research. While it is aurally very simple, I think it could be used to model note taking from the visual images presented. Once watching through the video could be paused on each point for further discussion.
3. A website that is poorly written (too long or complex) or has too little information or that only sells a product etc. about Australia to use as a contrast to the other sites in order to develop student’s analytical and critical skills.
I have selected this website as a contrast for a few reasons. Firstly, I think it is too long for a Stage 3 classroom and has a combination of informal and formal language which may be confusing and encourage bad behaviours. There is a lot of information on the page to wade through, making note taking and distilling this information a challenge. Much of the information is irrelevant also – with the fact that Russell Crowe is (kind of) Australian coming in at 26 – surely we have more important facts about Australia! In addition, the site is very cluttered with a lot of advertising down each side and on banners. I like the idea of asking students what they think about the site so they build their own analytical and critical skills.
Developing photography skills
Rule of thirds
Other feature – Empty space
Social media, news and critical literacy
Key criteria for assessing reliability of information.
There are three key areas I consider to be important when deciding whether a resource has reliable information. These could be used to build critical and analytical literacy of Year 5 and 6 students.
1. RELIABLE INFORMATION:
- Spokesperson / expert – are they reliable? Are they adequately and relevantly qualified?
- If there is not a spokesperson / expert where does the information come from? Is it a reliable source? E.g. .gov , .edu.au etc
- Are there any wild claims? If so are they backed up? How? And by who?
2. BALANCED POINT OF VIEW:
- Is the site biased?
- Does the site present a well-rounded picture that looks at both sides of the story?
- Is the author trying to persuade you to think in a certain way?
- Is the site trying to sell you something?
3. TIMELY, UP TO DATE INFORMATION:
- When was the news article written in comparison to the news event? Has anything changed in this time?
- In the case of information site – has anything vital changed since it was first published?
Developing critical media skills in the classroom.
Frank Baker (2017), respected media educator from the US, discusses the many ways to spot ‘fake news’. While discussing specifically the impact of fake news, I believe much of the information is applicable across other information forms, for example when assessing websites providing information about Australia as done in this workshop.
I argue that the key to developing critical media skills in the classroom is to be explicit about what to look for. Building on my criteria, above, Baker (2017) links to an article by John Spence (2016) on Detecting Fake News using the 5Cs of Critical Consuming. The 5Cs include many of the aspect I developed above:
- Context – When, where? Have events change? New information available?
- Credibility – Source, reputation, integrity etc.
- Construction – Bias, propaganda, omissions, fact/opinions?
- Corroboration – With other credible news sources.
- Compare – With other news sources to get perspective
There is a job to do in making criteria such as this, explicit. One idea could be to model non-examples – for example, not looking simply at good websites, but also at ‘bad’ websites. Once made explicit, the infographic from onthemedia.org, below, is an example of something that can be cut and stuck next to computers within the classroom. To make this more relevant, perhaps, a class could develop their own criteria based on research and discussion and include it not only on computers but near books etc.
While the above largely considers online news, developing critical and analytical literacy should cross into the offline space. As such I would argue that these criteria could be modelled with text selection and writing activities. Students could become super sleuths / detectives to self-assess/ peer assess writing and critically appraise book or text selection over other texts against the criteria developed by the class. Having a set of criteria to assess texts (both online and offline) is empowering for students and essential as news is increasingly proliferating online.
Baker, F. (2017). Fake News: Recommendations. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from http://frankwbaker.com/mlc/fake-news-recommendations/
Pakarklis, E. (2013). 11 composition tips for taking great photos with your iPhone. Retrieved February, 2016, from Parkalis photography.
Salyer, D. (2015). Reading the Web. The Reading Teacher, 69(1), 35-39. 10.1002/trtr.1380 Accessed February 22, 2016 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/trtr.1380/abstract
Spence, J. (2016). Fake News is a Real Problem. Here’s how students can solve it. Retrieved March 29, 2017 from http://www.spencerauthor.com/2016/12/fake-news-is-a-real-problem-heres-how-students-can-solve-it.html/
Nothing Beats the Real Thing website – resources for teaching about the media
Creative Collaboration & Why Copyright Counts– This resource includes a plan for one discrete lesson on copyright, piracy and digital citizenship, with an option for a second lesson to allow students to apply ‘fair go’ principles of social justice to create and edit a short film.