Internet Fact or Fiction?
I’m sure all of you are aware that this year’s huge increase in rainfall has caused great damage for the velcro crops in California, that research shows most cats react negatively to men with beards, and that Dihydrogen Monoxide is of grave concern to us in the U.S. These are facts that the savvy library media specialist should know! After all, it’s true because it’s on the Internet!!
As a high school level media specialist for 25 years, I was amazed at how many of my students, year after year, simply accepted web information, such as this listed above, without any type of screening for authenticity. I might expect this at the junior high or elementary levels, but for ninth through twelfth graders to automatically incorporate information into reports and projects simply because it’s “there” was of great concern to me. So, I began a unit through English classes where I presented web pages as “facts” to students. It was not only informative for them, but GREAT fun for all of us!
Invariably, students would view the first sites presented with great interest and even mention, “I didn’t know that,” or “That’s so cool!” Then, slowly, student by student, there would be comments such as “Wait a minute,” and “Are you sure?” Finally, after further presentation of the sites, students would realize this couldn’t be true. What amazed me was that students initially viewed these sites as truth, without questioning credentials of authors, sponsoring groups, reliability of content, currency, or valid links.
Many media specialists presently plan units and work with students to educate them about authenticity of information located on websites. But I learned that equipping students with the skills to identify inaccuracies on websites was an ongoing effort. Revisiting with students the indicators that show information on websites is reliable was something that students needed often.
It is necessary to set a goal to make this process of determining reliability of websites an automatic procedure as students surf the Internet for information if we are going to have a society that functions on truth and factual data. Consistently reminding students of the examination process is worth the time investment so they will learn that “just because it’s on the Internet does NOT mean it’s automatically fact!”
Sample Bogus Websites for Instruction
(This one includes the Velcro site. It also includes the Dihydrogen Monoxide site.)
(Aluminum foil deflector is hilarious!)
(Be sure to check out the tree octopus)
Sample Internet Evaluation Websites for Instruction
Phyllis R. Snipes
University of West Georgia