This post is written by Bradley Lands, the author of the book Knowledge-ABLE, owner of UpLearn LLC, and is currently the Director of Technology and Innovation at The Langley School in McLean, Virginia. Brad is a Google for Education Certified Innovator, a Google for Education Certified Trainer, an Apple Distinguished Educator, and a National Board Certified Teacher in K-12 Technology Education. Connect with Brad on Twitter @MrLands and visit his website at www.uplearnllc.com.
As information on the internet continues to grow, it becomes increasingly difficult for kids—and most adults for that matter—to discern fact from fiction. Surprisingly, “every day approximately 50,000 web pages filled with information come online.” While Google does a great job of sorting and ranking all of this information, it is ultimately up to the reader to determine the validity and credibility of the media that we consume.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) believes that students today need to become “Knowledge Constructors” by being able to critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts, and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others. In other words, students today need to be able to find and evaluate credible media sources to become informed citizens in a constantly evolving global society.
In my book, Knowledge-ABLE: Igniting a New Generation of Lifelong Learners, I offer the CREDIBLE graphic as a learning tool to help students develop their skills in information literacy. This is a great starting point for asking guiding questions when fact-checking information on the internet.
Let’s unpack each of these questions to learn more.
Currency: What is the date of the source?
Locating the date of when a source was published can be helpful in determining how up-to-date the information is. The more recent the post, the more relevant it will likely be. However, this doesn’t always mean that the information is more accurate. Students should use other factors of this template—along with the date—to help them decide if the source is credible.
Reliable: Is the author or organization reputable?
If the author or organization of the source is reputable or trustworthy, then there is a good chance the information might be credible. When authors provide their name along with an organization in an article, blog post, or other publication, they are contributing to their reputation. Therefore, students should carefully consider whether or not the source is reliable by examining the author’s credentials, as well as the organization’s stature.
Ethical: Is the collection of data morally responsible?
The method of collecting data is integral to a credible source. Look for details that suggest the act of data collection is humane. Examples can include—but are not limited to—making sure that animals were not harmed, subjects were not paid in exchange for enduring physical or emotional damage, or that the integrity of the data was not compromised. While these signs can often be difficult to find, students should still be on the lookout for them.
Diverse: Does the source contain multiple perspectives?
Sources that contain multiple perspectives are likely more credible than those that don’t. If we think about a beach ball, it takes all of the different colored stripes to form the whole ball. When sources only offer a single position—one stripe of the beach ball—it lacks a holistic view of the topic. Therefore, students should seek out sources that represent several stripes of the beach ball from different regions, cultures, and backgrounds when considering its credibility.
Intention: Is the purpose to provide facts or opinion?
As data detectives, students should look for clues to determine if the source is meant to offer facts or opinions. Sometimes, sources will offer facts in order to justify an opinion, which can be confusing. A general “rule of thumb” is if a source is trying to make you feel a particular emotion—anger, joy, guilt, fear—then it is likely presenting an opinion. Encourage students to search for conclusive facts in sources that allow them to form their own opinions.
Bias: Is the source one-sided, partisan, or prejudiced?
It seems like more than ever these days news sources have become increasingly unreliable as they often spin the accounts of events to fulfill their political agendas. These narratives are usually one-sided and aim to either affirm the beliefs of their followers, or sway the opinions of others. To navigate these political biases, students should aim to search for sources that provide both sides to a story in an attempt to remain objective and impartial.
License: Do you have permission to use the material?
With the exception of certain conditions under “fair use” students cannot simply find an image, video, or audio clip on the internet and use it for an assignment—even if they provide a full and accurate attribution to the copyright owner. However, some digital materials online have been published under Creative Commons (CC) licenses by creators that give others permission to reuse, modify, or augment their work.
To make it easier for students to find reusable images, Google has a built-in image search tool in applications such as Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Drawings that have these images already filtered for students to use. What’s more, students can also do a Google Image search to find reusable images by selecting “tools” and changing the “Usage Rights” to “Creative Commons licenses.” For a comprehensive source of “free to use” multimedia files, I encourage students to visit Wikimedia Commons as a great place to get started.
Extension: What is the domain extension?
Every web page on the internet has a domain extension that designates the category or country code for its website (ie: .com, .org, .gov, .us). These extensions indicate whether the website is primarily used for intentions such as commercial use, philanthropic or non-profit missions, or official government information. Students should examine these domain extensions when searching for credible sources. However, it is also important to teach them that a particular extension does not automatically qualify—or disqualify—information as being reliable.
Turn Students into Incredible Researchers
When students ask these questions offered in the CREDIBLE template, they will be on their way to becoming incredible researchers. They will practice their information literacy skills to detect reliable resources, and they will compare and contrast information from multiple sources to evaluate their credibility. In other words, they will be better positioned to form authentic opinions to make informed decisions—they will become knowledge-able.
What strategies do you currently use to teach students information literacy? How might you adapt these questions to meet the needs of younger learners? Consider leaving a comment below to keep the conversation going. I would love to learn more about other research tips and tricks that are out there.
- Jeff Chang, “Identifying Credible Content Online, with Help From the Trust Project.” Google. Published Nov. 16, 2017, https://blog.google/topics/journalism-news/sorting-through-information-help-trust-project/.
- “ISTE Standards for Students.” 2018 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students.