“ 'Google' is not a synonym for 'research'.”
How can various media resources be evaluated?
How can students be taught to be critically engaged consumers?
- Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol -
This page provides a variety of useful resources for teaching critical source evaluation to students across the grade levels. Also see the Multiple Literacies page for further resources and discussion of media literacy, news literacy, and more.
Teaching students to be critically engaged consumers of information:
Evaluating for truthfulness and usefulness
Teachers need to first be aware and alert to the hidden curriculum, and the need to be able to recognise it behind all media (Horn, 2003). Information and media literacy is vital for teachers as well as students. As Horn concludes, “critical awareness through media literacy can be liberating. Through awareness, choice becomes a possibility. Through awareness, individuals can be stronger and more effective advocates for themselves and others. Through awareness and media literacy, critically informed decisions can be made about the curriculum that is attached to all media representations” (2003, p. 300, emphasis added).
In the age of information, these skills have become more and more urgent. Harvey and Daniels (2015) state, in the context of inquiry but also more generally, that “[o]ur job as teachers is [to] teach kids how to find information they can trust online” (p. 88). I would add that our job as teacher-librarians is to lead and support both teachers and students in this process.
Explicit instruction in critical evaluation of sources is necessary; teachers can not assume that their students will simply pick these skills up along the way, or in some other class. There are applications to every subject, including math! For example, the article “Fake News: How Bad Data and Misleading Graphs are Fueling Fake News” (Stoffers & Hackett, 2017) specifically has clear and relevant connections to Grade 6 and 7 math standards in statistics. Teachers can add awareness of source evaluation into their lessons in little and regular ways, too, such as modelling their thinking on how they knew a site was credible when first using it in a lesson.
Students need to know how to sift through the many to find the few most useful to them, being credible, reliable, current, accurate, unbiased, and appropriate for their specific needs. Information is everywhere, and when students know how to appropriately question and evaluate the information they receive, that fact is no longer threatening.
Harvey, S., & Daniels, H. (2015). Comprehension & collaboration: Inquiry circles for curiosity, engagement, and understanding, Revised Ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Horn, R. A., Jr. (2003). Developing a critical awareness of the hidden curriculum through media literacy. The Clearing House, 76(6), 298-300.
Stoffers, C., & Hackett, J. (2017, September 25). Fake News: How Bad Data and Misleading Graphs are Fueling Fake News. Scholastic Math, 30(2), 8-11. Retrieved from https://math.scholastic.com/issues/2017-18/092517/fake-news-fake-data.html
Tools for Evaluating Sources
Various acronyms are used as tools for source evaluation, the well-known being the CRAAP Test, originally created by Sarah Blakeslee and her team at the University of California, Chico's Meriam Library, and now variations are on many university library sites and LibGuides. It has been rearranged to a more elementary-friendly CAARP Test (Is the source fishy?) or TRAAP Test, as well as the 5 W's, all essentially assess the same thing:
Currency or Timeliness / When?
Relevance / What?
Accuracy / Where?
Authorship / Who?
Purpose / Why?
Oregon School Library Information System created this video for elementary students, which I personally like, and have also used it with lower middle years students. It is a bit long, so some teaching techniques to prime and engage students are useful.
The version of this video for secondary students is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxyKHp47EnQ
Kathleen Morris is a primary teacher with a professional focus on technology for primary students. Her blog offers some quality, free, downloadable posters and lesson plans and ideas.
Kathy Schrock, educational technologist, maintains several excellent websites and blogs.
Click on the image to the left or the link below to go to her curated list of resources for critical evaluation, including surveys (forms) for students to evaluate various types of online resources, and a list of fake sites for use in practising site evaluation.
How do we help students learn to critically evaluate online information?
Common Sense Education offers high-quality, free resources for digital citizenship, with an entire curriculum guide, lesson plans, games, videos, and assessment (see Multiple Literacies page for more).
Click on the image to the right to go to their News and Media Literacy Resource Center, or go to their K–12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum, News and Media Literacy Strand: https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-citizenship/curriculum?topic=news--media-literacy
BrainPop is a high-quality, PAID online resource, but some of their videos are available on YouTube, such as this one about Media Literacy and questioning or being sceptical of what you see online.
(BrianPop free movies playlist, touching on various topics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQMSKRrDjB4&list=PL6ZNUQlsOp8Ctvyy_xyBuA_4JE6icCU9p )
Most Reliable and Credible Sources for Students - from Common Sense Education, this is a curated list of high-quality, trustworthy sources for news, current events, and research.
Turn Students into fact-finding Web detectives - from Common Sense Education, an excellent list of tools, tips and resources