Wikipedia, and evaluating web resources

Yes, it’s true. Students do a lot of their research on the web; at least, that’s where many of them tend to start.

And yes, information found on the web can be woefully inaccurate. As an example of such potential inaccuracies, I sometimes point my students to the story of Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Captured Koala.

But traditional print resources can be inaccurate, too. What’s important, in my view, is to teach students how to evaluate their sources, whether those sources are in electronic or dead tree format.

Rather than adopt policies that discourage students from using the web for research, I try to teach them digital literacy skills. Students need to know not only how to use technology to find and manage information, but also how to evaluate the information they find. What students need to know is how knowledge is created and shared, and what published information they have reason to trust–regardless of where or how it’s published. (For web-based resources, one of the tools I use is Internet Detective.)

Those interested in digital literacy might find David Parry’s recent editorial at Science Progress of interest. I also highly recommend his blog, academhack.

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