Teach Students to DISCERN Good Information From Bad

In considering a 21st Century education, teachers should become facilitators of knowledge rather than authorities and dispensers of facts. Most important is for students to ask questions and learn where to find information. Once they have learned how to research and find information and where the information may be, they must learn how to discern reliability or discerning good information from bad. One quickly becomes adept at a google search, but then what?

How do students figure out what they should believe? Questions often asked are:
  1. Credibility /or authority – Who do you believe? There seems to be information for every opinion. Check out the background of the person writing. Learn what are good sources of information.
  2. Currency – How recent are the findings or reports? Does it rely on credible studies from a University or a controlled situation?
  3. On the topic — Is this the information I am looking for?
  4. Easy to use — Must be accessible and at the same time, reliable. Also, easy to read and comprehend.

In beginning this process to becoming a life long learner and student who is in charge of his or her own learning, the teacher can model through example. Divide the class into groups and let them choose a topic for research. Model how to do the research. Ask which is the best source and why? Students must back up their assertions.  As this is done, students will create a checklist of criteria or questions to determine what is the best information. The best information is not what comes up at the top of the Google search page. This result is based on frequency, not quality or integrity of information. The best information is not the one you like or that reiterates your thoughts or opinion. Over time, students will learn how to discover and discern good information and the sources that are reliable. A You Tube video from a so-called investigative reporter is not academically reliable. On the other hand, some of the information from Wikipedia can be okay. It depends what it is.

Students learn by doing. The more they research topics and analyze the results and information they find, the better they will get at knowing what is credible and what isn’t. Finding information to support almost any opinion is easy to do. Teaching students that this practice is not ideal and what best practice for research is very important. Information literacy should be a required course with resulting skills. Students can easily find information and the answers to questions in a matter of seconds. The important skills are how to find information and how to discern good information from bad. As teachers, we must facilitate and enable our students to learn, to be curious and to pursue answers. This practice creates motivated learners who will, as a result, become life long learners.

Students need the appropriate direction to understand how to learn and where to find the information they need. Teachers enable students learning by guiding them in the information literacy process.

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