Online Sources in the Classroom

In my current teaching, I focus increasing amounts of attention on the discerning use of online sources of information. People no longer rack their brains to recall facts learned in school. They will pull out a device and look up what they want to know. And so, while some factual information is crucial in order to be discerning in this way – one cannot spot counterfeit money without experience of handling the real thing – the skill of evaluating sources to determine (1) their reliability/trustworthiness and (2) whether they represent a scholarly consensus, one view among many in a hotly contested field, or an idiosyncratic individual perspective.

I have tried getting students to review blogs which talk about a topic, evaluating them in light of scholarly sources. I have tried getting students to contribute to Wikipedia and similar sites. This semester I will have some students make PSA videos which hopefully will eventually end up on YouTube.

All of you use online sources – you are reading one now! I would be interested to hear what skills and tips you have found useful in either becoming more discerning yourself in your use of online sources, and if appropriate, how you have passed on such wisdom to others. And for those of you who either teach or are or have been students during the digital era, what activities, assignments, and advice has been part of that? What things have worked well, and what things have turned sour?

I am particularly interested in coming up with creative assignments that can really help students develop and hone these sorts of information literacy skills.

 

  • Jona Lendering

    I thought this question deserved a response of some length: http://rambambashi.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/online-sources-in-the-classroom/

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    Sorry, no suggestions, but I have a question. Do you have favorite on-line Bible commentaries you use to explore classic explanations of Biblical texts?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Not really. Do you mean older interpreters, or classic scholarly ones? The Internet Archive is a pretty good place to track down both – whether you are looking for Origen, Luther, or the earlier edition of the International Critical Commentary, it is a pretty good site.

  • shiracoffee

    It seems to me that the most important principle (and it applies to online AND offline sources) is that a reader has to be alert to any questions that surface as she reads. I think that we often internalize the idea — maybe in grade school? — that we should suppress our own reactions and just absorb what the author says. But the opposite is true. If we are on the alert to catch the questions that arise in our mind as we read, and if we give as much time as needed to consider those questions, we will naturally begin to organize sources in useful ways. Who contradicts whom, and why? Why doesn’t this author address a relevant argument I’ve read elsewhere? If something surprises me, I obviously have a clear framework of ideas in place — is the framework justified? Would that idea in this domain also be useful in another domain? Etc.

    I have some slight teaching experience. I ended up homeschooling my daughter (not for religious reasons) from 7th grade on, and that’s how I taught her to evaluate what she was reading. I’ve also done language exchange with ESL students, and suggested that they use this technique with language issues as well. In all cases, my “students” have found this a useful discipline, even though they mostly hadn’t thought of reading that way before.


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