It’s sometimes astounding to see the simplistic ways in which some students look for information online. Typing a whole question verbatim into Google and then clicking on the first result is what some kids see as “researching online”. Writer Erik Palmer said that “when we prepare (our students) to conduct quality online research, we prepare them for so much more”, and I agree with that. Learning how to do quality, in depth online research teaches critical literacy and analysis and teaches students that all information comes from a certain perspective. So before any online research project, I often go through these steps:
- Teach them how to craft a better search query in Google by using search operators. Show them how to use the “Advanced Search Page” in Google.
- Look at the URL. It often contains information that can show you if it’s reliable or not. Not all sites are created equally. This comes as a surprise for younger students in particular. Explain how a URL like http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change will propably contain more reliable information than a URL that looks like this: http://damn-human-race.weebly.com/blog/the-great-climate-change-science-scandal#.VPG0n_khfYo. Checking the URL should only be their first port of call.
- Every website should be checked for credibility, purpose, and reliability.
- Credibility: Is there a verifiable author or organisation behind the page? Who is this person or organisation? Do they have expertise?
- Purpose: WHY was the site created? Is there a personal agenda, why?
- Reliability: Can you find the same information elsewhere? Can you corroborate what this information?
- Introduce them to citethisforme.com, currently the easiest to use online citation tool.
Some great links:
- Indepth research report on HOW student use search engines: http://www.pewinternet.org/2012/11/01/how-teens-do-research-in-the-digital-world/
- My overview on how to be better at Googling: https://techtipteacher.wordpress.com/history-teaching/online_research/
- A pinterest page with many different ideas for online research: https://www.pinterest.com/spojer/online-researching-skills-tools/
- Eric Palmer’s book: http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Researching-in-a-Digital-World.aspx. “As digital natives, our students are certainly at home online, but how much do they know about using the Internet as a research tool? Do they know how to ask the right questions, find the best and most credible resources, evaluate the “facts” they come across, and avoid plagiarism and copyright violations when they incorporate others’ work into their own? For too many, the answer is no—and research projects intended to engage students in independent learning wind up wasting time or creating incomplete or faulty understandings. In this step-by-step guide, classroom veteran Erik Palmer explains how to teach students at all grade levels to conduct deeper, smarter, and more responsible research in an online environment.”
- My presentation on Emaze on how to Google can be used in the classroom: