Monday, January 29, 2007

Evaluating Information

One of my frustrations with my teaching this year is that I have not created enough assignments to help students learn to evaluate the ocean of information they have access to. I'm trying to get better at this, and have begun to make information evaluation a central goal of many of my assignments for the rest of the year.

Here are some internet resources that I have found informative as I've gone a-searching for ideas...
I've just begun a project with my juniors where I'm sending them off to collect information about why people value the writings of W.E.B. DuBois and Maxine Hong Kingston, two writers we've been reading who most of the students have found to be boring and, according to some, "pointless". I've asked them to compare sources such as the subscription websites we offer through the library as well as public websites and books. (Yes, books! In fact, I've insisted that some of their sources be books, not because I think the information will necessarily be superior, but because I want them to understand when books can be helpful to them, and what sorts there are in the library, a place many students seem to think is little more than a computer lab with different furniture.)

Projects I would like to do, but probably won't have time to, include a serious exploration of Wikipedia that would have them look not just at particular entries, but also at the official policies, articles with most revisions, recent changes, vandalism, and the discussion and history pages for specific entries. As Andy Carvin has said:
While I understand educators' concerns about directing kids towards "reliable" reference sources, the more I think about it, the more I think Wikipedia's flaws actually make it an ideal learning tool for students. That may sound counterintuitive, of course - how can you recommend a tool that you know may not be accurate? Well, that's precisely the point: when you go to Wikipedia, some entries are better referenced than others. That's just a basic fact. Some entries will have a scrupulous list of sources cited and a detailed talk page on which Wikipedians debate the accuracy of information presented in order to improve it. Others, though, will have no sources cited and no active talk pages. To me, this presents teachers with an excellent authentic learning activity in which students can demonstrate their skills as scholars.
Another project I've thought of doing with my AP Language & Comp. class, which is focused on rhetoric, is to look at a particular news report that was noted by both the liberal Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting and the conservative Accuracy in Media and see what similarities and differences were found in the groups' approaches to the material and to their audiences. It could lead to an interesting discussion of "bias" and "objectivity".

1 comment:

Hans Mundahl said...

Nice collection of resources.

I would love to see this integrated into more classes.

Instead of a stand alone course - could we create a unit that could be plugged into any class?