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Helping Students Evaluate What They Read on the Internet

The Internet leveled the playing field for people who wanted to publish their ideas by eliminating the need for expensive editorial, printing, and distribution infrastructure to reach a wide audience. With the rise of social media in the mid 2000’s, it became even easier to post ideas in the form of blog posts, social media updates, and 140 character tweets. Students arriving on campus now were born well after blogs and Wikipedia were established, and most entered adolescence along with the arrival of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other “Web 2.0” social platforms. Teaching students the critical thinking skills to evaluate what they read has always been a challenge, and this new environment can make it even harder, but it also gives more opportunities to practice.

In the EDUCAUSE Review, Jon Udel reports one Digital Polarization Initiative, which provides instructors with resources to teach students how to evaluate what they read online, especially in news stories.

It’s a template for a cross-institutional course in which students learn how to evaluate claims in news stories. Here’s a sample claim: “Minnesota Affordable Care Act insurance premiums increased by up to 66% last year.” A student begins by citing the claim itself, using an annotation tool to select the statement as it appears in the story and to create an annotation that anchors to the claim. The annotation is represented by a link that points not just to the page but, more precisely, to the highlighted statement within the page. This direct link5 captures context, and because each annotation can grow a discussion thread, it enables students to work together in that context.

In addition to resources for instructors, students are invited to contribute to the institute’s wiki site by helping to evaluate claims made in the media.

Read the full article: Teaching Students to Marshal Evidence and Evaluate Claims,by Jon Udell, EDUCAUSE Review, March 13, 2017

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