A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education from University of Iowa lecturer David Gooblar about how to teach information literacy in an era of lies has really got me thinking.
It is truly becoming a murky minefield to navigate, deciphering the purpose of online information. Just this week, one of our New Zealand politicians stomped into this minefield wearing big, oversized boots.
It seems on the surface, that distinguishing lies from truth should be a relatively straightforward process, but it is actually becoming increasingly difficult to make the differentiation. Those of us wearing our librarian hats will be nodding sagely at this, thinking to ourselves, yes, this we know, this we teach, this we have conversations about on an almost daily basis. We think in this Trumpist-media-worldview era that we are the panacea to the problem. And, yes I think we have a huge part to play in this arena.
But as I read further into David Gooblar’s article, I realised the approach I have been using with senior students and teachers, using the CRAAP Test to get them to think critically about the selection of information, really wasn’t going far enough, specifically in the “Purpose” part of the evaluation.
There are two pieces I’ve been missing.
The first: Focus on evaluating the claim being made, not just the source it’s published in. Gooblar refers to statements made by Michael Caufield, director of blended learning at Washington State University, in a 2017 blog post, where he describes the process of “lateral reading” – consulting a variety of sources to verify a claim. He urges us to teach our students to:
- Look for previous fact-checking work on a particular issue.
- Follow a claim “upstream”, which involves following the trail of citations.
"It's more important for students to be able to evaluate claims than sources. To assess the veracity of a given source's claims, students often have to consult other sources."
The second: Danah Boyd, a social media researcher states, “That the next step is for students to go beyond assessing sources and claims. They need to be able to assess themselves.”
We need to get our students to identify their own personal “filter-bubble” (and think about our own as well!). This is no longer about acknowledging “good” vs “bad” websites, “true” or “false” information, it is more about really digging into the bias, not just of what we’re reading and where we’re reading it, but how we’re receiving it.
I want to finish with David Gooblar’s final sentence:
“How can students succeed in any intellectual pursuit if they cannot tell what’s true from what’s false?”
A friend recently tagged me in the Facebook challenge to share seven books that have made an impact in your life. I normally ignore challenges, but this one was about books! So I duly chose the ones I felt had earned their place on my list. And then I decided I’d like to expand on why I chose these books, as one day when I’m old(er) and grey(er), I’d like to be able to share the stories and the books with my grandkids or grand-nieces/nephews (not that I have any yet) when they visit and look through my bookcases.
Books have been part of my life since I can remember. I wrote about this along with my favourite place to read a few years ago, so it wasn’t easy to condense my list to just seven, but I gave it my best shot. Here we go!
Book Number 1:
My first love
We all love to be read to. In fact, I believe we never grow out of it, and why audiobooks have become a popular way to devour stories. One of my favourite teachers, Newfield school circa 1972, was Ms. Baker. (a close 2nd to my very, very favourite teacher, Mrs. Bayliss in Form 1 at Lithgow Intermediate). She read a number of books to the class that year, but it was The Hobbit that became my first book-friend. I had it read to me then, I went on to read it for myself, and then I read it to my children. I loved the adventure, the humour and the suspense!
Book Number 2:
My first heroine
I loved and treasured this, my first mystery series and would often imagine myself as Meg. I even tried plaiting my hair in the way it was described that Meg did in the books.
I used to own the full set of these from my childhood, but unfortunately, in my last move, I seem to have misplaced them. I’m still grieving their loss, as they are out of print and scarce as hen’s teeth at 2nd-hand stores. A very special kindred spirit found one for me a few years ago, which was a lovely gift and a great surprise.
Book Number 3:
My first mystery series
I literally devoured this series! From the chauffeur-driven car to the “We investigate anything” business cards, to the headquarters hidden at Jupiter Jones’ family’s scrapyard. I so wanted to visit, and be recruited to the team! (I always thought they would benefit from a female in the mix!)
When I think of this series, I think of my mum. She kept me supplied with reading material right through my primary and intermediate school years. I would often get a new book bought for me every week, and we had a standing order for my favourite girls’ magazines, which we would collect from Whitcoulls every Friday. They had to come from the UK, so some weeks I’d be distraught as none had arrived, while other weeks there would be a bumper crop of backlogs. I credit my mum with fostering and supporting my love affair with reading. Thanks, mum!
Book Number 4:
My first adult twist in the tale
Fast forward to 1981, and Joyce Gartly’s 6th form English class. Boy, did this teacher know how to tell a story! I vividly remember the sheer pleasure of listening to her read, and I can recall the day she finished reading this novel. It was halfway through an English period and we all sat stunned. A Soldier’s Tale has stayed with me since that day 37 years ago. It has had a prized place on my bookshelf ever since.
Book Number 5:
My first poems
I am cheating a little by combining two books as my #5 selection. I can’t choose between them. Once again, I can credit the lovely Ms. Baker (I was devastated when she left the school at the end of the year she taught me) with introducing me to what still remains my favourite poems – ever! I can still recite so many of these, and I loved reading them to my own sons. In fact, Vespers was turned into a song which I sang to them at bedtime as well.
Book Number 6:
My favourite thought-provoking book
I had light bulbs going off all over the place when I first read Where Do Good Ideas Come From: the Natural History of Innovation. I regularly recommend it to students to read due to Steven Johnson’s accessible and flowing writing style, and I have given it to several friends and family members as gifts.
There was so much I loved about this book, but the thing that probably impacted me most is the section about the place of Commonplace books in history. I was so inspired by it I wrote about it on this blog!
I also love another of his books, The Ghost Map: a Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. I was fascinated by the story of how Dr. John Snow, with the help of a local minister, was able to prove how cholera was transmitted. It is, once again, superbly written and I use the first two or three pages as a read-aloud with classes as it describes the sights, sounds and smells of Victorian London.
Book Number 7:
My favourite detective
Last, but by no means least, is Maisie Dobbs. This series is among the best I’ve ever read. I am completely invested in Maisie’s life, which begins in the first book when she is a young girl working in a fancy house during the 1920s till the most recent installment, where she is now a grown woman navigating World War II.
She feels like a friend, or at the very least someone I’d love to meet, and that is all down to the writing of Jacqueline Winspear. I don’t ever want her to stop writing about Maisie and the world she inhabits.
So, if you’ve read to the end of this rambling, please leave a comment with your top read – your top seven, if you’d like! I am always keen to hear what stories other people have been shaped and inspired by.