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?”