Monday, May 18, 2009

Authenticating Sources

The following powerpoint was emailed to me earlier this month.

View more presentations from PeterJD.

Information about this celestial event comes to my in-box every year about this time, so I'm going to use it as a take off point for a piece about internet misinformation.

[Let me set the record straight. There's no need to plan your Mars viewing party for August 27th because that great event occurred back in 2003. For a complete commentary, you can take a look at this page in Hoax-Slayer.]

The more we move from print to online sources, the more we will need to teach our students to be skeptical about what they're reading. Textbooks are authoritative but can become quickly outdated; the internet is current but so often the information students find is just plain wrong. When reading and researching, students need to first question the authenticity of their sources. They must develop the habit of evaluating and cross-checking all their sources.

There are clearly 3 kinds of sources to consider:
  • disinformation,
(Image source: AFP: Iran Doctored Missile Test-firing Photo: defence analyst)
[If you look closely, you can see that the image on the left seems to have been doctored. Read more in Digital Natives: "Got Missiles?"]

  • hoaxes or pranks,

Penguins Can Fly Amazing
  • and, just plain old mistakes (the category to which I think the Mars misinformation belongs)
Once misinformation makes its way into the worldwide web it makes it's own place there in the same way that accurate information does. In our bodies, once a nerve impulse gathers enough strength to fire, it cannot be stopped. Misinformation -- if it's engaging enough or made to look authoritative or repeated enough --can take on a life of its own.

If it's out there, chances are my students will find it and want to use it. Being diligent is a lot more time consuming for everyone. Students have to look past the first few sources they find and teachers must take the time to check out all the references they chose to assess them for reliability. Seeing should not be believing.

The Impossible Ring By HOAX

These links will take you to sources you can draw from to create lessons to teach students to critically evaluate their sources.
[Note: many of these sources came from a discussion in Classroom 2.0]

Here are some final suggestions for our students from Pierre-Etienne Chausse in Luxembourg:

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