Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Why Should I? Part II

This is the second in a series of posts titled "Why Should I?".  Each post will look at one reason why it is worth the time and effort to improve your 21st Century teaching skills.  

Information Literacy

Let's pretend for a minute that every single one of us lives along the busiest street in the world.  Would you let your kids play in that street?  Would you even let them cross it without holding your hand?  

Today, there are 2.4 billion users of the Internet, the largest "street" in the world.  Every one of those users is on your block, so to speak.  Experts in the mobile device world estimate another 2 billion coming online for the first time in the next few years, with the help of Internet ready smart phones.  In spite of the massive number of people on your "block"- people that you don't know, people that you suspect are up to no good, and people who would victimize you and/or anyone you care about without a moment's pause - in spite of all this, we let kids play in the street.  

Now I want you to pause for a moment and consider your responsibility as a teacher.  Do you consider yourself responsible for teaching kids how to succeed?  Probably.  Do you extend that responsibility to teaching them how to learn after they leave school?  Most likely.  Do you believe it's important to keep them safe?  

Information Literacy, fluency, or whatever you want to call it is one of the most important things we can teach today.  As teachers, it's easy to see the connection between the Internet and the importance of showing students how to find good information, sort it out from the bad information, and use it effectively to get things done for a variety of tasks.  But we fall woefully short of our obligations when it comes to most of the things we should be teaching students about the world wide web.  

How many of you reading this can name at least 3 ways to check the validity of information on a website?  Do you know how to find out who owns the site?  Do you know how to check on the outrageous claims that seem to flood FaceBook posts and email en masse?  

When I was in school, I had to be a part of a gifted program in order to learn about the tricks advertisers use to dupe us into buying their products, the ways in which politicians twist facts to their liking and agenda (just ask Gov. Brownback), and to follow the money whenever a claim was made so that we could tell if someone had something to gain from it (Koch Brothers, anyone?).  As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it."

I remember thinking back then, "Wow!  Why don't they teach this stuff to everyone?"  And today, I'm still wondering why we don't.  

A lot has changed since I was in school.  A lot more is at stake.  A lot more of us are at risk when we cannot read between the lines.  This is no longer something that can or should only be taught to a few.  This should be a mandatory discussion around every bit of information, regardless of the place from which it is gleaned.  

Students should be conditioned to question things.  Fact checking should be a reflex, and the tools and methods for doing so should be second nature.  

Taking things at face value today could be just as fatal as playing in the world's busiest street.  

November Learning resources for Information Literacy:  This site contains answers to the questions, and some great activities and examples.

USD 418 Draggo Links:


  1. Sounds like a ripe opportunity for you to maybe outline a couple of strategies or tools we might use to help us get started in the right direction.

    Compelling, Andy. Good job!

  2. Agreed! What kind of fact checking resources are out there (aside from the common sense follow the money suggestion)?

  3. Very thought provoking. Thank you. Please share your tips because unfortunately I am one of those people who can't come up with some of the answers to your questions

  4. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    A great place to start is November Learning, began by Alan November. Here is the link to the Information Literacy resources: http://novemberlearning.com/educational-resources-for-educators/information-literacy-resources/

    Additionally, we have several good links on our school Draggo links page for Information Fluency and Digital Citizenship. They can be found at http://draggo.com/USD418

  5. Great food for thought!
    Why is it that our school system as it is today - makes children feel that questioning is a negative connotation? We need to make a shift so that questioning, wondering, anaylzing, THINKING rather than memorizing someone's thoughts becomes of essence and safety.

  6. Thanks for your comments! In response to your suggestions, I've updated the post to include links to Alan November's page of resources as well as the links from our Draggo page.