Every year I ask my third and fourth grade students to practice using Keywords when searching the internet by putting up a series of progressively less Google-able questions. I start with questions like How tall is Mount Denali? and Where did the first airplane flight take place? and eventually we move on to questions like What happens when you go to sleep? where there may need to be multiple sources synthesized to find a suitable response.
I always ask a question at the beginning of this lesson that I assumed was very straight forward: Who was the first person to walk on the moon? A few years ago a student dutifully selected the keywords from this question and typed in “first moon walk” and they proudly exclaimed Michael Jackson! Now, this student understood the assignment, and had accurately found the keywords, but they had not successfully checked to see if the associated images, videos, and text matched their understanding of the question being asked.
Unfortunately, in addition to red-herrings like confusing moonwalking with the first walk on the moon, doing research gets more complicated when there are intentionally misleading reports, like the conspiracy that the moon landing was faked. So, how do we parse the ever expanding trove of trivia found online when there are so many pitfalls? Rheingold (2012) recommends we try the following techniques, modeled after Gilmores ‘principals of media consumption’ (pp. 95 – 96). These techniques are:
- Be skeptical
- Exercise judgement
- Open your mind
- Keep asking questions
- Learn media techniques
These ideas address the main areas that trap unsuspecting internet searchers: false or misleading information, only trusting sources which align with your own beliefs or assumptions, failing to continue to search, and being unfamiliar with the tricks and techniques used by content creators to gain viewership. By practicing these techniques when searching online, you and your students will be able to demonstrate a now fundamental skill, to “plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.” (ISTE, 2016).
As I prepare to teach another batch of third and fourth grade students, I will continue to leave in my question about the first moon walk, or walk on the moon, and leave it as an opportunity to help students refine their searching skills. Becoming adept at performing informed and careful searches is one small step on their journey to becoming digital citizens.
International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). ISTE Standards: Students. https://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards-for-students?_ga=2.20191032.1497991200.1662951593-128931993.1661724085
Passe, S.. (2019). Michael Jackson, the popularizer of the move, performing the moonwalk publicly for the first time in 1983 [Video]. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66489802
Rheingold, Howard. Net Smart : How to Thrive Online, MIT Press, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/spu/detail.action?docID=3339401.