Do You Have the Facts?

Screens full of status updates, links, and news. A thumb that constantly scrolls through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media apps. Social media outlets allow a user to easily interact with others, lurk to gather information, and quickly share content.

In this digital age, when our students are suffering from information overload, information literacy is one of the most important skills they can have. With the internet being endless and information abundant, where can educators even begin a lesson to help students or other teachers address information literacy?

Here are three ways to double check a website.

Three Ways to Spot Check a Website

  1. Is the website from a reliable resource? What does it end with? During this conversation, point out that .edu (educational institutions) and .gov (government) are usually reliable resources. In general, .org sites (originally intended for nonprofits but anyone can register) are more reliable than .com or .net sites.
  2. Are there a lot of ads on the website? Remind students it is OK to have ads on a website, but those ads are paid for by advertisers. Points to consider: Is it an overload of advertisements? Could this be just a clickbait news story to get more hits on the website?
  3. Are there other visual cues? Does the website look professional? (Does it use proper grammar and capitalization, or does it use all capital letters? Is the website clean, put together, and easy to read?) Real news can come from websites that are not organized, but take a few extra minutes to check the sources.

Other things to think about when checking websites and information:

  • Who is the author/producer/creator of the message?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What techniques are being used to get our attention and make a message believable?
  • Who benefits from a message?
  • Who or what is omitted, and why?

Teaching students these easy website evaluation techniques will help them learn to pause before sharing or publishing online. The other piece of information literacy is understanding how to use and share information.

Two Ways to Decide Whether to Share

  1. Will this information help others? Encourage students to consider whether there is a benefit in sharing the information.
  2. Will this information be seen as inappropriate? The internet has a plethora of news stories that are not fake news, but they may still not be appropriate to share through social media. Explain to students that when they share any information, whether it be a true or fake news story, their digital footprint is created. These digital footprints can be used by future employers.

Giving students techniques that will help them pause and evaluate websites and information combats the spread of fake or biased news. And it helps us meet our main goal as educators—to help students become contributing members of society—both offline and online.

Andrea Keller is librarian who spends every waking moment encouraging the youth of today. She spent 12 years in the special education world as a self-contained LIFE (learning in a functional environment) teacher, where she pushed her low-verbal and non-verbal students to new heights using various forms of technology. She was named Texas Computer Education Agency Classroom Teacher of the Year in 2011-2012 school year. She was also named one of the 20 Educators to Watch by the National School Board Association. Andrea has also been recognized by both the local Irving, Region 10, and the state Association of Texas Professional Educators as classroom teacher of the year, and she was named Elliott Teacher of the Year. Before becoming a librarian, Andrea was an instructional technology specialist who trained teachers in using technology to increase instruction. Although Andrea spends countless hours at school preparing for the hundreds of students that visit the library weekly, she also spends time outside of school working in the community. Andrea is a team manager for Destination ImagiNation, where she leads students into a world of unlimited possibilities. She is also a troop leader for a group of Brownie Girl Scouts, is involved in the Elliott PTA, and is also the Irving ATPE past president.

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