Critical Thinking on the Web

What do our students today need?

  1. Literacy as we know it is not enough. There is a new grammar and a new literacy that students must understand and develop so they foster in today's society.
  2. Students need to have access to learning on their terms; this is how they learn best today.
  3. We should be putting more responsibility and ownership on our students.
  4. Students need opportunities to do real work with real purpose for real people.

Fact or Fiction

Finding Information

Typical web-based information gathering:
  • Get on Google
  • Type in a word or two
  • Scan the first page or two of results
  • Find what's needed or try again

The problems with this method
  • The best results aren't always at the top - Search Engine Design
  • Poorly stated assignments - Need for rubrics!
Write a paper on the octopus
Why was the Berlin Wall built?
  • No search strategy or little knowledge of techniques
  • Might not be using the best tool for the job

Other tools available:

When these problems are addressed, research can become more focused and productive.

Google's not a BAD choice. But, how should it be used?

Researching Octopus vs Something particular about the Statue of Liberty

Google's Advanced Search

Let's look at some other particular searches.

Find census data from the US for 2000

Find information about Haiku coming from Japan in English

Narrow a search about Mars to k12 resources written by NASA

Cancer research from universities in New Zealand

Information on sea turtles from K12 schools in the U.S.

Validating Information

The R.E.A.L Strategy

R = Read the URL

E = Examine the content
The Wayback: Machine
Tree Octopus

A = Ask about the author and owner

L = Look at the links
  • Who does the site link OUT to?
  • What do other sites say about the information on the site?
  • What is the purpose of the link?
  • Who is linked to the web site?
  • Use the "link:" command to examine the external links from any site

Utilizing the REAL strategy:

Primary sources:
When you have two conflicting sources; go to the primary source! THAT is your third source.
Ear Mouse
Primary Source

Other tools

  • Citing references - NoodleTools and EasyBib (works with Google Apps for Educator accounts)
Do we really need to teach them how to do APA and MLA formatting?

Be aware of Filter Bubbles


  • Show students VARIOUS resources and teach them WHEN to use WHICH ones.
NO ONE who ever bought a drill wanted a drill; they wanted a hole!
  • Use the same terminology throughout classrooms (Authoritative websites, primary resources, Operators: Site:, Filetype:)
  • Common Core standards are all about weaving these life long skills into the curriculum
  • Kids are NOT Digital Natives, they just aren't scared and they are used to getting information immediately; they need work ethic.
  • YouTube is a place they go to learn the "how-to" for things; but they rarely use it to look up information for school. Why?
  • Practice, practice, practice until it becomes habit! Daily Media Literacy Question of the day from CNN

*Resources and ideas borrowed from a bunch of folks, including, but not limited to: Brian Mull, Shannon McClintock Miller, Jim Wenzloff, and Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano.