When I teach students..
... about doing online research, one of things I tell them is to figure out who's posting this article.
In other words, find out who wrote it, and what their possible motivations for writing this particular article really are. People rarely just write--they're usually trying to convince you, the reader, of something they believe.
In a sense, this is just good old-fashioned research as it was done in days of yore. But back then, life was simpler--it took a lot of work to publish an article or a book, and usually, there was a lot of fact-checking that went into the process. If it's hard or expensive to publish, then publishers tend to put a lot of time and energy into making sure that what got published was worth publishing.
But since websites, blogs, online videos (etc etc) are now SO easy to publish, anyone who wants to can easily put out a video, article, or book. When it's easy to publish, the publication world tends to fill up with content of questionable value.
So, a really important skill is that of being able to figure out how likely it is for something you find to be accurate. That leads to this week's Challenge--we'll look at a few questions and try to figure out whether the pages should be believed.
|P/C Google. The inside of a Google data center |
(showing cooling lines to chill the data flowing through the internet)
1. I keep hearing that the Internet is about to run out of addresses. Is this true? Here's one article that claims this it's about to happen Will the Internet really come to a screaming halt sometime soon because it ran out of addresses? (Important: How do you assess the quality of this article? Believable, or not?)
2. Here's an article from the EPA claiming that the federal government is suing a farmer for simply plowing his field. Is this for real? How would you assess the truthiness (and credibility) of this article?
3. A favorite topic in certain circles is the question of whether the USA has actually landed a person on the lunar surface. Here's one YouTube video that makes a series of arguments to claim that it was all a fake. How would you assess the credibility of this video?
The important part of the Challenge this week is to develop the skills needed to answer questions of this type. It's fairly common that people will look to a search engine to answer questions like this, and being able to dig a little more deeply is crucial.
And that's what I'd like us to focus on this week. Not just whether or not you believe in the claim, but WHAT did you do to dig a little more deeply into the claims of the stories.
Be sure to tell us what you did. I'll come back next week with the tale of what I did.
Show your work!