Alan November and Brian Mull take an interesting approach to assessing the reliability of online sources in their article “Web Literacy Where the Common Core Meets Common Sense.” To get students thinking beyond the surface of what they read, the authors suggest teachers have their students use Google to search for images of “ear mouse,” and then read two articles about this rodent.
The first article, “Artificial liver ‘could be grown’,” comes from the BBC, a trusted news source. The second account, “Vacanti mouse,” appeared on Wikipedia. The inconsistencies within the articles are readily identifiable. November and Mull challenge students and teachers to determine which information is more accurate by finding a third reliable source. But where? Astute readers of the first two sources, they say, will notice that the original research was done in labs at the University of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Then, using advanced search commands on Google, they can narrow their search and gain insights direct from the researchers themselves.
Spoiler alert, with further research students will find that the ear was not actually a human ear that was grown on the back of the mouse, as the BBC originally reported, but was instead ear shaped cartilage (derived from a cow) that was implanted on the mouse’s back. Students will come away from the exercise able to discern the difference between primary sources, in this case the labs where the research was completed, and secondary sources, like news sites. A valuable lesson, no doubt, and believe it or not all it takes is a little Googling.
Kelly Maher is a mathematics and technology teacher and Technology Coordinator at Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy, near New Orleans. Previously, she’s written about creating engaging infographics for eSchool News.