Web literacy: Where the Common Core meets common sense

“To ensure that students learn the grammar and strategies of the web, we believe it’s essential for every teacher to develop lessons that challenge students to learn how to verify sources,” the authors write.

(Editor’s note: This is Part Two of a series of articles on developing web literacy among students. To read Part One, click here.)

Are you as worried as we are that the overall impact of technology on our children’s ability to solve complex research problems is negative? Have you heard a child near you say, “Just Google it,” when asked to describe the meaning of life?

Research shows that students primarily use one search engine and then only look at the first page of results. They can quickly give up or settle for something “close enough” when they don’t find the information they’re looking for. Huge amounts of time are being wasted in searches void of the rigor of research.…Read More

Why more schools aren’t teaching web literacy—and how they can start

If you follow the dictate that we teach what we test, it’s understandable why schools haven’t spent more time preparing students to be web literate since NCLB was passed.

In 1998, a 15-year-old high school student used the personal website of a professor at Northwestern University, Arthur Butz, as justification for writing a history paper called “The Historic Myth of Concentration Camps.”

That student, who we will call Zack, had been encouraged to use the internet for research, but he had not been taught to decode the meaning of the characters in a web address. When he read the web address, http://pubweb.northwestern.edu/~abutz/di/intro.html, he assumed that the domain name “northwestern.edu” automatically meant it was a credible source. He did not understand that the “~” character, inserted after the domain name, should be read as a personal web page and not an official document of the university. As with any media, punctuation counts.

Without web literacy, Zack believed Butz’s explanation. Zack read about how the Nazis were fighting typhus, a disease carried by head lice. He went on to read that the pesticide Zyklon was used to kill the head lice—not the prisoners in the gas chambers. Without basic knowledge of web punctuation or the skills necessary to validate internet content, Zack was at a disadvantage to think critically about what he was reading. He had been taught to read paper, but he had not been taught to read the web. Zack was illiterate in what undoubtedly has become the dominant media of our society. At the time, Zack’s teachers also were illiterate about the web.…Read More