Just an observation here, but three times in the last week I have been speaking to different educators who in passing have made the point that we do a good job of teaching kids that .org sites are more trustworthy than .com sites but that in general, we really don’t have a solid grasp of online literacy.
David Jakes says
To illustrate how untrue that is, just use jakesonline.org as an example! 🙂
Sharon Elin says
When I registered my domain name, I purchased both the .com and the .org version. I’m fairly upright and moral, but I could have been a pornographic sleaze doing the same thing. We have so far to go in educating ourselves about media literacy!
Mr. David M. Beyer says
Being fairly computer literate, I’ve learned from students over the past 2 years how my “computer literate” and their “computer literate” take us to different sources/places on the worldwide web. I work with some teachers whose lack of personal experience using the www (much less the internet in general), and complete distrust of it, makes me think that using relevant sources in the classroom is an uphill battle which gets steeper every year. Education is slow to change, and I worry that true adoption of computer literacy will only be a generational change brought in by teachers who grew up with computer literacy skills.
Sharon Elin says
You’re so right that the definition of “computer literacy” differs from one person to the next! But I wouldn’t count on a generational shift to improve computer literacy skills – not on its own. The next generation of teachers may indeed be more experienced in using computers than veteran teachers are today, but unless they’re taught how to critically analyze sources, search and filter effectively, honor copyright restrictions, read/comprehend the multi-layered information in websites, and cite sources appropriately (the entire scope of media literacy skills), they’ll be just as ignorant as the rest of us. Internet natives who are savvy at maneuvering around in the web world might be good at clicking around, but essentially they’re still clueless – sort of like a jewel thief who gains access to a cache but can’t tell a valuable gem from a worhtless bauble. He just grabs whatever shines.
really great perspective, i think that we (meaning me) often think i know the web, especially when i am in circles that don’t or won’t navigate it, but i need to think more in terms of how to model the common sense and editorial ability to students
Does online literacy have to do with knowing the web or knowing how to navigate the web? Are those things distinct or the same?
How about the Brittney Spears website that was mentioned in the NYT online reading article from last week? That was .org. The only organization that Spears is involved in is AA, and I bet they have their own website.
My peeve? When teachers (or librarians) tell students that all .edu sites are even better than .org sites. Some are, but others are the work of students with space on the school’s server, while still others are those of professors with hobbies and not in their area of expertise.
Even teachers need reminders about how to evaluate sites effectively!
I’m thinking the url has very little to do with the content of any web address. Would you agree with that?
This summer I’ve been taking a recertification course entitled “Evaluating Online Resources for Classrooms”, and the material she provided parroted those same lines – EDUs and ORGs can be trusted, etc. I cringed.
I suggested that she should update her materials a bit.
Gary Lennon says
I find it disheartening that we try to stereo type web sites by their domain. Why should we expect (or teach) that all .org site or all .edu sites are good (or bad). They are made by different people who put a different level of effort into the accuracy of the information in their site(s)and each person comes at the task with a different background that may (will) affect the way they present things. If we have 1,000 different people doing 1,000 web sites why would expect they are all as good (or bad) as the other 999 just because they share a domain type. That is a big reason why we need to teach our students AND teachers some reasonable (and quick if at all possible) ways to evaluate web sites.
Laura Deisley/Deacs84 says
@sharon I agree completely with your comments here. These kids have absolutely no idea because they don’t have a context for what is valid and what isn’t. And what I am seeing in some of the “finest” schools is not encouraging.
Can I tell you how many school heads wanted to hire Joyce Valenza on the spot at BLC?
At the moment I’m thinking if I could have one strategic hire it would be for a “media center specialist/librarian” who (1) understands what is shifting and (2) recognizes that she/he is the hub. Assuming full support of the superintendent/principal, this is where we can effect the most change with teachers and students. She’s the MVP in my book. Give me a Carolyn Foote, Cathy Nelson, Joyce, Peggy, etc–give ’em a crown and a charge to design best practices–and let them go build it.
Are there other needs, etc? Yes, but something tells me it all emanates from fundamentally shifting “the library.”
Kate Olson says
Amen to all who replied before me – and take note of the fact that I paid a whopping $10/year for my domain at katesays.org 🙂 And have purchased .org names for my children who are 1 and 2 years old – .org is nothing different than .com on today’s web.
Kobus van Wyk says
Making rules of this nature is not helping students in any way whatsoever. What about other extentions (au, za, etc?). It takes far more effort (and longer to achieve) but we must teach learners how to show discernment when reading anything on the web. It is like telling a child to avoid “adult shops”, but it is OK to go into another bookstore – where potentially the same pornographic literature may be found. Should one not rather teach the child the principles of making correct choices and prepare them for the harsh realities of the cruel world out there?
Tracey Carlton says
Excellent analogy regarding the “adult bookstore.” The skills in determining the credibility of digital sources actually are not much different than determining the same from our “traditional” print sources. We still need to pay attention to bias, connotation, range of sources cited, intended audience, and for some purposes authorial background to gain an idea of the credibility of the information presented even in print publications. While the Internet provides us a ready forum for self-publication, it also provides us accessible methods of checking the context and background of sources, and of “holding up” a publication against others for comparison and contrast.
How many of us know adults without these skills who take every news story as objective and the whole truth?
Will Richardson says
No disagreement, Kobus. My point here is that the educators in the room are many times lacking in these skills as well.
Kobus van Wyk says
Even though it is a sad fact that teachers often lack the necessary skills themselves, in a strange way it is good news to me: in Africa we are lamenting the low skill levels of educators, and your comment indicates that we are not alone! The point remains, however, that if one gives these “rules” to educators, simply because they do not understand the principles, they will apply it without insight and the learners will be the gullible victims. The bigger question therefore is: how do we train the teachers properly?
Steve Ransom says
Isn’t the bigger issue thinking analytically and critically about everything? Do we just accept the perspective on the civil or revolutionary war in our textbooks because it is written in print in a district-approved anthology of “truth”? The incorrect math problem that is printed – the teacher mark’s everyone’s correct answer incorrect because of the misprint in the correction key… The faulty science logic, culturally specific bias or incomplete analysis of some issue… We run across these all the time. The Internet is no different, I think. The bigger problem is that we (meaning the education community as a whole) have been very guilty of not challenging our students to think critically about anything we “consume”. We often punish or extinguish students who argue with “truth” or think divergently about it – even if they are incorrect. There is no internet truth-proof domain that will fix this for us.
Jim Leesch says
I, for example, purchased a .com domain because I didn’t want the hassle of friends and family always typing .com when I was at .org.
.org and .com are irrelevant. The only way to effectively evaluate the content of a site is to look for sources, and analyze for bias.
The fact is, this has been true for all printed material before, just not on this scale. All consumption of information requires some form of trust, since it comes from a source outside our own experiences. In the past we had editors who “checked” the material, providing a trust in an authority, but they could be just as susceptible to bias as today’s web publishers. Our final line of defense has always been librarians and other information professionals, who rely on expertise and a network of information about the printed page that now we all must have.
It’s as if Google has it right in some sense. The information we trust is the information that most of us agree upon as true. The difficulty in the internet age is that we must delve into this network ourselves rather than trust a single authority or group of authorities to do this checking for us.
Tom Hemingway says
A couple students this year told me the same rule about .org and .com. I replied, “My website is .com. Does that mean you can’t trust me?” I then pointed them to some extremist political sites which contradicted each other and were .org.
I point out to students that Google searches just show you the sites that get visited the most, which has nothing to do with whether they’re reliable. You might visit the first hit from your search, then utterly disagree with it, but you’ve still added your vote to keep it at the top of the list.
The history of science shows us that “the information that most of us agree upon as true” gets refuted and revised all the time. Just reading the “discussion” tab on any Wikipedia article shows you how wobbly much of our knowledge is.
What we “know” is filtered all the time by what we believe. I believe that, along with information literacy, we need to help students understand that they also need to know themselves and what beliefs and paradigms they are bringing to their encounters with information.