Helping students evaluate information- do we need to change our approach?

I’d be surprised if anyone still buys into the notion presented in Marc Prensky’s original paper Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants so I’m not going to analyse the various arguments. However, I will admit that I did assume that most young people were voracious consumers of all types of online information and that this would translate into their academic work. So, I have been surprised by how few students seem to make use of the rich information offered by media such as Twitter, Ted Talks, YouTube, iTunesU, blogs etc. (I know it’s not all great but wow there are some gems out there) for their academic work or even at all.

The more I contemplate why this might be happening the more I have to accept that we as educators must shoulder some of the blame. Most reading lists I see still contain just books and journal articles. We talk to them endlessly about using “academically credible sources” and evaluating everything they find using a set of criteria that really doesn’t reflect the way a lot of information is now created and shared. This might lead to students feeling nervous about using these non-traditional sources for fear of being marked down for not using “proper” sources.

Tomorrow I am starting our new module The Digital Student so I guess this is why this topic is so much on my mind. We are making use of podcasts, videos, blog posts etc. and as part of the module, we will be engaging students in discussions and activities that explore the different ways information is created and spread, the impact social media has had on this and whether there is now a blurring between what we consider academic and non- academic sources and the issues this can raise for students particularly in terms of deciding what is appropriate for them to use in their studies.

What have been your experiences? Do your students make more use of these less traditional sources of information? Do you think this is a bad thing? Is it different depending on the discipline or tutor? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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One thought on “Helping students evaluate information- do we need to change our approach?

  1. I don’t know anyone who is ‘time rich’ so I suppose the tried and tested processes of peer review and editorial management within journals and books is a comfort.

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