Online Learners…anywhere, any age….similar issues

Today, the college course that I instruct on Technology in Education–EDTS 325–was focusing on the topic of Digital Citizenship. This is a new and ever-evolving topic for us as educators. Some school divisions are off and running on this topic; others, it seems, are trying to catch up and keep up. For most educators in schools today, myself included, this is a significant topic that has evolved before our eyes. We didn’t learn about this in university–the topic didn’t even exist; many of us are helping to frame and make up the digital citizenship content and discussion as we go.

When I realized that I would be doing a lesson on Digital Citizenship, an activity that we do in grade 10 Social Studies immediately came to mind: an information race–essential a google race–to see which group can accurately search and answer a set of 10 random questions. Phone number of your local MP? Vladimir Putin’s middle name? The current temperature in Buenos Ares? The name of the President of Molossia? Dangers of the chemical DMHO?

I wasn’t sure if this activity would yield the same results in a college classroom as a high school classroom, but I was hoping it would.  Fortunately for my lesson, it did!

Google + race = grab from the internet as fast a possible=gullibility

Of the 10 questions, students are asked to take information from three websites that lack credibility. For example, check out dhmo.org or city-mankato.us. When one carefully examines these sites, their foibles are obvious. However, college students were shocked at how they didn’t even think twice before providing answers from these sites as fact.

“Yes, but,” students said, “we never would have made that mistake if you weren’t telling us who was winning the race.  We’re too competitive. We wanted to win.”  And that was a great segue to discuss what happens when we are rushing to finish an essay, a term paper, a lesson plan….it perhaps explains the “how to ” videos that were submitted through out the semester in Russian or Arabic!  This was powerful lesson–a “light-bulb moment”–on how easily, even as adults, we get duped into a false sense of reliance and reverence for the internet.  Yes, this is important for teachers to pass on to students, but also for teachers to heed ourselves.

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