Not all information, or information sources, are created equal!
Schools can adopt proven and reliable evaluation tools like Kathy Shrock’s 5 W’s and research process frameworks like the Big 6 to scaffold information literacy skill building. However, understanding that the *sources* we use within the context of these frameworks and tools require different levels of critical thinking and research skills is very important.
This image show how sources progress from the most closely monitored, vetted and easy to use (in terms of research skills and critical literacy) sources to the least:
Good quality non-fiction books almost always include text features such as an index, contents page, glossary and captions that explicitly and easily introduce key research skills.
Databases package well edited and researched information attractively into an interactive online experience. They are a safe, structured source to practice transferring the basic research skills (key words, skim and scan, etc) learned through book based inquiry into the online world.
Using their expertise at website evaluation, the teacher librarian curates a list (pathfinder) of websites based on a unit of inquiry that are kid-safe, ad free, current, accurate and written by experts in their field. It is a gentle introduction to internet use that begins to use higher level research skills.
Kid-safe search engines
Whilst usually highly regulated and filtered, to get accurate results using a kid-safe search engine, students will need to start using higher level research and website evaluation skills like those outlined in the 5 Ws. These skills take a thoughtful, concerted, long term effort to teach, consolidate and hone.
General search engines
The most common results interface of a general search engine is 100% unfiltered and littered with advertisements. This is the source where critical literacy skills are needed the most and yet it is the place the vast majority of our students (and teachers) start.