Fig. 1: Political Cartoon from Rogers, Rob. “News Hole .” Editorial Cartoonists, The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, 9 Dec. 2016. Accessed on 7 March 2019.
We thought that the world at our fingertips would make everything easier -- not harder. And to be fair, there are A LOT of ways in which the dawn of the digital age has added more convenience to our lives. Who doesn’t love tracking their pizza order online, or getting a message when their driver has arrived? Or being able to touch “call” and connected directly after searching for a particular place of business online, as opposed to locating their entry in the printed Yellow Pages.
The internet has opened opportunities in ways that we cannot yet imagine -- only time will reveal them. Meanwhile, it is essential that we learn to navigate our way through this flood of information in a safe and secure way. Yes, safe and secure. You may not know it, but there are dangers lurking in those internet-rapids: disinformation and misinformation, whether intentionally misleading or misunderstood, has thrown us into a deluge of data. The only way to avoid be swept away in this chaotic current of chicanery and callowness is to do what humans do best: adapt.
And herein lies the hard part: with access to so much information comes the responsibility to evaluate that information thoroughly. We all need to be practicing our fact-checking skills, so with each new piece of information we encounter, we need to be assessing it with the following questions (Green): Who wrote it? On what evidence are their claims based? And what do other sources say about this source and their claim?
In other words, don’t let yourself be duped so easily. Use what your own wits in conjunction with the internet as a tool to assess the veracity, or the truthfulness, of the information presented. We are smart, capable creatures, and this new age is not the first time we are presented with this lesson: great freedoms come with great responsibilities.
Here are a few sources to support you in developing effective evaluating skills for your time spent exploring the wild, wild web.
Stanford History Education Group: Civic Online Reasoning
Teaching Tolerance Digital Literacy Videos
Students and teachers:
Crash Course: Navigating Digital Information
Practice your evaluation skills with the Factitious game
Source Evaluation Checklist
Green, John. YouTube, MediaWise, 15 Jan. 2019