Research on the web not so simple for students

A study published in the International Journal of Communications (IJOC)  finds that college students have a lack of web savvy, especially when it comes to determining the credibility of web search results. They apparently give most credence to the results that are highest ranked by the search engine – that is, those appearing at the top of the search page.

It’s another excellent argument for teaching media literacy in school. Those of us who grew up with print know that the cost of publishing results in at least an initial level of credibility. But today, anyone can publish anything for free (even me!) so it takes a little more sleuth work, if you’re not familiar with the source. It’s clearly a 21st century media literacy skill.

Meanwhile, what are kids learning in computer class in middle school? My kids learned how to create a document in Power Point. I have no doubt that they don’t need formal instruction in Power Point. When they need it, they’ll figure it out, like I did. But analyzing a website to determine whether it is credible, that could take some higher level instruction. It’s complicated. Why would we assume they can figure that out but they can’t figure out Power Point?

Now in case you are wondering if the IJOC is credible, well, I did some sleuthing, as I always will before I cite an organization I have never heard of. First, the IJOC study was cited by NAMLE, an organization I am familiar with, and whose newsletter I read regularly. Then, when I went to the IJOC link, I found that the publication is affiliated with the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.

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