Written by: Jill Egan
Academia Cotopaxi Librarian
The explosion of information readily available in digital formats has been both a blessing and a challenge to educators. We are all aware of information overload: it is not hard to find information, but it can be trickier to decide what is the right information to use. Worse than that is the threat from malicious or naive people with the tools to create misinformation with potentially dangerous results. Even well-educated adults can be mistakenly influenced by half-truths, hoaxes or outright lies.
At Academia Cotopaxi, we are working to combat that danger by equipping students with the skills to be discerning, efficient and ethical users of information.
Citing Starting with the youngest researchers, students are taught about source citation. This is to create the habit of being aware of the information source. We teach students that this is how they show off their research skills. Good researchers use strong sources to inform their opinions and provide evidence for their theories, and it is essential to share the origin of the intellectual property. Information that cannot be cross-checked or verified should not be trusted.
Evaluating As students mature, we challenge them to examine their sources of information critically. Students in fourth grade analyze various materials to identify the author’s point of view. They also study the gimmicks of advertising and journalism. Seventh graders look for bias in online reviews read reviews and compare differences between information that comes from government, educational and commercial websites. And in all social studies classes from middle through high school, students use the OPVL method to determine the Origin, Purpose, Value and Limitations of every source they use.
Quality Sources Our library is fortunate to be able to provide excellent quality sources of information for our students. Not only do we have thousands of books, we also provide access to premium information databases such as EBSCO, JSTOR and World History Online for older students; PebbleGo, Report Builder and World Book Encyclopedia for younger students. Using these databases is not just a great way to find high-quality, accurate information, it is building that research skill for university and beyond.
Parents can help their children develop critical thinking habits; by asking questions like, “how do you know that amazing fact?” and “where did you get that interesting information?” or “what makes you believe what the author is saying?” And for extra assistance and tons of great resources, talk with your librarian. They have been helping people find facts for a long time!