Monday, July 21, 2008

Evaluation Challenges

There are two major types of search challenges: finding information and evaluating it. From my experience, which includes field observation and assessment, about 1 in 3 young people searches adequately. The majority wastes time, gets lost browsing, grabs the first thing that comes along or finds nothing at all. If information is finally located, virtually no one bothers to evaluate it.

Locating information is only half a search.*

Evaluation requires a second aspect of information fluency which I call investigative searching. It is closely related to ethical use: collecting information for citing the resource. Much of the time investigative searching kills two birds with one stone: evaluating the credibility of the information yields many of the details which are required by a complete citation.

Knowing how to find the author, publisher, date, embedded and external evidence can be critical in determining whether information should be trusted. Finding these requires a different set of search skills and a knowledge of where to search. The process typically involves a lot less speculation.

Here's an example where investigation prevents false information from being perpetuated: The Transformer Challenge. Try it and see how you do.

If you or your students (or co-workers) could use some assistance in this area, I want to recommend an online course that unpacks the strategies and techniques used in investigative searching. We have just entered the last week of our pilot session of Web Site Investigator (WSI). Participants from Indiana to India are saying great things about the experience:

Judy (Indiana): "I plan to make use of all of the materials presented in this assignment. I believe that each of the sites offer a different way to approach the need for teaching students (and teachers) about using the internet with a critical eye."

Biju (India): "One is justified to wonder why this course is of any significance to me. One of the key reasons is that there is barely any structured and academic approach to desk research in the corporate field. It's almost considered a given to know 'search' as a part of your growing up. There is very less science and precision attached this this activity. This is where such sessions from the IMSA stable really add value."

A new section of the course will run August 11 through 22. If you are looking for ways to improve your ability quickly to find and evaluate authors, publishers and other evidence, I strongly encourage you to enroll. The course fee ($68) is a bargain and helps keep the rest of the Information Fluency resources online and free. Course information here.

*The one exception is if you retrieve information from a source you know you can trust AND don't have to track down missing citation details.

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