Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How well do students evaluate online information?

As students continue to grow up online, are they getting any at discerning the credibility of the information they read? Are schools having an impact on students' information literacy?

A recent study by Donald Leu at the University of Connecticut indicates "no."

From the article:

" is important to observe that students in both districts performed at a low level during these online research and comprehension tasks. West Town students were able to respond correctly to ORCA items only about half of the time and East Town students only about 25% of the time. This represents very low mean levels of proficiency with online research and comprehension, and it raises an important concern about student preparedness for learning from online information at the seventh-grade level." source, page 53

The ORCA (Online Reading Comprehension Assessment) measured four clusters of skills that experts typically associate with information literacy (new literacies): locate, evaluate, synthesize and communicate. (It should be be noted that Information Fluency project focuses on the first two of these.) 

Two research performance tasks were given to 256 middle school students, namely, “How Do Energy Drinks Affect Heart Health?” and “Can Chihuahua Dogs Cure Asthma?" The combined results for the tasks are shown below--Means and (SD). The first column is West Town school, the second is East Town school (both are fictitious names). West Town is characterized as more affluent.

In terms of Locate and Evaluate skills, students with economic advantages demonstrated proficiency slightly better than 50% and 25%, respectively. Economically disadvantaged students achieved significantly lower marks. This reveals a digital divide between students based on economic advantage, but also shows that students persist in their inability critically to evaluate information found online.

The article is definitely worth reading and places these proficiencies in the context of reading online, which must not be overlooked in helping students locate, evaluate, synthesize and communicate digital information. Read more here.

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