Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Empowering Students with Technology: Ch. 1

"Teaching and Learning the Structure of Information"

There is an Internet grammar that necessitates that students know what is the Internet's equivalent to, among other things, footnotes, indexes, and bibliographies.

One of the great frustrations I hear from colleagues with regard to researching on the internet is that students just grab whatever pops up in a search engine and view the information as reliable. November suggests teaching students how to break down the "meta-web information". Students need to be able to decipher web addresses, understanding not just the difference between .com and .net but also how the grammar of subdirectories works (ex. a path using /~name typically refers to a personal space on a server and not necessarily an "official" section of the sponsoring site).

Students should also be aware of the links both to and from a site/page they are using. Who the author links to is an indicator of issues of bias and authority, as are the links coming into the page from outside sites. How search engines decide which site is placed first in a list of results can also be directly tied to links to that site; students need to know the reasons behind the results they see.

What I am left wondering is how many of the teachers who are frustrated with their students use of the internet really know how to use the internet any better than their students. At least consciously. As educators, we have done our fair share of research, and we have gotten good at discriminating between the good and bad sources. But how good, as a group, is our knowledge of meta-web information. Can we begin the process of rejecting or reading further just based on the web address of the source at the top of the Google results?

So many of the issues November raises are circling back to the same underlying problem, there just aren't enough opportunities for teacher training. How fitting that a recurring theme of the M.Ed. classes is leadership. So there aren't enough training chances. Get the degree. Get the knowledge. Get teaching teachers.

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