Before I begin this post in earnest, I would like to pre-emptively apologize to the Children's Television Workshop. I am going to use their classic song "Who are the people in your neighborhood?" and "repurpose" it as I talk about what I think is a great idea for teaching kids about evaluating web sources in the information age. Here is the librarian version of this wonderful song (can you tell I am a die-hard Sesame Street fan?)
This very catchy song is meant to teach the very young that there are dozens of people in your neighborhood that can meet your information needs. If you know your question, you should also learn what type of person or institution to go to for the answer or for help. I would guess that most young people don't randomly ask anyone any question that they have, yet they "ask" google everything, and assume that the first item listed in the search return is right, accurate, reliable, etc...
In an article I read for my class this week, I learned about Stony Brook Universities program that promotes news literacy. They have come up with the idea of "information neighborhoods" and they use this idea to promote the idea of getting young people to think about context and purpose before using the information they find. For Stony Brook's entire program, click here. I couldn't help but think that this is an awesome opportunity for programming and education in the school and public library setting. You could come up with your own neighborhoods (suggested "neighborhoods" from Stony Brook are news, propaganda, advertising, publicity, entertainment, and raw information.) You could also do this based on your user's needs. What about neighborhoods like .org, .edu, .gov, .com? Or sites for encyclopedic information vs. peer reviewed journals? You could even have older kids think about all the types of websites they use in a day and they could create their own neighborhoods (homework questions, entertainment, social networking, sports, school activities.) Then, and perhaps most importantly, they need to be encouraged to think about whether or not the information in that "neighborhood" is appropriate to their purpose.
I feel like this is real and useful source analysis rather than the standard worksheets that are often given to help kids "evaluate web sources." In a way, this covertly teaches them to be data curators, what more could we ask for? Is the song stuck in our head now? Sorry!
Articles that inspired this post:
Harris, Frances Jacobson. "Ch. 6: The Deep End: Content." I Found It On the Internet: Coming of Age Online. ALA, 2010. 123-149.
Harris, Frances Jacobson. "Ch. 7: Fishing Poles, Not Fish: Damage Control." I Found It On the Internet: Coming of Age Online. ALA, 2010. 153-177.