17 votes

If you had to teach a class about information literacy, what would your key points be?

I'm in an online course right now that touches upon information literacy: the ability to access, sort through, and analyze information (particularly online). It is not a very in-depth course, and a lot of the recommendations it gives feel a little limited/dated, or just out of touch with current internet practices (e.g. trust .edu and .gov sites -- don't trust .com sites; use Britannica Online instead of Wikipedia). It also doesn't really account for things like memes, social media, or really much of the modern internet landscape.

I know we have a lot of very technically literate as well as informationally literate people here, and I'm curious: if you were tasked with creating a class to help people learn information literacy, including how to identify misinformation online, what would some of your key points or focuses be? How would you convey those to your students (whether those students are kids, adults, or both)?

12 comments

  1. [3]
    eledrave
    Link
    Don't trust anything "incoming". That means email, text messages, phone calls. It also means ads that are on your feeds (Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok). Go looking for information if something...

    Don't trust anything "incoming". That means email, text messages, phone calls. It also means ads that are on your feeds (Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok). Go looking for information if something piques your interest instead of reading the garbage sent to you which could be unsafe. If you want to know something, go looking for it. If anyone asks you for something, such as Paypal sending you an email telling you to login to do something by clicking the link, don't do it their way. Instead, go to Paypal's site on your own and see if it is legitimate.

    15 votes
    1. [2]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      The lines between "incoming" and "outgoing" aren't as clear as they used to be. Search results can optimize based on trend data and tracking to be targeted to you, which means any means you use to...

      Don't trust anything "incoming". That means email, text messages, phone calls. It also means ads that are on your feeds (Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok). Go looking for information if something piques your interest instead of reading the garbage sent to you which could be unsafe.

      The lines between "incoming" and "outgoing" aren't as clear as they used to be. Search results can optimize based on trend data and tracking to be targeted to you, which means any means you use to find stuff is influenced by the same incentives ads do. This could even be true of sources you trust, because many online sources gave up on cultivating an audience in favor of hunting for clicks.

      7 votes
      1. balooga
        Link Parent
        This is a great point. I appreciate my filter bubble if I'm looking up a local restaurant, or troubleshooting a bug in some code or something. Not so much for "controversial" topics where...

        This is a great point. I appreciate my filter bubble if I'm looking up a local restaurant, or troubleshooting a bug in some code or something. Not so much for "controversial" topics where misinformation abounds. I recommend escaping the bubble for those searches: Use incognito mode or an alternative search engine. A VPN could be useful too, if regionalized results are problematic.

        Although, even that will only get you so far. One thing I'm really frustrated about currently is how insanely muddied the waters are about covid vaccines. One of my family members may be experiencing an adverse reaction right now, but I'm simply unable to look up useful facts about the subject online without my search results being buried in fringe antivax fake news sites. This inability to find signal in the noise is becoming a larger, frustrating side effect of life in the information age.

        2 votes
  2. [3]
    TemulentTeatotaler
    Link
    Honestly it's a big problem and a lot of things I would have used to recommend aren't safe guidelines anymore. There are big disinformation actors, and they can afford good web design,...

    Honestly it's a big problem and a lot of things I would have used to recommend aren't safe guidelines anymore. There are big disinformation actors, and they can afford good web design, self-reference, established institutions/websites, and borrowed credibility.

    In the last year I recall seeing a deep dive into a claim that China created Covid-19 in a lab. It started with a book sold on Amazon by a Chinese author about the plausibility of viral warfare and morphed into "leaked documents" from the U.S. proving China create the virus.

    It took a good number of hops to morph that far. Each of those hops occurred on Murdoch-owned news, embellishing and obfuscating just a bit more.


    It's not exactly what you're asking for, but I think a foundation of critical thinking requires understanding human/psychological shortcomings, probability/statistics, and encouraging intellectual humility.

    Books like Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow are great for the first point.

    The second is a prerequisite to be a good forecaster.

    It's also the basis of the improbability of conspiracy. How likely is it for one person to tell a lie? Let's say 50%. How likely is it for ten independent people to tell that lie? 1/210=.098%.

    The last point is just recognizing your lack of knowledge. I find it uncomfortable to vote because I'm not informed. There are dozens of incredibly important issues. Each of these issues has many brilliant people that spent their lives studying them, and even then there is disagreement.

    When I read articles I do it to gain a breadth of knowledge. I defer any sort of deep dive until I need to act on that knowledge, proportional to how important the decision is.


    How would you convey those to your students (whether those students are kids, adults, or both)?

    I don't have any skill or experience with this, but I'd be inclined to say it would stick best if it was applied and fun. Can you make a game out of it?

    I've never played it, but I've heard Among Us being referenced as an effective way of teaching kids information manipulation and the fallibility of witnesses/memory.

    The podcast Skeptics Guide to the Universe has a "Science or Fiction" segment where one host presents three news items and the other hosts try to figure out which news item is fictitious. Often the fiction is plausible or modified from a real story.

    Having students play the roles of someone trying to deceive and someone trying to suss out who is sus might be a good way to cultivate and habituate that skillset.

    (sorry, rushing this due to time)

    10 votes
    1. Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      I've played it (fun, simple game) and I can totally see this. However, as someone who sometimes struggles with reading people correctly it would be amazing for a person really practiced at playing...

      I've never played it, but I've heard Among Us being referenced as an effective way of teaching kids information manipulation and the fallibility of witnesses/memory.

      I've played it (fun, simple game) and I can totally see this. However, as someone who sometimes struggles with reading people correctly it would be amazing for a person really practiced at playing this to break down a session.

      3 votes
    2. userexec
      Link Parent
      I had never heard of superforecasters until your link there. That's fascinating. To think someone without access to classified information could, on average, make more accurate predictions than an...

      I had never heard of superforecasters until your link there. That's fascinating. To think someone without access to classified information could, on average, make more accurate predictions than an expert with access is pretty out there. I may have to pick up a book on that.

      2 votes
  3. knocklessmonster
    (edited )
    Link
    I would start with the example of martinlutherking.org, which has been used on me several times as an example to always check the sponsoring organization of a webpage. I can only link to an...

    I would start with the example of martinlutherking.org, which has been used on me several times as an example to always check the sponsoring organization of a webpage. I can only link to an article because the actual site has gone down, I think around the time Stormfront got dropped by CloudFlare. The first step towards information literacy is being able to determine the validity of information you find, and one of the best determinants of accuracy is finding the biases of any sources.

    Another thing I would lead into would probably be some form of training on epistemology, which would likely also tie in to my previous point, but also allow people to confront their own understanding and mental processes. Simple stuff like "How did you/they come to this understanding?" Part of identifying a valid source of information is understanding how they came into that information, and how they presented that information.

    out of touch with current internet practices (e.g. trust .edu and .gov sites -- don't trust .com sites; use Britannica Online instead of Wikipedia).

    Again, see martinlutherking.org as an example for why we shouldn't teach on broad strokes like this. People intent on disinformation have been trying to weaponize this for a little less than the internet has been around. I agree with the sentiment on Wikipedia, because Brittanica won't be changing too rapidly, and has a limited amount of editors. Wikipedia can change day to day, and specifically doesn't allow primary sources for its citations, depending on a certain amount of cultural pervasion for an idea to be valid, regardless of its accuracy.

    EDIT: About Wikipedia vs other encyclopedias, I'm painting with a huge brush here. In general, this is the justification I've heard, combined with known information about Wikipedia's function. I've had professors allow me to use Wikipedia for papers, but they were few and far between and required other sources as well. Part of information literacy is, again, about developing the ability to tell good sources from bad ones, and one Wikipedia article can be a better source than another about their specific topic.

    7 votes
  4. HotPants
    Link
    The ability to identify expertise and conflicts of interest are huge. Expertise: You don't need to be the smartest person in the room, you just need to be able to identify who the smartest person...

    The ability to identify expertise and conflicts of interest are huge.

    Expertise: You don't need to be the smartest person in the room, you just need to be able to identify who the smartest person is. Read anything from one expert to another (lawyer, economist) and you will see ambiguity, confusing terminology, and references. Now you just need to be smart enough to understand what they meant.

    Conflicts of Interest: This is more challenging. I can find plenty of experts in the stock market or SEO, but I won't trust them an inch, as they all have a conflict of interest.

    3 votes
  5. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    How to use search engines How to find and read the sources whenever possible Brief introduction to main concepts in philosophy of science How scientific journalism (doesn't?) work Examples of bias...
    • How to use search engines
    • How to find and read the sources whenever possible
    • Brief introduction to main concepts in philosophy of science
      • How scientific journalism (doesn't?) work
    • Examples of bias in media
    • How "old media" works and how it relates to "new media"
      • I think it's important to acknowledge that traditional media remains relevant to large portions of the population and we should understand it. I assume most students won't need a primer on social media and the like.
    • I'd incentize them to learn a second language. Everyone that loves computers should probably learn English, but if you're researching Samba or the Amazon Rainforest knowing Portuguese would help a lot. The same for German and French if you study psychoanalysis and so on.
    3 votes
  6. patience_limited
    Link
    "Information literacy" also requires an understanding of the sadly old-fashioned word, "propaganda". You can get too deeply into the weeds of the technical spread of online misinformation, and...

    "Information literacy" also requires an understanding of the sadly old-fashioned word, "propaganda".

    You can get too deeply into the weeds of the technical spread of online misinformation, and understanding psychological vulnerabilities to bias. The medium and speed of misinformation spread have definitely changed. However, there's nothing new about profiting or gaining political power by spreading emotionally attractive narratives with persuasive agendas counter to the personal best interests and desires of the recipients.

    There's a great discussion here, with resources for educators.

    3 votes
  7. [2]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    Mark this as off-topic because it's not relevant to the main question I posed, but I wanted to bring this up anyway since it's related: The class now has me reading this article and it feels......

    Mark this as off-topic because it's not relevant to the main question I posed, but I wanted to bring this up anyway since it's related:

    The class now has me reading this article and it feels... off? Not only is it just really shallow in general, but take a look at the section entitled "Blow Your Learners' Minds. Frequently.":

    Real-time reporting against standards, rich media-driven portfolios, a vibrant collaborative learning experience, top-notch unit plans from teachers around the world, and much more. Prepare to get excited about the learning journey every day.

    It has nothing to do with the rest of the article and is just directionless marketing buzzspeak. Is this just thrown in there for the SEO?

    Even the other sections don't feel cohesive, and the writing gives me "uncanny valley" vibes. Consider this sentence, at the end of the section on "The Written Word":

    Moreover, students cannot engage with materials when they are out of earshot of an educator.

    Huh? Was this article pieced together by an algorithm instead of a human writer? Can anybody help me understand what's going on here?

    (It's also worth noting that this article was not included as an example for us to evaluate information literacy but is presented as a face-value article about how technology is changing education.)

    6 votes
    1. TemulentTeatotaler
      Link Parent
      I'm more thrown by having recently used the term "wabi-sabi" in something I'm working on... Baader-Meinhof in action... A quick read gives me the impression it's just bad/quick writing. Someone...

      I'm more thrown by having recently used the term "wabi-sabi" in something I'm working on... Baader-Meinhof in action...

      A quick read gives me the impression it's just bad/quick writing. Someone trying to rush out an article that doesn't understand or care about the topic, who was given a few words or points to talk about.

      Was this article pieced together by an algorithm instead of a human writer?

      A charming anecdote from something I heard about "text as data-visualization" was on AI articles on baseball.

      Baseball was a great candidate due to it being highly structured and having a large number of articles already written for training data. While it was still in its early days it was suggested that even if it wasn't at the quality of a professional journalist it might still be useful for things like Little League games that otherwise wouldn't have any writeup for parents couldn't attend.

      ...the problem was that they trained using performance data of professional players and applied it to children. IIRC, the articles were not very kind in their descriptions.

      Can anybody help me understand what's going on here?

      Moreover, students cannot engage with materials when they are out of earshot of an educator.

      Cannot-->can. They were saying writing was beneficial for pedagogy because you didn't need an instructor present.

      2 votes