By Arianna Chaves Durán - Student of the Master’s degree in Teaching English with a Mention in Direction and Evaluation of English Programs
Have you ever wondered why many young learners are inherently knowledgeable about the use of technological tools but lack the necessary skills to discern the quality of information they find online? As a teacher, I have been asking myself this question. There is a misconception that the students who are born in the digital era (also known as “digital natives”) are fully equipped to face the pitfalls that come with technology. Growing up surrounded by technology might give these learners a superficial technological ability but not the expertise to gather, analyze, and apply the knowledge learned by using technology. Neumann (2016) conducted a study where she found that digital learners tend to perceive the first few results of an online search as being the most accurate. This happens because this generation of learners rush through their work and expect to end their research quickly. 21st-century learners are urged to acquire digital information literacy skills, and teachers play a fundamental role by guiding learners to distinguishing reliable information from questionable information, understanding how to search for data effectively, and using online information in a safe, savvy, and ethical way.
The amount of misinformation that is present on the internet is overwhelming. Close to two billion websites exist and over 380 websites are created every minute (Maxwell, 2020). As a result, teaching students to identify fake news articles from reliable information is a priority when talking about information literacy. Smolin and Lawless (2003) state that students will benefit from activities where teachers present examples of online information and discuss the importance of reliability, purpose, and authenticity. Moreover, it is recommended that teachers and students analyze together how current the website is, identify who the author is and whether there is contact information, as well as the difference between information that is a fact versus an opinion.
Learners should use checklists so they can try to evaluate the level of quality of the information presented. Besides guiding learners to distinguish authentic information, educators play an important role when it comes to teaching techniques for seeking information effectively. Navigating online and locating academic sources can be overwhelming for young learners. As a result, Maxwell (2020) provides some techniques like using quotation marks to search for exact words, making use of keywords instead of full sentences, avoiding the use of commas and question marks as well as searching for phrases by adding “filetype: pdf” at the end of the search. These techniques will ensure more effective and accurate results and will help learners to become more confident when searching on the web.
Although many consider that digital information literacy is commonly taught by librarians and is one of the core principles of their profession (Becker, 2018), in this digital information society, I can see how teachers have become key actors by providing students with diverse opportunities to learn how to use online information wisely. In this regard, teachers have a responsibility to teach pupils to use information in an ethical and legal manner. As a teacher, I consider it fundamental to make my students aware of the risks and responsibilities they encounter when handling information online. Students must be taught to respect intellectual property by understanding how to paraphrase, cite and give credit to other’s ideas and how to obtain media from the web legally. Finally, in this digital era, teachers have to be equipped with information literacy skills and not delegate the responsibility of teaching these critical skills to other professionals.
To conclude, in order to overcome the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is imperative that teachers take the lead and start teaching learners, since early grades, the literacy skills necessary to evaluate the quality of the information they search online, acquire skills to seek for information effectively, and understand the implications of not using the information found in an ethical and legal way. Undoubtedly, there is still a need to integrate information literacy into teacher preparation programs. Some teachers have been teaching these skills by finding themselves the resources and knowledge. Nevertheless, it is required that formal training be considered, and an emphasis be added towards effective literacy instruction.
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Becker, B. W. (2018). Information Literacy in the Digital Age: Myths and Principles of Digital Literacy. School of Information Student Research Journal, 7(2), 1-8. https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1316&context=ischoolsrj
Neumann, C. (2016). Teaching Digital Natives: Promoting Information Literacy and Addressing Instructional Challenges. Reading Improvement, 53(3), 101-106. http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=3d33b77f-8ad5-4d17-8867-beb96e824a23%40sessionmgr101
Maxwell, L. (2020). Digital Literacy and Digital Legacy. Library Technology Reports, 56(5), 7-11.https://journals.ala.org/index.php/ltr/article/view/7384/10168
Smolin, L., & Lawless, K. (2003). Becoming Literate in the Technological Age: New Responsibilities and Tools for Teachers. The Reading Teacher, 56(6), 570-577. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20205249