Easier to find…but so much harder to trust.
Fischer and VanderHei have me thinking about fake news. Reliability of information and all that it means in the world today. They suggest, “there is more good information than at any point in humanity, but it’s harder than ever to find and to trust”. And I think I believe them. Access to information has changed how we do what we do. But has it made things better? Are we more informed or has access to information moved us to being more informed about stuff that doesn’t matter and armed us with the wrong kind of information? Toby Baker suggests, that while “the internet has given us access to a world of instant information, it’s also enabled the spread of disinformation on a hitherto unseen scale.” What does this mean for our society and more than that, our culture and the schools we educate our students in.
Have we really thought about google and how it works? Is google little more than a popularity contest for stuff? Where what you search brings up first what others have searched, so rather than the ‘best’ information, we find the most popular information? And if this is true, then the more we access this stuff, the more accessible this information becomes until its one of those popular myths. Like being able to see the great wall of China from the moon. You say it enough, and people begin to believe it (by the way…you cannot see the great wall of China from the moon. That is, if anyone has actually ‘been’ to the moon).
Our desire, our goal is that students become critical thinkers, yet at times, conducting a simple google search is near impossible. And we want them to dig deeper? Imagine digging a hole in solid concrete, armed with only a shovel. It’s hard work getting through that surface. Almost a waste of time. The shovel barely scratches the surface of what it means to dig. I think that’s how we conduct our internet searches. Barely scratching the surface of available information.
When we don’t give our students the tools to dig, they invariably revert to other options. Options we’d prefer they didn’t use or didn’t have to use. Mobile phones are a perfect example. Faster, more reliable internet would give us the option of digging deeper rather than just taking the first thing we see and treating it as ‘gospel’. Wikipedia is not the best thing ever…it has a place, sure, just not the most important place.
Our hope is for students to become critical thinkers. To think deeply about issues they care about. To think deeply about issues we all should care about. Without opportunity they will take on-board, and at times, believe to be true, anything they are lucky enough to download. And educating our students should never come down to luck.
Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think!
VandeHei, J. & Fischer, S. (2016) https://www.axios.com/searching-for-information-nirvana-2248588151.html