Give Students the Skills, Not the Links

Updated June 2, 2017

This was our first year using Google Classroom and it was for the most part a success.  We did find some limitations, like grading individual students on group work.  But thanks to Alice Keeler, there were work-arounds. Google Classroom is a great way to manage your assignments, notices, and more.  It definitely kept improving throughout the year thanks to feedback from users. 

As the middle school and high school librarian, I am concerned with how some teachers are using Google Classroom. I see them pushing links out to students for research.  In fact, a colleague recently told me that there was no need for the web site I was creating, a virtual library of databases, resources, curated web sites, tutorials and classroom assignment links.  They said, with Classroom they just push out the specific links they want students to use for research.  

WHOA!!!  This is a HUGE problem.  One of the biggest lessons we should have learned this year is that everyone needs to know how to determine what sources are valid, how to search for unbiased information, and how to evaluate information and resources.

This is one of THE MOST IMPORTANT skills that should be taught in schools today, not just for academic reasons but to create well informed citizens who can think critically.   

I understand time constraints working within a school day but this is middle and high school. We cannot spoon feed students.  We cannot list links on a class web site or push out through Google Classroom.  Students need to learn how to navigate their way on the web. 

Students will not learn critical thinking skills needed to evaluate resources if we are handing them links.  If teachers push out links, they should be explaining to students WHY they have selected particular databases and web site links.  

I come back to the question that everyone seems to be asking is 
"How do we fight 'fake news'?" 
(Note: I dislike and avoid the term "fake news" when talking to students).

We fight it by not handing students the links and resources they need.
We fight it by not using the term "fake news" but correctly labeling what is found on the web - misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, satire, editorials and hoaxes.  
We fight it by teaching students to abandon their own bias when performing a search.
We fight it by teaching students to think critically, not skeptically.
We fight it by providing databases and teaching students how to use them.
We fight it by teaching students how to evaluate resources in all formats.
We fight it by teaching students the role of journalism in our society.
We fight it by teaching students to use social media responsibly, checking sensational stories before sharing and perpetuating falsehoods.
We fight it in schools, giving students opportunities to learn, to search and to make mistakes.
We fight it with certified school librarians who have the knowledge and skills to curate resources for a 21st century library, to instruct students on choosing and using resources, to support teachers through collaboration, and to be a leader in the quest for facts and truth.  

Keep using Google Classroom to manage your classrooms, but please do not use it as an alternative to teaching students the life skills of navigating the Internet to locate accurate information.  

I work in a middle school and in a high school library. Thank you to Nadine Bailey who reminded me that scaffolding is needed to teach research starting in the elementary schools and that it needs to be a collaboration between classroom teachers and school librarian.  Please see her comment below as well as Elizabeth Hutchinson's as we continue this conversation.  Thank you both for your feedback. 


4 comments:

  1. A great post Kathleen! I was hoping in our move to Google classroom that the file of links was going to disappear. From what you are saying here it looks like nothing much is going to change. We need to keep talking and sharing why this is all so important for our students. I love your list!

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  2. What you say is valid and true only if enough scaffolding is occurring both in the classroom and on the part of the teacher-librarian. Unfortunately I see too many children from a very young age, particularly in inquiry based schools being let out in the wild of the web.
    If not curating specific links then at least curating databases or parts of databases.
    By high school yes they should be there, but there are few middle-schoolers really up to the task.

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    1. Yes I agree Nadine. Some teachers seem to think that independence is searching the internet. They do not realise that by using good quality resources provided by the school library is a skill of independence in itself. Being able to choose the right resource to enable you to get the task done quickly is a valid independent skill. Just because you have chosen to select an academic resources is not lacking independent skills it is proving you really have these skills.

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    2. I agree! I see should have been more clear that I am taking 8th grade and up. I have elementary teachers who tell students to research and point them to Google with no guidance. Students need background knowledge before searching so starting at a reliable source...I always point to our online Encyclopedia that includes links to the web's best sites that have been evaluated by professionals and we talk about that. Thank you for the thoughts.

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