Bill MacKenty

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Lazy Credibility?

Posted in Educational Tech Design on 26 - July 2010 at 11:39 AM (about 14 years ago). 238 views.

Neat article from the International Journal of Education about how young adults evaluate credibility of a website. Article is here, and the full pdf is here.

My read on this article is users click on the top of the search results when they are looking for something, and consider that search result to be the best.

This fits with what I’ve seen in the classroom and schools. Search for History of Warsaw, and we see these top 4 results:

Students will click on the top few links and assume this is the best and most reliable information. When we teach students about evaluating websites, I feel like an adult voice in Charlie Brown “wa wa wa wa wa wa wa wa”. The students like my lesson, and I have evidence they are learning the content, but they do not apply what I teach them. I see them using the top two or three search results - usually wikipedia.

My students choose the top search results because they want the information quickly, and the information is usually “correct enough”. I can’t help but think of Pavlov’s dogs. These students have clicked the top search result, and that search result is “good enough”, they have developed this habit, “top of the list is the best”. The only time I’ve seen this behavior change is when a teacher (or ed tech person, or librarian) is conducting a class on other search strategies, or using search databases.

One teacher made sure in every assignment there was a clear expectation that students would use a 1:3 ratio for wikipedia. For every 1 wikipedia reference, there had to be at least 3 non-wikipedia references.

In the interest of full disclosure, I usually use wikipedia for my day-to-day information needs. I usually glance at the discussion page for any hot areas of discussion. If I’m researching something important, then I usually turn to something like ERIC, or another source for peer-reviewed, journaled research.