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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Read Actively by Questioning What you Read

Towards the end of my career as a teacher –librarian, I kept hearing that librarians would no longer be needed when the internet, not books, became the main source of student research.  Of course, my colleagues and I pointed out that students had to be taught information-literacy skills:  how to determine if a source was reliable and how to evaluate the information they found.

I taught students to ask questions when reading an article:
Is the source of the article reliable or deceptive?
Does the evidence provided to support claims include verifiable facts? 
Are any logical fallacies used (eg. ad hominem, evading the issue, faulty generalization)?
Is the author an expert on the topic and possess some credibility?
Does the writer try to show both sides or does he/she have a bias?

Obviously, those who argued that librarians were going to be obsolete were wrong.  Today, in the era of fake news, the critical-thinking skills that are part of information literacy are more important than ever as students need to differentiate between lies/distortions and truth.

Of course, it’s not just students who need these skills; everyone needs them in daily life as we navigate online data.  There’s a useful website, people can try: http://www.allsides.com/.   This website rates the bias of news stories and other articles, labelling them according to where they fit on a political spectrum from left to center to right.  It posts multiple versions of major stories and their positions on the spectrum.  It is even possible to do a search for stories on topics or issues.  This is an American site so the focus is on stories about the U.S., but I searched for stories on Canadian topics and had success, though the stories were not ranked on the political spectrum. 

So read – but read with an active, questioning mind.