… Doesn’t really seem so simple anymore.
I picked up on twitter this morning that Howard Zinn had died. Not being familiar with the person, I simply headed over to Google and dropped in his name. What I found there this morning really caught me. Possibly it was the completely new territory, me not being familiar with the person’s name I was searching for, but I was taken off guard by what my search looked like:
A simple Google search, that used to bring me back a set of websites that I could search through further, making my decisions based on the short preview blurb that is displayed, has grown.
For the students in our classrooms, we need to ensure that they understand what is presented to them when they press the search button. Are they looking for current news results? Are they looking for the most up to date information possible though twitter (that also needs the strongest kind of internal filtering)? Might they be best served by watching a video? What are their options for displaying this information?
Literacy online is a complex thing. Compared to a simple paper based novel where you turn the page, start at the top left and finish at the bottom right (in English anyway), a webpage is a complex space that requires a different set of strategies to be navigated successfully.
There are comprehension level strategies:
- how do I read this?
- what is that word?
- where do I begin and end?
- am I understanding what I am reading?
- what on this page is advertising?
- how is this page layed out?
- what in this space is actually important for me to focus on?
There are information level strategies:
- what kind of information do I need?
- should I click on that link?
- would that video file help me?
- should I take a look at twitter?
- can I display this information in a different way? will that help me?
Then of course there are more meta level strategies:
- can I trust this information?
- who is the author?
- when was this last updated?
- what part of the story is this website not telling me?
Even a simple Google search is not so simple anymore. Search results have become complex spaces filled with information presented in different forms and allowing for various options for customization. For a student, who may be relatively new to a topic, the strategies and the scaffolding we help them put into place will be vital for their comprehension and deeper understanding of an issue or topic. Students need to understand their options and how choosing a path through an information space will effect what and how they learn. They need to be conscious consumers of information and not simply “clickers.”