by Judy Salpeter
March 15, 2003
This practical guide offers classroom activities and exercises that train your students to be discerning
consumers of information on the Internet.
Call it information overload, data smog, infoglut, data dyspepsia-whatever term we use for it, everybody
is talking, these days, about the overwhelming proliferation of Web sites, e-mail messages, and other digital
information that bombards us on a daily basis. On the positive side, this means our students have access to a
huge array of valuable information-primary resources, up-to-the-minute news, and networking opportunities they
never would have had before the Internet age. But sending young people out into these uncharted waters without
understanding what Alan November refers to as "the grammar of the Internet" can be dangerous indeed.
In recent issues of Technology & Learning (See "Net-Wise Teens: Safety, Ethics, and Innovation" by Amy Poftak;
"The Educator's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use" by Hall Davidson; and "Teaching Kids to Be Web Literate" by Alan
November), we have addressed a number of these dangers-ones related to safety, ethics, and legality. But, as
November points out, it is equally unsafe to send students out on the Web without the ability to validate the
information they find. The Internet grammar he proposes teaching them includes "a range of critical thinking
strategies, from decoding Web addresses to understanding the pattern of links to searching for the owner of a site."
David Warlick of the Landmark Project agrees, explaining that these sorts of skills are key to "preparing kids
for a future that we cannot clearly describe. The best thing to teach them, today, is how to teach themselves."
He refers to the American Library Association's Nine Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning as
"learning literacies" - essential skills that "help people learn in an information-rich, highly networked, and rapidly
But how do we teach such things? In the next few pages, we look at numerous activities and suggestions that help
young people learn how to locate, analyze, synthesize, and critique information.
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