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Alternative Truths, Falsehoods and Bears

So, I think it is safe to say I am not the only one who has been surprised by recent events with our counties transition of power. With a press secretary and a special advisor who seem to specialize in alternative facts, blame shifting and making claims without sufficient evidence it has become very apparent that we need need to become a nation of educated consumers of information. This means before we read something and simply accept it as truth, we need to make sure the information is reliable. Every American needs to become his or her own Snopes.

Google isn't a fact checker but when you ask a student to research something, anything, they immediately Google it. That is not a bad thing. The information super highway is a term that has lost its appeal, but embodies just how much information is accessible by everyone. Google it, but make sure your information is reliable. That is what we as teachers must ask of our students. But how are we to start this conversation without losing their attention and to make it meaningful?

For year I have taught "Web Site Evaluation." Usually with the 5 W's of Web Research. You know. The same 5 clique W's that newspaper reporters supposedly asked their subject. Who wrote the web site. What is the web site's purpose? When was the web site created?

You get it.

Other lessons involved check sheets of what to look while perusing a website as a possible resource for information. The problem is these activities were all super boring. Boring to teach and boring to learn. There was no engagement for anyone involved.

Now that I am teaching elementary school again I wanted to create an engaging lesson that would allow students to understand the importance of web site evaluation by using a simple strategy that they could remember easily. Enter S.P.A.T., 4 websites (2 "real" and 2 fake) QR codes and iPads. The activity was simple. As a whole group we have a discussion on who can create a web page. Most 3rd, 4th and 5th graders are savvy enough to under stand that anyone can build a web page. Then the challenge is presented. Can teams of students spot a fake web site versus a real website? Around the room 4 large Post It notes have been placed on a wall, back of a door or on a table. Students are then grouped into teams of 3 or 4, given and iPad and a pen. They are then asked to scan each QR code on the Post It note and decide as team if the web page they are looking at contains reliable information or is full of the alternative truth. Once they decide one of the team members writes a sentence explaining why they believe the website is real or not. Once every team has evaluated each site we come back together as a class.

It is always interesting reading each teams reasoning for their answer. Some students are already beginning to really think about what to look for in a reliable online resource. This is always encouraging and leads well into introducing a strategy for students to use when evaluating a web resource. S.P.A.T.

S.P.A.T. is an acronym for evaluating the reliability of a web site's information. S.P.A.T. was developed by Dr. Elizabeth M. LaRue out of the University of Pittsburg. S.P.A.T. stands for Site, Publisher, Audience, Timeliness. This strategy is essentially the same as the 5 W's or the web source check sheet, but is easier to remember and coupled with our QR code activity makes a great tool for students to employee for themselves. Most of our 4th and 5th graders keep some sort of Writer's Journal that they use as a place to take notes in as well as jot down notes from a mini lesson. My wife actually has her kids turn their journals around and then upside down to create their "notes" section within their composition book. This journal is the perfect place for students to take notes on S.P.A.T. for quick reference later. This journal can then be out and used as a quick reference for students to refer back to while seeking out web resources when they need it.

To access this lesson and accompanying resources check out the Web Resource Evaluation folder under the Classroom Activities page.

PS. I am guessing bears bothering schools isn't a thing.


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