Putting its stamp on another hot topic at the ISTE 2010 ed-tech conference in Denver, the International Society for Technology in Education on Wednesday explained an evolving web-literacy curriculum developed with Microsoft and gathered feedback from conference-goers.
Critical Thinking In the Classroom focuses on teaching students to be responsible cyber researchers. The lessons, which can be downloaded for free, are available at three ability levels and are broken into five units: the mechanics of searching, validity and reliability, plagiarism, citing Web sources, and civil discourse.
Chris O’Neal, the ISTE faculty member who collaborated on the curriculum, said the program is aimed at changing the habits of students who have a quick Internet trigger, but not a natural skepticism of what they find on the other end of the search field barrel or an awareness of where it comes from. Some younger students, he said, even think everything they find on a search engine is the search engine’s own content.
“We asked [students], ‘Would you make life decisions based on the first [Web] page that comes up?’” O’Neal said. “And some kids really said, ‘Well, it depends what the question is.’ ”
The ISTE-Microsoft venture comes at a time when digital responsibility is becoming a topic of national—and federal—discussion. The National Broadband Plan, released in March by the Federal Communications Commission, is calling for increased focus on digital literacy. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education and Karen Cator, its director of education technology, want students to gain a grasp of digital citizenship, the concept of understanding and evaluating your actions as a member of a digital community. The ISTE-Microsoft curriculum scratches the surface of those issues in its civil discourse unit.
“When we posed these questions to a whole bunch of media specialists in the country, that’s something that came back,” O’Neal said. “Kids have a real hard time being in blogs and being civil. ... They’re reading a statement someone says as truth, and getting really, really ticked off about it.”
Other organizations are developing curricula that more thoroughly tackle the citizenship issue. Look for a blog post about one of them when the conference disperses and yours truly is back at EdWeek‘s Bethesda, Md., headquarters.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.