Teaching students how to be critical evaluators of information they encounter during online research is an essential life skill

Today’s students don’t know the world without the internet. They spend days and nights on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat but hardly know how to translate all this information into learning. Gen Z doesn’t necessarily think critically about what they find online.

As educators, we can teach the academic side of the internet to them.

Why is it so critical?

  • Online research skills and critical writing are among must-haves for students’ progress through college life and future career.
  • Studies show that young people don’t focus on the credibility of sources they use; they can’t explain why they choose certain websites, authors, and publications.
  • Surveys demonstrate that many students don’t understand how to use online sources to support their arguments.

Educators can help students evaluate online information efficiently. Its volume keeps growing, and it’s significant for young people to know how to separate the gems from the garbage and become critical writers and consumers, not just viewers.

So, how can we help youngsters do efficient online research and navigate information easily?

Critical evaluation

Let’s explain the dimensions of critical evaluation to our students. When researching a website, they should keep in mind its relevance, reliability, and accuracy.

  • To examine relevance and accuracy, a student should consider the quality of the content.
  • To examine the reliability, a student should consider the authors and their agenda.

Encourage students to forget about Wikipedia as a one-stop website for academic research. Teach them to consider and compare several sources. It might be challenging, but websites such as Teaching Channel or Read Write Think can help.

Effective judgment

Students follow the purpose of their project to understand what websites would fit it best. Content published by governments, universities, and credible media outlets is of higher quality for them to consider. Depending on the purpose, teach students to consider resources that:

  • are valuable for deeper research on language and literature;
  • allow finding reliable information on STEM disciplines;
  • help with writing essays on general topics.

Introduce cross-checking information to students and encourage them to explore several pieces for proving the accuracy and reliability of the reference.

The problem is that some students believe all online resources are of the same quality: They type a keyword into Google and use the info they see from the first result only. Though Google remains the #1 go-to source, students should understand that its top results sometimes don’t offer enough depth they need.

Please teach strategic search to students and provide them with several newspaper websites that have searchable archives. Kentucky Virtual Library and Google Scholar might be a good start.

Effective usage

Teach students to determine the difference between news, personal, professional, and commercial websites. Explain that the .edu, .gov, and .org domains are more reliable to use for academic purposes, as they commonly provide users with accurate and relevant content.
Introduce students to scholarly search engines (Ebsco, LexisNexis) and “Advanced Search” by Google. They encourage deeper research, allowing to find credible information and scholarly papers that are more accurate to refer to on particular topics.

Also, you might want to share some checklists with students to help them with efficient online academic research. Ask them to answer the following questions each time they evaluate a website and doubt if they can use it as a reference:

  • Is it relevant to my purpose?
  • Who is the author of this information?
  • Is this person (institution) credible enough?
  • Is the information on this website updated regularly?
  • Where and how can I check the accuracy of this information?
  • How can I connect the information to my purpose, questions, and interpretations?

Share a guide to online research with your students and propose some top resources on finding relevant data:

  • Academic Index
  • Project Muse
  • World Cat

More resources, as well as tips on efficient research, are here.

Despite their digital literacy, it might be tricky for students to interpret all online information into learning, especially when it comes to critical research, including relevance, accuracy, and reliability of that info. Lessons encouraging students’ evaluation skills will allow teachers to exercise academic research and help youngsters become better web consumers.

[Source: This article was published in eschoolnews.com By Lesley Vos - Uploaded by the Association Member: Joshua Simon]
Published in Search Techniques

When Larry Page and Sergey Brin invented PageRank back in 1996, they had one simple idea in mind: Organize the web based on “link popularity.”

In short, in the universe of pages existing in a (at the time almost) shapeless web, Page and Brin wanted to organize that information to make it become knowledge. The logic was pretty simple, yet extremely powerful. First, if a page was connected to multiple pages, which in turn linked back to it, that page improved in relevance. Also if a page had less links from other pages, yet those pages
were more important, then it also improved the ranking of the linked page.

In other words, how much a page was linked to others and how much other important pages linked back to it, determined a score from 0 to 10. A higher score meant more relevance, thus more chances of being shown by what would eventually become the greatest search engines of all times, Google.

Nowadays when you open the internet browser, you are not looking at the web itself, but rather the way Google indexes it. Presently, Google is the most visited website and chances are this scenario will remain unchallenged at least in the near future.

What does that imply? Simply that if Google doesn’t know you exist, de facto you don’t. Thus, how can you make Google know you exist?

Web writing at the time of PageRank

Before 2013, machines and humans used two completely different languages. Almost like a bird of paradise’s chant is indifferent to an eagle, search engines could not understand human language, unless humans did change their writing process.

It was the birth of the web writing industry. This industry was based on a premise, follow what Google says is relevant. This premise generated a cascade of consequences that still affects the web today.

In fact, up to 2013, Google’s algorithm  took into account over 200 factors to determine the relevance of a piece of content. Yet those factors weren’t necessarily in line to what human readers wanted to see. Thus, for the first time in human history, men started to write for machines’ sake. That changed when in 2013, Google launched RankBrain.

How RankBrain and Artificial Intelligence changed web writing

Out of the more than 200 factors that Google accounts for when deciding whether the content on the web is relevant, RankBrain became the third most relevant.

Yet what is revolutionary about RankBrain is the fact that it uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to translate human language in machine language, leaving the writing process unaffected. Thus, rather than worrying about search engine optimization, writers can finally go back and do what they have been doing best for the last five thousand years: writing compelling stories.

Although it may sound trivial for a traditional writer, that was a revolution for web writers.

There is one caveat tough. Instead of thinking in terms of the single article, writers should start thinking in terms of entities. What is an entity then?

The birth of the Semantic Web

As we saw, before 2013 Google incentivized writing standards that were tailored for machines rather than humans. This scenario changed when RankBrain was launched.

The new algorithm allowed the coming forward to a new way of thinking about the web, a semantic web. Its father was Tim Berners-Lee, which in 2006 called for a transition from web to semantic web.

Why is that relevant and what does Semantic Web stand for?

First, the semantic web is a set of rules and standards that make human language readable to machines. Second, there was a transition from the single word to the general context, or put in technical jargon from keyword to entity.

In short, to make a piece of content relevant to search engines, it was crucial to place a set of keywords within an article. Yet that strategy is not enough anymore. Indeed, what nowadays makes a piece of content relevant is the context on which it stands.

In semantic web jargon an entity is a subject which has unambiguous meaning because it has a strong contextual foundation. Although strong and solid, that foundation is in constant flux. That makes the information structured as an entity way more reliable that any set of keywords. At the same time an entity is also more powerful as it adapts to the context in which it stands.

What does that imply? A single entity can replace a whole set of keywords. Thus, making writing more human.

The future of web writing

Even though no one really knows how the future will unfold, the hope is that finally thanks to Artificial Intelligence writers will be empowered, as they will be free to write amazing stories that will enrich the human collective intelligence. In other words, instead of going from writing to web writing as unconsciously as the human race transitioned from hunter-gathering to farming, it is time to take this step forward deliberately and intentionally. That means giving the web writing’s stage to whom it belongs, human beings!

Gennaro Cuofano is a Growth Hacker at WordLift, a software company that helps web writers organize their content and reach more readers while remaining focused on what they do best, writing.

Author : Guest contributor

Source : https://bdtechtalks.com/2017/03/15/how-artificial-intelligence-is-changing-web-writing/

Published in Internet Technology


World's leading professional association of Internet Research Specialists - We deliver Knowledge, Education, Training, and Certification in the field of Professional Online Research. The AOFIRS is considered a major contributor in improving Web Search Skills and recognizes Online Research work as a full-time occupation for those that use the Internet as their primary source of information.

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