Some people may say that modern technology at the hand of youth might be a threat for themselves, their closest relatives or even larger groups of society. That’s why I would like to emphasize the importance of educating our young learners as researchers and making them used to critical thinking. It is all in our – the hands of educators.

Different researches about the habits of technology use among youth are showing disappointing results and facts about how smartphones became an inherent part of everyday youth life (“Smartphones are fuelling a ‘bedroom culture’, with online access for many children becoming more personal, more private and less supervised” (The State of the World’s Children 2017: “Children in a Digital World“).

On the other hand, there is a bright side of technology’s impact on young people. Many young people succeed in making connections and developing friendships as well as receiving support online, which might be problematic or difficult for them in the offline world. Many young people use their devices in various ways as their favorite tool to socialize with friends as well as explore the world around them. Online tools are often used for discussions, sharing knowledge about their own choices and experiences in music, movies, gaming, browsing the internet, etc.

Unfortunately, there is a dark side as well. Research has shown the key domains of youth practice using technology – friendship, intimacy, family, gaming, creative production. Some of young people build their romantic relationships online, without even seeing each other in person and break up simply by changing the status of the relationship in social media. (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning | November 2008).

Such facts might be confusing and terrifying. Is this how young people understand the relationship between people? Is this the future for future relationships? Teachers have a huge role not only in teaching students about critical thinking which they have to apply while using digital tools everywhere – both at school during their learning practice, but also in their personal everyday lives. Young people need to enrich their knowledge about the world around them and be aware of the current global issues. Our students is the future and it is essential to give them fundamental knowledge about digital tools and research.

Marianne Stenger in her article “8 Ways to Hone Your Fact-Checking Skills” emphasized one of the key challenges which young people struggle with while verifying credible sources. Unfortunately, young people quite often lack fact-checking skills. According to Marianne Stenger, many of them get news through social media where you can often face fake newshoaxes and misinformation. Students barely see the difference between real and fake news. Researchers have led the study which has shown, that true rumors can be resolved and verified within two hours, in comparison with the false rumors’ verification time of 14 hours.

Photo by Duri from Mocup on Unsplash

As an educator, I have to use my research skills very often. I am always looking for new information, tools, methods, etc. to enrich my teaching. In my daily practice, I always check my Twitter profile and use #hashtags to search for specific categories of information which might be useful for my everyday work. In contrast to a “lurker’s way” to use social media to enrich the research, being an active communicator (making connections and starting discussions with experts of the research topic) almost always provides an additional positive impact on the results of the research.

“If you are on social media, and you are not learning, not laughing, not being inspired or not networking, then you are using it wrong.”
― Germany Kent

Students need our – educators’ – help while learning specific strategies of the research process, as well as applying this knowledge practically in their day-to-day lives. They learn to search for relevant information purposefully by using specific methods such as searching specific domains, using quotation marks or hyphens to narrow down search results as well as find relevant information easily and quickly. More and more new sources of information are showing up every day and “Things can change so fast on the internet.” just like our posts on our COETAIL blogs 🙂

Teaching students research skills is a significantly important part of teaching them long-life learning skills. The internet is an incredible place – it is the ocean of information and our students need to learn how to swim there and do it purposefully. These research tips might help students survive difficult moments when they feel lost in gigantic amount of information available online.

One more essential moment of teaching students research skills I would like to emphasize is online source evaluation. How do you recognize a credible source from fake newshoaxes and misinformation? The “5C”content, credibility, construction, corroboration, comparison key stages that help achieve that are explained in the following educational video by John Spenser – Helping Students Identify Fake News with the Five C’s of Critical Consuming.

One of my favorite tools that help recognize credible resources is Pacific Northwest tree octopus, which is a great example of how websites, looking credible and professional from the first sight can contain fake facts and nonsense information. The Pacific Northwest tree octopus website is commonly used for teaching Internet literacy in many schools. Many students tend to use the first website they find or even worse – Google summary – as a research source. Unfortunately, quite often it is a time-consuming process for students to understand that a search engine is a search tool with very different results in terms of credibility, rather than a fully reliable source of information. We, as educators, can and have to change this for the benefit of our students and society in general.