10 Ways to Help Students Evaluate Digital Information

goodwebsitebadwebsiteAlthough I am a big fan of encouraging students to begin any research project with curated resources such as the online databases at a school or public library, I know that many learners head straight for Google.

When students make garden-variety searches on Google, teach them to investigate and ask questions about what they find, especially if they are planning to use a website to learn more about a topic. The strongest 21st Century learners will make the process of asking evaluative questions second nature — examining each and every site before deciding whether or not to use the information.

Questions to Ask About Any Digital Resource          Continue reading

Media! Tech! Parenting! 2012 in Review

WordPress.com prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.


This blog got about 8,900 views in 2012.

In 2012, there were 106 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 301 posts. There were 151pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 11 MB. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was November 1st with120 views. The most popular post that day was Hurricane Sandy: Finding Reliable Information That Helps You Learn as Well as Look.

Click here to see the complete 2012 report on MediaTechParenting.net.

Needed: 2013 Digital Rules-of-the-Road for New Smart Devices

cell phone contract graphicAfter the December holidays lots of digital kids are using new digital devices.

Each new digital gadget requires that parents update or introduce a family digital device action plan — akin to the rules-of-the road that are so critical to new drivers.

These days flashy new smartphones, iPads, iPod Touches, music players, computers, laptops, notebooks, and video games are  connected in some way to the exciting, but rough and tumble world of the Internet. Sometime during the first week of gadget ownership parents and children need to sit together and review digital behavior and expectations.

Continue reading

Parents Use More Social Media – Often to Ensure Children’s Security

pew parents teen social media responses

Graph from Pew Internet Teens and Privacy report

In November the Pew Center on Internet and American Life together with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society published a new survey, Parents, Teens, and Online Privacy. This 2012 Teens and Privacy Management Survey gathered data from 802 teens and their parents. Everyone who participated in the survey lived in the United States; however, participants could take the survey in either English or Spanish.

Interesting Results

  • Parents report they are using a lot more social media — 66% of parents with children who use social media now use it themselves (compared with 58% in the 2011 survey).
  • One reason that parents are increasing their use of social media sites is to be able to facilitate ongoing family conversations about content.
  • Parents appear to worry more about advertisers who gather information about a child’s online activities than about a child’s possible contact with unfamiliar people.
  • Some teens whose parents are friends have learned how to restrict the information that parents see, but in general they are positive about friending a parent.
  • Parents are increasingly aware of  privacy policies — 44% have read a policy for a social media that one of their children uses and 39% told the survey that they are helping their children set up social media privacy settings.
  • Parents are concerned about a child’s online reputation, but the concerns are the highest as children get closer to applying to college.
  • Reputation management when juxtaposed with the adolescent years is tricky for teens.

A Book About Wikipedia to Read With Children

Image from the Barnes and Noble website.

Image from the Barnes and Noble website.

Wikipedia is cool, Wikipedia is filled with information, and Wikipedia is a great fun to visit.

That said, reminding children about the authority of references and the expertise of authors — whenever children begin research — is an important part of teaching and parenting. A critical 21st Century and life skill is understanding how to go about judging the quality of references and especially learning how to figure out when information is not up to snuff.

If students start out a project by looking up a topic on Wikipedia, and many of them do, they should hear — over and over at every age — about the importance of seeking out and reading other resources to confirm the facts. Adults, too, need to make this a habit.

truth in numbers

Image from Amazon site.

A new book, Wikipedia: 3.5 Million Articles and Counting, offers parents and educators a great opportunity to read together and learn more — lots more — about Wikipedia. Author Heather Hasan writes in detail about the history and philosophy of this mammoth open-source encyclopedia, explaining how Wikipedia works and describing how the editors keep track of new entries, edits, and re-edits.

Hasan points out the ways that Wikipedia writers occasionally argue over topics, and she notes that editors often decide to lock down a subject or entry. Other short sections of the book share Wikipedia facts and myths, a glossary, and several pages of bibliographic references.

If you read this book with children in your family or students in your class, be sure to have continuing conversations, both while reading the book and afterwards, about the importance of expertise and authority, pointing out that another reason to confirm the facts — aside from worrying about misinformation — is to learn whether even the experts disagree.

An excellent Wikipedia documentary, Truth in Numbers, is available at Amazon, and includes interviews with many of the people who have helped the Internet to develop and grow — the movers and shakers of the World Wide Web.

Facebook Scammers Continue to Lure Users – Successfully

danger fB scamsI sometimes observe a Facebook friend sharing or unknowingly posting a scam as often as once a day.

According to a post on Techlicious, scammers continue to find victims on Facebook. While Facebook continues to work against these scams, the sheer number of users on Facebook (one billion) encourages unscrupulous people to continue to seek victims.

The December 4, 2012 post by Techlicious writer, Christina DesMarais, lists six of the most prevalent scams — which often masquerade as apps — that Facebook users may encounter, all offering services that may catch a users’ fancy (or conscience).

I’ve listed the six types below, but check the post, The 6 Biggest Facebook Scams, for lots more information.

  1. Changing the color of profiles.
  2. Offering free things — cards, vouchers, prizes, etc.
  3. Begging for cards to send to wounded soldiers or warriors.
  4. Offering pictures of things or videos — often alerting a person via e-mail or message.
  5. Encouraging users to find out who is viewing your Facebook profile.
  6. Making the case for privacy options that are really hoaxes.

The post also explains how Facebook users can disconnect themselves from Facebook hoaxes or questionable apps.          Continue reading

Do Today’s Digital Kids Learn Differently?

Image from Children, Teans, and Entertainment Media: The View from the Classroom

Image from Children, Teens, and Entertainment Media: The View from the Classroom

In case you missed it, check out the November 1, 2012 New York Times article, Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say.

Technology reporter Matt Richtel shares information about two recent studies that examine, on the basis of educator surveys, how today’s digital children may be learning differently than in the past. Although individual responses are subjective, the results of the surveys “are considered significant because of the vantage points of teachers who spend hours a day observing students.”

One survey, conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, examined responses from 2,462 teachers. The other, conducted by Common Sense Media, surveyed 685 educators.

It all comes down to attention span. In both surveys teachers expressed concern that students, used to  fast-paced, always changing activities, are less able to focus on an academic task for a prolonged period.

Continue reading