A Google a Day

A problem:

We don't use the Internet all that well.

For a moment in the 1990's, it seemed like the web would reinvent education. We'd all become brilliant — to challenge our provincial mindsets, to become awed by a world of experiences.

But how do we typically use the internet?

  1. To waste time: hence all the cats, and pics of naked people.
  2. To confirm our own biases: hence all the Democrats who repost Huffington Post articles, and Republicans who repost The Drudge Report. 

And we're often not skeptical enough of what we find: witness the great Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus hoax, which demonstrates that kids are terrible at sussing out truth online. 

We all have access to a super-brain, but don't use it wisely.

Our basic plan:

Have kids thoughtfully Google one thing each day. Slow down the process, and reflect together on the results.

Encourage kids to plan one specific web search, make note of what they find, and think about whether they believe it or mistrust it (and why). 

Then, challenge their credulity and incredulity.

The goal:

Adults who use the internet to get true information about important issues.

Adults who use the internet to challenge their own biases, rather than fall into an echo chamber.

If you walk into a classroom, you might see:

Kids in the midst of a lesson jotting down an intriguing question into their commonplace books to Google later.

A student staring at a long-running argument about (e.g.) gun rights on our chalk wall, realizing just the perfect fact to Google for.

Kids deliberating about whether to add "snopes.com" to a chart of "sites to generally trust", and ".net pages with black backgrounds and like 20 fonts each" to the chart of "sites to generally mistrust". 

specific questions:

(This idea is currently in beta! If you've thoughts on how to make it better, please join the conversation on our Facebook page.)

Related elements:

Commonplace Books
Question-Posing / Answer-Hunting
What's True?

To Learn More:

To see how horrible students' native powers of crap-detecting are, peek at the Wikipedia article on the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Or, take a look at this Pew study to see how conservatives and liberals wall themselves off in ideological echo chambers online.