Not All You Read on the Internet Is True

I read an article recently about the difficulties of choosing digital content in K-12 education. I think the article was miss-titled. The author didn’t really discuss choosing digital content, more about managing digital content. But the author’s comments did spur some thoughts of my own.

K-12 education may have some special issues related to digital content. I don’t know what they might be. Having been a early adopter of technology in college and university education, issues I have encountered are no different than the issues written about by K-12 educators. K-12 educators write more about issues than my higher education cohorts seem to, though, and I appreciate that.

One front opening up on the War on Higher Education in the United States is the notion that one may not need an liberal arts education to be successful or innovative or entrepreneurial. I won’t expressly argue that point. I will argue that one cannot simply glean information published on the Internet and use such information as a means of arguing that one is “educated” or “well-read.”

What this generation, and perhaps many generations, of students fail to appreciate is the Process of Learning. Higher Education is not about learning how to use a hammer. Higher Education learning is not about simply learning how to use a tool, or add “tools” to a toolbox. The Process of Learning is about learning how to learn, not the simple result of “what grade am I going to receive?”

One flawed tactic of a self-learner is believing that what is read on the Internet is truth. Nothing good comes from the guileless reading of information on the Internet. A graduate student described an anecdote from his wife’s life this way. His wife, an elementary school teacher, works with another teacher who shares stories she has come across on the Internet. She shares these stories as if they were truth.

Now, one can say, maybe she is pulling the leg of her lunch mates? No, as there is a history with this person and her trait of being gullible. However, I come across tens of people every month, different people, mostly from rural America attending college and university. I am no longer surprised by the amount of information that people carry with them seen as truth that is really fantasy or media or political twisted information. A surprising number of people believe in History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens” as if shows in that vein are factual documentaries, rather than speculative fiction.

Higher Education, and really Secondary Education should, too, is prepare students for developing critical thinking skills. But, what is critical thinking? That discussion is above and beyond this article, but in a nutshell, Critical Thinking is learning how to question, and learning how to think.

Teaching is coaching, and coaching is teaching, and both are forms of Mentoring. Mentoring means being available to help direct students away from negative behaviors, and towards positive behaviors. Mentoring means helping strengthen positive traits and working on reducing negative traits.

Learning on one’s own is possible, if one is open and receptive to thoughts, ideas, theories, and there is an appreciation of liberal arts and sciences. However, if one has no experience in those realms, then a mentor can help expose fallacies of logic so prevalent on the Internet. A mentor can challenge thoughts, and especially Confirmation Bias.

Formal education presents knowledge and information in a structured environment, with the added benefit of a mentor who can be challenged by student questions, and, hopefully, challenges students with thoughtful questions.

If the Internet has a weakness, the weakness is the lack of formalized (structured) free educational mentoring. And what I mean is that the entire Internet is like one huge open-source Wiki, with the exception that the vast majority of pages do not come with Wiki-style comments indicating “this content is of dubious quality.”

The de facto Law of Internet Information is “Caveat Emptor” (buyer, or in this case, “reader” beware).

While learning to use a tool via the Internet is quite doable, learning how to write, or learning to perform calculus derivations, or learning to program, etc., learning how to learn via the Internet can be a very challenging endeavor, an endeavor where a mentor, AKA Higher Education, can be quite useful.

2 thoughts on “Not All You Read on the Internet Is True

  1. This is absolutely what I will try to do whilst I home educate my kids – focus on values and critical thinking skills as opposed to spoon-fed ‘knowledge’ purely to pass a test/exam. I live in the Middle East which is rife with very opposing views all claiming to be facts. It’s very hard to decide what is true or false, yet absolutely essential. Lives depend on it. Mature, well developed, regularly practised critical thinking skills are the only way to start working one’s way through the quagmire. Essential.

    • I will be posting some videos for children on developing critical thinking skills. If you don’t want to wait, you can search YouTube for “children critical thinking” and find them, I suppose. I saw them this morning and will work them into a journal entry soon.

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