If we want students to truly understand the many forms of plagiarism and cheating, they must be able to identify credible sources and use them effectively. That is not as easy as it may seem, though.
Advances in technology and the rise of social media mean that we are all inundated with information. As educators, it is imperative that we give our students a process for actively evaluating incoming information and reaching logical conclusions that avoid being passive consumers of information. The process, though, is incredibly complex. Where do we begin?
Let us consider four ‘rules’ we must pass on to students:
1. Consider objectivity
Whether we acknowledge it or not, everyone has bias. A credible source seeks to present a balanced set of information. If sources use loaded language or even derogatory terms, we must question objectivity.
2. Find credible sources. Question the internet (and other sources)
Young students are trained to accept information that comes from an authoritative source. When information has been published, it is easy to accept it as accurate and objective, but almost anyone can publish to certain places on the internet and other less reputable publications, so we should not accept it as truth without applying our own logic and asking probing questions. Does this person or group have a goal that is not simply about revealing information or giving an accurate account of events? Often, the answer is yes, and when it is, we should ask ourselves if that goal is influencing the information presented.
3. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion
Selecting one source of information and accepting it without thought is dangerous. Look for other viewpoints and perspectives. Make it a habit to cross-check information, especially if it appears to be slanted toward one, narrow viewpoint.
4. Above all else, apply reason and ask questions
Do not passively consume information and pass it along without thought. Ask questions. This is what it means to be a thoughtful, informed member of society.
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