The key importance of information literacy

The video above is one of the all=time classic “April Fool” jokes. It was made by the B.B.C. and had Richard Dimbleby, a highly respected journalist as its narrator.

From the very beginning it smacks of authenticity. There were in fact millions of people, watching the (then) very popular T.V. current affairs programme “Panorama”  (including my parents but not myself as I believe that I was safely tucked up in bed at the time!).

I remember many years after the film became famous as one of the all time hoaxes that my father said that he had initially thought it was real but had swiftly understood that it was a hoax because of the date (broadcast April 1st) and the subject matter.

There were though a large number of people who were taken in by it all. It does help us to understand that fiction can be clothed in the authentic guise of fact. Nowhere does this have a greater effect and implication at the moment than the authenticity (or otherwise) of websites.

Alan November has an excellent guide to teaching  “Information Literacy“. I took a link from the home age, which is full of interesting links to  areas such as How to Read a Web Address, Find the Publisher of a Website and  What is the History of a Website

The section I found most interesting though was Websites to Validate

This was a really good selection of websites that contain information that is bogus dressed up as very authentic fact. I have actually been in a local primary school where the I.T. teacher had got the children to look at the The Pacific North-West Tree Octopus . He told me that many of the children were completely sold on the information and really got into writing details about the Octopus!
I think that this underlies the dangers of children accepting all they read on the web as fact. Whereas the Octopus site is fun and so is the marvellous Victorian Robots mock history site. November also relates two sites that have a more sinister implication to their so-called “truth”. He asks teachers to look at:

Martin Luther King: http://www.martinlutherking.org
This seemingly innocent web site address calls for the abolition of Martin Luther King Day and promotes White Pride. Content is inappropriate for all ages.

Stormfront: http://www.stormfront.org
The publishers of this site also host the Martin Luther King site. It may be blocked by an Internet filter.

The implications of the need to teach “Information Literacy” are immense. I did not see too much on this subject in the recently released White Paper on the future of education here in the U.K. I really feel that it should be a key item on any curriculum and that to neglect it can lead to dangerous consequences.

I would really appreciate any feedback from this post.

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