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Facts From Fiction and From the Internet

Being on the Internet requires a lot of critical thinking and the ability to discern fact from fiction. With the abundance of information that is thrown at Internet users from every corner of every site, the range of false data is huge, and taking this information for granted may cost visitors their well-being, friendship, and even mental health. However, due to the lack of critical thinking skills and their trust in an authoritative voice, students tend to fail in telling the facts to form fiction on the Internet.

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The described issue has been observed during the teaching practice at a local college. Although learners at the specified facility were expected to show significant critical thinking skills, they still tended to take information from the Internet with unwavering faith and see it as decent support for their argument. Therefore, the practice has shown that learners could not discern from the data that was supported with substantial evidence based on research.

The described phenomenon gives enough reasons for concerns since it implies that students lose the ability to manage information in the context of the global environment. The increased gullibility and the refusal to deploy critical thinking skills by questioning specific information were amplified by the failure to draw the line between trustworthy and non-trustworthy data sources. Moreover, research shows that once having selected a site as a source for information, students fail to identify what makes the specified site a valuable resource. Having no criteria for assessing websites for the accuracy of data that they present, the reliability of the source of the information represented, and the relevance thereof, students usually fail to select the websites that offer accurate and reliable data (McGrew, Breakstone, Ortega, Smith, & Wineburg, 2018). Therefore, it is essential to teach students to apply a decent amount of criticism t the assessment of websites before utilizing them as the basis for their further research. Presently, several strategies and tactics for addressing the problem of blind acceptance of online information by learners have been designed. The focus on fostering a responsible and reasonable approach toward the assessment of online sources can be considered as one of the most common strategies for engaging students in the critical analysis of online information. First and most obvious, learners need to be able to determine the extent of a site’s authority in the subject matter and its overall value. For this purpose, introducing learners to key online databases, such as Google Scholar, and pointing to the fact that most sites with domains such typically post verified information, is crucial.

Research also points to the obvious problem in students accepting the information that comes from the Internet in a critical way. Namely, Al-Aufi, Al-Azri, and Al-Hadi (2017) point out that students tend to lack civic online reasoning in a number of cases, which leads to the blind acceptance of any information on the internet and the resulting development of false perceptions about a range of topics. Therefore, the authors argue that the introduction of strategies for building learners’ civic online reasoning abilities will help to address the situation in an objective and effective manner.

The development of the civic reasoning skills is slightly more complicated than gaining prowess in discerning between credible and non-trustworthy sites. Nonetheless, it is possible to gain a decent amount of civic reasoning by searching for other viewpoints on a particular subject to compare and contrast them with the one represented in a particular source. In addition, the acquisition of the skills associated with the specified approach to reasoning will give learners the opportunity to build their own approach toward analyzing sources and incorporating them into their own argument.

Naturally, even with the inclusion of the suggested strategies into the toolkit that students will use when approaching information on the internet, it will be impossible to guarantee that they will detect false information with complete precision. However, occasional errors in judgment are not only impossible to avoid but also necessary to further the discussion and prompt a meaningful dialogue between students (McGrew et al., 2018). Thus, learners will be able to process the information that they receive online and learn to use it as the prompt for a larger discussion that will eventually lead them to making personal discoveries.

Due to the lack of critical thinking skills and the inability to discern between factually correct and erroneous information, students are exposed to the threat of gaining an incorrect understanding of specific issues when browsing online for references and information sources. While the skill for analyzing the veracity and legitimacy of print sources is quite basic and has been cultivated in the academic environment for decades, the online setting represents an uncharted land in which students are mostly left on their own. Therefore, a strategy for guiding students through the process of recognizing false information online is crucial. For this purpose, gaining civic reasoning skills along with the ability to search for proper sources in trustworthy databases is essential. As a result, learners are expected to develop the ability to engage in an academic discourse while armed with factually correct information.

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Al-Aufi, A. S., Al-Azri, H. M., & Al-Hadi, N. A. (2017). Perceptions of information literacy skills among undergraduate students in the social media environment. International Information & Library Review, 49(3), 163-175.

McGrew, S., Breakstone, J., Ortega, T., Smith, M., & Wineburg, S. (2018). Can students evaluate online sources? Learning from assessments of civic online reasoning. Theory & Research in Social Education, 46(2), pp. 165-193.

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