Internet research skills on mobile technology

How do you teach good online research skills to students who use mobile technology?

Librarians are observing that students approach research differently on mobile technology. Infinite scrolling makes re-finding difficult. The abundance of information has led to differing ideas about what sources are credible. Our team member Wendy Stephens wrote about these issues on School Library Journal. Included in her piece are insights from our team member Tasha Bergson-Michelson.

Wendy writes:

Evaluating information is necessarily a more time intensive and complicated process than retrieving information in a networked environment, but teens have demonstrated shifting notions about what makes a source valuable. Pickard, Shenton, and Johnson (2014) found that the young people they surveyed at an English secondary school, when presented with a list of particular evaluative criteria for online research, were not interested in traditional authority of information. Those students instead prioritized currency and topicality, lack of mechanical errors, and verifiability. The last item in particular suggests that young people find recurring information, shared in a variety of places, to be a hallmark of authenticity at odds with earlier notions of authorial attributions.

“Search is a garbage in, garbage out process,” says Tasha Bergson-Michelson, instructional and programming librarian at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, CA. “Choosing search terms is hard. If you have the right words, you can find the data.”

Transferring research standards to current technology is necessary, as Wendy concludes:

The topics may differ and the sources might look different, but online research still points to many of the hallmarks of an established process. Contextualizing the acquisition of search skills, as Martin suggests, and refining search terms as Bergson-Michelson advocates, reiterate principles of bibliographic instruction grounded in print research. But the necessary authenticity of the research task will remain integral, and this is where librarians are key in championing and supporting inquiry projects of students’ own devising, helping young people connect to a range of resources to inform their particular passions.

These points connect to data literacy because knowing how search works is part of responsible digital citizenship and, relatedly, personal data management. Thanks, Wendy and Tasha!

Image: “Apple Iphone Smartphone Technology Mobile Phone,” by Pexels on Pixabay. CC0 Public Domain.