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Valid or Invalid – Biased or Unbiased An investigation into whether students choose internet search results based on quality and validity of information.

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Presentation on theme: "Valid or Invalid – Biased or Unbiased An investigation into whether students choose internet search results based on quality and validity of information."— Presentation transcript:

1 Valid or Invalid – Biased or Unbiased An investigation into whether students choose internet search results based on quality and validity of information found or ease of access and top search results Gary J Brumbelow CEP 806 – Teaching Science with Technology Module 1 September 25, 2011

2 I first looked at my own experiences… As students in college, it was expected that we conduct in-depth research and cite factual, unbiased sources in our work. The rubrics given to us put a strong emphasis on the source material in which we used and therefore trained us to go beyond the top returns on a Google search and begin to set narrow parameters around our searches. This was necessary to reduce the amount of time it took to collect and process our search results in order to find the most factual and relevant sources. As a teacher in secondary education, I found that students typically took the path of least resistance or the shortest route to a final product, often using technology short-cuts to complete assignments. I found that it was necessary to demonstrate the proper methods of research and to define what was, and was not, a credible resource to be cited in their work.

3 Based on my experience I predicted that secondary students… Do not have a strong knowledge base on how to conduct a narrowed internet search by setting search parameters. Do not fully understand the differences in various internet domain suffixes such as (.com,.edu,.gov,.net,.biz, and.org) and the strengths and weaknesses associated with them as research sources. Do not search for sites that present valid, unbiased information; instead pulling sources from the top results given by their chosen search engine regardless of potential bias or slant on the facts.

4 Inquiry Project 1: Finding and Using Internet Information: The purpose of this Inquiry Project assignment is to learn more about how learners think about, search for, and use information on the Internet. This assignment gave me pause to reflect on my own habits when seeking information on the web. How do I conduct my search and what parameters do I use Which search results do I choose to read or review Which sites or types of sites do I trust Where do I look for valid unbiased information What factors led me to where I am today and how did I acquire the knowledge I have when it comes to conducting an internet search and finding valid, unbiased information I began to think about my answers to these questions and the numerous times that teachers and professors instructed me on how to properly conduct a quality internet search. This lead me to wonder: Do secondary students know how to set parameters in an internet search? How do they choose which sites they view and what information they rely on? Which types of sites do they trust more than others, or do they simply trust anything that is returned in the search?

5 How I tested my theories… I am not currently teaching in a secondary classroom, so I had to find a way to question students on various aspects of conducting an internet search in order to collect data.

6 How I tested my theories… I decided to create a 10 question survey that I could distribute via the internet using SurveyMonkey.com.

7 How I tested my theories… By developing and asking pointed questions surrounding students… overall knowledge of technology and the internet knowledge and abilities to narrow search parameters when using search engines criteria for choosing credible sites I felt that I could collect sound data that would prove or disprove my theories and lead me to new questions that would drive further exploration into the subject.

8 The Sample Group 48 individuals started and completed the survey of ten questions. All respondents stated that they use the internet and conduct searches on a frequent basis. All respondents stated that they have used an internet search engine to conduct research for a project or assignment that required cited sources

9 The Survey Says… When asked where they usually learn how to do new things on a computer or with the internet: – 62.5% (30 of 48) stated they learn at home or on their own – 25.0% (12 of 48) stated they learn from a friend or classmate – 12.5% (6 of 48) stated they learn at school My Thoughts 87.5% of respondents stated they are more likely to learn or discover new things on the computer or internet from a friend/classmate or on their own, compared to 12.5% percent who learn at school. If this is the case with students in general, are they learning proper and sound internet search techniques? Is the curriculum in the schools addressing this issue and if not, why? Are teachers noticing the same trend and if so, are they addressing this issue in class and with assignments?

10 The Survey Says… When asked where they typically work on the computer or internet: – 56.3% (27 0f 48) stated they work at home – 37.5% (18 of 48) stated they work in the classroom – 6.2% (3 of 48) stated they work in a computer lab or library My Thoughts With the lack of technology and the low number of computers in most public school classrooms, I would expect to find in a larger sampling that the number of students who complete their work at home would be considerably higher and the number of students who work in the classroom to drop dramatically. This leads me to wonder…if the students are working at home, are they more prone to take short cuts and just use top results compared to digging and searching for the best possible sources?

11 The Survey Says… When asked where they are most likely to look for factual and unbiased search results: – 72.9% (35 of 48) stated they use an internet search engine – 12.5% (6 of 48) use textbooks, autobiographies, books, etc. – 10.4% (5 of 48) use Periodicals (i.e. magazines, newspapers, journals, etc.) – 4.2% (2 of 48) use documents produced by organizations, government agencies, etc. My Thoughts I was actually quite surprised to see that close to 30 % of the respondents would look at a source other than the internet for factual and unbiased search results. I would expect that this number would drop if the survey was given to a larger sample group. Which leads me to ask; should teachers assign research projects where the students are only allowed to use non-internet sources. Are we as instructors becoming to focused on using technology for all lessons and assignments?

12 The Survey Says… When asked how often they use an internet search engine (i.e. Google, Yahoo, Bing, Dogpile, etc.) for research purposes: – 59.1% (26 of 44) said daily – 34.1% (15 of 44) said weekly – 4.5% (2 of 44) said never – 2.3% (1 of 44) said rarely – 4 individuals did not answer this question My Thoughts 93.2% of respondents stated that they use an internet search engine for research purposes on a daily or weekly bases. I would estimate that this response would remain relatively constant independent of the sample size. I predict that the 3 respondents defined research purposes to mean a more in-depth search than the other 41 respondents. If I was to submit this survey to a larger sample group, I would reword this question to remove that uncertainty. However, this result demonstrates the necessity for curriculum and instruction to address the proper way to conduct a narrow and focused internet search and the need for students to understand how to collect viable, unbiased information from reliable sources on the internet.

13 The Survey Says… When asked how they choose which search engine results to use in their research: – 37.2% (16 of 43) said top search results – 30.2% (13 of 43) said type of site (i.e..com,.org,.edu, etc.) – 16.3% (7 of 43) said the website host or source (i.e. news source, organization, journal, etc.) – 16.3% (7 of 43) said search results title – 5 individuals did not answer this question My Thoughts The highest percentage of respondents stated that they use the top results when choosing information; 53.5% said they use the top results or the title of the results. I would not be surprised that a larger sampling would show that percentage to be higher. We, as educators, need to work to lower this trend by narrowing and focusing our expectations for students research results and addressing the need for reliable cited sources in the rubric. With these actions, I believe that this trend can be reversed.

14 The Survey Says… When asked to rate the following types of website by their estimated level of trustworthiness or accuracy and unbiased presentation of facts, the respondents stated:

15 The estimated level of trustworthiness or accuracy and unbiased presentation of facts for.COM sites Definitely Trustworthy and Accurate 2.3% (1 of 44) Pretty Trustworthy and Accurate 27.3% (12 of 44) Somewhat Trustworthy and Accurate 31.8% (14 of 44) Not Very Trustworthy or Accurate 15.9% (7 of 44) Untrustworthy and Biased 9.1% (4 of 44) I Dont Know 13.6% (6 of 44) My Thoughts 29.6%, nearly one-third, of all respondents felt that if they found information on a.com site that it was trustworthy and accurate. Nearly 15% of respondents stated that they did not know whether a.com site was trustworthy or not. This tells me that an alarming number of students do not realize that.com originally signified that the site had some sort of commercial intent. While not all.com sites are business sites, the.com suffix signifies that this is a general purpose site and can be used for any purpose. Therefore, internet users need to research who is hosting the site, what is the intent of the site, and critically review all material to ensure that it is factual and unbiased.

16 The estimated level of trustworthiness or accuracy and unbiased presentation of facts for.ORG sites Definitely Trustworthy and Accurate 4.5% (2 of 44) Pretty Trustworthy and Accurate 50.0% (22 of 44) Somewhat Trustworthy and Accurate 29.5% (13 of 44) Not Very Trustworthy or Accurate 0.0% (0 of 44) Untrustworthy and Biased 4.5% (2 of 44) I Dont Know 11.4% (5 of 44) My Thoughts Nearly 55% of respondents feel that.org sites are trustworthy, while close to 30% feel they are somewhat trustworthy. This leads me to believe that 85% of respondents would use information found on a.org site without hesitation or concern. While the.org suffix typically represents sites that are hosted by non-profit groups, it does not assure that the information contained on the site is not represented in a slanted or biased manner in order to benefit the ideology of that organization. Typically.org sites are stronger sources than other sites such as.com or.biz, but the information should still be verified and the users should be aware of the ideology and intent of the hosting organization.

17 The estimated level of trustworthiness or accuracy and unbiased presentation of facts for.GOV sites Definitely Trustworthy and Accurate 20.5% (9 of 44) Pretty Trustworthy and Accurate 43.2% (19 0f 44) Somewhat Trustworthy and Accurate 22.7% (10 of 44) Not Very Trustworthy or Accurate 2.3% (1 of 44) Untrustworthy and Biased 0.0% (0 of 44) I Dont Know 11.4% (5 of 44) My Thoughts 86.4% of respondents felt that a.gov site was at least somewhat trustworthy, and 63.7% felt that information found on a.gov site were factual and trustworthy. Government agencies and offices are assigned a.gov domain. These offices and agencies will presents facts and factual information and internet users are advised to use information from.gov sites when available.

18 The estimated level of trustworthiness or accuracy and unbiased presentation of facts for.NET sites Definitely Trustworthy and Accurate 2.3% (1 of 44) Pretty Trustworthy and Accurate 25.0% (11 of 44) Somewhat Trustworthy and Accurate 36.4% (16 of 44) Not Very Trustworthy or Accurate 20.5% (9 of 44) Untrustworthy and Biased 4.5% (2 of 44) I Dont Know 11.4% (5 of 44) My Thoughts 63.7% of respondents felt that information found on a.net site was at least somewhat trustworthy, while close to 20% of respondents felt that any information found on these sites would not be accurate or trustworthy. That means approximately 84% of respondents felt that they could find information on a.net site. A.net domain signifies a site that holds computers for a network provider. These sites may have content on them that presents facts, such as comcast.net. However, this information is presented by a second party. Therefore,.net sites should never be used for research purposes.

19 The estimated level of trustworthiness or accuracy and unbiased presentation of facts for.BIZ sites Definitely Trustworthy and Accurate 0.0% (0 of 44) Pretty Trustworthy and Accurate 15.9% (7 of 44) Somewhat Trustworthy and Accurate 20.5% (9 of 44) Not Very Trustworthy or Accurate 20.5% (9 of 44) Untrustworthy and Biased 9.4% (4 of 44) I Dont Know 34.1% (15 of 44) My Thoughts 36% of respondents felt that information found on a.biz site was factual and trustworthy and 34% did not know whether it was trustworthy or not. This data shows that 70% of respondents do not know that the.biz suffix is classified for business use, typically connected with the entertainment industry. Clearly this demonstrates a need for secondary teachers to discuss and outline the various domain suffixes and their use or purpose.

20 The estimated level of trustworthiness or accuracy and unbiased presentation of facts for.EDU sites Definitely Trustworthy and Accurate 22.7% (10 of 44) Pretty Trustworthy and Accurate 52.3% (23 of 44) Somewhat Trustworthy and Accurate 15.9% (7 of 44) Not Very Trustworthy or Accurate 0.0% (0 of 44) Untrustworthy and Biased 0.0% (0 of 44) I Dont Know 9.1% (4 of 44) My Thoughts 75% of respondents feel that.edu sites are trustworthy and another 16% feel that the information found on these sites is somewhat accurate, no respondents felt that these sites were biased or untrustworthy. I would expect these results from any sample group regardless of size,.edu sites are intended for educational institutions and are reliable sources. My concern here is the 9% of respondents that did not know what this suffix stood for or if the information was credible.

21 What the data reveals I predicted that secondary students do not fully understand the differences in various internet domain suffixes and the strengths or weaknesses associated with them as viable research sources: The data shows that my hypothesis was correct to a certain extent. While I was reviewing and processing the survey results, I began to see that students did not fully trust or distrust various types of websites, which leads me to believe that they do not have a full and comprehensive understanding of what each suffix means. – This leaves the students to guess on the validity of information found on these sights and supports the conclusion that students will cite information from these sites, not because it is the best information available, rather because it was simply listed in the internet search results. While the suffix does not guarantee the validity of the information found on the site, it can assist students in narrowing their search and increasing their chance for strong factual search results. I would recommend that each site be carefully reviewed and the validity of the information be determined on a case by case basis.

22 Further Exploration I would like to have an opportunity to work with a larger sampling of secondary students in person and observe them conducting research with an internet search engine. Along with this, I would like the opportunity to present students information from various websites and different types of sites and get their direct feedback on their opinions of the content, whether it is factual, relevant, unbiased, etc. I think this would style of investigation would give a clearer picture as to the trends taking place.

23 What the data reveals I predicted that secondary students do not search for sites that present valid, unbiased information; instead pulling sources from the top search results given by their chosen search engine regardless of potential bias or slant on the facts: When asked how they chose which search engine results to use in their research, the highest percentage of respondents stated that they use the top results and 53.5% of respondents said they use either the top results or title of the page as their defining characteristics. This clearly demonstrates that these students are not searching for the best results, rather the easiest information to collect.

24 Further Exploration I believe that this trend would only become more prevalent with a larger sample group. This is an area that needs to be addressed at both the curriculum and instructional level. – First, school districts need to recognize this trend and design curriculum that directly addresses the need and value of quality research sources. – Second, teachers need to incorporate lessons and instruction that clearly demonstrates how factual information can be presented in a way that slants or taints the information to promote their view or cause. Through quality instruction students will begin to understand the necessity for quality research. Combine this with stringent criteria for cited resources on rubrics and we can reverse this trend. I would like the opportunity to design the curriculum and lessons for a high school and implement them over a school year to see if there was significant change in this trend.

25 What the data reveals I predicted that secondary students do not have a strong knowledge base on how to conduct a narrowed internet search by setting specific search parameters on which ever search engine they choose to use: I believe that once all of the data was compiled and studied, the results show this to be true. Students do not have a strong foundation on how to use search parameters for various search engines.

26 Further Exploration I believe that it falls on the teachers to ensure that they are properly preparing secondary students for life after high school, regardless of which path they choose for their future. The ability to recognize factual and unbiased data is key to making so many of lifes choices, whether it be conducting research for a college project, reviewing a website, buying a new television, or buying a home. Individuals who have the ability to recognize when facts and information are slanted to benefit ones cause or persuade someone to think or act in a particular manner will likely make stronger choices in life. I believe that the data gathered from this survey demonstrates a need for stronger instruction in high school classroom in regards to conducting sound research via the internet.

27 Conclusions This exploration gave me an excellent opportunity to create and distribute a survey over the internet for research purposes. My first attempt garnered results that were vague and ambiguous. I quickly realized that I needed to narrow the focus of the questions to key aspects rather than try and cover a variety of topics in one survey. In the second survey I distributed, I felt I was more successful in creating strong questions that resulted in quality results. This learning experience was valuable and will benefit me as I continue towards my future professional goals in educational and instructional technology.

28 Conclusions I believe the results and data collected from the survey supported my predictions. However, for each question answered, I discovered three new ones. The deeper I dove in to this assignment, the more opportunity I found for exploration. A result that I believe is inherent in any exploration or discovery.

29 Conclusions This is a project that I would like to continue to explore on a larger and deeper scale. I would like to submit this survey to a larger sampling of secondary students and see how the results differ. I would also like to take the results I have and carry them into the classroom where I could conduct personal observations and inquiry. Finally, I would like to create curriculum that addresses the issues found and implement them in a high school for one school year, along with specifically designed lessons and assessments to see if I could reverse the trends.


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