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Critical Thinking and Web Literacy

Presented by

Howard Rheingold - technology professor at Stanford, who teaches Internet literacy and strategies for online collaboration.

Rob Bayu, Program Panager, Teacher Professional Development, Microsoft

Chris O'Neal, Educational Consultant, ISTE Faculty Member
  • Critical thinking and why we should care - Howard Rheingold
  • Ideas and Considerations for the Classroom - Rob Bayuk
  • Critical Curriculum - Sneak Preview - Microsoft & ISTE collaboration



Howard Rheingold
In the late 1900's we saw Internet research engines like Lycos, Infoseek, and AltaVista. Way before the Google era.

You need to be aware of the information that you retrieve. How do you validate the information of what you found? Who wrote this? This is the process of critcal thinking. Critical consumption - an essential literacy skill (flickr.com/photos/rocketlass/2145649591/).

In early 2000, critical consumption was not well thought of. How can you pluck the answers to any question out of the air? How do you know that what you find is accurate? How to formulate a search is an essential skills. Many people are picking this up by just doing it.

In the recent years, Bing has come to the forefront as another search engine and brings up many results; however, where does the best source come up on the list. For examples, Martin Luther King Jr., when you plug this in Bing his site comes up 8th on the search results list.

EasyWhois (http://www.easywhois.com/) - You can look up domains names of the owners who own the website. This would give you the information of who is register or responsible for the site sharing the information. So, is this information valid? Does the owner of the site provide valid information?

What you find is that there is tons of misinformation out there. The Martin Luther King Jr. site that came up 8th on the Bing search results list was owned by a racist group. This is not constituted as a valid source; however, an altered non-trustworthy source.

On top of PLN, we need to have Personal Trust Networks (PTN). There is a wiki space that has been created to show other examples to develop a resource for educators. http://critical-thinking.iste.wikispaces.net/Tools

If we can get students engaged in learning with designing games or interfaces that will captivate the student to delve into the learning, this would expand on attracting them to learning.

Rob Bayuk - Developing Critical Thinking & Web Research Skills in the Classroom

What is Critical Thinking?

IN 1605, Sir Francis Bacon, the father of scientific thinking, outlined the habits of mind (paraphrased):

  • "Nimble and versatile" enough to see relationships among things, in addition to subtle distinctions between them.
  • Inquisitive.
  • Patient enough to double and ask questions.
  • Fond of reflecting.
  • Slow to assert and ready to consider multiple points of view.
  • Careful to support their points of view and to formulate an argument with reasons and evidence.
  • A slave neither to passing trends nor to established traditions but capable of judging the credibility of sources and making independent judgments about information.
  • Alter to all deception.


Cultivating Essential Web Research Skills
  • Search efficiently and effectively.
  • Distinguish kinds of sources, and analyze a source's validity and reliability.
  • Make a habit of cross-checking facts, even from reliable sources.
  • Conscientiously and properly attribute the words and ideas of others.
  • Cite sources accurately and appropriately.
  • Stay safe on the Internet
  • Interact with others online honestly, respectfully, fairly, and clearly.


Excerpts from a new e-book for educators: "From Search to Research



Why Microsoft cares?

  • Web search & research is a primary interaction for 21st century students
  • Evolving how people search, find and organize relevant information on the web.
  • Bing
  • Bing Visual Search
  • Microsoft Pivot ( see below) - download http://www.getpivot.com/


Chris O'Neal


ISTE and Microsoft worked together on a web literacy curriculum.


Project Background

Fielded question/ feedback from media specialist, content area teachers, computer lab instructors:

  • What areas are most critical in preparing students to be web literate?
  • What activities/structures give teachers the opportunity to provide guided practice?

Key Areas

  • Mechanics of Effective Searching - teaching students how to weed out words or using " ", or Boolean operators.
  • Validity and Reliability - Finding other sources that use the information - accuracy.
  • Citing Sources - citation machines for various formats
  • Civil Discourse - Teachers know how to teach students how to blog, but how do you teach students to properly conduct themselves and engage with them even though you disagree.
  • Netiquette - How do I speak online, send an appropriate content email, etc.
  • Plagiarism - What is the difference between "fair use" and just downloading information from a website? For examples, students will use images, they question teachers ask, "who gave you the right to use the image?" You need to dig deeper and give credit to where it is due and not implying you are the creator of the image or content.
  • Safety - How do I post to public board or emails to get the information I need? How do I create a networking system without giving out personal information? Creative Comments.

Content and curriculum developed is built around the Bing system.

Classroom Uses & Application

  • Each lesson is cross-referenced with others
  • Taught as mini-curriculum or standalone lessons
  • Varied skill-level
  • Can be teacher-led or independent

An excellent source for a student technology toolbox offered by a participant.

Some of the other excellent resources are:


  • Compfight.com - used to searches directly in flickers archives to find content images that are appropriate.

Last, a friend sent this to me and I found the archives to be very informative when it came to student engagement in the classroom. Texas High School Project


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