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Data isn’t a 4-letter word

Teaching students to evaluate online information and understand data is critical, especially in today’s tech-focused world

In the midst of a deadly pandemic and a presidential election, both of which are generating conflicting claims that may or may not be based on real data, teaching students to analyze the sources and presentation of online information and understand data has never been more important or timely.

Especially with so many students working from home and using the internet for research, educators have an opportunity to engage their students in meaningful and relevant analysis, as well as the development of critical thinking skills. During a recent edWebinar, Steven Anderson, a learning and relationship evangelist, explained how this process can occur and enable students to identify valid sources and accurate presentations of data.

Related content: Teaching critical thinking skills in the online classroom

As in the past, identifying correct information also requires an ability to recognize misinformation, disinformation, and outright untruths, so Anderson recommends providing a historical perspective on information manipulation, in addition to focusing on the latest techniques.

Understanding the past and present to understand data

Anderson believes students should know that the recent creation of deep-fake videos, which show real people saying things that have been manipulated or fabricated, is just one of the latest ways of spreading misleading or incorrect information. Older students should be taught historical examples of propaganda being used to manipulate people via newspapers, radio, and television. It may also be helpful for students to know about notable hoaxes, such as Orson Welles’ radio broadcast about an alien invasion.

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