I was asked to give a talk to the students, as a follow-up to an eLearning course the school had signed-up for them.
Since I had 30 to 45 minutes with them, I decided against repeating what their eLearning course might already have covered. So I decided to emphasise on two main themes:
- Being a smart user of information (by verifying information; how they can ask questions the smart way)
- Being a smart Producer of information using New Media (another perspective on why they should verify information that they publish)
Right at the start, I asked if they thought this site was the real White House page (got the site idea from a colleague, btw).
There were murmurs of Yes and No.
I picked two students to comment.
First boy said it was a fake site (some of his peers exclaimed disbelief). I asked him why. Because the URL was a "ORG" and not "GOV", he said. OK, he's on the right track. Other than the URL, I asked him to point out other clues that led him to believe this was not the official White House website. He said no.
The second boy also said the same thing (he sounded more unsure, actually).
So I told them they had to look at more than the URL. For instance, the description and the contentious nature of the articles. And, they had to look at more than one source.
Next I showed them this Wikipedia entry about their school (some seemed surprised to see an entry of their school in Wikipedia).
I asked who didn't use Wikipedia. Only three boys in the back raised their hands. I asked if it was because their teacher didn't allow them to and they nodded yes. Heh.
I said there was nothing wrong in using Wikipedia (and that I found it a useful and accurate resource so far). But they should always make a point by verifying with other sources. I said the Smart Information User would crosscheck with their own school website.
That led to me speak for the next 20 minutes on attributes of Smart information users, why it was necessary to verify information, how they should act as smart Information Producers.
I covered some new media tools and emphasised on their responsibility as content producers as well.
When asked how many had their own blogs, about half of the room (150 out of 300?) feebly raised their hands (feebly, I guess because they were halfhearted about letting their teachers know?)
Here's an excerpt of the slides (including selected Web 2.0. tools that I thought would be relevant to the students):
Near the end I showed them this video - Think Before You Post:
The room fell silent. Not a peep.
They were TOTALLY absorbed in the video.
After the video I quickly added that it wasn't to scare them away from posting content online. The point was the THINK before they do anything.
My closing remarks to them was that they, as the generation who will grow up with these tools, will probably use these tools as a matter of fact. And they will take these tools and their ability to create and publish content (text, video, pictures, whatever) for granted.
But it's not whether they know about the tools. Or even if they are using it per se.
It's their ability to create meaningful content.
Their content may not always be entertaining.
But they must always strive to be credible.