Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Are Kids Surfing the Internet Without a Learner's Permit?

Dr. Gwenn of Pediatrics Now has an interesting opinion piece up that touches on information literacy. It can be found at Kids Are Surfing the Internet Without a Learner's Permit. The context of the Gwenn's opinion relates to a new Microsoft education program titled "Elevate America".

These two paragraphs hit the information literacy theme:

The other major issue that the program doesn't seem to cover well is online literacy - namely, media and health literacy. Microsoft does list "information literacy" under computer basics which is described as "Using the Internet and World Wide Web. Covers exploring the Web using search engines, working with e-mail, and creating Web pages." As described, people will get online but the program doesn't delve into helping people interpret the websites they find and sort out whether a site is reliable or loaded with commercial backing. This is the core of media literacy training. And, since most people search for health information online, it's equally important to cover health literacy so people understand that not everything health-related online is accurate or even worth reading.

Think about it like this: would you ever give a teen the keys to a car without making sure he or she had a learner's permit, driver's ed, a defensive driving course, understood rules of the road and knew how to use the car itself? 2 million people are about to be given the keys to driving the internet superhighway through Microsoft's training programs nationwide. If the internet were a real highway, we'd have traffic jams, traffic congestion and major accidents as those folks explored cyberspace without their learner's permits in place.

I am not really sure how much we can expect Microsoft to teach information literacy. Obviously, Microsoft cares about the idea or it would not have been included in the curriculum of this program. However, no amount of corporate responsibility is really going to replace the key people in children's lives (parents, teachers, and librarians) who are going to have to do most of the teaching about information literacy.

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