Students completed an online scavenger hunt for an assigned explorer. Their mission: answer some basic questions about the explorer using two websites. They needed to be good researchers and check both links for the needed information.
As students began digging into the facts, some discovered something interesting: each site had different information. Students then worked in teams to discuss the similarities and differences of each site and figure out what to do to resolve the problem of the conflicting information.
At the end of the lesson, students understood the big picture- the Internet is not always a reliable tool for research, and it is important to be familiar with a topic before beginning research online. We also read a fabricated article about Christopher Columbus in class from the website All About Explorers, and learned that this site was made for the sole purpose of teaching students how important it is not to believe everything that they read online. Many students had an ah ha moment when we read the article aloud as many admitted to only skimming their articles for answers, not reading them closely. Therefore, they missed discovering some of the obvious clues that showed this site a fake.
The next day, students returned to the library for part 2 of the lesson: If the Internet is not always trustworthy, where do I find the good stuff? Mrs. Young defined subscription databases and showed links to the ones that our school has available to them. She also compared the publication of a book to the publication of a website which exemplified why printed books are excellent, trustworthy research resources.
It was a big lesson for the fifth graders, but one that will hopefully stick with them as they engage in future research projects.