School Projects: Where Googling Gets Serious

If you’re like me, your child has entered primary or secondary school and, on top of the seemingly infinite list of homework to do, they’re now doing little projects too.

Confession: I love these. I love these a lot more than I’m supposed to, and it probably turns me into an overbearing, excitable parent who really needs to calm down. The kid with the glittery poster on animals who live in Egypt? That’s mine. I’m sorry. Anyway, I digress…

The most exciting thing about these projects is often found in the research that goes into making that poster, or putting together that Flip File of fun facts and pictures. But that’s where it can all go badly wrong too. Just “doing a little Googling” can get frustrating for your child too, as they’re bombarded with a long list of search results, but they may not necessarily be the ultimate best resources. For example, if you search for information on Mexico, you’ll come across a story about Justin Bieber and his inappropriate behaviour at a sacred monument on the first page of search results – not exactly the kind of information we’re looking to include in a project, but hey, that’s how information is engineered to be fed to us online nowadays.

What has been happening too, is a failure to differentiate between what’s a real, verifiable source of information, and what’s a spoof or site that lists fake information (you only need to search for a popular celebrity to come up with at least one death hoax page which, to the untrained eye, can look quite legitimate).

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Here are some ways you can help your child differentiate between a fake and verified source of information while they’re scouring the Internet for school project information:

Safe Search: In our experience, turning Safe Search on in Chrome helps a lot, weeding out much of the ridiculous or unverified content that can be found online. Here’s how you can turn it on and filter search results, easily, using Google. It has the side benefit too, in this case, of filtering out a high level of unsuitable content too, so go ahead and turn it on.

Check That URL: We all know we should be checking the URL of the site we’re visiting to make sure it’s legitimate, but have you told your kid that too?

Legitimacy Of Source: Searching through news stories or content portals to find interesting stories related to the project topic is important, but just how legitimate is that source? This one takes a little common sense, and possibly your help too, as your child may not be able to differentiate between a reputable news source and a spoof or satire site. For example, stories posted on The Onion could have the appearance of being legitimate, but we all know it’s filled with satire. I’ve found a really useful tool for this one – check out realorsatire here. There’s also this useful list here, that’s a relatively good resource for figuring out if a website is a legitimate source of information or not. These fact-checking websites can help you too.

Good luck and enjoy doing those school projects!

 

Cath Jenkin

As a mom, Cath raises her daughter with a strong focus on technology, as she believes that digital literacy is as important as learning to read. With a long history of creating content for online and print publications, and in particular as a parenting columnist, Cath brings her curious mind... Read more

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