Here are two 30 minute lessons that I’ve developed for 3rd grade students on the benefits and pitfalls of the World (Wild) Web. For good reason, parents and teachers are concerned when children begin browsing, so I wanted to compile an informative and memorable lesson. Words in italics are what I’d say with the group.

Alright everyone. We have two busy sessions planned so let’s get started. Can anyone tell me WHAT IS the Internet?

My favorite answer is from here –

Now, what is both scary and exciting is that the Internet doesn’t really have rules. There are no Internet Police. Yes, you can get put in jail for some things, but that depends on the laws of the country you are living. Now the Internet is one of the closest things to magic in our world – it’s full of amazing facts, video and people. But, we have to be careful because it also has words and pictures from people who aren’t very nice. So, when you encounter inappropriate stuff, just move away – often they are doing it to get a reaction. Don’t let them control you. Today we’ll begin learning how to use the Internet safer and better. Before we start, let’s take some guesses for how old the Internet is.

Here is my favorite answer –

So the Internet is new technology. Let’s have a quick review with a technology we are all familiar with. Now, it’s not in English, but it does have subtitles, but I think you’ll figure it out very quickly.

View A monk learning ‘new technology’

This playful skit pokes fun at people struggling with new technology, but we all have to push through it and realize the benefits of learning something new. Now, when you use the internet with your ‘browser’ which is a program that helps your computer understand the information on the Internet – you have to know how to open, close, and go back. Let’s have a quick review of the browser (FireFox, Internet Explorer, Safari) that your school uses. Also, take time to enjoy the ‘refresh’ button which tells the computer to ‘look again’ at the page because it may have changed. This is useful if the webpage loads slowly or you’ve made changes to a website in another window.

Now, some things you will encounter on the Internet will be so amazing, you will wonder if they are true.

Watch Flying Penguins

The BBC is one of the top providers of real information. Why would they spend money to produce this kind of video? How do you check if something is not real on the Internet? Well – it may sound silly – but I use the Internet to help me. For the penguins – I type “flying penguins hoax” and hit enter – the second choice indicates it was an April Fools joke. The word hoax means lie or trick. Actually, if you go on YouTube, they have a great video showing how they made penguins fly.

Often people will get emails that are trying to trick them. My family is convinced that freezing water or microwaving water in a plastic bottle will give them cancer. Even though I show them when I google “freezing water bootle hoax” the whole page is full of links to show it’s not true and they are safe. Even big people get fooled. My wife’s former high school students emailed her to inform her that Kentucky Fried Chicken changed it’s name to KFC because it was no longer using real chickens. She believed it. Not true as I showed her with a quick search. But, she insisted they were now college students at the highest level of school. Even the best fall. Whenever you are not sure of something, add hoax and search the Internet for what is real.

Even when the information is true, it’s not the best.

Watch this video on how to avoid being Misinformed – a video designed and produced by a student.

Three key concepts came up in this video:

  1. Is the website the best authority on the topic?
  2. Is this website biased?
  3. Is this information correct or outdated?

The first, we’ll discuss next session. Biased means the website is trying to push a particular opinion. In the video, it implies a building company may say it’s product is the best, but maybe that’s not true. If you visited the websites of America’s top restaurants, they’d all say they have the best hamburger or ribs or chicken wings, but obviously they can’t all be right. Some fact quotes are really opinions or the person/company may have a desire for you to believe them so they can get rich by your actions (you buy their product) so we have to be careful with the information we read. Finally, the information could be inaccurate.

Look at these two websites:

Pluto is a planet (from, June 6, 2008)

Pluto is not a planet (from, April 10, 2008)

The most recent article is that Pluto is a real planet. They both can’t be right. So who is right??

Finally, we have some homework. Humans are expanding and ruining the homes of various animals. Our school has some money and we can support one animal. Use your research skills and select one animal that we will ‘save’ before the actions of humans cause it to become extinct.

Will we save the ‘Tree Octopus‘ or the ‘Mountain Walrus‘ or the ‘Sabre Tooth Salmon‘? [I open each window for a few seconds so students can get a quick peek at each – please be sure to later on correct their beliefs, else we’ll have a whole generation of folks vehemently believing a hoax ‘because it was on the Internet’]

2nd session:

I begin with a quick review of last class. We discuss which creature we’d try to save and discuss why someone would create a website on something like a ‘tree octopus’

So being able to determine the validity or truth/accuracy of a website is an important skill.

Watch this 6 minute video on Evaluating a website.

Now, on with being a better searcher of information. My favorite video for instructing this is Common Craft’s 3-min video: Web Search Strategies in Plain English.

Finally as this library ninja will attest, don’t forget that books have valid information and can sometimes you can find the information there faster than with the computer.

If time permits, I have an open discussion or in small groups discussing what we have learned from these two sessions.Technorati Tags: , ,

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