Cool Cat Teacher, who is constantly enticing me to respond to her posts, is at it again with her discussion of digital citizenship and literacy, and the difficult question of teaching kids how to evaluate what they read on the internet. One thing she doesn't really discuss, except in passing, is credibility; a subject I've written about once or twice before. See, when you're an academic, you learn about sources. Follow the references here, follow them there, follow them until you get tired of the chase, and if you're lucky you're back to a really well done study posted in one of those peer-reviewed journals that it is every academic's hope to be published in.
We need to teach our kids to do that, of course; especially as they take steps towards becoming academics themselves and either creating their own original research, or gaining the ability to evaluate those precious peer-reviewed studies for themselves, to see if the data really says what their authors say it says.
But that's not quite the skill that is really required online. What you need is the ability to evaluate the sources themselves for the likelihood that what they say is likely to be factual. I mean, who should we believe:
D00D WINDOZE SUX LINUX RULES ONLY LAMERZ USE WINDOZE!!!!1!!
Proponents and analysts attribute the relative success of Linux to its security, reliability, low cost, and freedom from vendor lock-in.
The second quote is from Wikipedia. There's a big online debate about whether Wikipedia is a reliable source or whether it is subject to the phenomenon of wikiality, but that's beside the point. The point is, who do we trust? The 733t hax0r who wrote the first statement, or the carefully thought out and constructed sentence in the second? Credibility drips from it. It doesn't mean it's true; it just means that it is significantly more worthy of attention. And, once you find that a source like Wikipedia, or Larry Osterman, or CNN, has statements that are worthy of attention, you can make a reasonable assumption - subject to verification - that they are making other statements that are also worthy of attention. This is how a source builds credibility, and how a reader evaluates it. This is what we need to teach our children.