In class on Tuesday, I challenged the class to answer the question, “Who owns the Grand Canyon?”. This was a bit of inquiry and a bit of internet searching, to see what the students could do with a little bit of time, in partners, to figure out the answer for the years 1600, 1800, 1900 and 2000. The goal was for them to both grapple with a good google search and the concept of ‘owning’ the Grand Canyon. After a moment or two of searching, I realized that when one googles, Who owns the Grand Canyon? students see a link from asu.edu and a link from weeklyworldnews.com. (I don’t want to link to the actual article because it improves its google ranking) The link from weeklyworldnews.com was more enticing for the students to click on and many did. All of the sudden kids were saying things like… the answer to the year 2000 is China. And other students saying things like, ‘what?’, ‘that seems weird’, ‘I don’t think so’… and the like but there it was in black and white. It took a moment to parse out with students that in fact China did not buy the Grand Canyon, that a google search of the actual news clearly bore that out and that the site they located was satire.
This was completely unplanned and serendipitous in so many ways. We will be going back over and over in the upcoming weeks and months, the importance of reputable sourcing, reading carefully and how not to be a sucker in the world filled with so much information. I consider this such an important skill in the modern age, one that grounds someone in the potential of being an informed citizen. Give the kids the tools to know the difference between fact/fiction, truth/satire and they have the potential to be powerful agents in their own lives.