As I worked my way through the “Internet as a Sand Trap” activities in the EC&I 832 Block 6 portion of the online course I’m taking, I discovered that my idea about my personal level of literacy was pretty bang on with the actuality, at least the actuality as determined by the quiz I took by Alan November.

This was a reassuring observation for me to make. I don’t profess to know it all, or even really to know a lot, about the various digital technologies out there and I have been hoodwinked in the past by various internet hoaxes and pranks. It’s easy to find oneself vulnerable or susceptible to falling into an Internet “sand trap” now and again, particularly when one is new to Internet research. But I did take heart to realize that I do have many of the tools and thought processes necessary already to make (mostly) sound judgments about what I see and read on the Internet.

Students typically overestimate their Internet savvy I’ve found and so teaching students how to be smart about what they use the Internet for, to recognize that what they post can be stored online somewhere forever and to be intellectually discriminating about what sources they use for “facts” is a critical part of my job as an educator, particularly since I’m an educator that uses the Internet as  a delivery mechanism of course content.

I really enjoyed Alan November’s quiz and the foundation for an excellent unit/lesson on Internet safety and digital literacy can be built from the questions and answers found there. In fact that is one of the key areas I plan to revamp in my Information Processing 30 class, using Alan’s materials as well as others I have since discovered.

Another really great website I found with a variety of resources for a large selection of Internet learners and users can be found here at Cybersmart – Internet and Mobile Safety Advice and Activities. There are cybersmart quizzes that use scenario types of questions to teach kids, teens and adults about Internet safety. It is a great site and I plan to use it in my courses as an additional resource.

All in all I found that while I know the “basics” of Internet safety and digital literacy, there is always room for improvement and that only through continual practice and interaction with these sorts of materials and cautions will I remember to be discriminating in what I read and use to back up my own opinion on things. The Internet is continually evolving and thus, so is the information on it. It’s always a good idea to think critically about what it is we read, to question who is saying what, for what purpose and is the information based on “fact” or opinion?  Too frequently do our students (and instructors as well I ‘d argue) take what is written on the Internet as indisputable fact without asking any of these sorts of questions.  This is the biggest sand trap on the Internet, in my opinion… one that needs to be avoided if at all possible. However, if students do find themselves swinging away fruitlessly in the midst of one, then it’s up to the instructor to help them learn the proper way to get back onto the green!

I also believe that it’s not enough for schools and instructors to “forbid” sites on the Internet. I firmly believe it’s our job to model appropriate uses of technology. That is the harder task but it’s a crucial one.