on the bubble …

I read Eli Pariser’s, The Filter Bubble, over the summer. I haven’t posted about it until now because I felt like I needed the ideas and concepts to tumble around in my noggin’, incubate for a bit, and that eventually the important ideas would percolate up when the time was right.

  • What should seventh, eighth, and ninth graders know about personalized search?
  • What should my faculty know about personalized search and the politics of search?
  • What should librarians be teaching about search?
  • What should our faculty be teaching kids about search?
  • Is personalized search all that bad? Under what circumstances?

These are the kinds of things I think about when I wake up at 4:00 am and am lying in bed in one of those; too early to get up, too late to go back to sleep; states.

I’ve settled on developing a media literacy oriented “library” lesson that I am going to widget into our eighth grade debate class.  I teach eighth grade Debate along with three other teachers so getting a period to do a lesson with the classes won’t be a huge issue and because of the nature of debating, students are primed to think about the sources that they’re using to build their arguments.

I’m struggling a bit, however, with the orientation, tone, and approach that I want to take with the lesson.  My fear is that if we are too strident, students will tune out much as they did with Wikipedia.  The “Wikipedia is the demon seed!!! Don’t ever use it” (Okay … it wasn’t really that bad so forgive my hyperbole …) approach that we used in response to the growth of Wikipedia a number of years ago just made our kids see us as clueless librarians that just didn’t get it. Eighth graders would sit there thinking ,”Wikipedia isn’t evil. It’s a great source for stuff. I know because I use it everyday … Where else can I find out about what Julie from the Real World Las Vegas is doing now?” When we, by contrast, started talking about how to use Wikipedia appropriately based on the context of your information needs, kids started to pay more attention to what we had to say.

I think the same thing might apply here.  In the minds of thirteen year old human beings, the harm that comes from surrendering your personal information is some far off hypothetical future harm that may not ever come to fruition, but in exchange for giving up my information I can immediately get FREE email, FREE cloud storage space, FREE document sharing, etc … Given this context, how do we teach so that thirteen year olds will listen?

The idea is still a stub, but it will come to life in some form or another as a lesson that will probably be taught by librarians to students that come to the library with their Debate classes.

By the way, if you are a librarian get involved with your school’s debate program.  Though I had no experience as a debater I assistant coached our middle school debate team for four years and ended up co-writing the curriculum for our eighth grade debate course.  Hint: if a librarian writes half of a course, there is a pretty decent chance that there will be time built into the curriculum to talk about and explore print and electronic sources and evaluate them for their perspectives–left, right, center, libertarian …

More to come on The Filter Bubble. This is just where I am on it right now …


Happy weekend, all!


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