Guest post by Steven Baule, Superintendent at Muncie Community Schools, Indiana:
On my way home yesterday, I was listening to the news (a brief respite from the music of my formative years). Much of the focus was on the potential lifespan of the president and what information “was held back.” The Navy doctor didn’t seem to be giving the answers the reporters wanted. In a couple days, I will check the variety of new sources I touch base with and see how each has represented the physician’s remarks.
Former President Obama was recently interviewed by David Letterman and they discussed the potential problems with using social media as one’s primary news source. Facebook just announced they are going to focus more on meaningful social interactions instead of content. Fluther.com has an experiment using “pit bull dogs” based upon the remarks of Obama that Google and other search algorithms manipulate your results based on your previous results. It would be a great experiment to try with nearly any student or staff group. The discussion that results might be extremely enlightening. Google does provide some lesson plans on how to validate websites.
Wikipedia (the first result on my search for “pit bull dogs” ) has entries for Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME) and search engine manipulation AKA search engine optimization (SEO). A recent Guardian article discussed how Google is alleged to skew results to the “right.” Those looking for a scholarly take on SEME, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provide an example from India’s 2014 elections. It appears nearly every day that it becomes more essential for our students to learn how to sift through the information that appears on their various devices.