How often have you marked a student paper only to find a Wikipedia entry staring back at you? You taught them digital research skills, but their work doesn’t show that you have.

Cue the sigh and face-palm. As teachers, we’ve all been there.

girl with palms on face crying

But maybe students don’t fully understand what we mean by research.

They may need more explicit teaching about finding credible sources that have trustworthy authors, relevant evidence, and reliable analysis of that evidence.

Enter the digital research skills series on CrashCourse’s free YouTube channel. Named Navigating Digital Information, this series is a great way to quickly and easily teach digital research skills.

What is CrashCourse Navigating Digital Information?

You may have heard me praise CrashCourse before (see here for why they’re great for content-heavy lessons or here for links to their study skills videos).

But if not, CrashCourse is a free YouTube channel with many short videos covering almost any topic you care to learn (or teach) about.

CrashCourse Navigating Digital Information is a series all about helping students learn the skills to be savvy digital citizens.

And given how quickly the digital world changes, learning effective digital research skills is one of the best ways that we can prepare students for the future.

What digital research skills can students learn?

The CrashCourse Navigating Digital Information series covers a wide range of topics. But the main focus of the series is to teach students strategies for evaluating digital information.

The series covers:

  • the benefits and dangers of digital information
  • how the internet and social media have changed how we communicate
  • misinformation and disinformation
  • how people tend to judge websites’ trustworthiness
  • fact-checking strategies such as lateral reading, identifying the author, identifying the claims, and identifying the evidence
  • the importance of using reliable information to make decisions
  • how to read websites more effectively
  • how to establish the authority and perspective of a website
  • the pros and cons of Wikipedia
  • examples of relevant and irrelevant evidence
  • why visual evidence such as images or video can be both so powerful and so easily manipulated
  • strategies to evaluate whether or not images/videos are created by credible authors, representing people or events fairly, and providing an appropriate context
  • how to evaluate data and infographics to find out if they provide accurate and reliable information that draw honest conclusions
  • the importance of click restraint
  • how social media and the algorithms used can influence the real world
  • strategies for being a responsible digital citizen
  • what targeted advertising is, what a filter bubble is, and what an extreme recommendation engine is
  • how to limit the effects of algorithms on news feeds

Why should students watch the series?

CrashCourse Navigating Digital Information is powerful because it shows students real-world examples of how companies and people try to manipulate them to believe certain ideas, make certain choices, and buy certain things.

This series can teach students the digital research skills to be more informed digital citizens, more effective online researchers, and less-easily manipulated by those who spread misinformation and disinformation.

You can remove your palm from your face

And, while you still might sigh, it will be in relief.

Because while your students will still use Wikipedia to research their papers, they are more likely to consult other sources and find more reliable information with credible authors and relevant evidence.

All thanks to CrashCourse teaching them digital research skills.

Want to use the series with your class?

If you want to use the series with your class, there are many ways you can do it.

  • Use it as an entry/exit activity with a strategy such as 321 strategy – see here for a blog post about the strategy and variations you could use
  • Set the videos as homework and then do a flipped classroom where students apply the strategies in class while researching online
  • Watch the videos in class and use a scaffolded note-taking worksheet for the main messages of the videos (see here for our engaging, no-prep visual note-taking worksheets)
  • If you are doing a combination of distance and on-site learning, set the videos for the off-campus lessons
girl researching on computer with text 'CrashCourse a powerful way to teach digital research skills'