Through Twitter I came across this nice initiative. A so-called infofair (infokermis). Someone blogs on a certain topic, and asks others to write a post on the same topic. In the end, all the different views on the topic will be collected. I have seen some nice examples of these fairs, but I just had to join this one!
The question was: are you allowed to use an Internet source?
Being a researcher on information skills, and the critical use of the web (and especially how are we going to get our high school students to become critical users of the web?) my first reaction is: of course you are allowed to use an Internet source, as long as you evaluate the source on certain criteria, understand the kind of source you are using, and think about why you want to use this source! It all begins with your information problem solving strategy. Define your problem, think about where you could find your information, search, scan, process and present and organize. And yes, people still have lots to learn about information problem solving and evaluation online information! For more information on my research, I refer to my thesis, articles, and, oh irony, this blog!
Because this blog is what makes me say: no, do not use Internet sources. I say no, in my role as an assistant professor in educational science. It has happened that students used words I used during a lecture, or words on slides I used during a lecture as a source. I do not allow that. And perhaps the lack of criticism and awareness students displayed in these cases, makes me a bit more hesitant to let them use Internet sources. (Ofcourse, results from my own research also makes me hesitant…)
So, when my students write essays, I expect them to use scientific literature. And the majority of scientific literature is published in journals. I want my students to know about these journals. I want them to know about the peer-review process (and we can do a whole new fair on the peer-review process…), but I also want them to know about the difference between my articles, and my blog for instance. I wouldn’t want my students to use my blog articles, I want them to use my published journal articles. Because the scientific world came up with this great thing called an H-index. It has something to do with the number of publications, and the number of citations of those articles by others. So, when someone decides to use my blog in their articles, it’s not helping my H-index. If the scientific world would value other kinds of publications more than they do now, the use of Internet sources would be accepted more in the scientific world.
My students are allowed to use Internet sources in their essays. But often to illustrate, with some practical examples. For the core of their argument, I expect them to use scientific literature. And yes, I am aware that journal articles can be rubbish as well…(and yes, same rules apply when reading and using journal articles, but at least they went to some kind of screening, which is more that some articles on the Internet….)
So, I think my conclusion is: Yes, you are allowed to use Internet sources. You are allowed to use any source you like. As long as you follow a process of information problem solving (from defining to presenting, as said earlier), as long as you know the difference between sources, and as long as you choose to use the source that fits best in the reason you have for using the source.
And as long as my own research keeps showing that people have difficulties with all this, I can keep forcing my students to use scientific articles, and keep improving my own H-index 😉