How the Election Can Aid With Information Literacy

In case you’ve been living under a rock (or maybe you’ve been hiding intentionally?), the Republican National Convention has been going on this week in Tampa, and the Democratic National Convention will begin next week. Just over two months remain in the campaign season!

Regardless of your stance on the issues, it’s likely the election campaign will be a topic of discussion in the classroom sometime over the next several weeks. Given the deadline is fast approaching, it’s likely instructors will be coming to you, the librarian, to find resources to use in the classroom.

The election season is a great opportunity to introduce the importance of evaluation skills to students. Specifically, we can stress the importance of understanding facts, propaganda and bias… and how all three play a huge role in advertising (and sometimes reporting) of the campaigns. Beyond the political sphere, these skills can be utilized in everyday learning and research, whether it’s in school or reading an article a friend shared on Facebook.

A resource popped up in my inbox today via one of the many list servs. It comes from Infotopia. If you’ve never heard of it before, Infotopia is a search engine that only searches web sites deemed credible and appropriate for research by teachers and librarians (similar to SweetSearch). It is important to note that Infotopia is ad-supported, and as such, may use targeted advertising. If you or your students access it from a personal computer, there may be politically-motivated advertisements along the top and sides. This is a useful discussion in itself—how online advertising targets users and what type of advertising is out there.

That said, Infotopia has useful resources besides the specific search engine. One that you may want to check out is its collection of Presidential election resources. It includes a bunch of interesting resources, like:

  • iSideWith: A non-partisan, non-affiliated web site that provides a questionnaire to help users understand which politician would best align with their beliefs.
  • ProCon.org: Provides summaries of political stances for both the major and third party candidates. Also includes quotes (with references) from the candidates stating their viewpoint. Includes summary charts and questionnaires showing how a user’s personal opinions line up.
  • Major news sources: The page also links to major news sources, such as NPR, NBC and Fox News. Directing students to these sites and having them compare the same story is one way for students to learn and discuss how bias and language play a role in source evaluation.

Presidential election seasons are an exciting time, and come with a great learning opportunity for students. Not just to learn about the election cycle, but to learn about major issues affecting the country. For older students, it is a time for them to explore where they stand on issues and (if they’re old enough) to participate in election itself! Using Infotopia’s resources is one way to teach the importance of source evaluation with a timely political theme.

Emily Gover is the in-house librarian for EasyBib. This week, she learned how to hula dance like a pro. You can find her on Twitter, @Emily_EasyBib, or posting news you can use at the EasyBib Librarians Facebook page.


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