Alan November and the Critical Need for Information Literacy

Alan November’s Web site

This was a hard session to follow. Alan is an amazingly animated, articulate,  and divergent thinker. Please forgive the abrupt transitions. I could barely keep up. Much of the information can be found at his website above. Dscn2226

Alan has begun casually referencing his own children and that his daughter was assigned the same lessons that he had when he went to school. He feels that she missed out on information and lessons that need to be designed differently than what she had.

He then went on to say we need to redefine reading through a new information literacy. There is too much emphasis on print. 75% of students use the internet for homework even if the text book is available. They use a search engine and if a web site can be in the top 5% for a search than that data will be used. He thinks that teachers are not thinking critically about how we teach in the new information mediums. Marshall McCluhan and the "medium is the message" starts his argument. Most people who learned a first medium do not bring critical thinking skills to a new medium (internet). There are educators who believe they can read text and print without knowing that they are not addressing the needs of the new medium/internet. He is showing a web site on a tree octopus; and the extinction of this animal because women prefer hats made of octopuses. It is very humorous, but we know students who would accept and believe the information without thinking critically about it. The next example is on Martin Luther King. He shows that a white suprematist site is the third link down that children would find on Google if they typed "martin luther king." We need to help children understand the source of information, which as he points out teachers do with print resources.

Finding who has ownership of domains and helps readers understand – this is like a title page for books.

Who controls information? Why aren’t we doing it? Very smart people cannot apply common sense when they go to a new medium (print to internet). is the web site which created the Martin Luther King site.

He is showing how the white supremitist group is traced – source is web site Stormfront white supremitist  site. The site used podcasts, forums, birthday cards to push their content onto users.

We need to get into an emergency mode because we are not feeling the urgency yet.

Who controls the infomation they access – this is what is most important and must be taught to our students.

He showed that out of 2 million hits his own web site is number four. Children only use the first few hits to access infomation.

Uses the analogy of using a library and only looking on the first shelf.

If someone understands the structure of infomation they will be empowered.

Assignment design – powerful tools for compare and contrast need to reduce assignment so students are given a limited number of sites and then only use those to compare and contrast information.

One tool – Wayback Machine. Shows history of sites even if they are no longer available. Once info is on the internet it is always available or there.

He showed again the martin luther king site from 1999 At that date it shows a email link back to stormfront. the site was very different back then.

Information on the interent is in constant movement unlike books. For books there is no equivalent.

Lesson might involve comparing sites from different times. This site originaly appealed to adult and then the emphasis was changed to teenagers.

Went to Altavista and showed backlinks

typed " "    link: "any domain" shows sites linking to this site

then typed " host:edu"  – shows links from edu’s to this site

host only works with a proper extension just k12 will not work but "url:k12" will work because it is anywhere within the web address.

Teahcers cannot check every link but children need to be taught this. so if a student is asisgned to find three sources most students will just use google for the top three hits and just cut and paste.

Need to teach cross referenceing.

There is any version of the truth. – teachers need to be web savvy and teach that there are multiple versions

Alan showed how "Forward links" work
type "" – shows every listing on the site with linking. By looking at links on a site then the students will begin to see where the content goes. It is like using the index of a book, which we don’t teach.

Moved on to syntax
typed again in Altavista
"" – showed all links on that site with this as part of the d

This only works in Altavista not in Google. run by Dana Goodwin shows how search engines work. The site is  not for education but for general web designers interested in how to make searchs for their company or product effective.

Important search terms to teach and learn are.
1. link
2. host

3. url

Must use space between commands.

Students need to learn alternative histories from another source. Example students create powerpoint on the American Revolution and then with Skype exchange information with students from England and then record the debate and then podcast the debate on the blog working with students from all over the world with commentary on the blog. All these tools should be integrated information tools not considered separate.

I asked about tools for elemantary school students. He recomended two search engines. One is:

for elementary helps students narrow search for info can also expand search

The second one is:

pulls from reference materials also gives cites for students shows biography and citations


Every teacher should expand authentic audience (worldwide) review presentation of material or information

He went on to demonstrate Skype and the potential uses of connecting all over the world with other classrooms where infomation or resources are available and in common.

Teacher needs to understand how to publish student’s work and be a presenter by using the same tools that the students use

Great math sight showing how content meets the needs of math students by allowing them to post their notes on lectures and access information in ways that they are comfortable with. 

This is about critical thinking on the internet and assignments need to be more challenging and global, teach students how to access the free and global sites.

FWent to England and asked failing students what they did and their least liked class which was English.

Students used:



downloading of music

He recomended that when students studied Macbeth by Shakespeare they could use wikipedia to find recorded versions of Macbeth and the teacher had not beeen taught to change his/her assignments to meet the need ot the students

Great session!

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One thought on “Alan November and the Critical Need for Information Literacy

  1. I also took a lot of notes at the Alan November presentation at NECC. I can get the search to work in Alta Vista, but not the or the

    Please try them and let me know what I’m doing wrong. I’ve tried rearranging the search in every way I can think of. Thanks, Lisa

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