As a former corporate lawyer, I owe much of my success to effective research skills that evolved, with the help of skilled trainers, as new tools came along. As a former executive officer at a company that had 1,200 employees in 29 countries worldwide, I know that without adequate media literacy training, kids will not succeed in a 21st-century workplace. The “old school” ways of communicating won’t cut it; I’ve mastered those, and yet now spend each day re-learning how to communicate effectively in this new world order. And as the founder of a company whose mission is to teach the effective use of the Internet, I have pored through dozens of studies, and recently oversaw one myself, that all came to the same conclusion: Students do not know how to find or evaluate the information they need on the Internet.
In a recent study of fifth grade students in the Netherlands, most never questioned the credibility of a Web site, even though they had just completed a course on information literacy. When my company asked 300 school students how they searched, nearly half answered: “I type a question.” When we asked how students knew if a site was credible, the most common answers were “if it sounds good” or “if it has the information I need.” Equally dismal was their widespread failure to check a source’s date, author or citations.
Moran is CEO of Dulcinea Media, a Web publisher of easy-to-use search tools from authoritative sources; he was vice president and general counsel of 24/7 Real Media. The somewhat self-serving nature of the column should not, however, minimize the importance of its message.