Considering the Source

3866763710_972dc34b18_zEmily started the dinner conversation. “According to Ruff Ruffman’s web site, cheetahs can run 70 miles per hour.”

“Really? What else did you find out?”

“Dad, I think we should Google cheetahs after dinner.”

We did. We found the Nature site, which says cheetahs can run 60 miles per hour. National Geographic agrees with Ruff Ruffman.

“Daaad…” She was getting impatient now. “I want the world one. It’s something like kids world or planet kids or something like that.”

Kids’ planet?

“Yeah. That one.” She had Googled cheetahs before. This site was seventh in the list of results. In addition to some good information and great pictures, it agreed with the growing consensus that cheetahs can run 70 miles per hour over short distances.

The discrepancy didn’t bother her. She found some cheetah coloring pages, and after printing them out was off on another adventure.

“That’s the difference,” I told my faithful blog reader. “Did you notice the generation gap?” She hadn’t. It was in the first six words. “According to Ruff Ruffman’s web site…”

Information now has two components. There’s the data itself (Cheetahs can run 70 miles per hour) and the source (Ruff Ruffman’s web site). They don’t exist on their own anymore. She didn’t say that she knows cheetahs can run 70 miles per hour because she read it online.

Somehow, she managed to become information literate. I can’t claim any credit for this, and this single episode doesn’t mean that she’s always aware of how different sources may provide more or less reliable data. But we’re definitely heading in the right direction.

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