Critical thinking and the “filter bubble”

The recent U.S. elections in the United States have brought to light the need for all of us to be better critical thinkers and fact-check those Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WeChat posts that enter our feeds and fuel our anxieties.

Here are some steps to take when you read something shared by a friend but not supported with reliable evidence:

  • Google it. Or Bing it or Yahoo! it or Baidu it or Naver it or do whatever you do to look up information quickly;
  • Look to see if a reliable news source (a news site that pays its reporters to do real, investigative journalism) has reported on the event in question;
  • If you can verify that the information is true, share it;
  • If you realize that the information is not true or you can’t be sure it’s true, challenge it. Comment on it and send a message to your friend to let them know that they need to question their sources.

Here are two sites that make it their business to verify information that we find online: Attempts to give accurate information about rumors and urban legends on a variety of topics, including war, business, events, toxins, science, military, popular… Monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.

In 2011, Eli Pariser gave a TED Talk on the topic of the “filter bubble” and the ways in which Google, Facebook and other sites tailor what we see depending on our past web-browsing behaviors.  Parents and (pre-)teens (preferably together) can watch his TED talk (see below) and discuss what this type of invisible editing does to our world-view. Pariser warns that we need to balance our “information diet” and not just feed on the “junk food” diet fed to us by those who have decided what’s most “relevant” to us–not necessarily what’s important.

Pariser went on to co-found the good-news sight, Upworthy, and to write the book titled, The Filter Bubble: What the internet is hiding from you.

Do you have a resource that you use (perhaps in your mother tongue) for fact-checking or promoting critical thinking? Please let our librarians know so we can share it with our community. Email us at or

Inquiry @ The IST Library

The third quarter of the IST school year is an incredibly busy one for the Library. Full-blown research projects are happening at every grade level in the MYP Humanities program. Grade 6 is preparing for the Tourism Fair; students are researching and studying about China’s many provinces. Grade 7 students are each reading a different biography and researching about that specific historical figure. A unit in Grade 8 on The Triangle Trade is culminating in carefully researched and digitally presented narratives about slavery. Revolution is the theme for Grade 9; each student has developed their own research question related to one of four major revolutions: American, French, Russian, and Chinese. Grade 10 students are continuing inquiry into individually chosen topics related to a “development in scientific understanding or technology that led to a historic shift in human belief or lifestyle.” Grade 7, 9 & 10 will all write papers on their research. These longterm projects are all connected to the real world, an element of inquiry-based education. If you want to see learning in action, come to the IST Library!

(Photos to follow)

Grade 5 Evaluates Sites

The grade 5 students are in the midst of research on their chosen topics for the G5 Exhibition. This last week we reviewed how to evaluate a website for credibility. While there are millions of websites out there, not all of them are credibleThe credibility of a website, or any resource, depends on the authority of its author, its currency, its relevance to the topic at hand, and its purpose, among other criteria.

For the lesson on web evaluation, we used this checklist which asked students whether it was easy to answer these questions. They did not need to write down the answers to the questions, just check the answers to the questions were obvious.

The questions we used followed the acronym CARDDS:

Credibility/Authority: Who wrote the information on the website? Can I trust them?

Accuracy: Is the information correct? Can I check it?

Relevance: Is this information I need?

Date: How old is the information?

Design: Is the website easy to navigate? Is it at the right reading level for me?

Scope and Purpose: Why is this information published?

The fifth graders have been applying these criteria to the websites they are finding with great results. Some of the websites they have found include government and United Nations sites as well as not-for-profit organizations like the American Society for the Prevention of Animal Cruelty (ASPCA). All of these fulfill the criteria on the evaluation website and therefore will offer relevant and accurate information.

Two websites that should help our fifth graders on the action side of their projects are and Both of these websites invite young people to get involved in improving the world around them.

Both of them were brought to my attention by fifth graders this week who had found them in the course of doing research. These websites are a great way of connecting with other students around the world who share the same interests. They are credible because they are written by experts on the topic, they are relevant to the grade 5 exhibition, and they are updated frequently.



A third website, Kids Are Heroes, was the basis for homework for the fifth graders this week. This website features children who are taking action in many different forms. The third graders also use this website for their Heroes unit, and all students find it inspiring.

Kids Are Heroes


P.S. In the course of writing this post, I found this, the ABC’s of Website Evaluation on a website by Bethel Crockett. I like the ABC list to be a better way of remembering, so I may start working with that mnemonic.

Do you have a different way of evaluating a website? Share yours in the comments.

LibGuides are being used in the Secondary School!

14 Guides were created this fall by IST Secondary Teacher-Librarian Virginia Morgan for a variety of student research projects. LibGuides are subject guides to help students find credible resources. These subject guides are springboards into detailed information that is academic and authoritative. In these guides, librarians recommend specific databases for specific subjects. Widgets are built into the guides so students can access the databases immediately. Also included are other online sources, ebooks, and books from the IST library collections.

Where are they located? Find them at

Statistics Showing Increase In When & How Often LibGuides Are Being Accessed

Month & Views

2013-04    9
2013-05    17
2013-06    10
2013-07    1
2013-08    362
2013-09    500
2013-10    791

EasyBib Schools Edition

Many of you already use to create MLA citations when you are doing research. Now, EasyBib is even more useful.

Go to from a computer at school and you will have the option to LOGIN or REGISTER. If you do not already have an account, choose REGISTER. Use your IST email address as your username and choose a password that will be easy for you to remember. Once you have registered, you have access to all that EasyBib schools’ edition has to offer. Once you’ve created your account at school, you will have full access from home as well.

You can create projects and save all of your citations, notes, outlines and annotations together in one place.

Within a project, you can create as many notes as you need for every source you use. These can include bullet-point notes, quotations and paraphrasing. Cards can be colour-coded, sorted and resorted as often as you want or need. Also in the Notebook view, you can create an outline of a project. Notes can be dragged to a point in the outline and the contents of the note will automatically be added to the project outline.

EasyBib will now save all of your citations and annotations. You can select the ones to publish in a bibliography and quickly save it in a properly MLA-formatted, alphabetized MSWord document.

To see some of these features, watch this video.