Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

During my high school career, the only time I had to evaluate a source of information was for speech and debate. I quickly learned that USA Today didn’t hold as much clout as Foreign Affairs. Fast-forward a few years (let’s not count them) and I’ve found it increasingly necessary to teach my young students and children how to discern between a quality information source and a money-seeking (often fake) news site just searching for the most likes, shares, and hits to their website. Even news sources seen as reliable put spin on stories, especially culturally important science news.  As teachers, we want our youth to be able to make a claim, support that claim with evidence, and then substantiate that claim with sound scientific reasoning. We also want them to be able to think critically about claims, evidence, and conclusions that are presented to them in the media.

With Inq-ITS virtual labs, students have the opportunity to go through an investigation including the act of writing in a Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) format 3 to 4 times during one class period. This repetition, with immediate feedback provided by both Rex and the teacher, is absolutely essential to a student’s ability to practice communicating scientific reasoning. Whether my students are writing about the causes of Earth’s Seasons, or developing a presentation as to why our Earth is in fact NOT flat, I want them to be capable of both evaluating and communicating sound scientific reasoning. Sometimes a simple answer like ‘the Earth is flat’ may seem to be reasonable only because it is so simple. Science often requires us to seek out and comprehend a much more complex explanation for certain phenomena.  As teachers we want our students to be able to construct science reasoning that includes a reference to their evidence, a link to their claim, and fully provide appropriate scientific principles.

The better our students are at writing their own CERs, the more equipped they will be to critically consume a variety of media, whether it is a viral YouTube video or sensationalized news stories. You may or may not be aware that we are in the midst of a global scientific emergency, with the coronavirus and the COVID19 illness it causes.  We are getting a lot of mixed messages from people in various forms of leadership, and sketchy information is being shared across all media platforms.  We need to give students the opportunity to practice obtaining, evaluating, and communicating sound scientific reasoning to enable them to become an integral part of an informed and healthy electorate. If we would like our young democracy to survive into the next century, then these skills are absolutely necessary for our nation’s young people.