Activity: Choose the Best Source of the Top Google Results

by VanessaVaile

An exercise in learning about and for teaching digital literacy because (irony alert) just hanging out on Facebook won’t do it. If you are not already following this blog, add it to your list.

Among other things, Michael Caulfield run the Digital Polarization Initiative, an cross-institutional initiative to improve civic discourse by developing web literacy skills in college undergraduates. Have a class that wants to join? Contact michael.caulfield at


Here’s a simple activity you can try in your class: Have students execute a Google search that is a question. Then have the students look at the top five results, and using lateral reading pick the source that is most likely to be authoritative and the source they think is least authoritative. Have them talk through their reasoning.

For example, take this set of results to “Can magnets cure cancer?”:


We might note the first page comes from a fringe site that sells “therapeutic” magnets, and is quoting from an out-of-print magazine from the 1980s called “Magnets in Your Future” (that’s the name of the magazine, not the article). A similar critique could be made of the MagnetiCare product site.

On the other hand the two results on the bottom make a good pair. The scientific paper is cited by 25 papers, and shows in some lab conditions magnetic therapy…

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