Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world
Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

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Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

Week 5: Critical consumption


Montage of headlines
Figure 1 Montage of headlines

There are often bizarre stories on the internet.

‘Pigeons can identify cancerous tissue on x rays’

‘Why the internet is made of cats’

These are just two stories that have appeared in the media recently. Some are more plausible than others and we’ll be returning later to the question of which are true or not.

In previous weeks, you have been introduced to the idea of the information age and have explored some of its characteristics. The internet is teeming with information, on every conceivable subject and from many different sources (the image above shows a few headlines that have appeared in the media recently). These sources include an ever-increasing quantity of freely available user-generated information, and from an increasing number of online communities. There are advantages and disadvantages to this abundance. It is not hard to find information, but judging its reliability is less straightforward. Online social networks can be very beneficial, but how do you establish whether someone is telling the truth or not?

In Week 4 you considered what you can do to stay safe online and protect your privacy. This week, you will have the opportunity to think about which information sources are most relevant to you in your own context (also referred to as your ‘information landscape’) and learn techniques to deal with information overload. You’ll also find out how to develop a critical approach towards the people and information sources you encounter online. This is all part of making technology and the internet work for you, and helping you to stay in control of your digital life.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 1: Introduction to Week 5
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Transcript: Video 1: Introduction to Week 5

Hello, and welcome to Week 5: Critical consumption. This week, you’ll be exploring your information landscape and thinking about what information sources are most relevant to you.
It’s a chance to hone your searching skills, and also, to pick up a few tips about dealing with information overload.
Yes, and information overload can be a real problem, can’t it? So we’ll be finding out what Manuela, Michael and John have been doing about it.
The key message this week is the importance of developing a critical mindset towards both the information and the people that you encounter online.
Yes, it’s all about knowing the right questions to ask.
And not to get taken in by the opinion that is sometimes presented as fact.
It’s not always black and white, is it? Take the example of energy and the environment. You’ll get very different views from an oil company to an online climate change activist.
It’s a case of keeping your eyes open and knowing the right questions to ask of both the people and the information that you find online.
Yes, and that’s very useful when it comes to both study and work.
By the way, did you see that abandoned submarine in the desert? I’ve seen a picture online, which I’m just going to check out.
End transcript: Video 1: Introduction to Week 5
Video 1: Introduction to Week 5
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

By the end of this week you should:

  • have thought about which information sources are most relevant to you
  • know how to find reliable information online quickly
  • be able to judge how trustworthy online sources are.

This relates to both ‘Find’ and ‘Evaluate’ in the Open University digital skills framework as well as to ‘Information, data and media literacies’ in the Jisc digital capabilities framework that you came across in Week 2.


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