I am the first to admit there are a lot of things I don’t know. Some areas of study- such as the architecture of ancient China or Greek mythology- just don’t interest me. On the flip side, there are topics I do know a lot about, including 80’s music, human biology, and labels and nameplates. I came upon this knowledge in a variety of ways, as we all do, including on the job training, college, and reading about topics that interest me in my spare time. This used to mean just books and magazines, but now we have the internet.
The internet has been a double-edged sword for learning. While it allows us access to a literal treasure trove of information we never could have had access to before, it also makes it much more difficult to know what is good information and what is, simply put, crap. You only have to log into Facebook or any other social media site for a couple of minutes to see people sharing fake news, fake contests, and other nonsense.
So how can you tell the good from the bad when you are trying to learn online? It can be tricky, but there are a few things you can do to help yourself say on the right path.
#1 Go the source. If you want medical information, go to sites like http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/ or http://www.mayoclinic.org/ . If you want information on world news, go to sites like http://www.bbc.com/news . Third party sites that curate content can be time savers, but if you chose to use them make sure they are curating from expert sources.
#2 Check for safety. If you go to any website and your pop-up blocker or anti-virus program warnings come on, leave that site immediately!
#3 Check for tone. “All doctors are trying to hide……” “The mainstream media won’t print this…….” “Only we know what REALLY happened at……..”. Run. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. At best, you are going to be in for some half-truths and / or a sales pitch for useless products. Which brings me to….
#4 Check for cost. Yes, it does cost money to do research. Yes, it does cost money to run a website. Yet in spite of this sites like http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ and http://www.ushistory.org/us/ offer more information that you could read in a lifetime at no cost to you the reader. If you are enrolling in a class then yes, you can expect to have to pay for that. But teasers that let you read half an article and then demand payment? Probably not a very trustworthy source.
What other tricks/ tips do you have for finding reliable information online? The more we share our knowledge the more we all learn!