Multi-Generational Reading Project summary report: rart 2: how they’d find more information

Yesterday I began sharing my summary of the responses I received from the extra credit opportunity I offered my students: the ‘Multi-Generational Reading Project’. Since I used Micah 6.1-8 as passage I wanted students do discuss with an adult (parent, grandparent, sibling, etc.), I began by showing what pre-knowledge was had about this passage by both students and the adults with which they paired. Today, I turn to the second question I asked:

Question 2: If you wanted to know more—like who Micah was, or who his audience was, or what his message was—where would you go (to what sources or people) to find that information? How would you get access to these sources/people?

Here are their answers:

Most student respondents said they’d begin by searching online. Seven made reference to ‘the Internet’ while seven others were more specific, mentioning Google. A few of those who said they’d search the Internet said they’d do so using multiple online sources. This is an exercise that Sam Wineburg refers to as horizontal reading where you check the information about a website not by digging deeper into that particular website but by checking it against other websites. It’s a valid activity but the reasoning behind this approach wasn’t always sound. For example, one student suggested that if multiple websites report something, and there’s no evidence that the writers/creators are collaborating, then it is likely to be true. This is questionable, to say the least. Only one student cared about the specific URL ending saying they would look for a .org or something other than just a .com. One student said they’d search specifically for an ‘article’, which seems to indicate they wanted something more ‘official’ than a blog post, tweet, etc.

Other search engines mentioned include Bing and Baidu. Notably, Wikipedia received only a single mention, which is surprising, and differed from the adults a little bit.

There were some who wanted ‘Bible’ to be in the URL, including BibleGateway.com. Others said they’d look for Bible-centered websites. One said they’d trust the videos created by The Bible Project out of Portland, OR. (I use their videos even though they have a strong evangelical bent at times and risk being supersessionist when discussing topics related to the Hebrew Bible…I just have to complicate those messages when I show the videos.) Only four students stated specifically that they’d go straight to the primary source itself: the Bible (whether physical or digital).

Back to adults: three of my students said they’d go directly to me, their teacher, while three said they’d go to their parents, and five said they’d trust a member of the clergy (priests and pastors mentioned). One said they’d ‘go to Church’ but didn’t say who’d they talk to once they arrived.

Only one student mentioned their phone as their go-to source. I don’t think this means that most use computers rather than their phones. I think it means most assume that their phones are their primary hardware for these searches.

The adult respondents said they’d go online as well. Five of them mentioned the Internet with three providing the caveat that they’d look for ‘reputable sources’. Five mentioned Google specifically. Three mentioned Wikipedia specifically, which I found this surprising because in this group the adults seem more comfortable with Wikipedia than the students (3-to-1…so not much comfort in general).

While only four students said they’d go to the primary source itself, three adults said they’d do the same, but others four others mentioned Bibles that had study aids: a ‘reference’ Bible, a couple ‘study’ Bibles, and even an ‘Adventure’ Bible (which apparently has a lot of good maps and other visual aids). 

The biggest difference is that while not a single students said they’d look at a physical book about the Bible—not a single one—four adults said they’d look at things like a ‘Bible reference book’ or a ‘textbook on Bible history’ or even ‘Bible commentaries’. One mentioned their university library and using a digital database to find ‘book lists’.

Eleven students mentioned another person who they’d ask about the Bible, whether a parent, teacher, or member of the clergy. Twelve adults said the same thing, with seven mentioning clergy (compared to five students), one mentioning the ‘Bible teacher’ at Church, one mentioning parish educators, one mentioning a former college professor, and only two citing familial relationships: one a boyfriend and another a daughter (though one did say they wish their mother-in-law was alive still for this sort of thing). Interestingly, even though Micah is part of the Tanakh, only one adult said they might talk to someone who practices Judaism. Notably, most of our student body and their families are associated with Christianity.

In the next post I’ll tell you why my respondents trusted these resources.

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