Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Google Books and Making Good Choices

Recently we had an AP US History paper assigned and I had one of the AP students select the following book as one of his sources from google books:

Here is a book one of our AP US students picked for his paper. The book is Phoenix Rising by Donald G. Lett. Now, the reason he picked this book is because it is about he Cuban missile crisis.
The reason I started to have a bad feeling about the book? One, when the student admitted in his works cited that he couldn't find much on the author, but the book still seemed credible (my emphasis added). So I looked it up. It was self published, which made warning bells go off.

Next, I invite you to look at the author's letter after the table of contents called The Pre-Liminaries. It is clear from this letter that the author has a particular bias and point of view, one that I am quite sure sailed right on past my AP student.

After you have looked at the letter, you need to go to the back of the book and check out the author's research, and I do use that term loosely. The author cites Wikipedia and Thinkquest (which is a site built by student entries, not unlike wikipedia) as authorities. To be sure, there are some credible sites in the research, but it is chock full of incredible sites, so much so that it makes it an excellent example of why EVERYTHING needs to be inspected and scrutinized, EVEN BOOKS.

The only additional information on the author I could find was at Amazon. It was rather disturbing.

This paper requires that they have monographs and the annotations need to have the author's credentials listed. So the kids are used to checking for author information and adding it to their annotations. What was interesting, upon asking the student why he chose this book over another, was that he only criteria was that it dealt with his topic and when he did a control-f search on his topic, lots of hits came up.

Good news is I have a great example for the kids to use next year for why they will be verifying books from google!

1 comment:

Anna M. said...

thanks for sharing this. It's the perfect example of why kids need to evaluate sources. Great teachable moment as they say :)