Lab: Experiment 2

Lab Experiment 2: Why does a history course start without reading history?

That question will guide you work for the Experiment, Consultation, and Reflection this week.

First, consider the following five facts that complicate our study of the past:

  1. The internet exists and people use it to learn new information.

  2. There is more non-evidence based information on the internet than evidence-based information.

  3. More than 50% of searches on google result in no-clicks. This means that search algorithms are shaping what we think we know based on what they present us, with no further work on our part. <>

  4. Your use of the internet is tracked extensively. Most web-pages know who you are when you arrive and so what the web shows you is not neutral, but delivering content in thinks you want.

  5. Web pages do not exist, but are conjured upon clicks. Very few web pages are a single page of code, that is a "page" of information. Instead, pictures come from one database, words may come from another database, formatting may come from another database, and the advertisements may come from one or more databases.

If you want to learn about the past, to learn history, using the internet (as we do) we must have a solid foundation in digital and information literacy.

Digital literacy

Briefly defined, digital literacy "is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills."

History, both recent and distant past, is contested by many people. Hindu and Muslim nationalists fight today over whether a group of people known as the Aryans migrated into the Indian subcontinent around 1500 BCE, making every youtube video about the Harrappan civilization (along the Indus and now defunct Saraswati rivers) a comment-laden history fight. In the 20th century, we've seen the rise of white supremacy masquerading as remembrance of the 19th century US Civil War, as evidenced by the creation of U.S. Confederate monuments during the rise of Jim-Crow restrictions on African Americans. Whether the history is 3500 BCE or 200 years ago, history remains intensely personal and contested.

Digital tools have remade these discussions about what happened in the past. In the above two paragraphs I linked to three sources: EdWeek (an education newspaper), a National Geographic video (a multi-media company focused on geography and culture), and the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy group "dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society." 1 . In order to evaluate my claims and the claims of the websites, you need to evaluate the credibility of each source, and the digital world makes that both easier and harder. Easier because we can search for corroborating information fast. Harder because there is so much information we need to judge, quickly, to establish credibility.

I get why I need to be digitally literate, but what's all this about academic integrity?

For this class, academic integrity is about two things: not looking like a fool and claiming a place for your ideas in the world.

Academic integrity means you build your ideas on others' ideas and you give them credit. Giving credit to others lets people check your work, which demonstrates you are confident in your ideas. By checking your sources, others can also help you avoid making foolish mistakes.

In 2008 the late Senator John McCain accepted the Republican nomination for president standing in front of an image of a California middle school. The school had nothing to do with his campaign but the person who put the graphic together didn't cite his/her work or run it by someone else. Citing your work is an invitation to others to check you and help you get it right.

More importantly, by citing others' ideas, words, and images, you are claiming a place in an ongoing creation of knowledge about a subject and affirming that what you have to say matters. Your arguments are amplified when you cite others' work because it is not just you pushing forward an idea, but all the people before you that you have cited, barrelling along with you at the head.

Other classes may focus on how to avoid plagiarism, which is the flipside of academic integrity. I focus on building a culture of citation because your jobs will expect you to write and cite appropriately, not just avoid plagiarism. Put another way, I want to focus on how to play the right notes of a song, not how not to play the wrong notes.

So what do I need to do for the Lab Experiment 2 assignment?

  1. Read above. Don't start with with part of the assignment because you will fail to understand what we are doing.

  2. Build a case study in how to fact check a historical event in our class (1400 - 1900 CE for World History 2). You will need:

    • A website that covers a historical subject in our period.
    • A paragraph that you write giving a brief description of the website, a full citation of the website, and how your used SIFT to evaluate the credibility of the website. Please be explicit in describing your process for checking the website.
    • A list of all the sources your used to evaluate the source.

Model: Please do not use this exact web page for your assignment.

I found a website that covers the history of the world in 100 objects. The object I chose is chopping tool from Tanzania that is "oldest humanly made object in the British Museum."1 It appears to be a collaboration between the British Broadcast Service and the British Museum. A "just add wikipedia" check of the BBC indicates it is the "world's oldest national broadcasting service" and a well-respected news agency.2 The British Museum is "is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture."3 I checked the archaeologist listed on the object page (Clive Gamble) on google scholar and he has written several books on this period.4 Based on the credibility of the two institutions that produced this website and the scholar the website includes, I conclude that the information on the chopping tool from Tanzania is credible and I could use it in a project for this page. I recognize that because this tool is so old and we have no written records, any interpretation I or others make for how the tool was used will be an educated guess.


“BBC - A History of the World - Object : Olduvai Stone Chopping Tool.” Accessed September 2, 2019.

“BBC - Wikipedia.” Accessed September 2, 2019.

“British Museum - Wikipedia.” Accessed September 2, 2019.

“Google Scholar.” Accessed September 2, 2019.