Sunday, August 4, 2013

Have you ever been fooled by information you read online? You bet I have!

I will admit that I like to shop online.  Actually I love to shop online!  If there is a something I am going to buy I will always look at the product reviews to help determine if I will make the final purchase.  I use the term to help determine, because of the circumstance when I was fooled by what I read online.

A few years ago my husband and I wanted to purchase an exercise bike.  We went to a few sporting good stores in the area and then went online to compare the brands with their product reviews.  There were two brands that we were deciding between, but ended up going with one that actually had in their product reviews that the pedals did not stick.  The other bike had one review that mentioned sticking pedals.  Of course when we got the bike and put it together, you guessed it, the pedals began sticking after a week of use.  I immediately went online to look at the review I read about the pedals not sticking.  As I was reading through all of the reviews on the website, I noticed that there was not a single negative review about the bike.  All of the reviews were positive and almost seemed to contradict the negative reviews of other top brand bikes.

This situation made me look further into product reviews.  Of course I was a little naive to think that all product reviews were made by actual consumers.  When researching product reviews I found that a lot of companies actually post their own reviews on the products and use it to help influence buyers.  Boy did they fool me!

With that being said, I now use reviews to help determine if I will buy the product, but it is not my final deciding factor.  After the bike incident my husband and I signed up for consumer reports and use it to help with our decision of big product purchases.  And now when we look at product reviews we remember that they could either be written by a person who actually used the product or by a person in the marketing department of the company who just wants to sell more items.

This is a good lesson for me to teach my students.  You cannot always believe everything you read on the Internet, whether it is a product review or information that is posted on any website.  The following article by Kevin Hodgson from the UNC School of Education talked about the importance of teaching students about the validity of domains:  Strategies for online reading.  I think this is a very important skill that students can use to help with researching and identifying areas on the Internet that may be more valid than others.  This has helped me in the past with research papers.   I use my previous experiences in my college classes to teach my students the best domains to find legitimate information.

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