September 24

Developing Digital Detectives by Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins

Pop Quiz! 

Which of the following was released to the public first?

  1. The first iPhone
  2. Facebook 
  3. The CRAAP Test 
  4. Youtube 
  5. The CARS Checklist

If you guessed the uber popular information literacy protocol The CRAAP Test, you’re right! This checklist, which is still widely used by many educators across the country, as a go to tool for helping learners determine what can and can’t be trusted online, was created in 2002: two years before Facebook was first made available to the public, three years before Youtube streamed its first video, four years before people started tweeting and a whopping 14 years before TikTok  began its worldwide domination of app store downloads. 

Information, media and news literacy are not new disciplines. Unfortunately, however, the tools that have traditionally been used to help young people navigate the digital world haven’t kept pace with our ever changing information landscape. The creators of the CRAAP test, for example, simply couldn’t have conceived of a world in which we’d all carry super powerful computers in our pockets, accessing information through targeted notifications rather than boolean driven search. The creators of the CARS checklist, and so many other checklist style information literacy protocols, could not have imagined a world in which the information we consume would so deeply affect every aspect of our lives from the decisions we make about our health and democracy, to the ways we perceive ourselves and others. These tools aren’t bad; they are just no longer up to the task at hand. 

We created Developing Digital Detectives to bridge the gap between traditional information literacy tools and the online world that defines so much of our lives. By focusing on the overlap between information literacy and social-emotional learning, we challenge educators to rethink the ways we approach this vital work. Developing Digital Detectives is filled with mini-lessons and unit plans that nudge learners (of all ages) to think deeply about the human behavior that not only motivates people who create and share false information, but that also drives how we respond to and, far too often, amplify it. Rather than requiring kids to seek a single, static “right answer” to a binary question like “is this real or is this fake,” Developing Digital Detectives is filled with minilessons and unit plans that challenge learners to ask, and then investigate, more nuanced questions. 

As Nerdy Book Club readers, you might be wondering what all of this has to do with literature for young people? We believe that the work of helping kids fall in love with reading and that of Developing Digital Detectives are inextricably linked. We know that reading helps people of all ages stretch their thinking, expand their understanding of the world and develop empathy: three qualities that are essential to the work of evaluating the flood of information we attempt to surf each day.  Nerdy Book Club cofounder, Donalyn Miller has said, “Failing to graduate a populace that values reading has long-term consequences for everyone.” (2013) We believe the information literacy quagmire we find ourselves in today, in which false information drives the decisions we make about some of the most daunting challenges we have ever faced as a species, is one of those consequences. That said, as a former Teacher Librarian (Jennifer) and Social Studies teacher (Darren), it’s tough to call Developing Digital Detectives the work of our hearts. But we both believe this is, literally, the most important work we can be doing right now. We hope you will join us. 

Developing Digital Detectives will be available on 9/28 everywhere books are sold. In the meantime, please join our growing community of educators who are interested in helping kids become Digital Detectives by following and contributing to the hashtag #digitaldetectivesquad!

About the Authors 

Jennifer LaGarde has spent her entire adult life working in public education. She has served as a classroom teacher, a teacher-librarian, a digital  teaching and learning specialist, a district-level support staff member, and  a statewide leader as a consultant for both the North Carolina Department  of Public Instruction and the Friday Institute for Instructional Innovation.  A passionate advocate for readers and libraries, Jennifer currently teaches  courses focused on emerging literacies and young adult literature at Rutgers  University. Library Journal, The American Association of School Librarians,  The New York Times, and The Carnegie Corporation have all recognized  Jennifer’s work. When she’s not busy working, Jennifer spends time reading,  hiking, chasing her two dogs, and drinking too much coffee with her  husband, David, in Olympia, Washington. Follow Jennifer’s adventures at  librarygirl.net. 

Darren Hudgins is a passionate advocate for creating learning experiences  that drive educators of all kinds and their students to think, do, and thrive. He  believes in this mission so much that he conceptualized and currently directs  Think | Do | Thrive, LLC. Here he uses his more than 20 years in education,  edtech, and coaching to inspire critical thinking, champion active learning,  and create opportunities for educational communities to improve. As he says,  “Let’s untangle this world together.” Follow Darren at darrenhudgins.com.