• Multiple angles on a Civil War turning point
  • Beyond dates and data to questions and connections
  • Adding facts from then to what we know now

Information Literacy: Sources and More


What are the sources of this information?
This is the question we hope all discriminating readers will ask!

Each detail in Gettysburg by the Numbers includes links to the source(s) used for that detail. These tell you where we found the information, not where to go to answer the questions. These sources are not part of TeachersFirst’s “vetted,” educator-reviewed resource collection, and may even include annoying ads or pop-ups.

GBTN uses many sources of information, some very basic, such as Wikipedia or Ask.com, and some primary sources from the time. The researchers used very basic sources for information that is not likely to be argued or to vary much form source to source. Such information might include basic facts about how much a car weighs or how many cups of coffee Starbucks sells per day.

For information that is more specialized, the researchers used expert sources such as the U.S. Army, the National Park Service, or dedicated re-enactors/scholars who make the battle of Gettysburg their life’s passion.

As you read each topic detail, you will find links to the sources used for that detail. These sources are not part of TeachersFirst’s “vetted,” educator-reviewed resource collection, and may even include annoying ads or pop-ups.

But I read a source that says something different
You definitely will find conflicting information about Gettysburg or any Civil War battle. Why? History is not neatly recorded by textbook publishers who sit on the battle sidelines, recording what happened. History is a dynamic (changing) tale, depending on who the storyteller is. In the cases where a topic detail shares information that is difficult to describe precisely, such as the exact number of people who died on the scene at Gettysburg, we have tried to explain the challenges of arriving at a precise number. We also give you the source(s) for our information so you can see “who says.” In some cases, we use estimates or approximations to make the numbers manageable. If you discover a source that says something different, consider it an exciting challenge for further exploration!

Information Literacy Lesson Ideas

Who says?
After your students have spent a day exploring Gettysburg by the Numbers, ask them whether they believe everything they read. As a homework assignment, ask them to choose three details from Gettysburg by the Numbers that they think they can “debunk.”  Have them work with a partner or trio to find alternate versions of the detail information in Gettysburg by the Numbers. For example, can they find a different estimate of the amount of ammunition used? Can they find a different estimate of the weight of a Civil War soldier’s pack? Have them make a chart for each version, including:

Who says? (source of the information- including site url and author, book title and author, etc.)                       
Why I believe this source

As a class, have groups present their choice of the best “debunking” example they found and have the class comment or vote on who they believe and why. If you have access to tablets or laptops, you could easily use a class wiki to post the “Who Says” charts from each group and use the discussion tab for others to comment or vote.

Why this source?
Start by talking about why we choose the sources we do (Comes up first on Google; I don’t know; My brother says he uses that site all the time; etc. ). Have students select a favorite detail in GBTN and look at the source(s). Pair them with another student and have them explain WHY the source used is a good one for this type of information. Have them write down their reasons and report them back to the class. Listen for choices about sources such as those listed above under What are the sources of this information? Generate a poster of “Why this source” reasons to keep on the classroom wall  (or wiki) for student research projects, especially if they are going to do GBTN extension projects.

Can I find another?
Have students select a favorite detail to explore and try to find a different source(s) that say the same thing. How good is that second source? How do they know one did not copy misinformation from the other? Can they find a third? How many sources does a journalist use before he/she considers a fact to be verified? Make a  student –generated list of suggestions for validating “facts.”

These are just some of the lesson ideas you might use. For more resources on information literacy and evaluating sources, see these reviewed resources:
Easy Bib Lesson Plans 
21st Century Information Fluency
Bad News
MediaLit Moments