As it apparently to anyone living in the 21st century grappling with the breakneck speed of technology, that the on-line world is becoming increasingly important. As an educator you cannot discount the on-line world, students will regard you as a dinosaur who refused to learn - so how can you be taken seriously as an educator if you aren't interested in learning.
With that premise as the foundation stone - Kathy Schrock's 2002 article "Teaching Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet - The ABC'S of Website Evaluation" is a good starting point in my investigation of what to consider when gathering the relevant website for the teaching and learning needs for those in my school.
As Schrock points out "students and teachers need to be able to critically evaluate Web pages for authenticity, applicability, authorship, bias and usability."
Both Brown (2oo2) and Schrock point out that there is no editing or publishing process for information on-line in order to weed out the "substandard information".
The acquisition of digital literacy skills is dependent upon the student's ability to find information, determine its usefulness and accuracy, and utilize it effectively.Following is the 24(!) criteria :
- AUTHORITY - is the author a well-regarded name you recognise? Does the online document contain an biography and an email address? Are you led to additional information about the author?
- BIAS - is it clear what organization is sponsoring the page? Is there a link to the sponsoring organisation's website? Is the page actually an ad disguised as information?
- CITATIONS - Is there a bibliography which students can consult? Are the citations in full?
- DATES - does the site have the date when it was created and when it was last updated? Does it provide a date when the data was collected? (currency)
- EFFICIENCY - does the site take a long time to load? Will this create problems if a whole class is trying to access the site? Can it be used at all times with the same efficiency?
- FALLACY - Be sure that the students can see the "top" of the website- read the author's purpose and rationale for providing the information so it is not read out of context
- GRAPHICS - Do the graphics AID the students' understanding of the content? Do the graphics serve a clear purpose or are they just irrelevant additions?
- HANDICAPPED ACCESS - is it possible for visually impaired users to access the information on this site? Especially to "read" the graphics software?
- INFORMATION AVAILABILITY - do you have to pay for the information? Students should be aware of the costs involved in keeping information up-to-date.
- JERRY - BUILT - Is the site poorly built? Is unprofessional in that it contains spelling and grammatical errors?
- KNOWLEDGE - Schrock advises that students should have a working knowledge of the topics that they are browsing
- LINKS - Is the site's purpose to be comprehensive or a sampler, starting point or an overview? Are the links appropriate for the intended audience's purposes and needs? What does this site provide that no other site provides?
- MISINFORMATION - Can the content of the website be altered by anyone? Does the site contain mainly opinion or fact? Students need to be aware that there are many pranks and jokes on the Internet.
- NAVIGABILITY - Is the site easy to navigate? Are the links easy to identify? Are the links grouped logically? Is the content well organised? Does the site have a keyword search function?
- ONLINE RESEARCH MODELS -Does the site have models of how to research - does it help the student in the formation of their research question, search strategies and gathering of information?
- PERTINENT Is the information pertinent to the students' needs? - Students should also be able to learn how to evaluate whether the information they find is pertinent to their purpose.
- QUALITY OF INFORMATION - Students need to be aware of the sites that they use in the searches on topics - visit them regularly and see if the information is updated regularly.
- REQUIREMENTS - Does the site ask for students to be registered users? Does the site require it to be accessed through a specific Internet browser? Caution should be exercised if Yes is the answer to either question.
- SCHOLASTIC REVIEWS - Is the website reviewed by a professional periodical like SCAN? Has the site been given an award? Do other sites dealing with the topic provide links to this site? If answer is YES then it is more than likely a website of quality and useful for students' needs.
- THEORISTS - For example, Eisenberg and Bekowitz'sBig 6 - provides sound educational framework for research and seraching for information - get students to use a theory in helping them to assess the usefulness of the information they are finding.
- UNIQUENESS - the great advantage of websites is its ability to blend many different formats to aid students' learning
- VERIFIABLE -Can the information on the site be verified with a reputable print source? Does the site contain citations?
- THE FIVE Ws -Schrock has her five Ws for students to simply evaluate a web site (see below)
- LACK OF ORGANISATION - it is important to keep in mind that the Net is not run by one company, it lack organization and you cannot consistently navigate it - not can you search everything that is on the Net all at once.
Much of what Schrock has listed in her article is more things to consider rather than a clearly articulated set of criteria. She has obviously distilled these ideas into her FIVE Ws which is much more useful than the rambling above list!
WHO - Who wrote the pages and are they an expert? Is a biography of the author included? How can I find out more about the author?
WHAT - What does the author say is the purpose of the site? What else might the author have in mind for the site? What makes the site easy to use? What information is included and does the information differ from other sites?
WHEN- when was the site created? When was it last updated?
WHERE - Where does the information come from? Where can I look to find out more about the sponsor of the site?
WHY - Why is this information useful for my purpose? Why should I use this information? Why is this page better than another?
Brown, J. (2002). Why Evaluate Web Information. www.ed.uiuc.edu/wp/credibility/page2.html
Schrock, K. (2002)Teaching Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet - The ABCS of Website Evaluation