Monday, March 15, 2010

Critical Website Evaluation as Teacher and Student

Kathy Schrock’s article, “The ABC’s of Web Site Evaluation” outlines the many factors a teacher should consider, and teach his/her students to consider, when accessing the Internet as an information resource.

In conjunction with Schrock’s guidelines, there are some best practices I’ve observed that seem to support responsible Internet sourcing:

In regards to selecting websites as resources for both my own research and for my eventual usage in the classroom, it is important that I allow myself sufficient time for thorough review of the material I’m presenting. The most irresponsible thing a teacher or student can do is present material without thoroughly reviewing it first. I’ve seen this happen on the occasion when a teacher has left me web-based materials to distribute to students as their substitute teacher. Upon subsequent review, the materials seem irrelevant to the assigned task or inappropriate. Frequently, it is the students who determine this before I’ve had a chance to, which does not reflect well upon the permanent teacher. I’ve also been on the receiving end (as a grad student) of web-based information that, upon review, seems extraneous or unfocused. It’s not enough for anyone presenting web-based information or materials, as either teacher or student, to “skim” the content or assume the content has merit because of its source, heading, title, etc.

As both student and teacher, I find cross-referencing to be an invaluable practice. Chances are the information I am harvesting from the Internet is not rocket science and is not just available from a single source. The more varied and numbered the sources I can locate to present like information, the more certain I can feel that the information is likely accurate.

Finally, as a teacher, I would dedicate a lesson to teaching critical Web evaluation and responsible usage to my students. Of the many articles I reviewed, Kathy Schrock’s “Critical Evaluation of a Web Site: Secondary School Level” checklist seems the most comprehensive tool for students. Throughout the course/semester, I would encourage students to obtain my approval of a web resource before using it in any research-based assignment. I might even create some sort of digital “permission slip” (students email me a link for approval before citing its content.)

While being able to fact check our students' work would certainly be ideal, I suspect it might be impractical simply due to lack of time in a teacher's schedule (specifically in regards to more complex high school students/assignments.) It might be more realistic to educate students how to evaluate websites and web-based content for viability and then put the honus on the students to fact check, holding them responsible for the accuracy of the content they choose to utilize.