Monday, October 22, 2012

6 Tips to Help Students Evaluate Online Sources

Admit it. You've heard this from a student at least once in your career.  

Initially, I got a chuckle from this cartoon, and then I thought about my own students and the importance of modeling and teaching them how to make smart, evaluative decisions before ending up like this young man. Here are some tips to help you and your students move toward digital literacy:

1.  Ask what the site enables students (and you) to do...
  • Does it offer current text and dynamic and up-to-date photos, illustrations, animations and video?
  • Are students able to listen to recorded as well as live audio?
  • Does the site contain real-time data?
  • Can students send and receive email from keypals (electronic penpals)?
  • Are students able to contact and query mentors and experts?
  • Can students participate in collaborative, problem-solving projects that involve information searches, group creations and virtual gatherings?
  • Are students able to join an information collection project that includes contributing to the creation of a database and pooled data analysis?
  • Does the site enable students and you to publish original resources and projects?
2.  Ask about quality...
  • Are the links active, clearly described and current?
  • What is the quality of content found on related sites?
  • Is the content found on related site appropriate for classroom use?
  • Does the site suggest how related sites could enrich the curriculum?
3.  Ask about design and navigation...
  • Is the navigation clear and consistent throughout so students can find what they are looking for?
  • Do the multimedia elements (graphics, sound, video) work well with each other? Do they provide needed information?
4.  Ask about intended audience...
  • Does the site appeal to a specific grade level and/or curricular area?
  • Is the site intended for just students? Just teachers? Both?
  • Are the concepts introduced and language used consistently age- and grade-appropriate?
  • Will students require guidance in reading or navigating the site?
5.  Ask about unique in-class use...
  • Is the information provided both current and congruent to the topics you are teaching?
  • Is the information provided accurate and pedagogically sound?
  • Does the site provided resources that allow you to do something in the classroom that you would otherwise be unable to do?
  • Are charts, maps, etc., included? Are they well done and meaningful? If not included, is the absence noticeable?
  • Are the sources listed primary or secondary or both?
6.  Ask about reliability of resources...
  • Who is the author of site content? Does s/he have a particular bias?
  • Is the site supported by an educational institution, a commercial company, a non-profit company or an individual?
  • Can one easily get in touch with the people responsible for site content? Is there an email address for the Webmaster of the site?
  • Is the information current?
  • Is the information credible? Is it factual and accurate? Is the information a form of advertising? Does it try to persuade the reader of something?
  • Are there reviews of the site? Has it received any wards? Is the evaluator a credible source?
It's a lot to digest, but with this knowledge in our Educator's Tech Toolkit, you can model desired digital behaviors for your students.  You know they're watching you. Give them permission to become positive digital citizens.

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