The University of Illinois at Urbana has an informational web page that outlines why it is important to evaluate a website before someone uses the information it contains. The internet is not monitored, so anyone can put information out there, and the information is not always reliable or unbiased. Further, there are no guidelines for what can and can’t be presented as truth. Students need to be able to think critically about what they find online. I find that my students will believe almost anything they see on the internet, without question. I have not had good luck finding a simple way for my students to apply a good process in order to evaluate a website.
Over the summer I took a course through PBS Teacherline called “Evaluating and Organizing Internet Resources.” Through this course we studied different ways to evaluate a website and its information in order to develop our own evaluation tool. The evaluation tool I developed (Websiteevaluationtool.docx) is something that I think will work well with my students because it is fairly short and involves a simple point system. The critical thinking part comes from evaluating the score a page receives and deciding if the score is high enough for the website to be used. In the past I’ve used a resource from Common Sense Media. That website contains a whole digital citizenship curriculum for grades K-12. What I found with that website evaluation tool, for my students, is that it is way too long and wordy for them.
To develop your own useful website evaluation tool you need to get some pointers. This article from SUNY-Albany is really helpful because it outlines some important items to consider on a website to determine if the website is truthful and unbiased. There are already some tools that you can look at in order to fine tune them to create your own, or to use in your own classroom.
1. SPAT by Dr. Elizabeth LaRue
2. A Wizard tool from 21st Century Information Fluency.
3. This comprehensive one from Cornell University.
4. Kathy Shrock has several tools for various grade levels on her website.
5. Read, Write, Think has a tool and an entire lesson plan for introducing it.