Much like learning to analyze and deconstruct advertising messages, students need to become skeptical consumers of information they find on the Internet. Explore the resources in this section to learn more about the current research on web evaluation skills as well as for links to engaging web evaluation activities and tools that both teachers and students can use to gain skill at evaluating web sites.
Web Evaluation Resources
Research and Articles on Web Evaluation
The following list includes articles and web sites that may help you guide the development of critical thinking skills in your students.
Teaching with the Internet: Lessons from the Classroom In this online book, authored by Don & Deborah Leu (Syracuse University) and Julie Coiro (University of Connecticut), teachers offer a full range of ideas through authentic classroom anecdotes and specific strategies and lessons. This book helps to reinforce the idea of building supportive learning communities that reach well beyond the classroom—across a range of grade levels, topics, and scenarios.
Teaching Zack to Think, by Alan November, discusses the essential skills students will need in the 21st Century, particularly to evaluate and purposefully use internet resources.
In this article, David Warlick lays the groundwork for assessing web sites according to the goals of a project. His web site, The Landmark Project, includes a variety of tools for teaching with the Internet.
Web Awareness for Teachers is a rich collection of articles and teacher materials as well as engaging, animated lessons for students; published by Media Awareness Network, a Canadian public service organization.
In this article from IRA's Reading Online, Renée Hobbs offers activities that will encourage middle and high school students to question their information sources and to make critical judgments about authority, credibility, and realism in nonfiction media.
Web Evaluation Activity and Lesson Ideas
Media Awareness offers resources, lessons and references for educators interested in media issues. Included in this site is a lesson on "Deconstructing Web Pages" where students apply the "5W's of Cyberspace" (Who, What, When, Where and Why) to sources of information they find online. Students authenticate the information in an online article about the artificial sweetener, Aspartame. Includes teacher guide for deconstructing web pages and student handouts.
Read, Write, Think is a site that provides an array of well-designed, thoughtful language arts lessons that feature high-quality teaching practices and well-designed resources that often include appealing interactive content for students. Two lessons for web site evaluation can be found at Inquiry on the Internet: Evalutating Web Pages for a Class Collection (middle school) and Exploring Literacy in Cyberspace (high school).
Trackstar is a growing database of annotated link collections submitted by K–12 teachers for use in their own Internet-based lessons. It is a great place for browsing and borrowing when planning a lesson and is also a fast way to discover which web sites other teachers are using for a particular topic. (Hint: Start by going to "Find a Track" and using the "Keyword Search" tool.)
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: or, Why It's a Good Idea to Evaluate Web Sources is an interactive site for students and teachers to use to evaluate websites. Includes examples, criteria, suggestions and a bibliography of web evaluation resources and articles.
Web Evaluation Tools and Interactive Sites
21st Century Information Fluency Project Portal This broadly-conceived site, from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA), has a growing set of web-based tools and teaching resources on information literacy. It includes a Web Site Evaluation Wizard for collecting responses to critical thinking questions and for use in preparing a complete written review of a web site.
Eduscape's Evaluating Internet Resources provides an efficient one-page introduction to the topic of evaluating web sites, together with a selection of links for finding more resources.
Critical Evaluation Helpers from Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators (Discovery School) is a large collection of links to the popular materials Kathy Schrock has created for her classes and workshops on web site evaluation, as well as numerous links to the work of other educators across a range of grade levels. Be aware that the sites listed vary widely in quality.
CAST's Internet Inquiry Toolkit Maya Eagleton has developed a collection of resources that provide guidance, mentoring, model units and lessons, and ready-to-use materials to support teachers and students in searching the web and conducting effective Internet-based inquiries.
Online Reading Strategies (A Think-Aloud) Use this demonstration of strategic thinking created by Debbie Abilock to help your elementary and middle school students understand how to analyze a web page for authority and purpose. It is part of her compilation of 21st century literacy resources on Tools for Reading the World.
Get a Web Surfer's License from PBS Kids. This appealing, animated quiz will help you teach web surfers some of the basic concepts they need for safe, effective use of web sites.
QUICK—The Quality Information Checklist This site presents eight critical thinking questions in an appealing design. These questions were created to help young people get accurate, reliable health information from the Internet.
What Makes a Web Site Good? This guide is written for students to help them make the leap from casual surfers to thoughtful detectives. It was created by Sara Ryan for the Homework Center of Multnomah County Library.
Building Skills for Web Evaluation
Asking Good Questions: Set a high standard of inquiry-based learning in any activity with any age group using Jamie McKenzie's Questioning Toolkit.
Naming Parts of a Web Page: One simple page introduces students to the header, body, and footer of a web page, so they know where to look for key information to evaluate its content. Parts of a Web Page
Recognizing Persuasive Messages: Can your students recognize persuasive language and techniques? Check out Changing Minds.
Using Someone Else's Words: Discourage Plagiarism using this set of quick tips for teachers from the Media Awareness Network.
Uncovering Hoaxes: Show your students that people can publish anything on the web, some of which is deliberately dishonest (and often hilarious). Have some fun while teaching skepticism by checking out the Museum of Hoaxes.
Google.com and Yahoo.com are two of the top search engines, but there are other search engines that may offer a better starting point for locating web pages to use with your students. The following search tools present some cleverly organized entry points and help you to group search results by category.
Clusty This is a tool that locates and clusters results from other search engines into category listings. For example, this approach might help you to choose whether to focus on sites that are published by researchers or by government agency sources.
Soople Soople will give you access to many of Google's advanced search tools on one user-friendly page.
Search Tools for Students
KidsClick! This directory is maintained (without advertising) by librarians who want to guide young users to valuable and age-appropriate web sites. Using the site's advanced search, users can choose to search for sites at a specific reading level or for sites containing many pictures or very few, for example.
KidSpace @ The Internet Public Library This non-commercial site from the University of Michigan's School of Information includes well-organized collections of links and an Ask a Question form to contact a librarian for help with a search.
Ask for Kids and Yahoo!KIDS are two popular starting points for K-8 students. Yahoo!KIDS is geared toward elementary-aged students. Ask for Kids has minimal advertising compared to the full Ask.com site and gives a crisp list of results in the form of questions that can help some students maintain or refine their search goals.
Fact Monster offers a collection of reference tools, including an atlas, almanac, dictionary, and encyclopedia. Be aware that this site has animated advertisements that may be distracting to some students.