Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tools to Help Students and Educators Evaluate Websites for Use in the Classroom

I like to use the Internet in my classroom. Personally, I use it to e-mail colleagues, authors, parents, and students. I use the computer to research content, plan lessons through research and formulation, and as a tool to teach with by utilizing power point, etc.

Perhaps that’s your same experience.

What abut your students? Are they using your classroom computers regularly?

One of those first of the year activities I complete with students is a few lessons on how to use my computers, and most importantly….how to review a website. It is true that most students know how to use the computer probably better than I do, however, my job is on the line if they do something they shouldn’t, and I have posted rules that must be adhered to.

We want students to use the computer for personal enjoyment, but we also want them to understand that information is there at their fingertips waiting to be tapped. The computer isn’t just a place to watch videos and build a MySpace site.

One of the downsides to the Intenet is the wealth of information that can be obtained. Educators and students need to know how to evaluate various websites to determine if the particular site has an hidden agenda in the information it contains and if the site is credible for education use.

In the book Teaching With the Internet K-12: New Literacies for New Timesthe authors provide a checklist for students and teachers to use to evaluate a website and the information it presents in the form of five questions that help develop new insights and more critical awareness about the sites they visit:

1. Who created the site?
2. What is the purpose of the site?
3. When was the site created?
4. Where can I check the accuracy of this site’s information?
5. How will the information at this site be shaped by the stance of the sites creator and sponsors?

Even with these questions answered it is easy to be led astray on the Internet. Some sites are simply misleading or even fraudulent. Many are owned by various hate groups and their agenda is carefully hidden. Many of these sites relate to social studies especially in the area of civil rights, history, and biographies.

Media Awareness Network is one site you can investigate to help set up procedures and lesson plans to help students.

Teaching Zack to Think is a lesson from Media Awareness Network that is especially effective and is mentioned in the book I refer to above.

Happy searching, but be careful out there!

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