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Teaching Our Students to Evaluate Websites

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Need some help in teaching your students how to separate the good from the bad when they research topics on the web? One way, of course, is to limit the sites you'll allow them to use and the number of web references they're allowed to cite—perhaps the Library of Congress, the National Archives, a newspaper or two, and a historical society or association.

But somewhere along the line, they need to learn to critically evaluate the seemingly limitless information they encounter online, whether it's for school or not.

The following sites are a few that offer evaluative standards and materials helpful for the K-12 classroom.

Rubrics, videos, and lists

Educator Kathy Schrock maintains listings of websites for teachers to enhance curriculum and professional development at Discovery Education. She offers a series of website evaluation criteria and worksheets scaffolded for elementary through high school classrooms. Each is a downloadable PDF (and a Spanish translation). In addition to her own materials, Schrock links to articles from other experts and sample sites for practice evaluation exercises. These resources can be helpful as well for teachers working with students to develop web projects for National History Day competitions.

YouTube videos summarize the key elements of website evaluation.

The six-minute video from the University of Idaho, Evaluating Web Sites Tutorial, offers a longer, more in-depth, step-by-step look at criteria for evaluating the validity of websites and the information they contain. And for advanced high school students, the 12-tutorial series, Information Literacy with Dr. Bob Baker, the Library Director at Pima Community College in Arizona, offers a comprehensive look at how to find, use, and evaluate information with links to accompanying text documents.

Sometimes, there is no good website for a particular topic!

Evaluating Websites from the Multnomah County Library in Oregon is written especially for young people. Instead of using terms such as authority, objectivity, and accessibility, the library points to evaluation criteria in simpler language: Who made it? Is it clear? What about advertisements on the website? The article also points out that "sometimes there is no good website," and that librarians will help students find books, magazines, and newspapers!