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Looking Critically at WWW Resources

Skills for Surviving the Information Age

            The amount of information we have access to in the twenty-first century is staggering and promises to continue to grow at an exponential rate.   Knowing how to filter out the bad or useless information from the valuable information is a lifelong skill for survival in the Information Age. Using the WWW as an educational tool requires that teachers know how to critically evaluate resources they will be using with students.   Activity Structures, WebQuests, and WIPs all require teachers to focus on a curriculum area and search the WWW for resources. While searching for resources, educators should keep the following criteria (Jacobson & Cohen, 1996) in mind:

•  Purpose of the site/intended audience: Who was the site designed for? Is it age appropriate?

•  Credentials of the source/author: Who is the author? Is the author an expert in the field? Is there a way to contact the author? If the author is listed as an organization, is it a reputable organization?   This is especially important because of the ease with which anyone can publish a document on the Internet.  

•  Content: Is the information accurate? Is there any bias shown?

•  Style: The style of a web site includes such elements as mechanics, grammar, spelling, and ease of navigation throughout the site.   The text should be free of errors.

•  Is it worth it? In a classroom situation, is the site worth using over more traditional sources of information, such as books, journals, and other hard copy sources?

•  Can the site's information be used to address local, state, or national Curriculum Standards?  

              The importance of looking at WWW documents with a critical eye is an essential skill for teachers who plan to use the WWW in their classrooms.   It is akin to reviewing trade books or textbooks before using them with students.   Students must also learn to look critically at information they find on the WWW.   Kathy Schrock (1995), author of Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators (http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/index.html) has created evaluation surveys for elementary, middle school, and secondary level students.

(http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/eval.html) Each survey requires students to look critically at web resources based on the usability of the site, authorship, and content.   For students, the ability to critically analyze the information found on a web site will become a necessary skill as our society continues to be inundated with large amounts of information.   

Fraboni,M. (2005). Teaching and learning: The World Wide Web. In Farenga, S. and Ness, D., (Eds.) Encyclopedia on Education and Human Development, New York:   M.E. Sharpe, Inc.