Internet for Teachers!


Web Site Evaluation

This assignment will focus on Web Site Evaluation. You will have three missions: 1) to read a short article on web site evaluation, 2) to visit web sites that address the topic of web site evaluation and 3) to develop a web site evaluation instrument for your students.  This may be the most important part of the course because you are teaching students to think critically about the information they see, hear, and read on the Internet!  Please read this entire web page before you begin the assignment.  

Note: This assignment should be completed as a web page titled "webeval.html" and put on your web site.


Why is web site evaluation necessary?

The amount of information on the Internet that is available to students is increasing on a daily basis.  You learned in class 2 that search engines such as Google have indexed over 3 billion documents to search from on the web.  The growth of information and web sites continue to increase at exponential rates.  An estimated 46 million web sites exists today compared with 980 web sites in 1994.  Students and teachers have more access to information than any other time in the past.   The information explosion on the web has provided opportunities for students to explore a whole new world but has also presented challenges for schools.  Anyone can create a web site.  Information is not screened and does not have standards like radio and television. There are no laws that govern the type of information that is put on the Internet and many students rely on the Internet as an information source.  Students tend to believe what they read and do not always question the sources of information found on the web.  Students of all ages are exposed to propaganda, pornography, and other types of inappropriate sites.  Software filters used by the schools help but do not always block the right sites.  In addition, many students access the Internet outside of the school where filters are not used. 

For these reasons, schools are faced with the enormous task of teaching students to critically think about the reliability, quality, and validity of information found the Internet.  Web site evaluation is perhaps one of the most important concepts for students to learn as the Internet increasingly continues to play an important role as a primary information source.  The most common method of teaching web site evaluation in the schools has been the use of a teacher-made written form known as a web site evaluation instrument.  Students use the form to record their observations as they visit web sites.  The form can be a survey, checklist, or rubric and guides students through web site evaluation with thought provoking questions or statements.  The categories or area of a web site evaluation instrument are often determined by the teacher, however, a number of web site evaluation instruments can be found on the web.  The web site evaluation instrument should not be cumbersome to students and they should be able to visit 3 or more web sites within a given class period.  The teacher needs to explain the rationale to the students and should practice the instrument with the students before allowing them to evaluate on their own. The best approach for this third class is :


WEB SITE EVALUATION LINKS

Critical Evaluation Surveys by Kathy Schrock
http://discoveryschool.com/schrockguide/eval.html
A model for students at various grade levels with a list of resource web sites.
This is the BEST source of information on web site evaluation!

Teacher's Cyberguide
http://www.cyberbee.com/guides.html
An excellent rating scale for teachers to judge content and design.

About Blue Web'n - Site Evaluation Rubric
http://www.kn.pacbell.com/wired/bluewebn/rubric.cfm
A simple rubric to evaluate web sites.

Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources
http://www.library.ucla.edu/libraries/college/help/critical/index.htm

A list of questions to consider when evaluating web sites.
 

A WebQuest on Web site Evaluation
http://mciunix.mciu.k12.pa.us/~spjvweb/evalwebteach.html


Questions & Answers

What is meant by an "instrument"?
This instrument is really not a thing or a technical device but a paper and pencil assessment that a student would use to evaluate web sites.  You are going to give the students an "activity sheet" that will enable them to sit in front of a computer and complete it to evaluate a web site.

What are the components a web site evaluation instrument?
Although many students may tend to judge a web site by the '"bells and whistles" that are on the site, their ultimate educational goal is to find reliable, valid, and useful information.   Web site evaluation instruments prompt the student to examine the information on a web site through a series of statements or questions.  Web site evaluation also involves students in the process of analyzing the design components of web sites, sometimes an important factor in determining validity of the web site.  All students who are using the web at any age should be taught to evaluate the information they gather from the web.  The areas or categories of web site characteristics that a teacher ultimately decides to include in a web site evaluation instrument will depend on the ability and grade level of the student   

One possible method of examining a web site is to distinguish among three different aspects of a web site: content, authority, and design. 

The CONTENT of a web site is the information that the students will ultimately use in their research.  The information may be directly found on the web site or inferred from the information on the site.  Students should ask the question: Is this information valid?

The AUTHORITY established the person or organization responsible for the web site and their expertise or credibility. Students should ask the question: Is the source of information reliable?

The DESIGN of the web site may be the least important but it also helps to validate the overall judgment of the web site.  Students should ask the question: How is design used to support the information?

Note: There is more information on each of these areas below this q&a section.

How should this instrument be designed?
You should construct a rubric in the form of a table with categories and a rating scale for each category.  The rubric should be designed to evaluate a web site, however, it should not be too long or complicated because it will bore or frustrate the students. Of course, this also depends on the level of the students. I believe that students should be at each web site for about 10 to 15 minutes minutes while using your instrument.
I hesitate to require a minimum number of rows or columns for this rubric because it will vary according to design and grade level.

What do you mean by categories and rating scales?
Categories are the characteristics of the web site that you want student to evaluate such as the areas listed above.  Rating scales ask the student to assign a value in numbers (1 to 10) or descriptors (excellent to bad) for each category.  USE YOUR IMAGINATION! Check out the models used in the web sites that you visited for this assignment.

Should there be a overall rating for each web site evaluated?
Yes, the students should give each web site an overall rating.  If that rating is in numbers, then the numbers should be given some kind of qualitative meaning such as "good" or "bad" or "site worth visiting" or "site not worth visiting."

How should we create this instrument?
You should create an instrument in FrontPage (or any other suitable web editor) using a table. Be sure to indicate the grade level and subject (if applicable) at the top of the page.  You will put this on your web site.  You may link it from any page on your site.

How will you assign points to this instrument?
I will use the following criteria:

***
Good luck and have fun!
See additional information below!


 

Following is a summary and explanation of each of 3 general areas recommended for a web site evaluation instrument.  The final organization, format, and number and type of categories on a web site evaluation instrument will be decided by the teacher.

 

1. Content-Validates the Information


Date

Are there dates on the web site that indicate when the web site was created, updated, or copyrighted?

Does the information on the web site appear to be recent or does it appear to be outdated?

Are there a lot of broken links?
 

Some web sites may have information that has not changed in years.  Indicators of this may be found in the content, broken links, copyright, or links to and from the page.  In Explorer, users can sometime determine the date when a web page was last modified by going to the File/Properties menu.  In Netscape, users can sometime determine the date when a web page was last modified by going to the View/Page Info menu.  Depending on the nature of the information, some web sites may need to be updated daily, weekly, or monthly.  The user needs to determine if the information found on the web site is recent enough to be usable.

 

Purpose

Is the purpose of the web site evident?

Is the web page a link from the web site's main web page or home page? 

The purpose of a web site may be any or all of the following: 1) stated on the main or home page, 2) may have an "about this site" link, 3) may be implicit in the page's title.  Often a search engine will provide links to pages that are part of a web site and the purpose of the site is not evident.  In this situation, students should be taught to follow the link back to the main page by navigation or by going to the top level domain. 

 

Accuracy

Is the information found on this web site correct and accurate?

Do you believe the information on this web site?

Do you recognize any misinformation?

Are there other sources that back-up this information?
Are there other sites that recommend this site?

Are there reputable links to and from this site?

Are there other sources that contradict this information (web, print, or persons)?

Are there references?

This may be the most important sub-category of the instrument because students must judge the accuracy of the information found on the web site.  Although all categories of the instrument will help students arrive at this conclusion, this category requires the student to compare information with other sources and look at references including links to and from the site.

 

Objectivity

Is the information a fact or is it someone's opinion?

Is someone trying to convince you?

Dose the site appear biased?

With the large amount of propaganda that is on the web, students must be able to distinguish factual information from opinionated information.  This category may require teaching the difference between fact and opinions

 

Value and Usefulness

Is the information on this site useful?

Does the site provide useful links?

Information from a web site may be valid but not useful for the student's purpose.   The web site may be valuable because of useful information or the site may have good links that lead to useful information.

 

2. Authority- Validates the Source
 

Authorship

Does the site indicate what person, group, or organization is responsible for the authorship of the site?

Is there information about this person, group, or organization?

Students need to recognize the main source of information for the web site.  A group, institution, or organization may be responsible for maintaining a web site, however, individuals should be identified when appropriate.

 

Qualifications of Source

Does the web site include information that qualifies the authority's expertise, background, history, references, or experience?

Students should look for information on the site that will help establish the source's credibility. 

 

Contact information

Does the site provide contact information for the person or persons responsible for the information and content on the site?

Some sites will provide an email link for the webmaster, however, the webmaster is not for always responsible for the content.  In these situations, students may need to make an educated guess as to who is responsible for the content. 

Does the contact information include an email address, mailing address, and phone number?
Anyone can get an email address.  Although a mailing address and phone number do not guarantee site legitimacy, this information adds more credibility to the site.
 


Outside References

Were there outside references (print, persons, or web sites) to this site?

Some of the authority of the web site may be established through references from credible sources.

 

Address and Domain Name

Does the address help establish authority?
 

 

3. Design and Functionality-contributes to the overall usefulness

The design of a web site may be the least important component in web site evaluation, however, design can contribute to the students overall assessment of the credibility of the web site.   The student's experiences in using the site may positively or negatively influence their interpretation of information on the site.  The more that students are aware of the purpose of design, the less likely they will let design influence the validity of the information that they seek.

Layout

How does each  the following influence the viewer's opinion of the information on the web site?

  • Text

  • Graphics

  • Photographs JPEGs

  • Animated GIFS

  • Flash Movies

  • Music

  • Sounds

 

Navigation and User-Friendliness

Is the Web site easy to navigate? 

Is it easy to find information?

Is it easy to determine if some of the graphics and pictures are links?

Does the site have a search tool for finding information on the site?

Is there a site map?

Finding information and navigating through a web site is not always an easy task and can be time consuming.  Links are not always recognizable and do not always provide a clue to their content.  Sometime links on graphics are not always evident.  Site search engines and site maps enable the user to find site information, however, younger students may have to be taught how to use them.


Speed

Does the site download at a reasonable speed?
This category has many variables since the speed of downloading a web site depends on the 1) the nature of the web site (for example, the number of graphics, use of plug-ins, and amount of information);  2)the type of computer; 3) the type of connection; 4) the number of users on the web site; 4)the  time of day; and 5) the software needed for downloading (for example, Adobe Acrobat vs. Internet Explorer).  Students should be aware that these conditions may change with each use of the site.  Students will know from repeatedly visiting sites whether they can be classified as a "slow" or "fast" site.

 

Multimedia Elements

Are the multimedia elements appropriate to the web site?

What is their purpose?

Do they support the information on the web site?

Multimedia elements can be found on many sites in the forms of graphics, pictures video clips, music, animations, and sounds.  Multimedia elements can be used on a web site for any of the following reasons:  to support the content, to make the site visually appealing, to add pizzazz to the site, and to make the site fun.  The purpose of multimedia elements is not always clear and sometimes can overshadow the real purpose of the site of the information that is on the site.  The role of web site evaluation process is to separate the flair from the facts.  Student love multimedia and should be taught to analyze the role of multimedia on the web site.


Organization

Is the page organized?

Is there too much clutter on the page including printed information and/or graphics?
Are there pop-ups and advertisements that interfere with navigation and information-seeking?

The organization and layout of a web site gives the user an overall impression.  Students must realize that good or poor organization does not always validate or invalidate the information on the site. 


Tips for Creating and Using a Web Site Evaluation Instrument

1.  Keep the length of the instrument short so students can visit a multiple number of web sites within a given class period.  A recommended time would be from 5 to 10 minutes per web site, depending on the grade level and skills of the students.

2.  Keep the instrument simple.  Keep the details to a minimum so students can focus on the most important information which is the credibility of the web site.  Do not make the task so laborious that students are turned-off by the activity.

3. Consider using a checklist to expedite the process but also allow for some reflective questions.

4.  Have students visit web sites that range in quality from those that lack credibility to those that are supported by documented authority.

5.  Although your instrument may be in the form of a word processing file, PowerPoint, or web page, have the students print a copy and complete by hand.  It is easier for students to complete their web site evaluation by writing and sitting in front of the computer.

6.  Have the students share their findings with the class.


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Raymond S. Pastore, Ph.D.
Professor of Education
Teacherworld.com
1148 McCormick Center
Bloomsburg University
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570-389-4236/4025