My students have a hard time evaluating what makes a good website and what makes a bad website. We have done lessons on the Northwest Tree Octopus, but sometimes they still have difficulty. When researching, I try to help students evaluate the information they are gathering about a topic. This is especially important when gathering information about a technical topic such as gamma rays, or any of the wave topics students are researching in this unit.
I have a set of questions students need to answer if they want to use information from a particular website. This helps them think about the age of the information, the people providing the information, and their credentials, is the information relevant to the topic, can any bias be found in the material, is this a commercial or information text, etc.
After students’ initial search on Sweet Search, they narrow down their sources to 4 websites. For each website, students complete a form to evaluate its content and veracity and then decide whether to keep it or find a better source.
I call students to the gathering area and I ask if any questions arose from the last time they conducted research. I answer any questions I can or point students in the direction of the information they need.
I introduce students to the Website Content Evaluation Worksheet. I go to a website on Crabapple Trees and we evaluate the content of the website together. This is a great website as it is updated quite regularly and the authors are experts in the area of crabapples.
We talk about the various aspects of the website and students complete the evaluation worksheet.
After we have completed the worksheet we discuss whether this is a reputable source of information or a spurious one.
Students work on their own research for their research project. They locate potential sources of information and evaluate four websites that they feel would benefit them. This process may take a couple of class sessions to complete.
I use the evaluation worksheets as an assessment instrument to check for understanding of how to evaluate sources of information.