As educators, some of the most important skills that we employ daily are
assessment and evaluation; nowhere are these skills more necessary than
when evaluating information on the Web for classroom use. In the previous
section of the Internet Primer, Search
Smart, we learned how to search. Now that we know how to use search engines to query the Web, it is time for us to apply our assessment and evaluation skills to the
content that we find there.
Like any classroom teaching tool, the Web is only effective to the degree
that it can help make an idea concrete for our students. If Web resources
do not help our students better understand difficult concepts, they are
little more than a waste of our valuable teaching time.
So, before we can incorporate Web information into our curriculum, we
need to determine what makes a "good site."
In determining what makes a "good site," begin by asking yourself the
How Does the Site Make Use of the Internet?
At its best, the Web adds value to the curriculum by allowing you and your
students to access a variety of resources that are similar to those found
in a well-stocked library, and entirely unique to the Internet. You'll want
to consider whether the Internet resources make appropriate use of the
technology and give you something you otherwise couldn't get.
What can you and your students find and use on the Web? Look for sites that enable you and your students to:
Who Sponsors and Maintains the Site? Is the Information
- Read current text relating to a particular subject.
- View dynamic and up-to-date photographs, illustrations, animations,
- Listen to recorded audio clips as well as live audio.
- Download simulations and games relating to curriculum units and
access other multimedia content offering interactive panoramic views of
a space or object.
- Visit sites displaying real-time data.
- Send and receive e-mail from keypals.
- Contact and query mentors and experts.
- Participate in a collaborative, problem-solving project that might
involve information searches, group creations, and virtual gatherings.
- Join an information collection project that might include contributing to
the creation of a database and pooled data analysis.
- Publish resources and projects created by you and your students and
invite others to contribute.
It is both a strength and liability of the Internet that anyone with access
to a server can publish on it. Noting who publishes and sponsors a site is
an important step in determining the reliability or potential bias of
information found there. While sponsorship by larger organizations
frequently implies more meticulous maintenance and updating practices,
this is often also true with smaller independently produced "labor of
While exploring the site, ask yourself the following questions:
Who Is the Target Audience?
- Who is the author of site content? Does he/she have a particular bias?
- Is the site supported by an educational institution, a commercial
company, a non-profit company, or an individual?
- Can one easily get in touch with the people responsible for site content?
- Is the information current? A mention of the time of the last update
should be prominent.
- Is the information credible? Is it factual and accurate? Is the
information a form of advertising? Does it try to persuade the reader of
Some sites have a very specific appeal, others are much more broad.
What Is the Quality of the Related Links?
- Does the site appeal to a specific grade level and/or curriculum area?
- Is the site intended for just students? Just teachers? Both?
- Are the concepts introduced and language used consistently age- and
Many sites include links to other relevant sites.
Is the Site Well Designed?
- Are the links active and clearly described? Do they point to current
- Is the content found on these related sites appropriate for classroom
- Are suggestions offered as to how the related sites could be used to enrich the curriculum?
A site should be attractive and easy to navigate. A good homepage, the
first page of a site, is simultaneously an advertisement for what's inside
the site and a guide on how to get there.
Does the Site Support My Curriculum Unit?
- Is the navigation clear and consistent throughout the site? Is it easy to
find what youre looking for?
- Are there multimedia elements? Do the multimedia elements (graphics,
sound, video) complement each other? Do they provide information and
enhance the quality of the site? Flashy graphics and other media shouldn't
distract from the message being communicated or be so large or complex
that the time to load those pages on your computer becomes too long.
Quality sites provide unique and/or up-to-date resources for in-class use.
Obviously, different sites will have different strengths. Now let's put this
criteria to practice and examine several selected sites. You may want to
print out this page as we examine how these sites "measure up."
- Is information provided both current and congruent to the topics you are
- Does the site provide resources that allow you to do something in the
classroom that you would otherwise be unable to do? (For example, send
an e-mail question to an expert, make a 3D molecular model, or collaborate
in an online project with students many miles away.) At the same time,
don't lose sight of the usefulness of current and high-quality text and
images. Good resources don't need to be unique to the Web to be pertinent
to your curriculum.