Critical Evaluation of Web Sites


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EVALUATION OF WEB SITES
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Home
Introduction & Overview Criteria for Evaluation
Checklist for Evaluation
Rubric for Web Site
Activity 1
Activity 2
Activity 3
Resources
Teaching
Guide
Bibliography
Evaluation

Introduction:  The critical evaluation of web sites is essential when using these sites to plan lessons and activities for children's use.  Seemingly unendless streams of information are accessible to anyone with internet access.  How does one determine which sites contain information that is trustworthy, accurate, and appropriate?  As you surf the web, you will develop a keen eye for determining which sites meet your needs.  Formulating a series of questions for consideration is helpful when evaluating web sites.  It is important to take careful notes as you discriminate among sites.   Scoring the sites using an evaluative instrument such as a rubric may be helpful.

Overview:  We will discuss questions that will help us evaluate web sites, review a checklist of these questions, evaluate web sites using the check list, and then assign a rubric score to each web site.

NOTE:  The following is taken from the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association.  Their home page is located at http://www.ala.org/parentspage/greatsites/criteria.html

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Criteria

Activity 1:  Discuss the following criteria in small groups.  Are there any that are mandatory for a children's web site?  Are there any additional criteria that should be considered?  Be prepared to share your findings with the whole group.

A. Authorship/Sponsorship: Who Put up the Site?

  1. The name of the individual or group creating the site should be clearly stated.
  2. The creator should give a source for information in the site where necessary.
  3. The Web site author or manager should provide a way for users to make comments or ask questions.
  4. The Web site author or manager should be responsive to any questions regarding copyright, trademark, or ownership of all material on the site. Sites that knowingly violate copyright statutes or other laws should not be linked, listed, or recommended.

B. Purpose: Every Site Has a Reason for Being There.

  1. A site's purpose should be clear and its content should reflect its purpose, be it to entertain, persuade, educate, or sell.
  2. Advertising should not overshadow the content.
  3. A good site should enrich the userís experience and expand the imagination. Sites promoting social biases (gender, racial, religious, or other types) rather than enlarging the views of the child should not be considered worthwhile sites.

C. Design and Stability: A Great Site Has Personality and Strength of Character.

  1. The information on the site should be easy to find and easy to use.
  2. The site design should be appealing to its intended audience.
  3. The text should be easy to read, and not cluttered with distracting graphics, fonts, and backgrounds.
  4. Users should be able to get around the site easily.
  5. Pages consisting mainly of links should be well-organized and appealing to young people, and the collected links should be well-chosen and useful to children exploring the subject.
  6. The site's design should be appropriate for the intended audience.
  7. A game or recreational site should have a clear interface and playing instructions.
  8. The page should load in a reasonable amount of time.
  9. The page should be consistently available and load without problems; stability is important.
  10. Required "plug-ins" or other helper applications should be clearly identified.
  11. The design elements and features on the site, such as searchable databases, animations, graphics, sound files, introductory and transitional pages, etc., should enhance and not hinder the accessibility and enjoyment of the site.
  12. The interactive features should be explained clearly.
  13. A user should not need to pay a fee or type in personal information (such as his/her name or e-mail address) before using the site.

D. Content: A Great Site Shares Meaningful and Useful Content that Educates, Informs, or Entertains.

  1. The title of a site should be appropriate to its purpose.
  2. A site's content should be easy to read and understand by its intended audience.
  3. There should be enough information to make visiting the site worthwhile.
  4. If there are large amounts of information on the site, some kind of search function should be provided. There should be at least an outline of topics covered, allowing the users to find topics and move among them easily.
  5. Spelling and grammar always should be correct.
  6. The information should be current and accurate, and if the topic of the site is one that changes, it should be updated regularly. A "last updated" date is a plus.
  7. Links to more information on the topic should be provided.
  8. Graphics on the site should be relevant and appropriate to the content.
  9. The subject matter should be relevant to and appropriate for the intended audience.
  10. The viewpoint presented should be comprehensible to the intended audience.
  11. The skills required to use the siteís features and structure should be appropriate or appropriately challenging for its intended audience.
  12. In informational sites, especially those used to support school assignments, quality of content should be most important. Appealing sites for general audiences that are accessible to young people sometimes provide the highest-quality content.
  13. Some sites, such as health and life-education sites, may include mature content. Such material should be developmentally appropriate to the information needs of youth.

E. Additional considerations:

  1. Is the information on the site as good as a book on the same topic?
  2. Is the site grade level appropriate?
  3. Is the site interactive and engaging?

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Checklist for Evaluation

The checklist is available here

Activity 2: Visit several of the following web sites to decide which one you would like to evaluate using the above criteria.   Then download the Web Evaluation Checklist  to make written notes about the site.

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Notes:

  1. Every site does not need to meet every one of these criteria to be a great site, but the more of them a site does meet, the more likely it is to be a worthwhile place to spend time.
  2. The content on the Web changes faster than anything we have ever seen in our culture. Therefore, in any recommended list of Web sites, the recommendations apply only to the primary sites that are listed, not to every site linked from the primary sites.

Warning: Some of the following sites may contain controversial material. One of the sites is bogus - are you able to identify it?

http://www.naral.org/ - Abortion and Reproductive Rights:  Choices for Women
http://www.msichicago.org/- The Museum of Science and Industry
http://147.129.1.10/library/research/AIDSFACTS.htm - Facts about Aids
http://www.nra.org/ - National Rifle Association
http://www.ala.org/parentspage/greatsites/amazing.html - American Library Association's  Great Sites for Kids

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Web Site Rubric

Activity 3:  Once you have evaluated a web site using the above criteria, you may wish to score the entire site using a rubric such as the following 1 - 5 point scale.

  • 1 - Superior
  • 2 - Well done
  • 3 - Helpful, functional
  • 4 - Would rarely use
  • 5 - Would not recommend under any circumstance
Count the number of Yes and No responses (there are a total of 38 questions).    A total of 38 Yes responses is a perfect score and would result in a rating of 1 or superior.   Form small groups and decide how you will determine the awarding of the remainder of the rubric.  Pay attention to the mandatory  questions, if any, that were identified previously.  (For example, your group may decide that sites with 35-38 Yes responses should be awarded a "1" or "Superior;" sites with 31-34 responses should be awarded a "2" or "Well done;" and so on.  On the other hand, however, if you have recorded a No response to a question you consider to be mandatory for a children's site, you may score the site as a "5" or "Would not recommend under any circumstance" regardless of the number of Yes responses.)  Plan on sharing your group's rubric with the whole group.

You may use a form such as the following to keep track of your site evaluations, as well as to compile your homeroom's evaluations:
URL of site
Rubric Score
Comments
     
     
     
     

Click here to download a copy of this form.

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Resources


Web Site Evaluations for Children's Use
How does one teach children to discriminate among sites and the material they offer?  The following sites offer web evaluation criteria for children to use.

Early Elementary:  http://istweb.syr.edu/AWArds/Invest.pdf
Elementary :  http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/evalelem.html
Middle School:   http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/evalmidd.html
Secondary School:   http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/evalhigh.html
World Wide Web Evaluation Form:  http://www.ncsu.edu/midlink/tutorial/WWW.eval.html

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Internet Safety for Children's Use

Using the Internet Safely:  http://www.yahooligans.com/docs/safety/index.html
Kids Privacy Law:  http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/kidzprivacy/kidz.ht

Keeping Children Safe As They Surf

 FBI site - A Parent Guide to Internet Safety : http://www.fbi.gov/library/pguide/pguidee.htm
 PC Magazine's safety tips (includes detailed evaluations of popular children's search engines) http://familypc.zdnet.com/safety/index.html
 Cybersafe Kids:  http://www.ncpc.org/netsafe.htm
The Children's Partnership (includes a guide to When Is Your Child Ready? for computer and internet use)  http://www.childrenspartnership.org/pub/pbpg98/partI98.html
Whose Internet Connection Is It Anyway? http://www.redrival.com/netschoolbus/index2.html
Kids Privacy Law on the Internet: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/kidzprivacy/adults.htm

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Additional web evaluation sites:

Submit a form to Cathy Schrock's web page evaluation  (This site offers an interactive, online critical evaluation survey and database)
Submit a quality web site to the American Library Association at
http://www.ala.org/alsc/nwsccrit.html
http://www.iss.stthomas.edu/webtruth/evaluate.htm
http://www.learningspace.org/prof_growth/assessment.html
http://www.ncsu.edu/midlink/ho.html (world wide web evaluation form)
http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/eval.html
http://www2.widener.edu/Wolfgram-Memorial-Library/webeval.htm
http://faculty.acu.edu/~armstrongl/geography/webeval.htm

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Bibliography

http://www.ala.org
http://www.iss.stthomas.edu/webtruth/evaluate.htm
http://www.learningspace.org/prof_growth/assessment.html
http://www.ncsu.edu/midlink/ho.html(world wide web evaluation form)
http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/eval.html
http://faculty.acu.edu/~armstrongl/geography/webeval.htm
http://www.ncsu.edu/midlink/tutorial/WWW.eval.html

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Home
Introduction & Overview
Criteria for Evaluation
Checklist for Evaluation
Rubric for Web Site
Activity 1
Activity 2
Activity 3
Resources
Teaching
Guide
Bibliography
Evaluation



 

The contents of the Web Institute Web Site, including the On-Line Curriculum, Web Tank, and Session Notes, are Copyright 1999-2000, Graham School of General Studies, University of Chicago. No one may print, copy, or otherwise reproduce these materials without the express written permission of the Director of Education Programs at the Graham School. All rights reserved.

The chapters from Curriculum Webs: A Practical Guide to Weaving the Web into Teaching and Learning are Copyright 1999-2000, Craig A. Cunningham and Marty Billingsley. No one may print, copy, or otherwise reproduce these materials without the express written permission of the authors. All rights reserved.