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Evaluating Web Sites
An Interview with Kathy Schrock

Kathy Schrock is well-known in the education field as the creator of Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators (http://kathyschrock.net ), a web site started in June of 1995 to help fellow educators identify curriculum-related Internet resources to enhance their units of study. She is the author of six books, and numerous articles on the topic of information literacy, search strategies, copyright issues, and web site evaluation. Kathy is presently the Technology Coordinator for the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District in South Yarmouth, MA, where she has worked for over ten years. She shares her thoughts with us on critically evaluating web sites used for instructional purposes with students.

TEACHERSNETWORK: What is your opinion of schools and/or districts using filtering software to prevent students from visiting inappropriate web sites? What is the alternative?

KATHY SCHROCK: My personal opinion on filtering is the same as most library media specialists. Information should not be censored. The teachers should be monitoring sites, as they do with any classroom material, and leading students to the information that is to be examined. There is not better filter than a vigilant educator. All [computer] screens should face outward. Students below grade 7 should probably not be doing open searches, but be using kid-friendly directories. All students should be on task when using the Internet. If districts do employ a filter of some type, each teacher should have the ability to override the filter, since some of the sites needed to support a lesson may be blocked.

A graduate student of mine, Diane Hartley, recently provided me with an eloquent analogy dealing with the filtering issue:

"If we are to prepare our students to voyage bravely in the real world, we must teach them to navigate through stormy seas. We will certainly run into 'bad weather,' if we don't keep a watchful eye on the forecast. In certain situations, we might have to limit our students' searches, whether for time constraints or social constraints. Yet, it is our responsibility to guide students to information-rich sites and directories, while providing stimulating and challenging assignments that will encourage the students' continual development of their online research skills without censoring their access. Our students will leave safe harbor and set sail on the high seas upon graduation. To ensure that their navigation skills are adequate, they must have been instructed in their use. If they can't read the compass, how will they know which way to go?"

TEACHERS NETWORK: How can teachers and media specialists determine which web sites are educationally sound?

KATHY SCHROCK: The only way anyone can determine if a site is educationally sound is to have a prior knowledge base in the topic. Library media specialists need to rely on the content-area teachers in their schools to help them determine the authority with which the web page creator speaks. In addition, when looking at a site to use with students, they have to consider the reading level and appropriateness to the age group with which they are working.

When evaluating information on the Internet, you need to consider authority, accessibility, and applicability before using it with your classes. I have determined 26 criteria to use when evaluating sites:

  1. Authority
  2. Bias
  3. Citations
  4. Dates
  5. Efficiency
  6. Fallacy
  7. Graphics
  8. Handicapped accessibility
  9. Information ability
  10. Jerry-built
  11. Knowledge
  12. Links
  13. Misinformation
  14. Navigability
  15. Online research
  16. Pertinent
  17. Quantity of info
  18. Requirements
  19. Scholastic reviews
  20. Thoroughness
  21. Uniqueness
  22. Verifiable
  23. 5 W's
  24. Xtra information
  25. Yahoo
  26. Zen

For more from Kathy on evaluating web sites, visit http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/eval.html