This is part three of a six-part series. Each page contains a video providing an overview of the contents of the page.
You can find the narrated slide show version of this web page at Vimeo (on the right)
Exploration involves collecting resources, interviewing experts, and experimenting with ideas.
Data is located and relevant resources are evaluated. One piece of information may lead to new questions and areas of interest. Questions may be refined, restated, or new queries may emerge.
Encourage students to explore unusual aspects of a common topic. For instance "I’ve seen many images of WWII in Europe, but I never really thought about the war impacting Australia. I’m going to refocus my inquiry." What did Darwin Australia look like before this photo was taken? Why was Darwin attacked? How does this event fit on my WWII timeline?
Carol Kuhlthau has found that during exploration students often encounter inconsistent or incompatible information. This can lead to confusion and doubt. Lacking confidence, they may become discouraged or even threatened by the information they find.
The key is providing students with a set of strategies to deal with problems encountered when exploring and evaluating information. Encourage students to seek guidance from teachers, parents, and other adults with inquiry experience.
Let’s explore six elements of the exploration phase of inquiry including digital citizenship, information sources, search tools and strategies, information evaluation, and primary sources.
Many of today's most powerful resources are available through the Internet. However before giving students to chance to freely explore resources, they need to understand their rights and responsibilities as digital citizens.
The 21st century learner needs more than traditional information search skills to be safe, and successful. Today's student need to understand online safety, privacy issues, and more.
Digital Citizenship. Ask students to think about their role as a digital citizen. What are their rights and responsibilities?
- CyberSense and Nonsense
- Digital Life 101 (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: What is digital media and what role does it play in our lives?
- My Media (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: What are your media habits and how much time do you spend with it?
- The Ups and Downs of Digital Life (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: What are the potential ups and downs of using digital media in our digital culture?
- With Power Comes Responsibility (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: What is a good digital citizen?
Connected Culture. Ask students to think about their online connections and interactions. What are the positive and negative aspects of online social interaction?
- Build Your Ideal Community (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: How do you build a positive online community?
- Chart It (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: How do you judge the aim and impact of people's words and actions online?
- Cyberbullying: Crossing the Line (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: When does inappropriate online behavior cross the line and what can you do?
- Cyberbullying: Be Upstanding (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: How can you be an "upstander" when cyberbullying occurs?
- Forms and Norms (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: What are the norms of positive online communication?
- Garfield Cyberbullying (Grades 2-6). This interactive website explores cyberbullying
- My Online Self (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: How do you present yourself to others on the Internet?
- Prevent CyberBullying (Grade 6-12). This website explores cyberbullying.
- What's Cyberbullying? (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: What is cyberbullying, and how do you deal with it?
- Which Me Should I Be? (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: What are the outcomes of presenting yourself in different ways online?
Media and advertising. Ask students to explore the persuasive messages they see everyday. How do they impact consumer and lifestyle choices? Where do media fit as an information source? How do marketers define what's "cool" and compare this to the things you, your friends, and your family values.
- Ad Decoder (Grades 5-10). This interactive magazine game explores the messages hidden behind the ads young people see every day.
- Admongo (Grades 3-7). This interactive game explores advertising around us.
- Co-Co's AdverSmarts (Grades 3-6). This tutorial helps students identify marketing techniques. Learn more...
- Concerned Children's Advertisers. This website focuses on young people making healthy choices when faced with media advertising.
- Don't Buy It (Grades 3-6). This interactive website explores advertising tricks and how to buy smart.
- Garfield Forms of Media (Grades 2-6). This interactive website explores forms of media.
- Sticky Sites (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: How do websites attract visitors - and keep them there?
- Talk to Kids About Advertising
- Target is You! Alcohol Advertising Quiz (Grades 6-8). This interactive quiz is designed to increase knowledge of alcohol marketing aimed at youth.
- How Are They Selling It? (Grades 4-8). This activity uses scenarios to help students understand advertisements.
- You Are Here (Grades 5-8). Explores advertising, privacy and identify theft, scams, and competition.
Design an activity that combines mathematics with advertising. What's the best deal? Why are they trying to sell me a particular product in a particular way? When companies advertise special buying deals such as low interest rates and free shipping are these really good deals? Why or why not? Design examples.
Stereotyping, Hate Propaganda, and Harmful Media Messages. Your students need to be able to define and provide examples of stereotyping in the media. How do stereotypes impact individuals and society? How does the way popular culture and conditions in our society influence our perceptions of groups of people?
- About-Face. This website focuses on understanding and resisting harmful media messages aimed at girls.
- Allies and Aliens (Grades 7-8). This interactive module increases students' ability to recognize bias, prejudice and hate propaganda.
Privacy. As students explore information, it's important for them to understand the importance of online privacy.
- Garfield Online Safety (Grades 2-6). This interactive website explores online safety
- Opps! I Broadcast it on the Internet (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: What are the consequences of over-sharing online?
- Privacy Playground (Grades 3-6). This interactive tutorial focus on spotting online marketing and protecting private information.
- Privacy Pirates (Grades 3-6). This interactive tutorial focuses on distinguishing between information that is and is not appropriate to give out. Learn more...
- Private and Personal Information (Grades 3-6). This lesson answers the question: How can you protect yourself from online identify theft?
- Safe Online Talk (Grades 6-8). Addresses the question: how should you handle inappropriate online talk?
- Secret Sharer (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: How do you respect the privacy of others online?
- Strong Passwords (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: How can a secure password help you protect your private information?
- Top Secret (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: What have you learned about respecting others' privacy and protecting yours? An interactive tutorial explores the pros and cons of sharing information online.
- Trillion Dollar Footprint (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: What is a digital footprint, and what does your convey?
- What's the Big Deal (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: How do sites collect your information and what can you do about it?
Misconceptions. We live in a global society however most of our information about the world comes from mainstream Western sources. Sensational news stories related to natural disasters, war, and protests can fuel misconceptions about people living in developing countries. How do different news organizations differ in their representation of world events? Why is it important to explore multiple sources of information? How does political reporting and media ownership impact news reporting? How do "sound bites" and news commentators impact public opinion?
Different information sources are useful in addressing various types of questions. Ask students to think about the kinds of information they are seeking. Are they looking for facts, research studies, news articles, personal reflections, or opinions? Where can this type of information be found? Do you want information generated by the general public, a scholar, or a government official?
Kinds of Information. Demonstrate the different types of information available for students. Traditional print materials include books, newspapers, periodicals, reports, press releases, and leaflets. Internet resources include websites, databases, blogs, social networks, and media (audio, video, animation). Also, consider primary research materials such as observations, surveys, and interviews.
- Research: Where do I begin? This series of pages explores the different types of resources that can be used during inquiry to locate information.
Search Engine Results.Many students go right to Google. Talk about the importance of looking at the authority of the websites found. For instance, when looking for information about flu on Google skip the ads at the top. The CDC government website would be better than Wikipedia. Most search engines will provide wikipedia articles near the top of search results. Ask students to describe the purpose of wikipedia and how it should and should not be used.
- Wikipedia 101. This article provides a nice overview of Wikipedia and it's use.
Databases. Students have access to a wealth of information through the electronic databases available at the local, state, and national level. However they are often overlooked. These subscription databases may require password and initial instruction, however they contain quality information worth the investment of time.
- Access Science
- Credo Reference
- EBSCO Databases - Middle Search Plus, Student Research Center
- Opposing Viewpoints
- SIRS Discoverer
Consider an inquiry focusing on a particular database. For instance, a current events project might use SIRS Discoverer or a social issues project might focus on use of Opposing Viewpoints.
Planning for Exploration. Ask students to create a plan for identifying information sources. What resources best fit the research questions? What key words will be used for searching?
- Make a list of sources of information that can be used to answer your questions. Remember to include books, journals, websites, databases, personal interviews, e-mail contacts. Remember to use text, images, audio, video, animation, and other forms of information.
- Use key words and search strategies to locate resources.
- Skim the information source looking for key words, main ideas and supporting details.
- Think about how you will evaluate the information you find.
Use the following questions as students explore:
- What are all the possible sources of information?
- What sources are most useful for my questions?
- What are the best quality sources?
- Where can I locate sources of information?
- Where can I find information within these sources?
- How do I evaluate the quality of the information I find?
Ask students to create a search strategy. Use NoodleQuest as a look for planning.
Search Tools and Strategies
Prior to locating resources, ask students to think about their questions and plan for their search.
General Search Tools. Talk with students about their process of searching the web. Ask them about search tools they use. Introduce Google and Bing. Then, make comparisons with other search tools like Sweet Search. It's designed specifically for students. Also explore meta search tools such as Dogpile, Mamma, and Metacrawler that use from the most popular search tools. Directories like Internet Public Library and Kidsclick.
- Popular Search Tools. Use the advanced search pages of search engines to help focus your search.
- Ask Jeeves. This tool encourages searches in the form of a question.
- Bing. Popular with friends of Microsoft.
- Blekko. This tool uses slashtags to narrow searches.
- DuckDuckGo. This tool tries to avoid junk and ads.
- Findhow. This tool finds "how tos"
- Google. The most popular option.
- Sweet Search. Designed for students, all the websites have been evaluated.
- Yahoo. Still a popular tool.
- Meta Search Tools. These tools search multiple search engines.
- Search Toolbox. This clean page provides easy-to-use access to popular search tools.
News Search. News and current event search tools are useful in providing up-to-date information.
- Google Blog Search. Searches blogs for the latest postings.
- Google Finance. Shows current financial markets and news.
- Google News. Search news organizations for articles.
- Google Trends. Lets you view trends in web searches.
- Newseum. Front pages to hundreds of newspapers.
- Twitter Search. Search Twitter postings.
Talk to students about the value and use of news articles.
- News Reporting. This article explains and gives examples of news articles.
Ask students to compare three different articles on the same topic and compare the content. Talk about how news from different parts of the world might differ. Also discuss how different new organizations have different perspectives and philosophies about news. Talk about some of the general news providers such as Reuters that provides new to many news group.
Ask students to compare the front page of two newspapers from different parts of the world. Use Newseum.
Analytical Search. Editorials, opinions, critiques, and reviews can all be useful in study projects. However it's important that students are aware of the difference between fact and opinion.
- Editorial and Opinion Pages
Talk to students about analytical writing including editorials and opinion columns.
- Analytical Writing. This article explains and gives examples of analytical writing.
Scholarly Search. Sometimes you want access to scholarly information including research and reports. Do a Google Patent search and trace the history of an invention such as the football, diaper, or popcorn popcorn popper. Use government websites such as PubMed to explore biomedical topics.
- Google Patents. Searches US patents.
- Google Scholar. Searches scholarly articles. Use the advanced scholar search tips
- PubMed. Articles about biomedical topics.
Book Search. Many books are now available online. Use Archive for public domain books. At Google Books students can read and preview books and magazines such as Life.
- Archive. Use this tool to locate books that are in the public domain.
- Google Books. Use this tool to locate preview and full-views of books.
People Search. Student projects sometimes involve the search for people. For instance, read the biographical entry and acceptance speech for a Nobel Prize winner.
- Biographical Dictionary
- Nobel Prize List
- Wolfram/Alpha. Explore for people related to math and science.
Multimedia Search. Sometimes it's useful to search for images, sounds, or video. For instance, when trying to identify a fossil or bird, a search of images would be helpful. To understand the activities at a protest, seeing a video might provide insights.
- Archive. Use this tool to search for moving images and audio.
- Flickr. Searching images on Flickr.
- Google Images Search. Searching images on the web.
- Google Videos. Searches videos on the web.
- YouTube Search. Searches YouTube video.
Map Search. Exploration of maps can provide interesting insights into places around the world. For instance, examine the wind farm off the coast of Denmark in Google Maps. Do you see the row of wind turbines in the water? Zoom in to see each turbine.
- Cities 360. This tools lets you see 360 views.
- Google Maps. This tool lets you search for locations and view a map.
- MapQuest. This tool lets you search for locations and view a map.
- Panoramio. This tools lets you view panorama images from around the world.
- Yahoo Maps. This tool lets you search for locations and view a map.
Hidden Web. Google and other general search tools will locate websites containing information on a topic. However much of the in-depth information needed to address essential questions will only be found on the invisible web or what is sometimes called the "deep web."
- Complete Planet. This deep web directory finds resources on searchable databases and specialty websites.
- Directory of Open Access Journals
- Eserver Journals
- FindArticles and MagPortal
- GPO. The US Government Printing Office contains links to articles and resources.
- USA. gov
In the past Boolean Searching was a critical part of online searching. Today many of these elements are already built into the search tool. However they are still useful when using the advanced search options.
Show Searching Effectively Using AND, OR, NOT, Advanced Boolean Searching, and Truncation on your class whiteboard. Provide examples and practice Boolean Searching as a group. Talk about those situations where it would be particularly useful.
Today, it’s most important to learn to use the Advanced search options available in many search engines such as Google. I’m looking for information about pendulum, but not the Edgar Allen Poe’s story.
Model Identification of Key Words. Model the process of identifying key words. Show how to select key words in a question and create additional key words that might be useful in searching. Ask students to list questions, key words, and possible resources. Use Leslie Preddy's worksheets for ideas (PDF 1) (PDF 2) (PDF 3) (PDF 4).
Review Search Strategies. Ask students to think about the tools and approaches they use for conducting information searches. Are they effective or ineffective? Why?
- Crawling the Web (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: How can you best use search sites to find the information your need?
- Internet Detective. This engaging self-guided tutorial helps students conduct wise web searches.
- Searching the World Wide Web. This series of pages discusses search tools and strategies.
- The Key to Keywords (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: Which keywords will give you the best search results?
Regardless of whether information is found in a newspaper article, nonfiction book, or website, students need to carefully evaluate the information they find.
To track student use of the Internet, ask students to keep a log of the website they use. Explore Leslie Preddy's Internet Log (PDF) for ideas.
Use online resources to help students learn about website evaluation. Then, ask students to critically evaluate the information they identify. They should describe their process of evaluation and how they determine whether a website is trustworthy.
Use the following resources to design activities:
- ABCs of Website Evaluation. This page provides an overview of things to look for in a website.
- Cybersense and Nonsense (Grades 4-7). This interactive tutorial helps students learn about authenticating online information, distinguishing fact from opiion, and recognizing stereotypes.
- Evaluating Sources. This series of articles explores key topics in how to evaluate different types of sources..
- Evaluating Sources: Overview. This series of pages focused on evaluating citations, readings, print, and Internet materials.
- Finding Information on the Internet. This article provided information about evaluating web information.
- Identifying High-Quality Sites (Grades 6-8). This lesson answers the question: When can you trust what you find on the Web?
- Jo Cool or Jo Fool (Grades 6-8). This interactive online module takes students through a dozen mock websites to test savvy surfing skills.
- Judging Sources. This article provides an overview of evaluation questions and websites.
- Knowing What's What and What's Not. This article provides a great overview of website evaluation using the 5Ws and H approach.
- Web Evaluation (Grades 6-8). This lesson teaches web evaluation.
Provide students with tips for evaluating websites. For instance, they should find the ABOUT page to learn who created the information and they think about who sponsors the website and their perspective.
Match Sources to Questions. After students have identified their questions (or been given questions), students brainstorm where they would go for information. Provide students with a list of possible sources. Ask students to compare their list to the master list of options. Discuss the pros and cons of different source. Ask students to prioritize sources.
Best Source for Job. Brainstorm all the possible resources related to a topic. Discuss the pros and cons of each resource. Divide the class into groups. Each member is assigned one type of resource to locate and find two pieces of information. As a group, they discuss the pros and cons of each resource and the information they found.
Using Information Sources. Ask students to skim and scan for information using various sources. For instance, ask them to gather information from a chart comparing cell phone costs and plans.
Search for Clues. Start by examining the page itself. Look at the web address (URL). What kind of domain (.edu, .gov, .org, .net, .com) is it? This doesn't always help, but it may provide an indication of the sponsor. Is it a government site, school resource, museum, commercial or private web project? Try to determine who published the page. Is it an individual or an agency? Can you find a name attached to the page? Look at the core page for the entire website (everything between the http:// and the first /) and see who sponsored the site and how information was selected. You might also try truncating the website address to see each level between slashes.
Sometimes you can answer these questions by reading the creation information at the bottom of the main page. Look for a name, organization, or email address. If you can't find the answer there, see if you can locate a page that tells "about the website." Sometimes there's a "contact us" page. The author of the page and the webmaster may or may not be the same person.
For information about the content of the page, look for a link to an author biography, philosophy, or background information.
Another hint about the quality of the website is the copyright date. When was the page originally posted? When was the last time the page was updated? This information is generally at the bottom of each page or at least the first page of the website.
Look for Sponsors. Does the site use banner sponsors? What do they sell? Is a well-known organization a sponsor? Consider whether the site's sponsors could impact the perspective to the website. In most cases, a company wants the information at their site to reflect positively on them.
Ask Questions. If you still can't determine the quality of the information, consider emailing the webmaster and asking about the site's content. Students will be amazed at the range of answers that will be provided. Some webmasters post anything that's given to them, while others are experts in a content area field.
Track Backward and Forward. Another way to learn more about a website is to see "who links to them" and "who they link to." Use a search engine to search for the "URL" or author of the website in question. Does it appear on a "favorites" list? If so, whose list? Is this list credible? If the site has won an award, what's the criteria for the award and how is the award given? You can also track forward. In other words, look at the links that are used by the web developer of your site. Do they go to good or poor quality sites? Is this website cited in subject guides such as About.com or Librarian's Index?
Cross-Check Data. In addition to the act of evaluating a single page, students also need to learn to cross-check information. In other words, there should be three independent resources confirming each pieces of questionable data. This cross-checking can be done different ways. For example, if students are creating a graphic organizer, they could star each item that has been doubled or triple checked. Consider using a variety of information formats including encyclopedia, magazine articles, videos, experts, and web pages.
Students need to learn to evaluate the quality of information they find on the web as well as other information resources such as books, magazines, DVD, and television. Ask students to be skeptical of everything they find. Encourage them to compare and contrast different information resources. Consider the following ideas:
Authority. Who says? Know the author.
- Who created this information and why?
- Do you recognize this author or their work?
- What knowledge or skills do they have in the area?
- Is he or she stating fact or opinion?
- What else has this author written?
- Does the author acknowledge other viewpoints and theories?
- Is the information objective or subjective?
- Is it full of fact or opinion?
- Does it reflect bias? How?
- How does the sponsorship impact the perspective of the information?
- Are a balance of perspectives represented?
- Could the information be meant as humorous, a parody, or satire?
- Where does the information originate?
- Is the information from an established organization?
- Has the information been reviewed by others to insure accuracy?
- Is this a primary source or secondary source of information?
- Are original sources clear and documented?
- Is a bibliography provided citing the sources used?
- Are the sources truth worthy? How do you know?
- Who is sponsoring this publication?
- Does the information come from a school, business, or company site?
- What's the purpose of the information resource: to inform, instruct, persuade, sell? Does this matter?
- What's their motive?
- Does the page provide information about timeliness such as specific dates of information?
- Does currency of information matter with your particular topic?
- How current are the sources or links?
- Does the information contain the breadth and depth needed?
- Is the information written in a form that is useable (i.e. reading level, technical level)?
- Is the information in a form that is useful such as words, pictures, charts, sounds, or video?
- Do the facts contribute something new or add to your knowledge of the subject?
- Will this information be useful to your project?
- Is the information well-organized including a table of contents, index, menu, and other easy-to-follow tools for navigation?
- Is the information presented in a way that is easy to use (i.e., fonts, graphics, headings)?
- Is the information quick to access?
Criteria for Evaluation
- ALA Great Websites Selection Criteria
- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - this one is nice because it provides examples of each criteria; criteria,example set
- Comparing and Evaluating Web Information Sources. Jamie McKenzie
- Critical Evaluation of Resources - criteria for evaluation
- Cyberbee and web design evaluation checklists
- Evaluating Quality on the Net - Hope N. Tillman
- Evaluatng Websites from Cornell
- Evaluating Websites from Lesley
- Evaluation of Information Resources
- How to Evaluate the Sources You Find, Five Criteria - criteria for evaluation
- Schrockguide - Evaluation - this is a great starting point for lots of resources
- Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources - criteria for evaluation
- What Makes a Good Website?
- Website Evaluation Form (PPT), Evaluation Activity (PPT), and Student Sample (PPT)
- Evaluation Wizard (PPT)
- World Wide Web Page Evaluation Form - designed for middle school
Consider designing a set of criteria that fits the needs of your students. For instance, a media specialist in Ohio (Pete Hildebrandt) created the SWAT approach for his students (download the PowerPoint overview). Use a website like the American Museum of Natural History Ology pages to model this idea.
- Site. Examine the website itself. Look for government and museum sites. Think about the motives of nonprofit or company websites.
- Who. Think about who publishes the website. What is their expertise? How can they be contacted? Look for their ABOUT page.
- Audience. Who is the audience for the website? Is it students or adults? Is it biased?
- Timeliness. Look for information about the currency of the information. Is it new enough for your needs?
Many online lessons can help students learn more about website evaluation.
- 21st Century Skills
- Examining Electronic Resources
- Hoax or No Hoax: Strategies for Online Comprehension and Evaluation
- Inquiry on the Internet: Evaluating Web Pages for a Class Collection (lesson)
- Reading Online (lesson plan)
- Wading through the Web: Teaching Internet Research Strategies
- Evaluating Web Pages: Experience WHY it's important. This great activity asks students to explore online resources to determine why evaluation is so important. Be sure to check out the Hints and Tips for each topic. Try their evaluation pdf form.
- How to Evaluate Information from OPENC - written for elementary students, read about identifying good websites.
- Research Building Blocks: Examining Electronic Sources (Grades 3-5) from ReadWriteThink
- Truth, Lies, and the Internet - This excellent article explores the issue of truth on the web and provides dozens of excellent examples of hoaxes, myths, and other interesting Internet issues.
- Example Sets: sites and sets of sites that are good for practicing evaluation
- Website Evaluation Process (interactive)
- Website Evaluation Form (interactive)
Fact, Fiction and Fake
Some people post inaccurate information on the web. Students need to be aware of misinformation and fake websites. Do you believe everything you read? How gullible are you? There are people who believe that we never walked on the moon and that the Holocaust never happened, so be careful when you read a web page. The truth is out there, but so is the lie. Look for what Wikipedia calls the "verifiability" of information. You should be able to check the material you find against other reliable sources. Content that is likely to be challenged should contain multiple sources of evidence that have been carefully cited.
There are dozens of fictional websites, fake pages, and hoaxes you can use to teacher students about this issue. The Anti-Alien Agency is an example of a fake website designed to go with a fiction book called Spaceheadz.
Use Snopes to check for the latest online rumors. Use the following fake websites to discuss the problem of fake websites:
- Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie
- Anti Alien Agency
- Belgium Doesn't Exist!
- Bureau of Sasquatch Affairs
- Brinkvale Psychiatric
- British Stick Insect Foundation
- California's Velcro Crop under Challenge
- Dog Island
- Facts About from Idiotica
- The Faked Apollo Landings
- Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency
- Fisher Price Airplane
- Free Online Pregnancy Test
- Gmail Autopilot
- Gmail Custom Time
- Gmail Mail
- Gmail Motion
- Google Comic Sans
- Google Copernicus Center
- Google Docs Motion
- Google Gulp
- Google's PigeonRank
- Google Romance
- Google TiSP
- Idiotica - Civil War, Mars, Biomes, Einstein
- Jackalope Conspiracy
- Male Pregnancy
- Mankato Minnesota Home Page, New Hartford - Backup Mankato Site, Another Backup
- McWhortle Biohazard Alert Detector
- Museum of Hoaxes
- Museum of Jurassic Technology
- Ova Prima
- Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus
- Pets or Food
- Physics and Star Trek
- Save the Guinea Worm
- Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus
- Should we ban dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO)?
- Space Elevator Climb
- Telco Powered Products
- SonicWall Phishing IQ Test. Can you distinquish the fake e-mail for the real ones?
Use the following questions to see if students can spot a fake website:
- Examine the URL. How is it spelled? Could it be confused with another site through a mispelling?
- Do a Google search for the URL or the name of the company. What other sites come up?
- Do other site confirm the information found at this site? If not, it might be fake.
- Check the websites lists as references. Do they confirm the information in the site?
- Do the links go to real companies or other fake companies?
- Is the address, telephone number, and contact information real?
Use the following resources to review skills identifying fact and opinion.
- Garfield's Fact or Opinion (Grade 2-6). This interactive explores fact and opinion.
- Interpreting What You Read. This article explores fact vs opinion.
- It's a Fact (Grade 4-8). This interactive helps students distinguish between fact and opinion.
Before asking students to evaluate websites as part of a larger project, develop guided activities where you can model issues related to website accuracy and reliability.
Currency Focus. Look for current and dated information on social studies, science, or health topics that have changed recently such as the number of planets. Go to the Wikipedia: Current Event page to see a list of those articles that are currently changing as the event unfolds.
Controversy Focus. Look for controversial topics and identify websites with particular views. Read the "about" pages of websites. Can you determine why particular views might be presented in this website? Go to the Wikipedia: List of controversial issues as a starting point for this topic. They provide a list of pages where the neutrality of content has been challenged and editing wars have been waged. Check out the current topics. How would you determine the neutrality of articles? Also, examine the issue of Conflict of Interest. Read Wikipedia's Conflict of Interest page to understand this issue.
SWAT. Develop your own approach or use the SWAT approach. Provide students with examples. For instance, after conducting a SWAT you determine that the Louisiana Coastal Wetlands: A Resource At Risk page is a good source of information, however it was posted in 1995. We need to determine what has changed in nearly 20 years.
A primary source is a piece of information created from direct experience and often used for understanding history. These sources include actual records and artifacts that have survived from the past such as diaries, letters, photographs, articles of clothing, or coins. Students need to be able to locate, evaluate, and use primary source materials. Go to the escrapbooking Primary Sources page for lots of examples.
- Primary and Secondary Sources
- Evaluating Primary and Secondary Sources
Introduce the Historical and Cultural Contexts interactive on a whiteboard. Then ask students to work their way through the materials on their own.
Sometimes it's helpful for students to collect their own information. This primary research can be used as a basis for comparison or evidence. Interviews are an effective research technique for gathering information from individuals or groups. Students might compare interviews at a national oral history website with their own interviews Explore existing oral history websites.
Ask student to read an article about spina bifida that incorporates quotations from a classmate. Talk about how elements of an interview can be woven into an article.
Involve students in conducting surveys.
Examine Leslie Preddy's student example (PDF).
Explore online tools for conducting polls and surveys:
- Google Forms
- Poll Daddy
- Poll Junkie
- Snap Poll
- Survey Monkey
- Zoho Polls
Encourage your students to be skeptical of what they find on the Internet.
Use guiding questions to facilitate the exploration stage:
- What does this problem involve?
- What information do I have?
- What information is not needed or useful? Why?
- What additional information is needed? Where can it be found?
- What are the facts of the situation? How are these facts connected?
- How have I tackled similar problems in the past?
- How can I break down the problem into smaller pieces, fewer numbers, or chunks?
- Can I use a chart, graph, time line, drawing, or other visual to help visualize and organize thinking?
- What strategies will I use? What's my plan?
- What tools will I use? Calculator, online tools?
- What are my guesses? What's the range of solutions? What's the wrong answer? What guesses am I rejecting?
- What information do I need to solve this problem?
- How do I know what I know?
- What structure do we need to visualize our thinking? Would a concept map, chart, graph, help me visualized?
- How do I simplify and attack a complex problem?
- What's the relevant and irrelevant data?
Exploring leads back to questioning. Questions may be refined, restated, or new queries may emerge. Encourage inquirers to be risk-takers. Ask:
- What can I answer and what new questions do I have?
- How can I focus and narrow my questions?
- Did we miss anything the first time around?
- Are there other ways to think about the same thing?
- Are there other points of view that should be considered?
- Can I think of unusual approaches or different ways of thinking?
As you develop assignments related to inquiry, consider the information standards that can be addressed.
(Common Core Standards for Literacy Across the Curriculum Grades 6-8)
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including domain-specific vocabulary.
Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text. Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.
Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.
Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea. Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
Find, evaluate, and select appropriate sources to answer questions.
Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context.
Demonstrate confidence and self direction by making independent choices in the selection of resources and information.
Demonstrate creativity by using multiple resources and formats.
Maintain a critical stance by questioning the validity and accuracy of all information.
Display emotional resilience by persisting in information searching despite challenges.
Respect copyright/intellectual property rights of creators and producers.
Solicit and respect diverse perspectives while searching for information, collaborating with others, and participating as a member of the community.
Seek information for personal learning in a variety of formats and genres.
Use social networks and information tools to gather and share information.
Display curiosity by pursuing interests through multiple resources.
Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.
Websites to Explore
Explore the following online resources to learn more..
- Common Sense Media. (Grades 6-8) Explore lesson plans focusing on online safety, online security, digital life, privacy and digital footprints, connected culture, self-expression, respecting, creative work, searching, and research.
- Exploring. Baltimore Public Schools.
- Research and Homework (Grades 6-8). Provides an overview of using online sources for teaching and learning.
Kuhlthau, Carol (2004). Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services. 2nd Edition. Available through Libraries Unlimited.
Think about it...
- Discuss how you would integrate a digital citizenship activity into your classroom. Consider the following areas: cyberbullying, social networking, media and advertising, privacy and online safety, or global misconceptions.
- Design an activity that combines a subject area standard with a lesson in evaluating sources. Focus on a specific criteria for your lesson such as the importance of currency or point of view. Involve students in evaluating websites or comparing the content found in two or more websites.
- Design a lesson involving student data collection such as a survey or interview.
- Investigate a subscription database service available to your students. How could it be used as part of an inquiry?