Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Web Site Evaluation Sixth Grade

I am working on the concept of web site evaluation. Last year I found a web site evaluation webquest by Joyce Valenza. The link I had no longer works or I would reference it here. I want to document the process as I prepare to do the exercise with the year's sixth grade students.

Teacher Pre-Work
I had a list of links to dinosaur web pages on last year's wiki page. I checked the links to make sure they still worked and then copied and pasted the wiki page for this year's class. As I reflected on what we accomplished last year, I removed a link for Barney and added three web sites. The Barney web site was too childish.

Next I break the class into multiple groups of four team members: content specialist, authority/credibility specialist, bias/purpose specialist, and usability/design specialist. Since I did not have a multiple of four students, I added the additional students to the authority/credibility team.

Introducing the Project
I will have two groups of eight students examine six web sites. Last year, I explained every project job to the whole class. This year, I will only give a thorough explanation to the specialists. The specialists, in turn, will present their new knowledge to the whole class when we have a whole group discussion. I am doing this because the current seventh grade did not seem to retain much of what I thought they had learned last year.

Jobs - Content Specialist 
These students will look at their six assigned sites and determine if the content would be valuable for sixth grade students writing a research report on dinosaurs. They will try to determine if the information is comprehensive and accurate. They will compare the sites and decide which has something unique to offer the reader. If there are links, they will try to determine if they provide additional worthwhile content. They will determine if the information was recently updated or old. Finally, they will decide if the information on this web site might be as good as or better than an encyclopedia or other printed book.

Jobs - Authority/Credibility Specialist 
These students will learn to truncate the URL and try to determine who is the owner of the web site. They will find out if the content has sources sited or documented. I will teach the students about domain names (.com, .edu., .net, .org, .gov) and help them think about how this might lead them to think about the authority or credibility of the site. They will learn about personal web pages and the ~ in a URL. Finally, they will learn to use the advanced search to find out who links to the web page.

Jobs - Bias/Purpose Specialist 
These students will try to determine why the site was created. They will also learn about domain names and try to find out how the information may or may not be biased. They will look for hidden messages such as people trying to sell dinosaur toys. I will be having them focus on three questions: Are there facts or opinions on the web site? Are people trying to sell something? Is the web site trying to entertain? 

Jobs - Usability/Design Specialist
These students will scour the site to determine if the information is user-friendly: are there dead links, is the content well labeled, and can they find their way back to the main page easily. The students will look for misspelled words and grammatical errors. They will evaluate whether the site seems cluttered or if the links within the site are broken.

I have two handouts to assist the students in their jobs. I've placed them on my resource wiki

Student Group Discussion
Following the individual web site review, each specialist ranks the web sites from 1 (best) to 6 (worst). The specialists then get together as a group of four. They go through each web site and share with each other the positive and negative aspects of the pages. As a group, they group rank the sites from 1 to 6. The students will share the best site and the worst site of the six they reviewed to the entire class.

Group Debriefing
This year, I will have the specialists come up in pairs and explain to the group, as a whole, what they learned to look for when deciding on the worthiness of a web site. Hopefully this group debriefing will help the students retain the lesson in a way that I did not last year.

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