Insights Through Web Sites


As we all know, the Internet can be a wonderful research tool. We also know that the information found on the Internet is generally unedited and that its nature is dynamic; it is there one day and gone the next. When students access information on the World Wide Web we want them to be able to decide if the information is useful, reliable, and appropriate for their assignment.
One way to achieve this instructional goal is to teach students to “test” the Web site and information by using a set of criteria. Asking a series of general questions provides a strategy that is transferable to a full range of web-based and other information sources. Some sample questions follow:

  • Who is the author or which institution sponsors this Web page?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the purpose of the information?
  • How current is the information?
  • Is the content accurate and objective?

John DonVito, a social studies teacher at Wayne Central Schools (Ontario Center, NY), and I developed an activity that would focus on social studies content and essential World Wide Web skills. The activity, “Insights Through Web Sites,” was prepared for a course titled “Participation in Government” and focuses on information found on Presidential candidates” Web sites.
Students were asked to complete a Web Site Analysis Worksheet that was designed to review and refocus students’ attention on the key questions to consider when assessing information found on web sites. These considerations had been introduced and taught previously in other integrated units. The Web Site Analysis Worksheet features a series of generic Big6 Skill # 2-Information Seeking Strategies, Big6 Skill #3-Location & Access, and Big6 Skill # 4-Use of Information questions. A simple idea? YES. An idea that teaches transferable skills? YES. An instructional idea that can act as a springboard for your own creativity? ABSOLUTELY!