Friday, 3 August 2012

Website Evaluation

Evaluating Web Information
Ferguson, J. (2005). Why evaluate information found on the Web? Retrieved July 6, 2012.

The advent of the Internet has meant that not only is there information posted onto the web to advise, inform and entertain, there is also an abundance of misinformation that is available to anyone who has access to the web.  There is no ruling body or charter of standards to regulate the content that is posted to the web.  The World Wide Web is subject to national and international laws, but none specific to regulate content. Anyone can develop a website, put information up whether it is correct or incorrect.  This can also be done anonymously so that the source of the information, whether it is true or not cannot be traced. 
There are a substantial number of websites that provide reliable, accurate and up to date information.  There is also a number of websites that are untrustworthy, misleading and incorrect.  It is the users responsibility to use evaluation skills to determine legitimacy of websites and the information they display.  Ferguson (2005) lists 7 criteria to assist in evaluation;
1.    Author – the author of the website should be visible on the website as well as the qualifications he, she or they may have to support the information they have posted. The contact details of the author should be available.
“Remember to look for a physical address and phone number – a simple email address is not sufficient if you need to contact someone to verify information” (Ferguson, 2005).
2.     Publisher or sponsor – “It’s essential to identify and evaluate the credentials and motivations of the organization or people responsible for maintaining a website” (Ferguson, 2005).
3.     Inspect the URL – It’s a good idea to see where the information is coming from.  The URL can tell you whether the information comes from an educational institution, a network provider, a government agency, a non-profit organization or from commercial enterprise.
4.     Point of view/bias – it’s important to establish the point of view of the author of the website and whether their information is biased towards that point of view.  It is ok for a website to present information to reflect the point of view of the author, but it is up to the user to establish whether the information presented suits their research needs.
5.     Accuracy and Reliability – is the website well presented with information that can be verified?  Is the information presented using correct grammar and spelling?  The visibility and the reliability of the source of the information gives greater credibility to the website.
6.     Currency – Is the information as up to date as possible? Are there dates on the page?  Has the page been consistently updated?
7.     Intellectual Property/Copyright – “Copyright laws that protect intellectual property in the print publishing world also protect intellectual property in the virtual realm.  Most text and images that you find on the web are copyrighted” (Ferguson, 2005).

Testing the three-click rule.
Porter, J. (2003). Testing the three click rule. Retrieved July 6, 2012.

The three-click rule has long been talked about in relation to websites and finding information.  It has been said that,  “if users can’t find what they’re looking for within three clicks, they’re likely to get frustrated and leave the site” (Porter, 2003). 
I am of the belief that if the information on your website is pertinent and accurate, users will keep clicking.  There are some websites where 3 clicks is enough, and others where 3 clicks is just the beginning of an information odyssey.  If you are searching for information and the clicks you make are leading you in the right direction, keep clicking.

The Five W’s of Web Site Evaluation
Schrock, K. (2009b). The 5 W’s of website evaluation. Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
Seeing Kathy Schrock’s Five W’s page excited me.  It is brilliant to see that Information Literacy skills can be so obviously connected to writing, reading and oral language.  It makes sense for everyone to be on the same page, and for classroom teachers and teachers to share the same language. 
If I was asking my class to write me a story, or recount the events of a weekend, these are exactly the terms I would use.
Who was there?”
What did you do?”
When did you do it?”
It also makes sense to begin teaching the children these skills while they are in primary school.  Teaching students effective learning habits, particularly when they are using the Internet, encourages self-directed learning and lifelong learning habits.


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