Evaluating the Quality of Information
With the reliance of students, teachers, business people ... well, everyone ... on the Internet and its resources, it's imperative that everyone has the tools needed to evaluate and identify good and bad information.
Use the resources and challenges outlined here to equip students to become savvy consumers of information. Use example fake sites or sites with an obvious bias to introduce students to this concept.
You don't have to be a science news junkie to find yourself constantly confronted with scientific facts and factoids. The truth is slippery, and it's not always graspable even by experts.
The Exploratorium has complied a list of seven questions that can help you and your students weigh the validity of scientific information, wherever it might appear. You may not be able to get answers to them all – and this in itself might be telling – but you'll be well on your way to separating science fact from science fiction.
Google has created a slide show and lesson plan to help students use critical thinking skills to assess the credibility of search page results. The goal is to provide students with validating strategies to make an initial judgment about the authority of web based information.
Dihydrogen Monoxide is one of the most dangerous chemicals in existence. It causes death and severe tissue damage, is a major component of acid rain, causes severe burns, damages and destroys machinery. It kills thousands in the U.S. every year.
Have your students do a report on Dihydrogen Monoxide using this web site as a starting point. Then see how long it takes them to realize it's talking about water (H2O).
S.O.S. for Information Literacy, a project of the Center for Digital Literacy at Syracuse University provides lesson plans, handouts, presentations, videos and other resources to enhance the teaching of information literacy in all grades, K-12.
The U.C. Berkeley Library has developed a methodology for evaluating the quality of resources and evaluate their authority and appropriateness for your project.
Useful for both students and teachers – anyone doing research on the Internet.
Anyone with an idea and internet access can create a website and fill it with just about any content they want. As of 2018, there are over 1.8 billion websites in the world, many of which are protected by free speech and anti-censorship laws. Website owners can print anything they want, true or not, without worrying about the consequences.
This post from WhoIsHostingThis posits that the oceans of data and globe-spanning inter-connectivity of the internet make verifying sources easier than ever as well.
In addition to the time-honored practices of using primary sources, identifying their authors, etc., there are additional tools you would normally not think of. Tools like the Grammarly's Plagiarism Checker, checking out the domain name, publication dates, and cross referencing with your library's research databases.
When in doubt, Google it.
A technique our webmaster uses to evaluate a product or web site is to run it thru Google search.
Enter the name of the concept, web domain, or item (e.g., Yugo Car) into Google and see what comes up. If 20 of the first 50 entries talk about removing spyware or include words like hoax, worst, or dangerous ... you get the idea.
Snopes is a well-regarded reference for sorting out myths and rumors on the Internet. It is a great source for identifying and debunking urban legends and similar stories in American popular culture. Highly recommended by our webmaster.
Anyone, in theory, can publish on the Web. Therefore, it is imperative for students to develop a critical eye to evaluate the credibility of Internet information.
Virginia Montecino from George Mason University proposes 9 questions that can help your students evaluate is credibility of a page's information.
FactCheck is another highly regarded fact checking website, mainly focused on U.S. politics. It is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and is funded primarily by the Annenberg Foundation.
Here's another web page to spring on students. Makes a fun and engaging introduction to the topic of information evaluation.
As teachers, you will have already developed a sense of quality sites. Your students need to acquire similar experience thru practice and examples.
Other Areas To Check Out ...
● Developing Research Skills
● Primary Source Document Collections
● Educational Research & Information Clearinghouse
● The Smithsonian
● Copyrights and Intellectual Property Rights
● YouTube Workarounds