Evaluating Information

Information Literacy is the ability to locate, evaluate, and use information efficiently and effectively. The Internet has a wide range of information. The quality and purpose of the information spans the spectrum from garbage to top notch and from expert to intentionally misleading.

Being able to evaluate the quality and purpose of information you encounter online can prevent a bad grade, but in the case of information you encounter through contacting people online evaluating the quality of that information can prevent a bad or life threatening experience. The activities contained in this section will help you develop critical evaluation skills in your students that will make them Cyber Safe and Information Literate.

There are MANY ways you can use these activities in your classroom. For that reason, I'll not suggest a set procedure. Look them over. Get familiar with them so that you can find the best place in your curriculum to use them.

As you go over these activities with students, stress that they need to hone their garbage and bias detection skills. This will ensure two things: that they have quality written work and they will not be taken in by people pretending to be somebody. In one case the danger is a bad grade, in the other, it is their lives and safety that are at risk.

Drive-by Top 20 +1 is an activity used to illustrate to students the wide range of information available online and the need to evaluate the quality of the information they encounter. The sites represented there span a wide range of quality and purposes. Some contain accurate, high quality information. Some are biased, parodies, or intentionally misleading. The activity is intentionally designed to put the participant under time pressure to evaluate the content, because that is often the mode students are in when doing research or interacting with others. Very few people do a good job of evaluating the content of all of these sites during the time provided and indeed many have used some of the bogus sites as sources for their legitimate research and suffered the consequences. Use the teacher version if you are doing professional development and the student version if you are conducting a lesson.

After conducting the Drive-by Top 20 + 1 activity you can use the "answer key" and Evaluation Criteria presentation and the Web Site Evaluation Chart below as you feel it will be most effective. The Evaluation Criteria presentation provides an explanation of how you can use a score sheet to objectively determine the quality of information you encounter along with some subjective criteria. The "answer key" is a presentation that examines the quality of information at each of the 21 web sites.

Web Site Evaluating Chart - Gives students a subjective tool for evaluating the quality of information on web sites by rating five different criteria covered in the Flash lesson. This is simply a guide tool and any evaluation must include the observations and opinions of the user.

Note Taking - is a red herring. The activity is presented as a lesson on how to take notes. The information provided in that portion of the lesson is exactly as it seems. However the twist comes in the assignment which asks students to take notes at one of the web sites supplied in the activity and to summarize their thoughts on what they read.

All of the sites supplied are bogus. When evaluating the student work, you need to take into account whether the students took good notes, and more importantly, you must evaluate whether their summaries indicate the lack of quality or accurate information at the sites.

As you discuss the finished work with the students and reveal the fact that the sites are full of errors or intentionally misleading information, make the ties to Internet safety and the fact that you can't believe anything unless it is verified and proven to be accurate. Ignoring that rule during research can result in a poor grade on a report. Ignoring it when dealing with people online can have far greater consequences

Special thanks goes to Jeff Hastings, who granted permission for us to mirror the material he and his colleagues created for use by the Howell School District