Website and Search Engine Evaluation

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September 8, 2013 by patriciawhite84

The process of selecting appropriate resources is a difficult task for students regardless of where the information comes from (Bush and Herring, 2011). It has become an even greater task with the development of the Internet which has altered the way in which students seek out information. Without conceptual understanding, young students are not innately aware of the need to analyse information that they find on the internet. As these children are being introduced to web based activities from an early age the need to teach them how to evaluate and understand information is becoming more pertinent.

Several website evaluation models have been developed for this exact reason. I have found that Kathy Schrock’s 5 W’s model is the simplest framework to help students identify the Who, What, Where, When and Why of websites. It is also part of a more complex model, the ABC’s of website evaluation, targeted at secondary students. This functionality enables the model to be a highly transferrable framework for a K-12 environment. The simple and direct phrasing of the 5W’s can be introduced as early as Year 2, but then elaborated upon and in greater depth in subsequent years. More difficult concepts such as bias can be imbedded into the What component and introduced around Years 4 and 5. Schrock’s model offers flexibility and addresses the key components of website evaluation. Although, this only occurs once a website has been accessed and does not recognise the impact keywords have on the relevancy of search results.

Searching for answers and searching for understanding are two entirely different concepts. Both teachers and teacher librarians must focus on developing the latter in students. Understanding how keywords affect search results can be a difficult notion for students to grasp resulting in wasted irrelevant browsing (Kuiper, Volman & Terwel, 2005, p.292). In order to find relevant and quality information students must first understand that the keywords and search terms that they use impact on results. To complicate the issue even further, different search engines can generate diverse results based on the exact same keywords. It is therefore understandable how so much time can be wasted in browsing! As an information specialist the teacher librarian should be the driving force for implementing a website and search engine evaluation process. This will require collaboration and planning, so that information is introduced gradually and when relevant and meaningful to student learning, decreasing the severity of information overload (Thomas, Franklin & Crow, 2011). By introducing this process from an early age will enable students to develop and comprehensively practice these information literacy skills that they will then use throughout the rest of their life.

References

Bush, S. J. & Herring, J. E. (2011). Information literacy and transfer in schools: Implications for teacher librarians. The Australian Library Journal. 60(2), 123.

Kuiper, E., Volman, M. & Terwel, J. (2005). The web as an information resource in K-12 education: Strategies for supporting student in searching and processing information. Review of Educational Research, 75(3), 285-328.

Thomas, N. P., Franklin, L. L. & Crow, S. R. (2011). Information literacy and information skills instruction: Applying research to practice in the 21st century school library (3rd ed.) California: Libraries Unlimited.

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