Evaluating Online Information
When advising students on how to search for information on the Internet, teachers quickly encounter the necessity of instructing them in Web site evaluation techniques. Reading for comprehension and evaluation takes on new meaning when the source of information has expanded beyond the covers of a carefully selected book.
A timely book, Web Wisdom (Alexander & Tate, 1999), provides a reference guide for evaluating and creating information on the Web. Its authors also have a Web site listing key components for evaluating Web resources. This site provides links to many Web pages that illustrate Web evaluation concepts. It also contains lists of teacher-ready materials that can be used to help students evaluate and create Web materials that show quality content.
The topics are grouped around the types of Web pages that target various audiences, including Web pages that are informational, business related, advocacy oriented, news breaking, pure entertainment, or simply personal. This site also offers links to other sites hosting relevant information on these topics. For example, a teacher wishing to present the views of the Society of Magazine Editors on new media can link to Guidelines for New Media.
Another initiative of growing interest to educators concerned about the quality of Web-based investigations is the Information Integrity Coalition. This international program currently is underway to address the absence of universally accepted standards guaranteeing that online information is consistent, accurate, and reliable. Spearheading the effort of is Unitech Systems company leader Madhavan Nayar. He compares the influx of "dubious data" online to the pollution of rivers and streams that occurred during the Industrial Revolution. He comments that cyberspace is at risk of data pollution much the same way our environment was endangered by the uncontrolled disposal of factory waste years ago. The organization is in the early stages of engaging educational, business, political, educational and citizen groups in gathering research, formulating policy and initiating practices to evolve universal, data-integrity standards.