Teachers can evaluate
web sites merely by considering navigation and usability, authorship, content
validity, and student engagement. The following checklist, compiled from
several sources, is a summary of criteria for evaluating web sites. The
more criteria a site meets, the more likely it is to be a valuable resource.
Navigation and usability
First access the site then
navigation issues emerge. A good site must have a well designed homepage
with a labelled table of contents or site map. Sometimes home pages are
so cluttered that it is difficult to know where to start.
Navigation links within the
site need to be easy to find. High- quality sites include search engines
to help you find the location of specific material. Non-functioning links
to other web sites is a sign that a site is not properly maintained.
The first clue to authorship
comes in the Uniform Resource Locator (web address) extension, the part
that comes after the "dot". Does the URL contain com, gov, edu, or org?
Of course, there is much more to authorship than the information found
in a URL extension. Researching the authority of a web site requires careful
examination of the site. High quality sites should enable the user to find
out easily about the persons responsible for the contents of the page.
What is their affiliation? What are the credentials?
Sites should also provide
a way for users to get in touch with the authors, not only to ask questions
but also to verify the legitimacy of the page's sponsor. An email address
for the web administrator is good, but a site should also list a phone
number and postal address.
The most important factor
to consider when evaluating a web site is the content. Accuracy of scientific
and mathematical content is crucial. In addition to looking out for misinformation,
teachers also need to evaluate whether the content is comprehensive or
cursory. Just because a site has exciting graphics does not mean it has
a rich content.
Web sites should be judged
by the same standards we use with other publications. Information should
be supported with bibliographies that identify sources used, both to give
credit to the authors and to provide readers with avenues for further research.
Sites that clearly violate copyright statutes or other laws should not
be linked, listed, or recommended.
Students cannot become engaged
with material they do not understand. The site must get students actively
involved in the learning process; that is critical if they are truly going
to understand science and mathematics concepts. Many sites look like textbooks
and do not use the strengths of web technology. When features are added
such as interactive animation, videos, graphical organisers, concept maps,
or links to related resources, the online material provides much more than
a typical textbook. A good site enriches the student's experience and expands
his or her imagination.
True engagement cannot occur
unless students are encouraged to transfer the mathematical or scientific
knowledge that they learn into an activity.
One of the engaging features
a web site can offer is the opportunity for students to communicate with
scientists or other researchers through the site. Some sites offer other
types of interactive opportunities for students, such as data sharing with
other students. An example of such a site is the Globe, an online environment,
where over 700 schools worldwide work with researchers, teachers and other
students to develop an understanding of the global environment (http://www.globe.gov)
And now for a website that
meets most of the criteria mentioned above: http://www.educate.si.edu
The Smithsonian Institute
of Natural History located in Washington hosts in this site. The lesson
plans section of Smithsonian education on the web is a collection of classroom
ready lessons and activities on topics ranging from ocean ecology to landscape
painting. Smithsonian educational materials emphasise inquiry based learning
with primary sources and museum collections. The site features photographs
and reproductions and guidelines for working with them. Also featured are
step by step instructions for interviews, simulations, role-plays and experiments
that involve students in active learning.
The Hindu, 12 August, 2000