The breadth and depth of Internet content seem to grow each day, making it ever more difficult to find reliable and accurate sources of information.
Teachers, students, and parents should thoroughly understand how to classify and get the most from the pages they may visit.
Below is just one checklist Web trollers could use. Based on Yahooligan.com's "Four A" principle (accessible, accurate, appropriate, and appealing), it's supplemented with additional guidance from Jacqueline Hess of the Academy for Educational Development, and Peter Weinstein of Escore.com, a site that develops customized services for parents to help their children.
- How fast does the site load?
- Is it easy to navigate?
- Are the sections and pages logically organized?
- Do all the links within a site work?
- Do you have a back-up site in mind if the first choice site is unavailable?
- Are there appropriate links to related sites and information sources?
- Does the Web site make it easy for users to send inquiries or comments to the site manager?
- Are browser requirements and/or necessary "plug-ins" clearly explained?
- Who is the source of the information? Remember, anyone can build a site.
- Is it clear who is responsible for the accuracy of the site's information?
- Do you recognize the name of the organization or institute?
- What is the nature of the site: .edu, .gov, .com, .org? In other words, is it a government site, for example, or a commercial site?
- Does the site provide the author's institutional affiliation, position, and contact information?
- Is this organization or author trying to sway you in any way? If so, why?
- Are the sources of information cited and documented properly? Is the information verifiable?
- Have they given you enough information to make any kind of informed decision about a topic?
- Has the site made an effort to show all sides of a controversial issue or event?
- How often is information on the site updated? When was it last updated?
- Are all data and graphs labeled with appropriate dates?
- Is the site appropriate for the intended audience?
- Can you understand the site?
- Are the words too easy or too hard to understand?
- Is the site colorful and inviting?
- Does the site design enhance the delivery of the information, or make it more difficult to find what you need?
- Is it easy to read and understand?
- Stick to Web sites that have proven usefulness and reliability.
- Use the bookmark feature to collect and organize good information sites.
- Adults should try to be good models of critical thinking and surfing behavior, and they should make a point of sitting down at the computer and surfing along with children.
- Talk through what you see as you move though a Web site.
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