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Webinar Recap: Evaluating Resources and Publishing Student Work

Students are often cast on to a desert island of research and asked to find the resources they need to help them find their way back to civilization. They may have received little or no instruction in how to tell if a resource is reliable, which can often make the process of research a bewildering and sometimes frustrating endeavor. As teachers, we need to help our students in evaluating resources, make them aware of what constitutes a reliable source of information, and alert them to the pitfalls.

In Thursday’s webinar, I put forward four questions we can have students ask themselves when they begin to evaluate a web resource:
“Why was this site created?”
“Who’s paying for this?”
“Why does the site look like this?”
and “Can the same information be found elsewhere?”

These questions begin to establish the motivation of the site’s creators, what message they are trying to convey, and the all important piece that student’s often struggle with: can the information be verified?

We discussed some pointers that students can use to gauge the reliability of a resource, which included authority, bias, design, transparency and currency. The feelings of the participants in the webinar was that there is no one pointer toward reliability, especially not domain names, which are often regarded as a guarantee of trust.

Students can use citation generators to help them establish the credibility of a resource. By filling in reference, students have to be able to identify certain information from a site that helps them critique it more thoroughly. Two citation generators available online: Easybib and Son of Citation Machine.

Using a social bookmarking site can give  a student a quick glimpse at how many people have at least looked at a site, and why that may be useful site to peruse. Delicious and Diigo are two such social bookmarking sites.

Some further website evaluation tools to take a peek at:

USM Library Website Evaluation Checklist

C-TEC Website Evaluation Form
Kathy Schrock’s ABCs of Website Evaluation (dated, but still a great guide)

In the webinar we also discussed the publishing of student work, really the end result of conducting and organizing research for a student. There are many benefits for publishing to the student, such as raising confidence in writing for an audience and the ability to receive feedback from someone other than a teacher. Many of these points have been covered in previous webinars by my colleague’s Barbara Greenstone and Phil Brookhouse: please check out their work if you haven’t yet done so.

There are many paces in which students can get their work into a wider audience:
Using blogs is an interesting method of creating an ongoing discussion and feedback. One place that caters to student blogs is Edublogs.
A wiki can be created so that only members can critique a piece of work, which can be of benefit when considering the age and maturity of a student. Wikispaces works well in this aspect.
There are dedicated sites to publishing student work, many can be found with a websearch Teen Ink is one such space.
Student wok can also be published in non-traditional, text-based format. Google Earth Community is a space for publishing files created in Google Earth, and can be a fun format for students to focus their research findings. Podcasts can be created and published on Podbean, for the delight of the world. And our old friend YouTube is a reliable space to host video.

I’m also making an impassioned plea not to do away with the school magazine! Many schools have a goal to be paperless, however I believe this is one bit of paper we should keep out of the trash. The school magazine can hold many pieces of student work, is easily distributed amongst peers and has a sentimental value that can last many years. I myself still have copies of my old school magazine, and do not plan on getting rid of them. With the publishing and productivity tools available on the MLTI devices, professional and attractive looking magazines are straightforward and achievable.

Be sure to watch a recording of the webinar – click on the tab marked ‘Webcasts’ above, then ‘Archives’, and locate the June 17th 2010 recording.

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