Monday, May 7, 2012

Evaluation in a nutshell, Day #9--Searching and Evaluating like a Pro

The bottom line is that students must be taught how to think critically. We have pushed this skill before, but not in the context of the Web. State standards usually include critical thinking, but is their definition broad enough? Do we need to shift the focus from teaching content to teaching skills/performance standards? If content continues to change as rapidly as it is, perhaps a skill is the best option.

So, what skills do 21st century students need to be successful?

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills provides a framework for 21st century learning. The skills include:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
All of these skills are not linked to a particular content. Rather, they prepare students for a society where the power of authorship is at their fingertips, billions and trillions of bits of information fill their learning space, students at all ends of the globe are communicating within common spaces, and where change is just part of the day. 

Being able to effectively evaluate a Website is part of being able to think critically. However, it must be combined with other skills in order to reach the complete 21st century package. So, what does evaluation include?

UCLA provides a handy Web evaluation criteria chart that lists the important factors in any evaluation:
  • Content
  • Source and date
  • Structure
When using any source, it is important to run through each of these factors. 
  • Audience?
  • Purpose?
  • Is it recent?
  • Author?
  • Owner of site?
  • What links to the site?
  • Is it organized?
  • Is advertising permitted?
New Mexico State provides an additional set of criteria:
  • Authority
  • Accuracy
  • Objectivity
  • Currency
  • Coverage
The same five set of criteria is also provided by Cornell University

The Media Awareness Network uses the 5Ws (and H) to showcase Web evaluation:
  • Who is the source?
  • What am I getting?
  • When was it created?
  • Where am I?
  • Why am I there?
  • How can I distinguish quality information from junk?
Together, these criteria make up evaluation in a nutshell. Evaluation and critical thinking are about asking questions. 

Stay tuned for a wrap-up of the best classroom resources for teaching searching and evaluation. Remember, these skills should not be taught as a means to the end, but as their own entity, blended within every content area. 

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