Anyone can create a website for almost any purpose, from sharing family photos to selling computers. Few websites, including those containing educational material, undergo formal review or inspection. Educators using the Internet in developing curricula, therefore, must themselves determine the legitimacy of information presented. To evaluate a website, ask the following questions:
- Who operates the site? Is biographical or background information provided?
- What is the purpose of the site?
- Is the presentation of the topic balanced or biased?
- Who wrote the material? What are the author’s credentials?
- Is the information up-to-date? Has it been revised recently?
- Are additional sources, bibliographical documentation, or links provided?
For more information on evaluating Internet sources, click on the following links:
Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators: Teacher Helpers: Critical Evaluation Information
DiscoverySchool.com hosts this compendium of information on website evaluation specifically for educators, including evaluation forms and a tutorial for students (complete with Spanish translation), links to many articles, and sites to use for demonstrating critical evaluation.
net.TUTOR: Evaluating Web Sites
This page offers a tutorial on evaluating websites. To evaluate a website for classroom use, ask the following questions:
- Is it appropriate for my students?
- Will it hold their attention?
- Does it relate to curriculum standards?
- Will my students be able to navigate within it?
- Does it load quickly?
- Do the links work?
The website http://www.ncsu.edu/midlink/www.eval.html provides a website evaluation form, created specially for teachers, that addresses these and other questions.
Integrating the Internet into Your Curriculum
The Internet, an ever-expanding global resource, has vast potential for use in the classroom. Even if your school is not equipped with Internet access for students, you can integrate the Internet into your curriculum. There are websites containing information on almost any topic you teach—from broad subjects to specific details. The rapidly increasing number of primary materials on the Internet can prove useful in the classroom. For example, in addition to reading the text of a document in a textbook, your students can view the document on the Internet and print out the scanned image. Here are several ways to expand this idea:
- Create a file for printouts from websites you have used. Placing the file in a central location will encourage teachers and students to add to and use it.
- Take your class on virtual field trips via the websites of historic sites, museums, and historical societies. For instance, use printouts from the websites of the historic sites and state parks in your region to supplement your study of North Carolina geography.
- Develop WebQuests—inquiry-oriented projects in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the web—to creatively lead your students to high-quality, relevant websites. (For more information on WebQuests, visit http://quickbase.intuit.com/articles/the-complete-guide-to-creating-web-quests.)
The Internet offers educators a wide array of information, from lesson plans to school administrative policies to state and national curriculum standards. Establish a file for printouts of this kind that teachers can share. Start with the following websites:
- North Carolina Public Schools Infoweb (http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/) contains the North Carolina social studies curriculum matrix, information for teachers, recent legislative reports and assessment results, a calendar of events, and other information.
- The Library of Congress (http://learning.loc.gov/learn/index.html) offers lesson plans, activities, and more that you can adapt for use in your classroom.
Networking with students and teachers is a great way of acquiring information and resources. Through chat rooms and guest books, you can correspond with other educators on a variety of education issues. The following ideas will help you incorporate networking in your classroom:
- Begin an e-mail pal program with a class in another state or country. Have your students create a message and e-mail it to the class. Print the responses and share them with your class. Through this exciting program, your students can learn about different parts of the country and other cultures around the world.
- Contact teachers in other countries through a bulletin board or chat room for educators. Ask questions that relate to your curriculum. For instance, ask about some legendary figures in their country and compare them with legends from the United States. If you receive questions from other teachers, assign your class the task of researching and formulating the responses.
If your class has access to a computer with an Internet connection, create your own web page. The following web pages offer some suggestions on creating your own web page: http://www.thesitewizard.com/gettingstarted/startwebsite.shtml
Use the site to post information about your class or school or to post papers, short stories, and artwork created by students. Assign teams or the whole class the tasks of choosing the subject of the page and creating materials for it.
For more ideas on using the Internet in the classroom, see the following sources:
A program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education, this website offers quality resources for K-12 classroom instruction (including lots of lesson plans) and teacher professional development (including online courses), all tied to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study.
Teachnet.com: Smart Tools for Busy Teachers
This site offers a little of everything for teachers of all grade levels and subjects.
Curriculum Ideas from CyberBee
This page contains examples of how the web can be used in the classroom.