Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How Do Your Students Use Google To Search For Resources?...Please Check! I Did!

So I did a little experiment with my Web 2.0 class yesterday. I wanted to see how they evaluated websites when searching for resources on a topic.  So I simulated a little exercise that I saw Will Richardson do with a Powerful Learning Practices (PLP) group a couple of years ago.

I created a Google form (check it out below) with four options for information on Martin Luther King Jr. and asked the students which one they considered the best to utilize if they needed to find information. Then I asked them to explain why they chose the site that they did.

As I expected a few students chose the third option. Why wouldn't they? It comes up number-two on a Google search and it is a .org site. Here are a couple of the explanations students gave for their selection of the site: 
#1 "It has the most info on the topic because the entire site is about MLK. The other sites are websites that have a lot of info about a lot of diferent topics, and martinlutherking.org was spesifically info on MLK."
#2 "I chose this site because this is an official Martin Luther King Jr. site that has a lot of information. It gives you all the information that you need to know about different important events in his life. This site has different information to cover different topics about MLK which is why it would be one of the better sites to use for research on him."
After a short discussion on how students evaluated websites, it was clear that none of them actually made their selections based on who actually owns a particular site. Some students mentioned that they liked the format of one website as compared to another, which really has no correlation to the validity of a site's information. Others mentioned that they stayed away from Wikipedia because it was unreliable (which is another misconception).

In wrapping up the little exercise I asked the students to go to whois.net and find out who actually owns a particular website.   Here is where the students learned that the second site that comes up in a Google search of Martin Luther King Jr. is owned by a white supremacist group.

So while the internet has changed the way we research and made it much easier to find useful resources, we have some work to do in guiding our students to places where they can find information that is valid and appropriate.


  1. Thanks so much! This will be the perfect intro for a website credibility lesson I need to prepare for a gr 7/8 class tomorrow! I will likely follow it up with this http://calgaryscienceschool.blogspot.com/2009/08/css-podcasts-assessing-website.html

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you very much, Mr. Larkin, for doing the research for our benefits. We appreciate your dedication!!

  3. Thanks for the feedback Jen and Susan. Jen thanks also for the podcast link! Good luck with the lesson!

  4. Thanks very much. This is an issue I've been concerned about when my 3rd grader (now a 9th grader) googled "frogs" for a report and got so many hits and so many different pieces of information about the simplest thing as the "stages of a frogs life". It seems to me that many of the topics you hit on in your web2.0 course really need to be part of some basic orientation that ALL students need in this day and age... can you consider developing some sort of end of summer/beginning of school workshop for high school students based on some of the fundamentals in your web2.0 course? perhaps in conjunction with the public library teen services???