Evaluating website evaluation criteria…

I have been reading about different methods for evaluating websites as useful sources of information for my first uni assignment this semester. It is my opinion that for a criteria to be an effective tool for students and teachers to use it must be easy to remember, age appropriate and have a pedagogical application (ie be able to be used in a secondary education context)

In general, what I have discovered is that most of the scholarly papers on the subject do not take into account the needs of children in their criteria and that their criterion require children to have a background knowledge of the topic they are researching to be able to recognise the reliability of the information. My response to that is- children may be finding out information on a topic for the very first time- how are they supposed to have background information?

Students can be provided with basic background information through quality teaching and quality marking criteria but if the student is encountering the topic for the first time- their background information will be limited.

Evaluating the Readings…

In all my reading, Robert Harris is consistently referred to and cited as an authority on Website evaluation criterion. Harris (2010) developed the criteria known as the CARS Checklist

Credibility- is the author an expert in the field? What are their credentials? What sort of organisation is hosting the site?

Accuracy- How recent is the information? ” event though a very credible writer said something was correct twenty years ago, it may not be correct today.” (paragraph 24)

Reasonableness- “examining the information for fairness, objectivity, moderateness, and consistency.” (paragraph 32)

Support- Is the same information found on other sites? Are there links to other credible sites of information? Has documentation been supplied to verify the information?

Evaluation of CARS for secondary educational use– CARS is very much a tertiary education evaluation tool as it requires users to have an understanding of the meaning of different kinds of credentials in order to make an informed judgement of the accuracy of the website. Harris (2010) did discuss the value of pre- evaluation of the reasons why the user needs to do web searching. Harris (2010) said “Take a minute to ask yourself what exactly are you looking for. Do you want facts, opinions, reasoned arguments, statistics, narratives, eyewitness reports, descriptions?” (paragraph 4) the CARS criteria is tool is not appropriate for most levels of secondary education but the pre evaluation step has value in the secondary classroom as it requires the student to stop and reflect before diving head first into the ocean of the Internet.

SPIDER- A strategy for Evaluating Websites

Johnson’s (2011) criteria for evaluating websites agrees with my original statement that website evaluation criterion need to be a simple strategy. His criteria is based on the acronym SPIDER.

Source- Who is the author of the information

Purpose- why was this website created for the world to see?

Information- is the information current

Domain- what type of website is the source?

Educational: is this information appropriate for the task and the ability of the students. This particular criteria is of use to teachers planning research tasks so that they have a criteria to evaluate the suitability of the site. Herring (2011) agrees with a need for this kind of criteria.

Reliability: is the same information available on other sites?

Evaluation of SPIDER for secondary educational use- This acronym is a useful mnemonic to remembering the steps in the process for students. It has incorporated a step for evaluating a website from a pedagogical viewpoint. I think it might be a useful strategy for my assignment.

The Good, the bad & the ugly- strategy for Evaluating Websites

Beck’s  Evaluation Criteria from “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: or, Why It’s a Good Idea to Evaluate Web Sources”. Beck’s (2009) criteria is based on 5 parts of Authority, Accuracy, Objectivity, Currency and Coverage. Like Harris (2010) this criteria is designed for use in a tertiary education context but the guiding questions of this model are succinct and expressed in terms that secondary students could understand with some support from the teacher. This particular criteria would work in a secondary context if the guiding questions were used in conjunction with a model such as SPIDER to develop student’s critical evaluation skills and deepen their knowledge.

The criteria developed by Beck (2009) also provides a number of websites in which to practise applying the criteria to. This would be a useful way of training staff and students in using a website evaluation criteria once one is developed for my particular school.

A purpose designed, Secondary School criteria for Evaluating Websites

My reading of  Johnson and Lamb (2007) has brought me to a website evaluation criteria that is designed for the secondary school environment. Designed by the University of California, Berkeley, this set of criteria has a one page checklist that focuses on guiding the students through a simple series of higher order thinking questions. It even comes with a 1 page pdf checklist for students to use.

The criteria is broken down into the following steps

Looking at the URL- what type of site is it?

Establishing the credentials of the author

What do other people say about the page

Purpose of the site?

The language used in the Berkeley (2011) criteria guide sheet is suitable for high school students with minor scaffolding required by the teacher and it also explains how to use tools like Google to perform checks using directories and meta-data. I think I am going to use this criteria to evaluate the websites set for the assignment.


Beck, S. E. (2009, April 27). Evaluation Criteria from “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: or, Why It’s a Good Idea to Evaluate Web Sources”. New Mexico State University Library. Retrieved July 16, 2011, from http://lib.nmsu.edu/instruction/evalcrit.html

Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask. (2011, May 25). The Library-University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved July 17, 2011, from http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib

Harris, R. (2010, November 22). Evaluating Internet Research Sources. Retrieved from http://www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm

Herring, J. E. (2011). Improving students’ web use and information literacy: a guide for teachers and teacher librarians. London: Facet.

Johnson, L., & Lamb, A. (2007). Evaluating Internet Resources. eduScapes: A Site for Life-long Learners. Retrieved July 17, 2011, from http://eduscapes.com/tap/topic32 

Johnson, T. (2011). S.P.I.D.E.R. A Strategy for Evaluating Websites. Library Media Connection, 29(6), 58-59. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Web Page Evaluation Checklist. (2011, May 25). The Library-University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved July 17, 2011, from http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/EvalForm_General.pdf

Two viewpoints on using criteria to evaluate websites…


This is the textbook for this semester. I like how practical it is.
This is the textbook for this semester. I like how practical it is.

My first assignment for this semester is a critical evaluation of 2 website evaluation criterion and how effective they are when applied to 4 websites related to a topic in the curriculum.

My textbook (pictured left) by James Herring (2011) outlines 2 different criteria for evaluating the usefulness of websites. The first criteria is by Kathy Schrock which breaks down the criteria into the 5 W’s of Website Evaluation (2009)

Who: Who wrote the pages and are they an expert?

What: What does the author say is the purpose of the site?

When: When was the site created? When was it last updated?

Where Where does this information come from?

Why: Why is this information useful for my purpose? (p.38)

Schrock’s criteria is easy to remember for both teachers and students as it is a mnemonic used regularly in both English and History curriculum.

Herring also provides his criteria for evaluating websites. The criteria is different to Schrock’s in that it is not designed for use by students rather by teachers preparing lessons and research tasks. Herring’s criteria for evaluating websites is

Educational Criteria: Is this site useful for this group of students, with this range of reading levels, studying this particular topic? (p.39)

Reliability Criteria: There are 3 main criteria for validating information: reliability, accuracy and currency. (p.41)

Technical Criteria:The quality and value of a site should not be exclusively judged on its design unless it is too slow to load or the links are broken. Does the site meet the needs of students with specific learning needs eg interfacing with a screen reader? (p.42-44)


Herring, J. E. (2011). Improving students’ web use and information literacy: a guide for teachers and teacher librarians. London: Facet.

Schrock, K (2009) The 5 Ws of Website Evaluation, http://kathyschrock.net/abceval/5ws.pdf

Reflecting on the role of the Teacher Librarian

Purcell (2010) and Williams (2011) made the excellent point that the classroom teachers of today don’t really know what a Teacher Librarian does. As a former classroom teacher and subject specialist, I didn’t truly understand or appreciate the role a Teacher Librarian plays within a secondary school when I decided to retrain. All I saw of the role of the Teacher Librarian was a teacher who borrowed books out, returned books in, helped students to find books and information for an assignment and showed me how to use the Library photocopier/ printer. I also had no idea that the Teacher Librarian was available to collaborate with me to develop my lessons and incorporate information literacy skills.

 I now have a better idea of what a Teacher Librarian is, Purcell (2010) described the role as leader, program administrator, information specialist, instructional partner and teacher but I would also add from my own experience, the roles of interior designer, technology designer and help desk, functions manager, and recreational activities facilitator to name just a few. In order to highlight these roles to the whole school community, Williams (2011) described in an online forum comment that a 21st century Teacher Librarian must be “active in self promotion of him/herself as well as the library”.

 The area that has most shaped my expanded view of the role of the TL in my school has been using the power of evidence based practice and collaboration with the community of schools that my school is part of, to affect change in the schools’ learning goals (Todd , 2002). I had no idea that a Teacher Librarian could make such a large impact not only in one school but through collaboration the impact would be felt in three schools. Our community of schools identified the need to develop a common metalanguage and iconography of information literacy across the primary school and the high school to help with the transition of information literacy skills from primary school to high school. It was my role as the Teacher Librarian to develop the common iconography and resources for use in both the Primary schools and the high school.

 Another demanding aspect to my role of Teacher Librarian in a combined selective/ comprehensive school has been the process of challenging the assumptions of teachers regarding the role that information literacy plays in the whole school not just half of the school. The assumption is that these students, because they have been identified as ‘gifted’ already know the information literacy process. Dr Liz Lamb, in an article on Information Literacy and Gifted Students (2003) discussed whether the explicit teaching of the NSW model of Information Literacy had a positive impact on the education of gifted students. The result of that research showed that the gifted student’s ability to analyse their task, use a broader range of sources as well as evaluating the information they were using all improved after explicit and extended instruction in information literacy skills. To this end, the common resources I developed for the information literacy program all have higher order thinking questions built in to challenge the gifted and talented students as well as the comprehensive students of my school. 

 Purcell (2010) described the role of the Teacher Librarian/ Media Specialist as “constantly changing and they must be able to accept new tasks in order to perform their duties successfully” nothing makes this clearer than as summed up by Wundersitz (2011). As described by Wundersitz, today’s definition of the role of the Teacher Librarian is a photograph of how our libraries meet the needs of our learning community and our role in our schools today, but the role the Teacher Librarian and the school library will be completely different within a few years’ time as the way information is processed and accessed, the role technology will play in everyday small tasks and the way that pedagogy are all in a constant state of evolution. If the Teacher Librarian does not adapt to this evolution, then the role of the Teacher Librarian plays now will become irrelevant and extinct.

So- what do I do now? My first step is to lead the teaching staff of my school through professional learning on the role of the Teacher Librarian so that they know what the role of Teacher Librarian means. I need to demonstrate to the teaching staff that “Teacher Librarians have a vital role in helping teachers find their way through the rich and complex online environment and meeting students’ information needs” (Karen Bonanno quoted in Australian Educator 2011 p. 25). My second step is to work with the Teacher Mentor and the practicum coordinator so that there are ongoing sessions for new staff, early career teachers and practicum teachers (Southern Cross University Library, 2011) on what is a Teacher Librarian and developing ongoing professional learning on integrating Information Literacy into the curriculum.


Lamb, L. (2003). Information Literacy and Gifted Students. Scan, 22(2), 29-34. Retrieved from: http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/fullText;dn=127444;res=AEIPT

Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection 29(3), 30-33. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Rance, C. (2011). Brought to Book. Australian Educator, Autumn(69), 24-25.

Southern Cross University Library (Producer). (2011). How all public libraries can help you [YouTube]. Australia: Independent Productions. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HY1Z8ukzkzM&feature=player_profilepage

Todd, R. (2002). Evidence based practice II: getting into the action. Scan, 21(2). Retrieved from

Williams, J. (2011, March 9). My ever-changing thoughts on the role of a TL [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum&task=frameset

Wundersitz, E. (2011, March 8). Initial thoughts on Purcell reading [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from http: http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum&task=frameset

What is Digital Literacy?

I am currently working on a project to foster Information Skills and Digital Literacy among students in my school. Looking at the data gathered from surveying my colleagues and students, the project needs to explicitly train teachers in Digital Literacy but what is it?

According to Wikipedia: “Digital literacy is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and create information using digital technology. It involves a working knowledge of current high-technology, and an understanding of how it can be used. …”
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_literacy accessed on 22/12/2010

So… now that I have a definition I need to plan tools to help train teachers to do each of those things as well as organise worksheets or lesson tools that could be adapted to any faculty area and any year group- simple right?


Miss H

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