ETL 501. Topic 6. Improving Student’s Web Use.

The Web is a learning tool that differs from other tools used in education because students acquire a great many Web skills within the home context and also regard themselves as skilled Web users. However, virtually all students are able to search mechanically by knowing how to access a search engine and input search terms, but the Web’s size, topicality, accessibility and use of hypertext and non-textual elements means it’s too complicated for users and requires specific skills to negotiate.

Extensive educational research (Herring, 2006) into children’s Web behaviour concluded that students were lacking adequate search strategies and necessary skills for critical evaluation of Web information.  Research results identified the Web as becoming a new educational tool which required TL’s to teach students new skills and strategies on effective and reflective web searching by using Web search, reading and evaluating skills and strategies (Kuiper, Volman & Terwel, 2008). This teaching needed to be integrated into curriculum programs across the whole school, together with an emphasis on information literacy skills.

By using concept maps as a useful technique for students to use before they search the web, what information literacy skills are students learning here?  Information literacy skills students are learning would be:

  • Brainstorming, by identifying the purpose of searching for information and new ideas.
  • Planning, by determining the extent of information needed.
  • Organising, by assessing ease of access to the site, and critically evaluating the usefulness and reliability of the content, and authority of the sources.

Teaching students to develop their own questions before they search the web is a very effective way of improving student’s pre-search planning.  What is the best way to teach students how to develop their own questions?

The best way to teach students how to develop their own questions as a means for identifying a clear purpose for their research, could be as part of collaborative inquiry activities where students are encouraged to identify relevant research for their assignment by working cooperatively with other students within a group context (Herring, 2006).

What other ways can TLs encourage students to develop search strategies?

TL’s can encourage students to develop search strategies by teaching them effective Web searching skills to efficiently locate Web information through the ability to formulate relevant keywords. Specific Web reading skills such as scanning and close reading techniques will enable students to distinguish between valuable or useless information, while Web evaluating skills will develop the student’s ability to critically assess the reliability and authority of Web information with a view to the information needs (Kuiper, Volman & Terwel, 2008).

What are the best ways to teach students to be critical readers, not just users, of websites?

What should we be advising students to look for on websites? E.g. the difference between opinion and evidence based information.

We need to encourage students to use website evaluations in order to establish the websites that are easy to navigate, to read,  are up-to-date, unbiased, evidence based, useful and reliable, and provide relevant information rather than the ‘right answer’! Good websites and sources can be shared with other students via a class or library blog, or personally bookmarked using diigo or delicious tools.

How can we teach our students to be reflective web learners? What should students be asking themselves after they have completed web searches? How can we encourage students to learn from their own searching?

We can teach our students to be reflective web learners by encouraging them to evaluate the strategies and skills they used while searching for their information by asking themselves:

What is my understanding of the information I have found? What could I have done better? Did I only use Google as a search engine or did I utilise other more useful and reliable sources? Was that the best information I could have found and are there better sites or resources I could have utilised to find better quality or more relevant information. Has this information satisfied all criteria and have I presented the information creatively as well as factually? Should I bookmark these sources or share them with other students, or expect to find more updated information in the future? 

References:

Herring, J. (2010) School students, question formulation and issues of transfer: a constructivist grounded analysis. Libri, 60(3) 218-229.

Kuiper, E., Volman, M. and Terwel, J. (2008) Students’ use of Web literacy skills and strategies: searching, reading and evaluating Web information. Information Research, 13(3).

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