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Inquiry Project

Sandra L. Dubridge

Ideas, Predictions and Explanations
 

As a high school student the word research seems like a overwhelming task. Students have a difficult time understanding how to look up reliable information and where to look up reliable information. For my project I wanted to create a student driven rubric that will allow students to quickly and easily determine if a website is reliable.

General Information

As stated in the Bertram Bruce article, Searching the Web: New Domains for Inquiry, students have a vast amount of information they can access on-line. The trick becomes finding information that contains “quality and relevance.” Within the rubric, I also wanted to incorporate the ideas from the Johns Hopkins University article about being biased, staying current, producing reliable credentials and authorship.

Ideas, Predictions and Explanations
 My

project started as a class discussion on the element Iron and its different uses.  We went to the computer lab and I asked the students to look up information on the element Iron and its different uses.  The students had to document the sites they visited and what information they obtained form each site.

Ideas, Predictions and Explanations

I predicted that the majority of the students would go to Google and type in Iron. The students would then get a list of websites and begin their search. I figured Google was a well known, easy to use, site that provided the students with quick access to large amounts of information.

Ideas, Predictions and Explanations
 Within

my group we all made predictions that the students would use Google to get a list of reliable websites to use for their project.

Ideas, Predictions and Explanations
 We

also agreed that many of students would use a reliable website but would unable to identify reasons why it was reliable.

Ideas, Predictions and Explanations

Once the students had looked at many different websites, my overall goal was to create a rubric for evaluating websites to make research easier in the future. I wanted to highlight several main points to help students wade through the muck that can be the internet. This rubric could be used for future science research projects as well as research projects across the curriculum.

Description
 As

the students worked on their project, I figured we would stop periodically and talk about what websites they were looking at and why they were reliable.

Description
 The

problem came as soon as we got to the computer lab. few students used Google or any other search engine for that matter to look up websites that would provide them with information on Iron.

 Very

Description

Instead, the majority of students went to the website Wikipedia as their only source for information. The idea of looking through multiple websites that a search engine provided seemed silly to them. Why take the time to look at so many different sites when all the information they needed was right at their fingertips on Wikipedia.

Student Data
 Please

click here to watch a short video on why my students and even fellow teachers use Wikipedia to gather information.

Student Data

Shown are the three websites that the students claimed to use most often when doing research. In nearly every class Wikipedia was used most frequently to look up research related information. Students claimed that the information on Wikipedia was easier to understand, easier to navigate through, and was indeed reliable.

14 12 10 8 6 4 2 1st Hour 2nd Hour 3rd Hour 4th Hour 0 Google Yahoo Wikipedia

Student Data

Many students claimed that Wikipedia was easy to use. I think the Bruce article on New Domains explains why students use a website such as Wikipedia. The size of the web can be very overwhelming and the sheer volume of information can be frustrating. By going to a website they are familiar with, they do not need to spend time looking at hundreds of websites.

Student Data
 The

whole idea of using Wikipedia directly conflicted with my goal to create a rubric for identifying reliable websites. may provide a lot of information but reliability goes out the window!

 Wikipedia

Student Data

At this point I seemed to be so far from my original goal of creating a rubric for reliable sources. I was totally shocked by the outcome of my project. All this time and effort and the only real thing I had to show for it was the fact that students and teachers have gone unchecked using Wikipedia for everything they do!

One student even said, “If its not on Wikipedia its probably not worth looking up.” -Kayla Anderson

Emergent Ideas
 Although

I was frustrated, we sat down the next day and I was determined to create my rubric and make the students more aware of how to search for information.
I also reread the Johns Hopkins University article on Evaluating Information Found on the Internet, to make sure and include similar criteria for my classroom discussion.

Emergent Ideas
I

started by opening Wikipedia and searching for the element Iron.  I demonstrated to the students how easy it is to change any piece of information simply by editing the page to make it say whatever I wanted it to say.  We then discussed why Wikipedia was not reliable and that there were better websites available.

Emergent Ideas

As a group we used the digital projector to find a website that was reliable, such as the American Chemical Society website, and looked up information about the element Iron. We discussed several reasons why the it was reliable and using the American Chemical Society website the students brainstormed ways to check and see if other websites were reliable.

Emergent Ideas
I

have learned that by having the students generate the ideas they have ownership over the process and a much higher level of commitment. reviewing the American Chemical Society website the students generated a list of requirements for a website to be considered reliable.

 After

Emergent Ideas
Characteristics of Reliable Websites:
(Created by St. Louis High School Chemistry Students) 3. You should be able to find where the website comes from. 4. There should be an author for the website. 5. The author should have available contact information. 6. The websites usually produce better information when they end in .org, .edu or .gov 7. There should be information on when the website was last updated. 8. The information should not favor one side or the other.

Emergent Ideas
 We

then looked at websites that helped explain if a website was reliable or not. The students even found templates used to evaluate websites.  Some of the websites included:
American Library Association Cornell University Library UC Berkeley - Teaching Library Internet Workshops

Emergent Ideas

Using the criteria that the students generated and actually understand, I am hoping we can continue to produce quality “research” and incorporate reliable websites into our assignments. I would like to continue this process in my classroom for the next couple of weeks and have the students create an actual “website reliability” worksheet that we can be used for the rest of the year.