With education budgets being slashed across the state, parents and educators at every level are under even more pressure to provide Georgia students with a quality education despite having access to fewer resources. In response to these shrinking county budgets and job cutbacks, parents and educators often turn to the Internet to search for free resources to enhance the learning experience in classrooms during the school year and in summer camps or in the home during the summer break. Even though their students are on vacation, educators use the summer break to review their curriculum units and to update their lesson plans. Parents look for ways to get their kids to exercise their brains when they would rather be watching television or swimming in the local pool.
Education websites have popped up all over the Internet and it takes a savvy searcher to sift through the many websites that offer either high or low quality curriculum material. A simple Internet search will return thousands of Web page hits. Educators and parents can ask the following questions to help narrow their search results.
- Who wrote or published the Web page content? Do they have any contact information listed somewhere on the website? Look for websites written or published by university education departments, museums, education foundations, government entities, public broadcast stations or well-established professional journals and textbook publishing companies.
- Has the Web page been recently updated? Many Web pages will indicate the date that it was last updated towards the bottom of the Web page. If it has been some time since the Web page was last updated, the information it offers may be no longer be accurate.
- Who is going to be using the Web page? Vocabulary, images and content that are appropriate for an adult or a teen may not be appropriate for a younger child.
- How will the Web page and its content be used? Will the user be working at home or at a school or camp? Will the student be alone at a work station/home computer or will he/she be working in a computer lab along with the rest of the class, (Kapoun, Jim. "Five criteria for evaluating Web pages." Olin & Uris Libraries: Ask a Librarian. Cornell University, July/August 1998. Web. 7 Jun 2011. <http://olinuris.library.cornell.edu/ref/research/webcrit.html>)?
If a parent or an educator is still not sure about the quality of a particular website, he/she can always consult a school media specialist or public librarian. Public and university libraries provide library card holders with access to online education databases, eBooks and professional journals along with print books and curriculum guides. Depending on staff availability, card holders may call in advance or attend computer classes at their local library to learn how to access resources online.
For additional information on how to evaluate a website, contact the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System’s “Ask A Librarian” virtual reference service. Information about individual websites may be found in upcoming articles.