You can't always trust what you read on the web, so how can you tell a good homework site?
As a parent you will have the opportunity to get involved in your child's homework and assignments which will sometimes mean helping track down good information online.
Sorting fact from fiction
With so much information on the web kids need to look out for:
- bias and hidden agendas
- factual errors
- outdated information
- information which is country-specific
- commercially-motivated information.
Start with My Library
My Library is a NSW public schools' tool your child can access from any computer, via the NSW education department's portal. It's a comprehensive catalogue of all available library resources, including books, videos and websites, which have been carefully selected by NSW teacher librarians, teachers and curriculum advisers.
My Library has links to information about identifying credible online sources and how to properly credit expert opinions quoted in assignments. It contains a QUICK (Quality Information Checklist) guide - found in the Links4Learning section - to finding good information on the internet. The checklist questions are:
- Is it clear who has written the information?
Research the author to get a better picture of whether they are a recognised expert and what their motivation is for creating the information. Anyone can buy a .com, .com.au, or .net web address but organisations need to meet certain criteria to be granted an .edu domain name.
- Are the aims of the site clear?
Credible sites will be open about their aims and who they are speaking to.
- Does the site achieve its aims?
If not keep searching.
- Is the site relevant to me?
The international nature of the internet means you could find great information that may be incorrect for Australian use. To help filter out irrelevant sites use the Australian versions (.au) of search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, and select Australian pages.
- Can the information be checked?
If an article refers to expert quotes or research it should contain references or be linked to the original source so you can click on it and read it yourself. Failing that copy and paste the quote, the expert's name or the name of the study into your search engine and see if you can verify it.
- When was the site produced?
The web, in theory, should always be more up-to-date than books because it can be changed instantly but that's not always the case. Look for anything on the site that has a date - a blog, a news story or reference to an event to determine how current this information is.
- Is the information biased in any way?
Does the information address conflicting evidence or opinions? Is there a political or commercial motive behind the information? What other links are provided? Is the information and opinions expressed supported by links to expert evidence?
- Does the site tell you about the choices open to you?
There's a difference between a site that provides information and one that tries to give you advice. On most issues there are alternative opinions and credible resources acknowledge these.
NSW public school teacher-librarians and class teachers will help your child develop their information skills online in the library and classroom.