Using the Web
The World Wide Web has extraordinary potential as a research tool. Surfing the Web is fun and exciting for young people. They decide what key words to search with and which addresses to check out. And they experience a sense of adventure and surprise as one site links to another that better suits their needs or takes them on an alternative path to a new destination.
For Internet newcomers, the Web can seem rather daunting. However, with a little basic instruction and some time spent exploring, you and your youth group will quickly begin to reap the benefits. And if you don't have access to a computer network, your public library, local schools, or community center may have computers young people can use.
The World Wide Web helps users find and access information. The Internet and the World Wide Web are in fact different--the Web is a subset of the Internet--but the terms are often used interchangeably. Web sites can include text, graphics, sound, and video, and can refer or "link" to other Internet resources. The following pages include some sample Web sites. Each description includes a Universal Resource Locator (URL) which is simply the Web address.
The information available on the Internet seems limitless, so how do users find the resources they need? One way is to use an online search engine or directory. You simply enter key words or phrases and the search engine provides a list of relevant Internet resources. Three good tools for searching are:
It's important to make your search as specific as possible. For example, if you search for "American history," your search will result in thousands of potential sites. However, if you search for "Underground Railroad" and follow the search engine's instructions for limiting the search, the result will be much more on target.
Not everything you find on the Web will feature accurate information. This point is essential to keep in mind and to tell the young people you work with. Anyone with a bit of computer savvy can set up a Web site on any topic. There are no restrictions on what information can appear on a Web page. So when using the Web as a research tool, users must make sure they evaluate the validity of the information they are uncovering and try to verify facts with other sources. The guidelines (below) provided by a site called "Kidnet" from the University of Texas library system (http://volvo.gslis.utexas.edu/~kidnet/) can be used to develop the analytic skills that users need to make the best use of the Web.
Other Web sites with evaluation tools include "Evaluating Internet Resources:
A Checklist for Students" (http://www.tiac.net/users/winlib/evalstud.htm) and "Hoax? Scholarly Research? Personal Opinion? You Decide!" (http://www.library.ucla.edu/libraries/college/instruct/hoax/evlinfo.htm).
Evaluating Online Information (Source: Kidnet)
How does this new information compare to what you already know?
How does it change what you know?
Who is providing the information?
Where did their information come from?
Do they provide evidence or examples to support their points?
Why do you think they are providing this information?
How old is the information?
Does it include recent information?
How much information is given?
How broad is the topic area?
How in-depth is the information?
In what package is the information being presented?
Is it a WWW or gopher document, a text file, a newsgroup posting, or an e-mail message?
Is it in text, image, and/or sound form?
Is the information clearly presented?
Is it well organized?
Is the site user-friendly?
Have people who you respect (friends, teachers, librarians, or parents, etc.) recommended this site as a good source
How true do you think the information is?
What makes you think so?
Is this important information?
If it is, why is it important?
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