The New Digital Dilemma: Fact or Fiction?

5 Essential Tips for Evaluating Websites

Advertisements

by: Ufuk Yağcı

According to Internet Live Stats, there are over 1 billion websites on the World Wide Web today. With current tools, almost anyone can create a website. Website owners can write, print or publish anything they would like without worrying about the consequences. With the massive information that we are interacting with each day, it is a daunting task to determine what is credible. Here are five quick tips for evaluating websites.

1. Check the Web Address

The first thing you should do is look at the web address for determining credibility. Each web address has a three letter suffix. The suffix “com”, for example, represents commercial companies and does not guarantee the reliability of the website. The following suffixes are more reliable web addresses.

gov or mil Governments and military.
org Primarily used by non-profit groups.
edu or ac Accredited higher education schools.
sch or k12 Accredited K-12 schools.


Is this a personal page?

Even if the web address has one the suffixes listed above, you should also check if it is a personal page. You can check for the personal sites by looking at a personal name (e.g., jwarner or warner) following a tilde (~),  percent sign (%) or the words “users”, “members” or “people”. Personal pages are not necessarily bad, but there is a need to investigate the author carefully.

Is it published by an entity that makes sense?

If it is not a web address with the above reliable suffixes, please check if you have heard of this entity before. For example “www.nytimes.com” is a recognizable news site.

2. Check the Authors

Find out, who the author is. You can find information on the author by looking for information under “About us” or “Philosophy” or “Background” or “Biography”. Try to answer the following questions:

  • Who wrote the pages?
  • What are the author’s credentials on the subject?
  • What else has the author written?
  • Does the author represent a certain political, cultural or social group, organization?

3. Check the Dates

It is important that the information that you are accessing is up-to-date. Please analyze the website and try to answer the following questions:

  • Look for the date “last updated”. This information is usually at the bottom of the web page.
  • If this is a publication, check when it was first published. This information is uually at the top of the page.

If you cannot find the date of a website, do a right click and click on ‘inspect’ or find ‘properties’ to check the date.

4. Check the Purpose and Accuracy

Knowing the motive behind the website’s creation can help you judge on the reliability of the content and whether the information provided has been altered or manipulated in some way to change the meaning.  You can check the “about” link or look at the disclaimers to find information about the purpose of the website.

Ask the following questions:

Why was the page put on the web? Try to understand the agenda and analyze the website taking into consideration the following questions:

Was the page put to inform or give facts? Is it an educational resource? Was the information put to explain, to persuade something? Is there an economic value to this site, are they trying to sell something? Does this website fill any other personal, professional or social needs?

For example, if the purpose of the website is to persuade, then you should examine the material very closely before accepting it for a fact.

Can this be ironic? Satire or parody? Think about the “tone” of the page. Is it humorous or is it a parody? Is it exaggerated? Are there outrageous photographs or unlikely images? snopes.comis a website that collects urban legends and Internet rumors. You can best use this site as a reference for validating photos.

Is the information fact or opinion? Did they cite their sources? Check some of the references.

Crosscheck information with at least two other sites. Can you find the similar information in other reliable sources?

Are there any reviews about this publication or website? Other evaluations can help you determine the credibility of the information.

What is the intended audience? Who is the website address for?

5. Check Relevance & Context

Even if the information on the website is trustworthy, you still need to check if it is relevant to your needs. Try to understand the relevance by asking the following questions:

How is the information relevant to your research? The website may be cool, but is the content appropriate for your research needs?

Are the time period and geographic region relevant to your research?

The readability of the website plays an important role for context. If your content is too small or pale and it is not possible to read them well, then there’s no way for your message to get across.

Here are some questions to run your website content through to evaluate its quality:

Check general format and outlook

  • Are the fonts readable?
  • Are there spelling errors? Spelling and grammar mistakes probably mean that the web page is not trustworthy.
  • Are there photos that are big or out of proportion?
  • Does the website look professional?

Check consistency

  • Do all the links work?
  • If there are links to other pages as sources, are they reliable sources?
  • Are the links well chosen, well organized?
  • Do links represent other viewpoints?
  • Is this site good for some things and not good for other?

Conclusion

If you still have some doubts, trust your instincts and make further inquiries. If something does not look right, it probably is not. If you are still having second thoughts on the validity of the website, please go back and revisit the questions listed above.


Additional Reading

Purdue Online Writing Lab: Evaluating Sources: Overview

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything: Critical Evaluation of Information


References

Branham, C. (1997, March 27). Evaluating web pages for relevance. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.slu.edu/colleges/AS/ENG/cai/research/page01.html

Harvard guide to using sources. (2017). Evaluating Resources. Retrieved from http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k70847&pageid=icb.page346375

Quackit. (2017). Country domain extensions. Retrieved from http://www.quackit.com/domain-names/country_domain_extensions.cfm

Quackit. (2017). Domain name extension definitions. Retrieved from http://www.quackit.com/domain-names/domain_name_extension_definitions.cfm

SEQ Legal. (2017).Website Disclaimer. Retrieved from http://www.seqlegal.com/free-legal-documents/website-disclaimer

How Technology and Activity Can Keep You from Technology and Inactivity

You’ve heard all the studies that suggest technology makes you lazy and dumb. What you don’t hear is how to use technology to promote activity both in the mind and body.

I won’t deny that my increased use of technology has at one point, increased my level of inactivity. I was usually on the couch doing my school work or checking my social media accounts instead of going for a walk in the neighbourhood or riding my bike on a nearby bike trail. My new wallet is now my iPhone. Besides having my contact list on there, I also have there, my rewards cards, my GPS app – Waze to get me around and my easy access to all accounts that require a password. Why do I need to remember anything?

Technology has simplified our lives to the point that it can have a negative impact on our health and mind. Our 21st century digital age is not the first time this problem has occurred.  It was first discussed when our society made the shift from the Agrarian society to the Industrial Age. Taking the elevator instead of climbing the stairs or driving your car to the local grocery store instead of riding your bike with the grocery basket on the handlebars. We have always made the adjustment in our activity level with the advancement of technology. The digital age is no different. I will introduce some methods of how the use of technology can help you maintain or even increase your activity level.  We will look at the uses of your laptop and your smartphone.

Laptop Use and Activity Level

It is not always necessary to be sitting at a desk or lying down on your couch working on your laptop. When working on your laptop, set a timer on your PC, to allow you to get up and walk around or stretch every 30 minutes. In my classroom, I have an activity website www.gonoodle.com that I have the kids watch and do the activities for 5 minutes midway through their period of French class. You can also use this site at home while working in your room.  This can result in noticeable health gains such as increased circulation and energy. If you are required to spend long periods of time on a computer, it’s essential to create a schedule on your PC to remind you of when to take breaks. There is also a web-based tool, Workout Timer which you can download from the Chrome web store. Active Video Games (AVG) can provide users with the opportunity to practice skills and increase physical competence (Martin et al, 2015)

Smartphone Use and Activity Level

The use of smartphones for messaging, blogging and taking pictures can also be extended to promoting an active lifestyle. If you are a person who always has your smartphone attached to you, you can download many apps that can measure and track your fitness level. Pacer is an app that can help you maintain or increase your activity level through walking, running, or cycling. It can help build healthy eating habits and lose weight. You can find a list of recommended pedometer apps fitness apps, and running apps that can suit your lifestyle. The ability to know your activity level using a device can help motivate you to maintain an active lifestyle.

There is always hope of maintaining an active lifestyle, even with everyone being connected. What we, as a generation, need to do is to know how to use the technology to be creative in managing and maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle. Blaming technology for an inactive lifestyle is not the route to take.

Furthur Readings

Technology and Sitting Too Much

Technology and Neck Strain

Are Wearables, Trackers, and Apps the Answer to our Inactivity Crisis?

References

Martin, N.J. ;Ameluxen-Coleman, E. J.;Heinrichs, D. M., Innovative Ways to Use Modern Technology to Enhance, Rather than Hinder, Physical Activity among YouthJournal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance; Apr 2015; 86, 4; ERIC pg. 46

I Don’t Feel You: Is Technology Diminishing Empathy?

While technology has enriched many aspects of our lives, it also has some drawbacks. Research shows that one of the negative impacts is a diminishing of empathy.

By Daraius M. Bharucha

Introduction

While there are numerous benefits to using technology in everyday life and in the educational sphere, there are also some drawbacks and negative outcomes. One of the negative outcomes identified is the lack of social-emotional development among children and adolescents, and in particular, the lack of development of empathy, i.e. the ability to share someone else’s feeling.

Framing the challenge

There are many studies emerging that pay attention to the impact of technology on the developing brain and on social-emotional development. Much of that research suggests that there is a decline in the social-emotional skills of children and adolescents due to spending less time in face-to-face interactions and more time on technologically facilitated interactions. In a recent study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles on sixth-graders at one school, found that students who went five days without even glancing at a screen or using technological devices of any kind did substantially better at reading human emotions in facial cues than their peers at the same school who continued to spend hours a day looking at their electronic devices.

In the United Kingdom, a report in The Telegraph newspaper, citing statics from the Office for National Statistics, stated that children using technology for more than four hours a day do not have the same sense of social-emotional wellbeing as those that used technology for less than an hour a day. The report also adds that there is a strong possibility that less physical contact and direct interaction might impair children’s ability to develop social-emotional skills.

Small and Vorgan (2011) in discussing the impact of technology on empathy state that adolescents brains have become “wired” to use their tech gadgets due to a continuous use of technology, often exposing their brains to shocking and sensational images and videos. This is desensitizing their neural circuits to the horrors they see, while not getting much, if any, off-line training in empathic skills.

Addressing the challenge

As parents and educators, it is important that we are cognizant of the pitfalls and dangers of the negative impact of the use of technology on the social-emotional wellbeing of our children and our students.

DeLoatch (2015) advocates some common sense steps to follow in order to mitigate the negative impacts of technology. She recommends that parents and teachers should monitor the use of technology, teach responsible usage, be familiar with the technology being used by children and students, use classroom technology intentionally, and offer alternatives to technology in the classroom.

Steiner-Adair (2015) recommends that it is essential that we balance increased use of technology with stronger programs in social-emotional learning. She suggests that schools can reboot advisory systems, core curriculum, faculty training, and parent education. Schools should also regularly assess with all constituents the progress of technology integration, looking particularly to see if the technology is undermining school culture and, if so, find ways to strengthen school spirit.

Finally, Bonnette (2014) suggests using the technology itself to address the challenge by ensuring that adolescents and children are exposed to “empathy development” video games that put the player through virtual situations and challenges that build social-emotional capacity.

Resources

Is Technology Destroying Empathy?

What, Me Care? Young Are Less Empathetic

What to Do If Your Child Is a Bully

References

Bonnette, R. (2014). Rethinking Technology’s Impact on Empathy. Retrieved from http://www.luc.edu/media/lucedu/law/centers/childlaw/childed/pdfs/2014studentpapers/Bonnette.pdf

DeLoatch, P. (2015, May). The Four Negative Sides of Technology. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/the-4-negative-side-effects-of-technology/

Small, G., & Vorgan, G. (2011, February 18). Is the internet killing empathy? Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/02/18/small.vorgan.internet.empathy/

Steiner-Adair, C. (2015, December). The Big Disconnect: Your Student in Class vs. YourStudent Online. Retrieved from http://www.nais.org/Magazines-Newsletters/ISMagazine/Pages/Issues/The-Digital-Debate.aspx

The Dark Side of Internet Use: Addiction

Amazing things are connected to Internet use but what happens if it overtakes your life?

Internet addiction is the loss of control over internet use which can have negative outcomes if not maintained, treated and monitored (Ko et al., 2014, Quinn & Oldmeadow, 2013).

One Last Time, I Swear

Do you always feel the need to be connected?  Constant email checking is a form of addition.  First, think when you check your email.  You are probably looking for mail in your inbox (something to do with work and or a personal message). Possibly you need to create a message or response?  I agree in many ways email communication is convenient and useful, however, by checking your email you are ultimately looking for an award without realizing it.  Many connections have made with email addiction and Operant Conditioning. You may check your email five times a day or a hundred times a day and even though you may not have an email in your box you are unconsciously looking for that reward.  Furthermore, research suggests that email addiction can be related to signs of a Workaholic.

Level Up

Do you know someone who you have to ask multiple times to stop playing their online game on their Ipad, tablet, system, computer, etc. ? Do you question if you or someone you know might be addicted to online gaming? Internet gaming takes on many forms from online gambling to online bidding, and interactive virtual multiplayer games.  With the availability of internet use worldwide multiplayer gaming has gained its popularity.  However, a multiplayer online game with motivation users has experienced an increase of addiction behaviors (Kuss et al., 2012).  Check out this Quiz to see if you have some of the signs and symptoms of gaming addiction.

I Have 100 Likes & 500 Followers

Participating in social media networking sites is one of the fastest growing online activities that offer users the ability to share photographs, videos, links and thoughts.  It allows instant feedback through platforms such as Myspace, Facebook, Orkut, LinkedIn, Instant Messaging, and Online Chat rooms (Quinn & Oldmeadow, 2013). Overuse of Social Media can lead to signs and symptoms associated with addiction. Some of the general mental health conditions that link to social media use addiction include anxiety disorders, low self-esteem, mood disorders, depression, eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

 Resources

Internet Addiction Treatment Centers in Ontario

Social Media Use and Eating Disorders

Tedx Talk: What you need to know about addiction

References

Ko, C., Liu, T., Wang, P., Chen, C., Yen, C., & Yen, J.(2014). The exacerbation of depression, hostility, and social anxiety in the course of internet addiction among adolescents: A prospective study. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 55 (6), 1377-84 . doi.4oi:rg/10.1016/j.comppsych.2014.05.003

Kuss, D. J., Louws, J., & Wiers, R. W. (2012). Online Gaming Addiction? Motives Predict Addictive Play Behavior in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 15(9), 480-485. doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.0034

Quinn, S., & Oldmeadow, J. (2013). The martini effect and social networking sites: Early adolescents, mobile social networking and connectedness to friends.Mobile Media &
Communication, 1 (2) 237-247. doi: 10.1177/250157912474812

Warning: You’re Losing Sleep by Not Creating a Technology Vision for Your Classroom

Getting your students ready for 21st Century Learning requires a 21st Century Vision for your classroom.

By Melissa Bishop

A new laptop, iPad, Chromebook, or another piece of technology has arrived, and it is sitting on your desk.  The excitement of using this technology can quickly fade when your mind starts racing with thoughts of “how will this support my students; I don’t have enough devices for all of my students, and how do I make time to teach this?” Anxiety is magnified when searching for ideas on blogs, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and Ed Tech sites that promote technology but lack the vision.  Struggling with the successful integration of technology in addition to the pressures of teaching the curriculum can educators to feel overwhelmed. Teachers need to build a personal vision of how technology can work with them to reduce the stress associated with integrating technology in the curriculum.

Foundation

Building a foundation for Ed. Tech. Integration is essential when developing a vision of technology for your classroom.  Carefully planning and connecting to curriculum strands will help to develop a road-map for your vision.  Consider how technology can be integrated into authentic contexts to meet the needs of students.  Students already use technology to socialize, communicate, and create (Whitehead, Jensen, & Boschee, 2013).  Using Tech Tools in a meaningful way to excite their learning facilitates a positive change in their educational experiences.

Goals

Setting goals for your technology integration plan will drive your vision.  What is the purpose of using a particular technological tool in your classroom?  How will it support or develop student learning?  These are key questions to keep in mind when developing a technical vision.  Create goals with technology that will engage students, create experiences and authentic projects outside the classroom, as well as grow critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration skills (Whitehead, Jensen, & Boschee, 2013).  Technology goals should encourage students to learn in new ways and prepare them for success in the 21st-century.

Implement

Once a foundation has been build and goals are established, the implementation phase starts.  You have chosen a tool, a way to present and integrate the technology, and have developed a plan.  When embedding technology to enhance student learning, remember what you are trying to accomplish and why you want to accomplish it.  Creating a proactive approach with a clearly mapped out plan to integrate your vision will seamlessly integrate technology.   If technology is introduced reactive, it will often be viewed as “just one more thing to do” (Blink, 2016).

Reflect

As we develop a vision of technology, and best practices, educators require a significant amount of self-reflection.  Research tells us that Teachers Vision of Technology does not always match the classroom practices (Ertmer, Gopalakrishnan, and Ross, 2001). So how do we fix this gap between vision and classroom practices?  Reflect on what went well, what didn’t work, what changes you will make next time as well as areas for growth for yourself and your students.  During this process, make it meaningful and carefully constructed so that any revisions that are made meet your needs.

Professional Development (PD)

Working with new technological tools can be challenging and overwhelming for teachers.  Professional Development can increase their comfort levels when developing a technology vision for the classroom.  Becoming confident and proficient with the chosen technology can facilitate a seamless integration in the classroom.  Below are web-based sites offering online learning opportunities for educators:

  1. PBS Online Educators Courses PBS are online and self-paced geared to both beginner and experienced teachers. The have a wide variety of courses in curriculum areas as well as instructional strategies, and technology.
  2. ASCD offers professional development courses for educators online, self-paced, and interactive. They keep a resource bank section of Leadership and Conference Events.
  3. Teachers First offers live, online, virtual workshops for teachers. Teachers first professional development workshops are interactive, scheduled after working hours, and available for credit.
  4. Sophia professional development courses are paired with Capella University to deliver flexible courses and credit graduate courses.

Recap

Technology is ever-changing, and our students are moving forward as 21st Century Learners.  Facilitating learning by developing a vision for technology in the classroom is essential.  Use these five steps to start developing your vision:

  1. Develop a Foundation and Connect to the Curriculum
  2. Create Goals
  3. Implement
  4. Reflect
  5. Professional Development

References

Blink, R. J. (2016). Leading learning for digital natives: Combining data and technology in the classroom. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?id=KMrMCgAAQBAJ&pg=PT36&dq=implementing technology vision in classroom&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjW6cv-pqHNAhUXKlIKHbjnA6wQ6AEIMTAB#v=onepage&q=implementing technology vision in classroom&f=false

Ertmer, P. A., Gopalakrishnan, S., & Ross, E. M. (2001). Technology-using teachers: Comparing perceptions of exemplary technology use to best practice. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 33. [Electronic Version]. Available: http://www.iste.org/jrte/33/5/ertmer.html Windschitl (2002)

Whitehead, B. M., Jensen, D., & Boschee, F. (2013). Planning for technology: A guide for school administrators, technology coordinators, and curriculum leaders (Second ed.). Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=6bdAAQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR1&dq=curriculum technology&ots=w2HVqHPvDJ&sig=mvNuVrbIkK0X7LapC9zbe2yxVWA#v=onepage&q=curriculum technology&f=false