In last nights #edchat much of the focus was on students’ ability to evaluate online information. This is a critical media literacy skill.

It is also a critical comprehension skill as more and more students turn to the Internet as their primary source of information.

I tried to make the point that students do not have the ability, at least the seventh graders I worked with, to evaluate and integrate multiple sources of information.

I promised a few folks I would share a few insights from my dissertation work. What follows is a brief glimpse into a much bigger project.


Part of my dissertation involved doing think-alouds with 10 students selected from high, medium, and low SES schools. They completed one of four internet inquiry tasks:

-What was the turning point of the American Revolution?

-What was the role of women during the American Revolution?

-Is the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River historically accurate?

-What was the turning point of the American Revolution?

Three questions focuses on the evaluation of sources:

-Who is the author? Is the author an expert?

-Does the author use convincing evidence?

-How does the author’s point of view influence words and images used on the website?

The Responses:

Author Expertise
Credible Evidence
Author POV
Could not identify the author.
-yes because he knew what he was talking about and he used
the right words for what he was writing on the blog.
to inform readers that George Washington did really cross
the Delaware.

Identified Author

-Yes because he used specific details and great puncuation.

yes because he used great facts and easy to follow words and

He infuenced us to read more about the battle of
Identified author.
Identified author.
– no he is not because he doesn’t know as much as some
other people may
yes he did he got me to believe what he wrote.
Identified author.
yes because it tells you facts
it tells you the details of the painting
Could not identify author.
– I think he is because it is a .org and those are pretty
helpful. Also of what I know this all sounds right. Another reason is that
they have a lot of information that the other websites didn’t.
Yes because he talks about every part of the battle. For
example during it before it and after it.
– Yes, he shows many pictures and he is not defending one
side he is telling it like it is.
Identified author.
– No, because he did have some facts but not all nor the Main
facts on the American Revolution. It was very little writing and didn’t say
anything about the turning points.
No. The class barely gave information. The didn’t say
anything really important.
The author i think is trying to give us information on the
topic, and showing us what his class can do and Learn.
Identified author.
– i Don’t know .
Yes, Because s|he give facts. And the other websites say
the same thing. so He must have his Facts Correct.
I don’t know the point of view, but the way he puts her
facts makes it convincing that what he says is true.
Could not identify author. Put in names of historical
In my opinion the autho seems to know about the American
Revolution so I think they use convincing evidence.
Could not identify author.
– no because he wasnt born there
he uses convincing speech
Could not identify author. Uses cited source as author.
– Yes, because Phebe put a lot of information in the
paragraphs about each woman who served in the American Revolution also she
uses specific dates of when something major happened.
Yes, because she uses specific details, dates, etc,
Phebe takes the point of view she took because she’s
sticking up for the women to show they can do way more than people think they
can do.
Identified the author.
– I think the author, Jeremy Jones is an expert on the
American Revolution because he knows a lot about the 3 major events that
started the American Revolution and he gives examples like when each of the
events took place and where they took place. That’s why I think that the
author, Jeremy Jones is an expert on the American Revolution.
Yes, Jeremy Jones uses convincing evidence because since I
said in the answer above he uses exact dates when the events took place like
some other people don’t use dates they just say the year and not the month or
day of the year.
The author’s point of view does influence the words and
images used on the website because his point of view seems to go along the
same path as his words and images because you can tell he’s against what the
3 major events did to the United States of America and other countries
involved in the war by his word choice and by the last sentence or two when
he says that he hopes that the world will never see another American
Revolution ever again.
Could not identify author. Used political figures.
– they are the owners of a historical park, so, yes
they are experts because they have a whole park full of
historical information.
i dont know
Identified the autor.
– hes an education profesional with a passion for social
David holds a BA in history and a BS in journalism from
the University of Kansas.
i dont know
Identified author but also included author’s title, park
ranger, as a n additional author.
– The author is because he wrote a lot and it seams he did
a lot of research.
yes and no, the author uses convincing evidence because it
looks like he knows what he is talking about and he did not write a lot he
could have wrote about the tea party or the the Boston massacre.
Could not identify author.
– yes because the page he is on it covers geography,
history and much more.
the author does use convincing evidence because he is on a
website that covers geography, language, history, current events and much
Identified the author.
– The author is a history teacher. He is an expert.
Yes he uses convincing evidence. He stated that there is
not just one turning point that there was many.
He thinks that the war went  not so good at first but then it changed.
The authors point is that the war was not easy.
Identified the author.
Yes he says that it was a cold night. Also how the
crossing was a sneak attack.
The authors point of view is he wants to have everyone
know about this.
Identifies the author.
– It seems like there was alot of people involved in this
buisness supplying information on this topic. i think that they have reliabel
information and arent quite experts, but are good on this subject
i think it using convincing evidence because the points
that they raise about to many people in the boat to keep the boat afloat is
good evidence.
the authors point of view is third person because he uses
word like they, or he, she, etc. if it were 1st person, he would use words
like I
Identifies the author.
– I don think the author is an expert but i’m sure he
knows alot about it if he knew 3 causes and could support them.
I thnk he does us convincing evidence because he writes a
full paragraph backing up what he thinks the causes are.
His point of view inluenced the words and images because
it kin of shows that he knew what was going on with those pictures and words

Video Examples:

In this example the student mistakes the author’s title as an additional author. Michael then does not use the author’s title, occupation, institutional affiliation to judge the author expertise. He uses the overall quantity of information to judge the author expertise.

In this example the student uses the content to judge the author expertise. Olivia does exhibit the ability to navigate multiple windows, in other words, “read with mouse in hand.” She also has some understanding of author point of view.

In this example Ava successfully navigates a page looking for an author. While she does mistake the Governor of Pennsylvania as an author of the website she atleast uses author affiliation to judge author expertise.

In this example Ethan uses syntactic clues to evaluate the source. He comments on the use of punctuation and sentences. I think he is making what Rand Spiro calls “errors of oversimplification.” At some point Ethan learned that credible websites are free of grammatical errors. He now applies this to the sources he reads.

Another example of a student using content to judge a website.