Many elementary students trust everything they read on the Internet. They believe that if it is written on a web page, then it must be true. It is essential that teachers provide their students with criteria they can use to determine if the information they are using for a research project is from a reliable source.
I call this…the Trust Test.
This week my students, who are completing TechnoJourney, learned about trust. We found an article on the Internet and using a checklist we determined if the information was trustworthy. There are 7 elements to the checklist. I have outlined them below. You do not need to have a checkmark for all 7 elements to trust the source. However, if you have barely any checkmarks, then this is an indicator that you need to find a better source of information or look for another website that has the same information to double check the facts.
Web Address has a Name that is Well-Known
The web address gives you clues about whether you can trust the source of information. If the web address has the name of a well-known place, organization, publication, or educational television program it most likely can be trusted. For example, trustworthy URLs might be www.nasa.gov, www.britishmuseum.org, or www.nationalgeographic.com.
Web Address Shows the Type of Web Page as gov, edu, or org
The web address gives you clues about the type of web page:
- .gov means the web page is written by the government
- .org means the web page is written by an organization
- .edu means the web page is written by an education organization
- .com means the web page is written by a business
Web pages with the suffix .gov or .edu are trustworthy. Most web pages that end in org can also be trusted. You will need to check other factors to make sure that you can trust information from a .com web page. For example, the .gov in the web address http://www.epa.gov tells you right away that the information is trustworthy.
Web Page Tells Who Wrote the Information
When getting facts from the Internet it is important to know who wrote the information. You should be less trusting if you cannot tell who wrote the information on a web page. The author may be a person or an organization. Typically, the author will be written near the top or bottom of the web page.
Author is an Expert on the Topic
You can trust information from an expert. If an organization wrote the article you need to decide if they are a group that knows a lot about the topic. If a person wrote the article you need to check to see if they are an expert. One way to do this is to see if they listed their job title, education, or the place where they work. Another way to decide if the author is an expert is to see if they included a list of sources where they found the information.
Contact Information is Included on the Web Page
A person or organization that is trustworthy will often include an e-mail address, telephone number, mailing address, social media connections, or other contact information. If you cannot find this information you should be less trusting of the facts.
Web Page Looks Professional
A web page that looks good is one way to build trust. If a web page has spelling mistakes, links that do not work, or a sloppy design it means that the person has not taken the time to do a good job. If they do not care about how the web page looks, they may also not care if the facts on the web page are true.
Web Page Tells Where you can Find More Information
One way to tell if information is trustworthy is to find the same facts in another place. A web page that lists other websites, books, or publications where you can learn more about the topic is a good sign that the information can be trusted.
Teaching Internet Skills
Are your students critical of the information they read online? Do they believe everything they read on the Internet is true? What strategies or criteria do you use to assess if a web-based article passes the Trust Test?
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