Sunday, January 19, 2014

Help Students Find Credible Sources

Common Core State Standards & Finding Credible Sources
Common Core Standards require that students are able to find sources when doing research and analyze them for credibility.  Here is an applicable CCSS standard for Writing in History, Science, and Technical Subjects: 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
Finding Sources can be tough for students.  I cringe when students post or as their sources in their bibliography.  I want my students to learn how to find actual and credible sources (and be able to site them properly).  Wikipedia is a good starting point to find out general information, or find links to other sources, but Wikipedia itself should never be their source.  And is a search engine, not a source!

The first thing I do to help my students is to find some reliable sites and create a Custom Google Search for my students.  Students don't search the entire web, but use a custom search bar on my webpage that only searches sites that I have preselected.  Here is a link to my previous post about creating Custom Google Search Engines.  But even then, how do students really know that the source is reliable?  They won't always have a teacher creating a Custom Search Engine for them.  Students need to be able to determine if the website is credible.

A Great Idea from Catlin Tucker
Last fall, I attended the Fall CUE conference in Napa, and went to a session by Catlin Tucker - Common Core:  The Art of Argument Writing.  (If you ever get a chance to see her, be sure you do!  And read her book - it is great if you are thinking of how to integrate technology and Common Core practices into your classes.)  

One of the activities she shared was her Got Credibility? Google Form.  (Here is a link where you can find a copy of her form and her video on how to make a copy of it so that you can use it with your students.)  This form asks the students to answer questions about their web source such as "Does the source have an author?" or "Is there any bias presented in this resource?".  After students go through all of the questions, they should have a pretty solid idea of whether their resources is credible.  

I copied Catlin's form, and modified it a little bit for my class.  (In my biology class, I have students use APA instead of MLA.  I also added some info on websites that will work on our iPads to get the APA citations.)  I then set up the Google Script autoCrat to merge the data students submitted on the form into a Google Doc that was then emailed back to them.  I wanted students to have access to their citations and work that they did when they checked the credibility of their sources.

My Lesson Plan
When I first introduced this form to my students, I asked my students what resources they use to research a topic.  We had a discussion about credibility, and then I showed them the Google form.  I then gave them a website/resource to use to fill out the Got Credibility form.  I used a great website called Help Save the Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.  This website is very detailed and students have to navigate around it to be able to answer the questions on the Got Credibility form.  

Students spent the rest of the period exploring the Tree Octopus website and checked its credibility by filling out the form.  Below is a copy of a filled out form from one of my students.  (This is what was emailed to each student after they submitted their form and the autoCrat script merged the data and sent them the document.)  Most students discovered that the source was NOT credible, that in fact it was a hoax.  

Click here to view the original document

After the students participated in this activity in class, I had them search for their own resources to use as sources for their upcoming research project.  I required them to complete the form for each of their resources that they used in the project.  After filling it out a few times, they now seem to have a good grasp on how to tell if a resource is credible.  Here is a video one of my students made of tips on determining the credibility of a source.

Other Hoax Sites
I have been searching for other "fake" websites to use when introducing the Got Credibility form.  Here are a few good ones.

If you find any other good hoax cites, please list them in the comments.

Here is a copy of my version of Catlin's Got Credibility? spreadsheet/form and the merge document I used with autoCrat to send out a filled out form/document to my students.   Be sure to make copies of both into your Google Drive.  You will then need to install the autoCrat script into the spreadsheet, and then link the merge fields from the document template when you set up the script.

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