Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Evaluating websites using Google Forms

Keyboard and phone image

We can probably all agree that the internet is a great source of information on all topics. From travel destinations or cute kitten videos to breaking news or the latest scientific discovery, everything is at our fingertips. Content is continuously added, often without any form of review for accuracy or reliability, so it is imperative to teach our students how to evaluate Web sites to determine if the information is reliable and credible.

There are many sites that offer lessons to teach students how to evaluate websites. One of the best tools I found for this is a rubric developed by the Ron E. Lewis Library - based on the CRAAP Test created by Meriam Library at California State University-Chico. Unfortunately, although the acronym is catchy, I cringed at the thought of having my middle-schoolers go home and tell their parents that I had used that specific word. Middle-schoolers are not known for providing context, plus if I know them at all, by the time they got home the CRAAP acronym would probably have changed to something even worse. So I took it upon myself to modify the rubric into something more middle-school appropriate, creating the CITE-IT rubric instead.

Over the last school year, we worked with a paper version of the CITE-IT rubric, and I required that any time that students were referencing sources they had to attach the CITE-IT scores and rubrics for the Web sites they used. This worked quite well, except for the fact that I had to keep a big stack of CITE-IT rubrics on hand. Also, although most students were able to manage this, but a few of them would invariably come towards the end of a project and fill in a bunch of the rubrics, just so they could comply with the requirement.

In a recent training, I learned about using Google forms to create rubrics, and thus be able to grade "on the fly". This means that basically you create a form with a field for student name and a series of multiple choice indicators for each of your criteria. In the end this gives you a spreadsheet where you have collected each student's score on the rubric, and which you can then sort any way you wish. As I mulled this idea as a great way to increase my productivity while grading presentations or essays, a spark of inspiration struck. "What about using that same idea and having students use it for the curation of websites with CITE-IT scores?"

So, this is what I came up with.

  • I created a Google form version of the rubric.
  • I modified the response sheet so that the last column on it would automatically add the correct columns. I also added a column that would advise the student on whether to use the site or not. This is based on the individual scores the student assigned - just like in the paper version.

The idea is that this will allow the students to have their own version of the CITE-IT form and response sheet, which they can then use as they are doing their research. By adding a text  field for comments, they will also be able to sort the sheet by project title (if that is what they add), share their evaluated sources with me and each other and perhaps, in my utopian dreams, even see trends in the URL addresses that come up as reliable most often.

If you would like to make a copy of the form for your students to use (or modify to suit your needs), it is as easy as navigating to this blank response spreadsheet, clicking on Make a Copy (make sure you are signed in to Google), and then click on View Form. This will maintain all formatting and formulas I used. Feel free to change anything that does not suit you, as this is now your own copy.

I hope you find this useful, and if you have an idea on how to make this better, please share.

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