Let’s face it…setting students loose on the Internet to find good sources for any research-based learning activity can be messy. It’s much easier to point them to the sources we’ve selected for them. But by doing that, we’re not giving them the opportunity to learn how to find and evaluate their own sources independently–a skill that is more important than ever, given the sea of spurious, misleading, and heavily biased information that exists on the Web. Our district’s Library Media Specialists to an excellent job showing students how to evaluate and cite sources, yet the transfer of these skills isn’t always visible in the work students do outside of the Library Media Center. So what can teachers do to reinforce these skills?
I recently came across a great content curation tool called eLink that has some interesting potential in helping students curate web content more carefully, and in helping teachers assess the way students evaluate sources. Like all good digital tools, it’s simple. As students find sources they believe are credible and will help them with their research, they add them to their eLink pages, which are essentially web pages with a slick, modern-looking visual representation of all their hyperlinked sources. The example below might be something students create in a Health class.
Because eLink pages are so visually appealing and professional looking, I suspect that students will choose their sources more carefully, knowing that they are “honoring” these sources by including them on their eLink page. The eLink layout also makes it easier for teachers to assess their students’ sources. Rather than having to copy URLs from a Works Cited page and paste them into a web browser (ugh), teachers can just visit their students’ eLink pages without that hassle. Moreover, this user-friendly interface allows teachers to quickly see what sources students are synthesizing as they develop their own findings.
This wouldn’t mean that students are off the hook for a properly formatted Works Cited page. I envision eLink as a formative assessment tool. Rather than see that students have used less than credible sources after they’ve turned in their work, teachers can have students submit eLinks in the early stages of their research. Student submissions might indicate that teachers need to revisit how to evaluate sources with certain students, correcting bad research before it’s too late. But that’s just one idea. How can you see students using eLink? Leave a comment below.