Thursday, September 02, 2004

ITI: Martindale and Categories of educational websites

I heard a great presentation yesterday by Trey Martindale (who is a blogger himself, by the way--check out his blog if you want a good one on instructional design). Especially I think Charles and Rich may be interested in this, so talk to me about it when I get back if you have questions. Anyway, he and two compadres checked out three major compilations of the best educational websites on the web, and then they started analyzing a sample of these sites to find out what kinds of educational websites are being recognized as good ones. They created a list of 11 categories of educational websites. Here they are:
  1. Instructional
  2. Learning Activities
  3. Content Collection
  4. List of Links
  5. Reference/Archive/News/Database (RAND)
  6. Teacher and Parent Resources
  7. Shared Experiences
  8. Personal Expression and Interpersonal Interaction (PEII)
  9. Informal Education
  10. Research and Service Organizations and Projects (RSOP)
  11. Commercial
Descriptions and examples of these categories, as well as their soon-to-be-published paper in Computers in our Schools is available at Trey's weblog or Trey's website.

I thought this was a phenomenal research idea and project. I suggested to Trey that the next step might be to offer keys to evaluating each category of websites, because just describing to a teacher that "hey, this is a RAND website" is kind or worthless. It will be very important to tell them, "if you need to use a RAND for your classroom projects, here is how you could evaluate RANDs and know when you've found a credible and useful one." So could we create some evaluation steps for each category?

After I suggested this, one lady said this had already been done, because there are many places that tell you how to evaluate educational websites. Yeah, we do this too in IPT 286. But the evaluation standards would be different for each type of website. A content website should not be commercial--that's a red flag. A commercial site SHOULD be commercial. A learning activity website should not have fluff but should have meaningful content. A weblog should have fluff because the blogger and the reader are learning through interaction and co-construction of ideas until the fluff becomes more thoughtful and refined.

Does this make sense?

The next step for Trey is that he wants to create a search engine that would then find only RANDs or PEIIs or whatever, and the website in its metadata would define what category that website falls into. However, he's also wanting to switch gears on the project entirely and instead define attributes of educational websites instead of categorizing the entire website. This is a much better idea because, for example, has many different attributes and could fit into many different categories.

Anyway, I'm definitely using some of Trey's ideas in teaching digital resources in IPT 286, but I'm not sure how yet. I'd like to ask each student to find a good website for each category, but that might be too heavy of a workload. So maybe instead have them find their 5-10 websites and then require them to analyze the sites and put them in their appropriate category. This could just be a helpful tool to aid their reflection.

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