MET:Web Literacy for Educators

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This page was authored by M. Scott Alexander (2010). This page was edited by Jean-François Ouellet (2012)

The 21st Century brings a new era of learners, the digital natives[1]. Schools need to adapt to these new learners and understand how they learn. Part of that new curriculum has to include literacy, in all it's new forms to support the learner in making the best choices. Web literacy, information literacy, media literacy are all new forms of learning in the student's world. These forms of literacies will shape student's presence online. This is where the educators come on board to support the student in the acquisition of these knowledge.

Shelf representing multiple literacies

What is web literacy?

The expression "Web Literacy" is fairly new to educators. Nonetheless, it has become really important to teach students the rules of literacy in the World Wide Web. Web literacy could be defined as "how to know where to go to find information, how to evaluate the accuracy of that information, and how to synthesize what they have learned to apply knowledge to complete a task"[2]. The Association of College and Research Libraries[3] also defines it as to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." Students are more present online than ever and it's a new world to explore. Web literacy is an ongoing learning. As new technologies become more accessible, students will come up with new ways to use them that adults can't anticipate. They need to be prepared for these contingencies.

What kind of learners do we have today?

Our learners today don't follow the path that their parents did before them. Prensky[4] pointed out that today's students have not changed incrementally compared to the generations before them. It is a "discontinuity"[5], even a "singularity"[6] that happened since the last generation. Digital technology is not anymore an add-on to their lives. It is an integral part of their lives. They think differently, so they need to be taught differently.

Web 2.0 in classrooms

Web 2.0 is the new generation of online tools that promote collaboration and participation. It does engage the learner because it is social, interactive, free(very often). It is about making connections, it is simple and it is ubiquitous. Educators, through the teaching of web literacy, can embrace the tools. It can help improve teaching and assessing more effectively. "Reinforcing engagement and interactivity between individuals, Web 2.0 has brought new opportunities to education."[7]

What is the Internet?

The Internet is a network of many different computers, all over the world, connected together. The network allows computers to talk to each other even though they may be separated by larger distances, are made by different manufactures and run on different kinds of operating systems.

IP Addresses

The Internet works by allowing Web browsers (software for retrieving Web pages) to call up addresses, much like ordinary mail. These addresses are called Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. An example of such an address might be Although, all websites can be written in numeric form but are commonly displayed in text and slashes, for example http::// Every IP address has the corresponding domain name.

Domain Names

In the CNN Web address, is the domain name. A domain name can have two or possibly three components. The first component is created by the owner of the site. No one can create a name if it has already been assigned to someone else. The second component is called a TLC or top level domain and is designated for certain groups or categories. If navigating to a site that is hosted in another country, there will be an additional extension, called a country code. Many Web sites contain two components, a word and an extension ( but some contain a third component ( This third component is a subdomain. A subdomain always has a dot separating it from the other components.

Component 1 Examples Component 2 Examples Country Code Examples
nike .k12 (Kindergarten through 12th Grade - US) .au (Australia)
cnn .com (Commercial) .ca (Canada)
facebook .edu (Higher Education) .de (Germany)
msn .ac (Academic) .es (Spain)
nfl .mil (Military) .fr (France)
nasa .org (Organization) .gr (Greece)
travel .gov (Government) .in (India)
google .net (Internet Service Providers) .it (Italy)
ask .sch (School) .mx (Mexico)
yahoo .biz (Business) .us (United States)


Another useful bit of Internet jargon is URL, which is simply another term for Web address. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator.

How to Read a URL Any given URL can provide you with a snapshot of how Web pages within that site are organized. Along with the domain name, a URL describes specific folders, servers, companies, countries and communication methods.

Example 1: This URL is from the Museum of Modern Art is the home page of the site. In the domain name, moma refers to Museum of Modern Art. The extension, .org refers to an organization. Be aware. Organization is a loosely defined term. Anyone with a credit card can purchase a Web address with a .org extension.

Example 2: This URL leads to a Web page that includes the same domain name, but is deeper in the moma site. There can be thousands of pages on a Website. Each slash (/) in a URL represents another level deeper, like a folder within a folder.

Example 3: Some really long URLs will have many forward slashes. An example is this page from the San Diego Zoo. Each forward slash on this URL represents one level deeper into the site. In this example, classroom_activities.html is a file in the teachers folder and teachers is a folder within the site

World Wide Web

Most URLs begin with www. which stands for World Wide Web. The World Wide Web is a collection of billions of Web pages store on computers called servers. These pages can contain, text, graphics, video and sound. As with a catalogue or book, these pages usually relate to a common theme or subject. Most are written in a computer language called Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). The good news is you don't need to know HTML in order to read the Web; it works in the background, organizing the presentation of the page. When you type a URL into your Web browser and hit enter, the browser sends a request to the server that stores the page. The server then sends teh page to your browser and it appears on your computer screen.

Evaluating Websites

The World Wide Web is an effective way to produce and distribute information, but everybody has the opportunity to present information online, good or bad. Quality and integrity can be questioned on this fact, though. Many producers are delighted in creating "spoof site" and the unaware user could accept this information as a fact. Multiple aspects of the information have to be evaluated: accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency and coverage. One basic way to evaluate websites is REAL.

REAL is a simple scaffold to help researchers validate Web materials in a four-step process. REAL is a short and easy acronym to remember. Each step involves a set of skills and concepts.

R = Read the URL

   Do you recognize the domain name?
   What is the extension in the domain name?
   Are you on a personal page?

E = Examine the Content

   Is the information on the site helpful?
   Does the site have more resources and links?  Do the links work?
   Is the site up to date?  Can you tell when it was last updated?
   Is the information correct?
   Are the facts different from information you have found elsewhere?

A = Ask About the Author and Owner

   Is the author's name on the site?
   Is there a contact person or e-mail address?
   Is there any information about the author?
   Does the author know the topic well?  Is he or she an expert?

L = Look at the Links

   Forward Links
   What are the URLs of the forward links?
   Do the domain names change?
   Is the information biased?
   Back Links
   Who is linked to the Web site?
   Why they are linked?
   What do other sites say about the information on the site?

Online Validating Tools

Wayback Machine Use this site to see the history of the Web site.

easyWhois Use this site to find out who owns a Web site.

AltaVista Use the "link://" command in Altavista to find the external links from any site (see attached photo).

File:Altavista link.jpg
Find External Links in Altavista

Link Checker Use this site to check links and anchors in Web pages or full Web sites.

WDG HTML Validator Enter the URL of an HTML document to validate.

Extra... MobileOK Checker Use this site to verify if the website mobile friendly.


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  1. Prensky,M.(2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. MCB University press, 9(5). Retrieved from [1]
  2. Brooks-Young,S. (2010). Teaching With the Tools Kids Really Use. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Corwin Press. P.109
  3. ACRL. Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Retrieved from
  4. Prensky,M.(2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. MCB University press, 9(5). Retrieved from [2]
  5. Prensky,M.(2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. MCB University press, 9(5). Retrieved from [3]
  6. Prensky,M.(2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. MCB University press, 9(5). Retrieved from [4]
  7. Luo, L. (2009). Web 2.0 Integration in Information Literacy Instruction: An Overview.The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36(1). P.32-40.


Association of College and Research Libraries. Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Retrieved from

Brooks-Young, S. (2010). Teaching With the Tools Kids Really Use. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Corwin.

Crowe, C. (2002). Mississippi Trial, 1955. New York: Penguin

Davis, A. (2006, January 19). Can we use our own email? EduBlog Insights. Retrieved September 11, 2007, from

Federal Trade Commission. (1998). Children's online privacy protection act of 1998. Retrieved September 11, 2007, from

Lenhart, A., & Madden, M. (2005). Teen content creators and consumers. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved September 11, 2007, from

Luo, L. (2009). Web 2.0 Integration in Information Literacy Instruction: An Overview. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36(1). P.32-40.

November, A (2008) Web Literacy for Educators. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Corwin Press.

Parker, J. K. (2010) Teaching Tech-Savvy Kids. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Corwin Press.

Prensky, M.(2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. MCB University press, 9(5). Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Sorapure, M. Inglesby, P. Yatchisin, G. (1998). Web Literacy: Challenges and Opportunities for Research in a New Medium. Computers and Composition 15. 409-424.

Tan, A. (2003). The opposite of fate. New York: Penguin

External links

The Cyberwise Guide to Media Literacy

Web Literacy Models

National Forum on Information Literacy

Media Awareness Network: Jo Fool or Jo Cool (Educational game)

Evaluating a Web Site

A Guide to Evaluating Website