Searching Tips | Evaluation Tips | Ethical Use Tips | Glossary of Terms

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Accessibility Checking: Creating an accessible website requires a degree of technical knowledge, and a willingness to learn new ways of creating web-based information. There are a number of free and commercial products that help automate accessibility compliance. Some products are built into web page editing systems. Other products offer free web-based accessibility checkers that will give you an automated assessment based on a web address. These tools are valuable aids for the web designer.

Accessible Website: In terms of Section 508, an accessible website is one that meets the standards specified in the law. These standards assure that disabled people using assistive technology can navigate the site. Because technology is constantly evolving, accessibility standards must evolve as well. In order to coordinate the effort to create accessibility standards, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines are more extensive and complete than the standards established by Section 508. Another important aspect of accessibility is the general usability of a site. 508 and W3C standards promote all coherent navigation, legible presentation, complimentary colors, and consistent layout. These are traits that benefit all users.

Active Reading Strategies or Active Comprehension Strategies: Reading strategies that help students engage with their reading and better understand what they read. Strategies include scanning texts reading only the titles, subtitles, paragraph headings and captions. Active methods include prediction, asking questions, highlighting keywords, and keeping notes. Applying Bloom's Taxonomy to reading provides a roadmap for active comprehension.

Accuracy: The accuracy of factual information can tell you something about the care the author took in preparing the document and can provide clues to possible bias in the perspective represented in the document. Most web pages are not reviewed or edited. Anyone can post just about anything they want on the Internet. A second grader can claim to be a nobel prize winner. A Russian professor can be mistaken for an American child due to lack of familiarity with the English language. It is important to check the facts and not rely on first impressions.


Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA established the concept of a civil right to effective communication. This underlies the idea that access to information is a civil right. This means that the ADA does apply to cyberspace. Since web based presentation of information is often the very best means of communication, ADA legislation guarantees accessibility to websites under the effective communication guarantees of the law. Section 508 creates an incentive for private and public organizations to create accessible websites by requiring anyone doing business with the government to comply with the Section 508 accessibility standards. The ADA and Section 508 compliment and reinforce each other.

Annotated Lists: An annotation reminds you what you found important about that web site. It keeps information about the web site with the address. The best annotated list contains a citation with at least the author’s name, the original copyright date, the title of the web page, and the uniform resource locator followed by a concisely written description of the contents of the site and why you found them important. Here is an annotated list of examples of annotated lists.

Assistive Technology: Assistive technology enables those with disabilities to use the Internet. Powerful tools built into specialized web browsers can automatically read text and describe the content of images for the blind. Other tools will greatly expand the size of text or control screen color contrasts for those with impaired vision. Using assistive technology, deaf users can receive a simultaneous translation of an audio transmission. These tools require certain web page software configurations to be effective. For a page to be accessible, it must be created following either Section 508 or W3C standards. If the web designer follows these standards, assistive technology will function, and the disabled user will be able to use the site. Otherwise the site remains beyond the reach of the disabled.


AUP: (Acceptable Use Policy). These policies attempt to spell out legitimate uses for an institution's computer network. This includes use of the Internet. Most AUPs define responsibilities and expectations as well as consequences for misuse of technology.

Blog: A website designed for quick publication of content and easy feedback from users. A coined phrase meaning weblog. Blogs are created and written by Bloggers. Blogs usually represent a single author's point of view.

Cognitive Activity: Lessons, processes, or pastimes that promote the ability to think, learn and remember

Creative Commons: The creators of (IP) Intellectual Property, can nuance their copyright by using a Creative Commons license to ‘mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry”. By using CC free tools you can “change your copyright terms from “All Rights Reserved” to “Some Rights Reserved.”


Cyberspace: A phrase made popular by science fiction writer William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer. The word refers to all of the network connections and information that create the virtual space of the Internet.

Database: A database is a collection of digital information. A database may index individual words found on web pages (e.g., Google) or index objects by features such as Year, Model, Color (e.g., Subaru). Information from the Internet is added to databases by robotic programs known as crawlers or spiders that you query with powerful search engines.

Deep Web: This trade marked phrase is used by Bright Planet Corporation to describe the resources on the web that are assembled dynamically on when a user queries a database. Online databases create HTML pages to match your criteria. These ‘dynamic’ pages are assembled when you query the database. Search engines do not index the contents of online databases, and they cannot index dynamically assembled pages because they don't exist until the user creates them.


Digital Information Fluency Model: The DIF Model was developed by the 21st Century Information Fluency Project to explain the essential skills and dispositions of searching, evaluating, and ethically using digital information. (More)

Digital Immigrants: A phrase popularized by Mark Prensky that describes most educators and adults. "Those of us who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology...".

Digital Natives: A phrase popularized by Mark Prensky that describes today's students and there approach to technology. "Our students today are all "native speakers" of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet."


Dynamic Content: Online databases create HTML pages to match your criteria. These pages are dynamically assembled on demand when you query the database. Search engines cannot index dynamically assembled content because it doesn't exist until the user queries the database.

Educational Fair Use: is a set of principles designed to guide the use of copyright materials by educators and students. These rules apply to educational institutions and non-profit organizations. The intent is for educators to be able to use copyrighted materials in a way that doesn’t harm the commercial interests of the creators. This means we must use the materials as part of instruction (not as reward). We must limit our use to a reasonable sample. We must restrict distribution to just our students. We must display copyright notices when they occur. And we must be very careful before we re-create or ‘mash-up’ the intellectual property of others.

Flesch-Kincaid Scale: The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score rates text on a U.S. grade-school level. For example, a score of 8.0 means that an eighth grader can understand the document. For most standard documents, aim for a score of approximately 7.0 to 8.0. The formula for the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score is:

    (.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) - 15.59 where:

    ASL = average sentence length (the number of words divided by the number of sentences)
    ASW = average number of syllables per word (the number of syllables divided by the number of words) (Source: Microsoft Frequently Asked Questions.)

Higher Order Thinking: A classification of thinking based on Bloom's Taxonomy of Thinking Skills. This type of thinking goes beyond simple recall of information. It is characterized by the use of information via comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.


Hyperlinks: Text or graphics coded to lead to other documents or locations when clicked..

Hypernym: more general or broad keywords, such as car, truck, or automobile, which will widen the results of a search.

Hyponym: more specific keywords such as Ford, Chevrolet, or Toyota, which will narrow a search.


Hypertext: A method of creating text that includes hyperlinks to other documents or locations. This allows a reader to choose different levels of detail or read related documents that have been cross linked in the text.

Indexing: Indexing or cataloging is the process of organizing a search engine's database of web pages to maximize retrieval efficiency. The exact methods of indexing information used by commercial search engines remain closely guarded, proprietary information. Each search engine uses a variety of 'black box' indexing algorithms to sort the contents of a page. In general the occurrence of keywords, the proximity of keywords to each other, and the contents of html elements like meta tags, titles, and headers, are all taken into account as the index is created.

Info-glut: This tech term for information overload describes the ever increasing generation of unstructured information at a rate that fare exceeds our power to organize or comprehend the information. This information includes digital information as well as all other forms of media.


Internet Child Safety: A global term referring to all laws and social efforts to protect children who are using the Internet. Schools accepting certain federal funds must comply with The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). This law (in part) requires installation of filtering software on Internet connections. (More)

Intellectual Property: Intellectual property is the product of writers, artists, musicians, engineers, scientists, educators, and any one else who captures thinking in a tangible form that can be shared. This means that ideas cannot be copyrighted, only the tangible expression of those ideas. Intellectual property is implicitly copyrighted. The copyright symbol doesn’t need to be visible. The claim is inherent when an original product is created.

Intermediate Terms: This type of keyword can be improved by choosing more specific or precise terms.

Keywords: the essential words that make up a query.


Long Tail: The idea that niche products with small sales volume can, if sold by various forms of Internet commerce, develop a large market share. Online commerce giants like Ebay and Amazon can make a profit by finding a market for millions of products that wouldn't sell in normal situations.

MashUp: The past time of mixing together various streams of content from the Internet to create a new product that is a cultural comment on the sources as well as a topic of interest in the Web 2.0 world. Streams can include RSS content, map server information and special search engine feeds. Mashup is a powerful tag or keyword. (Try it and see!)

Meta Search Engine: A meta search engine sends the user's query to several search engines and/or databases simultaneously and compiles the results. For examples see Metasearch Engine on Wikipedia.

Moore’s Law: An observation made by Gordon More, co-founder of Intel that predicted the number of transistors on a circuit board would double about every year. Moore's Law is used as a gauge of technological advancement that now applies to computing power. Current thinking is that processing power continues to double every 12 to 18 months, while the price remains steady. This concept is used my many futurists as a basis for near term technology prediction.


Music File Sharing: This specialized form of file sharing is both a booming business and a source of copyright controversy. Legal and illegal file sharing systems can be found on the Internet that allow a user to give, trade, sell or buy music files. Peer to Peer (P2P) systems connect users who then swap files stored on personal hard drives. Many users of P2P networks ignore copyright law. Commercial operations like iTunes sell or give away music files while conforming to current copyright laws.

Nyms: this word is part of the professional vocabulary of searching. The root nym comes from the Greek onoma, a name. We use the term nym to identify many classes of words. As keywords, some nyms have a definite impact on your search results. Hypernyms and Hyponyms are are commonly used when creating a query.

One in Five Rule (1 in 5 Rule): When creating queries your goal is to find a combination of keywords that are an exact match for the wording in the documents you seek. Different authors use different words to describe the same thing. There isn't strong evidence for the 1:5 ratio, but there are, on average, 13 synonyms per word, (see InfoWorld Dec 15, 1986). Considering that Web pages employ a limited range of language, it seems reasonable one's chances of searching for exactly the same keyword as a Web page author may be closer to 1 in 5. If an author uses a highly technical term, the ratio increases and you may never match it. In that case you have to search using contextual clues. The 1 in 5 "rule of thumb" means you should expect to revise your query more than once before matching keywords with an author.

Opaque Web: Webpages that have been missed or intentionally skipped by the crawlers are called the nearly visible or opaque web. These pages could be indexed but are skipped intentionally to save the search company time and money. Because crawling and indexing is expensive, search engines limit the number of pages they copy from each site. This can leave hundreds of pages out of the search index, but still available to the site's users.


Password protected content: Many sites have password-protected webpages. Search engine spiders can reach the front door, but can't crawl in. On the other side of the barrier is quality information developed and categorized by professionals. Before you search these pages you must first establish an account. Some sites are free, others charge a fee. Regardless the materials beyond the password barrier can't be reached by search engines and remain invisible until you establish an account, obtain the key, and login to the website.

Personalized Search Engine: This kind of search engine is built by the user and contain only the websites that user specifies. In this way an educator can create a limited search environment of high quality resources tailored to a specific project or curriculum area. The student gains the benefit of practicing their search and evaluation skills in a sheltered environment. Personalized search engines can be constructed using,, and Google Co-op.

Photo Sharing: Web 2.0 systems that encourage users to upload their own digital photos. Users can tag photos and decide on public or private display. Photo tagging allows users to search the communities database of photographs.


Project Based Learning (PBL): Students participate in interdisciplinary learning projects that promote inquiry and collaboration. The object of the project is to present solutions to real world problems. Many experts feel PBL, while more complex to assess, greatly improves student motivation, research skills, and depth of knowledge.

Podcast: Sometimes defined as audio blogging this form of communication depends on the internet, rather than radio waves for distribution. Most podcasts are recorded and saved in MP3 file formats. They are distributed by RSS feed to subscribers interested in the topic under discussion. Podcasts can be downloaded and listened to at any time (unlike radio which is broadcast on a fixed schedule).

Query: A query is exactly what you ask your search engine to go looking for. It is the distilled essence of your questions; formed in a way that best retrieves the information you are seeking. A question is not a query. Think instead of a question as the first step in forming your query and beginning the process of inquiry. A query is made up of the keywords that describe your topic and the arrangement of those keywords using operators that focus the retrieval process. From a question like: 'How do you track satellites?' You extract the keywords (track and satellite). You may want to add additional keywords like orbiter and telemetry. Now you have the building blocks to construct a successful query. For a more detailed explanation see the MicroModule: Query

Readability: The reading comprehension difficulty of a text, usually described in terms of grade level. This term can also refer to how ease of reading is effected by web design elements like text size, background colors, and column width.


Read / Write Web: This term, made popular by Will Richardson, is synonym for Web 2.0. The read / write web describes a second generation of websites where the tech literate can read, write, publish and respond to information. Blogs, wikis, podcasts and webinars are the publication tools that make it all happen. While there are nuances to this term, the essential condition is the power for users to create, share, and evaluate digital information.

Relevance: Commercial search sites have redefined the concept of “relevance” to meet their business needs. The creators of commercial search engines have begun to reassess their definitions of “relevance” based on their need to appeal to mass market audiences. The result is a definition of “relevance” based as much on subjective measures of user “satisfaction” as on more objective measures of the matches between the search queries and the results returned.

Section 508: It is estimated that 43,000,000 Americans have disabilities, with the number growing significantly as the population ages. The movement to assure accessibility to the Internet as a civil right gained momentum with the 1998 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act. These amendments are called Section 508, The Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards. Section 508 requires most Federal Internet resources to become accessible according to Section 508 specifications. Additionally, Section 508 provides an enforcement mechanism designed to inspire both states and private industry; a procurement law that requires all vendors supplying services to the Federal government to comply with Section 508.

Search Engines: Search engines are software programs that retrieve information on demand from databases. Search engines attempt to copy and organize all of the information available on the Internet into their own efficient database. The database may include partial or complete copies of millions (billions) of web pages. Clicking on the hyperlink listed in the search results takes you from the search engine host, to the actual web page of interest.


Searchroll: This is a coined phrase used by to describe a personalized search engine. Personalized search engines are built by the user and contain only the websites that user specifies. In this way an educator can create a limited search environment of high quality resources tailored to a specific project or curriculum area. The student gains the benefit of practicing their search and evaluation skills in a sheltered environment.

Snippets: brief, incomplete description of file contents included with results listed by search engines. Also know as Abstracts, Snippets are valuable sources of alternate keywords that may improve one's queries. Snippets are a portion of the information from a search engine's database that matches the keywords used (bold font). Valuable keywords, especially synonyms, may be discovered in the text of the snippets.

Social Networking: Using real time and asynchronous internet technology to create a community of users who interact to create, review, and share digital information within a virtual social network. Web designers are attempting to leverage the easy interaction available via Web 2.0 enabled websites to build commercially viable websites that are populated with user created content.


Spider/Spyder: A generic name for the robotic software used to ‘crawl’ the web copying pages into a search engine’s database. Spiders jump from web page to web page by following each site's links. A site that is linked to many others is more likely to be visited frequently. Isolated pages will be 'crawled' less often, or can be missed altogether. This rather haphazard method of collecting information can lead to gaps in a search engine's database. This explains in part why different search engines produce different results.

Stop Words: To improve retrieval times or conserve storage space, some search engines exclude the most common words from their databases. Other search engines may record every word, but exclude the common ones from the search index. Here are some words typically treated as stop words: a, an, are, as, at, be, but, has, have, him, her.

Student Confidentiality: FERPA: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is designed to protect student privacy when it comes to school records. Schools must have written permission of parents or eligible students to release student data to a third party. (More).


Subject Directory: An online collection of information categorized by human subject matter experts.

Think-Alouds: A way of modeling and explaining a reading or searching process. The speaker explains their thinking and reactions as they work through the process.. This helps students understand strategies and see connections. This method is most powerful when students follow up by doing the task while applying the same think-aloud methods.

Triangulation of Data: Cross check factual data with other documents on the web by searching for other pages containing information about the facts. This is where it is important to have at least three sources that agree on the same data point. For example, the distance from the earth to the sun is 93 million miles, fluctuating up to 3 million miles due to its elliptical orbit. Some resources will just say 90 million miles, some 93 million miles and stop there. Until you have three sources that agree on a number, you don't really know for sure. This is called triangulation of data.


Truncating the URL: Truncating the URL is a way to navigate through a website by backtracking through the web address. Search engines will sometimes drop you deep within the navigational structure of a website. If you want to find out more about the host site, you can systematically delete elements of the web address (URL). With each 'truncation' you arrive at a new page. By truncating the URL, you may find other resources created by the author you are investigating. You'll certainly learn a bit more about the website that has published the resource.

Usability: A broad term used to describe the 'ease of use' of designed systems including websites.

URL: An acronym for Universal or Uniform Resource Locator. A synonym for the address of a webpage or file found on the Internet.


Vanishing Web: The web is changing all of the time; pages are added or removed everyday. Top websites are regularly overhauled. Some sites move to new addresses or are taken down when their webmasters find other interests. Millions of pages of information are vanishing from the web every day. This lost content can be thought of as the Vanishing Web.

Video Sharing : Websites now provide user created streaming or downloable video content delivered via the Internet. Common file formats include Quicktime, Windows Media, and Real Video content. Video sharing sites encourage users to upload and review each other's video. These sites also encourage linking and downloading of user reviews and discussions. Video sharing is thought by some to be a significant step toward the delivery of broadcast television and mainstream movie content.

WC3: W3C stands for the World Wide Web Consortium, an industry group seeking to establish programming and design standards for all elements of Internet based communications. This international volunteer effort attempts to create accessible information for all users. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential. W3C is a forum for information, commerce, communication, and collective understanding.


Web2.0: Web 2.0 describes the second generation of websites where the tech literate can read, write, publish and respond to information. Blogs, wikis, podcasts and webinars are the publication tools that make it all happen. While there are nuances to this term, the essential condition is the power for users to create, share, and evaluate digital information.

Webinar: A real time (synchronous) online meeting focused on a topic of interest.. Participants gather in a 'meeting room' or 'lecture hall'. Depending on the technology being used interactions can be by voice, instant message and video.

Wiki: A collaborative publication tool; a website that allows a community of writers to revise documents using server based Wiki software and a browser.