Monday, November 10, 2014

Virtual Housekeeping: The Changing Nature of Internet Content

We often get asked how we check the database for broken links, dated resources and inappropriate content.  We believe that keeping our database clean is an important task.  We also know how challenging it can be to maintain links to the best content when websites are constantly being redeveloped, reformatted, updated, etc.

A dramatic example of this is Sort It Out.  This interactive about sorting recyclables was made right here in Alberta and was used by many Grade 4 teachers.  Over the past few months, the domain ownership has changed and the link is now about things that are decidedly NOT recycling [see the screen capture].  This site was definitely removed from the database and other sites on recycling with more appropriate content were added.

Another of our favourite examples is Wumpa’s World.  This is a Canadian interactive that explores Inuit culture, a perfect fit for Grade 2 Social Studies.  A few years ago, the interactive was moved to a new URL without a re-direct. Alberta teachers who had been using the link from our Ready site called us, “Where is Wumpa’s World?” We tracked down the creators of the site and after a few email exchanges, were able to update the link for teachers.
Recently Wumpa’s World has been redesigned in HTML 5 with new content and a new URL, and is linked in Ready

The Blobz Guide to Electric Circuits is a popular interactive linked in Kids Love for the Grade 5 Science unit on Electricity and Magnetism.  A few years ago the site disappeared. We tracked down the owner/developer of the site who had forgotten to renew his domain.  Our email to him was his reminder to pay his bill - which he did - and we continue to benefit from his work!

How do we find out about website changes, broken links, and re-directs to inappropriate content?  First of all, we check our most popular sites on a regular basis - for example as we prepare for our seasonal Enjoy pages, ie: Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc. or in preparation for presentations.  We review sections of the site on a regular basis for links which are not broken but need updating. Teachers also contact us when they find broken links within our student sites. We are as proactive as we can be in this worthwhile ‘housekeeping’ task.

We know that Alberta teachers rely on the rich digital content that we have linked in our database. With over 10,000 sites in our database and over 5,000,000 hits on the site per month, we are motivated to do our best to keep these sites current for our users.