Friday, April 04, 2008

Research on the Web

I have just finished teaching a one credit course that the librarians teach here at Rollins. It is called "Research on the Web. " Three weeks of three 50 minute sessions. Pretty short, so it really just ends up being an introduction. But an introduction to what? Each librarian uses a different syllabus, content, and obviously teaches in different ways.

I chose to cover different forms of content or providers on the web (search engines, government information, digital books, digital archives, open access journals, images, and Web 2.0.) The assignment was to create a wiki that consists of a a series of annotated webliographies on any acceptable topic the students chose. So the first couple of class sessions were about wikis using Wikipedia as an example (this was also an opportunity to talk about wikipedia in general) and about evaluation.

We could have produced the same assignment as printed Word documents, but I wanted to make the point that the students are both consumers and producers of information on the web since the wiki is opening available, although it can only be edited by class members. But I found some other advantages to using a wiki. For instance, I can comment on the students' work on the page, simply by editing the wiki myself and I received an e-mail each time a student edited a page. Finally, the next group of students get to develop the site -- the cumulative, cooperative web.

I enjoyed the class. they were a good group of students, though 8 a.m. for three days per week was tough on all of us. It felt much too short to me. I think the students could have used more time to search, there are obviously many more forms of content and providers we could have explored. Also I found myself talking about the economics and history of information far more than I expected (or perhaps the students wanted.) It made me think about possibly teaching a more extensive course on the history and economics of information. Time was, the course would have been call the "History of the Book." I think it would be fun to teach an updated version.

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