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The Internet and the school librarian: a description of one course
by Prof. Edna Aphek

- 3

Summary and discussion

Being more focused

I feel that my attempt to combine the new educational theories with hands- on internet usage, was somewhat forced. I believe that had I known prior to the course, that most of the participants had no or very little knowledge of Internet skills, I would have reversed the order of the different parts of the course, and would have started with Internet basic skills, and only after that would have resorted to teaching the innovative educational theories.

In an e mail, K. sent me recently she said: "you opened up my internetting world...."

This opening up should have been done in the very beginning of the course and not almost at its end. I am afraid that it took me too long to realize the lack of this knowledge on the student's part, about 5-6 sessions.

This also brings me to another issue, that of better coordinating my work with the other teachers in the program. I never met the other teachers, and didn't really know what was being taught, or not taught at the other courses. Only later on I learnt from the students that in another course they learnt how to evaluate web sites and net ethics.

I find that at times, maybe too often, teachers both in schools and in higher learning institutions do not always share their knowledge and their materials and that there is little information flow. I believe that at this age of information, we should have all the syllabi , bibliography and materials of teachers teaching in the same program, either on the Internet or on a specially designed organizational net. I also think that teachers meetings should be conducted on- line from time to time.

Lack of good content sites in the Hebrew Language


In their papers, some of the future librarians pointed to the meager number of good content sites in the Hebrew language.
Educational, high quality sites in Hebrew, such as Snunit: www.snunit.k12.il , or Galim www.galim.org.il, which is really part of Snunit, are scarce.

The students also pointed out to another problem related to the above: the difficulty many Israelis have in reading materials in English. A large number of Israelis is not fluent in the English language and hence the need for good sites in Hebrew becomes even more dire.

Time Effectiveness

In her concluding remarks K. pointed out to the huge amounts of time devoted to searching information on the net. All the students in the course felt that searching the net is a very time consuming activity. Many sites are of poor quality and one seems to drown in too much information .

In 1997 John Morkes and Jakob Nielsen researched the issue of "writing for the Internet" as a result , they laid some ground rules for writing for the web.These rules are: concise, scannable and objective writing. And so they say:

"Studies of how users read on the Web found that they do not actually read: instead, they scan the text. A study of five different writing styles found that a sample Web site scored 58% higher in measured usability when it was written concisely, 47% higher when the text was scannable, and 27% higher when it was written in an objective style instead of the promotional style used in the control condition and many current Web pages. Combining these three changes into a single site that was concise, scannable, and objective at the same time resulted in 124% higher measured usability."

http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/writing.html

Unfortunately, not all the writers for the web, follow the above principles, nor do many of them supply real content site. The graphics content relationship, still leaves room for much to be desired.

Coming back to the time consuming effort of using the Net, I am wondering whether a new different method of notation, as far as getting search results, isn't urgently needed. Some sort of iconization which will appear next to sites found by a search engine and which would immediately and visually tell the searcher about the depth and quality of the content of a specific site, the ration between graphics and content, whether the author is an institute or an individual, whether its commercial or academic etc.

The librarian-webrarian's work in light of the above, becomes crucial.

Having the skills and the vast knowledge of dealing with different sources of information, I believe that librarians who had the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the Information Technologies, can and should be key persons both in schools, and help the "perplexed" public ,in public libraries.

Some general "heratic" thoughts which are not directly connected to the title of this article

With all my enthusiasm about the new technologies and the Internet in particular, I am wondering whether with all this effort and monetary investment, we are getting better learners, greater philosophers, better doctors , architects , teachers and engineers.

Is it time effective? Should the IT be introduced into all classes , at all age levels?

Could the same work be done at a shorter period of time and better? What is the learner left with? How cost effective is the use of the Internet?

In an article titled: Is our children learning? Julie Landry is raising the question whether the use of computers in general will bring about the educational impact we have been praying for. Laundry is talking about the enormous amounts of money invested in the IT and in teacher training. She is worried about the cost effectiveness of this investment.

However, Laundry writes that:

In a 1998 research project by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), found that school computer use was associated with increasing math scores for eighth graders by one-third of a grade level. However, researchers cautioned, "the appearance of higher test scores in students who use technology more frequently may be due to the technology, or it may be due to the fact that such students come from more affluent families, and so are better academically prepared in the first place."

What I find most disconcerting in her article is that in certain cases the use of technology in the classroom might have a "detrimental effect" on the learners.

In this respect July quotes Jane Healy who in her book Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds for Better and Worse (Simon & Schuster, 1998) asks for computers to be used carefully at schools. Healy is worried about child's development because "pictures require less effort to process than text. She also cites the instant feedback of computer applications as a possible factor in children's increasing inattentiveness. Ms. Healy warns, "Some of the 'habits of mind' fostered by this software are dangerous. . . . Attention is guided by noise, motion and color, not by the child's brain."

http://www.herring.com/insider/2002/08/classroom082102.html

Educationists, both practitioners and theoreticians should reassess the use of computers in education as THE means for information finding. In a recent issue of From Now On Ken Vesey is asking the following question:

The Internet-only Research Approach: Does the Web Really Have All There Is to Say?

Ken analyzed many Internet learning resources and in light of his research he advocates "an approach to research …[which] will lead students to the best information wherever it is and whatever format it is in. "

His model is a "comprehensive research process for the students and often lead them to analog resources, as well as encourage them to use relevant online tools to tease out the best information on their subject."

http://fno.org/sept02/internetonly.html

Hence the librarian's key role in schools as a guide and mentor for teachers and students as well, in the integration of the various information resources.

I feel that I need to make sure that I as a teacher and a lecturer, a practitioner and theoretician, I won't get too carried away by in my enthusiasm about the computer and the web and their potential, and throw the baby out with the bath water.

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