A CAUTIONARY TALE
WARNING: ELECTRONIC 'SHOVELWARE'
We as teachers must become familiar with these new tools and how they will affect our students. Jamieson McKenzie in his article Grazing the Net: Raising a Generation of
Free Range Students reflects on the impact of the Information Age on education and warns of the danger of info-glut masquerading as wisdom and urges his fellow teachers to reconsider the nature of assigned tasks to reward not only the gathering of information but also its analysis, synthesis and evaluation. McKenzie argues that it is the student's ability "to evaluate - the skill of making informed decisions based upon clearly stated criteria as well as balanced evidence" which should form the basis for assigned research and student assessment.(See article: The New Plagiarism)
David Thornburg echoes McKenzie's concerns when he warns of the danger of electronic 'shovelware' (the mindless downloading of vast quantities of information and shoveling it into an assignment without showing any signs of understanding of the subject itself) as a substitute for scholarship . According to Thornburg,
The answer is not to restrict access but rather to encourage all students to gather information and then explain that information gathering alone reflects a tired old educational paradigm ill-suited to the needs of today's learners. We need to help students learn to organize and make sense of the voluminous quantity of information that streams across the Net everyday. If we don't then every day will be a great day for shovelware." (pg. 141) [*]
WHAT'S OUT THERE AND WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP?
Finally, there is clearly a need for improvement in the quality, variety and content of history resources available on the Internet. (See McKenzie's The Disneyfication of History) Due to the apparant ease with which one can author and link sites from the World Wide Web it is quite common to locate sites with very promising titles only to discover that they merely link to other sites with yet more promising links and so on. What is needed are more content-oriented WWW sites (hopefully authored by teachers and students themselves as more of them join the Internet community).
In our exploration of Internet-based resources we have been rewarded by discovering several such content-driven projects (some of which we have included in this presentation). It is our hope that these examples of good practice will encourage others to contribute to the pool of shared resources which we believe is still in its infancy.