www use

Bill Purves purves at MUDDCS.CS.HMC.EDU
Thu Feb 20 13:07:58 EST 1997

At 08:50 AM 2/20/97 -0800, Ross Koning wrote:

<... various good things about (uses of)/(problems with) the www for
our teaching purposes ...>

I agree with everything he said and would like to second certain of
his points.  Most important, Ross emphasized that we are in a transition
period with the respect to the web.  I think we should keep our shirts on
and not expect it to be everything we would like it to be (for now), AND
we should take advantage of the opportunities it affords.

This includes taking its current "bugs" and using them as "features."
For example: Sure, web sites are ephemeral and often junky.  People
KNOW this.  AND some people are helpful and will often drop suggestions
to people who are obviously maintaining serious sites.  Okay: For those
who haven't tried it: Get your students (singly, in pairs, or in SMALL
teams) to create web pages presenting what they have learned from a
project (lab experimentation, literature/web search, field observations,
whatever).  Then invite your friends/colleagues at other institutions to
direct their own AND THEIR STUDENTS' attention to those pages.  There
aren't journals that students can get that kind of exposure (and friendly
comment) in.  But the good ol' ephemeral web DOES make that possible.
BTW, I think that most (but certainly not all) students LIKE doing this
sort of thing.  In a team situation, having at least one web nerd can
make life nicer for the web wimps--and enable them to spread their wings.

And encourage your students to look for information on the web--and tell
them of your concerns about ephemerality, crumminess, etc. ...  And DO
have them cite their web sources.  As Ross and others note, the day WILL
come when there are stable archives...

And I like the following, from Ross:

>At 1:21 PM -0500 2/19/97, Thomas Bjorkman wrote:

>>The temporary nature of most sites makes them uncitable in writing
>>that is meant to have lasting value.
>Thomas makes a good point here.  Is student writing
>for a class paper meant to have lasting value?  Is
>not all such writing a "writing for the moment" that
>presents the state of knowledge "at that moment"?
>How many class papers go anywhere after submission to
>the faculty member?

I also second Ross's remark to the effect that one should no more need
to "check" every web citation than one has to check every conventional
paper citation.  For those of you who DO find it necessary to check
every conventional citation, I'd like to urge that you NOT do so.
(Obviously, some citations are sufficiently bogus or inept that one
does check 'em out before lowering whatever boom is normal on one's
campus.)  Surely one can't check 'em all unless the class is of 
reasonable size--and if it's a small enough class to do that, it's
small enough to concentrate instead on developing trust and honesty.
(Harvey Mudd College has an effective Honor Code, but it doesn't
work perfectly.  Where it seems to fail most often is in the (unnamed)
departments that have faculty members who distrust the code and end
up outraging basically honest students into Doing Bad Things out of
simple resentment.)


William K. Purves              phone: 909.626.4859
2817 N. Mountain Avenue   voice mail: 909.621.8021
Claremont, CA 91711-1550         fax: 909.626.7030
USA                    e-mail: Bill_Purves at hmc.edu

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