The Universe at Your Fingertips

Continuing Students' Web Education: Creating Web Pages in the Classroom

Alison H. Armstrong
Co-Chair of the Teaching/Learning/Reference Group & Head of Library Instruction
University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Copyright 1997, Alison H. Armstrong. Used with permission.

Abstract

The purpose of this presentation is to share with colleagues an excellent collaborative teaching/learning tool: The Web Page Project. In Library Research Methods, a 3 credit, upper-division undergraduate course cross listed under Environmental Studies, Women's Studies and Instruction & Curricular Studies, students learn to create web pages. The Web Page Project allows them to explore technology, to critically evaluate sources of information, to work in small groups, and to present information to one another.

The nature of this session is practical: it will be a one hour seminar teaching people how to teach students (or any other group) to create web pages. Attendees will create a web page during the session, even if they've never done so before. The basics of html, finding graphics on the Web & incorporating them into web pages, and evaluation of web sources will be covered. Excellent hand-outs will be provided.

Introduction

Today's workshop, "Continuing Students' Web Education: Creating Web Pages in the Classroom" is a hands-on, practical session teaching you how to teach students (or staff or colleagues) to create web pages. For you to teach your group, you must learn how to create a web page. Before we go to the hands-on, I'd like to explain the what of the Web Page Project and then the why of it.

THE WHAT

I teach a three credit course, Library Research Methods, which is cross-listed under Environmental Studies (ES), Women's Studies (WS) and Instruction & Curricular Studies (ICS) at a 400 level. The class meets twice a week for 75 minutes - somewhat long blocks of time - over a 15 week period. Although our program has now changed dramatically, this course had been required of all ES majors prior to writing their senior thesis. The class has been taught exclusively by a Librarian in our electronic classroom which has 14 student workstations (486s on the way to Pentium upgrades) loaded with WINDOWS, Netscape, Notepad and various other applications.

The project itself is described in this handout. The students work in small groups (2-4) over a 3 week period to develop web pages. Up to this point the class has had 5 or 6 small assignments, this is their first major grade and activity. This project is designed to let the students succeed and usually 90% of the groups receive and "A". I teach the students almost exactly the same way that I'll be teaching you. I'll give them (and you) some basics with a demo. I'll give them (and you) a disk. I'll give them (and you) the great handouts created by a member of our cataloging staff, Lamont Downs, and then turn them (and you) loose.

Before my students begin hands-on, we have done work focusing topics and selecting groups. After the beginning lecture and demo, I help people/groups individually. I have an extra set of hands, another staff member from cataloging Paulette Nelson, who help me throughout all the class sessions (I didn't have the luxury of bringing Paulette with me today - she's the HTML expert). As everyone works, I may interrupt with a "for instance" that will shout out to the whole group, because more likely than not, everyone will encounter a similar situation.

THE WHY

My reasons for using a web page project are simple: it's good pedagogy, a basic collaborative learning strategy which helps accomplish two of the three stated course goals: 1)to critically evaluate sources of information, 2)to connect electronically so that we may begin to understand what it means to be part of the information age.

The project bonds the class. By working in an unstructured, small group situation, the students get to know each other. Most of the students in the class are ES majors and if they don't already know each other well, they know the "face", and any of the students with other majors, are now brought into the group. Small group work allows the students to learn from each other and to teach each other. Frequently I'll ask a knowledgeable member of one group to please assist another group with a problem they're experiencing.

The project is empowering. They "create" and then they share their creations. They are able to succeed at something so seemingly difficult. They have acquired a skill.

Students are given the opportunity to present (forced to present) in what is a low pressure situation. Most groups, do very well with the "public speaking" aspect of the assignment.

Finally, the intellectual effort. This, more than any other component, varies dramatically from group to group. What they're being asked to do is to speak for 10-15 minutes on their topic. This is NOT like a research paper. It is not expected to be formal or in-depth. It is not required that the students cite their sources. They are expected to be generally knowledgeable - the notion that they must speak for 10-15 minutes in front of a group is sufficient motivation for the students to be well prepared.

Also, prior to having the students begin their web page project, they have had three weeks of "connectivity". The students (if they hadn't already) signed up for e-mail on the University's system, I had given lectures and hands-on time with basic Internet usage such as pine (UNLV's e-mail system), lynx, tin and gopher. Then we used Netscape as our graphical browser for the WWW. The students were also given two substantive handouts and lectures concerning evaluation of sources, as well. As compared to using this project at the end of the semester, using it at the beginning of the semester has proven to be a much more effective teaching strategy. Immediately, the Internet is demystified, the students have a sense of what's "really" out there & although going to the "real" library is somewhat "boring" afterwards, that's OK. If left to the end of the course, the students are so full of anticipation of the Internet that their sense of waiting & curiosity & feeling deprived & anticipation has interfered with the teaching of the mare traditional resources.

Finally (of the why), this project, though time consuming, is not demanding of the librarian/teacher to be the authority/giver of knowledge. This relates back to the project's ability to empower the students, but it also takes a certain pressure off the Instructor.

Before we move into the hands-on session and into the chaos of teaching in an electronic environment, are there any questions?

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