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Education and Technology:
Serendip's Experiences 1994-2004

Synthesized by Paul Grobstein and Jody Cohen

Serendip was founded ten years ago in part as "a continually developing set of resources to explore and support intellectual and social change in education ...". Over the past decade, Serendip has been involved in an extended (and continuing) process of "trying out things" to see how the web can be used in education.

The Issue

Think for a bit about your experiences with information, with television, newspapers and magazines, classrooms, books, and libraries. Now think about your experiences with the web. In what ways is the web similar to or different from these other things in terms of what you can find in the way of information, how you find it, and how you work with it when you have found it?

Theory

The Web provides, to anyone having access to it, a wealth of information, ideas, and perspectives orders of magnitude greater than was previously available to even the richest and most powerful human beings.

The disorder of the Web is one of its greatest virtues. As a fundamentally decentralized system of information exchange, it makes available, to a much greater degree than any prior human institution, the widest possible array of information/ideas/perspectives in a diversity of forms which, for the first time, approximates the diversity of human users.

(More Theory)

Examples, Exercises, and Additional Resources on Serendip

Further Questions

How does one make the web better?

How does one other make media and classrooms/libraries better?

How does one best make discriminative use of various information sources including the web?

How We Use the Web:
I. Information Resource for Faculty & Students

Experiences from Serendip

  • Enormous and continually growing information availability, accessible from a wide variety of places

  • Lots of sources providing information in different forms at different levels of sophistication and with differing degrees of "authoritativeness"

  • Elaborate cross-referencing of information and information sources, much richer than any previously available (due to web links)

  • Richer media availability (graphics, sound, interactivity) with constantly evolving new ways of conveying information and using language that already have impact beyond the web and are likely to do so increasingly

  • A new ability to find information in ways that correspond to variations in individual interest and background (due to text searching capability)

  • A new encouragement to engage in discovery as part of the process of information gathering ("surfing")


Commentary on Serendip's Experiences

The web both encourages and requires individual responsibility and critical judgement in the process of acquiring information as well as in the process of evaluating and synthesizing it.

  • Effective use of search engines depends on an awareness of how they function (doing text rather than category searching), and an ability to frame one's own interests flexibly and with awareness of how language might be used by others.

  • Effective use of search engines makes it possible to locate information in terms of one's own unique interests rather than having to use search categories created by other people and hence reflecting either their particular interests or averaged "common" interests.

Serendip's Pedagogical Musings

Neither awareness of the rich array of materials available on the web nor sophistication in its use should be presumed for students (or anyone else). Classroom time is well spent in activities that encourage students to become more familiar with the web and its potentials. This means, among other things, encouraging students to "surf" rather than to use the web at the last moment in ways they might use the library or other media.

Two issues that deserve additional particiular attention are developing text searching skill on search engines, and developing the skills of reading critically across wide arrays of material so as to not to fall back on "authority" as a replacement for individual informed judgement.

A problem to keep an eye out for: students (and others) who use web materials as "sources" rather than as stimuli for their own thinking and, for this reason, may overuse quotations and, inadvertently or not, plagiarize materials published on the web.

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© by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Friday, 09-Nov-2007 12:28:23 EST