an appreciation of Mann

Mike Lieber (U28550@UICVM.BITNET)
Sun, 25 Sep 1994 13:53:11 CDT

I second Mary Pat Mann's post about the use of new technologies in teaching.
The gopher alone provides students with access to information that would have
been well nigh impossible otherwise. I'll give you some examples from my own
(1) A Cuban-American student in my folklore course wants to do a paper on El
Cobre, a small but very important church in the mountains in Cuba. The only
literature he knows of is a small pamphlet his mother sent him from Miami. He
gets on the Folklore-L net and the Folklorica Latina net and posts a request
for information. Within two weeks, he has enough data and references to get
data (+ email contact with the folklore archivist in Havana) to do a very good
term paper.
(2) A student in an introductory course is fascinated with the involvement of
different ethnic groups in the criminal justice system. He takes a class at
the university library on how to use gopher and world wide web, gets on to the
wilson search protocol, and turns up slews of articles not just on the U. S.,
but on the continent (especially England). Given the available data, he
decides to compare the U. S. and UK.

Now consider this one, a quasi-hypothetical case.

(3) Some of you may remember the late king of anthropological sleaze, Derek
Freeman, who published a pseudoscientific attack on Margaret Mead's _Coming
of Age in Samoa_, claiming that she was the victim of a conspiracy by the
local Samoans to lie to her about their sexuality. Any careful reader could
see the bogus statistics, the innuendo, outright lies, and other shady tactics
Freeman employed to destroy Mead's integrity--several years after her death,
of course. One of those tactics was to group all of his literature citations
together at the end of the paragraph so the reader would have no way of knowing
which citation referred to which point without going to the library and finding
them all, then reading them. Now, if he had known that his book would be put
onto hypermedia with each citation available with the touch of a button (such
that anyone with access to the World Wide Web could check them all out easily),
do you think he would have written the same book? Indeed, I would love to see
his book put on hypermedia just to be able to use it to teach a class how to
detect crap in what they read. It's a classic in dirty tricks and how to use

(4) Because my university has invested heavily in hardware and software for
students and for faculty who want to use multi-media approaches in teaching,
I am now able to train my introductory classes in the uses of the Gopher and
the World Wide Web to find materials on any subject that the might find
interesting. I'm having them do annotated bibliographies on specific areas
involving ethnocentrism to get them used to finding and using information
resources both in the library and on-line. It doesn't replace the teacher.
It simply exapnds the sorts of information to which students have access. The
multi-media presentation is also invaluable to get across a point and to
save time. Just one example--showing films is a great idea, but you're
limited to those that you have time for. _Dead Birds-, on the other hand, is
80 minutes, which means that I have to use two class periods (separated by a
day). To cut down the time, I could go over the film and slip pieces of paper
like book marks into the footage that I want to show and then fast forward to
the next clip. But if I can digitize what I want to show that makes the point
I'm after, this is a time saver. I just put it onto a floppy disk with other
material before and after, and I bring the TV into the classroom and show it
when I need it. I also have the option of making the disk available so that
students can just slip it into an available machine in the building whenever
they have time. It will take a long time to get used to using this stuff and
figuring out how to put it all together--the Biological Sciences are way ahead
of us on that score--but it's available for us.

The point is about augmentation of teaching effort. The ability to increase
access to information with less effort and the ability to use digitzed
text and images to put together presentations (and to digitally edit them
when that seems necessary) greatly augments a teacher's ability to be clear
and a student's ability to teach him-/herself. I feel lucky that Mary Pat
Mann is available on the net to not only help us understand what the
technology is about, but to answer technical questions that some of us may
Mike Lieber