Sunday, October 01, 2006

Are reference pages dead?

Jeff writes an interesting piece in Techlearning which poses the following question.

As I teach my technology classes, I always make it a requirement for students to cite their work and give links to resources they’ve used. In this new digitally connected world is the way we cite information changing?

He suggests the reference page has died and that in line links are the new citations. I think his premise is right. As a reader it is very helpful to link through to the original sources of information ad it leads to much deeper reading. Let’s be honest even in graduate school I did not spend much time looking up the scholarly citations that were in footnotes or works cited primarily because the works were not readily available to me. The times I did use them were when I was writing my own paper and was looking for other sources. How much easier to do your own research, to grow your knowledge and construct meaning if all of those citations were links!. Isn’t one of of our goals to teach critical thinking and evaluation of the construction of knowledge? Bring on the links so we can acess and discuss the sources!

As for Jeff’s points about MLA and APA I can’t agree more. I too spent a great deal of time trying to get my citations right in school; time that could have been better spent on content. If you must follow the old format then use a citation maker. There are lots of them out there including one on the kid friendly

One commenter on Jeff's article stated that
“Even when links are embedded in a document, the reference page still provides a useful benefit. Maybe not so important at 7th grade, but at some point for sure.”

I am not sure what he had in mind and he does not suggest exactly what the benefit might be. If we are looking at the bigger picture which includes footnotes that are more than a reference and provide commentary which is outside the scope of the papers main body I would suggest that they also should be hyperlinks. Scholarly or just plain explanatory footnotes or endnotes are important in higher education but in our digital world if the work is posted electronically then the notes should be easily accessed through hyperlinks. It makes the presentation much more user friendly.

Ultimately I think we are talking about define good form in an electronic era. Just like we have to reconsider how we teach and how we asses we have to reconsider the norms for digitally written work.

My one concern as a K to 8 educator is that our students may be going off to higher education environments (High School and Colleges) which have not adopted “digital pencils” (to borrow a phrase from the Grandview Librarian) or who are using them as if they were traditional pencils. This is not meant to point fingers or imply that high school and colleges are not moving simply reflects the reality that if I change how we do things I also have to consider the next step in their educational process and make sure they are prepared. Change takes time.


Karl Fisch said...

Thanks for another great post. I just wanted to comment on "My one concern as a K to 8 educator is that our students may be going off to higher education environments (High School and Colleges) which have not adopted “digital pencils”"

I completely understand, but I also think it's so completely ironic. In my high school, we have the same concerns and questions. "What about when they go to college?" and "By the time we get them it's really hard to change them because of what elementary and middle schools are doing."

While I don't think we should ignore these concerns, I think it's pretty obvious that somebody has to change first. I think far too often the "next level" or the "previous level" issue is used as an excuse to avoid change. (I know we use it as an excuse at the high school level.)

I think college is going to be a tough one for you to get after, but high school may not be. Do your students typically go to just a few high schools (at least predominately)? If so, start the conversation with those schools. Find out what they're doing - maybe your ideas fit very well with what they are doing - or at least are thinking of doing. If not, maybe you could suggest that they join with you to explore these ideas together.

I agree, change takes time, and I'm probably too impatient. But as I've said many times in conversations at my school, "This is the only four years of high school these students have." These are the only 9 years your students get to be in K-8 - it's their one shot. Do what's best for them - even if that means you not only have to try to implement change in your school, but also in the high schools near you.

Barbara said...

Thank you Karl for your encouragement and support!

"While I don't think we should ignore these concerns, I think it's pretty obvious that somebody has to change first."
I agree we have to be willing to start and to be pioneers. I really like your suggestion that I open a dialouge with our local high schools. I have been very encouraged this year about what i here is going on at some of our local high schools.
Thanks to for the reminder that time is short...we need to do as much as we can while we have the opportunity. It is the old motivator If not now when? If not us who?
Thank you for keeping me focused on the job at hand!