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Scoring with online content

  October 20th, 2011

Right away I was skeptical about finding online content that is really relevant to my Environmental Law class. Of course, there are so many things about the environment out there, but it sounded like a bit of a long shot to find really targeted and effective content that speaks to the narrow topics in class, specifically about law or policy (not just cool science) that is at a level appropriate for undergrads. Or would take a long time to sift out, and heaven knows that I just don’t have the time.

I am familiar with TED content from personal use, so my first step was to browse the “Environment” tagged videos. Most were too science and application oriented for my Environmental Law class, but I came across a TED debate on nuclear energy right pretty quickly (http://www.ted.com/talks/debate_does_the_world_need_nuclear_energy.html).

Using outside content is helpful because (a) Some people (much smarter than me) have thought very hard about these issues and can say it faster and better than I can, and (b) I can’t provide a debate in my class when it’s just me! Giving them a different perspective of both content AND process is incredibly valuable. Especially when we are dealing with highly controversial issues, such as whether we should be encouraging expanded use of nuclear power.

The web is an amazing resource, but as I get older I notice that I am now teaching people who have only known on-demand media and I realize how much it has actually narrowed our world in some senses. We all have the ability to search out the material that confirms our own perspective, and we don’t have the patience to sit through the material that challenges our perspectives. I think that dynamic is reflected in our highly polarized society, and it is only going to get worse. With a resource like a 20-minute TED debate, we MUST listen to both sides, and if I can get my students to even look at the other side of a debate, I consider that a hit. If they took the steps to seek out more information about the other side, that is a home-run. So maybe I should do a little before and after essay with this—a paragraph about your opinion on the use of nuclear energy before watching the debate, then a paragraph arguing the other side after watching the debate!

One question that I am thinking about as I continue to seek out media: Is it credible to pull media primarily from 1 resource, like TED or another site? Or should I make a concerted effort to bring in resources from different places? And how much?

Christy Anderson Brekken

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Adventures in Zunal Land

  October 18th, 2011

Ok, I’ll admit up front that I did not devote what one could call ‘quality’ time to the webquest assignment involving zunal.com. That is, unless keeping one eye on the monitor and one eye on my son’s homework can be called ‘quality’. But hey, such is life. Something tells me many others out there deal with these same quality issues.

In a way, restricting the activity to simple searches on a handful of search engines was beneficial. It revealed how restrictive it is to use only general words or terms. In my case, I used the word wilderness, or term wilderness management. In future searches, I would be a bit more specific about the topic I’m seeking help with. Rather than simply using wilderness, I’ll try wilderness recreation, wilderness and fire management, or something similar.

I used four search engines: Ted.com, Merlot.org, YouTube Edu, and Science Daily. When entering the term wilderness management, only one of the four came up empty:

merlot.org result for ‘wilderness management’

Success with the other engines varied. The best result was with Science Daily:

sciencedaily.com result for 'wilderness management'

I was reminded of how liberally the word ‘wilderness’ is used in science and natural resource circles. It is seemingly used to refer to a variety of lands containing some type of wild character. Even in the Science Daily reference, I am not convinced that this technology would actually be used in wilderness areas. The Wilderness Act of 1964 mandates that no mechanized use be allowed in wilderness areas. There are caveats of course, but I don’t believe this is the case with the technology referenced by Science Daily.

Overall, though my search results this time around were less than stellar, I the exercise opened my eyes to some new sources of information. I imagine that I will use zunal.com again, or simply utilize one of the engines contained within. Of course, it pays to enter the activity with a specific, focused topic in mind. Otherwise, time slips away (and leaves you with nothing mister, but…)

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