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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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6 Responses to “Scoring with online content”

  1. Christy, these are some hefty questions you’re posing.

    Regarding the polarization of our society and the personalization of search results: Did you know that there’s a Ted.com video about this?


    If this is the kind of topic you discuss with your students, this video might be a good way to persuade them to consider more than one side.

    Comment by Shannon Riggs - October 20th, 2011 @ 4:04 pm
  2. Hi Christy,
    It seems very useful to bring in outside online media and then discuss what may or may not be useful or representative in it. After all, your students may have found the same items online already. You can now give them the tools to discuss what they find and situate it in a more sophisticated rhetorical context.

    We constantly tell our students to consider all sides, not just two sides, polarized, and to be choosy about the information they find. For example, they would not buy the first pair of shoes right inside the door of the store, but instead they search for the right fit and style and price.

    On the other hand, we want students to realize that there is usually no “best” source and to learn to gather materials and see what they can make from what they do find. This is especially true when we tell them that there may not be a source which combines all the points they want to make, and that instead it is their job to integrate and synthesize materials to create new knowledge! Critical thinking in action.

    So, sharing a wealth of resources can expand their world view.

    Of course, I do tend to overwhelm my students, as you can imagine, with the “more is more” philosophy! 🙂

    Thanks for posing this question.

    Comment by sara jameson - October 27th, 2011 @ 7:16 pm
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