Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Critical Use of the WWW and Simple 'Home Page' Construction
Originator Prof. Brian Whalley
Department School of Geosciences, Queen's University Belfast, BT7 1NN
Tel. +44 (0)1232 335146 (direct line)
Fax +44 (0) 1232 321280
E-mail b.whalley@qub.ac.uk
bwhalley@geos_01.gg.qub.ac.uk (attachments)

The use of the WWW as a general means of gaining information is increasingly used by students for all sorts of purposes. This can only be considered to be a 'good thing', although time spent looking at low value materials need to be curtailed. (Apart from anything else it uses 'bandwidth'.) As part of a final year option I asked students to search the WWW for material related to glaciers and to assess critically the material they found. The students had to work both individually and in groups. They were first given an overview of the Internet/WWW and shown how to use search engines and given a brief introduction to Boolean searching. They were asked to look for the following in their chosen search engine(s) e.g.

glacial
glacial geomorphology
glaciers
landscapes
geomorphology
ice sheets
Then they were asked to:
  1. Make a note of all the URLs you find individually.
  2. Make an assessment of those you think most useful academically (and note why)
  3. Make an assessment of those sites you found interesting for other reasons (e.g. good layout, useful images etc.)

    Then:

  4. Meet in a group (4-5 people) and rank your three 'best' sites; how do these preferred sites relate to those of other groups?
  5. Fill in one of the evaluation forms and note your experiences in your learning journal.
(The 'learning journal' idea was introduced to them in this module but it was not mandatory.)

The assessment and the evaluation were handed-in individually and the former marked as part of a practical.

A second part was more ambitious and involved students using HTML to mark up a short piece of material for the WWW. They were taught the basics of HTML: markup elements and tags; document layout, e.g. title, heading, body; major tags and style attributes, e.g. paragraphs, break, lists and a few others such as <hr>, <center> and <pre>. No attempt was made to use images of any kind.

The use of these aspects of HTML were demonstrated live in a class and followed by individual assistance. They were also given access to 'help tools' on the QUB server and additional ones such as:
http://www.port.ac.uk/demo/demo.htm
http://werbach.com/barebones/
http://union.ncsa.uiuc.edu/HyperNews/get/www/html/guides.html

The class was then asked to suggest some terms to define in the basic area of glaciology which were linked conceptually (e.g. ablation area, equilibrium line, thermal regime). As a class they then decided which term each person would define and to write this in about half a page of A4. These definitions were then word processed and handed in to me for correction (and they did need some!) and to make suggestions for improvement. The students then marked up these modified definition pages, checked them on a browser and submitted them to me on floppy discs. I would have preferred to do this by e-mail but facilities were not sufficiently well-sorted at QUB at the time.

I did the compilation and linkage of the definitions to save time but the short 'encyclopaedia' was available for access by the students. We used our local server for this so that their efforts were not seen by the world at large - they seemed to appreciate this! With more time available, I think that the class could have done the whole of the compilation.

Although some students found it strange to have to save documents in a form other than Word and that it really was necessary to get the coding right, they did seem to take the concepts on board easily enough. Most found it exciting to see their own material and how easily it could be produced. One or two could not see the point Not least, the exercise produced some feedback about their abilities to define terms and to précis information. It also provided them with some directed experience of using the WWW as an information gathering tool as well as providing information and the advantages of hypertext.

Keywords:

Glaciology
HTML
World-Wide Web (WWW)


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Page created 24 April 1997
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