[previous] [Table of Contents] [Next]

Workshop on Electronic Texts
Session I.

Content in a New Form: Who Will Use It and What Will They Do?

DALY

Serving as moderator, James DALY acknowledged the generosity of all the presenters for giving of their time, counsel, and patience in planning the Workshop, as well as of members of the American Memory project and other Library of Congress staff, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and its executive director, Colburn S. Wilbur.

DALY then recounted his visit in March to the Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (CETH) and the Department of Classics at Rutgers University, where an old friend, Lowell Edmunds, introduced him to the department's IBYCUS scholarly personal computer, and, in particular, the new Latin CD-ROM, containing, among other things, almost all classical Latin literary texts through A.D. 200. Packard Humanities Institute (PHI), Los Altos, California, released this disk late in 1991, with a nominal triennial licensing fee.

Playing with the disk for an hour or so at Rutgers brought home to DALY at once the revolutionizing impact of the new technology on his previous methods of research. Had this disk been available two or three years earlier, DALY contended, when he was engaged in preparing a commentary on Book 10 of Virgil's Aeneid for Cambridge University Press, he would not have required a forty-eight-square-foot table on which to spread the numerous, most frequently consulted items, including some ten or twelve concordances to key Latin authors, an almost equal number of lexica to authors who lacked concordances, and where either lexica or concordances were lacking, numerous editions of authors antedating and postdating Virgil.

Nor, when checking each of the average six to seven words contained in the Virgilian hexameter for its usage elsewhere in Virgil's works or other Latin authors, would DALY have had to maintain the laborious mechanical process of flipping through these concordances, lexica, and editions each time. Nor would he have had to frequent as often the Milton S. Eisenhower Library at the Johns Hopkins University to consult the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae. Instead of devoting countless hours, or the bulk of his research time, to gathering data concerning Virgil's use of words, DALY--now freed by PHI's Latin authors disk from the tyrannical, yet in some ways paradoxically happy scholarly drudgery-- would have been able to devote that same bulk of time to analyzing and interpreting Virgilian verbal usage.

Citing Theodore Brunner, Gregory Crane, Elli MYLONAS, and Avra MICHELSON, DALY argued that this reversal in his style of work, made possible by the new technology, would perhaps have resulted in better, more productive research. Indeed, even in the course of his browsing the Latin authors disk at Rutgers, its powerful search, retrieval, and highlighting capabilities suggested to him several new avenues of research into Virgil's use of sound effects. This anecdotal account, DALY maintained, may serve to illustrate in part the sudden and radical transformation being wrought in the ways scholars work.


MICHELSON

Avra MICHELSON, Archival Research and Evaluation Staff, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), argued that establishing who will use electronic texts and what they will use them for involves a consideration of both information technology and scholarship trends. This consideration includes several elements related to scholarship and technology: 1) the key trends in information technology that are most relevant to scholarship; 2) the key trends in the use of currently available technology by scholars in the nonscientific community; and 3) the relationship between these two very distinct but interrelated trends. The investment in understanding this relationship being made by information providers, technologists, and public policy developers, as well as by scholars themselves, seems to be pervasive and growing, MICHELSON contended. She drew on collaborative work with Jeff Rothenberg on the scholarly use of technology.

MICHELSON sought to place the phenomenon of electronic texts within the context of broader trends within information technology and scholarly communication. She argued that electronic texts are of most use to researchers to the extent that the researchers' working context (i.e., their relevant bibliographic sources, collegial feedback, analytic tools, notes, drafts, etc.), along with their field's primary and secondary sources, also is accessible in electronic form and can be integrated in ways that are unique to the on-line environment.

Evaluation of the prospects for the use of electronic texts includes two elements: 1) an examination of the ways in which researchers currently are using electronic texts along with other electronic resources, and 2) an analysis of key information technology trends that are affecting the long-term conduct of scholarly communication. MICHELSON limited her discussion of the use of electronic texts to the practices of humanists and noted that the scientific community was outside the panel's overview.

MICHELSON examined the nature of the current relationship of electronic texts in particular, and electronic resources in general, to what she maintained were, essentially, five processes of scholarly communication in humanities research. Researchers 1) identify sources, 2) communicate with their colleagues, 3) interpret and analyze data, 4) disseminate their research findings, and 5) prepare curricula to instruct the next generation of scholars and students. This examination would produce a clearer understanding of the synergy among these five processes that fuels the tendency of the use of electronic resources for one process to stimulate its use for other processes of scholarly communication.

For the first process of scholarly communication, the identification of sources, MICHELSON remarked the opportunity scholars now enjoy to supplement traditional word-of-mouth searches for sources among their colleagues with new forms of electronic searching. So, for example, instead of having to visit the library, researchers are able to explore descriptions of holdings in their offices. Furthermore, if their own institutions' holdings prove insufficient, scholars can access more than 200 major American library catalogues over Internet, including the universities of California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Direct access to the bibliographic databases offers intellectual empowerment to scholars by presenting a comprehensive means of browsing through libraries from their homes and offices at their convenience.

The second process of communication involves communication among scholars. Beyond the most common methods of communication, scholars are using E-mail and a variety of new electronic communications formats derived from it for further academic interchange. E-mail exchanges are growing at an astonishing rate, reportedly 15 percent a month. They currently constitute approximately half the traffic on research and education networks. Moreover, the global spread of E-mail has been so rapid that it is now possible for American scholars to use it to communicate with colleagues in close to 140 other countries.

Other new exchange formats created by scholars and operating on Internet include more than 700 conferences, with about 80 percent of these devoted to topics in the social sciences and humanities. The rate of growth of these scholarly electronic conferences also is astonishing. From l990 to l991, 200 new conferences were identified on Internet. From October 1991 to June 1992, an additional 150 conferences in the social sciences and humanities were added to this directory of listings. Scholars have established conferences in virtually every field, within every different discipline. For example, there are currently close to 600 active social science and humanities conferences on topics such as art and architecture, ethnomusicology, folklore, Japanese culture, medical education, and gifted and talented education. The appeal to scholars of communicating through these conferences is that, unlike any other medium, electronic conferences today provide a forum for global communication with peers at the front end of the research process.

Interpretation and analysis of sources constitutes the third process of scholarly communication that MICHELSON discussed in terms of texts and textual resources. The methods used to analyze sources fall somewhere on a continuum from quantitative analysis to qualitative analysis. Typically, evidence is culled and evaluated using methods drawn from both ends of this continuum. At one end, quantitative analysis involves the use of mathematical processes such as a count of frequencies and distributions of occurrences or, on a higher level, regression analysis. At the other end of the continuum, qualitative analysis typically involves nonmathematical processes oriented toward language interpretation or the building of theory. Aspects of this work involve the processing--either manual or computational--of large and sometimes massive amounts of textual sources, although the use of nontextual sources as evidence, such as photographs, sound recordings, film footage, and artifacts, is significant as well.

Scholars have discovered that many of the methods of interpretation and analysis that are related to both quantitative and qualitative methods are processes that can be performed by computers. For example, computers can count. They can count brush strokes used in a Rembrandt painting or perform regression analysis for understanding cause and effect. By means of advanced technologies, computers can recognize patterns, analyze text, and model concepts. Furthermore, computers can complete these processes faster with more sources and with greater precision than scholars who must rely on manual interpretation of data. But if scholars are to use computers for these processes, source materials must be in a form amenable to computer-assisted analysis. For this reason many scholars, once they have identified the sources that are key to their research, are converting them to machine-readable form. Thus, a representative example of the numerous textual conversion projects organized by scholars around the world in recent years to support computational text analysis is the TLG, the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. This project is devoted to converting the extant ancient texts of classical Greece. (Editor's note: according to the TLG Newsletter of May l992, TLG was in use in thirty-two different countries. This figure updates MICHELSON's previous count by one.)

The scholars performing these conversions have been asked to recognize that the electronic sources they are converting for one use possess value for other research purposes as well. As a result, during the past few years, humanities scholars have initiated a number of projects to increase scholarly access to converted text. So, for example, the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), about which more is said later in the program, was established as an effort by scholars to determine standard elements and methods for encoding machine-readable text for electronic exchange. In a second effort to facilitate the sharing of converted text, scholars have created a new institution, the Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (CETH). The center estimates that there are 8,000 series of source texts in the humanities that have been converted to machine-readable form worldwide. CETH is undertaking an international search for converted text in the humanities, compiling it into an electronic library, and preparing bibliographic descriptions of the sources for the Research Libraries Information Network's (RLIN) machine-readable data file. The library profession has begun to initiate large conversion projects as well, such as American Memory.

While scholars have been making converted text available to one another, typically on disk or on CD-ROM, the clear trend is toward making these resources available through research and education networks. Thus, the American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language (ARTFL) and the Dante Project are already available on Internet. MICHELSON summarized this section on interpretation and analysis by noting that: 1) increasing numbers of humanities scholars in the library community are recognizing the importance to the advancement of scholarship of retrospective conversion of source materials in the arts and humanities; and 2) there is a growing realization that making the sources available on research and education networks maximizes their usefulness for the analysis performed by humanities scholars.

The fourth process of scholarly communication is dissemination of research findings, that is, publication. Scholars are using existing research and education networks to engineer a new type of publication: scholarly-controlled journals that are electronically produced and disseminated. Although such journals are still emerging as a communication format, their number has grown, from approximately twelve to thirty-six during the past year (July 1991 to June 1992). Most of these electronic scholarly journals are devoted to topics in the humanities. As with network conferences, scholarly enthusiasm for these electronic journals stems from the medium's unique ability to advance scholarship in a way that no other medium can do by supporting global feedback and interchange, practically in real time, early in the research process. Beyond scholarly journals, MICHELSON remarked the delivery of commercial full-text products, such as articles in professional journals, newsletters, magazines, wire services, and reference sources. These are being delivered via on-line local library catalogues, especially through CD-ROMs. Furthermore, according to MICHELSON, there is general optimism that the copyright and fees issues impeding the delivery of full text on existing research and education networks soon will be resolved.

The final process of scholarly communication is curriculum development and instruction, and this involves the use of computer information technologies in two areas. The first is the development of computer-oriented instructional tools, which includes simulations, multimedia applications, and computer tools that are used to assist in the analysis of sources in the classroom, etc. The Perseus Project, a database that provides a multimedia curriculum on classical Greek civilization, is a good example of the way in which entire curricula are being recast using information technologies. It is anticipated that the current difficulty in exchanging electronically computer-based instructional software, which in turn makes it difficult for one scholar to build upon the work of others, will be resolved before too long. Stand-alone curricular applications that involve electronic text will be sharable through networks, reinforcing their significance as intellectual products as well as instructional tools.

The second aspect of electronic learning involves the use of research and education networks for distance education programs. Such programs interactively link teachers with students in geographically scattered locations and rely on the availability of electronic instructional resources. Distance education programs are gaining wide appeal among state departments of education because of their demonstrated capacity to bring advanced specialized course work and an array of experts to many classrooms. A recent report found that at least 32 states operated at least one statewide network for education in 1991, with networks under development in many of the remaining states.

MICHELSON summarized this section by noting two striking changes taking place in scholarly communication among humanities scholars. First is the extent to which electronic text in particular, and electronic resources in general, are being infused into each of the five processes described above. As mentioned earlier, there is a certain synergy at work here. The use of electronic resources for one process tends to stimulate its use for other processes, because the chief course of movement is toward a comprehensive on-line working context for humanities scholars that includes on-line availability of key bibliographies, scholarly feedback, sources, analytical tools, and publications. MICHELSON noted further that the movement toward a comprehensive on-line working context for humanities scholars is not new. In fact, it has been underway for more than forty years in the humanities, since Father Roberto Busa began developing an electronic concordance of the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas in 1949. What we are witnessing today, MICHELSON contended, is not the beginning of this on-line transition but, for at least some humanities scholars, the turning point in the transition from a print to an electronic working context. Coinciding with the on-line transition, the second striking change is the extent to which research and education networks are becoming the new medium of scholarly communication. The existing Internet and the pending National Education and Research Network (NREN) represent the new meeting ground where scholars are going for bibliographic information, scholarly dialogue and feedback, the most current publications in their field, and high-level educational offerings. Traditional scholarly practices are undergoing tremendous transformations as a result of the emergence and growing prominence of what is called network-mediated scholarship.

MICHELSON next turned to the second element of the framework she proposed at the outset of her talk for evaluating the prospects for electronic text, namely the key information technology trends affecting the conduct of scholarly communication over the next decade: 1) end-user computing and 2) connectivity.

End-user computing means that the person touching the keyboard, or performing computations, is the same as the person who initiates or consumes the computation. The emergence of personal computers, along with a host of other forces, such as ubiquitous computing, advances in interface design, and the on-line transition, is prompting the consumers of computation to do their own computing, and is thus rendering obsolete the traditional distinction between end users and ultimate users.

The trend toward end-user computing is significant to consideration of the prospects for electronic texts because it means that researchers are becoming more adept at doing their own computations and, thus, more competent in the use of electronic media. By avoiding programmer intermediaries, computation is becoming central to the researcher's thought process. This direct involvement in computing is changing the researcher's perspective on the nature of research itself, that is, the kinds of questions that can be posed, the analytical methodologies that can be used, the types and amount of sources that are appropriate for analyses, and the form in which findings are presented. The trend toward end-user computing means that, increasingly, electronic media and computation are being infused into all processes of humanities scholarship, inspiring remarkable transformations in scholarly communication.

The trend toward greater connectivity suggests that researchers are using computation increasingly in network environments. Connectivity is important to scholarship because it erases the distance that separates students from teachers and scholars from their colleagues, while allowing users to access remote databases, share information in many different media, connect to their working context wherever they are, and collaborate in all phases of research.

The combination of the trend toward end-user computing and the trend toward connectivity suggests that the scholarly use of electronic resources, already evident among some researchers, will soon become an established feature of scholarship. The effects of these trends, along with ongoing changes in scholarly practices, point to a future in which humanities researchers will use computation and electronic communication to help them formulate ideas, access sources, perform research, collaborate with colleagues, seek peer review, publish and disseminate results, and engage in many other professional and educational activities.

In summary, MICHELSON emphasized four points: 1) A portion of humanities scholars already consider electronic texts the preferred format for analysis and dissemination. 2) Scholars are using these electronic texts, in conjunction with other electronic resources, in all the processes of scholarly communication. 3) The humanities scholars' working context is in the process of changing from print technology to electronic technology, in many ways mirroring transformations that have occurred or are occurring within the scientific community. 4) These changes are occurring in conjunction with the development of a new communication medium: research and education networks that are characterized by their capacity to advance scholarship in a wholly unique way.

MICHELSON also reiterated her three principal arguments: l) Electronic texts are best understood in terms of the relationship to other electronic resources and the growing prominence of network-mediated scholarship. 2) The prospects for electronic texts lie in their capacity to be integrated into the on-line network of electronic resources that comprise the new working context for scholars. 3) Retrospective conversion of portions of the scholarly record should be a key strategy as information providers respond to changes in scholarly communication practices.


VECCIA

Susan VECCIA, team leader, and Joanne FREEMAN, associate coordinator, American Memory, Library of Congress, gave a joint presentation. First, by way of introduction, VECCIA explained her and FREEMAN's roles in American Memory (AM). Serving principally as an observer, VECCIA has assisted with the evaluation project of AM, placing AM collections in a variety of different sites around the country and helping to organize and implement that project. FREEMAN has been an associate coordinator of AM and has been involved principally with the interpretative materials, preparing some of the electronic exhibits and printed historical information that accompanies AM and that is requested by users. VECCIA and FREEMAN shared anecdotal observations concerning AM with public users of electronic resources. Notwithstanding a fairly structured evaluation in progress, both VECCIA and FREEMAN chose not to report on specifics in terms of numbers, etc., because they felt it was too early in the evaluation project to do so.

AM is an electronic archive of primary source materials from the Library of Congress, selected collections representing a variety of formats-- photographs, graphic arts, recorded sound, motion pictures, broadsides, and soon, pamphlets and books. In terms of the design of this system, the interpretative exhibits have been kept separate from the primary resources, with good reason. Accompanying this collection are printed documentation and user guides, as well as guides that FREEMAN prepared for teachers so that they may begin using the content of the system at once.

VECCIA described the evaluation project before talking about the public users of AM, limiting her remarks to public libraries, because FREEMAN would talk more specifically about schools from kindergarten to twelfth grade (K-12). Having started in spring 1991, the evaluation currently involves testing of the Macintosh implementation of AM. Since the primary goal of this evaluation is to determine the most appropriate audience or audiences for AM, very different sites were selected. This makes evaluation difficult because of the varying degrees of technology literacy among the sites. AM is situated in forty-four locations, of which six are public libraries and sixteen are schools. Represented among the schools are elementary, junior high, and high schools. District offices also are involved in the evaluation, which will conclude in summer 1993.

VECCIA focused the remainder of her talk on the six public libraries, one of which doubles as a state library. They represent a range of geographic areas and a range of demographic characteristics. For example, three are located in urban settings, two in rural settings, and one in a suburban setting. A range of technical expertise is to be found among these facilities as well. For example, one is an "Apple library of the future," while two others are rural one-room libraries--in one, AM sits at the front desk next to a tractor manual.

All public libraries have been extremely enthusiastic, supportive, and appreciative of the work that AM has been doing. VECCIA characterized various users: Most users in public libraries describe themselves as general readers; of the students who use AM in the public libraries, those in fourth grade and above seem most interested. Public libraries in rural sites tend to attract retired people, who have been highly receptive to AM. Users tend to fall into two additional categories: people interested in the content and historical connotations of these primary resources, and those fascinated by the technology. The format receiving the most comments has been motion pictures. The adult users in public libraries are more comfortable with IBM computers, whereas young people seem comfortable with either IBM or Macintosh, although most of them seem to come from a Macintosh background. This same tendency is found in the schools.

What kinds of things do users do with AM? In a public library there are two main goals or ways that AM is being used: as an individual learning tool, and as a leisure activity. Adult learning was one area that VECCIA would highlight as a possible application for a tool such as AM. She described a patron of a rural public library who comes in every day on his lunch hour and literally reads AM, methodically going through the collection image by image. At the end of his hour he makes an electronic bookmark, puts it in his pocket, and returns to work. The next day he comes in and resumes where he left off. Interestingly, this man had never been in the library before he used AM. In another small, rural library, the coordinator reports that AM is a popular activity for some of the older, retired people in the community, who ordinarily would not use "those things,"--computers. Another example of adult learning in public libraries is book groups, one of which, in particular, is using AM as part of its reading on industrialization, integration, and urbanization in the early 1900s.

One library reports that a family is using AM to help educate their children. In another instance, individuals from a local museum came in to use AM to prepare an exhibit on toys of the past. These two examples emphasize the mission of the public library as a cultural institution, reaching out to people who do not have the same resources available to those who live in a metropolitan area or have access to a major library. One rural library reports that junior high school students in large numbers came in one afternoon to use AM for entertainment. A number of public libraries reported great interest among postcard collectors in the Detroit collection, which was essentially a collection of images used on postcards around the turn of the century. Train buffs are similarly interested because that was a time of great interest in railroading. People, it was found, relate to things that they know of firsthand. For example, in both rural public libraries where AM was made available, observers reported that the older people with personal remembrances of the turn of the century were gravitating to the Detroit collection. These examples served to underscore MICHELSON's observation re the integration of electronic tools and ideas--that people learn best when the material relates to something they know.

VECCIA made the final point that in many cases AM serves as a public-relations tool for the public libraries that are testing it. In one case, AM is being used as a vehicle to secure additional funding for the library. In another case, AM has served as an inspiration to the staff of a major local public library in the South to think about ways to make its own collection of photographs more accessible to the public.


FREEMAN

Reiterating an observation made by VECCIA, that AM is an archival resource made up of primary materials with very little interpretation, FREEMAN stated that the project has attempted to bridge the gap between these bare primary materials and a school environment, and in that cause has created guided introductions to AM collections. Loud demand from the educational community, chiefly from teachers working with the upper grades of elementary school through high school, greeted the announcement that AM would be tested around the country.

FREEMAN reported not only on what was learned about AM in a school environment, but also on several universal questions that were raised concerning archival electronic resources in schools. She discussed several strengths of this type of material in a school environment as opposed to a highly structured resource that offers a limited number of paths to follow.

FREEMAN first raised several questions about using AM in a school environment. There is often some difficulty in developing a sense of what the system contains. Many students sit down at a computer resource and assume that, because AM comes from the Library of Congress, all of American history is now at their fingertips. As a result of that sort of mistaken judgment, some students are known to conclude that AM contains nothing of use to them when they look for one or two things and do not find them. It is difficult to discover that middle ground where one has a sense of what the system contains. Some students grope toward the idea of an archive, a new idea to them, since they have not previously experienced what it means to have access to a vast body of somewhat random information.

Other questions raised by FREEMAN concerned the electronic format itself. For instance, in a school environment it is often difficult both for teachers and students to gain a sense of what it is they are viewing. They understand that it is a visual image, but they do not necessarily know that it is a postcard from the turn of the century, a panoramic photograph, or even machine-readable text of an eighteenth-century broadside, a twentieth-century printed book, or a nineteenth-century diary. That distinction is often difficult for people in a school environment to grasp. Because of that, it occasionally becomes difficult to draw conclusions from what one is viewing.

FREEMAN also noted the obvious fear of the computer, which constitutes a difficulty in using an electronic resource. Though students in general did not suffer from this anxiety, several older students feared that they were computer-illiterate, an assumption that became self-fulfilling when they searched for something but failed to find it. FREEMAN said she believed that some teachers also fear computer resources, because they believe they lack complete control. FREEMAN related the example of teachers shooing away students because it was not their time to use the system. This was a case in which the situation had to be extremely structured so that the teachers would not feel that they had lost their grasp on what the system contained.

A final question raised by FREEMAN concerned access and availability of the system. She noted the occasional existence of a gap in communication between school librarians and teachers. Often AM sits in a school library and the librarian is the person responsible for monitoring the system. Teachers do not always take into their world new library resources about which the librarian is excited. Indeed, at the sites where AM had been used most effectively within a library, the librarian was required to go to specific teachers and instruct them in its use. As a result, several AM sites will have in-service sessions over a summer, in the hope that perhaps, with a more individualized link, teachers will be more likely to use the resource.

A related issue in the school context concerned the number of workstations available at any one location. Centralization of equipment at the district level, with teachers invited to download things and walk away with them, proved unsuccessful because the hours these offices were open were also school hours.

Another issue was hardware. As VECCIA observed, a range of sites exists, some technologically advanced and others essentially acquiring their first computer for the primary purpose of using it in conjunction with AM's testing. Users at technologically sophisticated sites want even more sophisticated hardware, so that they can perform even more sophisticated tasks with the materials in AM. But once they acquire a newer piece of hardware, they must learn how to use that also; at an unsophisticated site it takes an extremely long time simply to become accustomed to the computer, not to mention the program offered with the computer. All of these small issues raise one large question, namely, are systems like AM truly rewarding in a school environment, or do they simply act as innovative toys that do little more than spark interest?

FREEMAN contended that the evaluation project has revealed several strengths that were gained through the use of archival resources in schools, including:

DISCUSSION

During the discussion that followed the presentations by MICHELSON, VECCIA, and FREEMAN, additional points emerged.

LESK asked if MICHELSON could give any quantitative estimate of the number of humanities scholars who must see or want to see the original, or the best possible version of the material, versus those who typically would settle for an edited transcript. While unable to provide a figure, she offered her impressions as an archivist who has done some reference work and has discussed this issue with other archivists who perform reference, that those who use archives and those who use primary sources for what would be considered very high-level scholarly research, as opposed to, say, undergraduate papers, were few in number, especially given the public interest in using primary sources to conduct genealogical or avocational research and the kind of professional research done by people in private industry or the federal government. More important in MICHELSON's view was that, quantitatively, nothing is known about the ways in which, for example, humanities scholars are using information technology. No studies exist to offer guidance in creating strategies. The most recent study was conducted in 1985 by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), and what it showed was that 50 percent of humanities scholars at that time were using computers. That constitutes the extent of our knowledge.

Concerning AM's strategy for orienting people toward the scope of electronic resources, FREEMAN could offer no hard conclusions at this point, because she and her colleagues were still waiting to see, particularly in the schools, what has been made of their efforts. Within the system, however, AM has provided what are called electronic exhibits- -such as introductions to time periods and materials--and these are intended to offer a student user a sense of what a broadside is and what it might tell her or him. But FREEMAN conceded that the project staff would have to talk with students next year, after teachers have had a summer to use the materials, and attempt to discover what the students were learning from the materials. In addition, FREEMAN described supporting materials in print provided by AM at the request of local teachers during a meeting held at LC. These included time lines, bibliographies, and other materials that could be reproduced on a photocopier in a classroom. Teachers could walk away with and use these, and in this way gain a better understanding of the contents. But again, reaching firm conclusions concerning the manner and extent of their use would have to wait until next year.

As to the changes she saw occurring at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as a result of the increasing emphasis on technology in scholarly research, MICHELSON stated that NARA at this point was absorbing the report by her and Jeff Rothenberg addressing strategies for the archival profession in general, although not for the National Archives specifically. NARA is just beginning to establish its role and what it can do. In terms of changes and initiatives that NARA can take, no clear response could be given at this time.

GREENFIELD remarked two trends mentioned in the session. Reflecting on DALY's opening comments on how he could have used a Latin collection of text in an electronic form, he said that at first he thought most scholars would be unwilling to do that. But as he thought of that in terms of the original meaning of research--that is, having already mastered these texts, researching them for critical and comparative purposes--for the first time, the electronic format made a lot of sense. GREENFIELD could envision growing numbers of scholars learning the new technologies for that very aspect of their scholarship and for convenience's sake.

Listening to VECCIA and FREEMAN, GREENFIELD thought of an additional application of electronic texts. He realized that AM could be used as a guide to lead someone to original sources. Students cannot be expected to have mastered these sources, things they have never known about before. Thus, AM is leading them, in theory, to a vast body of information and giving them a superficial overview of it, enabling them to select parts of it. GREENFIELD asked if any evidence exists that this resource will indeed teach the new user, the K-12 students, how to do research. Scholars already know how to do research and are applying these new tools. But he wondered why students would go beyond picking out things that were most exciting to them.

FREEMAN conceded the correctness of GREENFIELD's observation as applied to a school environment. The risk is that a student would sit down at a system, play with it, find some things of interest, and then walk away. But in the relatively controlled situation of a school library, much will depend on the instructions a teacher or a librarian gives a student. She viewed the situation not as one of fine-tuning research skills but of involving students at a personal level in understanding and researching things. Given the guidance one can receive at school, it then becomes possible to teach elementary research skills to students, which in fact one particular librarian said she was teaching her fifth graders. FREEMAN concluded that introducing the idea of following one's own path of inquiry, which is essentially what research entails, involves more than teaching specific skills. To these comments VECCIA added the observation that the individual teacher and the use of a creative resource, rather than AM itself, seemed to make the key difference. Some schools and some teachers are making excellent use of the nature of critical thinking and teaching skills, she said.

Concurring with these remarks, DALY closed the session with the thought that the more that producers produced for teachers and for scholars to use with their students, the more successful their electronic products would prove.

[previous] [Table of Contents] [Next]

[Search all CoOL documents]


URL: http://cool.conservation-us.org/byorg/lc/etextw/sess1.html
Timestamp: Thursday, 04-Nov-2010 14:30:41 PDT
Retrieved: Wednesday, 22-Nov-2017 11:07:55 GMT