“If you don't have it, you can't find it.” A close look at students' perceptions of using technology

  • Published on
    06-Jun-2016

  • View
    212

  • Download
    0

Transcript

  • they felt, that is, their levels of confidence, pleasure orfrustration, and whether they would reveal unexpectedor surprising insights about the skills needed to accessinformation.

    In order to express what they knew tacitly, studentssometimes shaped a narrative to recount particular epi-sodes in their experiences. Schank (1990) writes thatstories digest experiences (p. 29). The students re-called ordinary moments in thinking about their use ofthe Web, and their stories and anecdotes supplied thedata in which I, then, sought meaning. By analyzing theirmusings on encounters with this technology, we may gainsome insight into how these students feel and what theythink about their experiences. This kind of insight andunderstanding may inform us about student users con-struction of the relations between using the Web, theoutcome of its use, and their own information problems(D. Raber, personal communication, October 17, 1997).If we believe that people make it [ the Net] work(Janes & Rosenfeld, 1996, p. 714), we must see howstudents make the Internet work for school and personalinterests. A supply of narratives may reveal some of theidiosyncratic and universal attitudes and skills which stu-dents acquire as they use new technologies. As I reflectedon and engaged with the students words, my resultingtext interprets the students thinking. The study, therefore,provides qualitative data for others to read first-personvoices from the schools, and one professionals response.Such a study may offer practitioners insight for listeningto the users of the new technologies, for the major pur-pose of library research must be focused on the questionof how libraries can intervene usefully in individualsense-making processes (Dervin, 1977, p. 29). Educa-tors and policy makers may need to add student voicesas an important element in thinking about users of thisand other technologies. As recipients, users, and leadersin using electronic resources for learning, students waysof being with technology may inspire us to think in freshways.

    If You Dont Have It, You Cant Find It. A Close Lookat Students Perceptions of Using Technology

    Jinx Stapleton WatsonSchool of Information Science, University of Tennessee, 804 Temple Court, Knoxville, TN 37996.E-mail: jinx-watson@utk.edu

    Rarely do adults ask students to reflect on their learning.This study looks closely at a sample of eighth-grade stu-dents perceptions about their experiences with technol-ogy, especially the use of the World Wide Web. Em-ploying a phenomenological methodology of both exam-ining a single student story and analyzing a collection ofstudent voices, several themes and questions emerge.Students personal attributes of self confidence, resil-ience, and openness to learning about the new technolo-gies, and their skills in reading the Web and managinginformation, may offer new questions for teachers andinformation professionals.

    Accustomed to gathering and reporting data quantita-tively and statistically to measure how much studentslearn, schools rarely listen to students talk and reflectionson what they know or how they learned it. Kuhlthau,Turock, George, & Belvin, (1990) remind us that, Inthe field of library and information studies, very little isknown about what goes on inside the user (p. 29). Thus,this qualitative study examines students perceptions oftheir experiences in using the Internet, especially theWorld Wide Web. As students continue to use electronicresources for their school work and their leisure interests,teachers, librarians, and information professionals needto know how young people make sense of their access toand retrieval of information. When information seekingis viewed as a process of construction, the users experi-ence becomes a critical component for analysis (Kuhl-thau, 1993a, p. 344). In order to get to know about somereal-life experiences, I invited a number of eighth-gradestudents to reflect about their personal experiences withtechnology. My major purpose was to gather informationfrom students about their own perceptions in using thenew technologies. Specifically, I wanted to know whatthey mean when they say that they use the World WideWeb as a new resource for their studies and leisure. Iwondered if they would disclose information about how

    q 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

    JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCE. 49(11) :10241036, 1998 CCC 0002-8231/98/111024-13/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

  • participants to construct meaning of their own experience.Making meaning of ones experiences often conveys bothcognitive and affective qualities. That is, as one wrestleswith meaning, one cannot help but reveal how one feelsabout the issues, for, Meanings are constructs that peo-ple hold of themselves and their worlds (Belkin, 1990,p. 13). Affective information is not often offered explic-itly. Bruner (1957) reminds us that a basic cognitive taskis to go beyond the information given (p. 41). As aresult, I engaged in the interpretive task of examining thestudents words in order to construct my own knowledgeof the cognitive and affective qualities of these particularstudent users of the Internet. Therefore, as listener, aspractitioner, as researcher, I, too, engaged in constructingmeaning of the students meanings. Page (1997) suggeststhat when we have comprehended an authors account,we are obligated to offer our response to it . . . [and] weacknowledge our role in making its meaning (p. 146).

    The cognitive system for making meaning is basicallynarrative (Bruner, 1990). Therefore, phenomenological in-quiry elicits story as content, and offers narrative analysisas methodology to make sense of a key question. It offersthe researcher a process by which to reveal or uncoverelements in students thinking as they engage in the processof reflection through their stories. Because students soughtto make meaning of their experiences, and I sought to makemeaning of their narrative, I employ two uses of story inthis research: First, the collection of students experiencesin the form of anecdote or story, and second, the rhetoricaldevice for my writing as I come to some understanding ofthe students stories. The study represents my reading of thestudents transcribed interviews.

    The Interview

    With no predetermined hypothesis, I structured veryfew questions, listened carefully to the thread of the stu-dents talk, and allowed myself to be open to the themeswhich they, themselves, raised. As in a reference inter-view, the questioning process can be virtually content-free . . . and the respondent provides the contenttheunique perceptions (Dervin, Jacobson, & Nilan, 1982,p. 429). I offered one umbrella question, What do youmean when you say you use technology? I followed upwith a second and third question when necessary,Teachers tell me that your classroom has many comput-ers. What does it mean to you to tell people that you usethe computer? And, Tell me about using the Internetand the World Wide Web. I interjected additional ques-tions only to probe, such as, How did you know howto do that? How did you feel when that happened?Tell me more about what happened then. Studentsgave me permission to tape record their statements. I tookvery few notes in longhand and used none of my ownnotes as data.

    The interviews took place in a small conference roomin the school media center. Students recognized their sur-

    Background

    Five years ago, the Tennessee State Department ofEducations initiative in technology funded public schoolsfor the purpose of purchasing hardware and software forindividual classrooms. In 1992, Tennessee school districtsreceived the first of their state funding from the BasicEducation Plan (B.E.P.) to develop twenty-first centuryclassrooms (Tennessee Code Annotated 493-351). Thelegislation supported the purchase of both hardware andsoftware, with flexibility for local administrators andteachers to make selections. During their first year, thedistrict of Maplewood (names of town, teachers, and stu-dents have been changed for purposes of this study) desig-nated all fifth grades as twenty-first century class-rooms. Each fifth-grade classroom in the district receivedfive computers, including one for the teachers use. Eachyear since then, the district designated the subsequentgrade as recipient of the state seed money. As a result,in the school year 19961997, students in the originaltwenty-first century fifth-grade classroom, foundthemselves in the eighth grade, their fourth twenty-firstcentury classroom.

    In Maplewood, these technology classrooms includedfour student computers with CD-ROM drives, which werenetworked to a teacher computer; one networked printer,a laser-disc player, a videocassette recorder; Internet con-nectivity and, in some instances, scanners and a digitalcamera. Authoring and multimedia presentation softwarewere included.

    In the fall of 1996, many Maplewood district eighthgraders entered their 4th year with technology in the class-room. For the most part, they encountered eighth-gradeteachers receiving their 1st year of training in this technol-ogy. (The phenomenon of novice teachers and more ex-pert students is not the focus of this study. Nevertheless,it raises interesting questions as students become moreand more computer literate, and as adults continue toacquire their first skills in using technology. Certainly,questions of expertise connote issues of roles, power, andstatus. And indeed, some of these themes emerged in thisstudy.) The purpose of this study was to reveal the stu-dents own experience and their reflections on using thetechnology as a tool and resource.

    Methodology

    Regarding research methodologies, Mellon (1990)suggests that methods of naturalistic inquiry should beselected where in-depth understanding of human actionsis the primary focus (p. 20). I wondered about studentsexperiences with technology, in general. I held no precon-ceived ideas, no hypothesis, but rather, came to studentswith an invitation to hear them talk about their experi-ences using electronic resources, especially the Internetand the World Wide Web. This study is embedded ina constructivist perspective whereby the researcher asks

    JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCESeptember 1998 1025/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

  • frame their attributes and skills as questions to invitereaders further thought. These questions may act aspoints for continued exploration. The students stories andmy subsequent close reading of their narratives representa form of inquiry about which further inquiry can takeplace (Clandinin & Connelly, 1995). I note that severalquestions emerge from each of the larger directions orcategories of attributes and skills. The first category whichI address, students personal attributes in relation to theiruse of technology, raises two questions: The question ofself confidence or voice of authority, and the question ofunderstanding time. The second category, the studentsparticular skills in using technology, include the questionof reading information, and a question of managing infor-mation.

    The outcome of this study produces no theory or hy-pothesis because what students say about their experi-ences with technology, and especially the World WideWeb, varies with the purpose, context, or setting of tech-nology use. However, transferability or identification mayoccur. As Connelly and Clandinin remind us (1990), thelanguage of qualitative research presents a language ofthe whole. Therefore, a reader of this study might needto question, How does this story connect with my ownexperiences as a learner, teacher, and user of technology,especially the Internet and World Wide Web?

    The Student Participants

    I sought participants who had been enrolled in theMaplewood District school for all 4 years of the twenty-first century classroom legislation. The prompt for solic-iting participants included an invitation to talk aboutyour experiences with technology with someone from theuniversity. Out of nearly 50 students ( two classes) , 12eighth-grade students volunteered to be interviewed indi-vidually for approximately one-half to three-quarters ofan hour to discuss their experiences with technology. Onthe scheduled week for interviews, of those original 12students, two were absent and one had to catch up onclassroom work. Of the nine participants, five were maleand four female. Three males had access to online com-puters at home, and two males used the local public li-brary online computer nearly every night for as many30-minute sessions as they were permitted. Therefore, allfive males had access to, or made time to use the Internet,above and beyond the school setting. Two of the femaleshad access to word processing and computer game pro-grams at home. None of the females home computershad online connectivity. Although the schools earlymorning and late afternoon online computer lab, super-vised by a teacher, was available to all the students, onlytwo of the male students with computers at home saidthat they stopped by the lab from time to time whentheres a report due or if the librarian needs help back-ing up disks. I did not request knowledge of the partici-pant students grade-point average, conduct record, or

    roundings and seemed motivated to talk. They were notshy or reticent and, although the interview representedour first meeting, we were able to establish rapport withina few minutes.

    Responding to the Interview Data

    Stories and anecdotes were embedded in much of theinterview and conversation I had with each student. As Ireviewed the transcripts, I sought a sense of narrative.That is, I selected excerpts that described moments reallyshowing what a student did or thought about, rather thanwords which philosophized about their activities with theInternet generally. Therefore, from each transcribed inter-view, I located and shaped a key narrative. Often, a stun-ning excerpt represented the gist of the students exchangewith me. For example, many students echoed Alicesstatement, If you dont know what youre looking for,youre out of luck. And Polly captured it most succinctlyby reminding us, If you dont have it ( the subject) , youcant find it. The stories I selected to read and commenton caught my attention for their potential contribution towhat we may want to know about students sense andfeeling about technology. In an attempt to interpret, toprobe for the meaning of what was being said in stories,I read and analyzed each students narrative contentclosely. Schank (1990) reminds us that there is no oneway to understand this story . . . when someone hears astory, he looks for beliefs that are being commented upon. . . and finds them by looking through the beliefs thathe already has (p. 72). Immersed in the students brieftext, I sought possible interpretations of their ideas andfeelings about engaging with the new tools and resourcesof technology. The immersion in text and narrative analy-sis offered one technique for examining phenomena em-bedded within each students words.

    As an extended exercise, I analyzed the content acrossstories in order to encounter larger directions. From thiscontent analysis, I derived two broad directions or catego-ries which I labeled students personal attributes and stu-dents particular skills in using technology. These twocategories serve as a way to organize my response tothe students responses. Others (Kuhlthau, 1993a) haveacknowledged that searching for information involves ac-tions, thoughts, and feelings, and indeed, students re-vealed both cognitive and affective attributes as theyspoke of their experiences.

    Each of the students points, which I have consideredsignificant enough for comment, I label as questions.The notion of framing questions to be considered comesout of the phenomenological tradition, inviting continuedinquiry from future readers. As Bruner (1994) recentlyremarked, Great stories open us to new questions. Thatis, in phenomenological work, no definitive answers maybe presumed, but rather, the researcher raises questionsshe considers fruitful for further and continued consider-ation. In illuminating the voices of student experience, I

    1026 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCESeptember 1998/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

  • and use of technology for school work. In the followingstories, Vel seems to allude to a comfort, a feeling offamiliarity with electronic sources for both school workand recreation. Elishas comments indicate a spirit of re-silience in using the technology, and J.R. acknowledgeslearners openness and vulnerability, which suggests asense of confidence from these student users.

    Vel: A question of familiarity: I use them at school andI go to the public library and use them . . . Ever since Iwas in the fifth grade, so that would be about 3 or 4 yearsnow . . . I feel like I got it down pat. Or if I dont, Ifeel like Im a very independent person so I dont like toask for a lot of help. Like if I just dont understand it,Ill ask for help, but Ill try to figure it out. I just dontgive up easy.

    Vel offers us three reasons for his self-confidencewhich he asserts as got it down pat. First, he feelsused to working with them (computers) because hesays that he has used computers since the fifth grade. Putanother way, as an eighth grader (13-years-old) , Vel hasworked with computers in some capacity for approxi-mately one third of his life. The familiarity which comesfrom his 3 to 4 years of experience suggests that usingcomputers is not threatening or overwhelming. Second,Vel has access at school and at the public library. For him,accessibility may signify familiarity as well. Accessibilitymay suggest that one can stay current, that is, not endurelong lapses of time between use, requiring brush-up ses-sions, or feeling out of date. Knowing that one has accessand knowing how to access technology may suggest akind of powerful knowing. In an emergent culture suchas one which unfolds before us technologically, learnersmust feel assured that they can have access, belong toand stay close to the changing culture, rather than fearingits new iterations.

    Third, Vels personal and self-named attribute of inde-pendence suggests that he has a conscious sense of him-self and some awareness of how he goes about solvingproblems. This meta awareness of his own problem-solv-ing style is important in new learning. As Vel progressesin gaining new computer skills, he does not appear to bedaunted by more complicated projects, but rather, willfigure them out or, when pressed, will ask for help. Velis not unusual in his claim for independence. Kuhlthau,Belvin, & George, (1989) examined library users per-ception of the role of mediators. In their work, no media-tor was identified by 70% of the participants (p. 164).Vel suggests that he doesnt ask for a lot of help, butacting as a very independent person can offer Vel bothstrengths and weaknesses in his searches. Further probingof this affective stance might reveal that other issues keephim from requesting help from professionals, family, orfriends.

    In sum, Vels stated self-confidence stems from a sensethat he is in charge of the computer. Having something

    socioeconomic status. Nor did I inquire as to why theychose to participate in this study. And finally, I did notask for, nor diagnose, the level of expertise in using theInternet and the World Wide Web. That is, I receivedno information from teachers about the students actualexperience or success with using the Internet as a tooland as a resource.

    The students each selected an alias name and theyand their teachers were given a first draft of my findingswhich they read for veracity. None offered criticism ofthe findings and all seemed to concur with my writtenstatements. The following students stories appear in thedirections which I label personal attributes: Vel, Elisha,J.R., Bryce, Lauralee, and Will. The direction labeledparticular skills included stories and anecdotes fromBryce, Elisha, Alice, Vel, Polly, and J.R. I did not usethe interview of one student. He spoke in generalities andwanted to philosophize. He found it difficult to remembermoments or instances of his own use. He told me moreabout his brothers experiences working at the Apple Cor-poration in California.

    Limitations of the StudyThe nine students represent a convenience sample due

    to their affiliation with a single school which might notrepresent the thinking or attitudes of other Tennessee stu-dents with twenty-first century classroom experience.Whether this represents an extreme sample from the statewould be worthy of examination. Maplewood Districtis generally noted for its commitment to excellence ineducation. Average teacher salaries are higher in this dis-trict than any other in the state (Annual State SalaryReview, 1997) and much of the annual budget comesfrom local property tax, unlike its neighboring schooldistricts. Therefore, the average socioeconomic status ofthe community school might indicate that public schoolstudents in this town have benefited from family and com-munity interest in strong educational programs. The vari-ables of socioeconomic status or academic achievementare not addressed in this study.

    A second limitation includes reliability of the studentsperceptions. In soliciting students comments, I had noway to check their experiences. My only source was theinterview data. A follow up of this study might includetwo additional data sources: (1) Observation of studentsusing the Internet and World Wide Web to evaluate searchstrategies, and (2) an analysis of work produced fromusing the Web as a resource. These two data sourceswould serve to check the affective area of confidencelevel, and the cognitive area of skill, in using the Internetas a tool and as a resource.

    Discussion

    Students Personal Attributes: Questions of Confidenceor Voice of Authority

    Three stories illustrate the sense that students gain self-confidence and express authority with their understanding

    JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCESeptember 1998 1027/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

  • shows a resistance to the typically held school notion ofproducing one right answer. Trusting a trial and errorsearch reveals a kind of forgiveness for coming up dryor being on the wrong track. Elisha mentions the variabil-ity in sites; undaunted, she resorts to a kind of inclusivethinking which suggests that she is willing to check outa number of sites and titles in order to come up with theinformation she seeks. She compares and contrasts. Theflexible thinking, a tolerance for ambiguitywhich re-sists rigid and linear thinkingreveal Elishas voice ofauthority in her resilience. She enters the world of manyWeb sites and evaluates them by titles and content. Shefollows tracks and gets off tracks, but she understandsthat this kind of work does not represent failure. On thecontrary, her experience illustrates to her that this kindof thinking is required to connect with needed sources.

    Elishas use of the vernacular, its cool, revealsthat the assignment meets with little resistance from thisadolescent. Yet another student uses the word hip indescribing the project. The accolades suggest that, fornow, either because it is new, fun, or because using tech-nology suggests some authority or power which they haverecently embraced, some students welcome what mighthave once seemed a dreaded research assignment. Elishaand Vel offer statements illustrating degrees of self-con-fidence and resilience, never alluding to developing orrefining their own search strategies. For them, a level ofsuccess represents knowing how to access by performingtrial and error searches.

    J.R.: Questions of openness and vulnerability: We dontask for help in core subjects because weve been in thesecourses for all these years now and hey, they are thingsthat we are expected to know. And you dont want tofeel like all your classmates are ahead of you and youreasking a question and everyones like, Man, Ive knownthat since back in the sixth grade . . . that doesnt reallyapply for much in computers because most of the timeeveryone around you, including the teachers, are as clue-less as you are. So, if you ask a question everyones like,Yeah, whats going on there? because no one elsereally knows much . . . You know, its new to them. Soits just like when youre little, starting out in school, youknow you could ask anything . . . everybody is so newto it so youre not worried about what are people goingto think if I ask this question . . . and the teachers hereare very modest. Theyre not putting themselves on apedestal. The teachers here, with the exception of a few,have no problem with asking me, a student, for help withcomputers.

    More than revealing that he has some expertise withcomputers and serves as a support to some teachers, J.R.points out that, because the general use of technology isstill in its infancy, most students assume that fellow usersshare similar expertise and frustrations. Indeed, he alludesto the fact that student users are basically novices. Giventhat assumption, asking questions about and requesting

    down pat suggests that he is in charge and on top ofhis processes in using technology, in contrast to actingas a passive participant in his interaction. Experience,maintaining access, and personal attributes help shapethis students confidence in using electronic tools andresources. In this portion of the interview, he is not spe-cific about what he seeks nor his level of success insearching electronically for information. He simply wantsto communicate the ease with which he approachesthem. Perhaps if Vel lost a certain level of experiencethrough his lack of access, he might lose a degree of self-confidence in using the electronic tools.

    Elisha: A question of resilience: Were doing . . . a pa-perless project. We look on the Internet for all differentkinds of information on future energy sources . . . Wedo the whole report on a disc. We do all our charts andgraphs on a disc. We transfer information on the Internetto our disc in the word processing. I think its pretty cool.Its a lot better doing than having to write everything andits lots easier to keep up with. You pretty much just haveto learn how to look up information on the Internet. Thenyou have to open the word processor and have the Internetopen. Then you copy it and paste it onto your documentin the word processor. . . There were some Web sitesthat my science teacher gave me to look up data for futureenergy sources and also, for projected usage and pastusage . . . and you can go to the Net Search and type infuture energy sources and itll give you a list of titles. . . sometimes you just have to look and see. I mean,some will have pretty much nothing that you really want.Others wont look like they have it but they do. Its prettymuch trial and error, unless it has a really distinct title.

    Elishas sense of confidence and voice of authorityshows in her clear and concise synthesis of her latestassignment. We can infer from this narrative that she hasnot been perplexed by either the content of the assignmentor the skills required to report her work in a paperlessfashion. She speaks directly, offering the steps in se-quence, and most notably, uses the language of a seasonedword processor. By employing the vocabulary of adultusers of technology, Elisha shares the technological cul-ture. In order to say open the word processor and havethe Internet open suggests that she understands how toaccess both operations. Using phrases such as copy itand paste it onto your document, shows some wordprocessing skills.

    But the notable aspect of Elishas self-confidencecomes from her mention of trial and error searches.Certainly debatable as a pedagogy, K12 teaching meth-odologies rarely encourage students to engage in trial anderror learning of new knowledge. When teachers of anyfield introduce new skills and concepts, they typicallydemonstrate, that is, they model specific steps and skillsfor students to practice before going on to more advancedsteps (Tennessee Instructional Model, 1984). To suggestthat she can tolerate the trial and error process, Elisha

    1028 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCESeptember 1998/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

  • technology. They did not show anxiety in responding tothe invitation to speak of their experiences. They did notshare any uncertainty in revealing their stories of use.

    Students may please themselves with their growingsense of self-confidence in using technology; adults maybe surprised at young peoples growing voice of authority.Nevertheless, the phenomenon of familiarity must be ex-amined in light of continued and greater access for tech-nology users. The phenomenon of resilience in learninga willingness to engage in trial and error rather thansystematic and prescribed approaches to accessing infor-mationmay offer educators and curriculum designersnew ideas for pedagogy. Certainly, the notions of seekinginformation through trial and error methods may chal-lenge the mode of producing one right answer forstandardized tests. And finally, the blurring of traditionalroles suggests that school culture may assume new dy-namics, where teachers and students work together inmore collegial ways, creating a true learning organiza-tion (Senge, 1990).

    Students Personal Attributes: Questions ofUnderstanding Time

    In talking with the eighth-grade students about theiruses and experiences with technology, I found that theyrevealed three mature notions of the concept of time.Bryce suggests that expediency is in order and that usersof technology must be mindful of how they spend theirtime, for several reasons. Lauralee talks about the pleasureof having time for browsing, as she discovers the pursuitof ideas. And finally, Will discusses the need for patienceas an attribute for accessing information.

    Bryce: A question of expediency: Time is a very preciouscommodity . . . [And] on the Internet this can be a fi-nancial issue . . . but if you dont have to worry abouttime constraints or where you have to be in 15 minutesor how much youre going to have to pay, the Internetcan be specific, up-to-date, and quick. So really, whenwe are looking for something on the Internet, to findsomething quickly is always to our advantage but some-times, we dont find the most specific thing or the bestinformation we can. . . . It depends on how easy it is tofind that information. If youre doing something very,very specific, like my project on triboluminescence, itcould take a long time, say maybe 30 minutes or moreto find information. But something very widespread likethe legalization of marijuana or trade embargoes aroundthe world, some current event topic, its pretty easy tofind information on something such as that.

    As a user of the Internet, Bryce reveals his understand-ing of both the financial and the existential issues of time.He honors the element of expediency because he is awareof the value of time in life, generally, and because heknows that some users pay for their Internet connection.Bryce is intrigued with the efficiency the Internet can

    help for using technology are sanctioned as worthy waysto learn, as opposed to asking questions about basic orcore subjects. From his point of view, making oneselfvulnerable by showing ignorance and asking questions ofteachers or classmates is sanctioned typically in onesearly years of schooling when school is new to all. Tocarry out J.R.s line of thinking, as long as technologyremains in a continuing state of change and development,many users may long feel themselves clueless ormodest about their expertise. If it is true that studentsin this generation feel more or less equal to each otherin their technology skill levels, one might expect to seea new kind of classroom culture emerge, where peer sup-port is more visible, where levels of expertise are moreblurred than in core subjects.

    J.R. makes a reference to teachers suggesting that theymay operate on a similar level of expertise as some ofthe students. As novices, he notices that teachers, too,may ask for help, even of students; yet they do not seemto mind the vulnerability of showing their lack of exper-tise. The exchange of roles between teacher and studentoccurs only infrequently in schools. For many reasons,school culture typically demands both formal and infor-mal boundaries between student and teacher. And yet,with the emergent technologies, schools may find thatteachers not only query the students but ask students toteach, inform, model, and answer problems which theycannot necessarily answer themselves.

    J.R. illuminates an interesting contradiction. That is,in not knowing whats going on there, students showa certain self-confidence by purposefully making them-selves vulnerable in asking questions and seeking help.Logic presumes that students who lack self-confidencemight not ask for help or know how to frame questionsfor assistance. Thus, in listening to Vel, Elisha, and J.R.,one might return to them to probe for clues of justifiedself-confidence or mere bravado which hides frustration.

    With these few interview segments, we hear studentsconstruction of a user-friendly computer/Internet reality.Contrary to hearing anxiety and uncertainty (Kuhl-thau, 1993a) expressed by these student users, the com-ments raise many questions. Is the confidence expressedby these students associated with using the technology asa tool, rather than as a resource? What constitutes eachstudents skill level in searching for information, gener-ally, and on the World Wide Web, specifically? Haveteachers or students evaluated final products of researchand writing to assess levels of competence in searchingand synthesizing ideas? Does such assessment improvesearch strategies? Do their 4 years of twenty-first cen-tury classrooms constitute a feeling of familiarity whichmoves these students away from what we might termnovice users? If one does not perceive oneself as a novice,perhaps one does not experience the anxiety attributed toinexperienced users. Nevertheless, the overall tone of allthe students interviews was one of openness, confidence,and ease in speaking to me about their experiences with

    JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCESeptember 1998 1029/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

  • to the search process itself. She does not mention specificstrategies for seeking information, but rather, discussesand evaluates the content in light of whether it simplymatches the original question of subject matter.

    But Lauralee is most exuberant when she talks aboutthe delight of finding information when she has randomlydetermined the starting point of the search. Not knowingwhat you want to find out describes browsing at itsfinest: With no time limits, for the sheer joy of connectingwith an unplanned topic, and digging as deeply into aquestion as one pleases. She describes her pleasure asfloating arounda metaphor suggesting weight-lessness, sensuousness, or a lack of accountability. As astudent, she has begun to encounter the joys of knowing,seeking information, and playing around with ideas fortheir own sake rather than for an end product or grade.

    Lauralee distinguishes between needing time and lik-ing to have the time to browse. Rather than feeling thepress of time, she perceives the element of time as posi-tive, as the necessary and pleasurable currency for therecreation of exploring ideas. She implies a distinctionbetween browsing if you know your question, whichmight not require a lot of time, and browsing when anidea will just pop up into your head and you have nodestinationinteresting distinctions which serve to re-mind us of different functions of information searches.

    Will: Questions of patience: The good news about com-puters is that theyve got what youre looking for, itsgot a lot of information; the bad news is that theres toomuch of it, and sometimes you cant find it. . . . Youtry and find a specific thing, right, and then it says thereslike 900,000 or 9,000 files found on it. Like you have tofind one out of 9,000. . . . Virtually anything you wantis on the Internet. . . . You have to be real patient.

    Will shows awareness of the magnitude of this newworld of information. Now that the Internet is more acces-sible to young students such as Will, he is impressed withthe size of this information source yet seems to questionhis capacity to tap into it. He likes the grandness of theInternet, perhaps experiencing a feeling of having theworld at his fingertips. Yet, at the same time, he hasnamed his coping strategy for handling so much informa-tion: Patience.

    Will feels positively about seeking information andseems to be undaunted by the scope of his tasks. Bymentioning that you have to find one out of 9,000, Willsuggests a mystery, a hunt, some suspense or competitionwhich characterizes his relationship to the act of findingwhat he seeks. He plays this game carefully, with pa-tience, believing that what he needs exists on the Internet.

    These student voices raise questions of time for brows-ing and searching, and for accessing and reading informa-tion on the Internet, specifically the World Wide Web.All three of these narratives around using technology andunderstanding time offer insight about how some students

    provide. He states that even if users have no time con-straints on their browsing, the Internet can provide currentinformation quickly. In his statement, Bryce tries to com-pare the efficiency of searches between widespreadand very specific topics. He claims that searching acurrent event topic will offer easier access than eso-teric, little-known areas. Nevertheless, subject knowl-edge may contribute to retrieval success (Sugar, 1995)and what Bryce neglects to reference is the quality of theinformation which is accessed. His 30 minutes mayrepresent a careful search around a familiar topic in whichhe knows his questions and parameters. Searches by oth-ers for widespread topics may represent more superfi-cial looks at information where quantity and diversitymay, indeed, surface more quickly.

    Nevertheless, Bryce appreciates that time is precious,and in this light, for him, a key value in using the Internetremains the expediency. He values subject currency andspecificity as well.

    Lauralee: Questions of the pleasures of browsing: I dontthink you need time. I think people like a lot of time tobrowse. But you dont really need a lot of time to gowhere you need to go if you know your question. . . .Sometimes youll go to somewhere completely differentthan where you wanted to go. Because if you look upsomething like the moon, there must be tons of matches.You could be looking for information on the colonizationof the moon, and you would get a poem. So a lot of thematches dont give good explanation of what they are.So you really have to click in to them to see what theyare sometimes . . . and sometimes when you are justbored, you just want to get on and just go somewhere.And you dont know what you want to find out. Andsometimes an idea will just pop up into your head andyoull think, well, I want to learn more about that. Soyoull go to something. You really just go wherever youwant and theres really no destination. Youre just kind offloating around I guess . . . like walking in an unfamiliarplace. You dont know where you are going, but you arenot afraid of getting lost.

    Lauralee shows delight about the browsing processusing the World Wide Web. She appreciates the idea thatone browses sites slowly when one doesnt know thequestion. But, according to her experience, when oneknows what one seeks, there is no need for using a lotof time. She understands that the matches may notbe ones own match, which often happens when thebrowser doesnt know his question. She understands thateven if she is pretty clear and specific about the topic sheresearches, she may have to click in to them to see whatthey are to make sure of the match. This does not seemto bother her. Finding a poem rather than the scientificinformation she seeks does not discourage her from con-tinuing to seek information. She knows you have to checkout the match to see what it really contains. Here,Lauralee alludes to the content of the search rather than

    1030 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCESeptember 1998/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

  • the Internet. He further makes a distinction between therole of visualization in reading fiction where you createthe storyline in your head and nonfiction where pic-tures definitely add a lot. He is clear that they cannotbe compared, but rather, offer two different kinds of expe-riences, engaging different kinds of cognition.

    Bryce offers yet another key insight when he suggeststhat youll read less thoroughly on the Internet. Theword thoroughly suggests a kind of attending to. Bothin speaking and decoding text, listeners and readers attendto different kinds of information about words, including:Phonology, or how to pronounce; the syntax of the text,which asks readers if it sounds right grammatically;semantics, which projects meaning; and the pragmatic,which checks context, i.e., is this fantasy, is this slang oroffensive text? (Dewdney & Mitchell, 1996, p. 522).Bryce may be thinking that the audio clip, graphics, ortypography, in their intriguing animations, offer moreaccessible cues for information about words than whatreaders find in close, deep, or thorough readings ofstand-alone text. In decoding and comprehending print,readers must construct many levels of meaning and infor-mation on their own. For Bryce, thorough reading onthe screen is not as necessary when multisensory cuessuch as he describes are provided. And finally, perhaps,the two kinds of readingfrom print and from screenare simply different, providing qualitatively differentcomprehension experiences.

    Many of the students commented that graphics, as wellas the text, serve as powerful points for their informationgathering. Alice says nearly the same as Bryce, when sheclaims,

    Alice: You can see the pictures on the screen. Its notlike you are imagining them by yourself. . . . You haveto read the book to find it, but on the computer you justclick on an icon and you can see it . . . on the screen.

    She knows the difference between engaging the imagi-nation in reading text from books and seeing the picturewhich expands and enhances the texts message. Yet an-other student, Vel, perceives the pictures and graphics asa motivator for his reading,

    Vel: They might have a picture of the new car and thenthey might have a paragraph beside it and I might readit . . . and theyve got the writing printed a certain wayand I might like it and I might read it.

    Here, Vel comments on both pictures and the typograph-ies; each intrigues him to read the text for information.

    Keeping in mind current research on learning styles(Gardner, 1983), educators might consider such multi-sensory and visually attractive cues for reading as waysto pull some readers into text. Nevertheless, seasonedreaders of text will know the important difference notedabove by Bryce and Alice: When one reads words, one

    perceive their precious time, their sense of browsing,and their patience in searching. And by noting the twobroad directions of personal attributeshaving self-con-fidence and understanding time in using technologywesense that students may require different conditions forseeking information from those presently structured inthe schools. Questions of making time to explore on theInternet offer many challenges to policy-shapers and cur-riculum developers for schools. Under what conditionswould schools and libraries offer time for students tofloat around on the Internet with no predeterminedtopic for research? As students grow in their competencewith technology and explore intellectual issues on theirown on the Internet, management of what students learnand how students learn may look radically different fromwhat we see currently in the schools. Indeed, questionsof how students engage with the Internet and how thatmay influence their reading skills, for example, raise chal-lenges for teachers.

    Students Particular Skills: A Question of ReadingWithin the question of reading, three areas arise. Bryce

    discusses the role which audio and graphics play in read-ing. His talk is labeled, questions of reading with manysenses. Bryce made several references to skimming asa strategy for reading. The second excerpt is labeled,questions of skimming as a reading strategy. AndElisha sheds light about differences between reading forpleasure in books, and reading for information on theInternet. Her narrative is named, questions of readingas treasure and resource.

    Bryce: Questions of reading with many senses: The In-ternet has more pictures and sound and other media thana book. Like books dont have animated things like Java.So youll look at pictures and hypertext links rather thanreading words just straight out of a book. So a lot oftimes youll read less thoroughly on the Internet. . . .Java allows color picture animations even with sound. Sowhen youre on the Internet you could hear a real timeaudio clip, watch a video as it loads, watch Java anima-tion. It adds a lot to the experience of browsing that youdont get from a book . . . your imagination is useddifferently than reading a book. It can be stimulated bythe intriguing animations. In fiction writing, you createthe story line in your head. Thats all good but for nonfic-tion or factual information, pictures definitely add a lot.

    Bryce raises many issues regarding the act of readingtext and pictures. He suggests that the combination ofgraphics, audio, and hypertext links offers a rich mediumfor the reader. He proposes that instead of perceiving theimagination as inferior or passive, these sensory additionschallenge the imagination in different ways from readingstraight text. Without assigning the role of imaginationstrictly to fiction reading, Bryce sees that it can, indeed,be stimulated in accessing information and images from

    JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCESeptember 1998 1031/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

  • thoughtful, critical reading strategies, such as close read-ing to appreciate authors intentions or to search outimplicit structure of a text (Lambert, 1997, p. 68)?Should we be concerned if students learn to read or onlychoose to read electronically by surfing, or glidingand tapping into what you want as Will calls it? As acomplex act, reading offers many levels of challenge andpleasure. Certainly, skimming empowers readers. And,ironically, skimming as a reading strategy is often difficultto teach to novice readers who lack the confidence to freethemselves from word-by-word and line-by-line decod-ing. As educators, however, we must understand the dif-ferences among the various strategies and purposes ofreading. Elisha notes differences between different kindsof reading.

    Elisha: Questions of reading as treasure and re-source: Books are always going to be a treasure to me.. . . I can really get into a fantasy in a book rather thansurfing on the net. I find wanting to have an adventuremore in reading a book than going on the Internet. . . .The computer for me is more of an information resource.I find I am more interested when its on the computerbecause it seems more in depth and up-to-date. I find itmore appealing to go into the computer and have such achoice instead of one book, maybe . . . and its easierto read. You kind of just sit there and you scroll down.It keeps my attention better, because of its brightness andbeing right there, I guess.

    Elishas insight offers a sense of balance. A reader,she helps look at key differences in being with a bookcompared to being on the computer. As metaphors, bothtreasure and resource share meaning of value andpotential support. Treasure refers to an elusive, yetemotional dimension not necessarily seen in the notionof resource, a more neutral support. Getting into afantasy suggests getting lost, immersing oneself in apleasurable experience. Saying it keeps my attentionbetter, Elisha paints an active picture of physically andcognitively interacting with the Internet. She chooses ma-terial from various sources, initiates when to scrolldown, and cannot escape its bright presence, a far differ-ent experience from curling up with a piece of fiction forpleasure or adventure reading which may only happen inher head.

    Paying attention to balance challenges educators toorchestrate the materials and resources for their curricu-lum development and delivery. Balancing reading assign-ments of fiction and nonfiction and requiring both curlingup with books and logging onto the Internet requirethoughtful pedagogy and pacing. As two very distinct andqualitatively different reading activities, students intel-lectual lives should be charged with engaging in readingfor pleasure and for information. They must not only read,but know the difference among various kinds of reading.

    Of all the themes which these student interviews raised,educators must raise the questions of reading as essential

    has the power to imagine what the topic might look like,sound like, smell like. Words offer cues to the imagina-tion. In employing multisensory cues to help decode text,the interpretation of the information will offer more ofthe authors and programmers nuances of understanding.In these instances, a readers imagination and comprehen-sion are challenged in ways different from what readingtext alone may do. The lure of visually exciting screensdoes not offer a substitute for exercising ones imagina-tion from reading stand-alone text, whereby one employscomprehension skills far superior to simple decoding ortaking information from the screen. Bryce points out theimportant distinction between reading fiction and nonfic-tion; he notes an appropriate function of graphics forreading nonfiction and information, and suggests theymay inspire new reading strategies.

    Bryce: Questions of skimming as a reading strategy: Ifyou have something to do (on the Internet) you cantread it as thoroughly as if you had unlimited time. Youdont pay by the hour with a book. And (with the In-ternet) , sometimes youll find yourself just skimmingbecause the Internet has more pictures and sound andother media than a book.

    Bryce is not apologetic about skimming for informa-tion. He is aware of the cost of Internet service for some.We know from a previous story that he values time, isexpedient, and can assume that he uses the reading strat-egy of skimming in order to cover as much material aspossible. His reference to reading less thoroughly on theInternet is not a negative one because he notes that bothgraphics (which can be decoded quickly) as well as words(which are decoded at a slower rate) can offer neededinformation. In a classic textbook on teaching reading,Huey (1977) suggests that

    We have never canvassed the possibilities of improvingthe total word-form, for particular words. . . . If by usingcapitals or by changing the shape, size, or even color ofconstituent letters we bring into prominence the totalword-form and characterize it better, total form will thuscome to play a still larger part than at present in mediatingthe recognition of what is read. Such recognition in largerunits favors speed in reading and lessens the strain oneye and mind. (p. 423)

    But skimming as a single reading strategy raises manyquestions. Well known are the courses which teachspeed reading or strategies of skimming. They en-deavor to liberate word-by-word and line-by-line readersin order to accelerate reading speed and to influencegreater comprehension of large quantities of information.Such courses make reading and studying into a con-scious activity, in which students are aware of whichpassages they choose to read and at what level of detail(Lambert, 1997, p. 67). Given the nature of browsing orsurfing on the Internet, will students learn also to employ

    1032 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCESeptember 1998/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

  • suggests, When you first get on the Internet you haveto have a subject to get on there. And Polly states itmost directly, If you dont have it, you cant find it.These students show that in order to make use of theInternet, one needs a focus, a question. And more produc-tively, Belkin (1982) reminds us that it is more suitableto attempt to describe that anomalous state of knowledge(ASK), than to ask the user to specify her/his need as arequest (p. 62) for information. Students must knowwhat they want to know, beyond suggesting a discretebut ambiguous subject.

    Shaping the research question seems to challenge thestudents. Alice spent 3 days trying to figure out specifi-cally what she wanted to know. The broad topic of solarenergy offered too many possibilities to search, and bynot figuring out what it was about solar energy she wantedto know, she found irrelevant connections. Polly adds tothis frustrating picture when she tells us,

    Polly: So sometimes it seems like you end up with thingswith no connection whatsoever, or so far out there inconnection that it might as well not be. Its annoyingwhen you end up with those things and you only haveso much time to do it in, and you cant find anything.

    Seekers of information must learn to frame or shapetheir initial question. Polly feels impatient with lost searchtime. Although it took Alice 3 days to learn that she hadto undergo a process of refining her search, she becamemore clear that she had to figure out, on her own, whatshe wanted to know. Even within the subset of solarenergy: science, Alice then went on to find additionalsubsets for past and projected uses of solar energy. Know-ing what one wants to know represents one key to successin searches. Shaping questions for Internet searches dif-fers little from searching print materials. Feeling confusedabout how to go about the process of finding informationoften maps back to the initial question which many stu-dents have not considered thoroughly enough. A secondkey to search success might include assistance. The stu-dents interviewed for this project do not mention seekinghelp from a mediatora teacher or media specialistbut rather, mention figuring out search strategies ontheir own.

    Nahl and Tenopir (1996) suggest that users needinformation about searching itself (p. 281). Teachersand librarians can train students to search on their ownby first teaching them to ask themselves such questionsas, What is it about solar energy that you want toknow? And further, And what about that is it that youcare to learn, thus helping to establish the topic evenfurther by identifying the users true information need.Teaching students overtly how to go about the businessof seeking and writing up information offers students amodel of digging mindfully into subject matter, ratherthan encouraging superficial searching and scanty think-ing. The trial and error searches, the 3-day searches,

    to their pedagogy. How critically or deeply do studentsread when they work with hypertext or read on the In-ternet as compared to reading print in books? What kindsof new reading strategies should teachers account for asstudents switch reading activities between paper andscreen? Given the lure of electronic resources, will wecreate blocks of time in which students not only are al-lowed to browse on the World Wide Web but spend timegetting lost in a book? What cognitive skills diminish asgraphics and audio stimuli offer ready-made interpreta-tions? Which reading skills expand? Essential questionsof reading might shape new ways in which teachers con-ceive of using electronic sources in their teaching.

    Students Particular Skills: A Question of ManagingInformation

    Throughout the interviews, students raised questionsabout quality in technological resources and wonderedhow to handle great quantities of information. Severalstudents discussed how much information appeared be-fore themat an instantand how much of it appearedirrelevant or useless. Alice and others suggest, first, thatone needs to know ones question. I have labeled the firstskill area, questions of knowing what you want to know.As a second step, students have to learn strategies toconduct searches on the Internet. J.R. shares his thinkingin the section labeled questions of search strategies.

    Alice: Questions of knowing what you want to know:Browsing is just flipping through things, seeing what allis there. Its kind of like flipping through the channelson TV, typing different things in to see what pops up onthe screen. And you know, if you dont like it you canflip to another thing. If you dont know what youre look-ing for, youre out of luck. . . . For looking up solarenergy, I didnt even know what I was supposed to doand so I just typed in solar energy and I kept gettingall these other things like solar energy, the book. Imlike, no, solar energy. Then there was a person namedSolar Energy. And it was like all kinds of things, soI just clicked solar energy: science. Basically I had tofind it out on my own. It took like 3 days to figure it out.. . . There are so many things out there. On the computeryou dont really know what all is in there. But you canfind anything that you want. You just have to find a wayto do it.

    In this story, Alice offers a picture of familiarity withthe initial browsing process, making the analogy withselecting television programs. But it would appear, forher, that her analogy stops there when she says that, Ifyou dont know what youre looking for, youre out ofluck. Television browsers often act passively, checkingto see whether or not they can be intrigued by a presenta-tion to remain with a channel. But the Internet search feelsdifferent, more active, as the students refer to initiating asearch and evaluating a match. Vel echoes this as he

    JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCESeptember 1998 1033/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

  • from the playfulness in undirected browsing balancedwith the structure of learning direct search strategies?Do trial and error searches enhance or impede the initiallearning of tried and true search strategies for informationretrieval? What best methodologies support the initiallearning of retrieving information from Internet sites?These student voices help raise questions for additionalresearch.

    Conclusion

    In reviewing the students perceptions, we gain insightinto how they, themselves, have begun to construct aworking understanding of the relations among the infor-mation problem that they bring to the search, the Internetas tool and resource, and the outcome of their search. Ifthe adults who work with student users understand stu-dents constructs, perhaps they can gauge what users havein common and what is idiosyncratic in electronic search-ing. The study raises questions for professionals engagedin teaching students how to seek and retrieve information.The questions suggest areas for professional developmentfor teachers and media center directors as they begin toembrace electronic and print resources for student re-search. The areas include assessing students levels ofself-confidence in using the Internet both as a tool andas a resource, knowing how to structure both overt andopen-ended lessons in search strategies, and appreciatingand employing different kinds of reading strategies.

    First, the positive attitudes and self-confidence exhib-ited by these nine research participants provide interestingdimensions of youthful users, but may not indicate suc-cess in their information retrieval overall. Professionalswho research stages of adolescent development may offerinsight into notions of justified self-confidence or the ve-neer of bravado which students exhibit as they talk abouttheir expertise with technology. Were these students nov-ices or could their 4 years of familiarity with twenty-first century classrooms label them as seasoned users?Understanding better students sources of self-confidencewith technology would offer information for meeting in-dividual needs. This research suggests a level of studentconfidence only with using the Internet as a mechanism,a tool. None of the stories alluded to evaluating the Websites for content excellence. Few mentioned accuracy andadequacy of the information retrieved from their searches.Information professionals must be clear about the differ-ences among comfort level with the technology and depthof appreciation and critical assessment of content whichstudents encounter.

    Because of their guinea pig status as twenty-firstcentury classroom students, many of these studentslearned on their own, as peers of their teachers who werelearning as well. We may continue to see this collegialsetting for a number of years ahead as schools seek tochange their pedagogies to accommodate the use of theInternet as a resource. These early years of developing

    represent fairly low cognitive efforts. If students care toresearch topics with serious effort, they must pay attentionto their cognitive need to know, and practice strategieswhich connect the seeker to the sought material.

    Thus, once the research question is established, search-ers must employ explicit strategies to seek information.J.R. offers insight into the delight of finding so muchinformation, and discusses his strategies for coping.

    J.R.: Questions of search strategies: Theres just muchmore selection on the Internet. . . . Sometimes its goodthat it has so much, because it is very broad. It has a lotof information from a lot of different places and evenfrom different times. I was looking for something and ithad like 12,000 matching topics. You narrow it down bygiving it specifics . . . what words to use. . . . But innarrowing and scrolling down, looking for what you need,youll find something [else] interesting. You get sidetracked on it. But that also can be a pitfall because whenyou get to something like that, you have to know howto find that one thing out of the 12,000 that you are look-ing for.

    J.R. appreciates the breadth and depth of the informa-tion so readily accessible from his Internet searches. Buthe is very aware that it can overwhelm. Narrowingrepresents his key search strategy and he understands howto use specific words to direct the search. Nevertheless,in simultaneously narrowing and scrolling down,he notes the temptation of getting sidetracked into morepossibilities. For him, this can be both good and bad news.At no point did J.R. mention employing broadening asa search strategy. Although he suggests that you haveto know how to find that one thing, he does not divulgehow one might recognize it. More startlingly, his state-ment suggests that, just as a needle in a haystack, youmust know exactly what you seek and then, must recog-nize it. His allusion to specifics or words to use doesnot employ the more sophisticated language of terms.One senses that J.R. has learned by trial and error, thathe has had some moderate success in his searches, butthat the awe of so much response to his query continuesto impress.

    Students must employ basic search skills to access theInternet productively. These skills may include generalresearch concepts such as defining the topic, negotiatingparameters of both the topic and the search sources, learn-ing to use search terms, and skimming for information.As for all research, both print and electronic, studentsmust learn to evaluate their sources. And finally, studentsearchers must know how to synthesize their informationand write their findings in their own words, citing thesources in appropriate ways.

    Some students will teach themselves these skills fromhome and recreational browsing. Some students will learnthese skills in school from peers or teachers. Researchmust address issues of initial learning of how to use theInternet for searches. How much can novices gain both

    1034 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCESeptember 1998/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

  • The students who shared their stories and insightsabout their use of technology illuminate key issues foreducators. Eager to share, these students offer memorablestories of encountering the Internet. If we listen to theirvoices, we hear their confidence and their openness inusing technology. If we listen carefully, we gain insightinto rethinking how we teach such core subjects suchas reading, research skills, and writing. As we considerstudents perceptions, we gain insight into how to assessand utilize their own construction of what it means to usetechnology such as the Internets World Wide Web.

    Acknowledgments

    Thanks to Sue Diehl who helped make this study possi-ble by sharing her expertise, her school media center, andher time to put me in touch with teachers and students.Thanks to Dania Meghabghab and Doug Raber for techni-cal assistance in reviewing this article.

    References

    Annual state salary review. (1997, December) . The TEA News, 29,67.

    Belkin, N. (1982). ASK for information retrieval: Part I. Backgroundand theory. Journal of Documentation, 38, 6171.

    Belkin, N. (1990). The cognitive viewpoint in information science.Journal of Information Science, 16, 1115.

    Bruner, J. (1957). Going beyond the information given. In The Colo-rado Symposium, Contemporary approaches to cognition (pp. 4170). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univer-sity Press.

    Bruner, J. (Speaker) . (1994). Four ways to make a meaning. (CassetteRecording, unnumbered). New Orleans, LA: American EducationalResearch Association.

    Clandinin, D., & Connelly, F. (1995). Teachers professional knowl-edge landscapes. New York: Teachers College Press.

    Connelly, F., & Clandinin, D. (1990). Stories of experience and narra-tive inquiry. Educational Researcher, 19, 214.

    Dervin, B. (1977). Useful theory for librarianship: Communication, notinformation. Drexel Library Quarterly, 13, 1632.

    Dervin, B., Jacobson, T., & Nilan, M. (1982). Measuring aspects ofinformation seeking: A test of a quantitative/qualitative methodology.In M. Burgoon (Ed.) , Communication Yearbook, 6: An annual reviewpublished for the International Communication Association (pp. 419444). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

    Dewdney, P., & Mitchell, G. (1996). Oranges and peaches: Understand-ing communication accidents in the reference interview. ResearchQuarterly, 35, 520536.

    Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind. New York: Basic Books.Huey, E. (1977). The psychology and pedagogy of reading. Cambridge,

    MA: MIT Press.Janes, J. W., & Rosenfeld, L. B. (1996). Networked information re-

    trieval and organization: Issues and questions. Journal of the Ameri-can Society for Information Science, 47, 711715.

    Kuhlthau, C. (1993a). A principle of uncertainty for information seek-ing. Journal of Documentation, 49, 339355.

    Kuhlthau, C. (1993b). Seeking meaning: A process approach to libraryand information services. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

    Kuhlthau, C., Belvin, R., & George, M. (1989). Flowcharting the infor-mation search: A method for eliciting users metal maps. ASIS 89:Proceedings of the 52nd ASIS Annual Meeting, 26, 162165.

    curricula and teaching strategies which integrate print andelectronic resources may offer an informal approach bylearning in a collegial atmosphere. The informality of adeveloping technological school culture offers issues tonotice. Different from the print-alone culture, studentsmay know more about how to use the technology thanthe adults. How can we harness the real self-confidenceand use this affective variable in assisting students learn-ing overall? Our continued understanding of studentscognitive and affective development (Kuhlthau, 1993b)may offer a beginning framework for learning how tointroduce, how to pace, and how to measure studentscapabilities with using the Internet.

    Second, questions of continued technology trainingand professional development will begin to drive the qual-ity of use in the schools. Research into how best to assistteachers and school media professionals in learning howto facilitate students learning on the Internet is needed.Throughout the narratives, students made very few refer-ences to intermediaries such as teachers and media spe-cialists. Only Vel, when pressed by my question, Howdid you learn to find Web sites? responded, The [pub-lic] reference librarian! Certainly, schools need to en-gage in creative and developmentally appropriate waysto introduce students of all ages to the notions of vastnessand currency of the Internets content, as well as to ele-gant and efficient strategies for accessing the information.Schools may have to entertain questions of time andschedules to enable students to complete both leisurelybrowsing and efficient searches. And further, if researchand search strategies are overtly taught, then how doschools schedule time to perform the searches, which are,by nature, unpredictable? Typically, students do researchoutside of school time. If professionals want to assiststudents, coach them in their newly learned search skills,do computer labs and school media professionals assumenew roles during traditional class time?

    Third, threaded throughout their narratives, studentsmade references to the process of reading. As we intro-duce technology into the schools and set expectations forusing the Internet as a resource, we must be mindful of thedifferent kinds of reading employed in gathering ideas.Educators and students must understand that we both skimand perform close readings on text, depending on the taskof seeking knowledge. Therefore, questions of how toselect a suitable process of reading depending on the pur-pose must be made more explicit for students. As theyenter an Internet world with multisensory cues for decod-ing which invite them to skim, students must not forgetthe processes of reading deeply for meaning and evaluat-ing, as traditionally expected with print. The goal of learn-ing how to access information and then, comprehendingit at many levels, does not change because one can skimso much more easily on the Internet. Continued researchmight offer us ideas about how to recognize and practicethe differences in how to read and comprehend print textand Internet text.

    JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCESeptember 1998 1035/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

  • Page, R. (1997). Teaching about validity. Qualitative Studies in Educa-tion, 10, 145156.

    Schank, R. (1990). Tell me a story: A new look at real and artificialmemory. New York: Scribners Sons.

    Senge, P. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of thelearning organization. New York: Doubleday.

    Sugar, W. (1995). User-centered perspective of information retrievalresearch and analysis methods. In Williams, M. (Ed.) , Annual Reviewof Information Science and Technology (Vol. 30, pp. 78101). Med-ford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

    Tennessee Instructional Model. (1984). Module on retention. Nashville,TN: The Tennessee State Department of Education.

    Kuhlthau, C., Turock, B., George, M., & Belvin, R. (1990). Validatinga model of the search process: A comparison of academic, public andschool library users. Library and Information Science Research, 12,532.

    Lambert, M. (1997). Read better, sleep more. Harvard Magazine, 99,6668.

    Mellon, C. (1990). Naturalistic inquiry for library science. New York:Greenwood Press.

    Nahl, D., & Tenopir, C. (1996). Affective and cognitive searchingbehavior of novice end-users of a full-text database. Journal of theAmerican Society for Information Science, 47, 276286.

    1036 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCESeptember 1998/ 8N56$$1234 07-27-98 12:35:14 jasba W: JASIS

    IntroductionBackgroundMethodologyDiscussionConclusionAcknowledgmentsReferences

Recommended

View more >