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Melinda Fallon, George Mason University

Implementation

I tested the webography project in my Western Civilization course (syllabus below) for the spring semester 2004.  

My goal for the assignment was to help students recognize the differences between good history sources on the web and bad ones. I wanted the make the students better aware of the vast amount written and visual primary sources out there, but at the same time teach them to be discerning of the information in cyberspace.

The assignment was worth 10% of the overall grade for the course. I divided the class of 19 students into 4 groups based on the color of index cards they filled out the first day of class. The project ran from March 5, 2004 when we met as a class in a computer lab to introduce the project until April 9, 2004. Introducing the project in a computer classroom allowed me to walk the students through the directions for the project and the database. (see below)

I gave students time at the end of the class to meet with their groups and exchange contact information and hopefully begin to develop a group rapport. Ultimately, I left it up to each group how they wanted to communicate about the project (whether solely via-email or a combination of email and face-to-face meetings). The groups that met together at least once seemed to have the most success in the group projects.

Some students enjoyed the group aspect of the project and really embraced it. One group in particular offered feedback to each other that greatly improved the overall quality of the group's entries into the database. Their entries were by far the best of the four groups. Several people complained about having to work in a group, and they tended to be students who worked off campus and found scheduling meetings difficult. Of course there were a handful of students (2-3) who did not stay in regular contact with their groups and were also the last ones to contact me with potential web sites.  

When the project ended on April 9th every student in the class had posted two entries into the database though the quality of the annotations did vary widely.

I found the authorization process a bit cumbersome as I had to keep track of which sites students had chosen. Students kept picking redundant sites or sites that failed to meet the basic criteria of the project. The grading process was also a bit time consuming. One item I found helpful in assigning group grades was I had each student fill out a peer evaluation sheet on each member of his/her group which I think did an adequate job of flagging those students who did not pull their weight within the groups. (see attached)

Due to the nature of the course I wasn't able to incorporate the websites into the course content as much as I would have liked. The students could use the sites from the database on their final essays, but they tended to use them sparingly. One unforeseen benefit of the project was that it greatly improved class rapport. People who got to know some of their fellow students better as a result of the group project tended to be more talkative in class discussions. This section met at 9 a.m. on Fridays and it was by far my most garrulous section.

I would consider using the project again in another course. I think it would be easier and more effective in a course that met more than once a week but even with the limitations I think the students benefited from the project and gained interpersonal, organizational, and critical thinking skills.

Text from Syllabus

Webography Project

What is a “webography”?

What is the assignment?

Process of project:

Database entry

Helpful hints:

Grading Procedures:

Webography Project Peer Review Form.

Your Name:

Please rate your fellow members on the criteria using a 1 (worst) to 10 (best) scale. Please add any pertinent comments.

Student 1 - Name :

____ Creating goals for the group

____ Finding web sources

____ Availability to other group members

____ Cooperation and leadership

Student 2 - Name :

____ Creating goals for the group

____ Finding web sources

____ Availability to other group members

____ Cooperation and leadership

Student 3 - Name :

____ Creating goals for the group

____ Finding web sources

____ Availability to other group members

____ Cooperation and leadership

Student 4 - Name :

____ Creating goals for the group

____ Finding web sources

____ Availability to other group members

____ Cooperation and leadership