Monday, November 7, 2011
At the end of last week, Interim Associate Director of Watzek Elaine Hirsch and I gave a presentation at the Northwest Association of Private Colleges and Universities gathering of library directors. The topic was innovative marketing and outreach efforts at a liberal arts college library.
One of our newer approaches to digital projects follows a model something like this:
- we work with a faculty member to conceive of an evidence-based assignment for a particular class
- students in a class go out in the field gather evidence with cameras or through other means
- they analyze the evidence
- the library helps them organize the evidence and analysis and present it on the web
We first followed this model in last fall's New York City Graffiti Art Project. Then did another variation on it for a Perspectives in Biology course in which students gathered and classified spiders in the area. This fall, students studying abroad in India have been documenting their experiences using a kind of flickr mashup. It provides a venue for students on the program to photograph things, describe them, and classify them according to a particular schema. The schema is oriented around topics that the students must address for an assignment including modernization, environment, culture and religion. Our site aggregates all the entries for the entire group of students so that their work may be viewed as an integrated whole.
One of the benefits of this kind of project is that the student work becomes highly visible to other students and perhaps this incentivizes higher quality work. The documentation also has the potential to enrich the entire web.
We have a couple other biologists interested in doing more documentation and another overseas program in the works. One of the challenges ahead is to try to develop a more general purpose web site to support these kinds of activities.