The Web As Primary Source

One of the things that intrigued (bugged) me after the Kath Murdoch inquiry seminar was her seemingly dismissive attitude towards students using the web as a resource in any kind of inquiry research. My principal reminded that I tend to view everything through a technology lense so I shouldn't be too concerned. But I've worked out why the notion stuck in my mind - even an experienced educator like Kath was viewing the web as a view only resource. When she talked about the importance of students seeking out primary sources as part of their inquiry process, it clicked in my brain that was where Web 2.0 made a difference to the use of the internet. Web 1.0 was definitely a secondary resource but using wikis and social networking tools now allow students to connect directly to key sources and in that way, the web can facilitate access to primary sources of information. That's what excites me about potential global collaboration projects - not exploring highbrow concepts as much as connecting students to others of like age, exploring the differences and breaking down the misconceptions about how the rest of the world works.

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7 thoughts on “The Web As Primary Source

  1. Dean Shareski

    Great point and reminded me of many of the entries on wikipedia of current events that are eyewitness accounts. i.e. London bombings, bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Flickr as well as a storehouse of images from actual events. We often think of primary sources as historical documents that have been scanned but the fact we can access author’s blogs or kids in Australia is pretty primary if I want to learn about a place. With web 2.0, everyone is a primary source. (Hope you were able to check email or twitter during her sessions 😉

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  2. Allanahk

    In the last six months my class of 9-10 year olds in a small rural school in the South Island of NZ were able to connect via Skype directly with crew in Valencia on NZ’s America’s Cup yacht, speak with Dr Barrie Frost- a world expert in the migratory habits of butterflies and talk directly to American student about life on America while studying America!

    In each of these situations only using Web2.0 would we have been able to do this for free!

    And only on the web could we have access to these people and be able to share our journey with others.

    http://www.moturoa.blogspot.com

    http://www.allanah.podomatic.com

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  3. Alexander Hayes

    Web 1.0 was very much about pointing out to things that were to be referenced…created by “authentic” web masters who somehow had authority and were real.

    Then along came the pesky public and ruined it all. Demanded an opportunity to write and read….imagine that ! Only monks can do that right ?

    Thank beep you can sense in it all Graham. Looking forward to your audio piece on PLE’s that we can interject proceedings with over in NSW soon….very soon 🙂

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  4. Bill Kerr

    hi graham,

    I’m not sure what you mean by primary and secondary sources?

    To take Allanah’s example if Dr Barrie Frost had published some of his expert information on a static web page then why it then become secondary?

    I can see the point about wikipedia being more current and up to date (as well as accessible) than Britannica. But often longer documents on the web are stored statically, eg. documents of historical significance. Why aren’t these primary sources?

    I think the mindset that web2.0 is always better is quite silly. Sometimes web1.0 is just as good. Sometimes books are better. Possibly web2.0 overall contains more nonsense and so the reader / writer better have good tools of discernment otherwise they will end up being part of a shallow community of nonsense.

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  5. Graham Wegner

    Bill, of course there are plenty of Web 1.0 examples of primary source information – an expert in a field that has the publishing skills to post their findings would definitely be a primary source. But that would mean they would either have technical skills or access to someone with web authoring skills – new web tools lower the technical barriers to accessing these sources. And these new tools allow for greater ease for posing students’ own questions directly to the the source of expertise – and the tools don’t need to be specifically Web 2.0 tools either. I think that what I meant to convey was the fact that Web 1.0 stuff tended to be one-way consumption while Web 2.0 (as a generalisation) can be participatory. Not necessarily better, but certainly different. And wading through the nonsense is certainly a skill set that anyone wanting to use the web needs to master.

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  6. David

    Graham, Your reaction to Kath Murdoch’s dismissive attitude is one that should be explored further. For me her reaction struck a resonance with the Establishment’s fear in the C18 and C19 of mob rule. Web 1.0 was a controlled environment as Alexander said, content that was deemed ‘authentic, relevant and true’ was all that was available. In other words a certain perspective and usually that of the Establishment was all that was available. Encarta CD’s are a good example of ‘focussed’ ie biased content. Now we have web 2.0 and we can all share, no matter how biased our points of view. The orthodoxy of the established points of view are up for grabs and there is less control, no wonder some people feel threatened by this. There is now a myriad of truths out there and not just the accepted one!

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  7. Simon

    Can you really argue with eywitness blogging, photos on Flickr or phone video of actual events. Well maybe you can. When we look back at recorded history. Well history itself has been decoded for use from fragments of bone, etchings on the wall to diaries and accounts of kings and queens, battles and coups, recorded history can be found in the folds of newspapers and magazines. But now through web2.0 tools the very lives of ‘insignificant’ individuals are recorded and read. First hand accounts of the London bombings down to the fact I’m cooking tea tonight and having egg and chips. There is a great deal more primary sources out there…. Students definately need a skill set to sift the wheat from the chaff.

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