Netiquette Banner Netiquette, by Virginia Shea, page 111

Yurman interpreted the problem as a failure to follow Netiquette Rule 1, Remember the human. "The root cause appears to be [that] neither the TA nor the students had any idea who was at the other end of the line," he wrote. "All they saw was a computer that should be giving them answers."

Another view is that the teaching assistant and the students were simply reacting to the media hype that has been telling anyone who will listen that cyberspace resources are about to replace books, libraries, librarians, and all other traditional repositories of information. For example, a recent TV commercial for a telecommunications company shows happy and cooperative teenagers in a videoconference learning about the history of jazz from an apparent expert who's connected to them via a voice and video hookup. Of course, the commercial doesn't tell us whether the expert is being paid for his time or who did the work of setting up the cyber-classroom.

A third explanation -- along with a solution, thank goodness -- has been advanced by Phil Agre. In a tremendously useful article called "The Art of Getting Help," published in his electronic newsletter The Network Observer, Agre noted that both the students and the TA displayed a lack of knowledge of where to get help. Agre points out that everyone needs help with research projects, that getting help is a skill, and that this skill is not inborn. I highly recommend retrieving the article (instructions are in the footnote below). (Endnote #24)

Agre suggests that all students should be taught how to get help before they're turned loose on the Internet. It's the teacher's responsibility to help the student focus a project down to the point where he can start asking for help. The next resources to use are the obvious ones -- reference works and research librarians who are in the business of being asked questions.

Agre also points out that we shouldn't "get hung up on the Internet," but should "think of the Internet as simply one part of a larger ecology


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