Thursday, 20 December 2007

social bookmarking: how to exercise quality control?

Last week one of our library staff emailed me the following message about "Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting strives to identify serious academic blog posts about peer-reviewed research by offering an icon and an aggregation site where others can look to find the best academic blogging on the Net.

Thinking that this might be something pathfinder colleagues would be interested in, I emailed the rest of the team. An interesting discussion followed, focusing upon issues of student credulity, evaluation of resources and quality control.

On the one hand, there was a view that:

"This would appear to come under the heading of 'elite social bookmarking' which to those of us who get frustrated by students' acceptance of all things internet as being of equal worth sounds like a really good idea.The site however is specifically about research. Has anyone done anything/does anyone know of anything in any subject area which attempts to use social bookmarking with some kind of gatekeeping/quality control?"

On the other, it was noted that :

"Have you considered getting the students to review each others bookmarks. If guidelines were issued as to what constitutes ‘good sources’ and each student was given a particular area to review, perhaps this would foster deeper consideration and a ‘finalised’ quality set of bookmarks. Discussion about the categorisation, the quality of source and the subject could ensue."

"The Web2.0 approach that accepts the wisdom of crowds would suggest that the key mechanism for quality control is the value placed on a bookmark by the students, in order to do/achieve something. This in turn is a function of the criteria that students are applying based upon tasks that are set or the use of bookmarks from trusted bookmarkers, or staff creating the bookmarks."

This led to the riposte that:

"Unfortunately the crowds put Galileo in a prison (or at least under house arrest).
I guess I am an old fashioned elitist and have the added disadvantage of coming from a subject background where there are right and wrong answers."

To which, our resident pragmatist noted:

"I have sympathy with both sides of this debate! I’m thinking of getting students to use social bookmarking to identify, categorise and critique online resources that relate to my module. So the idea is to get them to think critically about the info they find, its usefulness as evidence to support an argument, whether it’s likely to be biased in some way, whether any conclusions are based squarely on the data, etc…etc… So I hope to find a middle ground where I can harness the usefulness of the tool while retaining my right to say ‘That is unscientific nonsense’ ;-) (Although the hope is that the students might point that out themselves where it applies!)"

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