Teaching like the newspapers do?

This morning I spent some time looking at the Globe and Mail’s excellent U.S. Election 08 site, and in particular their Delegate Tracker.

This is a sophisticated, well-designed, interactive, information-rich tool for learning about the US primary/caucus results.  It’s updated every half hour, it includes a timeline showing how vote results have come in throughout the months, from Iowa to Super Tuesday, and it’s frankly chock-a-block with information.  Don’t know what the difference is between pledged and unpledged delegates?  The “Delegate Types” tab walks you through it.  Want to see a flowchart of how the whole system works, from primaries to the national convention?  The “Process” tab shows it to you, in high-quality, easy-to-follow graphics.

Newspapers have been offering more and more rich, timely, professionally-designed content to support their stories.  Most of the time, this content is a pleasure to use and it teaches clearly and well.  It’s linked to large amounts of background content (in the form of articles in the paper itself) and it’s usually up-to-date and appealingly designed.   I’d say it’s some of the best free web-based instruction around, at least for general education on topics of current interest.

It all makes me wonder:  are these learning objects?  If we made these things in libraries, or in universities, would they be used more than, say, our static research guides?  Could we even make them in libraries?  (There are definitely issues of cost and skill.)  If we currently can’t, is this a kind of instruction that we’d like to work towards developing?  Should we be training ourselves to create materials like this–if not a guide to the electoral process, then maybe an interactive history of African-American migration after emancipation, for that American History class we teach every year?

I think of how we could tie library sources in–digitized special collections, links to saved database searches, Google Scholar searches with persistent URLs passed through our link resolver, live chat with a reference librarian–and I can imagine this being a hugely successful new route for libraries to take.  It would mean partnering closely with faculty to build the content and tie it to the curriculum, and it would mean training and financial support for more advanced, sophisticated multi-media production.  But if we’re serious about building up our web presence and services to match our physical presence and services, I think this is one model I wouldn’t mind emulating.

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2 thoughts on “Teaching like the newspapers do?

  1. Anne-Marie says:

    Me neither – this is an exciting road to think about . I ran across another post this morning – an armchair critique of newspaper Super Tuesday sites (http://blog.livollmers.net/index.php/2008/02/05/a-survey-of-super-tuesday-infographics/) and thought of yours. This person doesn’t mention instructional or “want more” type features at all in what he’s looking for in a good site — but I don’t think that means he wouldn’t want them, just that he doesn’t want them to be the point of the thing. It’s obvious that being able to get a “what does this mean” question answered quickly fits into what he’s saying – but that the point is finding out what’s going on on Super Tuesday. With a lot of our stuff, the point is the help, and the did you want to know more about this question — I like the idea of coming to the conversation from a different place.

    amd

  2. [...] months ago, Karen pointed out how libraries could learn something from information portals created by major media outlets and news organizations.  The example she used at the time was a site about the U.S. Elections produced by the Globe and [...]

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