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Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 1 month ago


Serial Failure


Bowen, Jennifer & others (Jan 2004). Serial failure. Charleston Advisor, 5(3), Retrieved Mar 13, 2008, from http://tinyurl.com/28jazu


This article from the University of Rochester Libraries begins by describing a simple usability study of an academic library web site. Randomly choose four students and individually observe them at a set task: find a newspaper article on affirmative action. Watch them fail, or rather, watch your website fail.


The authors describe their case study of trial, rejig website and retrial under the heading: "From abject failure to nearly abject failure".


Users want easy searching, a la Google, and few have the patience or motivation to struggle with complicated, and non-uniform, databases.


Although BI (bibliographic instruction) works, it is "ultimately powerless in an environment in which people expect to use Web products proficiently with no training whatever."


The answers (see the article for more detail) are:

  • Metasearch engines
  • Linking software
  • Open URL - NISO's new standard
  • Open Archive Initiative
  • Usability testing


The article describes improvements made to the library web page, including change of terminology (databases button becomes "find articles") and prominence (adding button to front page), simplifying and subject grouping database lists, using metasearching where possible, developing simplified interfaces where possible (some inhouse and some working with providers). Whilst each of these did improve usage the overall effect was seen as negligible. (This was all done over several years.)


Visit the University of Rochester River Campus Libraries home page to see how it looks today. You need to log in to search but you can see the way searching is structured at different levels.




  • We (schools) don't have the same time/resources/expertise/influence as this academic library. Whilst beyond our scope this experiment is very useful to our knowledge of the topic.
  • In our situation we probably have more hope of doing worthwhile BI, which may have long term effects. Possible item for research.
  • Should we be starting with teachers and needs? If teachers don't see a need for better research material, then is it a moot point?
  • Could better research (better sources) result in better student learning => results? Could this be studied?


Skype Meeting 11th Feb 08


I really enjoyed the chat especially the mix of topics that came up. Thought I'd put up a few references that resulted from this discussion while still fresh.


iPod use

Julie's idea was: "...to investigate if listening to music with earphones while students are studying is really beneficial to their studies."


There is an article in T.H.E.Journal called What Students Want :: Leave Me Alone...I’m Socializing (March 2007). This reports a survey/interviews of three age groups about their experience of using technology. Listening devices were liked because they satisfied the need to be left alone and were perceived to change mood for the better. This is not hard research for the project, but gives some interesting youth perspective.


In a Sept 2006 blog entry teacher Elona Hartjes quotes from a workplace survey (she gives details but I couldn't source it quickly) which showed that workers find listening to personal music players improves job satisfaction:


"The effect of music was the highest among younger workers, with 90 per cent of those 18 to 24 and 89 per cent of those 30 to 39 saying it boosted job satisfaction."


The article goes on to relate this to classroom experience. (Listening to music helps students be more productive in the classroom)


Third Space

This is a concept which is referred to in the research background to guided inquiry as discussed in Carol Kuhlthau's recent publication. See Guided Inquiry on Ning for details (didn't know about that till this minute when I searched for a link to the book). The following article was quoted in her bib. and is a case study of interactions in a particular classroom. Quoting a little from the first page of the article:


"An analysis of the everyday activity of classrooms, an analysis of the script of the classroom community, and a discourse analysis of the face-to-face interaction of the classroom participants will show how who gets to learn and what is learned is connected to the social relationships constructed in classrooms. These analyses will also demonstrate how power lies in these constructed social relationships, not solely in the individual or in a monolithic system of societal reproduction. Thus, while the classroom mirrors the larger societal structures and power relationships (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1993; Freire & Macedo, 1987; Giroux, 1988), the construction of the classroom, like the construction of society, is a dynamic system of relationships and structures."


Script, Counterscript, and Underlife in the Classroom Gutierrez, Kris and others, Harvard Educational Review, v65 n3 p445-71 Fall 1995. (You will need to source this through an academic database - the link is to the ERIC abstract.)


This tied in nicely with some research I came to from a completely different direction - see The Hidden Lives of Learners for details.


I just thought that this reading added to my understanding of the context of action research, and both are excellent examples of a certain type of study which is infrequently reported.






Duck with a Purpose



I wanted to imortalise my duck, who turned out to be amazingly unphotogenic (she looks better than this) but thought that in this shot she looked at least purposeful. Our inaugural dinner gave much food for thought (pun not intended) and I am now channeling my sense of purpose through Ms Duck and seeking an authentic research purpose.








Comments (12)

Anonymous said

at 6:45 pm on Jun 12, 2007

Hi Marita, nice duck. I wasn't at the dinner so I'm not totally sure why there is a duck. I think it is a bit scary selecting the actual topic for research. I'll be okay once I commit but at the moment it's a bit like fronting up to a smorgasbord when you are really hungry. I guess we could always eat duck!
That's what being at a PD today has done to my brain. It was all about blogging and one of the sites that was highly recommended was wordpress. At least I feel ahead of the others as I had sigbned up for wordpress!

Anonymous said

at 8:26 pm on Jun 13, 2007

As Margaret points out, there is more to being a part of this community than completing a piece of action research. There are lots of other things, such as working with social networking tools, that can be learned and shared whilst on the journey.

Anonymous said

at 10:03 pm on Jul 18, 2007

A duck with a purpose is the right attitude - we are a Community with a Purpose and the Purpose (seems like i read too much Pooh Bear!)is to enrich our own thinking and get inspired by researching our practice. Don't forget to use your page as a research log..Di and I have given an example on our page.

Anonymous said

at 8:27 pm on Jul 19, 2007

Well Marita, your duck looks very familiar. Was it you I swapped with at the dinner? My duck tells me it might well be. Not that reliable though. She is a duck of very little brain (how's that for a Pooh-ism?)

I will post a photo of mine as soon as I can get a camera.
What on earth is a social network tool?

Anonymous said

at 7:10 pm on Jul 29, 2007

Hi Jenny...as for a social networking tool... Wikipedia (which I think is great for definitions and explanations of the latest in technology) has this to say: 'A social network service focuses on the building and verifying of online social networks for communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others, and which necessitates the use of software.

Most social network services are primarily web based and provide a collection of various ways for users to interact, such as chat, messaging, email, video, voice chat, file sharing, blogging, discussion groups, and so on.'

Anonymous said

at 7:37 pm on Jul 29, 2007

Until you get to the bit on software, it sounds like the old partyline system that operated through the local telephone exchange in the country! Showing my age now... of course I've only heard about it!

Anonymous said

at 7:38 pm on Aug 12, 2007

Gosh, sorry everyone - I didn't know I had comments. I get updates when people post and have been just reading these. Have to see if I can get updates on comments! Jenny, I thought it was June whose duck I swapped for but memory is getting hazy...

Anonymous said

at 9:59 pm on Aug 17, 2007

It can be quite difficult keeping tabs on who has updated what and commented on what. It is a great feeling to open your comments page and actually see some! That's what keeps me going I guess. Also, recording what I am doing and having some input from others in the profession is a way of validating and authenticating my work.

Anonymous said

at 7:11 am on Feb 13, 2008

This is great Marita. I thought the Skype meeting was a great way for us to get to know each other's intrests and projects in a bit more depth. Like you've done, we can now all keep an eye out for resources and ideas that we can share with others. Two, three, four... heads are certainly better than one. BTW... the formatting on your page looks all over the place on my screen... are you working in Firefox by any chance?

Anonymous said

at 9:21 am on Feb 13, 2008

Yes, Di, the formatting is funny - will try to fix. It was okay at home, but I have a wider screen. I use ie7. Cheers.

Anonymous said

at 8:21 pm on Feb 15, 2008

I just enjoyed reading your quotes and will read more into the the theory of socialisation and learning. Thanks

Anonymous said

at 7:44 am on Feb 16, 2008

Formatting is looking much better! I just need to find some time to follow your suggested readings... I'm eager to pursue the idea of the 'third space'. The great thing (or one of them) about a wiki is that I know where to find the links to your articles and I won't have to sort through a million emails. I'm looking forward to seeing how you go with your research into the use of online resources. We push the use of databases pretty strongly at school and the seniors seem comfortable to use them. I do wonder, however, as to whether they think they are a valuable resource. Perhaps it's something we should also look at.

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