From Pedagogy to Netagogy:
Observations about Resources and Instruction on the Internet

Timothy Hackett
LIS 296A
Spring 94


Developments Affecting Instruction and Libraries

The forces in place that will affect educational institutions and instruction in particular are many and varied; however, in observing the changes that have taken place in the locating of and instruction about remote information resources, there are some significant transformations to consider. These include the development of greater connectivity and networking in educational settings, the development of global education as an approach to interdisciplinary study, and the virtualization of information through computer mediation.

The growth of the Internet, the global network of networks, has experienced a phenomenal rise in traffic approaching fifteen percent per month [1]. This would give evidence of the influence of expanding computer networks and greater user connectivity. Although one may tend to think of this interconnection of the physical- and application layers as something existing in isolation, John Quarterman has noted that "Networks are not just technology. Faster networks lead to newer services, then new uses, then new communities." [2]

The services that reside on the network may provide the ability to assist the mission of college and universities even in disciplines that do not have a scientific or technological focus. Drew University, a liberal arts campus, has pursued an aggressive approach to computer mediated communication as part of its information infrastructure. "A liberally educated person systematically, logically, and creatively accesses available information, develops understanding and insight, and communicates this knowledge to others. From this perspective, computers and networks are information processing tools and can be used to substantially enhance this thinking process."[3]

However, the presence of information processing tools alone would not bring about a real magnitude of change without the presence of interconnectivity. This ubiquitous interconnectivity provides the technical background for a more significant relationship within instruction. "Computers are means of communication at least as much as they are tools, and the global Matrix of interconnected computer networks facilitates the formation of global matrices of minds."[4] The many uses of computer mediated communication have brought changes in scholarly communication; the use of information technology allows the student researcher to "tap in" to these discussions and to learn from these 'global matrices of minds.'

The use of computer-mediated communication has resulted in changes of institutional communication,i.e. the 'percolation' into academic disciplines that might have resisted, or been disinterested in its implementation [5]; in addition, there is the potential for the development of a 'broader' learning environment for instructors and students. At this juncture, the use/lack of use of the matrix becomes of greater importance. "Computer networking offers the possibility of developing a stimulating, cooperative context for teachers and students. But it is the quality of the dialog on the network and not the speed of the technology that will be the crucial factor." [6]

It is this context that will provide another backdrop for a richer instructional environment; this 'wealth' of resources within the 'classroom' will result from the collaborative nature and the resultant speed of learning in a less provincial atmosphere. "When teachers and studetns engage in cooperative learning activities mediated by computer networking, the power and speed of human learning is extended by their collective knowledge and rich set of experiences. Computer telecommunication provides a human context for learning."[7]

Computer mediation has two important components that should be distinguished; this communication may be human-machine communication which is usually taught, in the techniques of searching an online database or remote datafile; these techniques would provide more general information; "however, when we do need contextual information, which is available only through experts, we need the second level of cyberspatial tools, which do not only allow for information retrieval... but also people-to-people communication."[8]

The third consideration affecting education and libraries is the continued virtualization of information through computer-mediated-communication. Michael Bauwers has describe the d/evolution of current libraries to electronic libraries and further to that of globally-accessible virtual libraries. These tiers of development within the library also imply the type of instruction necessary for successful use. These include: 1) "electronic access (OPAC) but with real library in the background 2) electronic access to virtual collections but with delivery of real documents (i.e. UnCover) 3) electronic acces to virtual collections consisting of electronic documents." [9] It is in the third phase that the library instructor will monitor the presence and development of new resources, instruct others about how these resources have been 'subdivided', and to demonstrate techniques for navigation within the infoscape.

"The historic task of cybrarians consists of carrying out the process of virtualization in libraries and knowledge; that of cyberologists will be to understand the process."[10] This process of virtualizations links well with that of the development of a more global learning spacce, and provides for the transition of research techniques and models based upon physical, static collections to those that are virtual, easily distributable. Following will be a summary of some observations of the models that library and information studies researchers have used to educate others about networked information resources.

Models for Informing and Instructing

Bibliography Format

As many of the frequenters of netspace have come from a background of Library and Information Studies, it is not surprising that one of the most common models for 'teaching' about networked information resources is by way of the bibliography model. The bibliography model, as is its paper analog, is usually comprised of a subject-based list of resources, usually delineated by CMC format, viz., listservs, ftp sites, e-journals, etc. The networked bibliography is a "hybrid" form in the sense that it has a paper prototype, and relies on a more traditional teacher-pupil relationship in its level, or lack thereof, of interactivity. This hybrid feel also extends to the IP/HTTP addressing scheme that gives the bibliography a kind of cyber "union catalog" feel to it.

The Net has no dearth of these bibliographies. Michael Strangelove's Electronic Mystic: A Complete BIbliography of Networked Electronic Documents, Online Conferences, Serials, Software, and Archives Relevant to Religious Studies [11] included a non-technical comprehensive one-stop grouping of historical and contemporary religio-philosophical net groups and also contained a brief tutorial concerning elementary net skills and a brief introduction to its ambience, or culture. It also demonstrated that scholars in the humanities had a significant number and presence in computer mediated communication, but the Mystic narrates the extent these dialogues were taking place.

In a similar vein, but in disciplines that were not thought to be heavy users of cyberspace, Wilfred Drew's Not Just Cows: A Guide to Internet/Bitnet Resources in Agriculture and Related Sciences [12] provided the initial groundwork for awareness, information, and education about the networked resources in plant cultivation and the animal sciences. Drew also included a selected list of campuses with collections that specialized in agriculture and provided their respective IP addresses and login procedures as this preceded the widespread implementation of the University of Minnesota's Gopher or Mark Resmer's Libs application. As many of the resources listed were placed on anonymous ftp sites, his bibliography mode of instruction included a brief guide to file transfer protocol.

Tool-based Model

In the tool-based approach to training on the Net, the format is more "verbal"- based upon the action of carrying out the Net task while the bibliography model seems more "static or substantive"- focusing on the sources of information themselves. The tool-based approach prefers a hands-on, or descriptive hands-on, use of Internet applications. The availability and use of these applications are dependent on a number of factors, in particular the level of connectivity that the individual has, as well as the system software fo the node machine. This is where what may appear to be a transparent exercise for a direct-network machine may, on the other hand, become a series of up-downloadings in a non-SLIP/PPP or LAN environment.

This mode of instruction inherently raises the issue of equality of access. Larry Press [[13] has contrasted this instructional model and its relationship to connectivity as a scenario of First World/affluent environments and those of Third World/inner city American classrooms.

Some recent examples of theis model have appeared in the University of California, Davis-sponsored "Gold in them thar Networks" [14]that provided an appliation-based approach to instruction within a limited subject area . A variation of this model that was extremely popular was Richard Smith's Navigating the Internet: An Interactive Workshop which actually used the Internet, via email and listservs, to teach techniques related to the net. Althought the first online instruction was entirely Unix-based, the virtual "student classroom" was small enough that questions could be answered by the instructor; however, with the adaptation by Jim Gerland to support three simultaneous platforms - Unix, VMS, VM - the "class" size jumped to nearly 12,000 'attendees' and the notion of interactivity became an idea in name only.

This scenario, while providing greater access to a greater number of students and was run on a public service/no fee basis,was also potentially more confusing as each lessonn arrived, in three different 'dialects' of software, and in typical listserv order, i.e. no particular order relation to the original exercise/chapter.

Despite the shortcomings that developed from this overwhelming demand, the Navigating the Nets Workshop provides an excellent format of offering remote instruction about the Net via the use of computer-mediated communication; this model holds much promise as bandwidth/higher speeds permit the use of photo stills and low frame-speed video to assist students through difficulat principles or methods. The real netagogy, using this model, will be more coherent once its materials are taught within the context of a research problem or query; using a subject-specific focus would better "frame" the search examples into a kind of consistent search strategy and would permit the 'attendees' a viewing of their searches and results in some contextual form. As this method was primarily driven by a teacher-learner format with pre-set lesson plans, it might be interesting to consider how this session might have evolved given a small group approach to Internet instruction.

Reference Model

One consistent model for learning about resources and techniques on the Internet has been that of a traditional Reference Model. This model is fairly similar in approach to the "scavenger hunt" approach to learning often used in basic Reference classes in Library and Information Studies' programs. This model presumes some familiarity with the Internet or, at the very least, with some of the finding applications (e.g. archie, veronica, etc.) that would permit the learner to winnow his search down to a controllable file, or series of files, within a particular networked resource. As anyone who has lived through this experience in its "paper incarnation" will attest, this model is appropriate for those who can tolerate higher levels of ambiguity, frustration, and loss of sense of place!

One consistent and long-running example of this model has been Rick Gates' "Internet Hunt" [17], a monthly potpourri of Net gems and trivia, which is usually comprised of ten questions that the participants answer, email into the perpetrator, and have weighed for 'value' based on completeness of answer, recounting of the search strategy and pathway, and speed of retrieval (usually related to the former two considerations). Although the variety of questions within an individual hunt is usually too varied to be of merit for a discipline-specific approach to instruction, some questions lead to research strategies, pathways, or reference sources that teach a variety of approaches or resources to a particular problem. Again the principle of putting this exercise into some type of frame of reference is valuable, otherwise the student may develop skills more appropriate to a "virtual polymath" and not have a context/discipline in which to anchor his findings.

What has been of great use, and interest, to me has been his method of posting multiple answers (or routes and methods) to "thorny" searches. For example, a recent hunt asked for a comparison of research and development funds expended relative to total operating expenses for Apple and Microsoft, Inc. Where one approach in a posted answer checked the ftp-sub-indexes more carefully and yielded a more efficient search, another approach downloaded the master index and searched this "sub-database" using an editor in order to search for the keywords "Apple" and "Microsoft".

Also significant about this question is the free availability, i.e. access to the Securities and Exchange Commission's Edgar database, formerly only accessible via an expansive commercial online service. The presence of such a resource available free to the academic community and the public-at-large also points to the work of those who wish to keep public-money-produced data available to the general public via a free distributed networking system, viz. the Net; hence the policy support and decisions are influenced by those who frequent cyberspace and its arsenal of information resources.

The SEC database is an important resource. Much (sic) thanks to U.S. Congressman Edward Markey, the National Science Foundation, Carl Malamud, and the Taxpayer Assets Project's Crown Jewels Campaign who all helped to see to it that the information is available to all. Access is through an ftp site." [18]

Current Awareness Model

As the Internet, and subsequently the information that resides upon it, is a dynamic organism, i.e. the infoscape may, and often does, change rapidly in terms of its contents, addressing/access, capabilities, applications (front-ends), some have adopted a current awareness model as the most logical means to approach netagogy. In essence this involves determining a subject area search, defining its keywords/concepts and then locating a reliable, consistent source for updating the fluid nature of networked information resources and their corresponding methods/applications on the Net.

This model has taken a number of forms, or methods of distribution, but have been designed to assist the Net-students in learning about, or distributing discipline-specific materials not unlike, in principle, what SDI formerly attempted. Paul Ginsparg [19] has brought up a nine bulletin-board distribution system that posts approximately six hundred "preprints" to the Los Alamos Laboratory boards; in physics this format has served not only as an information filter, but serves as a virtual journal/electronic journal for ground-breaking articles.

Similarly, the Current Cites [20] publication, available through the University of California's Melvyl and mirrored to other sites- seeks to distribute library and information technology citations and annotations from paper and online sources in the areas that have the greatest impact on library/information users: optical disk technologies, computer networks and networking, information transfer, expert systems and AI, electronic publishing, and hypermedia and multimedia. Ironically, the service is available in a paper format via the Computers in Libraries journal.

Hypermedia Model

Assuming that a campus has what Craig Summerhill has referred to as a "Phase Three" Connection [21] to the Internet, the ability to support more robus applications would permit one to run a hypermedia program such as NCSA's Mosaic which is a WWW (world-wide web) browser. "The Web is a distributed information access service based on the hypertext model of information representation. Hypertext documents can have links to other documents and can contain not only text, but also image, sounds, and animations." [22]

The hypermedia environment may be used as a means to create a more civilized approach to learning about Network resources. "Hypermedia, often using a graphical interface, 'intuitively' guides the user down a path that has many crossroads and thus many options. Hypermedia uses a sensory combination of sight (pictures and text) and sound (digitized spoken words and digitized music) to create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning and productivity." [23] Versatility of the WWW is another considertion for preferring it as an instructional model. This decreases the reliance on any single net tool approach; in addition, the integration of these tools via the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) provides for flexibility for either end-user addressing as well as for pre-assigned links. The WWW supports more sources of networked and local electronic information than any other networked information retrieval tool. Supported resource types include Gopher, Wide Area Information Server (WAIS), World-Wide Web, Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP), Techinfo, FTP, archie, finger, Hytelnet, TeXinfo, telnet and tn3270 accessible systems. [24]

The NCSA Mosaic hypermedia browser is most likely the first real candidate to have the capability, cost, support, versatility, and flexibility to provide a common framework for individual and group instruction about networked resources. Some fo the activities that it uniquely lends itself to would be the management of networked information via customized home pages that could be discipline-specific, site-specific, project-based, or limited to an individual researcher's interests based on browsing and tagging addresses to the hotlist.

In addition, the instructor could customize the home page addressing to take into consideration a student's handicaps, limitations, or learning style. By the inital limiting or editing access to well-constructed information resources, the instructor could demonstrate some principles of information literacy (viz. authority, subjects, consistency of linking)

One approach to using Mosaic as an instructional tool would be for comparing the arrangement, or lack thereof, of resouces according to a particular CWIS' home pages and related sub-menus; from this mehod, the student-searcher could determine whether that front-end was primarily resource-, current awareness-, subject-, or experimentally-based. An example fo one such experimental link is the CNIDR Z39.50 gateway . This service supports boolean searching and can illustrate the attempts to create a more seamless end-user searching environment.

Another approach might be to compare search results from the use of different search modes within a given limited database. The Aliweb (Archie-Like Indexing of the Web) provides such an application to compare like-kind searches, viz.searching CUI-WWW Catalog, by a simple searchable index, and by using an option-based search that can limit searches to a particular domain, field, title URL, keyword; in addition, this front-end permits a numbered-limit for retrieval.

By using a form of current-awareness model with Mosaic, one could use the hotlist feature to develop a limited, or specialised, form of Internet resources updating service. A good example of a compilation of this method is at the CUI's W3 Catalog . (I used this service to find the AliWeb example listed above.)

For users new to searching networked resources, the approach/metaphor taken by the University of Texas, Austin gives the user a very familiar model as it relates available resources to a "place" or to current tools that most library users would be familiar with. By way of comparison, one may look at the form-based search on AliWeb that queries for "substring exact regular expression" in its form-based search.

Another area of promise that the Mosaic browser may be helpful for informing and instructing students of the Net would be in the area of non-text materials. For students whose learning styles are not strongly oriented to text-based materials, the use of more visual materials might be more appropriate, and given Mosaic's viewing capabilities and the development of more databases of images, e.g. LC's exhibits [25], the possibility of bringing art, or graphic explanation of lectures, would be more feasible.

As the proliferation of information in a hypermedia format becomes more prevalent, a recurring theme for net-based instruction must be that of finding appropriate sources as well as the qualitative form of the sources. "The user must be astute in recognizing and expressing the level of information apprpriate for his or her information need on a specific topic at a particular time. The user must be familiar with the difference between new information and information not new but uniquely expressed or synthesized." [26] By having a sense for using an appropriate model, or framework, for searching on the Net, the searcher may have a better hope for finding appropriate relevance and manageable retrieval from the variety of databases and user-interfaces available.


[1]. Valauskas, Edward J. "Digital Overload", p. 100.

[2]. Quarterman, John. "Global Matrix of Minds", p. 35.

[3]. Detweiler, Richard. "Drew University", p. 44.

[4]. Quarterman, p. 56.

[5]. Stover, Mark. "Information Technology", pp. 81-96.

[6]. Riehl, Margaret. "Global Education through Learning Circles.", p.236.

[7]. ibid., p. 222.

[8]. Bauwens, Michel. "What is Cyberspace?" , p. 48.

[9]. ibid., p. 44.

[10]. ibid., p. 45.

[11]. Available from ftp
directory pub/religion/electric-mystics-guide.

[12]. Available from ftp
directory libsoft

[13]. Press, Larry. Communications of the ACM "Information Filtering" (December 1992).

14. Indexed in PACS-L; NETRAIN-L.

[17]. March 1994 Internet Hunt Results.

[18]. ibid.

[19]. Taubes, Gary. "Publication by electronic mail takes physics by storm" Science (February 26, 1993):1246.

[20]. Welcome Screen (Melvyl).

[21]. Summerhill, Craig. Internet Primer for Information Professionals , p. 38.

[22]. Berkeley Computing and Communications (March 1994).p. 9.<

[23]. Powell, James. "Adventures with the World Wide Web", p. 59.

[24]. Stover, p. 89.

[25]. Valauskas, Edward J. "Digital Images over the Internet", p. 58.

[26]. Haban, Mary F. "Information Filtering" in Information Literacies for the Twenty-First Century, p 108.


Bauwens, Michel. "What is Cyberspace?" Internet Librarian (April 1994) pp. 42-48.

Bridges, Karl. "Gopher Your Library" in Wilson Library Bulletin (November 1993), pp 36-38.

Current Cites. Monthly publication of Information Systems Instruction and Support-- the Library, University of California, Berkeley. Available through PACS-L or anonymous ftp at:

Detweiler, Richard A. "Drew University: A Case Study in Challenging the Conventional Wisdom" in Campus-Wide Information Systems & Networks. Westport, CT : Meckler, 1992.

Gates, Rick. "March Hunt Results, Pt 2/2, no. 6" in PACS-L 31 March 1994.

Haban, Mary F. "Information Filtering" in Information Literacies for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Virgil Blake and Renee

Jacobson, Robert L. "The Coming Revolution" in Chronicle of Higher Education (April 27, 1994), pp. A26-28.

Lane, Elizabeth S. Internet Primer for information professionals: a basic guide to Internet networking technology Westport, CT: Meckler, 1993.

Novogrodsky, Seth and Shuli, Roth. "Cruising the World-Wide Web with Mosaic" in Berkeley Computing and Communications (March 1994), pp. 9-11.

Perelman, Lew J. School's out: hyperlearning, the new technology, and the end of education New York: William Morrow, 1993.

Postman, Neil. Technopoly New York: Random House, 1992

Powell, James. "Adventures with the World-Wide Web: Creating a Hypertext Library Information System. Database (February 1994) pp. 59-66.

Quarterman, John. "The Global Matrix of Minds" in Harasim, Linda M. Global Networks: Computers and International Communication. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 1993

Rheingold, Howard. The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley, 1993.

Riehl, Margaret. "Global Education through Learning Circles" in Harasim, Linda M. Global Networks: Computers and International Communication. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 1993.

Snyder, Joel. "Diving into the Internet: The Trouble with Gopher" Internet World (March/April 1994), pp. 30-34.

Stover, Mark. "Information Technology and the Theological Librarian" in Journal of Religious & Theological Information, Vol. 1(1) 1993.

Taubes, Gary. "Publication by electronic mail takes physics by storm." Science (February 26, 1993): 1246.

Valauskas, Edward J. "Digital Images over the Internet: Rome Reborn at the Library of Congress" Database (April 1994), pp. 57-60.

Valauskas, Edward J. "Handling Digital Overload with Hypercard" Online (January 1994), pp 100-102.

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