THANKS TO PROFESSORS' CREATION
CHILDREN CAN NAVIGATE
AND EVALUATE WEB SITES
Attention, web masters: If you want to know how effective a children's web site is, ask the children. So say two School of Information Studies faculty members who have created WebMAC, a tool children can use to evaluate sites.
Hundreds of children's web sites are popping up all over the Internet, Small says, but few people have bothered to find out what children think of the sites. Existing web site evaluation tools, designed for adult use, focus on content, design, and technical capabilities of the site. WebMAC is the only tool that considers the user's motivation for visiting the site, remaining on the site, and returning to the site. "We need to teach children how to become consumers of information," Small says. "To help accomplish that, children must be able to evaluate the resources they use, including web sites."
WebMAC was designed by information studies professor Ruth Small '64, G'77, G'85 and Marilyn Arnone G'92, president of Creative Media Solutions and adjunct faculty member. It comes in several formats, each targeting a different age group, and can be downloaded free from the Internet (www.motivationmining.com). WebMAC Junior, which is designed for children in first through fourth grades, uses smiley faces and simple questions to help children navigate and evaluate a web site, while WebMAC Middle features a "thumbs up," "thumbs down" component. WebMAC Senior nixes the smiley faces and thumbs and includes a more sophisticated series of questions to help students evaluate a site.
Last summer a group of 8- and 9-year-olds used a modified version of WebMAC Junior to evaluate the web site for Pappyland,a popular children's television show produced in Syracuse and distributed to public broadcasting stations across the country. WebMAC Junior was modified to include items of interest for television producers, such as whether the site "looks like the show and whether enough of the characters are represented," says Arnone, a co-producer of Pappyland.
The children were recruited by Jean VanDoren, a librarian at H.W. Smith Elementary School in Syracuse. VanDoren helped the children use WebMac Junior and later wrote a report about its effectiveness and children's reactions to the Pappylandweb site. "WebMAC is a valuable tool for educators and for people who design web sites," VanDoren says. "A lot of people who design sites are out of touch with the children who use them."
The experiment provided valuable information that Small and Arnone used to fine-tune some of the questions used in the tool. Pappylandproducers modified their web site. "If you're a television producer, you really need to listen to what children are saying about your web site," Arnone says.
TOP LEGAL SCHOLAR PRAISES APPLIED LEARNING
PROGRAM FOR INSTILLING SKILLS AND VALUES
In 1992, an American Bar Association task force headed by Robert MacCrate issued a report, Legal Education and Professional Development: An Educational Continuum,that helped shape the College of Law's applied learning program. So when MacCrate came to SU last spring as the inaugural speaker of the Sherman F. Levey Distinguished Lawyer Lecture Series, faculty and administrators were particularly interested in what he had to say about the school's efforts. They were not disappointed.
Robert MacCrate addresses students at the College of Law.
MacCrate, former president of the ABA, the New York State Bar Association, and the American Judicature Society, praised the law school as one of the best at putting The MacCrate Report,as it is commonly known, into practice. The report set forth a model for law school curricula that emphasized practical skills training in 10 areas, from legal research to resolving ethical dilemmas. Task force members felt that teaching these skills, along with four fundamental professional values, would strengthen the law profession in the 21st century.
"From what I have seen, students at Syracuse...have the opportunity through hands-on experience to become acquainted with each of the 10 lawyering skills that we analyzed," MacCrate told the audience in the law school's Kossar Lecture Hall. "Furthermore, while such skills are essential to a lawyer's mastery of the craft, Syracuse students today are introduced in a variety of ways to each of the four professional values that we suggested distinguish and identify what a lawyer is and should be." MacCrate noted that these skills and values "lie at the heart of the first-year Law Firm course that Syracuse faculty pioneered in the 1980s, as well as in the more recently developed Program of Applied Learning for second- and third-year students."
The school's four applied learning centers offer simulation courses in different areas: law, technology, and management; law and business enterprise; global law and practice; and family law and social policy. The school also has four in-house clinics-children's rights and family law; housing and finance; public interest law firm; and criminal law.
Faculty and staff members were obviously pleased with MacCrate's assessment, says Dean Daan Braveman. "The applied learning program is the distinguishing factor of education at this law school," he says, noting it was developed in direct response to The MacCrate Report."Students are given opportunities to apply their learning in a variety of ways. Some of it is through our clinical program, where the students actually represent clients. Some of it is done through simulation courses, in which students work to find solutions to legal problems that are likely to come up in the course of practice."