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May 28 2009 - 02:20 PM
The Open Government Initiative and Some Musings on Online Research
(First of all, hello! If I haven't met you yet, I'm a new summer intern here at the EdLab. Picture to come soon, hopefully. Looking forward to working with all of you...) As someone who's a little obsessed with amassing information (as I expect many of you may be as well), I've been spending some time lately checking out the resources surrounding President Obama's Open Government Initiative. For those of you who haven't been following this development, the project features a few newly created/redesigned websites that aim to provide the public with more opportunities to gain information about the workings of government or participate in an exchange of ideas. For example, a site called,which is centered around data sets published by government agencies,, for Recovery Act spending, as well as an opportunity recently announced for public citizens to brainstorm policy ideas. More resources available here. Despite a little skepticism on my part as to the extent to which data will actually be provided or policy ideas seriously considered, these kinds of resources definitely excite my inner researcher. Browsing through them, however, has also gotten me thinking about how well we've prepared the general public to take advantage of these kinds of resources. Would someone who doesn't share my excitement about the process of research necessarily know where to begin? After all, the prospect of sifting through information online can seem deceptively easy (what with a simple Google search or Wikipedia article), while the skill of completing this sort of task well remains frustratingly elusive. Since the overall framework of researching online never follows the same exact pattern, it is the ability to constantly evaluate the research process which seems most important--a researcher's aptitude for the effortless sorting of data, always working to determine both its legitimacy and relevance to a project, while mentally monitoring a constantly fluid web of connections and resources. The individuals behind Project Information Literacy, who study online research skills amongst college students, point out in their progress report a number of common frustrations voiced by students, such as the feeling of paralysis when confronted with the vastness of the information available online. What with the exciting new array of digital tools and information constantly being made available, I wonder what educators can do to support both the public's ability to utilize certain resources (such as those offered by the Open Government Initiative) as well as to generally teach the skill of research (from as early an age as possible) as it continues to evolve within a digital world.
Posted in: Meet the Staff|By: Rebekah Judson|24420 Reads