Wednesday, October 22, 2008

2.0 Learning and 1.8 Users: Bridging the Gap

This session was presented Rudy Leon, who is the Learning Commons Librarian at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and Colleen Harris, a Reference and Instruction Librarian at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Myths about College Students
  • All students are skilled online searchers
  • They are at ease with new gadgets
  • They are always connected
  • Students are effective multi-taskers
  • They require constant stimulation
  • They must be entertained
  • They learn by doing
In reality, our generation is the one that doesn’t read the manual and is cyber-connected.

Myth Busting

Student do use the stuff, but in a dummy box way. They don’t understand the information environment. For example, they don’t know the difference between Google and the library. They don’t understand how Google works. They don’t have a mental map and don’t realize the tools they are using. We have to build the mental map for them.

Student don't have transferable skills. They can’t remember resources or apply research skills learned in previous classes.

The Digital Divide Is Alive and Well


Only 61.8% of U.S. homes have computers, while 99% of U.S. schools have computers. Newer schools have newer equipment and software while older schools have older machines and students are trained by drills.

  • 83% of those with a household income of $75,000+ have a computer at home.
  • 62% of households with an income of $25,000-35,000 own a computer.
  • 31% of households with an income under $15,000 own a computer.

Persistent Effects

In colleges, the expectation is that everything will be done online. Course syllabis, corrections to those syllabis, term papers, wikis, class work, etc. However, there is little training in the use of these technologies. “Welcome to Blackboard. Click on what you want.”

Statistics issued by the National Science Board indicate computer science BAs show racial issues. More Caucasians and Asians, fewer blacks and Hispanics.

Faculty Issues
  • What faculty know (or don’t) - Chicken burrito syndrome - focused on one type of research style, which is what they and their predecessors did
  • Belief about students: they’ll figure it out. Sink or swim! But students need context just like everyone else. We need to break professors of this belief. Get students away from using technology as equipment. They need to build their skill set.
  • Equipment - Teaching faculty to fish
  • Challenges - Faculty II
  • Faculty not highly trained in teaching, but they’re hostile to the implication.
  • Tech training is also Educational Tech training. Who does it? How do we discuss tech as teaching? How can we implement these technologies as educational technologies?
  • We can make a huge difference on campuses by sharing our skill and love of technology as a tool.
  • If we spend the time upfront, we won’t have to spend a ton later on working with students.
  • Getting Faculty on Board
  • Owning our own expertise - don’t think profs know everything. They’re experts about their subjects. We know about organizing and accessing information. We need to evangelize about this expertise.
  • Competitive processes for course development. Faculty seminars and workshops to improve their courses. An exemplary one is a 3-day session with lots of one-on-one time with librarians. Free lunches and a stipend are offered.
  • Getting out there to make connections. Embedded librarian programs with librarians as part of departments. Coffee works wonders. Make a personal connection. Let faculty see you as an intelligent person.
  • Faculty attend class instruction with their class. Single most useful tool ever! Ensures students show up and prof. is trained, too. Afterwards, when prof. is raving, say “I’ve got more!” Word of mouth starts working for you. Especially effective if you’re a good instructor.
  • Leveraging reaccreditation processes. Get on committees and inject yourself and technology and the library into future programs. Best way to force people to deal with it: It’s part of the university’s curriculum.

Campus IT
  • What they do - emergency hardware folks at some institutions.
  • Scarce resources - campus ref. libns. and liaison libns. take on some tech. roles
  • Kittens and beer - free software requires upkeep and hours to develop and to keep functional. Otherwise library tab in Blackboard will result in broken links.
  • Multiple models: Who trains? Why? Why librarians? Figure out model and where libns. fit in. We’re at a unique nexus of faculty, students, and technology.

Learning Spaces
  • Safe learning spaces - students can experiment and fail without consequences
  • How-to strategies for engaging students/faculty
  • Workshops aren’t intimidating when librarians conduct them for students. It's the professors who are intimidating.
  • Make equipment available - check out laptops, cameras, etc. for student work.
  • Actionable assignments such as creating a documentary, shooting and writing a photojournalism essay using the library's equipment.
  • Partnerships on campus: integrate yourself. Go out to lunch with support staff. Build bridges.

Moving Forward: Learning Spaces
  • Libraries are safe learning spaces.
  • Tech is fun and libraries are for learning.
  • Promote critical thinking and mental maps.
  • “Ripped from the headlines” night sponsored by the library. Ask professors to discuss news stories with students. Not a lecture opportunity. Invite media folks to discuss coverage. Learning is not tied to a discipline. Professors will like getting off the beaten path and having contact with their peers from other departments.
  • Movie night
  • Game night
  • Building the Bridge

  • Create a service to build student and faculty skills.
  • Realize that gadgets support learning.
  • We decide what must be; we’re the grown-ups. Students want Cliffs Notes, MTV and to buy their tests. They don’t always know what they need.
  • Space and structure for play are needed.
  • We need to exercise more skepticism about the assumptions we hear regarding student mastery of media.

Colleen S. Harris
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Rudy Leon
University of Illnois Urbana-Champaign

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