Saturday, May 19, 2007

We're Information Literacy. Understand? Do not Demonstrate

The W in WILU stands for Workshops and I attended one entitled, Teaching on the Edge of Chaos. In it, Bryan Miyagishima and Robert Hautala put forwards a model for teaching that recognizes three elements in play: the student, the task and the environment. They suggested that since you can't change the student, you should concentrate on changing the task and/or the environment for better learning.

Joel Burkholder started his presentation by asking the audience what exactly are we librarians, for lack of a better word, trying to 'fix' in our students research habits. Some of the answers (in short form) that came back were:

keyword searching
starting with Google / Wikipedia
full text only
browse few
linear process
first hit reliance
only recent articles
reliance on one source
giving up
don't check scope notes
no plan
no or poor evaluation skills
don't ask for help

Joel then asked the audience, how many of these could we 'pin the blame for' on Google? He suggested that the habitual (and largely successful and satisfied) use of search engines in our students' lives are responsible for their searching 'framework' that they take into the classroom lab or library. Since this framework is working for them, they see no need to change it no matter how many times librarians tell them that there are better ways to research. Burkholder believes that asking students to perform mechanical skills that illustrate a new searching framework is also not sufficient to make students change their ways.

Instead, he suggests we should :
  1. find ways to make the student confront their beliefs and reveal preconceptions
  2. discuss and evaluate these preconceptions
  3. create cognitive conflict
  4. offer an intelligible, plausible and fruitful alternative framework
At this point, I realized that Joel was teaching the use of a framework for teaching by using that very same framework for teaching. Coincidently, I found it intelligible, plausible and fruitful.

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