Monday, May 17, 2010

Reflections on #WILU2010 Re:learn

One of the largest concerns within Information Literacy (IL) is the matter of scalability. This is understandable if you hold that the mandate of IL means that the librarians of an academic institution are responsible to ensure that every student of that school should graduate with information literacy skills even when the librarians don't have an institutional mandate to teach those students.

So we're still trying to figure out how to reach more students with IL. Some are slowly integrating IL into the various curriculum on campus. Some are teaching faculty, teaching instructors and mentors so that they can pass on IL to their students on our behalf. Other schools are developing online tutorials and even games to reach the widest number of students, and some of them are doing this work reluctantly.

It was this reluctance that I picked up on at WILU 2010, as a number of presenters let the audience know that they were pursing an online IL strategy because budget cuts meant they had little option to do something face to face. Some people almost sounded apologetic about their online creations.

But it was also at WILU where I also saw signs of another means to address IL in a scalable manner. Instead of pursuing "one to many" avenues of teaching, one can see the start of "many to many" learning platforms.

Indeed, I very much enjoyed Dr. James Paul Gee's opening keynote address to WILU. While Dr. Gee spoke a little bit about games, the primary focus of his attention was online learning communities which he feels represents a new paradigm of learning that outperforms traditional classroom experiences.

I very much share Dr. Gee's enthusiasm for online learning communities having been part of a 10 week crash course in changing the world called Evoke. Scaling is actually also an issue with these new type of environments: within the first 24 hours of the Evoke, players submitted more than 2000 blog posts, videos and photos as evidence and in the first 15 days of the network, more than 10,500 players registered to play from more than 120 counties (slides 57,58).

But back to the conference. I did see other hopeful signs that many-to-many learning systems are starting to find a place within academia. There are more and more examples of courses and assignments that require students to publish their work so that they can learn from the peer's work and the assessment of their peers and not just their own experiences.

There was another example of the power of group learning spaces at WILU: the birds of a feather sessions. Not entirely unlike an unconference, attendees were asked to write down topics of interest and sit at designated tables where these topics would be discussed. I decided to sit at the table dedicated to addressing student motivations and there was a great conversation at the table that brought out a flurry of different ideas and perspectives on the topic, with a breadth and depth that is difficult to summarize

(On a somewhat related note, it appears that the summaries of the Birds of the Feather sessions are no longer on the WILU 2010 blog. That's too bad. I like the idea of making adding each conference session into a blog post so that speakers can add links and addendum as necessary and so that questions and conversations about the topic can continue even after the conference has passed. Actually what I would really love is if each conference I attended followed the template of the THAT conference in which each attendee was given their own blog - with the sum of each making up the conference site - as a means to facilitate sharing of ideas before, during and after the event.)

The power of that BoF session reminds me of the keynote address at WILU 2007 done by Rick Salutin in which he surprised me with his preference for the complex and ever shifting conversations of our oral tradition over the paucity and mechanical tyranny of the written word.

And isn't this what is a conference is or should be: a means to host conversations at both large and small scales?


andrew said...

Mita -
It's not that the Birds of a Feather points were removed, just that they were never published. They are now!

Mita said...

Ah, good! Thanks for this.