Wednesday, December 30, 2009

PL 71/09: Blogs in library learning

Filed under: blogging, IFLA — plinius @ 2:32 pm

IFLA beckons and deadlines loom.

I have experimented with blogs as a teaching and learning tool for some years now, and today I sent the following

Proposal for the IFLA Section for Education and Training (SET) Open Session on the topic New digital directions and library education: sustaining library education programs.

Their deadline is December 31.

Blogs in library learning

Library educators increasingly work in an environment where the web is deeply integrated into everyday life. Our students communicate through FaceBook and other social websites on a routine basis. Mobile computing means that the web is available anytime and anywhere. If we accept this as the normal state of affairs in the 21st century, library education must be rethought and redesigned.

In this paper I report on the systematic use of blogs in a series of training events aimed at teachers, librarians and museum specialists. The empirical material consists of about fifty students – at two international summer courses (90 hours), at two full-term courses – one international and one Norwegian (for museums), and at one international internship program (six weeks). All courses were conducted by LATINA Lab, which is a new pedagogical laboratory inside the OUC library – now called the Learning Center.

We ask both students and staff to blog – and integrate the blogs into our teaching. We see blogging as a practical skill like any other. Many of the people involved – staff and students – are absolute beginners. Some have some experience. Others are experienced bloggers. The point is not to write a lot, but to write regularly. If students write something every day, they develop not just the ability to reflect on their own learning, but also the habit of reflection. Participants develop as they go along – and we ask them to reflect on that development in the blogs themselves. Our aim is to let everybody go a few steps beyond their current level.

The blog is a free and open form which students may use for many different purposes. They may reflect on the events of day; describe problems, difficulties and solutions and analyze their own work and thought processes. But they may also use the blog as an external memory: summarizing lectures, readings and discussions; testing concepts and expressions; exploring new ideas and relationships or simply for storing information and information sources.

The paper will present typical stages of appropriation and ways of using specific technical features of the blog platform – WordPress, in our case – to promote individual and collective learning in a library setting.




Automate the past

Snippets from Jon Motts great blog (post) on digital learning environments:

Deja Vu All Over Again – Blackboard Still Stuck in the Innovator’s Dilemma

…  the problem with the “one-stop-shop” Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) (another frequently-used term for the CMS) is that it is aimed at both learning administration and learning facilitation. …

Both administration and pedagogy are necessary in schools. They are also completely different in what infrastructure they require. This (in my opinion) has been the great failing of VLEs – they all try to squeeze the round pedagogy peg into the square administration hole.

It hasn’t worked very well. Trying to coax collaboration in what is effectively an administrative environment, without the porous walls that social media thrives on, hasn’t worked. The ‘walled garden’ of the VLE is just not as fertile as the juicy jungle outside, and not enough seeds blow in on the wind …

Blackboard and every other CMS / VLE have become exceedingly efficient course content and course administrivia management tools. If data from BYU’s Blackboard usage surveys can be taken as a reasonable guide, most faculty members use Blackboard for administrative, not teaching and learing, purposes, i.e., content dissemination, announcements, e-mail, and gradebooking (70% plus use Bb for these purposes).

Dramatically smaller portions (less than 30%) use the teaching and learning tools provided Blackboard (e.g., quizzes, discussion boards, groups, etc.). Increasingly, they’re going to the cloud to use tools that are far better and more flexible than those provided natively inside the CMS.

… LMSs roundly fail in three significant ways:

  • The rigidity and underlying design of the tool “drives/dictates the nature of interaction (instructors-learner, learner-learner, learner-content).”
  • The interface is too focused on “What do the designers/administrators want/need to do?” rather than on “What does the end user want/need to do?”
  • “Large, centralized, mono-culture tools limit options. Diversity in tools and choices are vital to learners and learning ecology.”

… today’s CMSs do not support continuous, cumulative learning throughout a student’s career at an institution, let alone throughout their life after they exit our institutions ….  how many of us would use Facebook if Facebook deleted our friend connections and pictures every four months?

The fundamental dilemma with the CMS as we know it today is that it is largely a course-centric, lecture-model reinforcing technology with its center of gravity in institutional efficiency and convenience.

As such, it is a technology that inclines instructors and students to “automate the past,” replicating previous practice using new, more efficient and more expensive tools instead of innovating around what really matters – authentic teaching, learning, and assessment behaviors.


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