Conferences, School Libraries, Student stuff

College Bound Students and Independent School Libraries (part one)

(also known as “what I need to keep my eyes on as I work with students”)

This was an interesting one-off “conference”, organized by the wonderful librarians at BB&N in Boston and presented at my mother’s graduate school alma mater, the Harvard Graduate School of Education (although she wouldn’t recognize the library we met in!).  What attracted me is that while most independent schools do a lot of thinking about what a graduate of [school name] should know in terms of the major academic subjects, and some schools think about the skills needed in addition to the curricular scope and sequence, not as many think about these things from the other side: what do colleges need for our students to know?  What skills do they expect them to have?  This panel was a good opportunity to see what my recently graduated seniors will find in September when they meet their new librarians, professors and expectations.

First up was John Palfrey, author of Born Digital.  He’s the one that coined the phrase “digital natives”, a phrase that has bugged me no end; imagine how pleased I was to hear him recent that, slightly.  But more on that later.  Here are his main points:

  • Our job is to redefine “learning spaces” and “learning” given this hybrid (physical and virtual) environment
  • Multitasking doesn’t work – it’s a distraction, and students don’t learn as well
    • students actually know this
    • we don’t leverage technology well in education: how do we create good habits?
  • Today’s students have never known a non-digital world, and they don’t assume it exists if it’s not digital (in other words, nothing has changed since John Lenger’s If a Tree Falls… article in 2002, unfortunately no longer available on the CJR website).
  • The only “old” format students prefer is print –
    • this includes the current Harvard Law School cohort
    • why? because you can take print to the beach, to bed and into your bath!
    • when/will this change? maybe never
    • students reported being more engaged with the material in print than in digital
    • this is an extreme anomaly – the researchers expected law students to feel the exact opposite about print v. digital
  • Most digital tools were created by young people for young people (think Facebook, Napster, etc.) – it’s important to learn to make/remake
  • Credibility is a huge concern for students, as is TMI – how do they sort the wheat from the chaff?
  • Private moments are now being made public – are we too connected?
  • Music piracy is a huge issue:
    • we need to teach students about ethics and copyright
    • fair use is very important (not as a way around copyright, but as a way to move culture forward)

So, how do we move forward? Money is definitely an issue (it’s not just about the digital divide, it’s about the constant need to upgrade/update computers and resources).  Global issues also matter, particularly the economy, and we need to figure out how to do more with less.

Librarians need to think like architects: 1/2 of information “traffic” is now digital, so that’s an important space concern.  Google/Amazon books lead to a loss of serendipity, and the challenge we have is how to recreate that experience.  And what about the question of virtual stacks (since this conference, the University of Chicago has announced they’ll go virtual, to much discussion and angst). Yet we can turn these challenges into opportunity: for example, use that “TMI” as an opportunity to socialize, remix and choose.  The Born Digital book/project has done this – why can’t we do this with other books/topics?

2 thoughts on “College Bound Students and Independent School Libraries (part one)”

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