Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Learning Pains

1. via Flickr CC license, by the Comic Shop
2. via Flickr CC license, by Gomisan

For the last 90 days or so I've been immersing myself in the world of roller derby via twice a week, increasingly more physically and mentally intense, basic skills practices. During this time as Hellions of Troy "fresh meat," I've come to realize how effortless many of the veteran derby girls make the sport look. The reality is that each and every one of them has poured volumes of sweat and hard work into first learning the basics (it's far more than just knowing how to skate around), and then getting comfortable with a fairly high level of strategic thinking on top of the physical effort required to be successful in actual bouts. In short, I've been working my ass off and I still have a long way to go before I get into bouts! But to me, the effort, and the camaraderie I am experiencing with my fellow fresh meat as we struggle together, is half the fun!

To relate this back to libraries:
This is probably my curmudgeonly, old school self talking here, but in some respects, many new (and even veteran) college students seem to have a misconception about the level of effort needed to learn and do effective research (if they even recognize that they need to learn in the first place). The Google and Smartphone Age we're currently living through (and just now, Google's Instant Search feature is launching!) has, I believe, helped add to the mass-illusion that all information is at our fingertips and that one can somehow magically translate this into real learning and knowledge with little struggle or critical thinking. Not to say that Google and smartphones aren't great tools or that older generations didn't arrive at college with similar slacker attitudes and misconceptions.

But I wonder how many students, at any educational level, are told (or given the opportunity to discuss the possibility) that they will need to work hard and think hard about how to get comfortable doing academic and professional level research? I run into too many students unwilling or unable to grasp the concept that good research is hard work (especially at first), for me to believe many are.  Research is far more involved than doing a simple book report, or typing in your research question in a Google search box, downloading some results and writing a paper from that and a textbook.

Can we, as librarians, help instill in our users a sense of pride in learning information and digital literacy skills, without scaring them off  into the often misinformed, commercially-biased arms of total Google and FOX News reliance? Can we as academic librarians help build communities of "fresh meat" information literacy learners that will help and support each other to ensure they all succeed? This is something I need to think long and hard about myself...


nicolepagowsky said...

What you mention about community building for info lit learners is great. Often research is presented as a solitary activity where community seems mutually exclusive (unless there is a group project, but even then...). Social software can certainly promote more information sharing and multi-player research, but I think students also need to realize that research itself is truly just a conversation and if they can imagine themselves entering that conversation, then they might feel more comfortable doing it and working with others.

Dana said...

Thanks Nicole! You hit the nail on the head! A recent post on ILI-L about a Tx St U prog called Scholarship and Scones also just got me thinking more about ways to build up a community of student-scholars (which is always hard w/ distance learners) who could mentor each other and share experiences and best practices. I just pitched such an idea to one of our Director's of Academic Support who also chair's our annual Student Academic Conference event (where students present their work to their fellow students).