Monday, 6 April 2009

Keynote Speaker: Patricia Iannuzzi (University of Nevada)

If 63% of employers are saying that today’s graduates do not have the necessary skills to be successful then something needs to change, and soon. Patricia Iannuzzi’s keynote covered the issues surrounding this notion, looking at how information literacy can be used to engage and motivate, and hence empower today’s learners to succeed.

Patricia began by looking at the investments different groups of people put into university education and what they get in return. Students, parents, politicians and employers all have questions that need to be answered.

Patricia spoke about how today’s learners are evolving from a culture of receivers into a culture of inquirers and that information literacy is an adventure of discovery. She concentrated on the ‘labelling’ we do as a society and explored the different labels people assign to principally the same thing: digital literacy, media literacy, ICT literacy. Patricia enforced that it shouldn’t matter what something is called or labelled but that the learning outcomes ought to be the point of note. However, learning outcomes cannot be successfully achieved without student engagement. ‘Engagement’ was a bit of a buzz word around LILAC this year with many of the sessions I attended not only looking at ways in which we can actively engage our students in information literacy but dynamically trialling new ideas and methods in order to achieve this (Andrew Walsh’s session for example: if they won’t turn them off, we might as well use them. Using mobile phones in information skills sessions).

Patricia expanded on the idea of ‘engagement’ drawing on Prensky’s (2005) work into children’s engagement with video games; imagine if as educators we could achieve the same levels of engagement that ‘World of Warcraft’ does. A short video about such games and the engagement levels of ‘gamers’ revealed interesting insights into the elements enjoyed and factors valued such as collaboration, empowerment and interaction. Patricia proposed a framework for student learning built upon the underpinning of ‘student engagement;’ the faculty, curriculum and co-curriculum (or extra-curricula activities) are the three pillars above the student engagement foundation, topped off with student learning.

Being from Las Vegas Patricia drew on a very topical subject area – that of gambling. Now how did she manage to correlate gambling to learning you may wonder, well very eloquently is the answer…the gambling industry are driven by the demands of the gambler (or the customer, consumer, user, gamer), new developments are innovated as a result of ‘user driven innovation’ – education (at this moment in time is the polar opposite). Imagine if education was lead by ‘learner driven innovation,’ what would education look like in a world in which the learner directed advancements? Would there be more communication, collaboration, interaction and multimedia? 21st century learners are a generation that likes to talk through their devices and the gambling industry have recognized this and acted accordingly. Particularly interesting for my research is that of ‘mobile gambling’. Is it time for the education sector to do the same?

So after all the bright lights, and back to reality in the cold light of day, what are the implications for libraries…? Patricia inferred that we need to actively participate in the curriculum review, we must improve instructional design, we should model good teaching practices and invest in faculty development, and we should institutionally design co-curricular activities. Libraries need to (forcibly??) have a presence in directing not only its own departmental future directions but also that of the faculties in order that teaching, learning, and information literacy, are embedded and delivered in the most appropriate means possible for learner.

PRENSKY, M. (2005) Engage me or enrage me: what today’s learner demand. Educause Review, 40 (5), pp.60-65 [online]. Available from:

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