Thursday, 18 June 2009

Where will it all end? – Emerging Technology in the Library: part 1

Yesterday I attended the MmIT North West Summer Conference hosted here at Liverpool John Moores University. The day’s sessions were focused on how new and emerging technologies can be exploited in education to enhance the 21st century student’s learning experience, with particular emphasis on the libraries role within this mix. This first posting highlights the morning sessions, I will blog the afternoon sessions shortly.

Morning Sessions
The day kicked off to an enthralling start – a dazzling array of Russell Prue’s gadgets and gizmos – not to mention Russell’s rather striking orange bow tie and braces! Russell started off with a rather tongue in cheek request for us delegates to turn our mobile phones to silent, or at least sit on them, he didn’t want us to turn them off as we would be expected to use them in the session – yes as teaching and learning aids!!! Russell gave good insights into some of the current problems with our education system (that is now surrounded by a technological world)… educators are doing what they have always done regarding certain technologies, with many schools having restrictions on use of technology in the classroom. From banning mobile phones to filtering internet access, the UK is extremely strict on its allowances of personal technology use within schools and the education system. This is nonsensical though when considered against the fact that ‘Blogging’ is now a paid job in the US. In fact, the job of a ‘Blogger’ brings in a salary of $75,000 a year with approx 452,000 ‘Bloggers’ being paid for their work: the shift has happened. The education sector tends to talk about ‘this shift that is happening’ in relation to emerging technologies, but this is not completely true, we are already there.

Technology has inadvertently changed the landscape for the education system but how is the education sector responding to this shift? It appears that we are always doing what we’ve always done and not allowing technology to pervasively change it as it has the power to do so – engaging students, letting them explore, experiment and learn. At present, in curriculum terms, we spoon feed our children and the prescriptive nature of our education system means our children will never learn to explore, experiment, or think for themselves. Russell showed a video of a one year old child using an iPhone to look through photographs with his dad – he understood how the iPhone functioned, he has grown up surrounded by such technology – so what are the implications for children like this when they enter the education system?

Russell provoked a lot of questions to which at this moment in time, educators are not fully addressing, unfortunately, the chances are that this ‘lack of action’ is going to be to the detriment of today’s and tomorrow’s learners.

Next on the bill was Les Watson who spoke of the importance of technology and learning space design. This is particularly relevant at the moment here at LJMU as the summer months sees a massive refurbishment to the Aldham Robarts LRC. Avril Robarts LRC also lays home to a Social Learning Zone environment so I could relate to a lot of the points that Les raised.

Les maintained that there is as yet, no paradigm for the 21st century library, however on a positive note this does mean that we have the opportunity to drive this agenda forward as we feel fit for not only today’s students, but future students also.

At present student’s unrestricted personal access to technology is a challenge for educators as it is at odds to the provisions of which the education sector provides, hence the talk of digital disconnect between students and their schools (Selwyn, 2006) . Today’s children are digital learners; they have grown up with technology (although this does not mean they know the best ways to use the technology for educational purposes of course). As educators, that should be our job, but we need to be able to fulfil this role without dictating which technologies our students’ should use. So, does this further indicate that educators need to move away from the ‘sage on the stage’ to the ‘guide on the side’???

There will be more information created this year than there has been in the last 5,000 years whilst the power of technology is doubling every year – this poses more challenges than ever for education and libraries as we struggle to direct students through this information and technology dense environment that we now live in. Furthermore, the National Student Survey allows students to drive how we deliver our services, we can no longer ignore the information and technology our students utilise in their study.

Interestingly, Les questioned whether our library buildings have the power to change the education system? How important are physical spaces in a technology-enhanced learning world? The new learning spaces we currently have the scope to design and develop are, at present, predictions. And greater than this we have the power to design buildings that are flexible, imaginative and creative so that if we predict the future of learning incorrectly, it will not matter because these spaces will be adaptable.

On the notion of creativity Les summed up stating that we are all born creative, but, that society suppresses this creativity, partly through the education system. Les continued to finish with the rather inspirational notion that imagination is the most powerful tool we have and that we have the power to exploit this tool within education.

Jane Secker filled the slot before lunch, and at a time when delegates can begin to lag, Jane delivered a thoughtful and stimulating overview of Facebook’s place within libraries, and vice versa…!

At present, there is an enthusiasm in libraries for web 2.0 technologies driven by the ability of such technologies to reach new audiences, engage current users and enhance services. Just recently here at LJMU, all library staff completed a 12 week course, Learning 2.0 @ ljmu that sought to increase staff awareness of web 2.0 technologies and how they can be applied in library contexts. Jane highlighted however, that such enthusiasm is not without issue with their being an underlying concern regarding patron privacy and data protection, not to mention the huge hurdle that staff training in this area can create.

But why Facebook? Why social networking in libraries? Pivotally, Information Commons learning spaces are a key driver for Library 2.0 with many seeing libraries now sitting between academic spaces and social spaces.

An overview of library related facilities within Facebook shows that there are large numbers of applications (including booksharing apps and the facility to search an institution’s library catalogue, some academic libraries have even taken steps to develop their own application to search their catalogue in-house, allowing them to almost tailor-make the app to suit the needs of their students). There are lots of groups for librarians to join on Facebook to share ideas and experiences with more and more library pages appearing also. The library page works like a sort of library profile enabling students to become a ‘fan’ of the library, subsequently receiving news and notifications as necessary.

It would be fair to admit that Facebook is not a new phenomenon, yet the amount of discussion it provokes is phenomenal. A particularly pertinent point that Jane made was to question whether Facebook can convince the ‘Google Generation’ that the library is still relevant? If it can, surely it is not something to be sniffed at?

SELWYN, N. (2006) Exploring the ‘digital disconnect’ between net-savvy students and their schools. Learning, Media and Technology, 31 (1), pp.5-17

No comments:

Post a Comment