As students return to class they may want some advice on how to better organize their scholarly activities. Much of what they find will be from websites and friends, it may be helpful to better familiarize yourself with some of these new technology trends for organizing information. Even if a student doesn’t ask for advice, you may find something in these lists that you may deem extremely helpful for your own desktop.
From PC World 20 Tech Habits to Improve Your Life
Of note are tips on work faster using keyboard shortcuts, utilizing a flash drive more efficiently, managing passwords and PINS using a tool called KeePass, and even how to search online more effectively.
Though a bit more sophomoric in scope, there are several fun tips like how to create lists of items you don’t want to forget to do, places to get your textbooks for free, and the 18 things you probably forgot to bring to college. Granted this list has a few less than academic items coiffed as advice, there are many other technology/life tips to be found in this aforementioned article and equally so on LifeHacker.
Though this isn’t a new concept, or a terribly insightful video, I was inspired to re-examine just what books meant to me. In the video, the presenter seemed to equate books with extremely cumbersome, dust-gathering, out-dated tomes. The truth is that analog books have an aesthetic all their own.
As I ride to work, it may be easier to pull out an Ereader or Kindle and browse through hundreds of selections, but I feel I might miss the sensation of just turning a page. The way that the type situates itself on the page can be an interesting exploration. Nevermind the wonderful sound of a well worn hardcover closing.
This is not to say that I am not intrigued by digital readers, I am; in fact I would love to be a guinea pig for any company looking to get feedback from a librarian. (Shameless plugging for goods there.) I am curious as to how my reading habits would change from traditional books to the change in container a digital reader would provide. I am equally curious as to how library users in an academic setting feel about electronic books. I hope to get some answers in a future study, but for now will feel content with the dusty 5 million volumes that I walk through everyday.
From a wonderful post on Flexknowlogy, I was introduced to the term in education technology of “creepy tree house.” From their article the definition is:
- n. A place, physical or virtual (e.g. online), built by adults with the intention of luring in kids.
- n. Any institutionally-created, operated, or controlled environment in which participants are lured in either by mimicking pre-existing open or naturally formed environments, or by force, through a system of punishments or rewards.
(see article for remaining uses)
The main concept is a sound argument and one with which libraries struggle to find a safe distance from which to communicate with their main audience, the students. It may be difficult to let go of the notion that we need to be at arm’s reach for the students at every point along their day. Blackboard, as mentioned in the article, is a prime example of this notion.
I remember first using it as a student and laughing at the collaborative features. After using them for about 10 minutes, I asked the rest of my group whether they wanted to use Google Docs and Skype, as they were much more efficient and less buggy. I applaud Blackboard for trying to bridge the digital gap between students and faculty, but the amount of time spent using “BB only” applications will most certainly cause some students to grow weary of the labor.
Library systems are slowly entering into this realm as well, especially if we start to look at where the next-gen catalogs are going. Catalogs are now featuring clustered search results, personal item lists, and user submitted comments. Library web sites are consistently offering Instant Messaging and, to a smaller extent, text messaging reference services. These types of service methods move closer to the concept of “creepy tree house” as they mimic communication methods not normally associated with research or academic endeavors. There is also a slowly growing number of library promotional videos that pop up on YouTube, trying to ride the viral marketing wave.
I am not saying that these things are a bad move by any means, but it is important to be aware of what these movements might mean in the eyes of the new students. Will they accept librarians in their social spaces or will our presence be seen as a nuisance? I hope that students will catch on but not tune out.
In a sense the “creepy treehouse” metaphor could also be applied to the generational divide that exists when librarians or educators attempt to adopt cultural cues taken from their younger audience. Be wary of using such references if they may have a very short shelf-life, or small target audience. Once used you may not be able to regain that “respectable” status of intellectual librarian. But then again, what’s the fun in being serious all the time…
Making the rounds on many blogs and dlists is the article from the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, “A Sociologist Says Students Aren’t So Web-Wise After All.”
Eszter Hargittai, the sociologist involved, asserts the claim made that just because students are of the younger generation it doesn’t justly follow that they will be more “Web-savvy.” According to Dr. Hargittai college freshmen are often unable to exhibit a “basic understanding of such terms as BCC (blind copy on e-mail), podcasting, and phishing.” She goes on to claim that such deficiencies could relate to students not realizing the volatility of such online tools as Wikipedia and how they are created and maintained.
For the most part, this statement seems to hinge on the assumption that being “Web-savvy” directly relates to the level of knowledge about “how” these systems work and not on “how” to make these systems complete the tasks they are designed to do. The aspect of this issue that really needs more attention is the acceptance of technology in their tasks and rate of adaptability. Sure they may not be able to speak WIki code just from looking at the published page, but would they understand the “document structure” in a faster time frame than the Baby-boomer generation?
I hope that this article, and the wave of “I told you so’s” from those questioning the skills of Gen-Y, won’t be used as ammo to negate the development of advanced technology services. We have an open road in front of us for sharing information with those who are “Web-savvy” and possibly even inspiring the next generation of web geniuses. On the flip-side, I whole-heartedly support assessing student skill levels in technology competencies. I would go so far as to start pushing for a standardized assessment tool to be rolled into our library instruction tools. It would not only help instruct the students but their faculty and ourselves at the same time.
For those who missed it the first time, here is a post in which I talked about issues such as this in longer detail.