Online Courses, Sure!

As the academic year kicks off again my pile of to-read has once again become unmanageable. The result is that in between Blackboard, i>clicker, and Wacom tablet questions I am trying to sneak in an article here and there.

Inside Higher Ed has published, Survey on Faculty Attitudes on Technology, along with an article of the same name to compliment the survey which does a fantastic job summarizing the results and pointing out some interesting findings. The survey results are probably not alarming, faculty are skeptical of technology (especially online courses) and it’s place in the educational process. However, those who have taught online courses, are less so. So if you’ve never taught an online course you probably don’t think there is much value in them, but if you have you are more likely to think there is some value in them. That’s pretty much what I would expect, but it also reveals an interesting viewpoint that is often overlooked and highlighted in the quote from Cathy Davidson, we are looking at the wrong problem. Maybe we can use this information to develop professional development programs to help them become more comfortable with technology.

This seemed to match up with another issue that is on my short-list. Recently there has been a huge push to create more tech savvy law students. Whether you focus on research skills necessary for lawyers in today’s marketplace, technology competency to get the job done faster, or just wanting to improve the learning experience by leveraging new technology – the conversation is a constant, and the results are often mixed. As you can imagine there is a lot of finger-pointing going around. Who’s responsible for creating tech savvy students; faculty, technology specialists, parents, employers, the world?

While this survey was not focused specifically on this question, it helped to further expose a potential problem – maybe we are approaching it wrong. Perhaps the problem is not that students need to change, but that everything in education does to reflect a new environment. Car companies falter, businesses shutter their doors, but education presses on in the same manner wondering why people are getting bent out of shape. As a recent grad of a library science program I wonder often how my education will actually translate to the workplace. So far, I’ve mostly relied on myself to learn what I needed to – and it leaves me feeling a little bewildered and unnerved! It would seem I’m in the majority.

At BCLS I’ve spent a good deal of my energy on trying to demystify technology to faculty, who then adapt a tool they find interesting for their own use, and then we work together to bring it into the classroom. It’s a very slow and time consuming process, but very rewarding. There are also many failures too. We keep trying to rectify problems and know that some day we will find the solution, and often times solutions are not even possible yet – and when you see a conversation with a tech convert go from fear to “I am thinking of a technology that doesn’t exist yet” talk about #winning.

Now time, staff, buy-in, energy, etc… are all stretched, but I for one would love to know your thoughts. How can we make higher ed more tech savvy in subtle ways, so that when asked if an online course is as good as a face-to-face course, someone might shrug their shoulders and say “Sure, could be”?

I’m a one man show and I try to do one-on-one consults, share information on email whenever I can, which happens to be the preferred contact method, do luncheons with demonstrations, smaller lunches with liaison librarians, and generally run around evangelizing everything ed tech I can.  You?

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AALL Conference 2013 “Rethink Your Value”

Once a year work sponsors our attendance at a conference that requires travel. I generally focus on conferences that revolve around themes like instructional technology, emerging technology trends, legal technology, and I’m sure you’re seeing a trend. While I am a librarian, I am not a law librarian, a difference that always makes me consider AALL last. However, this years agenda looked very appealing to me, as well as the theme, “Rethink Your Value,” and I thought to myself “Maybe I need to rethink the way I think about my role in a law library. After all, it has been five years. Just as I had made my decision I received notification that an article my colleague and I wrote was awarded AALL Spectrum Article of the Year – Seattle, WA here I come.

The opening keynote speaker set the tone for the conference, as they typically do, David Weinberger from the Harvard Law Library’s Innovation Lab. I was instantly curious, I have wonderful former colleagues and professional friends over at HLL that often share with me wonderful stories about the Innovation Lab. Further, David does not have a JD – so we’re basically the same person – nor is he a librarian, but he does have a PhD – so maybe we’re not the same person but we have similarities(!). In any case, he opened the AALL conference, and I instantly switched my frame of thinking from being a fish out of water, to being in the right place.

The Harvard Innovation Lab is doing extraordinary things, but of course, that are really challenging the way we use information and building tools to explore new ways to make libraries better represented. And that was key in David’s talk, better use, representation, and services from and by libraries. He stressed the future of libraries as a platform allowing people to use, and reuse, data, build applications from that data, and create new data. Very intriguing. This write up hardly does it justice, but take a look below for the Innovation Lab link and go explore, it’s interesting stuff.

The rest of the conference, for me, was framed around the idea of bettering myself and finding more value. Of course I couldn’t help but attend a few how-to sessions on emerging technologies, eReader bars, and teaching tools. The bulk of my time was spent learning about leadership, project management, and the four phases (or in our speakers case, personas) of writing.

All in all AALL 2013 was a successful conference in my book, and the bonus of being able to see the sites of Seattle didn’t hurt either. Gorgeous weather led to several exploratory walks and al fresco dining experiences. It has stayed with me as I continue to rethink myself in the library I am in now and my future.

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