Lessons from ECAR – “Real Books and People”

poor URLs

The new ECAR study on students and technology has just come out (thanks for the tip via Collib-L, Bill Drew!) and as usual, there are interesting findings. Nearly 90% of students come to college with a laptop now, and an even higher percentage of them use the library’s Website at least once a week. That’s a higher percentage than those who download music or videos (86%). Update: Bernie Sloan at Collib-L points out an interesting tidbit from the report: “…the percentage of students who reported using the library website daily has increased from 7.1% in 2006 to 16.9% in 2009.”

Texting and use of social networks are nearly ubiquitous, but instant messaging is dropping, which has interesting reference implications. The number who report they contribute content to the Internet through videos, wikis, or blogs is under half, and when asked about their use of these technologies for academic purposes, the percents drop into the single digits. Sorry, blogs and podcasts – they’re just not that into you. But they figure they know their way around searching. Eight out of ten say they’re proficient Internet searchers; about a third say they’re experts.

One finding that hasn’t changed much over the past few years – students don’t want a whole lot of technology in their courses. About 60% prefer a “moderate” amount of technology; only a small percentage wanted no technology, but they outnumbered the even smaller percentage that wanted their courses delivered entirely through technology.

In their responses to the final open-ended question of our survey, students wrote explicitly about a preference for “real books and people” and said “shiny new tech is still no substitute for well-trained, passionate instructors.” Of the many comments expressing this sentiment, perhaps this one sums it up best: “There is still a big disparity among academic staff when it comes to use of IT in class. Some professors are obsessed with their technology and some don’t like to use it at all. There needs to be a balance between human interaction and IT-based learning.

This is one of those studies that I read each year, a useful snapshot of emerging technologies and the role they play in the lives of our student. This one makes me think about ways to add texting to our reference repertoire, and reassures me that our Website is important to students. It reminds me that students thing they’re pretty good at searching and that I will need to persuade them they could be better. But it also reminds that these “digital natives” are not full assimilated into the Borg; they still prefer face-to-face learning with some, but not too much, technology involved.

CC-licensed photo courtesy of Frank Farm (frankfarm.org)

About Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

3 thoughts on “Lessons from ECAR – “Real Books and People”

  1. well, great post, i think in this internet time, world is smaller than before, but there is also a question that you have mentioned that is:”people still prefer face-to-face learning with some, but not too much”, because i think sometimes face to face communication is more human:)

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