Students and Information Technology

The 2005 Educause study of students and technology has similar findings as last year’s. Technology used in the classroom is valued first for convenience; students are much less likely to find it improves learning. They want it used, but in moderation. Online syllabi and course readings are highly regarded because hey, it’s convenient. But when it comes to student engagement with the course material? Technology is a wash.

Some interesting findings: students report using computers only 11-15 hours a week, with searching library databases at less than an hour (though it may be hard for them to know that’s what they’re doing, depending on how they get there). More students report using library resources to complete an assignment (88%) than to download music (75%) though nearly all students “surf” the web to support their coursework. By the way, the self-reported use of the library is up a bit from last year.

The author suggests technological fluency is necessary before students can become information literate and ends by recommending that schools should establish technology competency levels and build them into the curriculum. This, to me, seems far less important than doing the same for information literacy – particularly since the skill levels for basic computer use seem far more in place already than the ability to engage with ideas and articulate good questions, to read critically, to evaluate sources of information, and to use them well. Those skills, it seems to me, are also far more durable.

Since students no longer see “technology” as a separate category, but just a ubiquitious part of their lives, maybe we should do the same and think more about learning and less about the tools.

An addendum: Steven and I must have been blogging at the same time about the same report, and he beat me to it. Sorry for the double vision, folks. He has the advantage of living a time zone ahead of me.

Author: 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.

2 thoughts on “Students and Information Technology”

  1. Well this was bound to happen, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing if more than one blogger posts about the same thing because we’ve got different perspectives on these issues and interpret them differently. If fact, that may make ACRLog unique among library blogs in that we have the ability to analyze the same story through several different perceptual lenses. I think these multiple points of view can be of interest to the readers.

  2. Here’s a possibly interesting followup to the EDUCAUSE call for building technology competency into higher education: an article in the current issue of Liberal Education asks “What Really Matters in College?” of high school students. They report: “Nearly all the students who participated in our focus groups reported that they already possess sophisticated computer skills and believed themselves to be capable of updating those skills throughout their lives.”

    Of course, they also said they covered American history and culture in high school – been there, done that – and they rate understanding science at the very bottom of their list of important college outcomes.

    Still, convincing new college students they need to learn more about technology won’t be a simple sell. I’m much more persuaded by AAC&U’s idea that a college education should emphasize “where to find needed information, how to evaluate its accuracy, and what students can do with their knowledge” (from the executive summary of Greater Expectations).

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