The Overlooked Instructional Technology

There are all sorts of instructional technologies being applied to the enhancement of teaching and learning, and their numbers are expanding rapidly. Some technologies, such as traditional audio-visual equipment, are time-tested learning tools, and are still being sensibly used in the classroom. But many of these long-time educational technology standards are being replaced or supplemented by a wide range of emerging instructional technologies. Consider the possibilities:

  • Educational software
  • Multimedia productions
  • Graphics for visual learning
  • Computer-based instruction and online tutorial
  • Course Management Systems (discussion boards, online assessments, etc.)
  • Responsive answer systems
  • Smartboards
  • Tablet PCs
  • Streaming video
  • Add Internet and network technologies for communication and collaboration, and there are all sorts of new possibilities for integrating technology into teaching and learning. Some of these newer, Web 2.0 technology tools include:

  • Vlogs
  • Wikis
  • Screencasted tutorials
  • Archived webcasts and virtual conference segments
  • Webquests
  • Podcasts
  • Online community learning
  • Collaborative web-based writing
  • Weblogs
  • Notice anything missing? Where’s library database or e-journal collection on either of those list? Would you have immediately thought of the library’s e-resources fitting into one of those lists? I bet not – and neither would our faculty.

    One of the roles we can fulfill in connecting with our faculty is being a part of the process to introduce them to new instructional technologies that can help them to help their students achieve specified learning outcomes. On most campuses academic librarians are rarely, if ever, recognized for their abilities to adapt new technologies for learning. That is likely owing less to our instructional technology skills and abilities, and more so to just plain being out of the educational technology loop. Put another way, we are valued mostly for the information resources and services we make available, but not for the ways we can assist faculty to apply our technologies for enhanced learning. That needs to change.

    My personal mission is to work harder to get faculty to recognize the library’s e-resources, primarily the databases and e-journals, as instructional technologies. Does that sound outlandish? I don’t think so. Library aggregator databases and e-journals are information systems, their interfaces are a form of software, and they can quite naturally be adapted to promoting more effective learning. Almost any library database system, from the big aggregators such as ProQuest, EBSCO, Gale Group, Lexis/Nexis, and Wilson, to many niche products, has the potential to help students learn more about specific discipline-based assignments. If information literacy is generally recognized as a valuable skill to learn, for both its ability to help students succeed in college and beyond, then offering library databases as tools in learning to be more information literate should certainly qualify them as instructional technologies.

    There are a number of ways in which the library’s e-resources can be promoted as instructional technologies. First and foremost, make sure the institution’s instructional designers and technologists are familiar with these resources and how they can be integrated into courses as learning tools. These fellow academic support professionals work directly with faculty on course design and to identify which instructional technologies make the most sense for achieving learning outcomes. They can be great salespeople for our e-resources. Second, look for opportunities to participate in faculty development programs targeted for teaching faculty about new instructional technologies. Let’s get ourselves on the program, and then use our time to show faculty how our e-resources can promote better learning. Third, be equipped with practical applications for integrating library e-resources into courses that will appeal to faculty because they save them time and promote learning. For example, start with something simple like using durable links to build e-reading lists within courseware sites that can eliminate loads of document scanning.

    If faculty and others only see the library’s e-resources as information containers, what’s their motivation to integrate them into the process by which learning takes place? It’s up to us to see our own resources as instructional technologies, to design and develop practical instructional applications for them, and to then be more aggressive about promoting them as valuable options in the instructional technolgy toolbox. If the library’s e-resources continue to be the overlooked instructional technology then we have no one to blame but ourselves.

    5 thoughts on “The Overlooked Instructional Technology”

    1. Teaching information literacy to first year students often starts with showing them the offerings on our library Website. While it is easiest to find out the features of a database by entering an example, this approach is myopic. Obviously, some academics will give more attention to databases and e-resources if they are referred to as “Instructional technology.” But I believe the point of the article is that effective library instruction involves conveying knowledge of feature-rich database software that helps students do searches utilizing keyword, browsing, and filtering features and helps them document previous research terminology as well as document the references that are most useful to their research.

    2. “Third, be equipped with practical applications for integrating library e-resources into courses that will appeal to faculty because they save them time and promote learning.”

      I’m interested in exploring this point further. This is the sticking point inside our distance learning curriculum. I know Ebsco has improved their RSS feeds. I’m trying to think of other features to promote . . .

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