Go To The Academic Library For A No-Tech Assignment

This may be just one more sign that some faculty still have a disconnect with what’s happening in a 21st century academic library. While reviewing the transcript from this week’s Chronicle Brown Bag Live Discussion session with teaching expert Barbara Gross Davis I was drawn to one exchange about teaching with technology. Davis gave a good response that properly indicated there are many contemporary teaching approaches that do not involve technology. But when she provided some examples she said:

There are many other areas that don’t necessarily involve technology that are influencing how people teach, such as formative/early feedback, classroom assessment,learning in groups even in large classes, library based research assignments, and so on.

Now I know that instructors can design library based research assignments that don’t involve technology – if they think carefully about the design – but in an increasingly confusing world of digital information retrieval it would seem that faculty would want to design library based research assignments that help students develop or fine tune their skills in using information technologies. Even if an instructor wanted students to only use no-tech books in their assignment or some printed primary research material, the students would still likely need to use OPAC technology to find them in the library.

So I find it just mildly disturbing that a recognized educational expert may still be thinking that the academic library is equated with non-technology-based learning methods. I’d actually like to see academic librarians doing more to promote the library’s digital collections to faculty as instructional technologies because they do have a role to play in helping students learn course content. And I’d venture to say that the vast majority of library instruction that takes place at our institutions either focuses on or includes some discussion or application of library technology tools. I’m not suggesting that Davis would have our students return to doing all their library research with pencil and paper, but in a Google/Wikipedia dominated research landscape no instructor should ignore an opportunity to expose their students to the library’s high quality digital research environment – and while they’re at it – show the students how to use library technology to find those old no-tech books.