Students, Learning, and Technology

I just finished reading the Educause paper entitled “ECAR Study of Students and Information Technology, 2005: Convenience, Connection, Control, and Learning” by Judith B. Caruso and Robert B. Kvavik. It is an extensive research project in which the preferences, perceptions, and use of technology among college and university students is examined.

There were many findings and comments which caught hold of my attention.

Many times throughout the paper, Caruso and Kvavik state that an instructor’s IT skill level directly effects a student’s perception of usefulness of IT in a class. This is a statement that is so logical that I think few would refute it, but then why are we not asking for instructors to be better trained in IT? Why are librarians who teach not held to some sort of standard in IT skill level? A librarian who claims to be well versed in information retrieval and yet can not present the information a student needs in the medium to which they are accustomed is not really serving their purpose as an information specialist. Finding the information a user needs is only part of the process. Delivering the information is just as important as the content of the answer.

Caruso and Kvavik also state that “undergraduates need to develop two kinds of technology skills: information literacy or fluency and the technical skills to use the tools.” Information literacy is key to our students having proper IT skills. They have to be able to find the information they need and then apply their technology skills to manipulate the information as needed. As an instruction librarian, I think information literacy is integral to a student’s success; we just need to convince our administrators that it is as important as the research suggests.

IM is a generational issue and, given the struggle so many of us have with IM in our workplaces, this could not be more true. According to the study, 93% of 18 and 19-year-olds use IM. This finding closely relates to the suggestion that technology has become a verb instead of a tool. Caruso and Kvavik cite a 2005 Oblinger and Oblinger study which found that IM’ing is a verb that is gaining popularity. It reminds me of how E-mail evolved to become, “I am going to email her.”

In the end, I conclude something many of use already know and live, that technology is a horizon issue we must face. This is just one paper, among many, that discusses the different ways that the upcoming generations are using and living with technology. One of these glorious days, the wheels that have refused to move down the path of change will either succumb to the overwhelming evidence or be replaced.

–Jane, tag this