Thursday, April 1, 2010
Can We Teach Information Literacy and Not Be Tech Support?
The short answer to this post's title is no. Here are some examples of what I mean:
-If we put our library resources and services into an online course management system (CMS), aren't we responsible for answering questions about that CMS to some degree?
-If we help students with how to cite resources, is it fair to withdraw assistance when there are questions about how to use a word processing program to create a works cited page?
-If we provide instruction in computer classrooms, shouldn't we be capable of troubleshooting when a computer is not working and is preventing a student from following our lesson?
As I've said before, I did not become a librarian to be a tech support person. We librarians do have specialized knowledge and skills, but people should not believe they have to be librarians to successfully use technology for academic work.
And while I'm all for being helpful, I also think it is appropriate to draw some lines. For instance, the last time I found myself on hands and knees at a computer after someone didn't believe a USB port was where I said it was, I realized that students need to be able to figure out how to use their flash drives themselves. When it comes to computer problems, I describe, confirm, encourage, etc., but sometimes I find myself saying, in the end, "Fiddle around a little and you'll get it." This approach is not always popular, particularly if due dates are looming.
I have embraced being a librarian-teacher, but I'm not particularly thrilled about being a librarian-do-this-computer-thing-for-me. And as librarians try to define our roles, I am not convinced that the latter is even something we should even aspire to.
But sometimes we are stuck in roles whether we like them or not, and so I do my best to make tech support a teaching and learning experience. If we are to be the champions of information literacy, a skill unavoidably integrated with technology, this may be the cost.