Thinking critically about the [LMS] box…? (9751 weekly response #7)

16 Oct

Well I just finished reading through Black’s two articles as well as a quick skim through the Copeland article.

My favourite quote: “[s]tudents are course-centric in their work and library resources need to be presented to them in that context in a convenient place” (Black & Blankenship, 2010, p. 466). Followed by a quote in Copeland: “Students are reluctant to leave their course environment even to access important information and their learning is contextual” (p. 203).

…because god-forbid students should have to show some initiative and find information by thinking critically about what they need. Sorry. That’s harsh, I shouldn’t be so…well…critical. But I seem to have read a fair bit over the last couple of years about university graduates–bright, academically successful grads–unable to problem solve or (to used that tired euphemism) “think outside the box”; that certain skills are lacking.

(Please allow me to soapbox a little, I’ll return to Learning Management Systems in a minute…)

Personally, I think a lot of this has to do with kids being asked to specialize and make decisions about their education too early. I know Ontario was the only province to have grade 13 (or OAC) but in getting rid of that extra year, students now have to plan their secondary path from the get-go. There’s no room to tryout a subject because of an honest-to-goodness interest. Or, what if a student loves drama but gosh-darnit there’s no place to put something so frivolous into her schedule in order to get all those maths and sciences she’ll need to apply to university–even if that’s the one thing that she truly loves? Whenever I talk to high school kids who are planning for university, I tell them that whatever they do, they can always change their mind. School will still be there. As someone who is in her third foray into post-secondary…life changes, interests change; I think it’s important to honour those interests when they’re present…And once again, a nod to an article in The Globe and Mail on the importance of a breadth of knowledge: “Why university students need a well-rounded education“.

Anyway, I think this idea of specialization creates a culture of “tell me what I need to do to get to X” as well as “tell me what I need to know”. I’m reminded of my first day teaching at a new school a few years ago. It was a private school, and as I introduced myself to my students, I asked them if there was anything they wanted to know…I kinda thought they might ask some personal type questions: I was even prepared for the age question. But no. These grade 5 (grade 5!) students proceeded to ask questions about grades: what they needed to get an A, how would I mark them on x-assignments, etc. I was shocked that they were so concerned about results.  And this on the first day of school. It starts early.

So I guess it’s no surprise that post-secondary students don’t want to explore library resources–especially going into the stacks. That they are happiest when all their resources are pulled together for them tidily in a LMS. So as librarians, are we contributing their inability to think critically about their information needs–supporting their habit, as it were? I guess if there was more information literacy trickle down into both secondary and elementary, then maybe by the time students were in post-secondary, they would be more able and confident to explore, as well as have a range of knowledge and skills from which to pull.

And perhaps I don’t have a good enough understanding of how a LMS works. I mean, I’ve never really had the opportunity to use one. I’ve only used OWL to post assignments and yes, to access some resources. But the whole integrated tool kit systems with the electronic reserves and other library resources, as well as information lit modules (as mentioned by Black)–well, I just haven’t had the opportunity to see one “it action” as it were with all the “resource pages with items and widgets” (Black & Blankenship, 2010, p. 464). Obviously, as a student I can see the appeal. I kinda think of it as an electronic filing cabinet containing all my course content and supports: is that a reasonable analogy? How great would that be? All my school stuff in one spot–online! I don’t need to go to the library let alone out of the house…well, maybe. I suppose I’d have class to attend. Or, maybe not.

So, I guess my criticism is not the LMS, but a greater pedagogical one…

Black, E. L. (2008). Toolkit approach to integrating library resources into the learning management system.
Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(6), 496-501.

Black, E. L. & Blankenship, B. (2010). Linking students to library resources through the learning management system. Journal of Library Administration, 50, 458-467. doi: 10.1080/01930826.2010.488587

Copeland, L. (2006). There be dragons; Learning management and library systems in Canada. IFLA Journal, 32(3), 200-208.

1 Comment

Posted by on October 16, 2012 in 9751 stuff..., Teacher stuff...


One response to “Thinking critically about the [LMS] box…? (9751 weekly response #7)

  1. Genny

    October 26, 2012 at 1:05 am

    I also did a double take when I read that quote. It’s spoon feeding gone too far! While I understand that people just want to get things done, at the same time, academia is a place for serious thought and exploration. If students aren’t made to make an effort to inquire now, they may not get a chance to as life gets busier after leaving the ivory tower.


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