Monday, May 14, 2012

Information Literacy and Clickers

In my ongoing research related to audience response systems, or clickers, I discovered an aticle written in August 2009 by Patricia A. Deleo, Susan Eichenholtz, and Adrienne Andi Sosin.  Titled "Bridging the Information Literacy Gap with Clickers," this article explains how a graduate course in an Educational Leadership and Technology received information-literacy instruction with the help of clickers.  The authors used the term Class Performance System (CPS), but other education researchers call them Audience Response Systems.

They set forth the terms "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" and discuss the differences between those who are more technologically savvy than others.  Mostly, they point out that "even technologically competent students overestimate their ability to effectively search for and access information" (439).  Likewise, "graduate students display overconfidence with regard to both their research and technology skills" (439).  But how does an instruction librarian make students aware of their lacking skills while promoting learning at the same time.  Who likes to hear that they are not as competent as they think they are?

The authors of the article rightly claims that "attention to the differential level of each student's information literacy capatilities is ncessary in designing information literacy instruction" (439).  With students of different technology and information-literacy abilities in the classroom, how does a library instructor teach so that all can learn without feeling entirely lost or utterly bored.  Deleo and company write: "Information literacy classes where technology skill competence widely varies among students complicates the pedagogical situation" (440).  What can a librarian do to succeed in this environment of complexity?

Certainly, Deleo and her colleagues make an apt observation: "We have discovered that making assumptions about student technology or research skills is not effective, predictable, or advisable" (440).  Well, if one cannot rely on assumptions, what direction should be taken?  Clickers can enable librarians to hurdle some of these issues and do so gracefully.  "Clickers were initially adopted as a pre-lesson assessment tool to assist the librarian in setting an appropriate starting point at the students' levels" (440).
From "Accessibility in Education" by Lucy Greco.
One of the most valuable parts of this article may be the types of questions they asked with the clicker system.  An appendix to the article lists the questions they have required students to answer, but here is a little taste of what they looked for.  They wanted to know if students could distinguish qualities or aspects of the Library of Congress Classification System and the Dewey Decimal System, their ability to finding books in the catalog, students skills with documenting references in APA format, their understanding of popular and scholarly publications, and their knowledge of internet terminology. 
My favorite part of their article was the discussion.  It came alive and highlighted their positive experiences using the system, mentioning how it engaged students, enlivened discussions, created a sense of community, and increased interaction with the librarians.  They described how they promoted this engagement in conjunction with the technology: "After each student had clicked in their answers to a question they were instructed to turn to their nearest classmate and discuss that question and the answer they had chosen [...] As a result of inserting 'turn and talk' into the CPS procedure, the engagement level of the class rose significantly" (443).  I can see how this would generate even more interest. 
"Getting Interactive in the Classroom with Technology!" from eLearning @ Liverpool
It also takes some of the burden off of the instructor, because some of the students will/may answer the questions correctly.  At any rate, this does promote critical thinking skills.  Students will defend their answer or they will accept their classmate's answer.  Deleo, Eichenholtz, and Sosin write: "The process generated a higher level of anticipation for feedback as well" (443).  The authors explain how they would like to make the one-shot instruction session become a two-shot class.  The areas in which students were deficient could be addressed more fully in a second class (443).

The authors conclude with comments about the future potential of clicker systems in library instruction.  Essentially, the continuation of this methodology, they argue, may rely on student behavior.  They write: "student willingness and the librarian's skill at conducting the clickers session will be the larger issue, not the technology" (444).  In summary, they recommend that librarians investigate this technology.

Work Cited
Deleo, Patricia A., Susan Eichenholtz, and Adrienne Andi Sosin. "Bridging The Information Literacy Gap With Clickers." Journal Of Academic Librarianship 35.5 (2009): 438-444. Library Literature & Information Science Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 11 May 2012.

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