This is fresh in my mind because I just attended an interesting day-long virtual conference on ebooks in libraries. In fact, I was a panelist for a session on marketing ebooks to students in academic libraries. Sadly, what I had to say probably wasn’t what the audience came for. Our students aren’t interested in ebooks . . . . I don’t know what students make of all this, but one thing that Project Information Literacy discovered in their latest study is that students are not as excited about gadgetry and electronic sources as we tend to assume. When project teams interviewed 560 undergraduates studying in libraries at ten institutions, they found students were keeping it simple. Most of them had only one or two electronic devices with them: a phone and a laptop. Most of them were focused on getting an assignment done or were studying for a class. Most of them had only a couple of webpages open in a browser, and they weren’t the same websites; they were browsing all over the place. (emphasis added)This reminds me of the big push to use Facebook in classes a few years back. The thinking was that since students live in Facebookland, they would love love love to have their teachers in there friending them and pushing class-related posts at them in their out-of-class spare time. From articles I've read, students were not exactly thrilled about this togetherness concept dreamed up by dewy-eyed teachers. They understood that a social space was a social space and a learning space was a learning space, and they were okay with having boundaries between the two.
The connection I'm seeing is this: students may live in computerland, as we do, and they certainly communicate with us in that way, but that doesn't mean that they use computers as we do nor should they necessarily want or need to.
We can lead these horses to water, but we ought to stop trying to make them drink--that is, turn them into mini versions of us. Instead of force-feeding them our notions of what they should want based on starry-eyed notions of what "digital natives" do, why don't we pay attention to what they actually want? Sure, we need to expand their horizons beyond enotes and Wikipedia, but we can do that in ways that meet them halfway.
Actually--and this is another heretical thought--I'm starting to wonder if the students use the physical library more than we do. A little anecdata: I was at our library today, as I am most weeks, and it was full of students studying in groups. Once again I was the only faculty-age person there except for a librarian here and there. I know--this proves nothing. Still, I wonder if the atmosphere of the books has at least something to do with it.