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Bridging the Gap: Tools for Elearning

By Aline Soules - Posted Mar 1, 2008
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Back in the fall of 1995, the ERIC Review devoted its entire issue to the K–12 Computing Network, covering such subjects as "Teaching Teachers to Use Telecomputing Tools," "Classrooms Online: How One Teacher Got Started," and "Selected Resource Organizations."1 While the content of these articles is now sufficiently outdated to be part of ancient computing history, the principles are the same. The final page of the issue was devoted to "Putting It All Together: An Action Plan." Their "tips" spoke about such things as organized chaos and the need to jump in and try. The "next steps" advised practitioners to help others find low-cost solutions, join a listserv and discussion group, help integrate computing into teaching and learning, evaluate the effects of computing on student motivation and achievement, and invite students, parents, businesspeople, and other community members to share their experience with the schools. All still good advice!

What’s changed, of course, is how we implement these dicta and what’s available to accomplish them. The one thing I’d add to the above ideas would be to find a way to keep up. What I’ll try to do in this article is give some current options for media specialists who want to adopt elearning tools, and I’ll make some suggestions about how to keep up … because the pointers that will help you today will be old hat tomorrow and obsolete the day after.

Students Coming Out of the K–12 System

First, I’d like to tell you what I observe in the students I teach, namely first year university students. I teach a two-credit, required class called Fundamentals of Information Literacy, so I teach students everything from academic integrity through research and evaluation of information to information issues. I also see the immediate end result of the K–12 system in my state, and I suspect that it doesn’t differ all that much from the state of affairs across the nation.

There’s no question that I see digital natives, i.e., those born in the Age of Computer (I’m the Age of Aquarius, but we won’t go there). What I also see is that the assumption that digital natives are also digitally savvy isn’t necessarily true. Some are, but many are not. The factors that make the difference are both in and out of the educational system—home environment, economic status, external opportunities, and internal desire. To feel less overwhelmed, I focus on the factors I can influence and only a small portion of them.

Another student characteristic relates to reading and writing—do they or don’t they? It’s easy to forget that this has always been the case; what I note now is that the distinction is more acute than it used to be. Multitasking is another issue. I don’t actually believe in it. I think it’s multiflitting from one thing to another in rapid succession. I read periodically about short attention spans, but I don’t see short attention spans if they’re playing online games where they concentrate for hours. The problem is getting and retaining their attention where we want it. So how do we do that?

Advantages and Disadvantages for Media Specialists

Media specialists and librarians experience advantages and disadvantages. Most of us are outside the classroom on a daily basis, dealing with students when the regular teacher invites us in or brings them to the library or media room or assigns them to come on their own. The disadvantages include the amount of time we can spend with them, the fact that we don’t always have the opportunity to control how the assignment is managed, and the ultimate influence we have over their reading and writing practice. The advantages include the opportunity to promote what we do as a special treat, something different from the everyday, and the chance to hook them with new and exciting opportunities.

Fundamental Technology Issues

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This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-per-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.


 
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