Remembering our “customers”

As I come away from Internet Librarian and try to pull together a thread running throughout the conference, I would say it is this:

Web 2.0 is here to stay, but we must be cognizant of our users, whether they are “library patrons” or students or teachers. This theme has been running around the blogs recently as well.

Sarah Palmer, a librarian at the American Bar Association, did an excellent presentation on suggestions for how to introduce users to web 2.0 tools. Since she works with attorneys, she pointed out the confusion that business professionals have about web 2.0 tools (I would say this is true of educators as well). They associate the tools with frivolous fun—like social networking becomes “MySpace” instead of a tool to help attorneys or educators find other colleagues and assistance for developing their own knowledge.

She comments that the often “jargony” terminology, RSS being a prime example, is a barrier for new or casual technology users as well, yet it is a tool that can be extremely powerful for those who need to keep up to date in their field.

Couple this with the fact that according to the Pew Internet survey that Lee Rainey shared in his session, as many as 25% of adults are mildly or not at all interested in technology use, and 50% are in the mild user category. So this begs the question, how do we address this as librarians/tech educators/teachers? Because the more serious users are younger, and eventually these numbers will change—so we want to be preparing our students, because 75% of teens are creating some sort of online content already.

One big draw for busy professionals is showing them how it increases their efficiency. But the tool has to be easy enough to use, so you have to start with something that is easy.

Another issue that Mary Ann Bell pointed out in her presentation on blogging is to be sure you show the safety as well as simplicity and value when introducing tools to educators.

In her presentation on digital literacies, Pam Berger talked about one of the biggest obstacles that we face in working with new technology users, what Marc Prensky identifies as “navigational literacy.” Many, not all, of our students have the ability to easily navigate technology, because they understand it’s “geography” so to speak. But for many of our teachers, it is truly like driving in a foreign country—they are on the wrong side of the road and it feels awkward and uncomfortable.

As we struggle with successful ways to bring these tools into our classrooms and libraries, and how to help teachers with them, we have to keep in mind these factors.
As David Warlick points out, we have to work with the students we have(and with our own navigational skills), both the K-12 students, but also the teacher-learners, so we need to address both groups of learners “where they live.”

2 thoughts on “Remembering our “customers”

  1. Sarah Palmer’s observation about the perception of Web 2.0 tools as frivolous is true in my experience. In our district, librarians are doing some online staff development to learn about some of these new technologies. When we introduced the program, I heard similar comments. Those perceptions are slowly changing, though, as they play around with the tools. The program is allowing them to learn at their own pace and start from “where they are.” If you’re interested, take a look:

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