What do students really use?
By Fiona Strawbridge, on 20 November 2011
Did you know that current graduates can expect to have between 5 and 9 different professions by time they are 42? If I heard correctly this is what has been predicted from the growth of the knowledge-based economy and emergence of new professions. This means that in addition to having strong IT skills, our graduates also need to be highly digitally and information literate and to be able to ‘knit together’ their use of institution and external – often cloud-based – technologies into a coherent learning experience. This was the theme of a thought-provoking presentation on a JISC-funded student digital literacies project by Helen Beetham (independent consultant) and Neil Witt (Plymouth Uni) given at the SEDA conference last week.
The project involved student focus groups which looked into students’ real study habits and strategies – for instance how – and how much – they really use and depend on Wikipedia, Google, the e-library etc. Students were asked to do a ‘technolog
y card sort’ – they were given cards with different technologies on them and asked work in pairs to group them according their usefulness for study. Then – and this was the revealing part – they had to say which five could be taken away. And then to sacrifice three more. The facilitators were as interested in the dilemmas and arguments the students were having about their choices as in the choices themselves – these conversations gave a lot of insight into the students’ learning strategies.
- The bare essentials were – Google, Google Scholar (“it’s more up to date than the library”), online journals and Athens
- Valued – lecture notes, textbooks, the VLE, Metalib (i.e. official course resources); Google books; Citation software and e-portfolios (both were highly valued by those who used them)
- Background use included – Assignment criteria, module overview, own use of capture media – photos of what they’ve done
One interesting observation was that ‘game changing’ technologies – portfolios was given as an example – had almost always been introduced to them in class by tutors. This is counter to the common assumption that the game changers are the gadgets in students’ pockets.
JISC have a toolkit of resources for institutions to run similar studies – maybe worth considering at UCL…