Saturday, June 18, 2005

It's not what you teach but how you teach it (more or less)

Filipino School Librarian, Zarah, shares her thoughts on a library orientation class (seems like 12 year olds) she conducted. The following quotes were of interest to me:
And true enough, they know the rules, the guidelines and procedures, the references and information sources we provide and the expected behavior in the LRC. However, they do not seem to put these concepts, ideas and skills in practice.

Circulation statistic among grades 6 and 7 is very low. They do not borrow or read books at all. They still perceive that the computers in the Reference and IT Lab can be used for fun and recreation. And if the librarian or the staff isn't looking, they can check on cheat codes and play Ragnarok.

Well Zarah, you're not alone! :)

We have the same issue in Singapore (public libraries). Librarians conduct library tours and orientation sessions to students (of varying age ranges), including the use of OPACs and online databases. Quite frankly, at the end of the sessions, most do not really fully appreciate or apply what has been covered to their school work or projects.

The way I see it, the problem has been that librarians tend to "teach". E.g., "This is an OPAC. And it is used in this manner...". The kids would go "Uh, Ok." Then they go home and google.

Recognising this issue, we're now "facilitating" (rather than "teaching") and more important, we facilitate in context. For instance, we don't just tell them what OPAC can do. We take an example that students can identify -- like a school project theme or computer games -- and show them how OPAC and other library resources could be used, i.e. Contextual Relevance.

And more recently, we've gone one step further and are now conducting workshops not on "how to use the library" per se, but "how to plan your school project" (in which students would be introduced to the library facilities and resources). We're still experimenting and refining our approach. So far, responses from teachers and students have been very encouraging.

Something for Zarah to consider for her next orientation class:
  1. Start by getting the kids to search for cheat codes and even play Ragnorak (or is it Ragnarok?) for a while. The kids probably know how to search for the codes, as well as knowing which site is reliable and relevant.
  2. Relate the search and evaluation strategies they used to the library's context (concepts like Boolean search, evaluation of websites)
  3. Get them to search for library materials via OPAC relating to Ragnorak, online games, characters, Fantasy genre, weapons, war, battles... see where we're heading? Link it to the so-called "serious" topics.
  4. As an incentive, tell them for every right answer they give to your library-related questions, they get 1 minute of play time at the end of your session. Throw about 20 to 30 questions.
  5. After that, let them play their Ragnorak. Heck, play with them!
  6. End of your session, you prepare some books (fiction or otherwise) that they might be interested in borrowing. Would be good to let them borrow on the spot.
  7. Additional -- get the kids to blog about what they've learnt and what they did -- including playing Ragnorak -- after your session.

If the above achieves nothing else, I think Zarah won't be worse off than what she's facing right now. And I think the kids will remember that they have a really cool librarian. That already counts for something. :)

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