There’s an old Zen story that goes something like this:
A Zen monk was asked to manifest his understanding of Zen by answering the question, “Do dogs have Buddha nature?” and, instead of responding “Yes” or “No”, the old Zen monk shouted Mu! – meaning it’s not quite correct to answer in the affirmative or negative – so unask the question.
I started thinking of this story in relation to the tendency of educators to ask, “What does today’s student really want?” or “What motivates today’s student?” as a way for teachers to understand how students of this generation learn, so we can best understand how we can teach them.
I state all of this tentatively – both because I certainly haven’t read all the literature on this topic, and because I am sincerely interested in others’ views – but my intuition is that the tendency to ask “What does today’s student want?” as a way to tell us something about how to teach students is something we should say Mu! to: let’s unask the question so we can think about deeper ones instead.
Recently, my library embarked on a Google Glass adventure. There’s so much to say about Glass and its implications, but for this particular post, I’m going to focus on one particular use case.
It’s me! Wearing Glass!
I’ve seen several blogs which suggest the same use case for Glass in the classroom: Have students wear Glass to record their experiences in class, on field trips, and throughout their day. The site I’ve linked to suggests that these videos could then be rewatched by students so that they can think critically about their experiences, analyzing why they make certain choices by revisiting those moments over and over. But what if a teacher asked a student to record their experience in class, and then the teacher viewed that student’s experience? Glass, I would argue, provides serious opportunities for empathic teaching.
“We don’t take the time to be vulnerable with each other.”
Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.
Information literacy is concerned with what is “true”: what kinds of things we should believe, what kinds of things we shouldn’t, and how we can tell the difference. It is, therefore, the task of information literacy librarians to help students articulate and apply reliable criteria to answer the questions, “Out of all the information that’s out there, what should I believe?” “How do I know?”
You can see, then, that teaching information literacy well will probably not be easy. Like philosophy, it deals with some of the most fundamental human questions relating to truth and knowledge. Unlike philosophy (maybe), it does so in a practical way. Information literacy is a kind of applied epistemology: it aims to give students criteria to apply so they can figure out what types of information they should use to construct their beliefs about the world.
Here’s a bit more about what I mean.
A video of our EasyBib webinar, “Communicating the Value of Information Literacy,” is now posted on YouTube:
We hope that the presentation may be of some use to librarians who are tasked with the job of working with other faculty to embed information literacy into their university curriculum.
Thanks again to Emily Gover and the rest of the EasyBib folks for having invited us back, and for the great questions we recieved from attendees!
Higher education is odd in that we don’t typically teach teachers how to teach, students how to learn, or administrators how to lead. As a result, more than a few students end up with methods that are ineffective or even an impediment to learning.
Todd Zakrajek, as quoted by Jeannie Loeb, in her preface to The New Science of Learning
Let’s hope that this is increasingly less true for instruction librarians!