In this chapter, the authors explore the role of academic librarians in the e-learning 2.0 environment. Librarians are excellent partners in developing e-learning 2.0 spaces with faculty, because they are already familiar with many web 2.0 technologies being used in these environments. The authors explore how libraries and librarians have traditionally served their patrons, and how the library is currently becoming a collaborative technology center serving increasingly tech-savvy students. With this in mind, the authors define e-learning 2.0 and examine the history behind the development of the concept. They also address the librarian’s role as it pertains to information literacy on campus and collaboration with faculty in order to facilitate the e-learning process. The chapter concludes with a focus on how librarians can help bring e-learning 2.0 into the classroom through faculty workshops, consultations, and embedding of librarians within classes.
Introduction: Libraries Bridging The Technology Divide
Academic libraries are critical to the success and growth of their institutions and have often been referred to as the heart of the college or university. Traditionally the academic library was the place on campus where scholarship occurred. It was where students and faculty went to do research, to find a quiet place to study, to check out materials, and to get assistance from a librarian in order to locate bits and chunks of information hidden away on dusty shelves or tucked into squeaky microform drawers. The library served the campus and its constituents as a sacred repository of the printed word and the academic librarian was its loyal custodian. Fifty years ago students most likely viewed the library as a necessary burden, a solemn and unsocial place to be visited when required by their professors and dictated by their assignments.
[t]he Library has no outward and visible reward to offer its devotees. Even to many who might become devotees it seems like a cold and dusty place, where the books are locked away in distant ‘stacks’ which the student cannot visit, and which are too often presided over by male or female dragons whose obvious aim seems to be to protect them from those who wish to use them (Tinker, 1955, p. 167).
Today, much has changed in regards to the library as place and the role of the librarian. The academic library still holds and preserves the printed word and still exists as a venerated place of scholarship, but it has shaken off its dust and attempted to transform into the new social butterfly on campus. In the past two decades, the academic library has rapidly evolved into a warehouse of technology, a center for digitization, a multimedia hub, and a rejuvenated space for collaboration and exploration. This process, still taking place in academic libraries across the world, has unquestionably led to the sacrifice of numerous traditional spaces, heaps of print volumes, and loads of shelving in order to make room for more collaborative and social spaces such as computer labs, cafes, media/listening rooms, auditoriums, learning centers, information commons, study rooms, and classrooms. The library is adapting to meet the needs and the demands of its newest generation of users. Freeman, talking about library as place, says that in order to remain a vital presence on campus, the library must support its members in new and experimental ways. It must be flexible in order to accommodate evolving information technologies and must be able and willing to become a laboratory for new ways of teaching and learning. “Rather than threatening the traditional concept of the library, the integration of new information technology has actually become the catalyst that transforms the library into a more vital and critical intellectual center of life at colleges and universities today” (2005, p. 2).
As libraries change to meet the needs of the students and the academic community, so must the roles of the librarians. Librarians have had to adapt to the ever-changing library landscape by continually reinventing their roles and keeping their skills up-to-date and in-tune with new technologies, tools, resources, and services. And, in turn, they need to be able to educate their users in navigating this new landscape while promoting new services and resources across the campus. Librarians are no longer dragonish guardians of the printed word. They are teachers, technologists, innovators, and campus advocates who are focused on meeting student needs, supporting faculty in the classroom, and maintaining a vital presence on campus.
Academic librarianship has excelled at grasping the significance and potential of technology as a powerful force in transforming our profession and what we contribute to higher education. Librarians are in every sense of the word, technologists. Yet, we have largely maintained what is referred to as the “high touch,” the ability to balance technology with humanism and an overarching focus on student-centered service (Bell & Shank, 2004, p. 373).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Feed Readers: Feed Readers are used to collect and organize updated information in one place. They use RSS Feeds to do this. Some feed readers can be downloaded to a computer but many, such as Bloglines and Google Reader, are available on the web and allow users to access his or her customized feeds from any internet connected computer
Photo or Video Sharing: A variety of free websites allow for easy sharing of visual materials on the web. These sites allow users to upload their personal photos and videos and share them with the online community who can, in turn, add information (tags, comments, etc.) to them. In many of the photo sharing sites, such as Flickr, users can easily upload, organize, and customize their photos by adding titles, captions and tags. Video sharing, on sites like Google Video and YouTube, allows users to freely upload their videos to a shared space, making them more accessible
Course Management Software: Course management software (also called course management system or learning management system) is used by academic institutions to offer an online platform where faculty have virtual space for each of their classes, beyond the physical classroom experience. Faculty can use this software to post syllabi and course readings, map out a semester schedule, hold quizzes, or manage online discussions and grades. A few popular systems are ANGEL, Moodle and Blackboard
Tagging: One feature that can give an electronic tool 2.0 characteristics is tagging. Tagging is when users apply their own keywords or descriptive words, to a particular item on a website to make it searchable, and findable, by the user community. Tagging gives users the power to define how information on the website is organized and accessed. Allowing the users to control the organization of items follows the 2.0 philosophy of allowing the individual to craft his experience within that particular virtual world. It is a feature that has become very popular. Some tools that use tagging are blogs, social bookmarking sites, and photo and video sharing sites
RSS Feeds: RSS (really simple syndication) is a way to distribute content through the internet. The feeds themselves are available on multiple tools such as blogs wikis, videos, podcasts, and photo sharing sites. A user can sign up to have an RSS feed send regular emails to an email account, or, can set up an RSS reader (see Feed Readers) that collects feeds from multiple websites in one place. RSS Feeds allow users to avoid having to go to several different websites regularly to access new information
Blogs- Blogs: short for web logs, are online journals that allow their writers to post regular entries, on the topic(s) of their choice, in reverse chronological order. Often, blog writers will allow their readers to post comments that are available to all readers of the blog. The blog owner or creator has the freedom to dictate the topics, content, tone, design, and contributors of that site, and can expand or reduce the degree of participation allowed from others. Examples of free, hosted blogs are Blogger and WordPress
Social Networking: Social networking websites are seen largely as a way for people to socialize and communicate with their friends. However they are much more than just places to socialize. They can be used to bring together people with common interests or of particular age groups, from young children to senior citizens. These websites are used by individuals to share information about themselves, find friends, create career networks, find jobs, get information about a topic of interest, share photos, join interest groups, follow politics, and much more. Some examples of social networking sites are Facebook, Myspace, Classmates.com, LinkedIn.com, Twitter, LiveJournal and Ning (where users can create their own social networking sites)
Social Bookmarking: Social bookmarking is a way to collect links or bookmarks, that are located on a website, not a local computer, thus making them much more accessible and easy to share with others. Beyond the collecting function, users can organize their bookmarks however they choose, by tagging each one with specific keywords that will make them easy to locate within that specific collection. Two popular social bookmarking tools are Delicious and Diigo
Virtual Worlds: Virtual worlds are websites where users can inhabit and interact within a virtual space using an online identity called an avatar. One of the most popular virtual worlds is Second Life. Virtual worlds like Second Life, are crafted by the people who inhabit them and they mimic the real world with commerce, the arts, and educational activities going on at all hours. As a user in Second Life, one can buy property and items, build buildings, conduct meetings or classes, and even visit places that may also exist in the physical world such as art galleries and universities
Wikis: A wiki is collaborative tool or space, that can have multiple contributors. The creator of a wiki has control over who can access and read it, as well as who has editing power. Wikis are used to share information or collaborate with a wide population, or a select few. Wikipedia is one example of a popular wiki. For this book chapter, the authors collaborated and shared information and drafts using a private wiki