The days of rugged individualism are over. Being a maverick and going your own way are outdated. We are entering an age where success is measured by how well you are able to collaborate and draw on the strengths of groups.
From alist on Flickr
The main reason for this is the lack of barriers for people to connect, share ideas, and mash up other peoples’ ideas. Things like wikis, cloud computing, social-networking, etc. are making it possible, unlike ever before to work collaboratively.
We used to have to worry about coordinating everyone’s schedule. Now it’s possible to not even have to know what your co-collaborators even look like. People can work on projects in their own way and on their own time. They use their own strengths and interests to contribute to the whole.
An example of this is Wikipedia. Not many people care or even know about the Penny Red. But enough people do so that you can now know what it is. In this way very successful products are created. In the case of Wikipedia the product is a great storehouse of shared knowledge, and a place to go for quick answers.
In the academic world it should be no different. Professors should be assigning more group work, not only the traditional research paper. We do hold that up as a standard of scholarship, but at least at our institution, we are not trying to create scholars. We are trying to create successful citizens of this country and this world. We are trying to prepare them for careers where they will need to be easily adaptable and be able to work as a group.
Research papers are worthwhile and fine in small doses. But we should be getting more creative with assignments. How about one where they research and add successful edits to a Wikipedia entry? How about creating a Common Craft like video explaining their topic in an easy to understand way?
A research paper is so personal and often only the student and professor see it. Editing Wikipedia is beneficial for everyone and teaches collaborative, 21st century skills.
Seeing as how my library school career is almost over I figured I would reflect on what I have gained from my experience:
- I learned that technology is not frightening and out of reach for me. I took an Information Architecture Class that introduced me to XHTML and CSS and since then I realized that I can actually create web pages and make computers do my bidding. Library School introduced me to a whole new world using emerging technologies and empowered me to create things and learn more.
- I have gained confidence in my public speaking ability and my teaching skills due to a practicum in which I designed and taught numerous library instruction classes. I can now conduct classes and speak in front of groups with much more ease. I have improved on my presentation skills which will be very useful to me in searching for a job.
- I have been introduced to the important issues and debates going on in Library Science such as the issue of Open Access or the debate about MARC records. I have a lot more knowledge about the field as well as tools available to me to learn more should I want to.
- I am much more knowledgeable now about copyright law and fair use. I understand how things like electronic reserves, course packets, and interlibrary loans work in terms of copyright. I also understand about other copyright issues such as fair use or licenses. I think that this is fundamental to any library education.
- I have gained a strong network of people whom I can contact about various issues that come up later in my career. If I have a question about cataloging I have multiple places to turn. If I need a reference that can vouch for my instruction skills I know people. The relationships that I have built are just as important as the knowledge that I have gained here.
Library school has been a good experience. It has also been productive. I have gained a lot of new knowledge, but I have also grown as a person. I have changed a lot since I have come here to Madison, and for the most part it has been for the better. Even if library school gave me nothing else, it gave me the opportunity to grow into a more complete person.
As part of a practicum I created a Captivate Tutorial about a feature in the database Historical Abstracts. There is a lot of time that goes into making tutorials look professional, but they can be very useful in a number of situations. They are excellent for things like distance learning. Also they can be used over and over by different people until the database or resource changes and the tutorial needs to be updated.
I know that I enjoy using tutorials and learning on the web, especially because they are free. Moreover you can learn at your own pace. You can replay something, or watch the tutorial at 3:00 in the morning. They are there at the point of need.
I look forward to doing this more and playing with other free screen capture programs and applications like Jing and CamStudio.