ACRL IS Current Issue Discussion Digest – ALA Midwinter 2009 – Discussion 2

Teaching 2.0: What are the Pedagogical Implications of Social Technologies

Convener: Wendy Holliday

Sunday, January 25, 2009, 1:30-3 p.m.
Colorado Convention Center Korbel Ballroom 2C  |  Denver, CO


According to pundits across a wide range of fields, we live in a 2.0 world. Our Web is now 2.0, with users no longer passively viewing content, but creating it. At least some of our libraries are 2.0, through blogs, social tagging, and librarian presence in Facebook and Second Life. But has the 2.0 emphasis on collaboration and participation been enacted in our classrooms? Have we focused too much on the technologies, rather than the underlying pedagogical implications of the 2.0 world?

Current Climate

While some of our practices have been informed on the surface by 2.0 technologies, the heart of what we do, as librarians and teachers, has lagged behind. David Wiley provides a provocative framework for reflecting on our deeper educational practices as librarians. According to Wiley, the world has changed along the following lines:



Wiley argues that higher education (including libraries) have become more digital and mobile, through distance education and online access to course and library materials. Instructional practice, however, remains closed, isolated, generic, and consumption-oriented.

Purpose of the Discussion

This discussion will focus on the missing four “teaching 2.0” qualities: openness, connectivity, personalization, and participation. It is useful to experiment with emerging technologies, but it is equally important to spend some focused, reflective time looking beyond, beneath, or before these technologies. An open, connected, personal, and participatory instructional practice can (and does) happen with analog content in a tethered classroom. Conversely, using technology does not necessarily require or support participation or openness. A reflective discussion of these deeper principles will be relevant to all librarians, including those willing and able incorporate 2.0 technologies and those who want to innovate and enliven face-to-face instruction in any context.

Questions to Begin the Discussion

  1. What does (open, connected, personal, participatory) instructional practice mean to you as a librarian?
  2. What does (open, connected, personal, participatory) instructional practice actually look like, using specific examples from your experience or imagination?
  3. What are the barriers to creating a more (open, connected, personal, participatory) instructional practice in higher education?

Summary of Discussion

The goal of the discussion was to look beyond and beneath Web 2.0 technologies to the deeper pedagogical implications of these technologies. Participants were asked to reflect on the principles of an open, connected, personal, participatory, instructional practice. Participants reflected on these principles at both an ideal level and at a practical level. We also discussed barriers to creating a more open, connected, personal and participatory practice.

The following themes emerged from the discussion:

Everything old is new again

The principles of being open, connected, personal, and participatory are not new. They are, indeed, sound pedagogical principles that have been around for years. Active learning is participatory; understanding your students’ needs is open, connected and personal. So when we are talking about the promise of open, connected, personal, and participatory Web 2.0 technologies, we are talking about foundational values of good teaching. In some cases, 2.0 technologies provide affordances that enable us to better nurture openness or participation, for example. In other cases, technology cannot solve deeper pedagogical issues. Technology changes really quickly, which can be a barrier for adopting the latest and greatest. But by paying attention to deeper pedagogical issues, librarians can figure out which technologies to adopt for specific purposes, in specific settings. There was also a general consensus that many barriers to implementing a more open, connected, personal, and participatory practice have also been around for a long time.

Know Your Students

Understanding our students is vital to creating a more open, connected, personal, and participatory practice. Part of this means simply paying attention to the various skills levels, experiences, expectations, learning styles, etc. of our students. We also need to understand not just how students approach technology, but learning more generally. We tend to make assumptions that our students will (or will not) be comfortable with technology, but we sometimes forget to look more deeply at our students as learners. While we assume that many students will be comfortable with and attracted to Web 2.0 technology because they use it in their personal lives or it is fun, we forget that students might not like the open, participatory environment for learning. They do not want to admit that they don’t know something. They don’t necessarily want to put their learning out in the open in the Web 2.0 environment because they are vulnerable. So we need to create more closed and safe spaces for students to explore their own process of learning and sensemaking. Students tend to be technologically connected but intellectually isolated. Librarians can play a role in supporting and promoting more intellectual connections.


We need to think beyond using technology to create channels of communication between students and instructors/librarians. We also need to think more in terms of peer-to-peer learning and communication. We need to get the technology in the students’ hands.

Transparency, responsiveness, and control

We need to make the process of learning more transparent, including showing the mess. This means losing some control in the classroom. Librarians/instructors might also need to give students more control in the classroom by letting them identify what they want or need to learn, as with student-driven syllabi. This means moving away from the idea of “covering all the content.”


Librarians need to integrate their learning goals and approaches into faculty assignments, university-wide curricula, etc. Students need to see a connection between what happens in library instruction and their assignments and course work.

A complete summary of the small group discussions can be found below. Many thanks to the note takers and facilitators who made this summary possible.

Complete Discussion Notes

1. What does open, connected, personal, participatory instructional practice mean to you as a librarian?

Multiple Qualities:

  • Knowing and understanding the needs of various majors, and knowing who your students are, plays into all four descriptors
  • Recognize background knowledge of students; meet with students beforehand and do “needs assessment”
  • Can’t determine on our own what students like; ask them; survey them
  • Active learning really not new; only tools are new
  • Students need to use 2.0 tools, not us
  • Using open source technology can be participatory and open
  • Technology supports instruction
  • Students want technology that is functional or fun.
  • Technology allows you to visualize action
  • Think about whether delivery method is relevant; the deliver method too intrinsic?


  • Making emotional connections through humor, energy, and “warm and fuzziness” play into one’s openness.
  • Have students tell you what they want to get out of class; what they don’t know.
  • Student-driven syllabus builds investment; instructor asks students what they want to learn.
  • Idea of transparency; need to make teaching plain; show the mess; make the learning process for instructor and students more transparent
  • Be open to trying all of the new technologies, whether we implement them or not.
  • Students follow up after class and they want one-on-one time focusing on their concerns, connected at personalization, feels like it happens after class
  • See research process in library class.


  • Not necessarily student-teacher, can be peer-to-peer; students engage more when working together on an assigned tasks than when listening. Presenting back by students is hard to pull off, however.
  • Look at how students are going to perceive instruction
  • Students don’t want to be talked down to
  • Ability to change tactics and move towards a different approach (responsiveness)
  • Personal is especially important with first year students, make more value in one-shot session
  • Personal could mean providing way for an individual to work on their own
  • Flexible, spontaneous, responsive
  • Meeting students where they’re at; follow up library instruction with time in classroom.
  • Attention spans; give them something to engage


  • Multiple modes are available for librarians, which also plays into openness.
  • We need to figure out what we can exploit in order to make a connection with our students.
  • Librarians have been able to integrate into the curriculum.
  • There needs to be a level of trust, when you don’t know something, you are vulnerable.
  • Need to bridge gap between faculty/teachers and librarians so they know what we have and what we can do
  • Being connected to the goals of the project; this isn’t new
  • Using 2.0 technologies to make researchers aware of each other
  • Students tend to be technologically connected but intellectually isolated. We need to help them become intellectually connected.


  • Is classic education value, not new.
  • Using information
  • Engages students
  • Enables instructors to reach more levels and give more control to participants. Different levels of students have difference needs and needed guidance.
  • Instruction must be engaging and 2-way; not just lectures.
  • Collaborative learning is group learning, field learning, lab learning
  • Are tasks forced on learners participatory? Is mandatory participation really participation?
  • We need to participate in the intellectual growth of our students.

2. What does open, connected, personal, participatory instructional practice actually look like, using specific examples from your experience or imagination?

Multiple Qualities:

  • Using 2.0 tools in archives (annotating and tagging photos)
  • Use Meebo for virtual reference
  • Use Facebook, create a group for the class: open, participatory, keeps people connected; connects personal and professional side and this perhaps gives you credibility
  • Use wikis to teach
  • Some use Moodle, Blackboard, WebCT, etc.
  • Moodle can pull a lot of 2.0 technology together
  • Video
  • Angel
  • Delicious
  • Point of need is more effective, especially if you have limited time
  • Ning: collaborative software akin to Facebook with walls
  • Teaching Facebook and other apps
  • Teach students to post online book reviews by explaining that technology is akin to Facebook
  • Teen art (kids get to produce) and art critiques (audio)
  • Film competitions
  • Experimentation with embedded librarianship. Embed within the classroom both as a student and as a faculty member.
  • Use much more online learning modules. Phase out face-to-face instruction sessions.
  • Incorporate research labs (library walk in hours) where students can come in for help.


  • Have students tell you what they want to get out of class; what they don’t know. Add the question to pre-assessment. Student-driven syllabus builds investment; instructor asks students what they want to learn.
  • Business students and group work: open in terms of general strategy


  • Clickers help get participation, combined with pre-class tutorial to give them context before they get to class.
  • Giving students lab time
  • Personalizing research, classes, etc., directed to the specific class with personal blurbs about each database, etc.
  • Reflection: to make learning personal
  • Develop survey to find out what students want
  • Quizdom: anonymous and instant assessment
  • E-portfolios, e-journals
  • Use their topics.
  • It’s not about knowing everything; it’s about using these resources.
  • Wide audience and variety of topics


  • Adding more contact information; being more available (meebo; LibGuides)
  • Games
  • Use examples from students, not your own; ask for student examples, but try to expand on it together. Connecting individual with students
  • Get to know the names of students as a way to connect
  • Make session relevant to assignment.
  • Students tell each other their topic for a one minute: what and why
  • Teams working in similar, but different, projects; can be seen as competitive and general strategy isn’t easily shared
  • Embedding librarians into Course Management Systems; can sometimes be difficult to make that connection
  • Public library tries to work with schools to get reading lists


  • Free writing & journaling are examples of participatory in one-shot instruction sessions.
  • Student-driven syllabus.
  • Engage by having students put names of assignments, even if not graded
  • Tie to assignment. Reserve time at end of library instruction session for students to work on their project. Then walk around and check in with them. Try using online “vote” software (Polldaddy, Survey Monkey) in class to call for a vote (Instant feedback). Clicker works for this too.
  • One librarian set up blog to teach what blogs to, partly as a teaching tool (10 student class)
  • Giving students lab time
  • Faculty: using RSS, blogs, etc. for students to participate in the process of research
  • Games
  • Walk and talk
  • Use Clickers; students like them, like games; make class more interactive.
  • Use classroom control software less for control and more for participation
  • Collaborative bibliography in science labs: students seek, find, and contribute citations to joint bibliography via Refworks
  • Teach the teachers (faculty) research skills

3. What are the barriers to a more open, connected, personal, participatory instructional practice?

Culture of Higher Education/Libraries

  • Hard for librarians to give up control of the classroom
  • Trust building
  • Not set up to allow for failure; lack of risk taking. Librarians afraid of what will happen if it doesn’t go well. A bad experience might discourage students from wanting to connect in the future. Perfectionism: not putting guide online until it is perfect.
  • Faculty expectation.
  • Faculty don’t want to give up control
  • Merging personal and professional (as in Facebook) can make it seem as if librarians are available 24/7. Some students don’t want you in Facebook
  • Students and faculty don’t understand what librarians do, necessarily. Need to get buy-in from deans, faculty, etc. Lack of respect sometimes. Try to get faculty to recognize librarians as partners. Some faculty don’t feel like librarians are “in sync” with them
  • Consistency between instructors, especially early versus reluctant adopters
  • IT: we don’t always control technology in the classroom.
  • Morale (team teaching can help)

Student Expectations

  • Students want teachers to teach; don’t want to do all group work. Needs to be a balance of lectures, collaborative, group work
  • Expectation of teaching as a performance: librarians expect that but students don’t necessarily
  • Biggest barrier is internally with students: having the students take the risk; taking their knowledge and putting it out there for everyone to see their weaknesses. On the opposite end are students who are very technologically advanced: might not want to use their fun toys for education.


  • Need to provide a structure to open learning
  • Lack of class participation
  • Timing of assignments
  • Librarian is not flexible, doesn’t want to give up control of the class
  • Different mix of students, even in same class, results in different reactions. Skill level and information needs: everyone in class is different so it’s hard to meet everyone’s needs.
  • Time limits of 50 minute class
  • Classroom configuration (student assistants as rovers can help)
  • Not everyone wants to be in a personal or participatory class; don’t want to appear stupid; don’t care. Already think they know the material.
  • Age gap or perception gap.
  • Talk, jargon barrier.
  • “ Aren’t databases easy?” Some easier than others, but all students know is keyword search.
  • Learning styles, language, culture
  • Assessment: barrier on one hand, but also part of open, personal instruction, with feedback


  • Size:
    • At larger university it would be nice to be more involved in the curriculum.; staff is already stretched. Requires small learning setting. It might be easier to students at smaller colleges to approach instructors.
    • Large institutions have turnover of adjuncts; you can’t build a relationship
  • Time:
    • Students who approach desk/chat almost want a repeat of the class
    • Scalability: one-on-one personal service
    • Time and workload for both students, librarians, faculty
    • Faculty don’t have time to connect to students
    • Librarian burn out
    • Success can be a barrier; can create too much communication, to high an expectation for next time
  • Cost can be an issue: some too expensive
  • Distance education: hit and miss; some fall through the cracks
  • Infrastructure: technology, design of spaces


  • Comfort levels; technology freaks some people out. Web 2.0 generation doesn’t necessarily know technology all that well. Mature students not comfortable using it.
  • Overestimating what students know about technology; need to be careful about assumptions
  • Technology can be hard to learn or hard to use.
  • Equitable technology access. Economics of access, on both our parts and students
  • Privacy issues with some technology; but some argue that privacy not such an issue for students anymore
  • Fallibility of technology, server crashes
  • IT department says no. Not compatible, don’t support it, not secure. IT support and resources. IT doesn’t understand why
  • ADA requirements: can those with disabilities use it.
  • Hard to keep up; technology changes so quickly. Instability of Web 2.0
  • Layers of non-searchable material (LibGuides)
  • Learning curve (Second Life)
  • Multitude of choices
  • Firewalls and blocking You Tube

Suggested Readings to Prepare for Discussion

Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning?
Educause Review, 41(2), 34-44. Retrieved from

Prensky, M. (2008). The Role of technology in teaching and the classroom. Educational Technology, 48(6), 64. Retrieved from

Wiley, D. (2006). Statement for the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, Panel on Innovative Teaching and Learning Strategies. Retrieved from

Further Suggested Readings

The readings suggested below are meant to stimulate and support thinking about both 2.0 learning technology and learning theories that pre-date these technologies but share the same values of openness, connectivity, personalization, and participation. A few are older; some are more recent. The list is not comprehensive, but suggestive of the many ways in which the values underlying 2.0 technologies have much deeper and broader roots in education and learning theory. They also highlight ongoing debates about the relationship between technology, pedagogy, and learning.

Brooks, J.G., & Brooks, M. G. (1993). In search of understanding: the case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: ASCD Press.

Bruffee, K.A. (1999). Collaborative Learning: Higher Education, Interdependence and the Authority of Knowledge (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
(For a recent interview, see

Godwin, P., & Parker, J. (2008). Information literacy meets library 2.0. London: Facet.

Hartman, J. (2008, November). Moving teaching and learning with technology from adoption to transformation. Educause Review, 43(6), 24-25. Retrieved from

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press. (For an overview of their work, see Smith, M. K. (2003). Communities of practice. The Encyclopedia of Informal Education. Retrieved from

Zemsky, R., & Massy, W.F. (2004). Thwarted Innovation: What Happened to e-Learning and Why. Retrieved from


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