People who want to learn a tool can just go to lynda.com.*
(*and increasingly will.)
People who want information can just use Google.
So what is the reason anyone would come to the library to learn a tool? Why would they come to the library when their “activity” is finding stuff?
Perhaps because … what is really going on is not using a tool, or finding things — what is really going on is learning to collaborate in a research setting, or beginning to understand research as a process not a product, or any other of the myriad contextual and situated bits of learning that happen in the informal interstices of a university education. We don’t need to support activities, we need to support learning — we need to understand how informal learning might erupt or unfold through different activities differently.
Supporting informal learning is a key value-proposition of the library. Doing it well, I think, requires a good understanding, based on learning science, of how activities are the means and not the ends, and that education is a design science. So how do we think about design? What do we need to know, to consider, when we are designing the services or spaces that support this area of learning?
Right now (2-15-12) I’m listening to an inspiring presentation about a campus wide blogging project for students and by students at Virginia Tech — how an unscripted project is having amazing effects for learning and reflection. Gardner Campbell is describing the importance of iterative and participatory design. In this kind of project, to wait until the “home page” was perfect would have been the wrong approach. An important flavor of the project was the sense of “trying and getting better” for everyone. Campbell also started out by describing this project as being aimed at surfacing for students how a university nurtures “the life of the mind.” How about that for a learning objective?