Photo by by terri_brown, Flickr CC

Barry Dahl, photo by by terri_brown, Flickr CC

I attended two wonderful presentations by Barry Dahl at the Enriching Learning Environments Through Technology conference hosted by ECC on March 6th. Dahl is the Vice President of Technology and the e-Campus at Lake Superior College in Duluth, MN and is also on the Board of Directors for the Instructional Technology Council.

The two presentations I attended were “Teaching with Technology: Myths and Realities” and “e-Learning Myth Busters: Is Conventional Wisdom Wrong?”. Beyond the great content of each of the talks, I was really impressed with his method for presenting and teaching the information he covered. In both sessions he used clickers (very powerful clickers too – according to Dahl, they were about $30 a piece and responses would be detected as long as you were in the same “zip code” as the receiver) to encourage participation and engage the audience. He asked some practice questions to get everyone comfortable using the technology and also some questions which helped gage who was in the room (Faculty, Staff, Administrators) and what their experience was using different forms of technology. 
Most notably,  he ingrated clicker participation with the ideas he was presenting. His talks were composed of a series of ideas, thoughts, and rumors he had heard regarding his topic. He first presented the idea and then polled the audience with the clickers as to whether they believed it was a “myth” or a “reality”. For example, one of the thoughts he presented was “Wikipedia is practically worthless for academic purposes”. At the conference, 18% of the participants said this was a reality and 82% said it was a myth. He then went on to express his own thoughts on the topic (Wikipedia does have value) and present evidence to back this up. As the presentation proceeds, he collects the data from polling that can be used to inform future presentations. He often shared with us whether our polling results were similar or different to that which he had gathered conducting this talk with other audiences.
As he was presenting, I couldn’t help but consider how useful his style of presentation would be in library instruction. It was be interesting to ask students questions like “Google has everything I need to do college-level research” or “NoodleTools can be used to create an accurate Work Cited/Bibliography page”. I found the interactive format kept me extremely engaged in the presentation. It’s fun to see how your ideas and opinions measure up to those around you and there is instant gratification from giving voice to an opinion and then immediately discussing whether or not it is true. It opened up interesting dialogues that I think would translate well while teaching information literacy.
Briefly, I wanted to point out an idea of Dahl’s that was echoed a lot while I was at the ACRL conference.  There is a basic assumption floating around that so-called “Digital Natives” have a natural ingrained competancy when it comes to technology. Dahl, along with several librarians at ACRL challenge this assumption with the idea that Gen Xers are more confident with technology than they are competant. They are less technologically savvy than we think and usually are good at using a limited number of technologies somewhat well. As we introduce new technologies into their learning environments, it is important to keep this in mind.
The actual slides used during Dahl’s presentation of “Teaching with Technology: Myths and Realities” are available here.