My first clinical experience started two days ago. I wasn’t sure what to expect, mostly because I came in at the tail end of the first summer session and will be staying through the second summer session. Unsurprisingly, working in a school library during the summer session is vastly different compared to working in a school library during the regular school year. At least, that is what it seems like to me, whose only experience in a school library is from observations, rather than experience. For one, the pace is much slower during the summer. While there are classes utilizing the library space, the teachers do not really need the librarian there as an instructional partner because they need to get through their materials in a compressed amount of time.
However, on Thursday, July 7, I had the opportunity to go into an Information Processing class with Helen Dukhan, another intern, in order to talk about databases with the students. I only learned about the database instruction the day before so I did not have that much time to prepare a detailed lesson plan. However, since we were only going to be in there for a short period of time, creating an extensive lesson would have been unnecessary. We introduced databases to the students and showed them how to access the databases along with the passwords from the school home page. Helen and I chose four databases, two each, to highlight to the students, as well. Though a few of the students knew what databases were, most of them have never used one before. In the thank you letters we received (a follow-up assignment), the students expressed how they had wished they had known about the databases earlier as this would have saved them some extra work and time.
Giving this database lesson made me think about high school. Though it has only been a little over 10 years since I graduated from high school, the changes that have occurred in education have been tremendous. Then, the only real Internet browser that was available was Netscape. When we wanted to find information, we had to use reference books and use card catalogs with actual cards. Today, students have the option of using any multitude of Internet browsers, including Opera, Firefox, or Google Chrome. Students can (and do) search for information using Google or Wikipedia. However, it soon became apparent that the students did not realize that they were actually putting in more effort for inferior data. Though I cannot be sure if the students were serious when they wrote that they wish they had known about databases, I am glad that I had the opportunity to present this lesson to this class because this experience emphasizes the difference between perceived skill levels and actual skill level.
There is a big fuss about these so-called digital natives, but there is a disconnect between what teachers think their students know and what students actually know. Teaching students basic database search skills in elementary and continuously reinforcing those skills all the way throughout high school will create students who are truly information literate and prepared for college. While these students have had access to computers and the Internet for most of their lives, they still do not know how to access the best information and the best data.
I consider myself a good student, but even when I went to college and had to write my first research paper, I was stumped. This was the first time I had to use databases, but with some (a lot) of trial and error, I was able to figure out these resources. But this was back when the Internet was still new. Today, there is no reason why students should still be clueless when they go to college. Considering how much money is spent on purchasing the rights to use these databases, it is a shame that more students are not using them.