Tablets as Powerful Tools for University Research: Teaching the Relevant Skills

Article excerpt

Abstract

The increasing popularity of tablet computers in recent years is beginning to transform the way that library users, and in particular postsecondary students and faculty, find and engage with digital content In response to these changes, university librarians are tailoring information literacy instruction to highlight the advantages of these technologies to their constituencies and to ensure that their users understand the myriad issues involved in effectively leveraging these advantages to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their research. Chapter 6 of Library Technology Reports (vol. 48, no. 8) "Rethinking Reference and Instruction with Tablets" examines the creation of university library workshops developed to introduce students and faculty to these concepts, including mobile learning advantages, online connectivity issues, the process of finding and managing content with tablet devices, and the many new and innovative ways of searching for and manipulating digital information made possible by these new technologies.

Introduction

The teaching work of academic librarians today is focused primarily on ensuring that students become information-literate lifelong learners. When discussing information literacy, librarians are essentially referring to the skill set needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. (1) Technological literacy is an essential component of information literacy instruction for university faculty and students. The mobility and flexibility of modern devices and the ubiquity of high-speed wireless Internet access have changed information-seeking behavior and have altered the definition of information-literate; therefore, it is essential that academic librarians embrace the challenge of educating users about new methods of accessing information and the implications of these advances for research and lifelong learning. Librarians now deal with issues related to mobile technology on a daily basis, and this is transforming librarianship, the nature of our collections, and the services we provide.

Teaching users how to make use of mobile resources on their devices and how to leverage the advantages of tablet computers is an important aspect of our role as teachers and as advocates for an information-literate society. At McGill University, librarians have developed workshops designed to introduce students, faculty, and staff to the concept of mobile learning and the use of tablets for research. The workshops incorporate practical discussions of electronic formats and their advantages and disadvantages, the plethora of ways to access content and services using tablet computers, and some of the unique advantages of accessing material through handheld devices. There is a strong focus on enhancing the technological literacy of the audience, an important component of modern information literacy. The following sections will present the McGill Library's workshop experience as a case study of incorporating tablets in information literacy instruction.

Mobile Learning and Information Literacy

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, by 2020 mobile devices will be the primary means of connecting to the Internet for most users (2) Moreover, Pew found that the percentage of American adults who own tablets almost doubled over the 2011 holiday season, from 10 percent to 19 percent, as did ownership of e-book readers. (3) Since university faculty and students are increasingly using mobile devices as a tool to connect to e-resources, academic libraries must take the initiative and be present in the mobile environment where users are doing their work. Librarians can play an increasingly important role by providing access to resources tailored to mobile devices and services guiding users to these resources.

Despite mobile technology's increasing importance in the lives of library users, librarians should also encourage equitable access to knowledge and the technology that facilitates access to that knowledge. …