Shortest distance is between many lines?

A grad student came over to my office yesterday for help in retrieving full text. He’d been there before to get help in locating citations. I was impressed by his intelligence (still am, I hasten to say). He came in yesterday and was understandably confused about how to get to the full text. We don’t make it easy. I mean, it’s better than it used to be, but there are still multiple steps to take to get to the full text.

As I’m apologizing to him for this, he’s on my computer opening up his email to get to the citations to show me where he’s having problems. Rather than go straight to webmail, he opens up the university site, then the portal they try and push all the students through, and then finally to a link to his email. It left me somewhat taken aback. When I said he could just get to it by typing in the webmail site addy, he was not really interested. He was focused on his paper, of course, and the end of the semester is approaching. But having accounted for that, the path he takes to get to his email is at least as circuitous if not more than what we have for finding full text. Something is wrong here.

It left me thinking about how information literacy/fluency is still not working. The students learn things in silos and most of them don’t seem to make the connections between these.

Yes, the students understand technology – but if they can’t make the simplest of leaps, are we ever going to succeed?


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