Saturday, August 24, 2013

Information Skills Course Explores Web Culture, Digital Citizenship

Library Instructional Coordinator
Kirstin Thomas 
Rio Salado College's new Information Skills course encourages students to explore the global culture developing around the internet and provides a richer understanding of how people in other parts of the world use web-based technologies.

According to Library Instructional Coordinator Kirstin Thomas. IFS102 Information Skills in a Global Society will appeal to students with a variety of interests.

"This course has something for everyone," Thomas said. "I think the students who will most enjoy IFS102 are the ones who are curious, creative and those who are interested in exploring new approaches to online learning"

Student David Brown said that he was drawn to the class as a way to better understand the people and cultures he encounters as an online gamer.

"Communicating online is not the same as hanging out in the local coffee shop. You find much more diversity online. I believe this class is giving me a better understanding of netiquette and helps me communicate more effectively with players from different cultures.

The course introduces students to the global issues created by advancements in information communication technologies and provides the knowledge and skills needed to navigate in a digital world.

"Since over 50% of the course is devoted to non-U.S. areas, students gain valuable insight into the global ICT landscape and explore the often stark differences that exist worldwide in terms of infrastructure and access, censorship, information-seeking behavior, and social-networking," Thomas said. “The course also examines digital citizenship, copyright concerns, and digital literacy. This is practical and important knowledge that will benefit students in all areas of life."

Thomas, who created the course, said she believes students will enjoy the interactive format and open nature of discussions and assignments.

"IFS102 utilizes a private social networking site to facilitate engagement in the course. This allows students to participate in discussion forums, post relevant videos and news stories, and generally fosters a high degree of personalization," Thomas said. "In IFS102, the instructor is the facilitator of the learning process, but not the sole provider of knowledge. Students are encouraged to answer one another's questions, to share their understanding, and to engage in the kind of back-and-forth discourse that might occur in a face-to-face classroom."

According to Rio Salado student Christopher Blake, not having to buy a textbook is another big plus.

"The cost of textbooks for four classes can be a hard hit to a student's pocket, so I wanted a class that was bookless," Blake said. "Most of the classes I found didn't work with my business management major. Then I came across the information skills class and it was a perfect elective for me."

Blake said he feels more at ease in an online discussion than he does in a traditional in-person classroom.

“I find the online discussion format superior to the traditional classroom and textbook format. It allows students the freedom to be themselves and insert pieces of themselves into discussions in a creative fashion," Blake said. "I don’t feel confined inside the walls of one textbook."

Students who are unfamiliar with social networking technology should not be discouraged from enrolling in IFS102. "The learning curve has proven to be quite manageable," Thomas said, "even for those who would not describe themselves as technologically-savvy."

Thomas said she is constantly surprised by the creative ways her students find to use the social networking platform.

"It is fun to watch students experiment with the multimedia tools at their disposal," Thomas said. "It is also amazing to see what students dream up for their final project, which is designed to allow them to demonstrate what they have learned in a fun and creative way."