Faculty 2.0

Sarah Cohen  :  How do we talk about technology to the uninitiated?

The irony of going last. We talk about technology, and we talk about technology, and we talk about technology, but we’re forgetting a big part of our user base: our faculty.  So this presentation ended up last, and that’s sort of the point — we’re leaving the faculty for last.  And that’s a flaw.

What can 2.0 do in our libraries, classrooms, and colleges? Opportunities:  Creation, Collaboration, Commenting, Commitment.  These are the things we like to focus on.  But we must acknowledge the challenges:  Distraction (hey, who’s twittering right now?!), Disruption, Disturbing (many people believe this.  We are not everyone.), Dumb (perhaps our job is to explain that it may not be?).

Who’s using technology?  We are. Libraries have embraced and adapted technology in a unique way.  Our students also are technology-engaged.  But what about the faculty?  Are they using technology?  Do we know the answer to this question?  What assumptions do we make about this question that then inform our actions?

Ideas about faculty technology use:  Faculty are wary of technology.  They don’t want to look stupid in the classroom.  They don’t want to waste valuable time.  They don’t think they have anything to learn or gain from it.  And many don’t see a middle ground – either they use technology or they don’t.

Why do we need to engage our faculty?  Because of student expectations.  Educause studies show that 61% of students agree or strongly agree that IT in courses improves learning.  “They agree that when used poorly IT detracts from” student learning.  (Thus, if faculty use the tech poorly… they look bad. Which they don’t want.)

A two-pronged approach to improvement:  Inclusion and personalization and then logistics.  We need to help faculty see that technology isn’t “not for” them.  And it’s not just for the classroom.  We also need to talk about the technology itself, and use language that makes sense (use CommonCraft, for example).  And we need to figure out where to start by figuring out what the faculty at our own institutions need.

Ways to start:

  • Facebook mentality.  We use Facebook because it’s where our students are.  So we also need to get out there and put ourselves where our faculty are.  Find them in their native habitats and listen to them about what they do there.
  • Celebrate their successes.  If there’s one small success, network it to another small success.  Build a community of technology users who can help other technology users.
  • Collaborate, don’t pontificate.  Faculty are often not a group who wants to be told.  Work together in gentle and easy ways.
  • Small steps.  Academia does not move quickly by nature.  So start small – “Maybe we don’t want to start with SecondLife.  Maybe we don’t want to start there, but instead with a wiki.”

Examples of faculty meaningfully using technology:

  • Student blogging.  Students set them up, faculty read them and grade them.  It’s inside the traditional “students do work for grades” paradigm, but it exposes both students and faculty to web 2.0 technology.
  • Digg.  Faculty do not like Digg.  Digg is a slap in the face to the peer-review scholarship process.  But it makes a great talking point for many classes, to allow discussion between faculty and students about new media, communication, scholarship, etc.
  • Flickr.  Current events, media, art, etc.
  • YouTube.  Tell stories.  Create media.  Tape presentations.  Share content.  But help!  Help them!

Faculty play many roles on campus.  They are our gateway to students, our partners in education, learners in their own rights, patrons and users of our libraries.  We must not forget them in our fervor to serve our other users.  Change to how we approach faculty and technology must happen in more ways than one.  We must share our successes and interests.  We need to get out there an interact with them.  We also need to do both of those things by sharing, presenting, and publishing in their venues as well as our own.

So what might go wrong?  We may get impatient.  Patience and Fortitude, outside NYPL, are not just symbols, they are perspectives that are important for us to remember when we start tackling the uphill road of educating faculty colleagues about technology issues.  We must make the time to be patient on the person-to-person level, and step way, way back to the level that anyone needs us to go to.


  1. Wow, you covered it all! Thanks for coming to, and summarizing so well, the session. As you well note, ” I need backup, I need company, I need to be inspired.” It’s not just her.

    Great to meet you. I hope we will cross the lake to meet up and talk soon.


  2. Thanks for the thought-provoking talk — you said things I needed to hear.

    Meredith’s in VT, too… we should find a way to have a North Country unconference of our own.


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