Time Not on My Side...

"Time, it's on my side, yes it is"

I wish those song lyrics rang true. Time was the theme running through my head this past weekend. Time as a parent, a husband, a professional, a researcher, and a gamer. The approaching holidays and looming vacation means that I'm trying to clear up items before leaving... although since I've been reading a handful of articles I'll be posting some literature reviews over the coming days. But before then, I need to find time to get my survey out. All of these things add up to realizing (again) that I don't have the time I want.

Since 2001, during my first Master's program, I promised myself that I'd buy a new video game console once I finished the program and my thesis. That came and went and I had a new baby ($) and knew I was going to start the MILS program soon. Thus, I told myself the time would come at the end of this degree program. That time is here, and as much as I can rationalize getting a console I just can't find the time. Heck, I'm still trying to keep up on a regular basis here. But it's Christmas time, so anything can happen.

Thinking of time got me thinking about the time our students have. Not only is good research a matter of practice and motivation, it's also a matter of time. Our students may know the best path to take, and may even want to take it (if that happens we are doing something right), but may just not have the time to take it. They take the efficient path to "decent" sources since they have deadlines and the research paper/project is only one of the many assignments they have.

I love a good adventure/rpg game, but don't always have time to complete every side quest. I always start out with the best intentions, but usually somewhere along the something happens... my interest wanes, other demands pop up, or I just want to push through the main goal. I think most of our students are not that different.

So how do we combat the issue of "time" with our students? We can't expect them to research as deeply as we would, heck we don't always have time for that. But we can help them make the most of the time that they do have. If we can help them learn quality search strategies, evaluation skills, and other information literacy skills during our limited time with them... they have the tools. Even though I know I struggle with moving beyond the "saying" to the "sinking" with students, so that the content actually sinks in and stays with them. I think if we can help them reach beyond the "good enough" model, even just a little, with their limited time we are doing well.

Now there's a whole different debate over the "right" way and "good enough." And while I understand the academic desire to do the "right" or "best" way, I'm too much a realistic and too practical to hope for that. I may want to take every side quest in a game, and sure they provide better items and make my character stronger... but I do not need them to complete the quest. If our students take a few side quests each time, by the end of their time with us they've taken the "right" paths. They may never have the time to any much more than that, but is that so bad?


Christy Sich said...

In the past I've had the debate with colleagues on "the right way" to teach students how to do research, and so, I think there are probably different perspectives out there - but I think you've hit the head on the nail with the time issue. I strive to teach students how to find what they need in the most efficient way using transferable techniques. If I see that they have extra time to learn some theory, then sure, I'll try to steal that "teachable moment" when I can. Great post.

Paul said...

Thanks Christy.

I know I'm guilty of trying to cram too much content into too little time. It is really something I'm growing into. I've gone back and forth about trying to throw content out there and trust that if the need it they'll explore it. But trying to shoehorn students into traditional librarian logic... just is a losing battle.

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