This Week in LIS - 4 October 2013

Weekly news and updates from Luther College Information Technology Services. To receive email updates, please sign up here.

Headline of the Week: Experiential Learning - Hands On Doing and Creating

The campus faculty has been engaged in a series of facilitated conversations stimulated by a challenging list of five “disrupters” that President Tiede enumerated in his State of the College Address this year. These “disrupters” are forces that are impacting higher education in general and Luther College specifically. The conversations focus on what opportunities the disrupters enable, what changes may result and how might we anticipate and respond.

This week the focus was on the “Digitization of Learning.” There was much discussion about learning goals and approaches and how networks, computers, mobile devices, and information technology in general might enable or distract from various learning goals.

One interesting insight shared by a couple of members of the faculty concerned the value of experiential learning. They highlighted, in particular, the mutual reinforcing value springing from doing, building, creating, and otherwise experiencing the physical world, complementing study, research, discussion and reflection. This in some ways is at the opposite end of a digitization of learning spectrum.

There are many places and environments where this sort of engagement with the real world goes on today. As I was driving in earlier this week, before 8am, I saw a class of biology students walking together with Professor Carlson adjacent to the college farm experiencing the restored prairie first hand. Students learning about sustainability and food work in college gardens. Everyone is expected to take a lab-based course on some aspect of the natural world. Art students create art. Communications students create communications in several mediums. A large complement of our students experience the world through study away opportunities all over the globe.

Professor Faldet reminded the group that at one time the typical Luther student came off farms in the region to study and learn. One doesn’t live on a farm very long without learning to do, create and build. Those students experienced much of the natural world on their farms. With larger farms and many less farmers (although this may be changing with more local food initiatives), fewer of our students come with that highly experienced background. When we consider these dynamics do our assumptions change about our students and experiential learning?

Information technology has also played a role in reducing the time many of us experience the natural world. The frequent use of the adjective “virtual” signals less time with the natural world and “hands on” experiences. Even within IT, when we use the term “hands on” we are frequently describing people working with information technology directly and not just watching others. We have co-opted the language.

Some public libraries have stepped in to fill a portion of the void in experiencing, doing, and creating. They have created “makerspaces”. For many of our disciplines we have specific labs spaces outfitted with the infrastructure and tools for that hands-on learning. Are there opportunities in other disciplines?

Does the stock go up in the value of experiential learning that includes more do and create and interaction with the natural world. At a time when, more and more experiences are “virtualized” or otherwise factored into larger virtual and smaller physical components.  Do the changing demographics of our students and their associated backgrounds with the natural world signal an opportunity or interest in more physical experiences. If so, where are the most meaningful opportunities? What disciplines might imagine more hands-on experience and what might enable them? Are there essential facilities we might create on campus? What enablement role might the rich Decorah community, Facilities Services, or LIS play in seizing such opportunities?

Suggested Reading/Viewing/Listening:

State of the College Address 2013

A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources


[email protected]

LIS Blog Highlights from the Week

The following articles are sampled from those available on the LIS Blog:

Notes from LIS Council

LIS Council is the leadership team within LIS.

Upcoming LIS Events

Click on the event below for specific information and for a link to register. More information on training and development events is available.

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

Training and instruction is provided to the Luther Community through Faculty Development Sessions, Library Instruction Sessions, Product Demonstrations, Skills Training, Workshops, 1-on-1 Sessions, and Online Materials. To schedule a session, contact the LIS Technology Help Desk at x1000 or enter your request online at

This Week in LIS is published most Fridays by Paul Mattson, Executive Director of LIS at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Content is made available under Creative Commons license.