Service Learning: Friend or Foe?

06/12/2013 § 1 Comment

One of my courses this semester (Community Informatics) required a sizable amount of “service learning” (for those who don’t know, service learning is basically community service/volunteering activities that are incorporated into a course). When I mentioned the extensive, unpaid time commitment that the service learning represented to a friend of mine, he balked: “So they’re basically making you volunteer? That’s crazy. Plus it can’t really be considered volunteering if they make you do it…” This got me thinking about the various pro’s and con’s of service learning, a course component that seems to be more and more prevalent these days. For those who have a service learning component in an upcoming course or who are interested in designing their own service learning experience, here are some pros and cons (as I see it) of service learning:

  • Con: Service learning is time-consuming. This semester I had to commit to 4 hours a week of volunteering at a library or computer lab. While this doesn’t seem like much, I also work 20 hours a week, take classes full time, am an officer for a student group, and contribute to this blog (love you guys!). Not to mention I live in the same town as my family, and am thus often committed outside of school/work. Therefore, I do not often initially relish seeing a service learning requirement on a syllabus. A service learning component can also require an initial time commitment to scout out a site, go through an orientation, and set up training (depending on what you’re doing). There’s also the transportation time, field notes time (as you often can’t jot down info until after your shift), and reflection time (as service learning usually involves reflection writing assignments).
  • Con/Pro: Service learning is hard work. Whether it’s explaining to a senior citizen how to log in to a computer, open a browser, and log in to their email for the 100th time (ok, so it hasn’t happened 100 times, but sometimes it feels like it) or building custom-made wooden computer stations in your professor’s workshop (see below), service learning will challenge you in a variety of ways.

    Ah the Saturdays spent in safety goggles. So fun!

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Should more LIS programs have a service-learning component?

06/04/2012 § 17 Comments

Though the trademarks of the library profession like bridging the digital divide for children and adults, protecting freedom of information and promoting literacy, connect directly to service-learning, many LIS programs do not have a service-learning component.  Service-learning programs connect LIS students with schools, libraries and other social service agencies to provide volunteer services to the community. In addition to providing volunteer services, students are able to reflect on and evaluate their experiences and create personal best practices for future employment.  Students are usually able to earn school credit through service-learning projects, or can use it as a component of a LIS class. Here is another great explanation of service-learning. Service-learning was an important part of my undergraduate education and in many ways was something that gave me the experience to know I wanted to be a school librarian. Is service-learning something that should be a part of more Library and Information Science program curricula?
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