The Professional Doctorate – Lessons for LIS from CID?

The Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate is an interesting project by which programs in fields including Chemistry, English, and Education have engaged in a re-examination of their models for doctoral education. Several participating faculty members have presented their ideas in the recently-published Envisioning the Future of Doctoral Education (2006), but a brief essay with possible significance for LIS education can be found in the current issue of Educational Researcher: Reclaiming Education’s Doctorates: A Critique and a Proposal.

Without going too deeply into the argument, the authors suggest that doctoral education in the field of education (my field, as some of you know) has been “crippled” by the lack of clear distinction between doctoral study aimed at producing education researchers and faculty members (Ph.D.) and that aimed at producing educational leaders in the practice setting (and scholarly practitioners) (Ed.D.). They present an interesting model for what distinct and vital doctoral programs aimed at these different audiences might look like.

Without putting too fine a point on it, their argument about how doctoral study in education as currently conceived does not always serve scholarly practitioners and leaders “in the field” certainly seems applicable to the Ph.D. in LIS (which an increasing number of people who I consider to be excellent examples of the scholarly practitioner seem to be avoiding in favor of doctoral degrees in management studies, higher education administration, and instructional technology). LIS was not one of the fields selected for study by the CID (although I have suggested it to Lee Shulman as something he might consider), but I’d love to see our discussion of the limitations of formal LIS study for those of us in the field taken to the next level through a formal review such as that which the CID has afforded some of these other fields.

So, a “professional practice doctorate” for library leaders? What would it look like, and how would it differ from the current model for doctoral education in LIS? Do we have what Shulman calls a “signature pedagogy” (that’s a tricky one!)?

Change, Change, and More Change: LTF Proceedings Now Online

The Proceedings of the most recent Living the Future (LTF) conference at Arizona are now online. The presentations embrace a variety of important issues, but, like the recent Taiga Forum, the emphasis was on change – where is it coming from, how fast is it coming, and what can we do to help manage it effectively? I didn’t make it to Arizona this year, but comments from attendees are welcome.

Reflecting On ACRL’s Virtual Conference

Overall I would say the ACRL/CNI/EDUCAUSE Virtual Conference was a successful online event. Like every conference, the keynotes and presentations were somewhat uneven. However, the technology worked quite well and made for a fairly seamless learning experience. Here are some thoughts and suggestions:

This was a joint conference between three organizations. I would question what CNI and EDUCAUSE did to market this conference to their memberships. Did their members get the request for proposals? Were they invited to register? I ask this because most of the sessions were populated by librarians. I believe we had very few information technology, instructional technology, or other academic support professionals in attendance. Don’t get me wrong. I certainly love conferencing with my fellow academic librarians, but I think having colleagues from outside the library would improve the conference experience. We can certainly benefit from professional diversity.

If you’re going to attend a virtual conference, please invest in a microphone. At F2F conferences the norm is to sit quietly in the audience while the speakers do their thing. A virtual conference is intended to be more interactive. When the speakers do get to the Q&A part of the program it works much better when attendees can grab the mic and ask their questions or make a point. Sure, the direct messenging area allows for an ongoing conversation between the participants and the speakers, but there are times when using the VoIP capability of the conferencing software is far more powerful.

And speaking of speakers, this conference experience reinforces that first-time virtual presenters need advanced training and practice, especially in the development of slides and the use of the virtual presenting tools. In one of my sessions the presenter kept asking the moderator for technical support in using the software tools. When the presenter doesn’t have a good grasp of the presenting tools, the presentation suffers and there is less interactivity. Another presenter’s slides had multiple screenshots, and they could barely be seen. If you want to show a web site try to take the attendees on a web tour. Give them the real thing. I manage a number of webcast presentations for the Blended Librarians Community throughout the year, and we take every presenter through a minimum of one hour of training before the session, and we coach them on slide preparation and the use of the software tools. When there isn’t sufficient training the presentation suffers. If the presentations suffer, ACRL members and others will leave with a bad impression of virtual conferencing – and they won’t come back again. That would make me unhappy.

And if you’re participating in a virtual conference session and there’s a problem – you can’t make out what is on the slides, the audio is fading in and out, the polling buttons aren’t working for you, or whatever – please avoid using the direct messaging area (chat box) to send messages complaining about the problem. Believe me, if there’s a technical problem the speaker and the moderator know about it already – and if it’s something happening on just your end – there’s little the presenter or moderator can do to help. Flooding the chat with messages about technical or other problems doesn’t resolve them. It just makes the chat function useless to everyone else, and it’s incredibly distracting for the presenter. At the beginning of most sessions or webcasts the moderator will provide an email address or phone number to use for reporting technical problems. And if it’s a problem with the presenter’s slides, that’s unfortunate, but usually there’s nothing that can be done once the session starts.

If this seems like some sort of semi-rant against virtual conferences, that’s not the case. I applaud ACRL for sponsoring the virtual conference, and I can’t say enough about the poster sessions and roundtable discussions – both are great learning experiences and ways to connect with colleagues. I also got the impression that newer members of the profession outnumbered the veterans. In sessions I attended many folks referred to themselves as “next-gens”. Perhaps the virtual conference is more appealing, both in its application of technology and ease on the travel budget, to our newer colleagues. This made for great conference exchanges, but I would encourage more of the veterans to give virtual conferencing a try. And the great thing about the virtual conference is that I can go back and view the archives for sessions I couldn’t attend. This is only ACRL’s second big virtual conference, and I have no doubt that the next one will be even better.

Virtual Conferencing In Full Swing

It looks like there is a great turnout for the ACRL/CNI/EDUCAUSE joint virtual conference. Yesterday afternoon I led a session on Blended Librarianship with my colleague John Shank of Penn State University. I thought we’d have about 25 attendees. At one point we had 120 individuals in our virtual presentation area which is close to the record for any virtual program in which I’ve participated. Looking over the attendee profiles on the discussion board it looks like this is the first virtual conference for many of the participants. John and I have been big supporters of virtual conferencing since we began delivering workshops in the virtual environment.

In the afternoon I joined another heavily-attended session on an information literacy collaboration at Waterloo University by Laura Briggs and James Skidmore. Briggs is the librarian and Skidmore is a German professor. Although Waterloo does not have a curriculum wide information literacy initiative at this time, Briggs and Skidmore’s collaboration was a great example of how student research skills can be improved when faculty and librarians work together. The two showed good examples of how information literacy education was integrated into the course – primarily in the course’s ANGEL site – and their attempts to assess student learning about research skills. In some ways, the were disappointed that the students didn’t learn quite as much as they had hoped. Several attendees made good comments on the chat board about how difficult it is to teach these skills in a way that students are able to retain them (in this example the students had no direct instruction from the librarian but learned mostly from canned search examples). One consideration is that in this class of juniors, the librarian and faculty member may have had high expectations, but in the absence of a tiered, curriculum-wide information literacy initiative, can you really expect the students to internalize database specifics, the searching mechanics, and strategy techniques in a single course. It really needs to be developed over time. Information literacy, from my perspective, happens over the full four years of a student’s academic career. Still, this was a great example of librarian-faculty collaboration. I was impressed that Skidmore actually got involved with Briggs because he was concerned about the poor quality of his students’ research. We need more of this type of thinking and action from our faculty.

Today looks like a great schedule of events as well. I will hope to report on a few more programs – and I hope as well, that ACRL, CNI, and EDUCAUSE will make this a regular event. One improvement that we could use – there needs to be more faculty, information technologists, and other academic support professionals in attendance. Did CNI and EDUCAUSE promote this conference to their members? If not, ACRL needs to get them involved in promoting this event.

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Owing to circumstances beyond the control of the ACRLog blogging team, the last several days worth of posts were lost just yesterday. Our hosting service had a software failure that resulted in the loss of all posts from the last few days. Thanks to Bloglines, the content of the posts that were lost were available, and we did our best to rebuild the posts from this week. However, we could not restore the comments. We apologize if we lost your comment to a previous post. We welcome you to try to re-write the comment if time allows.