Keeping Up With Learning Technologists

On Thursday May 21, 2009 John Shank and I had the pleasure of co-hosting an important webcast event held by the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community. Josh Kim and Barbara Knauff, Senior Learning Technologists at Dartmouth College co-presented a webcast titled “Becoming an Educational Change Agent”. The presentation was based on an article Kim and Knauff published in EDUCAUSE Review titled “Business Cards for the Future” in which they discussed how the role of the instructional technologist had evolved over the previous decade and how it was evolving further into something new that they termed the “educational change agent”. What made the webcast significant is that it celebrated one of those rare occasions when academic librarians gathered to listen to and learn from their learning technologist colleagues. To be certain, many of us have occasional interactions with the learning technologists on our campuses, but far less frequently do we engage outside of the workplace to discuss our common issues, and learn how we can work together to help our faculty and students achieve academic success.

Back then, I would say that Kim, who is a Senior Learning Technologist at Dartmouth College in Hanover NH, was a relative unknown to academic librarians. As we head into 2010, that may no longer be the case. In his role as the learning technology blogger over at Inside Higher Ed, Kim is becoming more familiar to the academic library community, especially after two columns that raised some questions and controversies and got quite a bit of feedback and attention from the academic library community. While Kim took a few shots from commenters who might have thought we’d all be better off if Kim stuck to what he knows best, I have to praise him for stimulating some conversation between our two camps. If anything, Kim’s posts about academic libraries show how much we still have to learn about and from each other – and that there are great ideas to be shared.

Creating better communication among and collaboration between academic librarians and instructional technologists was one of the original motivations for the Blended Librarian concept. In the original article laying out the six principles of blended librarianship, number five speaks directly to this goal:

5. Implementing adaptive, creative, proactive, and innovative change in library instruction can be enhanced by communicating and collaborating with newly created instructional technology/design librarians and existing instructional designers and technologists.

In one of his posts Kim did his part to encourage his colleagues and other academic partners to do something that librarians have had little success with – getting our non-librarian colleagues to spend more time listening to our conversations and learning about our issues. Kim recommended a number of resources to follow for keeping up with academic librarians. I hope it will create some change and encourage more interaction between librarians and educational technologists. I thought I’d return the favor by sharing some resources I find useful for keeping up with learning technology, and encouraging academic librarians to follow them:

Educational Technology is a good filter blog for keeping alert to the latest developments in the field. It provides just a few headlines each day so it certainly doesn’t overwhelm. At times more of the posts are K-12 oriented, but even those items report good new technologies.

EdTechPost is perhaps a better example in that is more like the traditional commentary style blog with a mix of pointing to new resources and practices and sharing thoughts about them.

One of the better blogs for keeping up on the latest developments in learning technology, which more opinion making if you like that sort of think, is Stephen Downes’ OLDaily.

If you like the occasional post on how technology is impacting writing rhetoric take a look at Kairosnews. I’ve been following this one for years now and it’s helped to understand some issues our writing colleagues encounter.

Sure, Campus Technology is a more commercial publication, but it’s a good way to find our who’s doing what with technology at different college campuses. You may even learn about some new technologies coming to the campus.

What else? Too many to mention. I spoke with a few other learning technologists to find out what they use to keep up. What I found interesting is that many routinely follow resources that cross boundaries – not just educational technology blogs and newsletters. Most mentioned subscribing to a variety of RSS feeds from EDUCAUSE and you could start by following a few of their blogs. Others mentioned participating in webcasts by fellow instructional technologists, vendor webcasts and following #edtech group on Twitter. While there are still a number of valuable journals in the field, such as On The Horizon (I follow TOCs for a number of these), I get the sense that our learning technologist colleagues pay less attention to them.

I think Josh Kim’s posts do help to create better bonds between academic librarians and learning technologists – or to at least get us asking each other questions. When we do get together it’s a combination that is sure to contribute to the academic and research success of our faculty and students. I’m not sure whether this post will reach many learning technologists, but perhaps ACRLog readers can share it with their colleagues at their institutions, and ask them what resources they use for keeping up with learning technology. It could be a simple way to start the conversation. If you hear of any good resources, share them in a comment.

Chance To Influence Next Generation Higher Education Administrators

I was intrigued by this new initiative created by the folks at Inside Higher Ed and the Association for the Study of Higher Education. It allows anyone to submit a 1,000 word, well-researched and documented essay on any news story published by Inside Higher Ed. While some essays must be based on a set of pre-selected stories, others can be proposed by potential authors. Because the content is targeted to faculty and graduate students in higher education administration programs, as well as current higher education administrators, this seems like an excellent opportunity for academic librarians to share their perspective on library-related news stories and essays that appear in Inside Higher Ed. Doing so could help to influence and shape how future higher education administrators perceive the academic library.

All too often when these stories appear, be they informative or controversial, librarians engage in discussion among themselves on their discussion lists and twitter feeds, or they leave insightful comments to the stories, but rarely is there any organized follow up. In the end those who need to hear what we bring to the conversation most likely never have that opportunity. This new program changes that. Take for example two recent IHE articles, one a news item on “bookless libraries” and the other an essay on “Reviving the Academic Library“. Both generated considerable discussion in the library community, but who knows what message reached the academic administrators who decide on the library budget or whether or not to commit funds to a new library facility.

What do these essays look like? If you go to the detailed information page there is an example that provides a good picture of what’s expected. In addition to the essay authors should develop a set of questions that faculty could use to lead a discussion on the topic. Academic librarians should keep this new program in mind for the next time that Inside Higher Ed publishes an article or essay that could use a balanced and authoritative response from our profession. To not do so allows authors who may have an outdated interpretation or inaccurate understanding of the mission and operation of the contemporary academic library to unduly influence the thinking of academic administrators.