Friday, July 25, 2014

My First Keynote

“The library is a summons to scholarship.”
This Wednesday, I experienced a professional milestone: I co-presented a keynote presentation at the second annual PA Forward Information Literacy Summit, at Penn State, University Park, in State College, PA. 

My co-presenter was Ellysa Stern Cahoy, Education and Behavioral Sciences Librarian and Assistant Director Pennsylvania Center for the Book, at Penn State University Libraries. She and I both served on the planning committee for this one-day conference of about 100 attendees focusing on information literacy in Pennsylvania libraries and beyond. In fact, she was the one invited to deliver the keynote which would focus on the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Ellysa then reached out and invited me to co-present this keynote with her. She said the breakout session I delivered at last year’s Summit had an impact on her thinking re: how we frame information literacy with teaching faculty, and invited me to collaborate on the keynote presentation the Summit planning committee hoped to offer on the ACRL Framework. Needless to say, I enthusiastically accepted Ellysa’s invitation, marking this the first time in my professional life I have delivered a presentation contextualized and offered as a “keynote.” 


I am very proud of what Ellysa and I presented, and I wanted to share some of it here. Our presentation was titled, ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Implications for Practice, and the goal of the presentation was to interpret the latest draft of the Framework (June 2014) through the lens of our information literacy instructional practice. This meant of course providing an overview of the Framework: the process through which it is being developed as well as its structure and content. We then identified four implications for practice we identified in the Framework, where we each covered two. Finally, we offered brief remarks containing strategies for implementing the Framework in our libraries.


I want to share several things here from the presentation, both for posterity and because I like sharing my work so others may benefit (if any benefit is to be had). First, I’ll share a high and a low from my first experience of giving a keynote. Next, I’ll share some tweets from attendees who live tweeted the presentation. Then, I’ll embed the slide deck from the presentation. And finally, I will share the remarks I read for my portions of the presentation, which were to address two of the four implications for practice (“Collaboration with faculty across disciplines” and “Information literacy as a metaliteracy”) and the strategies for implementation we offered at the conclusion of the presentation. I was told the presentation was video recorded: if the video is posted and made publicly available, I will update this post to include it as well. 


UPDATE: Here is the link to the video of us delivering this keynote. The video contains both keynotes for the day, and ours was second, so skip to 1:11 for our presentation.

High: At one point while I was speaking, as I made a point related to collaboration with teaching faculty leading to a decreased reliance on the one-shot information literacy session, a librarian about my age near the front row of the auditorium broke into applause accompanied by an enthusiastic cheer. A few others caught her enthusiasm and applauded along for a brief moment. It was pretty rad, and definitely a first for me!


Low: Being asked for my business card during the break after the presentation, and having to respond that I didn’t have any (and in fact, have never carried business cards in my six years since beginning my professional career #professionalfail). I did, however, immediately email the librarian who asked, using my phone, from my work email address and containing my email signature, with an embarrassed apology for not carrying business cards, so I still made sure she got my contact information. This is something I’ll need to fix before my next major conference, which will hopefully be next spring (if one of my proposals is accepted for it…)


The presentation in tweets:


Conference hashtag: #PAFILS14




















Presentation slide deck:


ACRL's Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Implications for Practice from Donna Witek


My remarks on “Collaboration with faculty across disciplines”:

The second implication for practice we’d like to explore with you today is how the Framework enables collaboration with faculty across disciplines.

As a flexible Framework for teaching and learning information literacy, this document invites collaboration between librarians and teaching faculty in ways that the Information Literacy Standards did not. The Framework emphasizes the “vital role of collaboration and its potential for increasing student understanding of the processes of knowledge creation and scholarship" (Draft 2, June 2014, p.30). In fact, in the June 2014 draft of the Framework, collaboration is mentioned twenty-nine times in around as many pages, illustrating the extent to which it is prioritized.

One way the Framework enables collaboration is through the use of a threshold concept approach to information literacy. This approach not only encourages, but demands conversations with faculty around threshold concepts in order for these concepts to be effectively taught.

Threshold concepts by their very nature must be developed and mastered over time, since a student can approach the threshold for an important IL concept without actually crossing over. This approach toward understanding will occur in many courses, through many learning activities, and in multiple learning contexts, both inside and outside the academic classroom.

In order to successfully facilitate students’ approach toward, arrival at, and crossing over the threshold toward understanding and mastery of these important IL concepts, we librarians must reach out to teaching faculty and begin a conversation about what these concepts are, how they work in practice, and ways both librarians and traditional course instructors can design instruction to develop in students an understanding of these concepts.

The Framework describes this need for conversations around threshold concepts in the following way:


A vital benefit in using threshold concepts as one of the underpinnings for the new Framework is the potential for collaboration among disciplinary faculty, librarians, teaching and learning center staff, and others. Creating a community of conversations about this enlarged understanding should create conditions for more collaboration, more innovative course designs, more action research focused on information literacy, and a more inclusive consideration of learning within and beyond the classroom. (Draft 2, June 2014, p.26)


Once we initiate these conversations, the next goal we should be aiming for is the integration of information literacy throughout the curriculum.

For students to successfully develop understandings of these ‘big picture’ concepts for IL,  they need to engage in learning activities designed to develop these understandings in multiple learning contexts, throughout the curriculum and even outside it. A threshold concept approach to IL challenges our professional reliance on the ‘one-shot’ model of information literacy instructional programming. The Framework creates a need for deeper integration of information literacy into students’ courses and programs, such that students will be able to transfer information literacy knowledge, skills, and behaviors between contexts. This transfer of knowledge, skills, and behaviors is more likely to occur when students are instructed in them in a scaffolded manner throughout the curriculum, and our role as librarians is to facilitate this scaffolding. 

Dr. Troy Swanson, Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College and member of the Revision Task Force, connects threshold concepts to the integration of IL into the curriculum in the following way:


. . . these concepts open a point of conversation between faculty members and librarians. Since the new framework does not outline skills to teach, but, instead, thresholds of understanding and dispositions for action, librarians and faculty can explore how students develop as information literate learners within the curriculum. This is a move past the one-shot session toward more meaningful pedagogical exchange. (tinyurl.com/ILswanson, 20 Feb 2014)


If threshold concepts for information literacy are so complex that they must be integrated into the curriculum in order to be taught, an important but controversial question arises: In what ways can we share responsibility for information literacy instruction with our colleagues in other disciplines?

I am an advocate for embedding information literacy so deeply within courses that it is possible the librarian will no longer need to offer targeted instruction to those courses. This can occur through collaborative assignment and even course design at the level of student learning outcomes. It can also occur through an embedded library instruction model designed to, over time, ‘teach the teacher’ in how to teach the things historically allotted to the librarian alone. This model is not a good fit for all courses, particularly those with complex material in the content area of the course, but inviting course instructors to participate in your information literacy instruction as co-teacher can go a long way in decreasing the reliance of that course on you, the librarian, so you can then target other courses in which to do the same.

When deep collaboration occurs between librarians and teaching faculty, information literacy will be present in the course even when the librarian is not. The Framework provides for us the mindset, language, and rhetorical position from which to make the case to both teaching faculty and administrators that this kind of integration benefits students, both in their learning and in their formation into critically informed citizens and persons in society.

My remarks on “Information literacy as a metaliteracy”:

The final implication for practice we are offering today is the understanding within the Framework of information literacy as a metaliteracy.

The term metaliteracy was first introduced to the profession in 2011, when Tom Mackey and Trudi Jacobson published an article in College and Research Libraries called “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy.” They have since expanded and developed further their definition of metaliteracy, and understand it as
a comprehensive framework for information literacy that unifies related literacies to advance critical thinking and metacognitive learning. . . . [that] expands the scope of traditional information literate skills . . . to include the collaborative production and sharing of information in participatory digital environments . . . (Mackey and Jacobson, 2014, p.1)
It is worth taking a moment to unpack this definition of metaliteracy and relate it to our IL instructional practice. For our purposes today, the vital elements of metaliteracy that have been integrated into the Framework can be summarized as follows:
The environment and context in which learners engage with information has drastically changed since the Information Literacy Standards were developed in the year 2000,
which means learners are now information creators, curators, and sharers, in addition to the more traditional roles the Standards articulated.
This in turn now requires that learners develop greater and deeper metacognition related to their own information attitudes, behaviors and practices,
in order to constantly improve and strengthen their ability to thrive in this new environment.
By so doing, they develop into information literate learners.


The most recent draft of the Framework ties these ideas together when it says metaliteracy


“offers a renewed vision of information literacy as an overarching set of abilities in which students are both consumers and creators of information in multiple formats,”
“demands behavioral, affective, cognitive, and metacognitive engagement with the information ecosystem,”
and requires “critical self-reflection, as crucial to becoming more self-directed in that rapidly changing ecosystem” (Draft 2, June 2014, p.2).


So if the Framework conceives of information literacy as a metaliteracy, the question for our IL instructional practice is, What are the pedagogical opportunities that arise as a result?

One opportunity comes from the fact that information literacy is now situated in participatory digital environments such as social media and networking sites. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are shaping the way students encounter, understand, interpret, and use information in their everyday lives. When they attempt to conduct research in traditionally academic environments like databases and OPACs, one way to help students successfully transfer between the two is to make connections between these academic information environments and the participatory ones they are accustomed to. In what ways are the environments similar? In what ways do they differ? Can you build learning activities through which students can experience these similarities and differences first-hand, and then discuss (metacognitively) what they experienced, in the community of your classroom? How else can we use participatory digital environments as a lens through which to illuminate and facilitate the research process for and with students?

Because of the proliferation of these participatory digital environments, students are now knowledge creators. This is of course in addition to the traditional roles they have always filled in relation to information. But the power to click “publish” across the web has eliminated the barriers to knowledge creation that existed before. How can we harness this power in our IL classrooms, perhaps by utilizing platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and blogs as tools for knowledge creation? Can we empower students to contribute their voices to the discourses and conversations that matter to them, while yet developing in them a disposition toward responsibility that comes with this power? Might we also help students make connections between the academic work they produce for their courses and their role as creators of knowledge?

Metacognitive reflection not only can, but should be featured as a learning activity. By learning activity I mean in-class activities and assignments: two things librarians can influence in relation to information literacy instruction. Metacognitive reflection as learning activity can take many forms: blogging, tweeting (yes, tweeting offers an opportunity to metacognitively reflect on one’s thoughts and ideas, and the thoughts and ideas of others), in-class discussion (which could be either synchronous in-person discussion or asynchronous discussion taking place in online learning environments), or good old fashioned pen and paper responses to reflective prompts developed by you, the librarian, and designed so students must reflect on their own learning and research processes in order to respond. Metacognitive reflections like these will go a long way toward assessing whether a student has achieved understanding of the threshold concepts for IL, making them a valuable tool in our collective toolkit as we embark on putting the Framework into practice at our institutions.

My remarks on “Strategies for implementation” of the Framework:

We’d like to conclude with brief remarks on strategies for implementing the Framework at your institutions and in your information literacy programs.

Throughout academic year 2013-2014, my library colleagues at The University of Scranton and I have been fortunate to attend professional development opportunities related to the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. At one such event -- the Connecticut Information Literacy Conference -- the theme for the day was “Our New Frontier: Metaliteracy, Threshold Concepts, New Standards, and Other Wild Ideas.” In the closing panel, librarians from Trinity College in Hartford, CT, each presented ways they have used the Framework in its draft form to identify intersections between the Framework and work they are already doing in their information literacy program. In this way, at Trinity College the Framework served as a lens through which to understand in a new way the things they are already offering by way of information literacy instruction. I was struck at how respectful and, frankly, intelligent this approach to implementing the Framework is, in the earliest stages of implementation. Rather than feel pressured to overhaul an entire instruction program overnight -- or at least, before the old Standards are sunsetted by ACRL -- I am inspired by Trinity College to instead use the Framework as a new way to understand the things I’m already doing on both the individual and programmatic level in my library, and I encourage you to do the same.

Related to this first strategy for implementation is the second I’d like to offer: approaching the Framework as providing new language and concepts to communicate what you do and how you do it. Listening to librarians at Trinity College present about their Spring 2014 information literacy projects in instruction, outreach, and assessment, using the language and vocabulary of the Framework, was very impressive as a conference attendee -- especially since the conference was in June of this year, mere months after the first draft of the Framework had been shared with the profession by the Revision Task Force. But as impressed as I was, I also observed that what they had done was not so difficult that I couldn’t do the same if I put in the work of mapping the student learning outcomes I’ve been teaching for years to the frames that form the backbone of the Framework. Once mapped, an entire new set of terms and concepts would be at my fingertips, with which I could then communicate my information literacy instructional outcomes in my annual reports, my assessment reporting, my personal narrative for the purposes of peer evaluation and performance review, and any number of other channels through which we share what we do with others.

And finally, once these first two strategies are applied, the third is likely to follow: understanding the Framework as a process through which to transform the goals you set for your information literacy instruction and programs. I truly believe this Framework’s greatest impact will be on our own professional thinking in relation to information literacy instruction, pedagogy, and design, collectively as a profession and individually as information literacy instruction practitioners. As our thinking shifts, so will our programs and instruction. And in this way the Framework is poised to transform both our thinking and practice of information literacy in our libraries and institutions.

Thank you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Framework for Information Literacy Taking Shape

But...

I believe there is still room for improvement and greater refinement into a document of strength and clarity for and within the profession.

We're up to the second complete--and what the task force hopes is the near final--draft of the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, released for public comment one month ago. Today was the final day to submit formal feedback through the survey instrument provided by the task force, and in keeping with my past practice, I will share my responses to the survey questions at the end of this post.

Before I do, I want to point to recent posts by Jake Berg (here and here) and Lane Wilkinson (here), because they articulate a lot of things that have been on my mind these past months as I have wrestled with both threshold concept theory and its use within the Framework. Also, Lane's post contains a really useful list of links to many of the blog posts that critically engaged the Framework this past year, so his post is worth bookmarking for that purpose at the very least.

The main thing I disagree with both on is their continued concern about metaliteracy, since I believe integrating metaliteracy into the knowledge practices and dispositions throughout the frames was a strong move in this latest draft.*

I also remain unconvinced by arguments against information literacy (studies) as a sub-discipline of library and information science, though a recent Twitter conversation on this topic, and how this question relates to the Framework and the proposed threshold concepts within it, has gone a long way in helping me refine my understanding of the complexity of the question.

Otherwise, Lane's discussion of threshold concepts as simultaneously expert-defined and yet whose characterstics are "agent-relative properties," and Jake's unpacking of the new frame "Information has Value," are both working on my thought process in relation to the Framework in ways that are good and productive, if also at times frustrating and (dare I say it?) troublesome. I also share the concern about the opacity of the Delphi study methodology to initially identify candidates for information literacy threshold concepts that the task force considered for inclusion in the Framework. And similarly, I worry that the student-focused ("agent-relative") properties of threshold concepts beg the question: of what student are we speaking? Barbara Fister makes the point that "we need to bear in mind how these thresholds we define are cultural constructs and avoid assuming upper-middle-class white American experiences that might seem hostile or exclusionary to those who don't fit that assumed identity," to which I can only respond: Yes, we do.    

I'm sharing briefly about my response to these critical takes on the Framework because these concerns don't appear explicitly in my survey responses to the task force, though I do propose in the final bullet of the penultimate question of the survey a radical idea related to calling (or not) the main concept of each frame a "threshold concept" (read on to see what it is ;) ). The reason my broader concerns described above don't feature in my survey responses is mainly that I am still wrestling with my own understanding related to these concerns, such that I'm not ready to make a case in relation to them. I do believe they need to be stated though, and that we all need to engage them head-on and acknowledge the complexity of both the Framework and its varied reception among our colleagues in the profession.

And this is also why I am advocating for one more iteration of the Framework, including another draft released for public comment, before the task force submits the Framework to the ACRL Board of Directors for approval and adoption by our national professional organization. And I do make the case for this in my survey comments, which I will now copy below, bolding the parts I feel summarize my overarching concerns; I did offer quite a bit of feedback at the level of page and line number, which I don't expect you to wade through unless you choose to, so let the bolded text be your guide. Here they are:
How satisfied are you with the overall Framework? 
The Framework is a vast improvement over the linear, checklist approach to information literacy teaching and learning encouraged by the 2000 Standards document. The Framework is flexible, holistic, and adaptable, offering the “whys” of information literacy in order to contextualize the “whats” (skills, competencies, outcomes, etc.) we have been accustomed to working with these past 14 years. The Framework offers a much-needed wider perspective on the work we do as information literacy instructors, which is poised to enhance our pedagogy if we engage it and invite it to do so. 
That being said, I believe the Framework still has room to be refined as my comments below will communicate, such that my recommendation is that the Task Force make one more critical pass over/through it, and offer one more (hopefully final) draft for public comment, before submitting it to the ACRL Board for approval and adoption. I would like to see this final draft be as lean as possible, with all of the supplementary documents removed entirely, so we can read it as though it is in its final form. I do not think the length of time needed for one more iteration of the document will set the Task Force timeline back more than a few months, such that a final draft might be ready for the Board before ALA Midwinter.   
Momentum related to the Framework revisions should not halt; rather, I am advocating harnessing this momentum to make the document as strong as it can be, and one more draft for public comment I believe would accomplish this.  
If you have followed the development of the Framework through the previous draft, please tell us what changes you find most helpful. 
  • The new brief introduction is a vast improvement over the introduction to the last draft.
  • I’m glad the assignments and self-assessments have been removed from the frames.
  • I believe the deep integration of metaliteracy throughout the knowledge practices and dispositions offered in the frames, as well as in the revised definition of information literacy, is a strong improvement over the previous draft.
  • The adoption of the term “frame” to refer to each unit of the Framework is fantastic, and mitigates confusion surrounding the definition of “threshold concept” (more on this below).
  • “Searching as Exploration” is a good revision to the name of this frame, as is “Format as a Process,” though the latter frame could still stand to be critically examined and cleaned up some more in both meaning and the communication of that meaning. 
  • “Information has Value” as conceived is a worthy addition to the frames, though I feel the use of the word “value” in the concept’s name is at odds with the three dimensions of value described in the longer description of the concept (p.12). “Value” in the frame title invokes the idea of “values” (as in “our values as a profession”), and yet the three dimensions described are all inherently critical of the “value” being placed on information in each context (i.e., information as commodity, information production privileging some voices over others, and monetization of personal information/data online). To be clear, these dimensions *should* be critical in this regard--all of these dimensions of information are absolutely true, and need to be addressed in this Framework as you have done here--but the name of the concept communicates (to me) something much more positive than the longer description does. I’d be interested to see the Task Force think through the rhetoric of the name of this frame in relation to the whole, and determine if there is a better name for the concept that better captures the meaning communicated in the longer description. 
  • I am pleased with the glossary, and glad it is less than one page long while still covering the most important new terminology in the document. 
Does the “Suggestions on How to Use the Information Literacy Framework” section, in conjunction with the Frames, help you to engage other campus stakeholders in conversation? 
Yes, however, I believe this section does not belong in the final version of the Framework document, but rather in supplementary documents whose purpose is to assist the profession with implementing the Framework. The presence of “Suggestions on How to Use the Framework” will not be useful in four years’ time, when the document is in later stages of implementation at most schools. This section should not foreground the frames, which are the most important part of this document and thus should be presented to the reader with the leanest of context + the revised definition of information literacy offered beforehand, and as close to page 1 as you can manage. 
How might the Framework affect the way you work with students? 
The Framework will enable collaboration between me and students’ course instructors in a way that the Standards did not. This collaboration will result in deeper integration of information literacy into their courses and programs, such that students will be able to transfer information literacy knowledge, skills, and behaviors between contexts, because they will be instructed in them in a scaffolded manner throughout the curriculum. The Framework will give me the mindset, language, and rhetorical position from which to make the case to teaching faculty and administrators that this kind of integration benefits students, both in their learning and in their formation into critically informed citizens and persons in society.  
What one thing do you most want the Task Force members to know about the draft Framework? 
Apologies, but there is more than one thing, since this survey question is the “catch-all” for any other comments I have to offer. Here below are the considerations I’d like to offer the Task Force as my basis for recommending one more pass over/through the Framework, and releasing one more draft for public comment before submitting a final version to the Board. 
  • I think the Framework document would be stronger if the only sections included are: the brief introduction (including the revised definition of information literacy); the frames (don’t number them or title this section “The Six Frames” but rather “The Frames,” since it is possible new frames will be identified and developed by the profession over time); the glossary; and sources for further reading. *Everything else* is supplementary, and should be made available to all alongside the Framework--and in some cases (i.e., the introduction for faculty and administrators) cleaned up, focused, and revised significantly (this section needs input from faculty from many disciplines, and might perhaps become part of the work of the implementation task force your group is recommending that the Board appoint when your work is done)--but not as part of the Framework document itself. The leaner, and more nimble this document is, the easier it will be to implement. 
  • Along with the above, the non-frame sections need to be closely proofread by the Task Force (not a copy editor) so that the language, voice, and rhetoric of these sections is consistent with the backbone of the Framework--i.e., the frames. (For example, in the “Setting the Context” and introduction to faculty and administrators sections/appendices, there is reference to the sample assignments within each frame/threshold concept, when these have been removed.)
  • At the top of p.2 of the Introduction, the list of frames (lines 38-43) should be bulleted and not numbered, because the presence of numbers introduces to the reader a linear hierarchy into the frames which I do not think you intend.
  • Within the new definition of information literacy (p.2), a minor but important grammatical tweak I suggest is to change the first word of the second sentence (line 64) to “This” so it reads “This repertoire involves…” This edit will tie the second sentence of the definition more strongly back to the first, making it more cohesive overall. This definition is likely to be quoted and cited a *lot* after the Framework is adopted, so I’d like to see its formulation be as strong as it can be.
  • I’d like to see a clearer distinction made between the expression of knowledge practices and dispositions within each frame; more specifically, some blurring between the two is occurring because of the leading verb choices (i.e., at lines 167-168: “Recognize that they are often entering into the midst of a scholarly conversation…” “Recognize” is used elsewhere as a dispositional verb, but in this case it is categorized as a knowledge practice; another example at line 318: “Identify” is used as the lead verb of a dispositional statement when the act of identifying is more of a practice; and one more, though there are others, at line 362: “Are inclined to” is most certainly a dispositional verb construction, but here it is the lead verb of a knowledge practice). Part of the final pass over/through the document I’d like to see the Task Force do would include a very close look at the verb choices for knowledge practices and dispositions throughout, such that the final constructions of these statements are clearer in terms of their categorization as either a knowledge practice or a disposition.
  • Related to the last: I recommend cutting “(Abilities)” after every instance of “Knowledge Practices” as a heading. It is redundant and distracting, especially since the sentence that follows the heading includes the word “abilities” as well. 
  • I’d like to see included in the introduction even more explicit communication to the reader that the knowledge practices and dispositions included in the frames are *not* exhaustive nor comprehensive, that practitioners will likely identify additional knowledge practices and dispositions for each frame, and that this is not only okay but very much encouraged. 
  • The longer (non-bolded) descriptions for Scholarship is a Conversation and Research as Inquiry are the perfect length; as the reader continues through the frames, however, the longer descriptions (non-bolded prose for each frame) get longer and more unwieldy. These later passages (lines 229-250, lines 283-302, lines 329-352, lines 381-403) are in need of editing for clarity. As an experiment, I cut every sentence and parenthetical from these passages that either invoked a concrete, potentially dated example (the “for examples” and “such as’s”), or described the behaviors of the novice, and these sections became much tighter as a result. 
  • Re: describing novice behavior: since the frames are meant to describe the information literate learner, I do not think it is beneficial, and might even be a weakness, to spend so many words on novice behavior. I worry that by doing so, practitioners will become hyper aware of novice behavior in our students, which to me is a less than helpful awareness to have, as it tempts the practitioner (myself included) to draw attention to these behaviors *as* novice during instruction, to the students themselves, thus disempowering and alienating the very students we seek to instruct. 
  • In line 279, I suggest this edit: “Format refers to the manner in which tangible knowledge is disseminated.” This goes along with my recommendation that this entire frame be closely examined again for clarity of both meaning and communication of that meaning.
  • In line 324, I suggest this edit: “There is no one one size fits all way/path [you pick] to find the needed information.” The word “source” doesn’t encompass the act of search enough for this concept. Also, there is a typo in line 326: “pursuit” should be “pursue.” 
  • In line 369, I suggest the following edit: “Understand that first attempts at searching don’t always result in the information need being met.” I do not prefer the phrase “pay off” as it sounds transactionary. 
  • In line 378, I suggest that “In addition” be replaced with “Furthermore,” to once again tie the final sentence of this concept-definition more strongly to the previous sentence; “In addition” makes the last idea/sentence expressed feel like an afterthought, which it should not be.
  • In line 407, I suggest “in the United States” be replaced with “in their geographical context,” since we teach and support students studying in more contexts than just the United States.
  • In line 422, I suggest replacing the word “only” with “merely,” though I concede this suggestion is more stylistic than anything else.
  • Finally, though I am tentatively supportive of the formulation of the concepts in the frames having occurred through the theoretical lens of threshold concept theory--supportive mainly because this methodology has resulted in six frames that I do believe are key to what it means to be information literate--I am increasingly uncomfortable with threshold concept theory itself as a feature in this Framework. Threshold concepts (as theory) are simultaneously expert-defined yet characterized in relation to the learner, which makes them difficult to grasp, and will get very complicated to assess. I believe, though, that this is a weakness of threshold concept theory, not of the specific concepts developed for this Framework. As such, a radical move that would resolve this conflict might be to nod to threshold concept theory as influential to the development of the Framework in the introduction, and then *let the theory go* and just refer to the six frames as “information frames” or “information literacy frames,” since the goal of each frame is to *frame* (verb) the teacher’s and the learner’s approach to the research process. I am less and less convinced I will be referring to these frames as threshold concepts in my conversations with teaching faculty, which I know is my prerogative, but I thought I’d throw this idea out there, as a way to address the growing concerns I am observing in my colleagues about grasping what a threshold concept is.  
Please share any additional information that would help us in understanding your perspective on the proposed Framework. 
I am very excited about this new Framework, which should be evident by my participation in the revision process thus far as a member of the profession. And, you guys are doing amazing work. I hope you will consider my recommendations above, as one more pass over/through the document by your particular group (the Task Force) will refine the Framework in a way that no other group could, due to your history with the document.

*This seems like a good opportunity to plug the final publication version of my article, "Teaching metaliteracy: a new paradigm in action," co-authored with my research partner Teresa Grettano, and finally posted to the Reference Services Review website. An openly accessible post-print version is available as well.    

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Personal Encounters with Information Literacy


"Describing information literacy in terms of the varying ways in which it is experienced by people, that is their conceptions, is the alternative which I propose." --Christine Bruce, The Seven Faces of Information Literacy, 1997
 
Yesterday, the revised draft of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education was released to the profession for public comment. This draft comes after several months of extensive revision to the first draft of the Framework, released in two phases in February and April. I spent the afternoon yesterday reading the revised draft, which overall I am very excited about. There is a new survey instrument provided by the task force responsible for the Framework through which to offer feedback on this new draft, and as I did with the previous survey I plan to publicly blog my responses once I compose them. It's worth noting for now, though, that overall I am very happy with the structure and content of the new Framework in its revised form. I do have some more constructive feedback to offer the task force, but my overall positive first impression of the new draft is important to what I want to write about today.

In sum: I like it, unabashedly and unapologetically, but I hope critically as well.

Last night, at the end of my work day, I participated in the biweekly #critlib Twitter chat, which is an online conversation between librarians and other information professionals about the intersections between critical pedagogy and our work as librarians. One of the most valuable things I get out of these chats is being pushed by my peers (in a good way) to examine critically my own inherent biases, privilege, processes, and dispositions in relation to my work as an information literacy instruction librarian. And, because the new Framework has direct bearing on the instructional work we do, inevitably there was a convergence of the Framework and #critlib during yesterday's chat.

This made perfect sense, but also provided an opportunity for me to observe how we as information literacy professionals encounter information literacy documents, definitions, frameworks, and conceptions, and just how personal these encounters are.

I first noticed it in myself, in how I participated in the conversation begun by Emily's tweet here (click on the tweet's timestamp to see the entire threaded conversation):


As critical pedagogy urges, I took this experience as an opportunity to critically question and explore my own position in relation to the new Framework and the revision process as a whole, in order to unearth any biases I may have. When I did, I realized how integral my personal encounter with information literacy, as articulated first by the original Information Literacy Standards, is to my position, stance, and valuing of the new Framework. And, I suspect the same is the case for my colleagues in the profession who are grappling with this new Framework right along with me.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure (to myself if to no one else), I want to share my personal experience of encountering first the Standards and then the Framework, to better contextualize why I feel the way I do about the new Framework.

I began my first professional library position in March 2008, in an academic library, and as an instruction librarian. Like many others, I took one instruction-oriented course in my MLIS program, which I completed in 2007. The course was geared largely toward the K-12 school media certification track, though my instructor did encourage me to use the class to explore information literacy instruction on the college level. But, it was just one course, and while I think I may have utilized the Standards in it, there was no real context for understanding them at that time.

Once I began in my professional role, I finally did encounter the Standards in a thorough, contextualized manner, with the hope that they would guide my instructional practices, particularly as a newbie librarian. They did...to a point, but as my work in the classroom developed, it gradually became clear the ways in which the Standards fell short for the work I was doing with students to develop their information literacy practices and behaviors.

This is where the full disclosure comes in, but it is central to my point: through my collaboration and partnership with my colleague and friend Teresa Grettano, who works in the field of rhetoric and composition, I found the most transformational way to introduce students to information literacy concepts and even behaviors was by situating these concepts and behaviors on social media, in participatory information environments like those in which they encounter the majority of their information on a day to day basis. In this context, the Standards can only take us so far, and they quickly felt "in need of an update" -- a claim I made at my first professional conference presentation in 2010 with Teresa.

To fast forward a bit, in every presentation I gave between 2010 and 2012 (when I learned that ACRL had finally begun the revision process for the Standards), I stated that the Standards needed to be revised to account for the new information environment our students have grown up with as their only version of what "information" looks, feels, and behaves like.

I was not the only one saying this of course, which was a relief. This is one of the reasons that metaliteracy makes sense to me -- both as an educator and as an information user/seeker/researcher/producer within these environments myself; I am, technically, a millennial, so for the most part the information environment my students grew up in is also the one I only ever really "knew" as well.

But, and this is the crux of my point today: this is why I feel as though I may be perceived by my colleagues as a "champion" for the revision process. You see, I've been waiting for this revision for six years--of course I'm excited about it.

Does that necessarily assume that every detail of the revision, including the process as well as the content of the new Framework, will "get it right" on the first (or second, or third) try? Of course not. This is why critical engagement with the Framework drafts by the professional community is so exciting to me. I love observing my peers poke at all the holes they see (which sometimes I can't see myself, given my own unique context in relation to the Framework), because I learn so much from their doing so. In fact, it's the only way I've been successful at seeing things from a perspective other than my own -- by taking the risk of publicly sharing my own unique but (hopefully critical!) perspective, in the hopes that others will engage it with their own, and we both learn and refine our perpectives in the process.

During the #critlib discussion last night, the importance of my personal encounters with these two information literacy documents (the Standards and the Framework) finally hit me, hard: these encounters are inherent to my reception, interpretation, and enthusiasm in relation to the new Framework. They (my personal encounters) help construct my response to the Framework, which is really important to know as I engage in discussion about it.

And further, this knowledge helps me understand why librarians who have worked in the profession a lot longer than me, and who have built entire instruction programs around the Standards, are naturally going to have a different response than I. And this is good. It speaks to the diversity of the profession.

But my goal with this post was both to challenge myself to "own up" to the strong influence my personal encounters with these documents are having on my reception of the new Framework, and to invite my colleagues and peers to do the same.

I think these kinds of personal stories of information literacy begin by having more power than we perhaps realize or intend; then, once we acknowledge and critically examine them, that initial unintentionally conferred power is lessened greatly; but finally, through being acknowledged, I think these stories can have a new kind of strength we should be encouraging, rooted in the diversity they represent. Acknowledging them is the key. This post was my attempt to do just that.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Commencement

Today I participated in the commencement exercises for my Master of Arts in Theology from The University of Scranton. It was a beautiful day!


My husband was there in his full adacemic dress. He is so distinguished, and has been such a support to me as I completed my degree. I was so grateful he was present in all of his own academic glory to cheer me on.

#academicspouses

Also in attendance were my mom, my in-laws, my friend Teresa, and of course my Bookie. Twice during the ceremony speakers recognized the spouses, children, parents, and families of the graduates, as integral to our success in our graduate studies. The graduates were also given an opportunity to recognize our families through a round of applause. This meant a lot to me, that my new alma mater understands that our education is so dependent on the communities of which we find ourselves a part, including and especially our families.

From the program; image by @uofslibrary

The president of the university at one point declared us all "sons and daughters of the university forever." This, again, meant a lot to me, since I already serve this university as a member of the faculty, and now I can call it my forever-home as a student as well.



Paul, Bookie and I posed for a photo outside the Chapel of the Sacred Heart on our campus, which is the exact spot where Paul and I first met in person in December 2010. My, how far we've come in just three and a half years. God has blessed us immensely.



One speaker during the ceremony noted that "commencement" means beginning, and that this moment signifies the beginning of the part of our professional lives to be animated by our graduate study. I like this, as I am now a librarian who has the degree of Master of Arts in Theology, and this is a subtle but important difference from the librarian I was before I completed my course of study.

I guess it's time to commence this next phase of my professional life, with all of the responsibility it entails. May God bless it.