Hi Janet,

I require the advanced cataloging students to monitor the digests,  
but I do not use AUTOCAT for any of their assignments. They are not  
required to participate on the list in any way. In fact, I stress  
that they should be observers to get an understanding of the  
questions that catalogers might ask. The point is for them to take  
this experience back into the classroom for discussion.

While I mention AUTOCAT in the core Information Organization course,  
I do not ask the intro students to subscribe to the list. I will  
sometimes give the students a handout with a few messages on it from  
an interesting thread in order to start a discussion (where to  
classify Dinosaurs By Design, for example). Generally, I want to keep  
the intro students off the list altogether for a couple of reasons:  
1) I don't want them pestering the list denizens with simple  
questions,  2) if they have questions, I want them to be asked in the  
classroom, and 3) sometimes discussions can confuse students rather  
than enlighten them (I want them to master the broad concepts before  
delving into the minutiae and the mechanics).

Daniel N. Joudrey, PhD
Assistant Professor
GSLIS, Simmons College
300 The Fenway
Boston, MA 02115

On Nov 28, 2007, at 03:28 pm, Janet Hill wrote:

> Dear cataloging teachers,
> I'm interested in hearing from you about your use and perception of  
> student
> participation on professional discussion lists.
> From time to time students post to discussion lists, usually asking  
> for
> help.  In my experience, listmembers tend to be helpful and civil  
> in their
> answers, often going out of their way to provide information or  
> opinion.  I
> suspect that for the most part, listmembers on professional  
> discussion lists
> welcome student participation.  From time to time, however, a message
> appears that may give us pause.  For example, a message was posted to
> AUTOCAT recently, saying "I am a student and I am having problems
> understanding what MARC records are. Could you please explain them  
> to me?"
> (a direct quote of the entire content of the message ... minus the
> signature).
> I responded as follows:
> ______
> "My apologies if this response sounds a little snippy.  It's not  
> intended to
> be.  First, I have to assume that you are a student in an LIS program.
> Secondly, since you are on AUTOCAT, I am assuming that you are in a  
> class on
> cataloging, or on the organization of information.
> If those two things are true, then the first person to ask is your
> professor, because if your professor has not succeeded in making it  
> clear
> what a MARC record is, s/he needs to know.  Chances are good that  
> you are
> not the only person in the class who is confused.
> Sometimes people who are well acquainted with some arcane field of  
> knowledge
> get so comfortable with it that they forget how mysterious it all  
> was to
> them once, and that THEY had to have it explained to them in clear  
> language
> and little bits.  And so they forget to explain it to others, or they
> explain it in a way that is not at all clear.
> I understand that it is difficult to speak up in a class to say that
> something isn't clear (and it's difficult even to make an  
> appointment to
> speak to a professor privately), and that this is true whether the  
> class is
> virtual or physical.  But if you don't speak up, you encourage a  
> pattern of
> insufficient explanation begin given and accepted, and you don't  
> give the
> professor any indication that s/he needs to alter her/his  
> approach.  And the
> upshot is that you will not get what you need from the class."
> ______
> Others tried their best actually to answer the question.  Within  
> the space
> of a few days AUTOCAT received a few other questions from students,  
> asking
> about things that seemed terribly open-ended or basic.   And I can  
> recall
> other instances in which students have posted questions that were  
> incredibly
> general, and thus not really susceptible to being answered.    
> Normally, I
> try to be helpful, and try to answer questions posed, if I can, but  
> this one
> message really concerned me.  Was the student not getting adequate
> instruction?  Was the student not communicating with the professor  
> about
> things that confused her/him?  Was this just an example of naivte  
> (thinking
> that it was in fact a reasonable and intelligent question)?  Was  
> the student
> simply fulfilling a class assignment to "ask something?"  Was the  
> student
> trying to use AUTOCAT members as a substitute for the education s/ 
> he was
> PAYING for?  Did it occur to the student that the answer s/he might  
> get
> might not actually be accurate/correct/complete/unbiased?
> So here's what I'm interested in hearing about:
> How do you use AUTOCAT or similar discussion lists in your  
> classes?  Do you
> suggest or require students to subscribe to some such list?  Do you  
> send
> them there with a particular assignment (such as, ask a question;  
> respond to
> a thread, etc.)?  What do you hope/expect students to get out of their
> participation? Do you give them any introductory information about
> formulating messages or participating?  What do you hope that regular
> listmembers will do (or not do) in answering student questions? Do you
> monitor the lists that students join, so as to "keep tabs" on their
> activity?
> 	janet
> Janet Swan Hill, Professor
> Associate Director for Technical Services
> University of Colorado Libraries, CB184
> Boulder, CO 80309
> [log in to unmask]
>      *****
> Tradition is the handing-on of Fire, and not the worship of Ashes.
> - Gustav Mahler