2015 Conference Season – Advice for Digital Immigrants

by Doug Bowen-Bailey
Doug Bowen-Bailey headshot wearing CIT shirt
CIT Webmaster
webmaster@cit-asl.org

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National Symposium on Healthcare InterpretingIt’s summer in Minnesota which is conference season.  June began with the National Symposium on Healthcare Interpreting hosted by the CATIE Center at St. Catherine University.  I had the privilege of attending and was a part of a team that expanded the impact of the conference by blogging about the presentations.  I joined with two other CIT members, Karen Malcolm and Judy Shepherd-Kegl, to report on the different workshops and provide some reflections.
June continued on with more workshops.  The NCIEC hosted the Deaf Interpreter Workshop at St. Catherine University and that was followed up by the ASLTA conference.  (Look for more insight on those conferences from President Leslie Greer in her column.)
While I have been someone who has worked to support online education in many realms – and find value in the flexibility it provides – this face to face interaction reinforced for me how important it is to at times be in the same physical space.  There is something about being in the same room that inspires me to think more critically about important issues.
For me, I have to say the spark was hearing Robyn Dean talk about the research and analysis that has gone into her dissertation.  She has some very interesting things to say about how our field has struggled in teaching ethical decision-making.  (View my blog post on her presentation here.)
What I found most provocative in her presentation was the notion that interpreters have relied too much on metaphors for our discussions of role and responsibilities.  (She argues that the conduit metaphor has become the normative model – even if we as a profession feel that we have moved beyond that.)  However, she also suggests that the metaphors of being “allies” and “members of the team” are also problematic.  While metaphors might be useful tools for explanation, they are not intended for or helpful as guidance for ethical action.
As someone who has been a proponent of both of these metaphors (depending on the context), her comments gave me reason go think more deeply.  Part of what I have been struggling with is reconciling my understudying of institutional discrimination that goes along with organizations and institutions desire for justice.  Dean cites a Rawlsian framework which posits that social institutions were founded and based in justice.  My experience in working is that along with this striving for justice, there can be institutional barriers to people for whom the institutions weren’t originally created.
So, I am trying to work out how to synthesize these different conceptsand it means looking at some of the challenges that we have as interpreter educators.   Dean conducted her research using the Defining Issues Test, an assessment of moral development that was created by James Rest. On this standardized test, her study sample (a cohort of 25 sign language interpreters) scored significantly lower than others of their age and education levels.  (And the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct review committee just issued its report.  One of the few things that seemed to be definitive in the report was the “disunity” in our profession’s perspective on the CPC.) Clearly, something has to be changed in our profession.
I am about half way through reading a draft of her 271 page thesis, so I want to be careful not to distort or oversimplify her arguments. (I also checked with her about this column, and she reported that she successfully defended her dissertation which should be published soon.)   But I am so grateful that I had the chance to attend the symposium and her presentations.  Getting the information live inspired me in a way that I don’t often find when I am learning online or reading a text.  So, I am grateful for the opportunity at the symposium.
In August, the RID Conference will be happening in New Orleans – and the plans are underway for the 2016 CIT conference in Lexington, KY.  So, from someone who is a big advocate of digital learning opportunities, I hope you’ll find ways to get out there for the face-to-face learning experiences that just can’t be duplicated online.
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