I’m looking forward to this conference, and to welcoming any colleagues in town. If you are coming, let me know!
March 5 -9, 2012
Austin, TexasCall for Participation
Proposals Due: October 21, 2011
While a lot of us embrace openness, there have been more and more discussion about its virtues in recent months. For instance, Frances Bell, Cristina da Costa, Josie Fraser, Richard Hall and Helen Keegan are discussing this issue during ALT-C 2011 in a symposium entitled The Paradox of Openness, Richard Hall has been contemplating this topic for a while, David Wiley has been thinking about the issue, and I have collected a few critiques in July 2010 when the topic started surfacing in the circles that I was following.
This is not to say that openness is inherently negative or positive: While early adopters have demonstrated the benefits of openness, these critiques help us be mindful about the future that we are creating, and help us develop tools, frameworks, and systems that enable democratic spaces and participation.
To that end, and extending the participatory scholarship work I started last year, Royce Kimmons and I will be moderating the following “Questioning our assumptions” session during the Open Education 2011 conference. The session focuses on openness in digital scholarship, but the arguments apply to openness overall:
Title: Does researcher participation in online networks democratize knowledge production and dissemination?
Description: An assumption of the open scholarship movement is that by participating in online networks, scholars can democratize knowledge production and dissemination. This feat is accomplished through openly sharing, reflecting, critiquing, improving, validating, and furthering their scholarship via publicly-availably online venues (e.g., blogs, Twitter, etc). To participate productively in online scholarly networks, however, scholars not only need to understand the participatory nature of the web, they also need to develop the social and digital literacies and skills essential to effective engagement with the open scholarship commons. Lack of digital literacies leads to a participation gap (cf. Jenkins et al., 2006), which, in the context of scholars, refers to those scholars who participate in networked spaces and are able to take advantage of digital literacies to advance their career vis-à-vis those who have had no exposure to participatory cultures or who do not have the essential literacies to engage in such activities online.
Understanding participatory cultures, developing digital literacies, and participating in online scholarly networks, however, does not necessarily mean that scholars will become equal participants in online spaces. Social stratification and exclusion in online environments and networks is possible. Indulging in idealized notions of participation and sharing may be misguided because interaction and collaboration may not be the norm across all individuals or scholarly subcultures. As Chander and Sunder (2004, p. 1332) point out while discussing what they term the romance of the public domain, “[c]ontemporary scholarship extolling the public domain presumes a landscape where each person can reap the riches found in the commons … [b]ut, in practice, differing circumstances – including knowledge, wealth, power, and ability – render some better able than others to exploit a commons.” Thus, in the case of open scholarship, issues surrounding the accessibility and use of scholarly networks by diverse audiences will arise and should be a matter of concern for participants when considering who profits from their collaborative work.
At the moment, the open scholarship movement largely reflects the values of the early adopters who already engage with it and includes notions of openness, sharing, and social-collaborative research. As with those in any community, scholars engaging in the open scholarship commons are susceptible to the risks of making decisions about the future of their community which may be arbitrary, prejudiced, or otherwise harmful to the community’s well-being. Thus, scholars should be vigilant and reflective of open scholarly practices as such practices continue to emerge and develop. Such vigilance should focus both on determining who profits from such practices and who is excluded from them, so as to combat both under-use by some (i.e. those lacking entry to or knowledge of useful networks) and over-use or exploitation by those with the wealth, power, and prestige necessary to effectively strip mine sources. While solutions to these problems may not be simple, we need to acknowledge, discuss, and act upon these issues proactively rather than retrospectively.
When creating pedagogical agents for use in online learning environments, designers face numerous challenges. These range from technological (e.g., How do I ensure proper lip-synching when speech is generated in real-time?) to pedagogical (e.g., How do I ensure that the agent provides scaffolding that is appropriate to the students’ needs at a given point in time?) to social (e.g., How can I develop an agent that is sensitive to students’ varying social needs?). While designers deal with these questions frequently and decide on what we deem to be the best approaches to tackle them, we don’t often share the our design thinking with others.
My colleagues and I (Gulz, Haake, Silvervarg, Sjoden, Veletsianos), have just published a book chapter that deals with this issue. In this chapter we discuss design challenges we faced when developing a pedagogical agent, and the steps we took, and decisions we made to tackle those challenges. The challenges we discuss are the following:
- how do we manage learners’ expectations of the agent’s knowledge and social profile,
- how do we deal with learners’ who engage in off-task conversations with an agent, and
- how do we manage abusive comments directed to the agent?
These issues were observed in studies that both Agneta Gulz and myself have independently conducted in the past, and sharing our design thinking with the community sounded like a great idea – hence the publication. A copy of this publication (1.7MB pdf) is provided below:
Gulz, A., Haake, M., Silvervarg, A., Sjoden, B., & Veletsianos, G. (2011). Building a Social Conversational Pedagogical Agent: Design Challenges and Methodological approaches. In Perez-Marin, D., & I. Pascual-Nieto (Eds.), Conversational Agents and Natural Language Interaction: Techniques and Effective Practices (pp. 128-155). IGI Global.
As always, I’d love to hear your input!
In April, Pearson released a report entitled “Teaching, Learning, and Sharing: How Today’s Higher Education Facutly Use Social Media.” There’s increasing attention being paid to how faculty use social media sites and the report provides evidence and insight into how faculty use such sites (e.g., YouTube and Facebook being the most popular sited for academics). Additionally, survey results from 1,921 respondents indicated that “over 90% of all faculty are using social media on courses they’re teaching or for their professional careers outside of the classroom.” This is impressive.
But what does “using social media” mean? We know that instructors use technology, but how and why are they using social media, and, more importantly, are they using social media in a fashion that aligns with the philosophies behind social media? For instance, are they using social media to democratize the educational process? Are they using social media to embrace diversity of opinion? Are they using social media to connect to individuals who are outside of the classroom?
Or, are social media co-opted and used in familiar ways, and in the process, being stripped of their social media affordances? For instance, there’s multiple ways one could use YouTube. Let’s say that a faculty member is discussing Cognitive Load theory. S/he scours YouTube for a video clip relevant to the topic and comes across the following lecture:
There’s multiple ways that one could use this artifact, that could be categorized under “using social media in teaching.” Here’s two fictitious (and quite different) examples to demonstrate that not all “use” is equal:
- You show the video as a way to start class. In your mind, showing the video might get students excited about the topic.
- In semester 1, you ask students to watch the movie and evaluate the arguments presented. You ask them to create videos presenting evidence against the theory and to post them on YouTube as a response to the original. You then invite colleagues to respond to those videos, in an attempt to extend the conversation beyond class. In semester 2, you ask your new students to watch the original video and the responses, and create counter-arguments posted as videos on YouTube. Again, you ask colleagues to contribute and extend the conversations (and you ask students to reciprocate).
There’s a multitude of ways that technologies can be used in class. And while the optimist in me knows that good instructors capitalize on the opportunities provided by technology to empower their pedagogy, the pessimist in me also knows that technology adapts to fit familiar practices.