As part of my research on digital scholarship and the experiences/practices of scholars in online networks, I am working with the Texas Advanced Computing Center and the newly-established Visualization Lab at the College of Education to understand learner and scholar participation patterns on the social web. Below is our first visualization, which shows interactions between three types of users who are contributing to a hashtag (red, blue, green). It’s a directed graph, with nodes representing users, and edges representing interactions between users. The thickness of the edge represents # of interactions (thick = more interactions). When nodes of a different color interact with each other, the edges take the color of the two node (e.g., when a blue node interacts with a red node, the edge is purple). What does this visualization tell us?
We are still trying to make sense of this, and we are slowly learning from the tutorials that Tony Hirst has created. This is what (i think) this says: First of all, we know that the majority of the people contributing to this hashtag are not having a conversation with each other (#nodes making up the dataset are 3 times the group shown above – this is not shown on the graph). Second, it looks likes there’s a few “central” folk through which conversations occur. Finally, even though interactions happen between red and blue nodes, it looks like the majority of the interaction is happening within those two groups. And that’s important in this situation because one of our hypothesis was that the red group was joining this community to interact with the blue group (if that was the case, we would be seeing more purple in the image above). We definitely need additional ways to evaluate some of these statements, but that’s what it “looks like” from the image above. And here’s where I think data visualizations start becoming really valuable: You can quickly see patterns and ask questions, and continue from there. We have some ideas and hypotheses, but we also want to let the data bring up phenomena that we haven’t thought about. I don’t yet feel confident that I fully understand what I am seeing here, but I am quickly learning a lot! So my question to you is: how would you interpret this? What questions do you have of what you are seeing here?
If you are trying to explain to colleagues why networks are important, why an understanding of participatory cultures is important, and why education should concern itself with social media and network literacies, then look no further than the success that the good people over at #ds106 had in raising funds through Kickstarter to support their project. Within a day they reached their goal and raised more than $4,500. Huge congratulations to everyone involved!
At the same time this is an opportunity to discuss notions of power and social capital. Can everyone do this? How many projects don’t reach their goal every day? This is not a shot at #ds106 or the people involved: #ds106 is an amazing project with a creative and passionate team of people and they deserve all the accolades they can get! Put in other words, will people read and comment on your blog just because you have one? Will people support your kickstarter project, just because you have one? What do educators, researchers, scholars and students need to know about social media and networks so that their tweets, facebook updates, and linkein profiles are not lost in a desert of digital sand?
Imagine being a student at a small university whose library does not have the funds to subscribe to a journal that you need for your final paper. What do you do?
Imagine being a faculty member and you come across a very promising paper relevant to your work, but you can’t access it because there’s a 6-month lag between the time a paper is published and the time it becomes available at your library. What do you do?
A standard approach is to search Google or Google Scholar for the article, as a number of us self-archive our publications as soon as they become available. Another option is to email an author directly and ask for a copy of the paper. I find that most are not only willing, but excited to share their work and talk about it. I love sharing my research and I truly enjoy talking about it, so I’d be delighted to share it with anyone who lacked access but needed it. I believe this falls under fair use licensing.
Through my research on the practices of digital scholars (i.e. individuals who use emerging technologies for purposes relating to networked participatory scholarship) I have discovered another way that individuals use to access scholarship that they need. If you take a look at the image above, you will see that individuals employ digital tools that we use in our day-to-day lives (a forum) to circumvent obstacles that prevent them from doing their work. In particular, individuals request articles that they do not have access to, and those who have access respond with a copy of the article. What you see here is the creative use of networked technologies to enable practice and success. And it does not just happen in open forums like the one above, but I’ve also seen it occur on Facebook and Twitter. Interestingly enough, in one situation, the author was requesting access to an article s/he wrote because the publisher (!) did not provide him/her with a final copy of the paper. We can debate the moral and ethical dimensions of this activity, but to me this practice highlights ideas relating to empowerment, networked skills, digital participation, reciprocity, and participatory cultures as they pertain to scholars’ digital practices. [Update 11/26/2012: In addition to the platform above, other spaces where exchanges happen are: The pirate university http://www.pirateuniversity.org/ and #IcanHazPDF on Twitter. Andy Coverdale has also discussed this topic.]
Such practices aren’t foreign to teachers, as they are akin to using proxies or usb keys to bypass school filters. For example, here’s a video by Alec Couros that demonstrates this activity:
With SITE 2012, SXSWedu 2012, and SXSW 2012 all happening within the span of two weeks, we’ve been keeping quite busy around here. Though these conferences provide lots of opportunities for discussion with colleagues, they also allow us the chance to introduce our students to the burgeoning nature of our field.
Last week, I had the great pleasure of hosting Audrey Watters in my class. Audrey is an education technology journalist and open education advocate that was described by Stephen Downes as “one of the best things to come along in education technology in 2011.” She spoke to my class about educational technology start-ups, educational technology entrepreneurship, and the business world’s recent fascination with our field. These are topics that are at the forefront of our field at present, but are largely missing from our field’s curricula. Thus, Audrey’s visit was of great interest. Our discussion continued beyond the end of the class, and if you haven’t met Audrey yet, you should! She’s knowledgeable, passionate, and says it how it is. Our field needs more Audreys, more people who aren’t distracted by the shiny technologies and their promises, and who are good at analyzing trends and the changes facing education. Audrey’s talk focused on “How Hating Blackboard Hurts Ed-Tech Entrepreneurship”:
Description: The “I hate Blackboard” Facebook group has tens of thousands of members, reflecting no doubt a fairly common sentiment among students and teachers alike regarding the learning management system giant. It’s not surprising then to see a string of competitors arise to challenge it. But how does the focus on Blackboard — on its failures to make its customers happy — skew the way entrepreneurs (and just as importantly, perhaps, investors) think about ed-tech? By focusing on improving the LMS, are we trying to “fix” the wrong problem? What are some of the opportunities for ed-tech startups that aren’t getting enough attention because we focus so much on this one particular company and on the LMS industry?
Austin hosted SITE 2012 last week, which, in addition to providing a great opportunity to see friends and colleagues, it allowed us to share our most recent work on Adventure Learning. In this recent reformulation of the approach, we discuss what learned from five small-scale projects, and how those lessons have helped us refine the approach for small projects in which the students are tasked with being the explorers:
George Veletsianos, University of Texas at Austin, USA
Brant Miller, University of Idaho, USA
Karla Bradley Eitel, University of Idaho, USA
Jan U.H. Eitel, University of Idaho, USA
R. Justin Hougham, University of Idaho, USA
Abstract: Adventure Learning (AL) is an approach to education that aims to engage learners in hybrid learning experiences that bring content alive through meaningful connections to place and personal lives. In this paper, we present and discuss five small-scale AL projects enacted at Texas and Idaho that have informed our understanding of how the AL approach can be conceptualized and used within a variety of formal and informal learning contexts. Through the diverse and varied AL projects described in this paper, we have learned invaluable lessons that will inform future work and inspire possibilities for using AL in additional venues.