Category: online learning
Reddit is one of the communities that I follow for professional and personal purposes. For professional purposes specifically, it serves as a site for my online ethnography on networked participatory scholarship and digital scholarship. As part of that work, I am trying to make sense of the meaning of open digital participation for learning, teaching, scholarship, and education. One of the most informative and enjoyable aspects of Reddit is the IAmA subreddit in which individuals with interesting stories answer user questions. For example, one individual shared intimate details of his/her work and experiences with for-profit education, and another discusses teaching high school science and the misconceptions surrounding the teaching profession. The other day, Salman Khan (of Khan Academy) answered questions on the site, and I thought some of you might be interested in reading the Q&A, not just for Khan’s answers but also for the types of questions that were being asked. Though my vision of education differs from Khan’s vision of education, I appreciate that numerous students and teachers have found value in his efforts and I welcome any initiative that opens up conversations about what the future of education should look like. In any event, here is the Q&A with Salman Khan.
* Reddit logo courtesy of Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Reddit_logo.svg
I have just had an article published with the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, entitled Higher education scholars’ participation and practices on Twitter. The paper focuses on a qualitative analysis of 45 scholars’ (anonymized and edited) tweets to acquire a deep meaning of practice, and is part of my research into Networked Participatory Scholarship. Those of you interested in how faculty members use social media, the relationship between social media and identity, digital scholarship, scholarly use of online networks, and the rise of the digital scholar, may find this worthwhile.
Citation and link to pdf: Veletsianos, G. (2012). Higher Education Scholars’ Participation and Practices on Twitter. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(4), 336-349.
If you have been participating on Twitter for a while, some of the findings won’t be surprising, but the paper can serve as a starting point for deeper conversations on the why and how social media is used by scholars, academics, and faculty members. Nonetheless, interesting implications to point out include the following:
“Even though social networking technologies in general were developed for purposes unrelated to education, they have been co-opted and repurposed by scholars, in part, to satisfy educational and scholarly pursuits.”
“Is Twitter fostering more social opportunities and community-oriented approaches to education and scholarly participation? Or, do the individuals who espouse these kinds of beliefs happen to make use of Twitter for scholarly pursuits?”
“Are scholars altruistically sharing information for the benefit of the community in which they belong? Or, is information sharing a self-serving activity? Are scholars sharing information in order to assist the profession grow intellectually, or are they attempting to develop a ‘brand’ around themselves?”
“Twitter is often dismissed as a platform of meaningless soliloquies and dull updates…Rather than representing meaningless chatter, [Twitter] updates may introduce opportunities to explore shared interests, experiences, goals, mindsets, and life dispositions/aspirations.”
The themes relating to participation and practices highlighted in the paper are the following: Scholars participating on Twitter (1) shared information, resources, and media relating to their professional practice; (2) shared information about their classroom and their students; (3) requested assistance from and offered suggestions to others; (4) engaged in social commentary; (5) engaged in digital identity and impression management; (6) sought to network and make connections with others; and (7) highlighted their participation in online networks other than Twitter.
Enjoy, and if you have any input, I would love to hear it!
I just came across Nancy White’s discussion of her contribution to the 2011-2012 Change MOOC organized by George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier (through Stephen’s announcement). Draft schedule here. I thought that Nancy’s description of her session sounded wonderful – so wonderful actually, that I wish that we had all shared our session descriptions with each other prior to designing them so as to create more synergies between the weekly sessions. There’s always room for re-design however, and I’m sure the #change11 organizers wouldn’t mind (smile)!
I am sharing my session description below, and even though I have tried to draw links to other sessions, you will see that task #2 is asking participants to make connections to other parts of the course in a very specific and personal way.
I would love to hear any input that you may have about this!
Scholars’ online participation and practices (April 30-May 6, 2012)
George Veletsianos, Instructional Technology – University of Texas at Austin
Within the openness movement, we have seen increasing calls for scholars and educators to employ open digital practices. For instance, enthusiasts argue that networked technologies such as blogs, social networking sites, microblogging fora, and other emerging social media can help democratize knowledge production and dissemination. During this week, we will explore how academics co-opt and appropriate technology in their day-to-day professional lives, with specific emphasis on social networking technologies. We will discuss faculty members’ experiences and practices when they adopt online social networks (e.g., Twitter) and online scholarly networks (e.g., Academia.edu) for professional purposes, and investigate whether their online participation is (re)defining academic work (i.e. teaching and research).
My work in this domain has started with a desire to understand faculty member’s digital practices. Professor Weller’s research (2011), which was also presented in this MOOC, has set the foundations for this investigation. Thus, the digital scholarship movement influences and informs my work. In this context, I have studied the relationship between scholarly practice and participatory technologies, and sought to understand (a) what faculty members’ do in online social networks, (b) what their experiences in these networks are like, and (c) what issues and pitfalls we might face when suggesting the use of social media for faculty members’ professional practice. This is an important topic of study because (a) digital scholarship is gaining increasing interest, and (b) a large percentage of higher education faculty have adopted, are considering the use of), or have rejected social networking technologies for professional practice, Importantly, the field is in dire need of empirical data to be in a position to critically evaluate claims with regards to the benefits that social technologies might afford academic practice (i.e. teaching and research).
During this particular week, we will consider whether the rise of online social networking within academic circles is a result of technological or cultural shifts, and investigate the purposes, goals, and pitfalls of networked participation. For instance, we will ask: What are academics doing in online public spaces? What are their intentions and what are their fears? Are faculty members’ altruistically sharing information on social media for the benefit of the community in which they belong? Or, is information-sharing a self-serving activity? Are academics sharing information in order to assist the profession grow intellectually, or are they attempting to develop a “brand” around themselves? Are we seeing the rise of the “public scholar” or the rise of the “celebrity scholar?” A critical evaluation of academics’ participation in digital spaces matters because an understanding of these reasons will allow us to gain a better sense of how and why online social networks are used in the ways that they are. Whether we recognize it or not, we are part of a complex techno-cultural system that is ever changing in response to both internal and external stimuli, including technological innovations and dominant cultural values. An understanding of the cotemporary forces that shape academic work is necessary for enhancing education and scholarship.
2. List of Readings
Hall, R. (2010). Open Education: The need for critique. Blog entry retrieved on August 12, 2011 from http://www.learnex.dmu.ac.uk/2010/07/27/open-education-the-need-for-critique/
Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65-73.
Veletsianos, G. (in press). Higher Education Scholars’ Participation and Practices on Twitter. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.
Weller, M. (in press). The digital scholar: How technology is changing academic practice. Bloomsbury Academic.
Plus two other papers that I am not yet able to share publicly, but will be available by the time this session arrives.
3. Suggested Activities
Task 1: What do academics do on _________________ ?
The intention of this task is to describe academics’ participation on a number of social technologies (e.g., Twitter, Quora, Google +, Linkedin, Blogs, etc). The goal is to evaluate participation and understand (a) how technology and its affordances influence participation, and (b) professional roles influence participation and use of technology. This is essentially a mini research task.
Your “description” can be done individually or collaboratively. It can also take any form that you are comfortable with. For instance, it can be an essay posted as a blog entry, a video narrative, a digital story, or a concept map. You should include support for any claims that you make. For instance, you can use empirical data or references to the literature (or other writing) to support your claims.
Task 2: Create a concept map that explains how the topic studied this week relates to and/or contributes to further understanding the topics studied in preceding weeks.
I timed this entry to appear while I am flying across the Atlantic Ocean en route to Europe. During the next month or so, I will be in Cyprus under a STELLAR Mobility Fellowship. STELLAR (Sustaining Technology Enhanced Learning at a LARge scale) is a European Union initiative to foster Technology Enhanced Learning dialogue and collaboration between the young generation of researchers and experienced researchers. While I’ve worked with colleagues from Cyprus in the past, I haven’t had a chance to spend dedicated time working there, so this will be a good chance to explore and learn with others.
My STELLAR project focuses on educators’ and researchers’ participation in online networks. I will be analyzing a large data set relating to online participation and I will be working towards completing a set of manuscripts dealing with online practices, challenges, and activities, in an attempt to understand the meaning of online participation for the today’s “public” educator, scholar, and researcher. Anecdotal evidence suggests that scholars’ absence from online networks can be detrimental to teaching and scholarship, but empirical evidence as to educators’/researchers’ online practices is missing. This research is closely aligned to ideas of openness (open participation, open scholarship) and digital scholarship.
I hope to be able to post more about the project (and these topics) soon, so please feel free to tag (and comment) along!
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.
This is the second entry on student projects developed during my Spring 2011 Adventure Learning course. Students in this class developed online learning environments using the Adventure Learning approach, and one team focused their project on teachers who leave the profession and examined their reasons for doing so. I particularly enjoyed this project because (a) it informs an important and pertinent topic, and (b) it departs from traditional adventure learning projects, treating “adventure” as a location-independent activity. What follows is a description of the project, largely based on student text:
Video from student project depicting one of the project findings: Studies have shown that one of the major reasons
that teachers leave the profession is related to what they consider to be bureaucratic or administrative issues.
Why We Don’t Teach is an Adventure Learning project intended to give policy makers, administrators, and others interested in the current state of public education in the United States an understanding of why teachers are leaving the profession. It has recently been shown that the shortage of quality teachers we are facing as a nation stems from problems of retention rather than problems of recruitment. According to one study, nearly 50% of all teachers leave the field within their first five years of teaching.
Why is this happening? While this topic is complex with many factors that confound easy remediation, the Why We Don’t Teach environment offers resources and curriculum (e.g., Session 1, Session 2, Session 3) for exploring the issue both systemically and from the perspective of teachers who have left the profession.
During Spring 2011, I taught a course on Adventure Learning, which is an approach to designing open-ended online learning environments that provide learners with opportunities to explore real-world issues through collaborative, experiential, and inquiry-based learning experiences. Students in this class had to develop an online learning environment using this approach, and what follows is one student project, as described by students themselves:
GrowPlantHere! is a hybrid learning project. Our three garden adventurers planted their own gardens and shared their experiences in order to provide the framework for a lesson plan that teaches the fundamentals of urban gardening. The curriculum was devised for a classroom of adults participating in a 4-week informal class. The nature of the curriculum is focused squarely on Austin, and field trips have been included to local gardening sites. However, the issues of sustainability, self-reliance, and health are universal and often discussed to bring prospective to the project. This online learning environment serves not only to serve up the curriculum and date we created for GrowPlantHere!, but also to provide a place for students, experts, instructors, and the garden adventurers to connect. Students are encouraged to share pictures, ask questions of experts on our resources page, and post about their home gardens in the forum. As they progress, they can read about the garden adventurers as they take on the same tasks and experience the same frustrations and victories.
The University of Texas at Austin, along with numerous partners, has dedicated Lonestar 4, its latest supercomputer, to the scientific community for research purposes. Researchers around the world have already been using UT’s supercomputers for scientific exploration, and I was really excited to find out that social scientists have increasingly been inquiring about using the supercomputer for their data needs. To put the system’s capabilities in context, Lonestar 4 encompasses:
- 302 teraflops peak performance
- 44.3 terabytes total memory
- 1.2 petabytes raw disk
One of my research strands is focusing on educator and researcher participation in online networks (which is a topic closely related to digital scholarship), and I am in the process of investigating the opportunities provided by supercomputer to understand various facets of digital scholarship. Incidentally, I came across the following TED video yesterday that touches upon a similar idea, namely scientists participation in online spaces with an eye towards embracing open science and enhancing research outcomes and processes: