Category: online learning
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:
I’m excited to announce the publication of a special issue that Brendan Calandra and I did for Educational Technology, focusing on the complex relationship(s) between emerging technologies and transformative learning [Educational Technology, 51(2)]. The issue is in part the result of a conversation we have had over the last two years about emerging technologies and their potential to foster unique types of learning. We have found that these unique types of learning to be qualitatively different than goal-based and performance-oriented learning, and to share many characteristics with Jack Mezirow’s original notion of transformative learning such as disorienting dilemmas, critical reflection, dialogue, and changes to frames of reference (1978, 1991, 1997). Our suggestions for future work include further examination of how transformative learning might be negotiated in technology-enhanced contexts, and how emerging technologies might foster and influence transformative outcomes.
Here is a copy of the introduction to the special issue: Emerging Technologies and Transformative Learning.
The papers for this issue are as follows:
Teaching in an Age of Transformation: Understanding Unique Instructional Technology Choices which Transformative Learning Affords
Kathleen P. King
Transformative Learning Experience: Aim Higher, Gain More
Brent G. Wilson
Learning Experience as Transaction: A Framework for Instructional Design
Brent G. Wilson
Joanna C. Dunlap
The Seven Trans-disciplinary Habits of Mind: Extending the TPACK Framework Towards 21st Century Learning
Matthew J. Koehler
Virtual Worlds as a Trigger for Transformative Learning
Steve W. Harmon
Using digital video to promote teachers’ transformative learning
Opportunities for and Barriers to Powerful and Transformative Learning Experiences in Online Learning Environments
Benjamin B. Bolger,
Designing Opportunities for Transformation with Emerging Technologies (pdf posted by permission)
Shaping global citizens: Technology enhanced inter-cultural collaboration and transformation
P. Clint Rogers
A Framework for Action: Intervening to Increase Adoption of Transformative Web 2.0 Learning Resources
Joan E. Hughes,
James M. Guion,
Kama A. Bruce,
Lucas R. Horton,
This post is part of this year’s goal to share more data and findings from my in-progress papers. My research assistant and I are working on a paper examining certain aspects of an online course. We came across an interesting quote and I thought that it might be of interest to others because this student is describing an experience that (some might say) is not frequent:
[I am] really liking that connection with our classmates… it’s interesting that in a traditional face-to-face course, I don’t always feel as connected to my classmates, even though I’m going to be sitting right next to them, engaged in face-to-face conversation.
Even though I am not at all interested in comparing face-to-face and online courses (other than to point out that online affords different opportunities), I think that the quote above indicates once again that online courses can be enjoyable and that face-to-face does not necessarily mean interactive or connected. To play with Sherry Turkle’s new book title, is this a case of “together alone?”