Sherrilyn Kenyon wrote that “Life is a tapestry woven by the decisions we make” and to that, I would add, “and the experiences we create.”
I am taking the next step in my life and career. One that I expect will add many more experiences to my life.
I have decided to accept a position with the School of Education and Technology at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia. I have been appointed as Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology by the Canadian federal government and my post will begin on September 1st. As in the past, my position will be research-focused, and I will continue my research on understanding learners’ and scholars’ practices and experiences in emerging online settings (e.g., online social networks, open courses, etc).
Royal Roads is a public university with a successful university-wide teaching model that combines short-term f2f residencies with online learning. I’m excited about being at a university that has had a blended learning model since 1995 and has a reputation of innovation that it embraces. I’m excited that my research is a natural fit with the institution and that the synergies exist for applying a lot of the work that I have been doing regarding online education, openness, and digital scholarship. I’m also excited about being in British Columbia, which will soon “become the first province in Canada to offer students free online, open textbooks.” On a more personal note, I’m excited to be able to live and work by the ocean.
It probably goes without saying, but I will miss the University of Texas at Austin, my colleagues, and my students at the College of Education. UT-Austin is an amazing university and I am very fortunate and grateful to have been able to spend a few years of my life there.
Leaving a university often leads individuals to ask why. And, I’ve experienced that already: Why leave a research-1 university that is recognized worldwide, especially when your tenure and promotion case would be easy to make? I have asked myself that same question. Why am I working long hours? Why do I spend time away from my family visiting back-to-back conferences? Why do I take pride in my students’ work and do all I can to help them succeed? I engage in these activities because I care, not because of tenure (though, admittedly, that is a positive by-product). I personally chose my field of study and research because I care about education and individual’s learning experiences. I care about societal well-being and growth, about social justice, and see education as a way to eradicate inequities and injustices. These values run across my work (which is partly why I make all of my publications available online).
…and since this post is getting long, a final thought: I don’t like moving. But… I AM looking forward to the road trip to Victoria.
My colleague Joss Winn has created a Zotero group to collect work that relates to critical studies/critiques of open education: https://www.zotero.org/groups/151255. If you have anything to add, head over there.
At the same time, if you are interested in broader critical perspectives to educational technology*, you might also look at the critical perspectives on educational technology Mendeley group that we’ve been curating:
* As an aside, the collection of these papers is intended to assist individuals in making informed perspectives on the design and implementation of technology in education. The goal is *not* to label educational technology as problematic or worse than the alternative. Rather, the goal is to encourage individuals to make informed and socially just decisions.
Social media and open online learning have been extolled and decried in the popular press. Yet, as researchers, we still need to understand the experiences and practices of students, educators, and researchers with emerging practices and social media. We also need to understand why learners, educators, and researchers use social media and engage in open online education in the ways that they do. danah boyd (2012, ¶48) argues that “we need people engaging critically with the dynamics that unfold as a result of a new structure of connecting people.”
My research agenda centers around these issues, and seeks to answer the following questions:
- What does learning “look like” in open online courses?
- How do learners use social media for learning?
- What are learners’ experiences with open online learning?
- What does the experience of effective social media use for learning consist of?
- What is the lived experience of researchers/educators using social media for scholarly activities?
- How do scholars perceive and construct their identity using social media/networks?
- How do users use social media/networks to cope with the expectations of their academic roles (e.g., being a doctoral student, being a newly-hired faculty member, etc)?
These questions form the core of my work. I am posting them here because I know that others are interested in finding answers to these questions as well. If you are like me, you enjoy collaborative work and qualitative research. If so, get in touch and let’s figure out how we can collaborate on (a) empirical work that answers the questions above, and (b) design and development work that integrates pedagogical knowledge and social technologies to create innovative learning environments.
While yesterday I mentioned that there was not much conversation about research, today was a little bit different. The value that educational research can contribute was highlighted by Alan November (November Learning) and Richard Culatta (US Department of Education). Richard in particular suggested that edtech startups work with educational researchers and teachers in designing their products. Such a simple idea (and one that we teach in our MA and PhD degrees), but one that is rarely taken into consideration it seems. Working within disciplinary silos (whether that’s teachers developing educational technology alone, or engineers developing educational technology alone) is not how complex problem (like education) are solved. On the one hand, the absence of educators from a design team could lead to development of tools/products that don’t solve any sort of educational problem. On the other hand, the absence of educators might lead design teams to think outside of the constraints of current systems. Each time I think about this, I return to the design process used by IDEO, which highlights diversity and interdisciplinary thinking. The video below is a good example of this type of thinking:
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The acknowledgment that educational technology startups will benefit from partnering with educational researchers is important. It is the same acknowledgement that was made by the NSF in the computing education for the 21st century program (disclosure: I am co-PI on one of those grants). Actually, the NSF went beyond simply acknowledging the value of partnerships and made CS-Education partnerships a requirement in applying for funding.
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Richard mentioned that the Obama administration is developing initiatives that value teachers (e.g., Project Respect). I look forward to learning more about this, but to also understand how such policies align with the high stakes climate that the administration has continued pursuing. While individual policies may be worthwhile, they exist within a larger ecosystem, and I would love to know how the administration sees its high stakes approach aligning with these initiatives.
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Towards the end of the day I managed to position myself right in the middle of conversations related to venture capital, business models, and investment in startups. And the statement that follows has been in my mind since. A panelist said: Do we care about learning outcomes? Absolutely. Once we first make money for our investors. This statement was followed by another statement noting that a sizable return on investment is the “mandate.”
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I’m not that naive to believe that everyone is in this space for noble causes. I also don’t think that everyone is in this space for monetary gain. When building the educational systems of the future, all of us (educators, researchers, investors, designers, and developers alike) should make sure to ask: For whom is this future being built? Who benefits? And who is left out?
This week I am spending time at the SXSWedu conference. It’s described as a conference that “features four days of compelling presentations and informative sessions from education professionals, industry leaders, and policy practitioners committed to engaging all learners.”
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These are not my usual stomping grounds. Indeed, AECT, AERA, E-learn, SITE, EdMedia, ALT-C and all the other conferences I’ve been to feature groups of individuals committed to education and learning as well, but none of them feature the entrepreneurial atmosphere and the “disruption is imminent” aura that this conference is epitomizing.
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I had a great lunch with George Siemens today. I came across George’s work in 2007 and have chatted on and off with him over the past 5 years on various social media platforms but we hadn’t actually ever met face-to-face until today. I joked that I will be wearing my ethnographic hat during my time at the conference, trying to make sense of a culture different than my own. While my research aims to ultimately make a difference in education and people’s lives, and, a number of edtech startups and I are (seemingly) operating in the same area, I am not so sure I am in the “edtech space” (as it is affectionately called by the numerous entrepreneurs I met at the opening reception). And I don’t fully understand the different rounds of venture capital funding. But, that’s the language that’s dominating the conversations so far. But, I do believe this is something that more education researchers need to know about. After all, when individuals propose solutions for the problems of education, we need to listen. And to question. For more on this you should read this piece from Audrey Watters, (who is also at the conference and we got to spend some time chatting together today).
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Language is a strange thing. It’s strange because the same words might have different meaning to different people. Take the words “democratizing education” for example. What do you think of when you hear those words? I think of Paulo Freire, equity, education as a public good, the freedom from pedagogies of oppression. I wasn’t sure what these words meant when I heard them today. I believe they meant “freeing education from the control that educational institutions exert on it.” And even though it sounded good (who doesn’t want to “democratize education” anyway?!) I’m not sure that progressive educators’ visions of democratic and equitable educational systems align with the visions of democratic educational systems that were discussed today. And that’s another reason why more educators and researchers need to be here, and need to be in these conversations.
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Research was absent. Perhaps I was at the wrong sessions. Even at the sessions that I went to, any mention of evaluation (let alone research) was problematic. For example: “15% of our students told us that they [insert survey response here].” There was no mention of how many individuals were surveyed, what the return rate was, or whether the evaluation questions were created and validated by an independent party. I understand that educational research might not be on the radar of commercial entities and investors. But, it’s important. And, if we are truly dedicated to making change in education, however small or large it is, then we should be investigating whether the tools we create work, how they work, and in what contexts they work.
The 2013 AECT Conference proposal system is open. The members and leadership of the Research and Theory division are excited to invite you to submit a proposal to our division! The call for proposals is at http://www.aect.org/events/
We continue to encourage authors to submit their work in the following categories:
• Category 1: Completed Study
Report findings from a study that is complete.
• Category 2: Work in Progress
Report the progress of a study currently underway (e.g., as a Reflection Paper Session).
• Category 3: Research Methodology
Report innovative research methodologies in Educational Technology.
Authors can submit their work in any of the above categories that fit the interest of the R&T division and address this year’s conference theme “Innovate! Integrate! Communicate!” Proposals that use rigorous quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods are particularly warranted.
When submitting your proposal, please state in the abstract which category you are submitting your work. For example,
• ”This proposal reports a Category 1 Completed Study on …”
• ”This proposal reports a Category 2 Work in Progress on …” or
• ”This proposal reports a Category 3 Research Methodology …”
Proposals that fit all the session types are welcome:
• Concurrent Session
• Roundtable Session
• Reflection Paper Session
• Panel Sessions
Questions regarding proposals for the R&T Division should be directed to Dr. George Veletsianos at veletsianos |at| gmail.com
We look forward to your submissions!
When I wrote my paper examining the ways researchers and educators use Twitter, I noted that “…a current networked practice related to individuals snapping one photograph per day as a way to document their lives, enhance their photography skills, and learn about each other.” I participated in daily photo challenges in the past in order to improve my photography skills but I was never able to actually go through a whole year taking a photograph every single day. My excuse was that I often found it a nuisance to carry my camera.
This year, I decided to complete the challenge using my iphone as I carry my phone with me at all times. I have also installed the flickr app for easy photo uploading and created a daily reminder to take a photo. I joined the flickr group that Gráinne Conole launched (and have been cross-posting my photos to …..), and so far, I’ve been doing well. Let’s see how the next 350 or so days pan out! I’m also hoping that making this public, along with the fact that the group includes friends and colleagues that I know and admire, will provide some social pressure to keep it up : )
I was recently invited to deliver a plenary talk at the 2013 Emerging Technologies for Online Learning conference, hosted by the Sloan Consortium. Steve Wheeler will be giving a keynote and I am excited to hear him talk. My presentation will pick up where Emerging Technologies in Distance Education (download it for free here http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120177) left off, and will take readers through a set of stories intend to clarify how emerging technologies are, and are not, changing education.
The talk is entitled Seven Tales of Learning Online with Emerging Technologies, and I described it as follows:
During the last few years, emerging technologies and online learning have dominated narratives regarding the future of education and the potential role that technology may play in education. Are we reaching a point where “anyone can learn anything from anyone else at any time?” Or, are Google, Facebook, and Twitter “infantilizing our minds,” distracting us from meaningful learning and purposeful living? As societies, governments, and other social groups adapt and change over time, so do institutions of learning, the work that they do, and how they do that work. In this presentation, I will share seven research-based stories describing the integration of emerging technologies in learning environments. These stories paint an intricate picture of online learning with emerging technologies and demonstrate how (a) emerging learning technologies have impacted educational practice, (b) the use of emerging technologies “on the ground” is often negotiated and contested, and (c) a “culture of sharing” may be finding increasing acceptance in education under emerging phenomena such as Massive Open Online Courses, Open Educational Resources, and social media use by scholars. These stories highlight how learning and education are (and are not) changing with the emergence of certain technologies, social behaviors, and cultural expectations.