Professor & Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University

Category: sharing

Data meltdown: Venting entry

Posted on July 20th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

I keep copies of my important data in 2  (sometimes 3) locations. Last night, one of my folders (containing a relatively large dataset) was corrupted. In searching for my copy, I realized that (for some strange reason) the auto-backup utility that i’ve set up has not been working on that folder for a while and the data set is gone. Gone. Setback indeed! Nonetheless, the data set that I was using was public and I can construct a new/different version…. though not without spending numerous hours on it! Ouch.

Ok. Venting over. The AERA deadline is looming, and a couple of proposals are nearing completion, so back to that. A fellowship update is also coming up in the next day or two.

UT President’s Update on the Texas Budget & Legislative Session

Posted on July 13th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

The following is the message sent from President Powers to members of the UT community regarding the impact of the budget cuts on the university. This was also posted on the President’s blog.

Now that the 82nd Legislature and its subsequent special session are over, I’d like to give you an update.

The Legislature passed bills that are designed to make textbooks more affordable to our students, to make the financial aid application process more user-friendly, to improve student success, to provide graduate fellows with insurance coverage, and to relieve some of the costly burdens of state regulation of higher education.

But for UT Austin and our state’s other public universities, the biggest news is the budget.

The state revenue shortfall resulted in cuts throughout government, including higher education. UT Austin’s budget was reduced by $92 million for the biennium, which includes the 2011-2012 and the 2012-2013 fiscal years. That translates into about a 16.5% reduction in our state support.

This action extends a decades-long trend—UT Austin increasingly relies on resources other than state revenue. In the fiscal year ending this August, state support to UT Austin amounts to about 14% of our annual budget. In 2011-2012, our state support will decline to about 13.3%.

It is important that we recognize that our elected representatives faced great challenges during the legislative session. There were no easy solutions. I thank our friends in the Legislature as well as all of you who voiced your support for higher education.

Fortunately, we anticipated the state budget shortfall, and UT Austin has been preparing for these cuts for almost two years. My office, for example, has reduced total spending by more than 10% by trimming entertainment, discretionary programs, and staff.

But make no mistake, a $92-million budget cut will affect our core academic mission. While we have done our best to protect UT’s academic programs, our students will encounter reduced student services, course offerings, and financial aid. Our faculty and staff will have to do more with less, and we will be forced to eliminate jobs. I will share more details about the consequences of these cuts as we move forward.

I recently announced that we will provide modest merit-based salary increases for some faculty and staff. Funding for this has been created internally through our austerity. Remaining competitive for faculty and staff talent is one of our top strategic priorities. To allow our talent base to erode would betray our Constitutional mandate to be “a university of the first class” and shortchange the young people who will lead Texas in the future.

The most important message is this. We are resolved to pursue our vision for UT Austin, and this requires change. We are reinventing the way we do certain things, such as harnessing technology to teach more effectively and more efficiently. We are aggressively commercializing intellectual property and developing other revenue streams. We are working daily to streamline our operations and to make our campus more energy efficient and sustainable. And we are collaborating with other universities across the nation to define the public research university of the future.

But some things never change, such as our commitment to education and to nurturing the people and the research that changes the world.

I have heard from many of you in recent months. I cannot express how grateful I am for your ongoing support. Thank you.

Hook ’em Horns!

Digital Scholarship Debate at #EdMedia 2011: Additional pressures

Posted on July 1st, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 7 comments

This year’s debate at the EdMedia conference, focused on the following motion:

This house believes that in the next decade, digital scholarship (in open journals, blogs, and social media) will achieve the same status in academic settings as traditional scholarship

Martin Weller was in favor and has shared his slides (with audio) on his blog (thanks!)

My perspective on the issue is that we, as educational technology researchers and scholars, albeit early adopters and perhaps not representative of the population of scholars, have started paving the way for the recognition of digital scholarship in our discipline. I am hesitant to compare digital scholarship to “traditional” scholarship because I don’t consider “traditional” scholarship to be a monolithic concept, nor do I consider scholarship to be a binary divided between traditional and digital.  But, I agree with Martin that there’s a move towards more digital forms of scholarship, and in addition to the pressures he identifies, I wanted to add the following:

  • Participatory cultures in existence outside of the university encourage us (academics, universities) to move towards a more social form of participation enhanced by digital technologies. For instance, as a society we have found great value in large collaborative projects (e.g., the development of GNU/Linux). We increasingly see such project taking place in academia (e.g., Crowdsourced Video).
  • Scholars as agents of change. Scholars have begun questioning a number of assumptions upon scholarship has been built. Examples include peer review, the value of collaboration, engagement with diverse audiences, etc.

While these pressures do not necessarily guarantee adoption (or reconsideration of traditional approaches), they point to a rethinking of the ways we do things. Conversations around these issues are important and valuable for they allow us to recognize the changing nature of scholarship in the 21st century.

SITE 2012 in Austin, TX

Posted on June 24th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

I’m looking forward to this conference, and to welcoming any colleagues in town. If you are coming, let me know!

SITE 2012 Conference

March 5 -9, 2012
Austin, TexasCall for Participation

Proposals Due: October 21, 2011
Austin 360 Bridge
March 5 – 9, 2012  *  Austin, Texas

SITE 2012 is the 23rd annual conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education. Join with 1,200+ colleagues from over 50 countries in Austin, Texas!
This society represents individual teacher educators and affiliated organizations of teacher educators in all disciplines, who are interested in the creation and dissemination of knowledge about the use of information technology in teacher education and faculty/staff development. SITE is a society of AACE.

The SITE Conference is designed for:

  • Teacher educators in ALL disciplines
  • Computer technology coordinators
  • K-12 administrators & school leaders
  • Teachers
  • Curriculum developers
  • Principals
  • All interested in improving education through technology

Critiques of Openness (digital/open scholarship)

Posted on June 21st, by George Veletsianos in my research, NPS, online learning, open, scholarship, sharing. 1 Comment

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.

Design Challenges in Pedagogical Agent Implementations

Posted on June 20th, by George Veletsianos in my research, pedagogical agents, sharing. No Comments

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:

  1. how do we manage learners’ expectations of the agent’s knowledge and social profile,
  2. how do we deal with learners’ who engage in off-task conversations with an agent, and
  3. 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!

Faculty Use of Social Media: When numbers say little

Posted on June 1st, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

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.

Student Adventure Learning Project: Why We Don’t Teach

Posted on May 10th, by George Veletsianos in adventure learning, courses, my research, online learning, sharing. No Comments

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.