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

Category: sharing

Technologies to support Adventure Learning projects

Posted on May 19th, by George Veletsianos in adventure learning, online learning, sharing. 4 comments

I am often asked how Adventure Learning projects come together. The usual question goes something like this, “It seems that there are so many technologies used to create an Adventure Learning project. How do you bring it all together?” The answer is rather simple actually: You center the project on an narrative and you use technological and social affordances to bring the narrative to life. Here is a simple example, that excludes any kind of interaction, other than the option to reply via comments on this post:

Saturday was a beautiful day.  The shining sun was appealing enough to put an end to my plans to work.

My partner in crime and I got our bikes and sought to explore parts of town off the beaten path. Art Alliance Austin was hosting an art fair and that was our destination. This is the story of our adventure to the fair and the art we encountered during our trip. Urban biking can sometimes be a challenge, but it’s mostly a fulfilling experience if you take the time to pause and look around. I ride a 2008 Marin Muirwoods. It’s a rugged, steel-framed city bike that allows me to go off-road quite easily. I rode this same bike in Minneapolis, MN, Manchester (UK) and Austin, TX and it has always been reliable.

The trip started a few miles North of the University of Texas at Austin. I am posting the route below along with placemarks of interest along the way. The route was automatically created via MyTracks which is an application for Android-based phones that records GPS tracks. I turned on the application when I started the trip and turned it off at the end of the trip. At times when I wanted to note locations of interest, I added points to MyTracks which then appeared on the map. The final map along with the 8 markers I added are shown below.

Each time I added a marker, I also took a picture. Each picture can therefore be mapped to the marker on the map above. In addition, if you select street view on the map above you may be able to match the picture to the images there (except perhaps in the cases where I was cycling through the alleys!). Geotagged pictures can also be added automatically to a map.

Our first stop was Sparky Park. This is an Austin Energy substation that was converted to a “pocket” park. We found this by accident, but is was quite fitting that we came across it on our way to the art fair!

From there, we rode towards downtown. The trees provided much needed coverage from the sun and it was great riding through the residential neighborhoods and looking at old houses. At some point we decided to cross Guadalupe Street which is one of the main Austin streets and runs right by the University of Texas.

View Larger Map

We quickly abandoned the plan to stay on that street because of the number of cars and people that were on it, and got on side streets again. That’s when we came across the following graffiti, celebrating UT Austin’s football team. Now, I’m not really into football, but from what I hear, UT has a pretty good football team with a dedicated following. That’s probably a topic for a different post though!

Riding past the university and towards downtown still, the next form of public “art” encountered was one of Austin’s still-standing moonlight towers. These structures were built in the late 1800’s as a way to provide light to the city. Originally, there were 31 of these structures in Austin – nowadays, there are only 15 towers left, while, according to Wikipedia, Austin is the only city left that still operates this system (as part of the “keep Austin weird” program I am assuming! )… To provide more contextual information, I “checked in” at this location using Gowalla.

The first leg of our journey ended at Lady Bird lake – which is named after Lady Bird Johnson former first lady and wife of Lyndon B. Johnson. Our very own Learning Technology Center at UT Austin keeps a presidential timeline of the 20th century along with digitized assets and information on LBJ is of course available.

The trip included many more highlights, but this short example provides the main ideas behind designing adventure learning experiences for real-world, participatory, and inquiry-based experiences that capitalize on events that happen outside of the classroom. Literature on adventure learning and these ideas can be found in my publications page.

And for those of you interested in data and the use of data to help teach relevant topics, here’s the graph of the trip!

Last day of class

Posted on May 6th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 1 Comment

It’s our last day of class today and we are wrapping it up with a Pecha Kucha celebration. If you recall, it all started with a request to “hack my syllabus” (i.e. asking students to comment and critique the syllabus of the class). It’s rather strange actually; sitting here trying to put together a couple of slides to summarize 4 months of work, I am realizing that I’ll miss my students. We had some good times together this semester. Special thanks to the students for making this a fun class and special thanks to all of you who joined our little community and added real value to our learning via your insightful blog comments, virtual visits, and twitter replies. Given that the class was focusing on online and participatory learning, being able to engage with the community for online and participatory learning was quite fitting! Stay tuned for more: I am teaching this class again in the summer (though, this time, online!)

RFID to check student attendance?

Posted on May 5th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 5 comments

(via shashdot and George Siemens)

It looks like Northern Arizona University is planning on implementing a system to “use sensors to detect students’ university identification cards when they enter classrooms, according to NAU spokesperson Tom Bauer. The data will be recorded and available for professors to examine. Bauer said the university’s main goal with the sensor system is to increase attendance and student performance….NAU Student Body President Kathleen Templin said most students seem to be against the new system. She added students have started Facebook groups and petitions against the sensor system. NAU sophomore Rachel Brackett created one of the most popular Facebook groups, “NAU Against Proximity Cards,” which has more than 1,400 members.”

I usually refrain from replying on initiatives that annoy me. This one goes over the top however, because it puts the blame on one of the groups that I care deeply about: students and youth.

May I suggest a few simple alternatives? :

  • Improve student performance by making teaching and education more appealing (i.e. increase instructor performance to increase student performance).
  • Redesign curricula with engagement at the core. Content learning will follow.
  • Treat lack of attendance as a sign of the problems that the institution faces rather than a student  issue.
  • Require professors to attend courses that are consistently rated above-average (and use RFIDs to check whether they are actually attending those course if you are so inclined to use the system)
  • Institute policies that encourage and reward instructor innovation.
  • Encourage sharing of innovative teaching approaches, transformative technology use, and curricular innovation.
  • Learn from your students and involve them in the decision-making process. It seems that they are  harnessing the power of the technology much better than you are (see facebook initiative above)
  • Invite me to give you a workshop (that’s a joke, but I won’t refuse if you actually do invite me)
[Update 5/5, 2:25pm: Terry Anderson just returned from a trip to New Zealand, and he provides an excellent example of instructors sharing when he says: ” Ako [the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence] funds post-secondary faculty members $3,000 each to compose 2,000 word good practice chapters on a host of topics relevant to teaching and learning in tertiary education. The results are a very impressive e-book with 30 chapters online  and still growing.”]

Thanks for listening. We now return to our regular programming.

AERA 2010 and publication

Posted on April 30th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 1 Comment

I am getting ready to leave for the annual AERA conference, held in Denver. I’m limiting myself to one presentation and one discussion session this year, focusing on Adventure Learning and technology integration (whatever that means!). My slidedeck is posted below, and you’ll see that I’ve gone totally minimal this year (i.e. 2 slides)! Those of you who got used to seeing my photographs in my presentations, you’ll unfortunately be disappointed. I’m taking on the challenge to simply talk for 12 minutes. Part of the reason is because the paper I am presenting just got published in one of the well known open-access journals and you are welcome to go read it:

Veletsianos, G., & Doering, A. (2010). Long-term student experiences in a hybrid, open-ended and problem based Adventure Learning program. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(2), 280-296. Retrieved April 14, 2010 from

Understanding complex ecologies: A long-term investigation Of student experiences in an Adventure Learning program

View more presentations from George Veletsianos.

Second, I have volunteered to be a last-minute discussant for the following session:
Sat, May 1 – 4:05pm – 6:05pm Building/Room: Sheraton / Plaza Court 1
Innovative Pathways to the Development of Teacher Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Empirical Accounts From Preservice and In-Service Teachers

Session Participants:

Evidence of TPACK in Preservice Graduates’ Rationales for Future Technology Use: *Joan E. Hughes (University of Texas – Austin)

Preservice Teachers’ Technologically Integrated Planning: Contrasting Quality and Instructional Variety by Development Approach: *Mark J. Hofer (College of William and Mary), Neal Grandgenett (University of Nebraska – Omaha), Judith B. Harris (College of William and Mary), Karen Work Richardson (College of William and Mary)

Using Classroom Artifacts to Judge Teacher Knowledge of Reform-Based Instructional Practices That Integrate Technology in Mathematics and Science Classrooms: *Margaret L. Niess (Oregon State University)

Effects of Practice-Based Professional Development on Teacher Learning in Technology Integration: *Chrystalla Mouza (University of Delaware)

GeoThentic: Designing and Assessing With Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Aaron Doering (University of Minnesota), *Cassandra Scharber (University of Minnesota)

Chair: Chrystalla Mouza (University of Delaware)

The purpose of this symposium is to examine multiple approaches to the development of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) among preservice and in-service teachers. These approaches include participation in laptop infused teacher education programs, instructional planning, and development of portfolios, teaching cases, and online learning environments. All approaches have in common a clear focus on helping teachers: (a) understand the interplay among technology, content and pedagogy; (b) situate learning into authentic activities and contexts; and (c) reflect on their experiences with technology. Key elements of each approach are identified and their impact on teacher learning is described. Implications are drawn for the design of learning opportunities and technologies that could better prepare teachers to teach with technology.

Computers and Internet Applications in Education SIG (AERA, 2010)

Posted on April 26th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 1 Comment

I am excited to announce the program for the Computers and Internet Applications in Education SIG (AERA, 2010)! During 2010, the SIG was run by Sara Dexter, Aaron Doering and Cassandra Scharber. The elected members for 2011 are Charles Miller, Cassandra Scharber, and myself. Hope to see you at AERA later this week!

Saturday, May 1

Potholes and Possibilities: Pre-K–12 Technology Integration and Internet Use,
Paper Session, Sat, May 1 – 8:15am – 9:45am, Sheraton, Governor’s Square 9

  • Students, Teachers, and School Leaders: A Nested, Ecological Case Study of Technology Integration What Makes Technology “Risky”? An Exploration of Teachers’ Perceived Risk in the Context of Technology Integration
  • An Ecological Techno-Microsystem Explanation of Internet Use and Child Development
  • Gender Similarities and Differences in Computer Use in Web 2.0 Trends

The Efficacy of Tools for Social Networking, Tutoring, and e-Portfolios, 
Roundtable Session 12, Sat, May 1 – 10:35am – 12:05pm, Sheraton / Grand Ballroom Section 2

  • Supporting and Enhancing Social Scholarship in the Digital Age: The Case of Pocket Knowledge
  • The Effect of Access to an Online Tutorial Service on the Achievement and Attitude of College Algebra Students
  • A Capstone Experience for Preservice Teachers: Building an Online Portfolio With ZUNAL

What Is Happening in Schools and Classrooms in the Context of National Policies and Developments? Symposium, Sat, May 1 – 2:15pm – 3:45pm, Sheraton / Plaza Court 1

  • ICT in Education Policy and Practice in Chile: Does It Correlate?
  • The Challenges of Implementing ICT in Poorly Resourced Schools in Developing Environments
  • Multiple Levels of Influence on the Implementation of ICT in Teaching in Australia

Sunday, May 2

Investigating Accommodations and Disabilities With Web-Based Applications, 
Roundtable Session 22      Sun, May 2 – 8:15am – 9:45am, Sheraton / Grand Ballroom Section 2

  • Web-Based Learning and Students With Learning Disabilities
  • Thinking About the Accommodations Selection Process

Professional Development, Course Design, and Community: The Impact on Learning,
Roundtable Session 28, Sun, May 2 – 12:25pm – 1:55pm, Sheraton / Grand Ballroom Section 2

  • Evaluating Community Formation in an All-Online, Academic, Semester-Long Course Computer Use and Perceived Course Effectiveness: Is the Relationship Changing Over Time?
  • Exploring Differences in Online Professional Development Seminars With the Community of Inquiry Framework
  • Revisiting Communities of Practice: New Trends in Online Learning Environments

Technology Integration Innovations for Elementary and Middle School Contexts
Roundtable Session 30, Sun, May 2 – 2:15pm – 3:45pm, Sheraton / Grand Ballroom Section 2

  • A Networked Learning Model for Construction of Personal Learning Environments in Seventh-Grade Life Science
  • Teachers Planning for Curriculum-Based Learning With Technology
  • Creating a Learning Environment for Successful Scaling Up of a Project-Based Technology Initiative

Monday, May 3

Designing Environments, Experiences, and Tools for Teaching and Learning, 
Paper Session, Mon, May 3 – 2:15pm – 3:45pm, Sheraton / Plaza Court 1

  • The Layers of Authenticity: Designing for Learner Experience
  • The Development, Delivery, and Sustainability of a Blended Learning Initiative for Part-Time Undergraduate Students on Health Care Practice Programs
  • Design and Development of a Web Application for English and Composition Classes Validation of the Electronic Portfolio Student Perspective Instrument: Conditions Under a Different Integration Initiative

From Collaboration to Cyberbullying: Insights From Technology Use in Higher Education,
Paper Session, Mon, May 3 – 4:05pm – 5:35pm, Sheraton / Plaza Court 1

  • Collaborative Case-Study Analysis Using MediaWiki in an Educational Psychology Course: A Mixed-Method Investigation
  • Technology-Mediated Learning in Pathology: How Collaborative Use of Virtual Microscopy Shapes Students’ Reasoning
  • African American Female Students’ Participation in Online Collaborative Learning
  • Cyberbullying Subtypes and Sex Differences Among College Students

Interesting articles in Distance Education Journal

Posted on April 22nd, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 1 Comment

The latest issue of Distance Education looks VERY promising, with quite a few articles of interest. I’m especially looking forward to reading the one by Hilton et al that seems to present much needed data on the topic of open teaching. Two thumbs up for empirical research! Enjoy:

Compton, L., Davis, N. & Correia, A. (2010). Pre-service teachers’ preconceptions, misconceptions, and concerns about virtual schooling. Distance Education, 31(1), 37-54. doi:10.1080/01587911003725006
Over the last decade, online distance education has become a common mode of study in most states in the USA, where it is known as virtual schooling (VS), but many people have misconceptions about it. Pre-service teachers’ personal histories as students and their preconceptions, misconceptions, and concerns influence pre-service teacher training experiences. A qualitative study of an introductory field experience course that included this new mode of schooling for the first time analyzed the personal journals and online discussion responses of 65 pre-service teachers in the USA. Analysis identified that common misconceptions and concerns included career threat, viability of VS, academic dishonesty, reduced interaction, teacher feedback, and lack of rigor. The curriculum innovations in this innovative teacher preparation program were shown to address these misconceptions and concerns and facilitate understanding and acceptance of VS as an alternative form of education by many of these pre-service teachers.

Oliver, K., Kellogg, S., Townsend, L. & Brady, K. (2010). Needs of elementary and middle school teachers developing online courses for a virtual school. Distance Education, 31(1), 55-75. doi:10.1080/01587911003725022
Eight teams of elementary and middle school teachers developed pilot online courses for the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) in the USA. A qualitative case study with focus groups and a follow-up survey helped to identify common needs of these non-traditional course designers during course development efforts. Findings suggest virtual schools can better support non-traditional course designers by providing leadership components such as technical expertise, regular feedback, and clear expectations, including an understanding of the target students. Findings further suggest designers need a range of bite-sized professional development on replicating model courses, using course management systems, assessing learners online, designing with copyright and safety issues in mind, integrating Web tools, and developing course documentation for deployment. The article concludes with a discussion of support structures that may aid instructors tasked with online course development.

Hilton III, J. L., Graham, C., Rich, P. & Wiley, D. (2010). Using online technologies to extend a classroom to learners at a distance. Distance Education, 31(1), 77-92. doi:10.1080/01587911003725030
The authors studied a course in which an instructor allowed individuals at a distance to participate. Although these students were not formally enrolled in the university where the class took place, the instructor gave them full access to all course materials and encouraged them to complete course assignments. The authors examined the time and technical proficiency required to involve learners at a distance. We surveyed these learners to determine their perceptions of the course and examined their work. Learners at a distance reported receiving some benefit from the course, particularly in terms of learner–content interaction. We surveyed students in the face-to-face classroom to determine whether having students participating at a distance in the same class affected their perception of the course. They reported no impact. The implications and limitations of these results are discussed.

Baggaley, J. (2010). The satirical value of virtual worlds. Distance Education, 31(1), 115-119. doi:10.1080/01587911003725055
Imaginary worlds have been devised by artists and commentators for centuries to focus satirical attention on society’s problems. The increasing sophistication of three-dimensional graphics software is generating comparable ‘virtual worlds’ for educational usage. Can such worlds play a satirical role suggesting developments in distance education practice and policy? The article examines the emergence of Hinterlife, a cartoon world run by a disarmingly despotic academic known to the real world only by his virtual name, Professor Horace. This article suggests that a healthy dose of satire can help distance education to overcome the problems generated in difficult economic times.

Participatory scholars v2

Posted on April 22nd, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 4 comments

Last week I shared an early draft of a paper discussing issues to consider in redefining scholarship and scholars. The posting opened up lots of discussion including replies on twitter, discussions in the comments section of the post, a week-long discussion on the ITFORUM listserv (for which the paper was originally intended), and face-to-face conversations with students/colleagues who saw the paper. Even though I got lots of great feedback on the actual paper, I also realized the following:

  • Resistance. There’s lots or resistance to the ideas presented in the paper (and quite a bit of support). To some extent, this is understandable, but what does it mean? To me it says two things: (a) the ideas need to be better presented/explained to be understood by those who don’t actually breathe social media (guilty as charged), and (b) the current system is so ingrained in our daily reality that the knee-jerk reaction is to criticize proposed solutions as opposed to evaluate both the status quo and the proposed solutions to discover a better way to do things. A and B are probably related in some ways.
  • Others are studying similar concepts. For instance, I found out that Andy Coverdale and Michael Rees are working on similar ideas. I already knew that Gideon BurtonTerry Anderson, and Cristina Costa are interested in similar ideas.

I am looking forward to more discussions on the topic… and if any of you will be in Denver next week for AERA, let’s chat!

Participatory Scholars and 21st Century Scholarship

Posted on April 6th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 14 comments

The paper posted below is for an ITFORUM discussion I am leading on the topic of participatory scholars and participatory scholarship. Feedback is much appreciated!

Participatory Scholars and Scholarship

Dr. George Veletsianos

Instructional Technology

Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education

The University of Texas at Austin

ITFORUM Discussion paper: April 12-16, 2010

This paper is in very draft form.

Feedback is welcome (and greatly appreciated)

Participatory Scholars and Scholarship


Rarely do we post in-progress scholarship for public consumption. We usually hoard our research until journals are ready to publish it, at which time it magically becomes a “finished product,” despite the value of sharing, discussing, critiquing, and presenting our thoughts. In line with the ideas presented in this paper, and to demonstrate that sharing in-progress scholarship can be beneficial both for the field and the authors sharing their work, this paper is intentionally shared at an early phase of conceptualization. Some of the arguments and ideas presented below therefore are in need of further development. I expect that by the end of our discussion, I will have gained great new insights from you. I also hope that you will have gained much from this process, both to inform your future scholarship and your online presence and activity. Let the learning begin, and feel free to critique anything and everything!


Educational technology research and practice has traditionally focused on instructors, trainers, learners, and learning environments, seeking to delineate the impact and implications of technological interventions on various outcomes such as learning and engagement. In this paper, I focus on scholars (e.g., doctoral students, professors, and researchers) and those supporting their roles (e.g., learning technologists) and their participation in online spaces. I argue that participation in online spaces (e.g., communities and networks of practice) is becoming increasingly important and absence from these spaces can be detrimental to scholarship, practice, and personal and professional development. For instance, participatory scholarship enables scholars to stay current in their research field, explore new approaches to teaching from their colleagues, engage with individuals mentioning their research/work, and expose their work to larger audiences.

While scholarship may traditionally be viewed as scientific discovery, its meaning in this paper is broader. Pellino, Blackburn, and Boberg (1984) for instance have expanded scholarship to include (a) professional activity, (b) research/publication, (c) artistic endeavors, (d) engagement with novel ideas, (e) community service, and (f) pedagogy. Further, Boyer (1990) proposed four functions of scholarship that reflect academic endeavors: scholarship of discovery, scholarship of integration, scholarship of application, and scholarship of teaching. In this paper, scholarship takes this broader meaning.

Networked & Participatory Scholarship

The term “participatory culture” describes a society in which the consumer is no longer a passive recipient of information, media, and artifacts, but also a producer of these. Jenkins et. al. (2006, pp. 7) describe a participatory culture as one

  1. 1. With relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement
  2. 2. With strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others
  3. 3. With some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices
  4. 4. Where members believe that their contributions matter
  5. 5. Where members feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created).

The concept of participatory cultures has been embraced in educational circles, in which prior research has highlighted ideas similar to the ones proposed by Jenkins et. al. Notably, the description of participatory cultures proposed by Jenkins et. al. aligns with socio-constructivist (Kukla, 2000) and connectivistm (Siemens, 2006) points of view: In particular these two schools of thought imply that scholars practice scholarship within online social networks that serve to expand their learning, views, and activities relating to research and teaching practice. Situated within a community of practice, scholars’ work and activity becomes the mediating object which bounds together the network and community (Kaptelinin & Nardi, 2006). Specifically, Vygotsky (1978) highlights the importance of social interaction and negotiation of meaning in learning; Lave and Wenger (1991) discuss how learning transpires within communities of practice; Jonassen (2000) notes the value of active participation in learning; and McCombs and Whisler (1997) highlight the benefits of student-centered learning environments. In an era where social media participation is central in youth’s daily lives[1] (Lenhart, Madden, Macgill, & Smith, 2007), researchers have sought to understand (a) the practices and activities of youth in Social Networking Sites (Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe, 2008; boyd, 2008) and (b) the meaning of social media participation for 21st century education (Greenhow, Robelia & Hughes, 2009). While youth participation in social networking sites has seen extensive research interest in recent years, research on networked participation and the activities of scholars in online spaces is minimal. Specifically, while scholars have explored the affordances of social media for instructional and professional development purposes (e.g., Martindale & Wiley, 2005; Webb, 2009) writing in relation to the implications of the participatory culture for social scholarship beyond conceptual explorations is scant.

Lack of research however, does not mean that there is no interest in the topic. While higher education faculty may be more inclined to use “traditional” technologies than students (Roblyer, McDaniel, Webb, Herman, & Witty, in press), we have seen an increase in specialized social media tools targeting scholars. For example, (figure 1),, and VIVO are three instances of online networking tools for researchers; TechLens is a research paper recommender system and Sciencefeed is a science-focused microblogging platform. In addition, web-based bibliographic tools, such as Zotero and Mendeley enable scholars to share their bibliographies and collaborate with others (figure 2), while social bookmarking sites enable the sharing of resources between scholars as well as between instructors and learners (Greenhow, Robelia & Hughes, 2009). For example, various web-based resources that were collected for the writing of this paper are available at

Figure 1. A publicly available profile on (

Figure 2. A publicly available bibliography on (

Indeed, it seems that scholarship is increasingly moving online and becoming more social and conversational in nature (Oblinger, 2010). The rise of the participatory web and scholar-focused web-based services provide enhanced opportunities for interaction, collaboration, and networking and renewed promise of breaking away from departmental and institutional silos (c.f. Hanson, 2009; Nixon, 1996). Yet, recent evidence from the British Library and the Researchers of Tomorrow project (2010) indicates that young researchers (doctoral students born between 1982 and 1994) are not utilizing social networking technologies for scholarship. Given the increasing empirical evidence suggesting that Net Generation students do not use technology in fundamentally different (or sophisticated) ways (Reeves & Oh, 2008; Nasah, DaCosta, Kinsell, & Seok, in press), one would expect that scholars born prior to 1982 are also not capitalizing on networked technologies for scholarship.

Scholars need to understand the affordances of networked technologies for social, participatory, and networked scholarship. Prior to discussing the important issues relating to 21st century scholar participation in online spaces, the following section presents trends influencing contemporary scholarship.

Trends influencing Digital Scholarship

A convergence of technological and social trends is promising to exert strong pressures on 21st century scholars and scholarship. In particular,

  • Open Access (OA) publishing: OA publishing refers to the online publication of materials (especially journals and books) that are free-of-charge, and thus accessible to everyone. For example, Athabasca University Press is an OA publisher and Educational Technology & Society is an OA peer-review journal. This is not to say that OA publishing will replace traditional journals. For example, doubts about sustainability remain, especially as popular online journals close their doors (e.g., Innovate)
  • Publication impact:  On the one hand, online publishing allows authors and other interested parties to easily track the reach and impact of a publication (e.g., download counts). On the other hand, online publishing allows us to rethink peer-reviewed publications. For instance, the Public Library Of Science has started publishing a variety of metrics for each of their publications including article usage statistics (e.g., pageviews), comments/notes/ratings left by article readers, and blog posts citing published articles. These data help researchers gain a firm understanding of the impact of their publications, along with providing transparency to the research community (e.g., figure 3 shows the most read education articles/authors on

Figure 3. Most read articles and authors in Education (screenshot from

  • Open Education: Open Education refers to open access to teaching/learning materials and institutions, and Wiley and Hilton (2009) argue that higher education must embrace openness to remain relevant in society. Examples of open education vary, ranging from individual faculty sharing their syllabi, to institutions sharing learning materials en masse online, to instructors opening up their online classrooms to learners who are not formally enrolled in a course.
  • Tenure & Promotion (T&P): Research, teaching, and service are obviously valued in academia, but tenure and review policies are under pressure to change. For instance,
    • T&P committees are accepting additional evidence for engagement with these three items (e.g., professional blogs as engagement with new ideas and scholarship of discovery)
    • Additional items are being included in the list of valued contributions to the academy (e.g., software development)
    • Scholars are utilizing the affordances of the web to support their T&P applications (and being open about the process in the course of doing so), and are able to provide multimodal evidence to support their applications (e.g., video). One example, is Dr. Couros’ application for tenure.

21st Century Scholars & Participatory Scholarship: Issues and Complexities

Even though recent technological advances have provided the impetus for scholars to productively participate in online networks of practice, the issues that arise as a result of participation in networked spaces are complex. Technical skills (such as setting up a blog or an RSS aggregator) are the least of scholars’ challenges. Participation in networked spaces for scholarship also requires a paradigmatic shift with respect to our identity as scholars and the purposes of education and scholarship. Below, I highlight a few of the issues related to participatory scholars and scholarship

  • Participatory scholarship requires scholars to develop Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and Personal Learning Environments (PLEs). PLEs “are the tools, artefacts, processes, and physical connections that allow learners to control and manage their learning” (Couros, 2010) while PLNs are the “the sum of all social capital and connections that result in the development and facilitation of a personal learning environment” (ibid). PLEs/PLNs were originally popularized for the generic learner but their appropriateness might shine in participatory scholarship and researcher training where self-directedness, lifelong learning, and personalization in learning, teaching and research is at the center of our work. Importantly, PLEs and PLNs as concepts rather than technological tools. While the information, knowledge, and connections harnessed within a PLEs/PLNs may be the result of tools (e.g., software aggregating relevant information), it is the idea of the individual being in charge of flexible and meaningful digital spaces that contain dynamically updated and personally-relevant information that is important. Similarly, while the PLN may be build, traversed, and mediated by contemporary social networking tools (e.g., Twitter), what is important is the notion of being able to access and share a persistent, co-created, and mutually beneficial space with other scholars. An example of a PLE is presented in figure 4. This image was taken from my RSS reader and shows a collection of items that I have marked as deeming further attention. In this image you will find articles that are in press and have just been posted online by the journals in which they were published (e.g., figure 5) and Blog posts from colleagues and students. Subscribing to RSS feeds for journals relevant to one’s field can be a daunting task, but this is where the value of openness, sharing, and networked participation in online spaces for scholarship is demonstrated: Dr. Doug Holton has created an extensive listing of RSS feeds for more than a hundred journals and has made it publicly available at

Figure 4. An RSS aggegator as a Personal Learning Environment

Figure 5. A PLE allows me near-instant access to published articles that interest me

  • Participatory scholarship requires commitment (and takes time). Developing a PLN takes effort and commitment both in terms of cultivating relationships with colleagues and in terms of taking the time to understand participatory cultures. White (2008) uses the continuum of digital visitors and digital residents to understand participation in online spaces and this is helpful in understanding participatory scholarship as well. Digital residents would be those scholars who understand the affordances of the participatory web for scholarship, take the time to cultivate digital identities and relationships online, and view the web as a crucial component of their life. Digital visitors on the other hand would be those scholars who use the web as a tool when the need arises. In the context of digital scholarship for example, they would visit electronic databases (such as ERIC and Scopus) to update a literature review for a paper rather than have a PLE that keeps track of publications of interest. The difference is between information/resource delivery and information/resource searching. Yet, being a digital resident takes time because of the pressures that exist to remain relevant and visible. For instance, remaining visible on a social networking and fast-moving platform such as Twitter means that one has to share often and frequently. Otherwise, her voice and presence will be lost in the sea of tweets coming from others.
  • Participatory scholarship requires the development of social and digital literacies and skills essential to the participatory web. Jenkins et. al. (2006) highlight the negative implications of the participation gap when youth do not have equal access to technologies. In the context of scholars, the participation gap refers to those scholars who participate in networked spaces and are able to take advantage of 21st century literacies to advance their career (e.g., learning new teaching approaches, promoting their research online, organizing colleagues to tackle important educational issues) 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. Rheingold (2009 – is convinced that learners need literacies affording them to decode and encode the information in online spaces. These relate to attention, participation, collaboration, critical consumption, and network awareness (ibid). For example, the amount of relevant information available online is beyond our individual ability to attend to it, especially as we are bombarded with distracters that demand our attention (e.g., facebook messages from a long lost high school friend). Without access to these critical literacies, participatory scholars will not be effective participants in online spaces. Subscribing, following, and commenting to hundreds of scholars’ blogs for example will, at some point, become too much of a time commitment. Nevertheless, being a literate participatory scholar means figuring out ways to manage information overload. For instance, Steven Downes publishes a newsletter aggregating information relevant to online learning so that users don’t need to do it themselves. In essence, Downes acts as an information filter. Nevertheless, digital literacies also demand critical evaluation of the filter (any filter, and not just Downes) to ensure breadth of coverage. Deciding what or who to trust as a filter is perhaps as equally important as using a filter. Another example relating to digital literacies is the use of web services to alert scholars of information relating to their specific interests. For example, figure 6 shows an alert sent to me tracking the use of the term “pedagogical agents” in online spaces. This service allows me to keep ahead of developments in this research field, take note of newcomers to the field, and even take notice when instructors assign my papers as reading material for their courses (as long as they post their syllabus on a public site or assign blog reflections to their students).

Figure 6. Filtering personally-meaningful information

  • Participatory scholarship requires scholars to cultivate online identities and monitor their digital footprints. Online identity refers to users’ presentation of themselves online (c.f. Coiro et. al. 2008) while digital footprints refers to the information available online about individuals (Madden et. al., 2007). Cultivating a scholarly online identity means refining online presence and reputation relating to one’s scholarship (e.g., topic of research) and taking an active role in managing that identity. For instance, participatory academics employ the services of text-mining techniques (e.g., Google Alerts) to track mentions of their name, publications, etc such that they can take an active role in managing how they are represented online. Note that in this context online presence is assumed to exist regardless of whether a scholar has taken any steps in cultivating such a presence: search for any scholar online and at the very least you will find a departmental or facebook profile. Rather than ignoring this presence, participatory scholars cultivate it, and take an active role in ensuring that their digital footprint accurately reflects their work. For example, figure 7 shows the results of a text-mining exercise on my last name.

Figure 7. Online identity management

  • Participatory scholarship requires ongoing participation. Participation in online spaces is ongoing. Dormant social media profiles say as much about scholars as active participation in online spaces. Likewise, the process of scholarly inquiry does not end with publication. Papers are shared, discussed, and critiqued across social media, providing additional opportunities for feedback and review.

Concluding Thoughts

In this paper, I explored the meaning of participatory cultures for scholars, arguing that participation in online spaces is becoming increasingly important and absence from these spaces can be detrimental to scholarship and practice. This proposal has extensive implications for scholarship, academic institutions, tenure & review policies, and researcher training. The cultural shift required for this transition, while implicit in this discussion, is an important dimension in any discussion surrounding higher education and scholarship. While I hope that this paper resonated with you, I welcome critique, feedback, and discussion both through ITFORUM and through my blog where this paper is posted.


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[1] At least in the United States