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

Category: work

The changing nature of publishing

Posted on September 17th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, open, sharing, work. No Comments

This is another one of those mini posts related to the changing nature of the work that academics do; specifically, publishing. I wrote this after  being directed to the Public Library of Science site from Tony Hirst‘s tweet:

plos_tweet

If you visit the website mentioned (here) you will see that the Public Library of Science will be making available a number of metrics intenting to evaluate the reach of published articles (I played with a similar concept here). These metrics (which will accompany each article) include reader notes and comments, ratings, social bookmakrs, citations in the academic literature, and so on. Not only is this a step toward transparently assessing the value of a publication, it provides another impetus for academics to seriously consider engaging with and participating in social media spheres. In an age where ongoing debate, collaboration, interaction, participation, and engagement are daily buzz words when envisioning improved education, shouldn’t the same ideas apply to our publications? If you are interested in these issues you may like to look at this cloudwork (and especially the comments made by Giota on the credibility, resistance, legitimacy, and power structures). It’s an interesting conversation.

Your thoughts?

On the Popularity of Open Access Journals

Posted on August 13th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, open, sharing, work. 2 comments
[This posting is divided into 2 parts. This is part 2 and it provides an exercise in popularity metrics for online open access journals. The first part of this posting, providing an editable spreadsheet of online open access journals,  is available here.]

In this post I demonstrate several points that I have been playing with over the years. On the one hand, the post takes a simple concept (the popularity of academic journals) and attempts to rethink it in the context of the digital, interconnected space. On the other hand, it demonstrates the power of the “cloud” and the opportunities provided by posting information in online spaces that are accessible via standardized formats (such as XML). The posting also serves as an example of what kinds of opportunities mashups can provide to universities/education. And finally, I just wanted to learn how to remix data via online services :)

yahoopipe

As you may have seen in my previous posting, we collected a list of all the open access online journals that we could find that are focused on publishing educational technology research. While having the list online in an open spreadsheet format allows anyone interested to update it, it also allows us to manipulate and remix the data. As a simple example, consider the issue of journal rankings. I’ve seen it debated on ITForum, on twitter, at the University of Minnesota where I did my PhD, and at the University of Manchester where I currently work. The issue is that “top tier” journals are good for tenure, but there are debates on what constitutes “top tier.” Is it readership? Rejection rates? Quality? Citations? All the above? I could link to a few different resources here, but the only one I will refer interested readers to is the European Science Foundation ERIH listings that I personally use as a guide.

My intention in this post is to rank the online open access journals according to “popularity.” As I see the rolling eyes through the tubes of the internet, let me say that popularity in this case refers to the number of sites that link to a particular page. Higher numbers denote more inbound links (= higher popularity). If you want to see the popularity metrics without reading the details of how this was done, the end result (that is generated every time you click on the link) is available on this page. At the time of writing, the least linked-to journal had 0 inbound links and the most linked-to journal had 31,534 links.

To be fair (or, “a word of caution”): The popularity index is not without it’s faults. Popularity doesn’t mean quality or even readership. The number of inbound links can be easily manipulated. The measure leaves our RSS subscriptions and number of individuals receiving TOC alerts. Also, inbound links carry equal weight regardless of where they come from. Another issue relates to journals changing URLs. For example, the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication used to be hosted an Indiana University but is now part of the Wiley InterScience group (and is still open access). Also, the URL we used to link to a journal might not be the most appropriate one. To fully understand and see the problems with this method, one has to dive under the hood of the whole process, and that’s what I am doing next.

The implementation in detail

The journal URLs are posted in a google spreadsheet that allows data to exist online in a variety of formats (e.g. csv and html files). Those files can then be read into Yahoo Pipes (essentially, a drag-and-drop mashup tool). Once Yahoo pipes has a list of journal URLs, those URLs are send through the Yahoo Site Explorer API which generates “information about the pages linking to a particular page or pages within a domain.” That information includes the magic numbers used in this exercise (i.e. the number of pages linking to a particular journal via its url). Once the numbers are generated, Yahoo Pipes exports them as an RSS feed. That feed can then be imported back to a Google Spreadsheet. And that’s it. Whenever a journal url is added to the spreadsheet, the pipe generates a popularity number for it without anyone needing to do anything. A new journal appears? No problem, just add the url and its inbound links will be counted automatically. If you want the full details, feel free to grab the actual yahoo pipe that does all the work and clone it (at this point I should thank Mat Morisson and Tony Hirst, whose postings on yahoo pipes and online data manipulation helped me rethink how I was doing this). If you don’t have a yahoo account and are interested in how the implementation looks, the image at the top of this post is the actual pipe created.

A final word of caution :)

This is not a valid method to decide where to send your next paper :). Yet, as I see more and more conversations online about  open access (e.g., BJET published an editorial on the topic on Aug 12, 2009) and alternative ways to evaluate ones contribution to his/her chosen field, this simple example may ignite ideas for evaluating journal contributions (in the UK at least the issue of journal impact is currently being debated as we await the transformation of the Research Assessment Exercise). Also, the ranking is less interesting to me than the implications behind our ability to remix available data to think about journal “impact”. Finally, if you are managing an online open access journal and you feel that the URL used is not representative of where users link to, please feel free to correct the url by visiting the original listing. If we used an erroneous link, we apologize and we thank you for helping us correct it.

Open Access Educational Technology journals

Posted on August 9th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, open, sharing, work. 14 comments
[This posting is divided into 2 parts. This is part 1 and it provides an editable listing of open access journals publishing research in educational technology]

For the Fall semester of 2009, I am teaching a course for MA students on “Researching Digital Technologies, Communication, and Education.” One of the resources developed for my students is a listing of open access journals (name, url, and RSS feed) that publish papers on the nexus between technology and education (educational technology, instructional design, e-learning, online distance education, and so on, and so on). I initially thought that this list would be available elsewhere, but I couldn’t find it. I could find numerous other collections of journals (here, here, here, and here) but nothing that consisted of only open access and only for technology-enhanced education. So, we created our own.

spreadsheet

Obviously, it would be plain silly to develop such a resource and not share it openly. Therefore, I am making the list available as a Google Spreadsheet that you can access here (update: if you don’t have a google account, you can view the document in html format). The spreadsheet is also open, so that if you have a Google account, you can add any journals/information that we were not able to find (if you don’t have a Google account to add information to the spreadsheet you will need to use this form). You will see that the information that is mostly missing are the journals’ RSS feeds (if you are the editor of one of the journals listed, please consider adding RSS feeds to your online journal and adding this information in the spreadsheet). Note that there is also a column that allows you to add your name so that additions to the spreadsheet are properly attributed.

I hope that this is useful for the community, for instructors who want to introduce their students to open access, and to researchers who would like to have a handy list around when considering where to submit their next paper.

[Stay tuned by subscribing to this blog’s RSS feed or following me on twitter: Part 2 of this series presents popularity metrics for these journals. These metrics are calculated in real-time and are automatically generated for every new addition to the spreadsheet]

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Notes from an e-learning workshop

Posted on August 4th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, Ideas, sharing, work. No Comments

This past week, my colleague and I had the pleasure of having with us a group of 25 faculty members from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In cooperation with the National Center For e-learning and Distance Learning, we held a two week workshop/training session for them on e-learning, digital technologies and education. Our conversations over these days touched upon multiple aspects of online and distance learning, ranging from cultural issues to techno-social affordances, to LMS evaluation, quality assurance, creativity, and pedagogical transformation. While I had a curriculum designed for my workshop days, I followed about half of it. The rest was revised on the spot according to what we felt we needed to cover and the needs that arose. In reality, the workshop wouldn’t have been successful had the curriculum was set in stone, but, if you are reading this far, I am probably preaching to the wrong choir :)

Below, is a list of items/ideas surrounding workshop issues. Other than being helpful to me, they might also be helpful to you if you are planning on leading a workshop/training session:

  • People seem to like lists. I don’t know why, but they do. I think it was Curt Bonk who had wrote that people like lists and acronyms (probably because they are memorable), but the last item that I gave to my colleagues before they left today was a list of 10 things to keep in mind when using technology in education.
  • This group was especially interested in learning from our experience with e-learning. Frequent questions were: How does the University of Manchester do e-learning? How do you train instructors/professors in using technology in education? What is your e-learning agenda? How do you convince instructors to adopt technology? What went wrong and what did you learn?
  • Pedagogy and technology-enhanced pedagogy should be central and this should be made explicit from the very beginning. By George (!) enough with pedagogy-enhanced technology!
  • University networks are just plain weird. On the one hand, my computer (that is registered on the network by its mac address, which is a unique identifier) would not connect to the network via ethernet. On the other hand, more than 1 person can log on the lab machines using the same username and password. The reason why the first issue arises while the second issue is ok is baffling me.
  • Practical activities and discussion trump theory.
  • People also seem to like to explore the courses that others have created and investigate specific design ideas or specific things that worked well or didn’t. I had my own courses to showcase and a few other open courses, but I wasn’t able to invite others to talk about their own experiences/courses. Perhaps the next time.
  • Every university is different and it’s always difficult to give specific input on what might work in a specific situation. Recipes for success are generally recipes for disaster. For example, in some of these universities, the university’s budget is a non-issue. Yes, you read this right. In this economic climate. This was something new for me. To be more specific, it doesn’t matter if Blackboard costs money and Moodle doesn’t.
  • Studying your learners helps. Did you know that online learning and distance education are  pressing matters in Suadi Arabia due to the fact that 38% of the country’s population is between the ages of 10-14 and the country needs to provide higher education to these people? It’s an exciting time for our field in this part of the world.
  • Respectfulness, politeness, openness, appreciation, and kindness (along with a desire to improve education) go a long way.

I will end by posting a link to a twitpic posting that occurred during class time when we were trying to explore how the college of applied arts could promote student work online. And, in the spirit of the cross-cultural learning that transpired during the sessions, I look forward to visiting my newfound colleagues in the near future in Saudi Arabia. Inshallah (which, incidentally is a common Cypriot expression and is not derived from a specific religion)… oh, the things that this blog’s visitors learn are never-ending :)

Update on the definition of emerging technologies

Posted on November 30th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, emerging technologies, open, sharing, work. 3 comments

This is an update on my work regarding my attempt to define the term emerging technologies for education: I was feeling a bit uneasy to write that the term “emerging technologies” has not yet been defined. Perhaps I was simply not discovering the definition? Perhaps the definition was laying somewhere out there and my research abilities weren’t up to par? (Unlikely, I know : ), but possible). I asked a few more people about this and ended up emailing George Siemens asking if he had a definition that he is using in his work. He asked the question on twitter here, and posted the replies he received here. Picking up on the twitter message and George’s blog post, a few other definitions have emerged here and here. Thank you everyone for contributing your thoughts – once again, I am thrilled to see educators worldwide adding their knowledge to this work! I will be using these thoughts to improve the ideas presented in my paper. The working book chapter with the definition of emerging technologies for education, teaching, and learning is now updated and available. This book is planned to be published as an open access publication by Athabasca University Press and the knowledge sharing that underpins this specific chapter makes a better case for why an open license is the best way forward!

A definition of emerging technologies for education

Posted on November 18th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, Ideas, open, sharing, work. 23 comments
[Update 3: The definition below has been updated and appears in the second edition of my emerging technologies and emerging practices book. More details on the updated definition are here. The updated definition is in chapter 1 of the new book]

 

[Update 2: The ideas discussed below appear in full detail at: Veletsianos, G. (2010). A Definition of Emerging Technologies for Education. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emerging Technologies in Distance Education (pp. 3-22). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press. You can download a pdf of this chapter from: http://www.aupress.ca/books/120177/ebook/01_Veletsianos_2010-Emerging_Technologies_in_Distance_Education.pdf ]

 

[Update 1 : Nov 30, 2008: I was feeling a bit uneasy to write that noone has yet come up with a definition of emerging technologies. So, I emailed George Siemens asking if he had a definition that he is using in his work. He asked the question on twitter here, and posted the replies he received here. Picking up on the twitter message and George’s blog post, a few other definitions have emerged here and here. Thank you everyone for contributing your thoughts! The working book chapter with the definition of emerging technologies for education, teaching, and learning is updated and available]

 

Surprisingly enough, the education, e-learning, educational technology, instructional design, and so on literatures do not include a definition of emerging technologies for education. Below is my attempt at defining the term. This definition will be part of a book chapter to be published in 2009. The complete chapter will be posted here by the end of January 2009. Enjoy, and if you have any comments, or if you happen to stumble upon a definition of emerging technologies, please feel free to comment!

Emerging Technologies are tools, innovations, and advancements utilized in diverse educational settings (including distance, face-to-face, and hybrid forms of education) to serve varied education-related purposes (e.g., instructional, social, and organizational goals). Emerging Technologies (ET) can be defined and understood in the context of the following five characteristics:

1. ET can be, but are not necessarily, new technologies. It is important to note that in this context the words emerging and new are usually treated as synonymous, but they may not necessarily be so. While a definition of new might be perilous and contentious, ET may represent newer developments (e.g., utilizing the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii Remote to practice surgical techniques) as well as older ones (e.g., employing open source learning management systems at higher education institutions). Even though it may be true that most emerging technologies are newer technologies, the mere fact that they are new, does not necessarily categorize them as emerging. This idea of new technologies being emerging technologies also begs the following two questions: When do technologies cease to be new? When technologies cease to be new, do they also cease to be emerging? For example, synthetic (or virtual) worlds were described as an emerging technology more than ten years ago (Dede, 1996). Today, virtual worlds are still described as emerging technologies (e.g. de Freitas, 2008). Newness, by itself, is a problematic indicator of what emerging technologies, as older technologies can also be emerging– the reasons for this will become clearer after we examine the characteristics that follow.

2. ET are evolving organisms that exist in a state of “coming into being”. The word evolving describes a dynamic state of change and continuous refinement and development. Twitter, the popular social networking and micro-blogging platform, represents an illustrative example of an ET that is “coming into being.” Twitter’s early success and popularity would often cause frequent outages. Such issues were most noticeable during popular technology events (e.g., during the MacWorld keynote address). After a while, Twitter’s outage issues were both lambasted and anticipated by the industry. When a new company moved into Twitter’s old offices, an image was posted on the office door (Figure 1) as a tongue-in-cheek statement regarding Twitter’s downtime and office relocation. Early attempts to satisfy sudden surges in demand included using more servers and implementing on/off switches to various Twitter features (e.g., during the 2008 WorldWide Developers Conference), while later efforts included  Re-designing the application’s architecture and withdrawing services (e.g., free SMS and instant messaging support). Existing in a state of evolution, Twitter continuously develops and refines its service, while maintaining its core purpose, and still being an emerging rather than an established technology.

3. ET go through hype cycles. Today’s emerging technology might be tomorrow’s fad, and today’s simple idea might be tomorrow’s key to boosting productivity. While it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that today’s innovations will completely restructure and revolutionize the way we learn and teach, it is important to remain critical to hype. Even though technology has had a major impact on how distance education is delivered, managed, negotiated, and practiced, it is also important to recognize that due to organizational, cultural, and historical factors, education, as a field of study and practice, is resistant to change (c.f. Cuban, 1993; Lortie, 1975). Technologies and ideas go through cycles of euphoria, adoption, activity and use, maturity, impact, enthusiasm, and even infatuation. In the end, some of today’s emerging technologies (and ideas) will become stable (and staple), while others will fade in the background.

One way to describe the hype that surrounds emerging technologies and ideas for education is to observe the Hype Cycle model (Fenn & Raskino, 2008) developed by Gartner Inc. This model evaluates the relative maturity and impact of technologies and ideas and follows five stages that have been successfully applied to diverse topics (table 1). Most specific to the topic of this book are the hype cycle models developed for Higher Education (Gartner, 2008a) e-learning (Gartner, 2006), and emerging technologies (Gartner, 2008b).

4.      ET satisfy the “not yet” criteria. The “not yet” criteria refer to two interrelated issues:

a. ET are not yet fully understood. One factor distinguishing ET from other forms of technology is the fact that we are not yet able to understand what such technologies are, what they offer for education, and what they mean for learners, instructors, and institutions. For example, what exactly is mobile learning? How does it differ from other forms of learning? What does it mean to have access to data regardless of geographic location? What are the social and pedagogical affordances of mobile learning in relation to alternative forms of learning? As a result of ET not being fully understood, a second issue arises:
b. ET are not yet fully researched or researched in a mature way. Initial investigations of ET are often evangelical and describe superficial issues of the technology (e.g., benefits and drawbacks) without focusing on underdtanding the affordances of the technology and how those affordances can provide different (and hopefully better) ways to learn and teach at a distance. Additionally, due to the evolutionary nature of these technologies, the research that characterizes it falls under the case study and formative evaluation approaches (Dede, 1996), which, by itself, is not necessarily a negative facet of research, but it does pinpoint to our initial attempts to understand the technology and its possibilities. Nevertheless, because ET are not yet fully researched, initial deployments of emerging technology applications merely replicate familiar processes, leading critics to argue that technologies are new iterations of the media debate (e.g., Choi and Clark, 2006; c.f. Clark, 1994; Kozma, 1994; Tracey & Hasting, 2005). Unfortunately, to a large extend, they are right – newer technologies are often used in old ways: Linear PowerPoint slides replace slideshow projectors; blogs – despite the opportunities they offer for collaboration – replace personal reflection diaries; and pedagogical agent lectures replace non-agent lectures (e.g., Choi and Clark, 2006).

5. ET are potentially disruptive but their potential is mostly unfulfilled. Individuals and corporations recognize that a potential exists, but such potential hasn’t yet been realized. The potential to transform practices, processes, and institutions, is both welcomed and opposed. For example, open access journals have the potential to transform the ways research and knowledge are disseminated and evaluated. While this advancement has the potential to disrupt scholarship, to date, the majority of research is still published at closed access journals and periodicals.

As I have said before, i developed the above “definition/description” because i couldn’t find one in the literature. If you have one that for one reason or another i couldn’t find, please feel free to add the citation/reference to the comments or send me an email. If you have any critiques, i also wouldn’t mind hearing those either :)

The disintegration of the real-virtual binary

Posted on November 15th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, work. 4 comments

One facet of human thinking that intrigues me is the idea that we often believe things to be black and white. While shades of grey is probably the norm, and things aren’t usually as simple as we make them to be, we tend to think in binaries. A binary system is one that consist of two, and only two, units. For example, we tend to think in terms of male and female (disregarding all the other orientations that exist between the two extremes), white and black, real and virtual.

You can blame this CNN article for this Saturday morning rant :). In it, the reported describes how ‘A British couple who married in a lavish Second Life wedding ceremony are to divorce after one of them had an alleged “affair” in the online world.’ I increasingly see stories of the real life blending into the virtual one, and of the virtual one blending into the real. I have always been a proponent of the idea that we live in a world where our “real” activities cannot be distinguished from our “virtual” activities, actions, work, and thoughts (- as a side note, in a job interview once, I was asked if i think that virtual existence is the same as real existence and replied by asking what a real existence means). In other words, the real vs. virtual binary is non-existent, especially considering the fact that what we think is “real” may not be “real.” Confusing? Consider this: You walk down the street and you come across someone who is completely and utterly different than you (e.g. a cypriot professor who studied in the US and currently works in the UK – I am guessing other than me, noone else of that description is reading this blog). What do you “see” whan you see this person? You “see” this person with your own worldview and (positive & negative) stereotypes. What you see therefore, is not “real” as such, but it is your own understanding of this person. What is real for you may not be real for the person next to you.

Some of us – those who have access and skills to take advantage of the technology – live in a world where the distinction between the real and the virtual bends and blends. And this has immense implications for not only teaching and learning which is the focus of this blog, but living and experiencing the world.

US vs UK: academic differences

Posted on October 26th, by George Veletsianos in work. 2 comments

If you follow this blog, or know me personally, you know that two months ago to this day I moved from the US to the UK. I knew that there were differences between the two educational systems, but I didn’t know too many details. Below is a list of differences. I am sure there are more but as I start internalizing the differences, I am assuming that it will become harder and harder to verbalize them. I don’t know if these apply to all fields, but this is how it goes in the education departments that i’ve experienced:

  • At the end of your master’s degree, if you are in the US you write a thesis and if you are in the UK you write a dissertation. If you are doing a phd, it’s called a disseration in the US and a thesis in the UK.
  • Master’s levels papers are judged by a committee in the US and you receive a pass/fail (usually a pass).  In the UK, your paper is graded by your advisor (called a tutor in the UK). Graded means being given an actual mark (0-100). A second person independently grades your paper too. Then, the two come together to discuss the individuals grades. If they disagree the paper goes to an external evaluator who grades it. The external evaluator also looks at all papers that are receive a “fail” mark and also looks at a representative sample from all dissertations/thesis.
  • In the UK, blind marking is the norm. I have never blind marked a paper in the US (and I don’t see how bling marking will work since I already know what my student’s final project will be about)
  • My students are supposed to turn in their papers to an administrator by the due date. I then receive those papers. I always received the papers in the US.
  • My students can ask for a deadline extension from the University (which is usually granted, i believe). In the US I had complete control over deadline extensions and I could negotiate it on an individual or collective basis.
  • UK grants are budgeted at “100% Full Economic Cost.” FEC means that all costs should be accounted for in a grant. “All costs” means all costs related to a project (yes, this includes items such as my time working on the project, but also things like electricity use, computer depreciation, and so on). US grants are not budgeted like this.
  • Committee work is minimal in the UK (for a lecturer at least). My US colleagues have to do quite a bit of committee work.
  • US institutions make an offer to the academics they intend to hire. The academics then make a counter-offer and negotiate their salary and benefits. In the UK, (to a large extent) there is no negotiation. I learned this one pretty quickly :).
  • The UK has a national academic pay scale. The US does not.
  • US academics get a pay rise when they move to a new university. In the UK, your salary goes up every year until you reach the top scale of your position. Moving to a new institution does not necessarily mean a raise (see point above).
  • In the US the academics are called assistant professors, associate professors, (full) professors. In the UK we are called lecturers, senior lecturers, readers, and professors.
  • In the US, you are on a tenure-track position. In the UK you are on a permanent position (usually with a probationary period of 4 years).
  • If you do not have a UK teaching certificate and this is the first time you are teaching in the UK, you have to go through a New Academics Programme where you will be taught some fundamentals of the system, university, and teaching. If you change institutions, you do not have to go through the programme again. There is no such formal process in the US.
  • In the US, I could use my grades as an incentive to encourage people to do better/more work. Specifically, i could give bonus marks for going over and beyond some task, or if students chose to engage with a particularly difficult (optional) task I had assigned. Apparently, the practice of “bonus points” is “unorthodox” in the UK and discouraged (banned, may be a more appropriate word) [added on Nov 18].

That’s all I can remember right now. Below is a list of relatively funny differences:

  • “Pissed” means drunk (UK) or mad (US).
  • Color is colour.
  • WebCT Vista (UK) is Blackboard (UK). This is more weird than funny. For those of you who don’t know the background. Blackboard and WebCT were two learning management systems companies. Blackboard bought webct. WebCT Vista is the Learning Management’s System name (US). In the UK it’s simply called Blackboard because, I was told, people kept confusing Vista with the Vista operating system. Understandable. But, this begs the question: Don’t US academics have the same problem? Why is it still Vista over there?
  • Cell phones = mobile phones.

And the obvious similarities (and pieces of advice):

  • Be friends with the tech people – they are invaluable. Enough said. Actually be friends with everyone :)
  • Powerpoint is still evil :))