INF537 Critical Reflection


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What a challenge this subject has been- so many concepts I hadn’t given much thought to but make so much sense once a bit of time has been spent exploring them. I was unsure of what to expect this semester but assumed all would make sense- eventually. I still feel challenged by what I have studied but now understand that this will always be the case when new ideas are explored, especially when they look to the future. The responsibility for ensuring the best education for today’s students  is quite overwhelming when you consider the limited hours in a school day, the over crowded curriculum and the ever increasing demands placed on educators to ensure relevant education for the students in our care. It is important that careful consideration is given to the adoption of new ways of doing things especially with ICT, not because they are shiny, new and exciting in themselves but because of the affordances that can help teachers explore new possibilities for designing engaging and meaningful learning experiences.The challenge for me in my my work is to balance the need to encourage teachers who are trying new ICTs with ensuring that the way they do this is based on addressing syllabus outcomes in authentic ways.

The colloquium with Annabel Astbury (ABC Splash) highlighted growing participation in online spaces and the need to think of how these can be harnessed to develop a more participatory culture rather than simply relying on online resources which see us doing the same thing but in digital format. The idea of a one stop educational content spot online was raised by Annabel. I responded in my blog post that this would be unlikely as one place could not offer all that would be needed for all groups of students throughout the country (let alone the world).

Learning analytics, as presented by Simon Welsh, is a topic I had almost zero knowledge of. I feel that I now have an emerging understanding of the different ways analytics are used and am interested in following how this area develops. It is one thing to collect data on what students are doing online but quite a complex thing to contemplate in light of assisting and improving student learning. I blogged about how Simon’s presentation has unlocked my thinking in a different way.

The various colloquia were very thought provoking and also had me thinking back to other subjects and seeing the connections.

The colloquium with Tim Klapdor highlighted control and ownership of online content. This is an often debated area and cause for great concern for some. I was reminded of the work of the International Internet Preservation Consortium that was explored during the subject, ‘Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age.’ Consideration must be given to what happens to the ever increasing amount of data stored in the cloud as well as ensuring preservation for future examination as artefacts of our current society.

I was very enthusiastic following the colloquium with Cathie Howe as I was back on familiar ground – ICT in the classroom to improve student learning. I find the work of macICT critical in exploring new and emerging ICT and their use for supporting innovation in the classroom. In my blog post I briefly expressed concern about how teachers are incorporating some of these innovations into their classrooms and I reiterate the importance of research informed innovation. I am very excited about exploring transmedia storytelling further.


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Having written an interpretive discussion on Digital Scholarship, it is ironic that I have read so much about the importance of blogging with regard to digital scholarship and yet I find that I have not embraced it as much as I would like. I put this down to time pressure as I juggle a demanding job with tertiary study. I do hope to be a more regular blogger as my formal study concludes and I can continue my informal learning, incorporating blogging as a reflective practice but also as a way to share my thoughts with others and engage in dialogue around current and emerging issues and trends.

My greatest learning across the course as a whole has been the critical importance of ensuring that what we do in education is based on sound, authoritative research. The case study undertaken was the first time that I have engaged in any type of formal ‘research’. This further broadened my understanding of how we can engage in change using a systematic, focused, evidence based approach that can inform our work and provide data for others who may embark on similar journeys.

As this course concludes I continue to wonder about the future of education and the impact the digital environment will have. Many things are poised to revolutionise education:

How often I have heard the phrase, “It’s not about the technology, it’s about what you do with it?” If we expect to revolutionise education with technology, we must use it to promote meaningful thought processes as we guide the social process of learning. 

Digital Scholarship: An Interpretive Discussion.

 

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The term scholar may, for some, conjure up an image of an academic situated within the walls of a university. This scholar may have gained tenure on the basis of past and continuing teaching and research undertaken in the field. Others may expand this view to encompass a studious youth studying at a university or possibly even a school. The emergence of the term digital scholar may add some confusion to one’s image of a scholar. One may be excused for thinking that a digital scholar is simply one who incorporates digital technology into their work, given the ever-expanding digital landscape within which we live. Digital scholarship, however, is much more than this. This paper will explore the changing nature of scholarship within the context of blogging as digital scholarship.


Scholarship has been in a state of transformation due, in part, to the emergence of new digital tools, social behaviours, and cultural expectations associated with participatory technologies (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2011, p. 766). Digital scholarship, as defined by Weller (2011) includes the use of digital, networked and open approaches that demonstrate specialism in a field. Veletsianos & Kimmons (2011, p. 766) refer to Networked Participatory Scholarship in which scholars ‘share, reflect upon, critique, validate and further their scholarship’. Pearce, Weller, Scanlon & Kinsley (2010) argue that simply using technology in their work does not constitute digital scholarship; academics must be open to the particular affordances of new technologies that make possible open, networked collaboration between scholars for the purpose of benefiting not only the academy, but also society generally. Cohen (2007) discusses social scholarship that embodies openness, conversation, collaboration, access, sharing, and transparent revision. Whilst subtle differences may exist, the terms digital scholarship, Networked Participatory Scholarship and social scholarship all point to a shift in thinking about scholarship in a digitally rich society. Digital scholarship is increasingly being used to refer to the use of social software in academia and research (Heap and Minocha, 2012). Whilst the term may have different interpretations, including the curation and collection of digital resources, this discussion will focus more broadly on digital scholarship as it refers to the various scholarly activities that are afforded by contemporary technologies (Weller, 2011). 


Boyer (1990) identified four functions of scholarship: 

• discovery – the creation of new knowledge in a specific area or discipline; 

• integration – the creation of knowledge across disciplines; 

• application – engagement with the wider world outside academia, but still based on the scholar’s disciplinary knowledge and background; 

• teaching – a central element. 


These functions have been somewhat extended by the impact of digital tools, open data and open educational resources which make possible more open ways of working, although this is not inevitable (Pearce et al., 2010). Boyer’s framework now needs to be considered within the context of using blogs and other social, participatory, collaborative and dynamic affordances of the available software (Heap & Minocha, 2012; Pearce et al., 2010; Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2011). 


Whilst Boyer’s focus was on the individual, Borgman (2007) focuses her interpretation of digital scholarship on the work of teams and the capacity of the internet to ‘facilitate distributed, data and information-intensive collaborative research’. The Internet has also fostered a new culture of sharing, one in which content is freely contributed and distributed with few restrictions or costs (Seely Brown, 2008). 


The concept of digital scholarship can be explored through the practice of blogging. In the past, academic writing consisted of peer-reviewed, published communications that were, and possibly still are, staples of academic scholarship (Hank, 2013). The publishing of a peer-reviewed journal is traditionally the most respected means of contributing to a body of knowledge (Powell, Jacob & Chapman, 2012). What constitutes valid academic writing is now being challenged as blogging, along with other Web 2.0 tools, enter the academic landscape. The affordances of these tools for collaboration, interactivity, connectivity and social rapport, content creation and aggregation of knowledge and content also contribute to, and stimulate, the development of a participatory culture (Kirkup, 2010). As blogging becomes more popular and widely understood, one must now ask what place, if any, it should hold in scholarship. 


Despite some criticism of blogging as a valid form of scholarly writing, it is gaining more acceptance as a scholarly practice (Kirkup, 2010) as more scholars become known for their blogging that, in turn, develops their professional reputation. At the same time, blogging can enhance the identity of their associated organisation. Kirkup (2010) found that almost all of the bloggers in his study continued to use traditional print publication channels as well as other online media. 


Academic blogging is becoming a particular form of academic writing, a genre through which academics ‘engage in knowledge production and become public intellectuals’ (Kirkup, 2010, p. 83). Maitzen (2012) believes that blogging should be recognised for its contribution to the intellectual and institutional goals of universities but cautions that it will not suit every academic or academic purpose. Weller (2011) raises questions that may be asked in relation to blogging that are true for all digital scholarship. These questions explore scholarship in terms of centrality to practice, applicability across domains and function, quality, tenure, impact on academic communities, replacement or complement to existing channels and whether or not bloggers should separate their blogging from formal institutional systems. 


Returning to Weller’s (2011) suggestion that digital scholarship includes the use of digital, networked and open approaches, one can see how blogging addresses these three critical components. Blogs, by nature, are digital and networked and have the capacity for openness. As a digital tool, inclusion of other digital media, such as video, image and sound can be incorporated into blogs to enhance or, at times, replace print. Whilst it is possible to keep a blog private or limit exposure, it is the capacity for openness to the public that is critical for blogging to reach its potential as a practice of digital scholarship. Greenhow, Robelia & Hughes (2009) state that the use of blogging to expand professional connections and build networks may transform their responsibilities relating to teaching, research and service whilst enhancing their scholarly practice. Whilst it may not be appropriate to state that participatory technologies such as blogs are catalysts for changing scholarly norms, a state of change is reflected in the growing practice of academic blogging (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2011). Regardless of social or institutional structures and the 20th century paradigms of scholarship, some recognise how such tools have the power to support, amplify, or transform their scholarship in positive ways (Katz, 2010). Maitzen (2012) refers to blogging as a practice where all parts of intellectual life converge and coexist – reading, writing, teaching and research. 


Powell et al. (2011) and Hank (2013) agree that blogging can support the traditional goals of higher education institutions by serving as tools for teaching, learning, research and outreach. Mewburn & Thomson (2013) provide the example of some UK research grant applications which now require identification of the expected impact on audiences other than academics and maintain that blog advocacy sits neatly with official discourses of appropriate academic behaviour and performance. Advantages identified in the use of blogging include the rapid sharing of research methods, results and conclusions in an open, transparent manner (Powell et al., 2011) where information and ideas are instantly available to peers and the broader community and real time interaction and collaboration is possible. Immediacy is restored to scholarly discussion and logistical roadblocks are removed, opening up exchange of ideas and the stimulation for refining, reconsidering or expanding ideas (Maitzen, 2012). Further, Maitzen posits that quality of content is not determined by the form or platform. 


The process of peer review is well established in academia and some may argue that this element is absent from blogging. Hank (2013) challenges the thinking of peer reviewers and their role as gatekeepers by suggesting that, though not beholden to the same parameters or rigour of peer reviewed journals, blogging can be seen to be subject to critical review from a wider gate, though reasonably less expert. It is not suggested that blogging will necessarily replace the more formal practice of journal production at this point in time; it may, however, be seen as an important complement to the practice. Kirkup (2010) sees the possibility for engagement in critical ideas that may not have been accepted in a peer reviewed publication but still find a place in scholarly discourse where one may engage a much wider audience as well as those with common interests. Academics may need to adjust their writing style somewhat when writing for a wider audience. Writing less obscurely may be beneficial for promoting scholarly discussion on a global scale (Mewburn & Thomson, 2013). Blogging can certainly complement and contribute to traditional forms of scholarly publication. Powell et al. (2010) stress that referencing is critical if blogging is to become an acceptable form of scholarship accessed by government, organisations, industry and consumers. Rights management is also an important consideration for the digital scholar to ensure that legitimation and dissemination functions are not impeded (Borgman, 2007). 


An area of concern for academics regarding blogging is the conservatism regarding digital scholarship being recognised towards tenure, promotion and funding (Weller, 2011). Whilst blogging may complicate the notion of publication, Borgman (2007) states that publication occurs when a document is made public with the intention it is read by others. It is suggested that if blogging is considered for promotion and tenure decisions, it is the category of service rather than scholarship to which the practice is associated (Borgman, 2007; Hendricks, 2009). Hank (2013) agrees that blogging may not be seen as an opportunity for promotion but it contributes to scholars’ personal sense of other intrinsic rewards and elementary recognition, including greater visibility as a scholar, as well as institutional recognition, through invitations to publish, present and provide service and collaborate. 


When discussing digital scholarship, is it necessary to distinguish between an academic blog and a blog written by an academic? Mewburn & Thomson (2013) suggest that for a blog to be academic, the writer must declare affiliation with a recognisable institution, professional purpose and be connected to other academic blogs in some way. Weller (2011) however, states that a well-respected digital scholar need not be recognised as an academic nor affiliated with an institution, thus opening up scholarship to a wider group. Likewise, a digital scholar does not include just anyone who writes online. Blogs range from personal and ephemeral to theoretical and substantial, so it depends on how the scholar defines blogs themselves and how they elect to incorporate it within their own professional and academic life that may determine the place of their blog in scholarship (Hank, 2013). 


Blogging is an emerging academic practice that can promote the intellectual identity of a professional academic and their engagement as contemporary “public intellectuals” (Kirkup, 2010). For some, however, this practice may not be one that they are drawn to or feel comfortable with. It is important, however, for academics to model lifelong learning by identifying effective uses of technology for educative purposes and for sharing scholarship with a wider audience (Greenhow et al., 2009, p.254). The development of the necessary skills and dispositions for digital scholarship may begin in K-12 education and continue into post secondary education. Writing for an online audience through the use of blogging can support learning (Downes, 2004), academic identity creation (Kirkup, 2010) and public writing and presentation skills (Heap & Minocha, 2012). Reflective writing in response to learning experiences, conducting conversations outside of the physical classroom and aggregating notes, references and resources relevant to study are ways in which students of any age can begin to develop as bloggers whilst building their online identities, gaining more experience writing online for an audience. As students develop their skills and use of technology in education, they bring new skill sets and attitudes to post secondary education; reading and reflecting online, as well as engaging a community, brings learning to life (Downes, 2004). For this to be authentic, students must have purpose for their writing and be unconstrained in sharing to a wider audience beyond the classroom. 


A new approach to learning using blogs and other Web 2.0 tools can provide students with access to rich, often virtual, learning communities and promote passion-based learning, motivating them to become members of a particular community of practice or ‘just wanting to learn about, make, or perform something’. (Seely Brown, 2008). Learners are now using the web in ways that require further exploration to understand current and potential implications for education (Greenhow et al., 2009). 

flickr photo by tellatic http://flickr.com/photos/tellatic/6817840912 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


It is evident that technology is creating new environments for learning which ‘changes the relationship between knowledge and knowledge provider’ (Powell et al., 2012, p. 275). The emergence of digital scholarship has opened up academia to new, more open ways of working that makes collaboration beyond the academy a valuable addition to the nature of scholarship. Those who embrace the open values, ideology, potential and often challenges of technologies available through Web 2.0 understand the benefits to the academy and society (Weller, 2011). Whilst embracing the use of various technologies, such as blogs, may not yet serve the same function (or provide the same rigour) as the peer reviewed journals held in such high esteem by the academy, they do represent another way for sharing ideas, methods and research findings to a wider audience (Powell et al., 2012) and can have a significant role in all four types of scholarship identified by Boyer (1990). Cloud computing, social operating systems and the vast potential of virtual networks, will increasingly influence both education and research and will likely intensify the participatory and creative practices associated with digital scholarship (Greenhow et al., 2009). Digital scholarship is becoming an increasingly significant aspect of scholarship and may, in the future, be so integrated within scholarship that the word digital no longer becomes necessary to describe contemporary scholarly practice. 

 

References: 


Borgman, C. (2007). Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities for the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 


Cohen, L. (2007). Social scholarship on the rise. Blog entry posted to Library 2.0: an academic’s perspective. Retrieved http://liblogs.albany.edu/library20/2007/04/social_scholarship_on_the_rise.html. Downes, S. (2004). Educational Blogging. Retrieved http://www.downes.ca/post/40939 


Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., & Hughes, J. E. (2009). Learning, teaching, and scholarship in a digital age Web 2.0 and classroom research: What path should we take now? Educational Researcher, 38(4), 246–259. doi: 10.3102/0013189X09336671 


Hank, C. (2013) Communications in Blogademia: An Assessment of Scholar Blogs’ Attributes and Functions New Review of Information Networking, 18, 51–69, 2013 DOI: 10.1080/13614576.2013.802179 


Heap, T., & Minocha, S. (2012). An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging for digital scholarship. Research In Learning Technology. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v20i0.19195 


Hendricks, A. 2010). Bloggership, or is publishing a blog scholarship? A survey of academic librarians. Library Hi Tech, 28(3), 470-477. 


Katz, R. (2008) The tower and the cloud: Higher education in the age of cloud computing. Boulder: EDUCAUSE 2008 eBook 


Kirkup, G. (2010) Academic blogging: academic practice and academic identity. London Review of Education, 8(1), 75–84 DOI: 10.1080/14748460903557803 


Maitzen, R. (2012). Scholarship 2.0: Blogging and/as Academic Practice. Journal Of Victorian Culture (Routledge), 17(3), 348-354. 


Mewburn, I & Thomson, P (2013). Why do academics blog? An analysis of audiences, purposes and challenges. Studies in Higher Education, 38(8), 1105-1119. DOI:10.1080/03075079.2013.835624 


Pearce, N., Weller, M., Scanlon, E., & Kinsley, S. (2010). Digital scholarship considered: how new technologies could transform academic work in education. In Education,16(1). 


Powell, D., Jacob, C., & Chapman, B. (2012). Using Blogs and New Media in Academic Practice: Potential Roles in Research, Teaching, Learning, and Extension. Innovative Higher Education, 37(4), 271-282. doi:10.1007/s10755-011-9207-7 


Seely Brown, J. (2008). Open education, the long tail, and learning 2.0. Educause review, 43(1), 16-20. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/minds-fire-open-education-long-tail-and-learning-20 


Veletsianos, G. & Kimmons, R. (2012). Networked Participatory Scholarship: Emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks. Computers & Education, 58(2) 766–774. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.10.001 


Weller, M. (2011). The digital scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. A&C Black. Retreived https://www.bloomsburycollections.com/book/the-digital-scholar-how-technology-is-transforming-scholarly-practice/ch1-digital-networked-and-open

Colloquium with Simon Welsh

flickr photo by Elif Ayiter/Alpha Auer/..../ http://flickr.com/photos/alpha_auer/5068482201 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

flickr photo by Elif Ayiter/Alpha Auer/…./ http://flickr.com/photos/alpha_auer/5068482201 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Learning Analytics: A Traveller’s Guide was presented by Simon Welsh, Manager, Adaptive Learning & Teaching Services – Division of Student Learning, Charles Sturt University.

This was a very informative session and forced me to open my mind to the world of analytics. I have had little interest in this subject previously but Simon’s presentation certainly had me thinking about this topic and the associated implications. Knowing that every click you make during your online study is being recorded is somewhat disconcerting. It leads you to ask – have I clicked enough? Who is seeing this data? Who is judging me by my clicks? Of course, this happens in so many aspects of life including the social social media I access daily, but Simon’s presentation unlocked my thinking in a different way.

Simon highlighted the difference between learning and academic analytics:

  • Academic Analytics – supporting the management of students, staff and institutions
  • Learning Analytics – supporting learning and teaching processes

Long and Siemens (2011) present the difference in the following diagram:

 

 

analytics

It was interesting to note that the focus of the uni data analytics at the moment seems to be on identifying students who may show signs of being at risk of withdrawal. This is a very noble use of the data but, of course, care must be taken with what, if any, action is taken in response to the data.

With regard to learning analytics, how can the collection of data be harnessed to create better tools and services? Can this lead to improved learning outcomes?

Simon discussed the challenges facing this field including the identification of what drives quality learning and how analytics can be built to capture what is wanted. How can adaptive learning tools be developed to impact learning outcomes?

Long and Siemens (2011) state that basing decisions on data and evidence seems stunningly obvious, and indeed, research indicates that data-driven decision making improves organizational output and productivity. Boyd & Crawford (2012) caution that ‘Interpretation is at the center of data analysis. Regardless of the size of a data, it is subject to limitation and bias. Without those biases and limitations being understood and outlined, misinterpretation is the result.’


References:
Boyd, D. & Crawford, K (2012) Critical questions for big data. Information, Communication & Society, 15(5), 662-679, DOI:10.1080/1369118X.2012.678878
Long and Siemens (2011) Penetrating the Fog: Analytics in Learning and Education. EDUCAUSE Review, 46(5)

 

Colloquium with Annabel Astbury

Last week I participated in an online colloquium with Annabel Astbury. Annabel is Head of Digital Education at Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and is working with a team to deliver ABC Splash. It was a great opportunity to gain insight into a resource that is valued by many of the teachers I work with. I was very interested in the statistics that Annabel shared with us:

  • Over 3000 resources mapped to AC
  • 50-60,000 students per week
  • STEM resources
  • increased use of games
  • competition participation has increased
  • requests for tech help has diminished
  • 60:40 primary:sec
flickr photo by ePublicist http://flickr.com/photos/epublicist/3545249813 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

flickr photo by ePublicist http://flickr.com/photos/epublicist/3545249813 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Annabel posed the question, “Do you think the idea that a ‘one stop educational content spot’ is real?Whilst the idea of a one stop shop for classroom use appeals for reasons of manageability of online spaces to navigate, all agreed that it would not be a desirable. It is highly unlikely that one place could offer all that would be needed for all groups of students throughout the country (let alone the world).

ABC Splash is able to access quality resources from the ABC archives as well as the great game-type resources developed by the Learning Federation. All of these resources are mapped to the Australian Curriculum, which makes them very teacher-friendly. They do this job very nicely but online spaces in education need to embrace a more participatory environment. The discussion on the prospect of participatory learning had me thinking about ways that ABC Splash could move into this area. The live events and competitions do not really fit with the idea of participatory learning which would see students collaborating online, providing and receiving feedback on contributions and generally sharing their work with the world. As a trusted, non-commercial corporation, I believe that a provider such as ABC Splash would be an ideal platform for this to move forward. It would, however, require more personnel than may be possible for monitoring and facilitating student contributions. Another major consideration is the cyber safety/digital citizenship aspect of younger students in particular participating and sharing in an online community. Whilst I believe that this should not be a barrier, many parents are still very protective of their children’s online presence (as they should be) without exploring ways that this ideal can happen in a safe and secure way. How could these barriers be overcome?

Diana Laurillard (2008, p.1) observes that ‘education is on the brink of being transformed through learning technologies; however, it has been on that brink for some decades now.’  Given that much learning takes place outside of the school, it is important that there is a broader understanding of how technology fits (or not) within the wider social contexts that make up education and society (Selwyn, 2010).Without the removal of some major obstacles, we will not realise what is imminently possible.

 

References:

Laurillard, D. (2008). Digital technologies and their role in achieving our ambitions for education. London: Institute of Education.
Selwyn,N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26 (1), 65-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2009.00338.x.

INF537 – Digital Futures Colloquium

And so begins another subject. This time, however, there are none to follow. I look forward, with some degree of apprehension, to my final subject in this course. Much has been learned, with more to know. Digital futures – what an amazing thing to explore.

flickr photo by kevin dooley http://flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/4114167117 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo by kevin dooley http://flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/4114167117 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license