2

Is Digital Scholarship limited by cultural myopia?

 

Introduction

The parameters of scholarship in education are often based on Boyer’s (1990) dimensions of discovery, integration, application and teaching. Healey further expands on the scholarship of teaching to include “research into teaching and learning, critical reflection of practice and communication and dissemination about the practice of one’s subject” (2000, p. 169).

 

Broadening the discussion to include the transformational aspects of “digital” technology, educational scholarship has been enriched through open data, open publishing, a blurring of the academic and ‘real’ world, open teaching and learning and a movement from the individual to the distributed scholar and global access (Pearce, Weller, Scanlon, & Kinsley, 2012). However, Pearce etal. (2012, p. 169) cautioned that technology is “a necessary but not sufficient condition” for true scholarship. The question is, given the potential and reality of technology, what else is needed to fulfil the obligations of a modern ‘digital’ scholar?

Argument statement

This essay will argue that the dominance of a Western cognitive constructivist tradition in online and offline education, led by British, Australasian and North American (BANA) institutions limits knowledge, understanding and progress not only of its students, but of its scholars as well in exploiting the true potential of open educational tools and resources.

 

There are four main reasons for situating this essay in the context of teaching and learning, in particular, a critical reflection of digital scholarship practice in relation to multi-cultural multi-lingual (MCML) learning environments. Firstly, demographic shifts in education are occurring at an unprecedented rate as a result of globalisation, immigration, migration, and war (Boelens, 2010; Boelens, Cherek, Tilke, & Bailey, 2015). Secondly a significant shift to online education where the global market is showing a 9.2% five year annual compound growth rate and is now worth $107 billion led by India and China (Pappas, 2015). Thirdly, work and employment increasingly is global, remote and disaggregated with globally mobile and fluid workforce and both employers and employees requiring “just in time” rather than “just in case” skills and knowledge. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is a moral, ethical and value-based argument. On the one hand, MCML students are prejudiced by the dominance of a Western cognitive constructivist tradition in education (Catterick, 2007; Sadykova, 2014; Zhang & Kenny, 2010) and on the other, ignoring the MCML dimension limits critical reflective practice, the potential of international digital scholarship and knowledge and understanding of a large part of the educational scholars’ field.

Interpretive Discussion

Background

Traditionally, creating culturally-responsive accommodations for MLMC students has faced considerable institutional opposition. The response of educational institutions, comprised a narrow range between non-accommodation and intervention in the form of student induction into ‘the system’ i.e. modify the student not the program (Catterick, 2007; Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010). Arguments against interventions cite costs, quality control, and expectations of the students themselves and their future employers that they are “Westernised” as a by-product of their education (Catterick, 2007).

 

Parrish and Linder-VanBerschot (2010) acknowledge these issues and suggest that institutions distinguish between entrenched cultural values and superficial practices, and create interventions with constructivist and instructivist alternatives or choices in learning activities and instructional format only where these are critical to learning success. Researchers sound a word of caution against cultural generalizations that lead to stereotyping and discrimination (Gazi, 2014; Hardy & Tolhurst, 2014; Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010). This can be ameliorated through a combination of embedding cultural considerations in each stage of the instructional design process, ensuring an iterative practice of reflection and modification and encouraging student interaction and feedback (Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010; Young, 2009).

 

Models designed to foster awareness of cultural implications in education vary in their orientation. Initially research done in corporations (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010) and physical classrooms led to classroom or systems originated and oriented models such as the Inclusion, Attitude, Meaning, Competence (IAMC) model of Ginsberg & Wlodkowski (2009, cited in Suzuki & Nemoto, 2012) and the Cultural Dimensions Learning Framework (CDLF) (Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010) which were adapted for online learning.

 

In contrast, the Culture Based Model (CBM) framework of Young (2009) and the Cultural Adaptation Process (CAP) model (Edmundson, 2007b) are product oriented with the aim of guiding designers to incorporate culture in the design of digital and online educational products. (See Appendix 1 for illustrations of these models).

Reflection on teaching and learning in a multi-cultural environment

Educational institutions are not the only suppliers of teaching and learning. Commercial entities, particularly multinational companies, go to an enormous amount of effort in creating culturally compatible user interfaces – see Edmundson’s (2007a) book “Globalized e-learning cultural challenges”. One could argue that this effort directly benefits their bottom line, however all institutions would benefit from this approach.

 

Fortunately there are some researchers open-minded enough to examine the assumptions of their own culture, reflect on the embedded cultural practices of teaching and learning and those of the digital platforms and applications and thoughtfully researching ways to reconcile the two so as to optimise the learning of their students (Chan & Rao, 2010; Looker, 2011; Ren & Montgomery, 2015; Sadykova, 2014). Critical examination of one’s own culture and introducing new technologies in a more considered and less forceful way, appears to result in more success and acceptance. Pedagogy aligned with sociocultural context allows scaffolding of current to new practice and understanding (Chan, 2010; Chan & Rao, 2010; Law et al., 2010; Rao & Chan, 2010).

 

Chan (2010) demonstrated aspects of the Confucian approach to teaching and learning were highly compatible with the values of digital scholarship, and showed how modifications in the way technological tools for collaborative learning were introduced positively impacted their acceptance by teachers and students in a high school setting.

 

More recently, in examining Korean students’ experiences of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Ahn, Yyon and Cha (2015) built on the CDLF of Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot (2010) showing how awareness, cultural sensitivity and relatively minor adjustments could enhance the online learning experience of such students without detracting from the quality and substance of the courses.

 

The introduction of digital innovation in the learning environment does not automatically lead to universal acceptance, but can resoundingly be rejected in any culture when it is felt basic assumptions and expectations are being violated – as the study of an online peer-to-peer review workshop tool revealed (Wilson, Diao, & Huang, 2015). Even if peer-to-peer review and data analytics have meta-cognitive benefits, their implementation is often poor and occurs within a context where cooperation and collaboration is espoused but underlying assumptions and pressures of competition and the importance of good grades prevail (Durall & Gros, 2014; Wilson et al., 2015). Similarly, suboptimal outcomes are seen if the social-emotional needs and group formation process is neglected in online scholarship or learning and made subservient to certification and task performance (Carabajal, LaPointe, & Gunawardena, 2003).

 

Current trends, futurist predictions, theoretical perspectives

Disaggregation and re-aggregation appears to be a theme in many of the discussions on trends and the future of education – something technology allows in ways previously not possible.

 

Ware, writing in 2011, predicted that the publication of academic research would be disaggregated between the repository process of registration and dissemination of work and the certification process which includes peer review and branding – an idea that harks back to the learned societies of the 18th and 19th centuries. (Ware, 2011). Four years later this is the reality in open access repositories in China (Ren & Montgomery, 2015). Retractions of research papers have also resulted in the calls for the publication of the complete research work flow including raw data – something that is now technologically possible and feasible as interrogation and data analytic tools develop (Larsen, 2008; Oransky & Marcus, 2010; Ware, 2011).

 

Technology enhances the agency of the self-directed learner (SDL) to re-aggregate OER to suit their learning needs. Mike Caulfield’s idea of choral explanations in OER textbooks:

“the text branches off into multiple available explanations of the same concept, explanations authored individually by a wide range of instructors, researchers, and students. You can keep reading until you find the explanation that makes sense, or you can start with simpler explanations and work your way to nuance.” (Caulfield, 2016, para. 63)

opens many possibilities for expanding textbooks to accommodate linguistic and cultural diversity – something international students already do when they purchase two (physical) textbooks, one that is not only in their home language but also in their home pedagogical culture (Bailey, 2016; Kim & Mizuishi, 2014)

 

Bates cautions that there is still an agency role to structure and accredit that knowledge acquisition (Bates, 2011), but in a globally mobile and fluid workforce, those aggregators will need to accommodate different cultures of learning. Public/private educational entities such as Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education are taking a regional lead in exporting their vocational training through their educational services division (Chong, 2014; ITEES, 2015; Li, Yao, & Chen, 2014).

 

Similarly consideration could be given to using the models and algorithms in the field of adaptive learning (Charles Sturt University, n.d.) and personalisation in order to create cultural adaptations based on parameters set by students.

 

Two universities, although very different in design are using innovative online technology, Kiron University to give refugees the opportunity to further their education (Bates, 2015) and Minerva University to give fee paying students a global education that is location independent for both students and professors (Wood, 2014). Such disruptive models of higher education raise all kinds of questions on the implications of digital learning including whether scholarship and research will continue if scholarship is not directly visible or rewarded (Harry Lewis, cited by Wood, 2014).

Implications for scholarly practice

In order to understand the role of technology, Kalantzis and Cope (2015) go back to the etymology of ‘media’ as agents bridging meaning across space and time to facilitate communication, understanding and learning. This has huge implications for scholarly practice.

 

Literature on global collaboration in the classroom (Higgitt et al., 2008; Thombs, Ivarsson, & Gillis, 2011), the research process (Siemens & Burr, 2013; Siemens, Cunningham, Duff, & Warwick, 2011) and online conferencing (LaPointe & Gunawardena, 2004) enumerates many benefits of such collaboration. These include but are not limited to the opening of and access to new knowledge; flattening of hierarchies, easier discovery and connection mechanisms; extending the reach and equity of scholars and reducing costs. Some of the problems however, include issues with technological difficulties and failure, differences in equipment standards and capabilities, scheduling issues due to time differences, misunderstandings due to language, the nature of computer-mediated communication including its text-basis, time-independence, asynchronous nature and inability to interpret culturally based non-verbal cues (Pearce et al., 2012; Selwyn, 2010; Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a, 2012b; Weller, 2011).

 

Of these, language remains a significant barrier to open access international research and learning. Even where all members of a research team are proficient in a language (usually English), research in other languages may not be accessible to non-speakers (Loan & Sheikh, 2016; Ren & Montgomery, 2015), and language and cultural norms may be intertwined where nuance can result in misunderstanding (Siemens & Burr, 2013). As translation software continue to evolve will more students be able to study and do internationally recognised and disseminated research in their home language, (Cheesman et al., 2016; Palaiologou, 2007; Sadykova, 2014)? Or will the dominance of English prevail – albeit with a move to “global English” as envisioned by Schell (2007) and what will be lost as a result?

Conclusion

Digital scholarship within the context of international and globalised education could benefit from additional critical reflection into the assumptions concerning and attitudes towards multi-cultural and multi-lingual students and fellow researchers. Given the plethora of technological tools, research, knowledge and practice in non-BANA educational institutions, of intrepid researchers in BANA institutions and of multi-national corporations there are ample examples of best practice and the potential to positively impact student learning and educational scholarship in the digital realm.

 

References

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Larsen, R. L. (2008). On the threshold of cyberscholarship. The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 11(1). http://doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0011.102

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Appendix 1: Illustrations of Models

 

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Figure 1: IAMC model Ginsberg & Wlodkowski, 2009 (cited in Suzuki & Nemoto, 2012 p. 25)

 

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Figure 2: Cultural Dimensions Learning Framework (Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010, summarized in Ahn, Yoon & Cha, 2015, p.207)

 

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Figure 3: Culture Based Model, Young, 2009, p. 38

 

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Figure 4: Cultural Adaptation Process (Edmundson, 2007b, p. 269)

1

Are we there yet? No … and this is why – an appeal to database owners and academic libraries

I’m about to write another assignment.  This must be about my 40th serious assignment of over 1,500 words requiring academic research, looking for good peer-reviewed studies, reading through 1,000’s of pages to try and distill exactly what is being said, whether it is of relevance (directly or tangentially), and once I’m finished that to pause and think and think and think and try to come up with some new insights, some different ways of applying the theory, some critiques that go beyond the obvious.

As I’ve written before, (unfair advantage, / how I used to write) the true work isn’t in the procuring of the articles, it’s in discerning their relevance, it’s in rejection rather than reading.

So why am I, Anno Domino / Common Era  2015 STILL spending so much time on the library database doing silly work. Honestly, those who lead academic libraries and who run academic databases please tell me why this isn’t easier, faster, more streamlined?  Is it me? Am I doing something fundamentally wrong?

Yes I know how far we’ve come and how much easier this is than 10-15-20 years ago. Yes I also studied in the days of micro-fiche where you didn’t even bother finding articles because it just went into the box of “too hard”.  But we do have the tools now and we have progressed further so there should be no excuse as to why the “stupid” work is taking up so much of my time.

Right now I’m looking for good literature on “Classroom Libraries” as opposed to “libraries” in the use of space and resources.  I put in a federated search. At the same time, I search Google Scholar.  I open tabs of dozens of potential articles, reject many, decide to proceed with some.

As you all know by now I’m a huge fan of Evernote.  I put my entire life, but particularly my academic life into Evernote.  And as I stuff it full of articles, I also at the same time put the citations straight into Zotero, (my citation manager of choice – yes I know there are other new ones like RefMe that everyone is raving about, but Zotero has served me well and they’re very responsive to comments and suggestions).  But WHY oh WHY is it still such a pain to get an article in a PDF format, a citation into a RIS format and both tucked up securely into the bedding of choice?

Time for some pictures … follow the captions for what I’m trying to say

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Primo Search – CSU Libraries

Let the GAMES BEGIN!

 

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Google Scholar (with the addition of the CSU library link)

Google Scholar (with the addition of the CSU library link) makes things much easier – I confess I’d rather click on a dubious link than the library link because it will take me straight to the article / pdf. It does make citation a bit more of a pain without the citation tools, but at least I can accept or discard it more quickly. On the other hand – there are way too few limiters for Google Scholar … as a distance learner, I don’t usually want books that I cannot access or where no eBook is available


Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.20.34 amThe open tabs in my browser once I get searching for articles … and that’s on a slow day

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delivery.ris? out? blah blah, how about downloading me some meaningful names?

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When I click on an article, if I’m lucky I get something nice and neat and tidy like this

But it’s only after a year or so of using databases that I built up experience in knowing which would get me the article most efficiently and with the least number of clicks and doubts

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If I’m not so lucky I get this –

Did you see all those tabs open on my browser – I don’t even have any idea what on earth is article was, so I just stab for my favourite database and hope for the best. If it goes wrong and I need to do an advanced search … expletive time

 Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.20.52 am

So I ask you nicely for the pdf. But then it just opens in a new browser window and I STILL have to click “print” and then “print to pdf” and then if I’m lucky it will retain the title or author as file name, and if not it will be “out/pdf” or “23489038” or “gobblydy gook got you there” or even worse “something.html”.

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The extra steps in getting a pdf onto your desktop and then into Evernote, don’t press “SAVE” because then you get an HTML file which is pretty useless!

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Such a short life, so many choices. And so many of them don’t actually provide what you think’s on offer. Cite? Sounds good – no that just means you copy and paste the citation into your document. Which makes it “dumb” data – You actually need “export” and then you need to click through a couple of times until you get the RIS file in your downloads

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Riddle me, Riddle me Rhy,
which of these options should I try?

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Zotero – Yes I do want to import, otherwise I wouldn’t have clicked on the RIS file in the first place – why make a one click step into a 2 click process. (But don’t fret too much you’re not the worst of the redundant click club)

Files waiting for transfer

Files waiting for transfer

Phew … A subselection of files, tabbed and colour-coded waiting to be put into the correct notebook in Evernote.

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 12.28.01 pm Just drag and drop and then the real work starts – roughly an hour or so for 10-15 articles and their citations … if you don’t get sidetracked by writing a blog post on the whole process!

NOW … If I ran the circus …

Let’s be completely impractical and totally utopian. See the top photo in the top left column?  I’d add two buttons to each entry:

* One click *.pdf download (with tagging allowed)
* One click *.ris download

because you see, as long as I can get the article, I don’t give a &*^*&^ (insert expletive of choice) which database it comes from. Just give the me the pdf.  With a sensible name like the title. And believe me, I don’t have the time or patiences or hard-drive to keep articles that are of no use for me, so I read the abstract and  delete.

Another circus I’d like to run – those learning modules.  I’ve been around the block a bit, and I’ve seen inside libraries.  A certain academic library that shall not be named in a town that shall not be named has a whole department dedicated to copying articles for coursework for their students who then get a bundle. Hard copies. Trees dying.

At CSU we judiciously just add links to the articles in primo, which the student then has to click on and go through the whole rigamarole highlighted above. Oh for heaven sake, just stop the pretence and put the articles into subject reserve in pdf form.  Who are we kidding that this is meaningful work or adding to knowledge? And then the links that don’t work, and instead of everyone going off and sleuthing how to find the article and thereby actually learning something, there is just a host of complaints on the boards that the article isn’t there.  Finding coursework articles that have been pre-selected by a lecturer does not a good student make. And we’re foolish to pretend it is so.  The success is in the seeking out of related material from other fields and dimensions that may not be thought of, in finding links and relationships, and then seeking those articles and selection and casting aside and applying that to the task at hand or real life that is the mark of the better student.

So now I’ll get back to the boring work.  And just as an aside mention – the databases that do it half ok?  ScienceDirect I always like – clean and easy and good with recommendations on related articles.  Proquest isn’t bad, and I like their little sidebar extras like seeing how many articles in which years / decades so you can see the rise and fall of fads.  EBSCO and JSTOR you’re ugly and clunky and too-many clicky and I avoid you as much as possible.

And here’s an open invitation – if all this is my own  stupid fault because I have nary a clue what I’m doing, please comment and tell me so and let all of us know a better way.

14

Unfair advantage

Following the release of the results of our first assignment, there has been some soul searching and discussion on how better results can be attained and what went wrong etc. I’ve seen this on various Facebook groups I’m a member of too. I’ve referred earlier to the whole privilege thing, and I’ll say it again.  No one mentioned it, but of course some of us (myself included) had an unfair advantage. When I write “the whole privilege thing” and then so easily reference the exact article, it’s because I’ve read it, and stored it on Evernote, and can easily access it.

Sichuan peppers at dinner in Chengdu last night

Sichuan peppers at dinner in Chengdu last night

Let me ‘fess up on where my starting line was when this course started. I’m not doing this to brag, but to give courage. I started at ground zero in August 2012 and I too had the shock of getting back grades from assignments and not only beginning to understand where I’d gone wrong.  My starting line this time around:

* A collection of 3,350 academic, professional and lay articles on Evernote, to which I’ve added 269 articles since I started this course in this course’s notebook.  I can only find 5 articles for my first course (in electronic form), because then I was still printing it all out.  And I threw out all the printouts in my last house move. I don’t even have the course overview or modules. That’s how bad it all was.  In fact it’s even worse. I naively thought that Interact was forever so I didn’t even save my marked assignments! So I don’t even have a hard copy of that. I cringe when I thought how stupid I was. How little I knew, how I bumbled through the first year. How scared I was to ask for help. How I didn’t even know who to ask for help.

* A Zotero library of 1,697 references to articles I’ve read (the difference with Evernote above is I only put articles in that I’ve used in assignments, and Evernote has a lot of my “life” in it, not just academic life). Most (but not all) of those references are “clean” i.e. I’ve sorted out the metadata and added the fields I need to make my referencing better.  I also have the email of people at Zotero  if I find it behaving strangely and not doing things the ‘correct’ APA way.

* I’ve passed 14 subjects at CSU. If I wasn’t starting to get the hang of things by now I’d have dropped out a while ago.

* I’ve discovered the APA blog, and experienced first hand their 24 hour or less (sometimes less than an hour) response time to queries if you can’t find the answer you need. I’m a regular at OWL Purdue (I even know what OWL means!). I also have just been through an exercise at work whereby I’ve been making reference posters for our students. There I had to make 6 posters each for APA, MLA and Chicago, which are the referencing styles we use. That sure was an education on referencing!  Even after weeks of tweaking things and getting it ‘right’ after we put it out in the open (this link is the first version – so not all correct! first link is the latest version), we kept getting comments and corrections from people with more knowledge and experience – talk about crowd-sourcing!

* I’d been blogging privately since 2006 and had written 1,931 blog posts with nearly 200,000 page views by the time I stopped in 2013. When I started this course I’d done about 100 blog posts professionally. I also re-started blogging reluctantly, and totally intimidated by those older and wiser and more experienced than myself and then was forced to by my courses, and now find it a way of releasing pent up thoughts and organising my jumbled thoughts on what I’m reading and experiencing. The community is not the same as 9 years ago, I’m not getting the steady stream of comments and encouragement that I had in the past – so it is less motivating if one speaks of external motivation. But it is still a learning tool for me, and the more I write, the more I can write and the easier it becomes.

* I work with a terrific person. Katie Day  (googleplus link) is the best boss a starting out TL could wish to have. She pushes me when I want to hold back, she challenges my naive and unformed and uniformed thoughts. She throws articles and books and websites and blogs and names at me when I get stuck. She takes me out of my comfort zone and encourages me and supports me when I have self-doubt. And most importantly she knows her S***. Whether it’s on the literature front, the technical front, the digital front, the teaching front, the working with teachers and students front.

* My family is supportive. We’ve just come back from a weekend in Chengdu – but we haven’t had many weekends off in the last 2.5 years, where I’ve not been tied to my laptop or iPad reading articles or writing assignments. And to be completely honest, the fact that I wasn’t this weekend is only because the wifi was so unbearably slow it was better to just give up and quit trying to study than to keep battling it.  My 12 year old daughter reads through my assignments and picks out bad grammar and discusses where things don’t make sense. My husband reads through my assignments and tells me if I’m becoming too academic.   Neither of them always know what on earth I’m writing about, but they do make me a better writer, since if I can’t write well enough for them to at least understand the gist of what I’m saying, I’m doing something  wrong.My 11 year old son gives me hugs and moral support. And reminds me that everyone learns in their own way and at their own pace.

Of course my privilege didn’t start there. As Gee would point out, I had parents who spoke to me and read to me. I grew up in a bilingual environment. English is my mother tongue. I had a tertiary education. I am surrounded by intelligent people who read and write and discuss things.

While writing this I’m just humbled by what a long journey this learning thing is, and if anything each of us should have a handicap that we start with, like golf, to make it a little fairer and more equitable.  But on the other hand, looking back I can say there is hope and it does get better. A lot better and a lot easier.  I also both care a lot more and a lot less. That may sound strange. On the one hand I’ve become very passionate about learning (care more) but on the other I’m a lot less scared of making mistakes and putting myself out there (care less).  All these processes take time. A lot of time. And while I may be a few metres past the starting line compared to some, I’m nowhere near others, and I can’t even see the finishing line. And that is life. And that is fine.