Month: September 2017

Digital Scholarship – Democratising Education

The participatory digital ecology and changing workforce have shifted practice and possibilities for scholarship. Notable in the university sector, this disruption is also relevant for school education, where teachers and students need to be lifelong learners amongst a changing dynamic. Rather than an individual, protected and privileged pursuit, to be a scholar in the participatory web context is connected and interactive, collaborative and open to sharing knowledge and ideas, with ubiquitous access to sophisticated multimedia opportunities for learning and creation. These factors of availability and the cultural shift to open practice have led to the democratisation of scholarship; anyone with access to the internet can be a scholar and have input into scholarly discourse through open networks and uninhibited creation and publishing. Whilst opening access and potential for participation, this new scholarly culture also raises questions about the validity of information and makes requisite that today’s information seekers be skilful assessors of quality.

In the traditional sense, Weller defines a scholar as someone with expertise in a particular branch of knowledge; often connected to, and perhaps defined by, an institution (2011). Traditional scholarship is typified by a complex and lengthy process of research, peer review and approval, prior to publication in print media. Marked by a tentative and cautious approach and “fraught with red tape” (Katz, 2010, p. 48), traditional academia’s linear structure prohibits disruptive discourse that might lead to divergent thinking (Gogia & Warren, 2015). The scholarly status quo was challenged in 1990, when Ernest Boyer noted that scholarship was fragmented and student experience lacked cohesion (Boyer, 1990, p. 2). Boyer called on the tertiary sector to make academic work more relevant to students’ lives and for the meaning of scholarship to be reconsidered and redefined (Boyer, 1990, p. 13). He challenged the notion that the term, scholarly, implies academic rank and status with a focus on research and publication, referencing more recent interpretations that included creative output and a less rigid interpretation (Boyer, 1990, p. 15). Alongside the opening created by technological progress, Boyer identified a space that was ready for change.

Made transformative by new technology and the participatory power of the internet (Seely Brown, 2000, p. 14), digital scholarship has begun to reshape and redefine academic learning. Weller identifies a digital scholar as “digital, networked and open” (2011, p. 44) with practice that is marked by virtuous and social collaboration, where a return on investment is not necessarily expected (Gogia & Warren, 2015). Digital scholarship is rich, interdisciplinary and relational (Gogia & Warren, 2015) and enables democratic and justice-oriented access to information and learning (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a). Whilst the bulk of research and literature on notions of scholarship deals with the university sector, considering the significance of digital scholarship for school education is also important. With a shelf life of less than five years expected for most areas of knowledge attained at university (Hagel, Seely Brown, Roy, Wool, & Tsu, 2014, p. 8), the necessity for students (at all levels) and their teachers to become lifelong learners is crucial. The 2017 ISTE standards for educators state that practice should be improved by learning through participatory networks and collaborating with colleagues and students (ISTE, 2017). The standards for students require that they are curators of knowledge, and effective global communicators and collaborators (ISTE, 2017). As familiarity and preference for new digital tools and practices flows from high school to higher education, a profound disruption of the traditional academic market is occurring (Wagner & Dintersmith, 2016, p. 149). It is critical that students are ready for change, as the university sector struggles to respond to a shifting paradigm. With the rise of alternate educational pathways, it is possible that formal higher education may not continue its hierarchical domination of educational discourse (Wells, 2016). With these factors in mind, it is timely to question the “outsized influence” of higher education on the K-12 sector (Wagner & Dintersmith, 2016, p. 8).

A notable outcome of the participatory internet is the democratisation of traditionally privileged academic spaces. As the internet has evolved, the quantity and diversity of information available online has exponentially increased (Weller, 2011). Through global access, the very nature of information and its purposes have changed. Wagner and Dintersmith describe privileged, education credentials as a “caste system”(2016, p. 8), and with university fees and study debts a considerable burden or prohibitor for many, the option of free, or drastically cheaper, socially-oriented, online learning becomes a viable substitute or complement (Wagner & Dintersmith, 2016). Today’s technology empowers independent learners, regardless of institutional rights and financial circumstances (Weller, 2011).

Not always institutionally associated, digital scholarship may be more defined by the individual’s interests and the influences of their network (Weller, 2011), leading to social and democratic construction of knowledge (Katz, 2010, p. 52). Early in the evolution of this digital space, blogs evolved as an example of digital scholarly expression (Weller, 2011), personalising scholarly writing by linking research with the identity of the author in connection with online peers (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b, p. 771). Blogs continue to be a key component of the new culture of shared academic thinking. They provide a space to rehearse ideas (Gogia & Warren, 2015) and socially shape thinking as feedback from open, interdisciplinary perspectives is possible and encouraged. Alongside this evolution of text-based communication, technological progress has brought competition to text as the supreme mode of literacy (Seely Brown, 2000), democratising visual and digital communication alongside traditional text-based expression. In a society affected by information overload and with dynamic and uncertain future workforce needs (Richardson & Dixon, 2017; Wagner & Dintersmith, 2016), the variety of digital creation tools has sparked creative thinking and skills and diversified communication to include multimodal methods, engaging learners in multiple processes for communicating, consuming and creating information (McCrindle, 2010). John Seely Brown notes that the web “honours multiple forms of intelligence” (2000), giving rise to creative skills in using multimedia for communication, alongside the spoken and written word. Content creation is a rich opportunity that can help learners forge a personal connection to areas of learning (G. Couros, 2015); however, there is still room for education across sectors to broaden the view of academic success to include more non-linguistic forms of communication (Joaquin, 2010).

Digital tools for creation of content are “fast, cheap and out of control” (Weller, 2011, p. 44), easy to learn and efficient to use (Weller, 2011). This shift in the power to create has moved creation technologies from “broadcast technologies” to “everyday technologies” (Thompson, 2013), available to anyone with access to the internet. Despite requiring the development of new skills in navigating and networking within the digital landscape (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b), such ease of use promotes disruption and unique methods of investigation, providing space for refreshing spontaneity (Gogia & Warren, 2015), evolutionary ideas and practice (Seely Brown, 2000) and the creation of new knowledge (Hagel et al., 2014) “without physical or economic boundaries” (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b, p. 772).

Traditional roles and relationships in academic spaces have also been democratised and recontextualised in this new ecology, with blurring of boundaries between teacher and student roles (Seely Brown, 2000, p. 20). As content continually changes, the notion of the teacher as “content expert” is no longer as valid (Spencer & Juliani, 2017), and collaborative learning spaces where the educator’s role is fluid are becoming more common (Adams Becker, Giesinger Hall, Cummins, & Yuhnke, 2016, p. 24). Innovative use of new tools and access to educational resources and communities have also led to significant interdisciplinary discourse, making the boundaries of traditional areas of knowledge more permeable (Weller, 2011) and levelling the perceived hierarchies of areas of knowledge. Skills in working across traditional disciplines have become essential as contemporary problems require thinking that traverses areas of expertise (Park, 2017) and disciplinary boundaries in the world of work are now more blurred (Hagel et al., 2014). This may be one of the most challenging areas of change for traditional secondary education, where curriculum and school infrastructure is often unreceptive to blending silo boundaries and providing space for transdisciplinary learning (Robinson, 2007).

As an entity, digital scholarship is not yet fully formed or easily defined – perhaps currently marked by a state of “not-yetness” (Collier, 2015). Whilst this fluid position allows for continued evolution and emergence, the contrast between an established structure and a less-defined new entity creates considerable tension for academia (Goodfellow & Lea, 2013). In this evolutionary space, it is fair to question the purpose and place of new practices and tools in order to assess their value and facilitate ongoing shifts in practice (Weller, 2011). At this early stage, it is not always easy to determine the success criteria and be sure that indications are reflective of broader trends (Weller, 2011). Tensions brought about by change in the ingrained, academic space may still outweigh transformative progress (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a) and therefore, more evaluative, rather than optimistic discourse, may be needed to resolve these concerns (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a). Some key challenges to the progress of digital scholarship are noted below.

Whilst open and collaborative practice may seem desirable, educational institutions are relatively slow to change (Veletsianos, 2016). Amongst other reasons for this delayed response, education across sectors is often marked by the impact of economic pressures, requiring accountability and efficiency (Richardson & Dixon, 2017; Veletsianos, 2016) and a “job-driven curricula” (Hagel et al., 2014, p. 4). The demand for these traditional requirements fails to acknowledge shifts in society and business (Hagel et al., 2014; Richardson & Dixon, 2017) and is likely to be questioned and rejected by contemporary scholars as digital practice becomes more prominent (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b).

Collier presents a challenge from a different perspective that is worthy of consideration; whilst technology is often considered a factor to simplify processes, Collier argues that digital scholarship can be more rich and complex than other scholarly approaches due to its capacity for creative, unpredictable and multi-faceted input (2015). This is both a benefit, resulting in rich opportunities for interdisciplinary, multifaceted discourse, but also a challenge for those who want technology to provide easy answers and a quick solution; rich digital scholarship may be more messy, undefined and complex and educators’ roles may be evolving, dynamic and varied (Ross & Collier, 2016).

We have moved from a scarcely resourced, pre-digital world, to a space where the new dilemma is discerning which of the myriad of resources are valid (A. Couros & Hildebrandt, 2016) and managing the overload of information (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a). “Not all information is created equal” (Katz, 2010, p. 53) and the wealth of information can lead scholars to quick and uncorroborated finds without depth or cross-reference. Users of scholarly materials in the digital space must develop the skills to determine what criteria might be applied to discern quality (Weller, 2011). As consumers of an information source as broad and deep as the internet, managing and navigating information has become a new and critical literacy for scholars (Seely Brown, 2000). Whilst it is incredibly easy to share, create and publish, doing so is not necessarily a native skill and can take considerable practice to do well (Wesch, 2010). Until scholars develop a strong understanding of participatory culture and the requisite literacies, they will not be able to fully utilise opportunities for digital scholarship (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a).

The industrial model of education has been set in place for so long, it is unrealistic to expect a significant shift in a few short years (Weller, 2011). Whilst a conservative, and in some cases sceptical resistance remains in recruitment and scholarly promotion (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b; Weller, 2011, p. 48), as momentum builds and scholars continue to successfully model practice, including advancement and innovation that defies traditional practice, we may expect to see ongoing change in favour of the open, dynamic and interdisciplinary scholarship that the participatory internet facilitates (Katz, 2010). Katz describes the “torrential phase” of the digital age – where it is likely that expectations and innovation will put traditional practice at a competitive disadvantage (2010) and it is unlikely this momentum will subside (Hagel et al., 2014, p. 5).

Digital scholarship is a fluid and unresolved entity and whilst its identity continues to emerge and evolve, those working and learning within the education spectrum have both opportunity and challenge to construct and manage its formation amidst considerable disruption. In stark contrast with traditional academia’s elite, privileged and protected dissemination of knowledge, digital scholarship is democratic, open and participatory. This democratisation can be noted in a range of academic contexts; from access to information, to the participatory and collaborative creation and sharing of content, to a levelling of communication modes, to the fluid nature of academic roles. Whilst the benefits of this open context are many and undeniable, this levelling of the academic space raises questions and creates considerable tension. Scholars must develop new literacies in using, creating and evaluating academic materials and educational institutions must re-evaluate their purpose and practice. Whilst there is ongoing resistance from some sectors, the shift in culture and practice aligns digital scholarship more closely with the anticipated collaborative and creative future of the workplace and creates opportunities for innovation.



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Collier, A. (2015). Not-yetness.  Retrieved from

Couros, A., & Hildebrandt, K. (2016). Designing for open and social learning. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emergence and innovation in digital learning: foundations and applications

Couros, G. (2015). The innovator’s mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent and lead a culture of creativity. San Diego: Dave burgess consulting.

Gogia, L., & Warren, S. (2015). A careful approach to digital scholarship. Digital pedagogy lab.  Retrieved from

Goodfellow, R., & Lea, M. R. (2013). Research into higher education: Literacy in the digital university: Critical perspectives on learning, scholarship and technology: Routledge.

Hagel, J. I., Seely Brown, J., Roy, M., Wool, M., & Tsu, W. (2014). The lifetime learner: A journey through the future of postsecondary education. Retrieved from

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Joaquin, J. (2010). Digital literacies and hip hip texts. In D. E. Alvermann (Ed.), Adolescents’ online literacies: Connecting classrooms, digital media, and popular culture (Vol. 39, pp. 109-124). New York: Peter lang.

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Park, I. (2017). Scientific researchers need to open up to collaboration. Jstor daily. Jstor daily. Retrieved from

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Ross, J., & Collier, A. (2016). Complexity, mess and not-yetness: Teaching online with emerging technologies. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emergence and innovation in digital learning: foundations and applications. Retrieved from

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Spencer, J., & Juliani, A. J. (2017). Empower: What happens when students own their learning: IMpress.

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Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (2012b). Networked participatory scholarship: Emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks. Computers & education, 58, 766-774. Retrieved from

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INF537 Case Study Proposal

Image attribution: Lisa Plenty

The final assessment for the Master of Education Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation requires a case study with a focus of the student’s choice. I have chosen to investigate the challenges and optimal circumstances for delivering successful ICT teacher professional learning.

Inquiry Questions

What are the constraints that inhibit teacher investment in professional learning for ICT? How might these constraints be mitigated to maximise teacher engagement with learning?


To best prepare our students for a changing world, we as teachers need to invest in our learning, or we could quickly be surpassed by the pace and momentum of change.

However, school-based teacher professional learning for ICT and new pedagogy can be ‘just-in-case’, not ‘just-in-time’, disconnected and insufficiently differentiated to meet the diverse needs of teachers. It can be a process where teachers check off their required hours without a sense of ownership, achievement or value-adding to their practice.

The case study will:

  • Inquire into the constraints to teacher uptake of professional learning.
  • Examine the circumstances under which teachers are most likely to find professional learning beneficial.

In the process of this inquiry, two surveys will be used to gain insight from teachers – one to investigate site specific needs and a second to investigate beliefs and experience more generally through social media.

Expected Outcomes

It is expected that the case study would facilitate a deeper understanding of the constraints experienced by teachers in the uptake of learning opportunities. It is expected that constraints may relate to teachers’ perception of need (affecting motivation) in combination with their preparedness to invest their time and energy around their general teaching and administrative requirements (time); however, it is hoped that further insights may emerge in the research process.

It is anticipated that the case study will provide deep, research-based awareness and context-specific insights that will help to inform the planning for meaningful professional learning opportunities, supporting  navigation around constraints and encourage them to embrace learning more openly.

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