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Could blogging be seen as a scholarly activity?
This are me thoughts from reading:
An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging for digital scholarship
Heap & Minocha (2012),
Fig.1. Digital Scholarship with a nod to Martin Weller‘s book of the same name. (Created in 2011)
By stripping back the paper what do I learn from this paper:
- about blogging and digital scholarship
- about devising the research question(s) and method of research.
This quote from Axcel Bruns is wrong in relation to blogging.
‘Were originally more popular amongst journalism and business context’ Bruns (2007)
In fact, from my experience from 1999 onwards, journalists were highly dismissive and didn’t cotton on to blogging as a valid way to share their opinions for several years. The exception being financial journalism where breaking views on markets were fed, blog like, to subscribers,
Fig.2. An excerpt from my own early blog.
I was reading blogs in 1998, did some Dreamweaver training and if I’d got my head around FTP uploads I may have been up an away in 98 rather than 99 when I heard of Diaryland and joined the platform soon after it started.
Fig.3. An excerpt from a blog created by Claire Z Warnes in 1998
Over the next 4 to 5 years I saw a massive growth and influx of what by modern terms would have been described as journals, creative writing, fantasy, role play and social networking.
Fig.4. How I saw blogging in 1999/2000
I question why bloggers are defined by the institution they are at – the blog is more personal, like the noticeboard at someone’s desk in the bedroom or study, or a diary or journal they carry about with them, whether electronic or paper.
Fig. 5. We should stop seeing blogging in isolation – forms of ‘keeping a journa’, for whatever purposes, is as old a writing itself.
Little is ever mention of a history of keeping diaries, a writer’s journal or other kind of daily record for reflection or in scholarly circles to record the iterative process of a learning journey or a piece of research. John Evelyn was a diarist. Was he scholarly? What about Pepy’s he was keeping an historic record? For whom did Lady Anne Clifford keep a diary if not for an historic, even a legal record, of her rights to her father’s estates? (Lady Anne Clifford kept at a diary late 1500s into the 17th century).
Was Virginia Woolf using herself as the subject of an internal discussion?
What did Anais Nin learn and share about her writing as well as her personal journey, a journey that was shared with Henry Miller and that a couple of decades was taken by the filmmaker Francois Truffaut. As someone who had kept a diary since he was thirteen and had been typing it up and putting on disc for nearly a decade, the move to the web was a natural one.
- for personal reflection (e.g. Xie, Fengfeng, and Sharma 2008)
- collaborative working (e.g. McLoughlin and Lee 2008)
- developing writing skills (e.g. Warschauer 2010)
- flexible usage of blogs to suit the individual blogger’s needs, such as
- a space for reflection, to seek peer support, or both (e.g. Kerawalla et al. 2008).
I read blogs and corresponded with writers who were using the format to try out chapters of fantasy novels, to share poetry, to test webdesigns even to meet and indulge in intimate chat, role play and even cybersex. (Early blogs were the forerunners of a lot to come).
Whilst some of this activity isn’t within the parameters of ‘scholarly’ practice, certainly from a creative writing point of view self-publishing was.
From personal experience there were those exploring their personality, who were lonely, depressed or bi-polar. Most studies in English speaking countries … yet it was presumably going on elsewhere. And where does someone who is using writing in English in a blog to learn English stand in terms of being a student and a scholar?
Defining scholarship in the digital age
Boyer (1990) developed a conceptual framework which defines ‘‘scholarship’’ as a combination of teaching and research activities. In particular, he suggests four dimensions to define scholarship: discovery, integration, application and teaching.
Fig.6. Another excerpt from a blog for young writers created by Claire Z Warnes in 1998 when she was 17 herself. (I think she went off to study Computer Sciences)
The earliest bloggers played a teaching role, for example Claire Z Warnes set up a series of web pages to encourage and support young writers in 1998. She was teaching, they were exploring through reading, writing and sharing just as if they were meeting face to face in a classroom.
Boyer’s dimensions constitute an appropriate starting point for researching digital scholarship (Weller 2011).
Pearce et al. (2010) elaborated on Boyer’s (1990) model to theorise a form of digital/open scholarship, arguing that it is:
- more than just using information and communication technologies to research,
- teach and collaborate,
- embracing the open values, ideology and potential of technologies born of peer-to-peer networking wiki ways of working in order to benefit both the academy and society.
Which is exactly what Claire Z Warnes (1998) was doing, indeed, as some remaining posts that can be viewed show, it was as if she were becoming the Dean of one of the first online creative writing classes.
In relation to the research here’s the problem that needs to be addressed:
There is a lack of empirical evidence on how the openness and sharing manifested in blogging can influence academia, research and scholarship. (Minocha, p. 178. 2012)
‘We have found that blogs seem to occupy an intermediate space among established writing forms such as peer-reviewed academic papers, newspaper articles, diaries, blurring the private public and formal informal divide ‘. (Heap and Minocha 2011).
There is a growing awareness of blogging as a writing or communicative genre in academia and research and as a new form of scholarship (e.g. Halavais 2007).
- to ensure validity of work through established forms of publishing,
- to integrate blogs so that research findings reach more readers
- to enable sharing information without time lags involved in formal publications.
The next steps in our research (according to the authors of this paper) are to validate the effectiveness of the framework (they developed) as a thinking tool about digital scholarship, and for guiding the practice of blogging in academia and research.
Heap, Tania and Minocha, Shailey (2012). An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging for digital scholarship. Research in Learning Technology, 20(Supp.), pp. 176–188. (Accessed 28th February 2013 http://www.researchinlearningtechnology.net/index.php/rlt/article/view/19195 )
Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar
- All you need to know about blogging that you can’t be bothered to research for yourself because you’re too busy blogging … (mymindbursts.com)
- Scholarly Blogging (malmsy.net)
- What my pink highlighter taught me. (dfbierbrauer.wordpress.com)
- Essay on placing academic work in the right scholarly context (insidehighered.com)
- Driving learning through blogging: Students’ perceptions of a reading journal blog assessment task. (mymindbursts.com)
- Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education (mymindbursts.com)
- Digital Curation Bibliography: Preservation and Stewardship of Scholarly Works XHTML Version (digital-scholarship.org)
- Blogging Inspiration, Where Does it Come From? (prefs.zemanta.com)
When reading we need a perspective of what has been and what is coming up.
Before you get stuck, a couple of definitions:
Parafoveal = dependent on parts of the retina external to the fovea. The fovea is a small rodless area of the retina that affords acute vision.
SACCADE = that small rapid jerky movement of the eye as it jumps from fixation on one point to another (as in reading) Merriam-Webster
What follows is about the use of word-accurate eye-tracking technology to help understand how we read – I find it most revealing in relation to Dyslexia.
During reading of English, information is effectively used from three to four letters to the left and up to 14–15 letters to the right of fixation (McConkie & Rayner, 1975, 1976).
If you’ve got an eBook if you don’t already, go for this kind of seting:
Reducing the window to thirteen characters increases the fixation duration by 30 percent, decreases the saccade length for forward saccades by 26 percent, and increases reading time by 60 percent, as compared to a window size of 100 character spaces. (McConkie & Rayner, 1975)
Parafoveal preview starts the identification process of a word before fixation.
If I understand what follows correctly it means that it is easy to read phrases and sentences as part of a body of text, than it is to read one word at a time in isolation.
We get a perspective of what has been and what is coming up.
Our results suggest that previewing word n2 can result in delayed parafoveal-on-foveal effects, which are lagging behind or spilling over into postboundary fixations on word n1. The present findings do not disconfirm the general hypothesis of serial word-processing during reading, but they strongly suggest that mislocated fixations are not sufficient to account for the complex dynamics of processing in the perceptual span during reading. (McConkie & Rayner, 1975)
In this article, research on the following topics are reviewed with respect to reading:
- (a) the perceptual span (or span of effective vision),
- (b) preview benefit,
- (c) eye movement control, and
- (d) models of eye movements. (Rayner, 2009 p. 1456).
This makes sense if you watch very closely as someone reads. I’ve not done this since I was a child, watching a parent or grandparent read. Children struggle when they plod as if from one stepping stone to another. I wonder if it would be better for the child to skim read and get a sense of the story rather than reading it word for word?
It is my contention that most of the time in such tasks, either (a) eye location (overt attention) and covert attention are overlapping and at the same location or (b) attention disengagement is a product of a saccade programme (wherein attention precedes the eyes to the next saccade target). (Rayner, 2009 p. 1458).
In reading, for example, the line of text that the reader is looking at can be divided into three regions: the foveal region (2 degrees in the centre of vision), the parafoveal region (extending from the foveal region to about 5 degrees on either side of fixation), and the peripheral region (everything beyond the parafoveal region). (Rayner, 2009 p. 1459).
Saccade duration, the amount of time that is takes to actually move the eyes, is a function of the distance moved. (Rayner, 2009 p. 1459).
NB. Saccade size in visual search can be highly variable depending on the complexity of the array; when the array is complex and crowded, saccades are shorter (the same would hold for a highly complex scene). (Rayner, 2009 p. 1460).
Regressions (saccades that move backwards in the text) are the third important component of eye movements in reading and occur about 10–15% of the time in skilled readers. The long saccades just mentioned tend to follow a regression since readers typically move forward in the text past the point from which they originally launched the regression.Most regressions are to the immediately preceding word, though when comprehension is not going well or the text is particularly difficult, more long-range regressions occur to earlier words in the text. (Rayner, 2009 p. 1460).
Variables include (Rayner, 2009 p. 1460) :
- text difficulty
- reading skill
- characteristics of the writing system
- typographical variation (font)
– as text gets more difficult, fixations get longer, saccades get shorter, and more regressions are made (Rayner, 1998).
Dyslexics suffer from – longer fixations, shorter saccades, and more regressions – with normal text.
i.e. Bugger around with fonts, choice of words and other typographical variations and you start to replicate what it is like to be dyslexic.
Beginning and dyslexic readers have longer fixations, shorter saccades, and more regressions than skilled readers (Rayner, 1998), as do less skilled readers (Ashby, Rayner, & Clifton, 2005).
- Function words are skipped
- Fix is greater on longer words – 8 letter words are almost always fixated, 2 letter words are fixated 25% of the time.
How does this inform us of best practice for reading academic texts?
Read through with equal care more than once?
Skim read, the read with focus … or these three then stop and take notes. Or take notes from the start?
It is also clear that the spaces between words (which demarcate how long words are) are used in targeting where the next saccade will land. When spaces are removed, reading slows down by as much as 30–50% (Morris, Rayner, & Pollatsek, 1990; Pollatsek & Rayner, 1982; Rayner et al., 1998a; Rayner & Pollatsek, 1996; Spragins, Lefton, & Fisher, 1976). (Rayner, 2009 p. 1469).
- How were manuscripts laid out?
- What do early print look like?
- When did the need for spaces, sentences, paragraphs and such like develop?
There’s a science to writing as well as an art.
Over the past few years, it has become very clear that the ease or difficulty associated with processing the fixated word strongly influences when the eyes move (Liversedge & Findlay, 2000; Rayner, 1998; Starr & Rayner, 2001). (Rayner, 2009 p. 1472).
Fixation time on a word is influenced by a host of lexical and linguistic variables (Rayner, 2009 p. 1472):
- word frequency
- word predictability
- number of meanings
- age of acquisition
- phonological properties
- semantic relations with the fixed word and previous words
This is consistent with the view that what influences when to move the eyes during reading is different from visual search. (Rayner, 2009 p. 1472)
To what degree is reading a visual process or a cognitive process?
This debunks Marshall McLuhan theorising about the shift from the meaning of words in an oral tradition compared to the written word.
When raeding wrods with jubmled lettres and found that while it was fairly easy to read such text, there was always a cost associated with transposing the letters. (Rayner, 2009 p. 1473)
It is thus quite clear that lexical variables have strong and immediate effects on how long readers look at a word. While other linguistic variables can have an influence on how soon readers move on in the text, it is generally the case that higher level linguistic variables have somewhat later effects, unless the variable more or less“smacks you in the eye”. So, for example, when readers fixate on the disambiguating word in asyntactic garden path sentence there is increased fixation time on the word (Frazier & Rayner,1982; Rayner, Carlson, & Frazier, 1983; Rayner & Frazier, 1987) and/or a regression from the disambiguating word back to earlier parts of the sentence (Frazier & Rayner, 1982; Meseguer, Carreiras, & Clifton, 2002; Mitchell et al., 2008). (Rayner, 2009 p. 1473)
On the other hand, it is certainly the case that more and more researchers are turning to eye movement recording and data as a means to examine important issues about how the brain/mind handles information in various tasks. Many brain imaging techniques now enable researchers to also record eye movements(though rather crudely), and attempts to simultaneously record eye movements and event related potentials in reading and other tasks look very promising (Baccino & Manunta, 2005;Dambacher & Kliegl, 2007; Sereno & Rayner,2003). Thus, the future looks very bright with respect to the possibility of learning more about cognitive processing and how information is processed in the tasks described above via the use of eye movements. (Rayner, 2009 p. 1487)
McConkie, G. W., & Rayner, R. (1975). The span of the effective stimulus during a fixation in reading. Perception & Psychophysics, 17, 578–586. doi:10.3758/BF03203972
(Ashby, Rayner & Clifton, 2005)
Rayner, K 2009, ‘Eye movements and attention in reading, scene perception, and visual search’, Quarterly Journal Of Experimental Psychology, 62, 8, pp. 1457-1506, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 February 2013.
- I love words (mymindbursts.com)
- Saccadic Momentum and Facilitation of Return Saccades Contribute to an Optimal Foraging Strategy (ploscompbiol.org)
- Brain Processing of Visual Information during Fast Eye Movements Maintains Motor Performance (plosone.org)
- Eva – Eye Tracking – Stimulus Integrated Semi Automatic Case Base System (slideshare.net)
- Decision making and degree of confidence – How confident are you about your choices? (ucsdneuro.wordpress.com)
- 6 Content Marketing Strategies Learned from The Hobbit (contentmarketinginstitute.com)
The power to remember and the need to forget
Fig 1. Your life? Remembered or forgotten?
Digitally record or better to delete?
It frustrates me to try to read two complementary books e in two different formats – the first is marketed in its traditional hardback edition with a designer cover and eye-grabbing introduction from Bill Gates, while the second, an eBook I find understated – as if it is ashamed to compete. They are a pair. Twins separated at birth. They argue from opposite sides of the digital coin, one in favour of digitizing everything under the sun, the other for circumspection and deletion. Perhaps there should be a face off at the Oxford Union Debating Society. My role here is to bring them together and in doing so provide a one word conclusion: selection.
‘Total Recall’ (Bell and Gemmel, 2009) with its film-reference title and sensationalist headline ‘how the e-memory revolution will change everything’ risks ostracizing a discerning academic readership in favour of sales reputation and coining a phrase or two. It’s hero Gordon Bell might be the protagonist in the movie. The is is shame is that at the heart of what is more biography than academic presentation there is the desire to be taken seriously – a second edition could fix this – there needs to be a sequel. My copy of Total Recall arrived via trans-Atlantic snail mail in hardback, with it’s zingy dust jacket – it feels like a real book. I’m no bibliophile but I wonder if the pages are uncut and this edition has been pulled from a reject pile. It was discounted Amazon and as I’m after the words contained in the book rather than the physical artifact its state ought not to be a concern. Though the fact that it is a physical book rather pegs it to a bygone era. Total recall refers to the idea of a photographic or ‘eidetic memory’ – this needs to be stated.
Fig. 2. DELETE
‘Delete’ (2009) Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is subtitled ‘The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age’ and sounds as if it was authored by a vampire from Transylvania. It is a foil to ‘Total Recall’ with Viktor the antagonist to ‘Flash Drive’ Gordon. Delete hasn’t been – its in its fourth printing, needless to say I got mine in seconds as a Kindle version. I only ever by a book if I have to. I am too used to the affordances of the eBook to skim, search, highlight and share – and to have it on multiple devices, the Kindle, iPad, laptop and smartphone.
The copyright notice in Total Recall on ‘the scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet’ is ironic because this is what Bell does with his life – he has scanned and uploaded his life (though access is totally private). A double irony as he elects for Web 1.0 but won’t join the Semantic Web 2.0 and share.
I have been an exponent of ‘exposure’ – the release of a substantial part of who you are for others to chew over.
The online diary.
The way forward stands between the two, selective extreme gathering, storing and retrieval of your personal archive, while discretely deleting the irrelevant, possibly illegal (copyright, plagiarised, libel) and otherwise potentially reputationally damaging to kith or kin. (How can these be avoided if you wear a device around your neck that takes a digital snap every few seconds?)
They could be landform and landfill.
- Infographic: Who Reads eBooks? (the-digital-reader.com)
- Enjoy Ron Shusett’s Interview with Craft Screenwriting! (lcoonline.wordpress.com)
- Tracker, scanner, detector, spy… (thehindu.com)
- Five Reasons Why You Should See Total Recall (binsidetv.net)
- Google Glass – Interactive Glasses (threekingsclub.wordpress.com)
Some ways to improve the e-learning experience
Fig.1. Jeremy Hardy
1. Teaching is a performance Jeremy Hardy, The News Quiz, Episode 78, Series 3.
He’s got a point, teaching (and coaching) is a performance – we should plan for performance too, but can I quote him? In a discussion, but not in an assignment – though I have little doubt there are those who I can cite from education and sport who say the same thing or something similar. Not only does Jeremy Hardy quip about teaching as ‘performance’ but he suggests that teachers who were ‘characters’ provided a benefit too – that and the Grammar School Experience.
Where do we get characters in e–learning?
Where indeed do we get humour or spectacle? Both are ways to create memories and so embed learning, even to motivate students and create a following. How can a tutor do this in e-learning, and if they did a Robin Williams ala Dead Poet’s Society would they be sacked? I can think of a tutor who ran a forum who was the heart and soul of the module – probably cost him 15 hours input for the 5 he was paid for. however, if he decided to run a module on basket weaving in the Congo Rainforest I might do it – for the fun of it. Education can be entertainment.
Fig 2. Contemporary Theories of learning
2. There are ‘Multiple approaches to understanding’
Howard Gardner (1999) – reading this in ‘Contemporary Theories of Education‘. Join me on Twitter @JJ27VV as I share. I have highlighted 60% of the content, there are several bookmarks too and it is only a few pages long. Some key thoughts:
Students do not arrive as blank slates:
- Biological and cultural backgrounds
- Personal histories.
- Idiosyncratic histories
- Nor can they be ‘aligned unidimensionally along a single line of intellectual development’.
So I wonder if there is a reason why at school children are taught in year group cohorts – it matches with a developmental stage.
It may not cater for cognitive ability or drive. A mix of learning abilities and backgrounds affects the learning experience and quality though, it always struck me that, for example a young musician studying in a driven, step by step fashion, largely on a 1 to 1 basis, can progress fast. Far greater tailoring of a range of lessons, combined with the cohort, paced to challenge the style as the Khan Academy does, has to be an improvement.
Fig.3. Sebastian Coe’s parting words at the London 2012 Paralympic Games
3. There are multiple reasons why the Paralympics and Olympics are mot merged – there are benefits of such segregation for learning too – not exclusively, but to focus and scale up expertise and support for specific types of impairment.
The needs of the plethora of disability groups are better catered for separately. Or are they?
When the Games end they must re–integrate with a world where access is far less certain, accommodating or even a shared experience. Is this relevant to access to e–learning? One size does not fit all – creating content that is clear and easier to read, or follow is a reasonable adjustment – however, is it not the case that once along a certain spectrum of impairment, say legally blind rather than sight impaired, or deaf, rather than hearing impaired, or an arm amputee rather than having some mobility impairment that both in sport and in learning – though not all of the time or exclusively – that these people should learn together, as occurs for example through the RNIB or the RAD.
Whilst clearly provision of an audio version of a book, or video with captions and a transcript should be common practice, when it comes to some approaches to e–learning, say gamification, and certainly any social, or synchronous forms of learning then, like the Paralympics, they would benefit from coming together – indeed, if distance and travel is a barrier, and getting a number of sight impaired students together to study, for example, English Literature, was the desire then distance learning as e–learning may be beneficial.
Fig.4. Our guinea-pigs – reversioning nature’s way!
4. Might the approach to responsive e–learning where using HTML5 allows the same content to be used on multiple devices be applied to creating version for devices that are pre–programmed or the hardware is different, to suit a variety of disabled people?
As we live in a multi-device world we increasingly want the same content reversioned for each device – personally I expect to move seamlessly between iPad (my primary device), iPhone and Laptop (secondary devices) and a desktop. I don’t expect a Kindle to do more than it does. I wonder if a piece of hardware suited to the sight impaired might do a better job of tackling such versions? Ditto for the hearing impaired, as well as for people with physical impairments who require different ways to navigate or respond to content.
Or Apps that do the same job?
And the module that has set me thinking about the above:
H810 Accessible online learning: supporting disabled learning
With a final thought – we are all equally able and disabled in some way. We share our humanity … and too short lives.
Gardner, H (1999) Multiple Approaches to Understanding. Second part of a chapter first published by C.M Reigleuth (ed) Instructional Design Theories and Models: A new paradigm of instructional theory, volume 2. 69–89pp.
Hardy, J. (2012) The News Quiz, BBC Radio 4, Sat 23rd September. Episode 78, Series 3.
Marcotte, E (2010) Responsive Web Design (Last access 23:45 21 September 2012) http://www.alistapart.com/articles/responsive-web-design/