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I often share a post I am writing as I do so. In this case having identified the story to tell : running a workshop to solve a ‘messy’ business problem I am pulling together or creating supporting images, in the above case a grab and mashup from Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ – my goal is to be recognised as one. In a forum post as an Open University ‘Master of arts in Open and Distance Education’ (I graduated in early 2013) I suggested this could be achieved in four years – John Seely Brown thinks that eLearning speeds things up, while Weller reckons on ten years.
Martin Weller published ‘The Digital Scholar’ in 2011 on a Creative Commons Licence. You can download it for free, or purchase the book or eBook, and then do as you will with it. When I read it I share short excerpts on Twitter. I’ve blogged it from end to end and am now having fun with a simple tool for ‘mashing up’ designs called ‘Studio’. It’s a photo editing tool that allows you to add multiple layers of stuff. I rather see it as a revision tool – it makes you spend more time with the excerpts you pick out.
You cannot be so open that you become an empty vessel … you have to create stuff, get your thoughts out there in one way or another so that others can knock ’em down and make more of them. Ideas need legs. In all this ‘play’ though have I burried my head in its contents and with effort read it deeply? Do we invoke shallow learning and distraction with openness? If we each read the book and met for a tutorial is that not, educationally, a more focused and constructive form of ‘oppenness’?
In relation to scholarship shoulf the old rules, the ‘measures’ of academic prowess count? In the connected world of the 21st century ‘scholarship’ is able to emerge in unconventional ways, freed of the school-to-university conveyor belt.
Weller, M (2011) The Digital scholar
From, Pearce, Weller, Scanlon, Kinsley
Boyer’s dimensions of scholarship:
|Discovery – research||The creations of new knowledge in a specific area or discipline. Breakthroughs and innovations.||Research Excellence Framework (REF)|
|Integration – synthesis||Creating knowledge across disciplines. Wider context||Research Excellence Framework (REF)|
|Application -practice||Use in the wider world based on the scholar’s disciplinary knowledge and background (Pearce et al )|
||Where the biggest impact of digital technologies and open approaches.|
(Boyer, 1990, p. xi)
The internet lies at the core of an advanced scholarly information infrastructure to facilitate distributed, data and information-intensive collaborative research. (Borgman, 2007, xvii)
There have been extravagant claims about transformational potential of computers for almost as long as there have been computers. Pearce et al (2006). (CF. Shields, 1995)
Openness and transparency are significant drivers of change in education.
Getting the word out:
Problems with journals:
- long lag times
- increasing subscription costs
- resentment by the volunteers
- limitations of paper publishing replicated in digital formats (word limits, dynamic content, links)
Digital scholarship is more than just using information and communications technologies to research, teach and collaborate, but it is embracing the open values, ideology and potential of technologies born of peer-to-peer networking and wiki ways of working in order to benefit both the academy and society. Pearce et al (2006)
Borgman, C.L. (2007) Scholarship in the digital age: Information, infrastructure, and the Internet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Boyer, E.L. (1990) Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton. N.J. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Conole, G. (2004). E-learning: the hype and the reality. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 12
Pearce,N., Weller,M., Scanlon,E., and Kinsley,s (2006) Digital Scholarships Considered: How New Technologies Could Transform Academic Work. In Education. Issue 16 (1)
Shields, M.A. (ed) (1995) Work and Technology in Higher Education: The social construction of academic computing.
Siemens, G. (2009). Open isn’t so open anymore. Connectivism. Retrieved from http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=198
- Discovering knowledge
- Adding layers
- Referencing and acknowledging
Palmer, Teffeau and Pirmann (2009)
- Searching (browsing)
Need to recruit to teach, not research.
‘Knowledge is acquired through research, synthesis, practice and teaching’. Boyer (1990)
Favours humanities, lone scholars and a culture of ‘possessive individualism’ (Rosenzweig, 2007)
Isn’t the term digital harking back to the 1990s? Should we not be talking about E-scholarship?
• Create tools to build and analyse
• New intellectual products
‘The Internet lies at the core of an advanced scholarly information infrastructure to facilitate distributed, data and information-intensive collaborative research’.
N.B. The sharing of data and data itself constitute knowledge capital, comparable with published articles
- Changes in how scholars communicate, outputs and the networks they operate in.
- Discovery or ‘genesis research’
- Datasets being more readily shared.
- Data visualisation and information is beautiful.
New forms of journal publishing see the journal of Visualized Experiments. www.Jove.com
Academics as brand
Outreach and viral appeal …when the right person tweets you.
Through openness of two kinds, sharing and being.
Higher citation impact of open articles of 36% to 172%
Networking = crowd sourcing
Lazy web = access to experts
Reciprocity is key
The relationship between a blogger and a reader is maintained if the blogger provides interesting and regular updates.
An economy of reciprocity
The more you give online that is of value to those in your network then the more ‘credit’ you establish.
Sarah Horrigan (2009) lists Twitter etiquette that could be … Advice on establishing reciprocity.
• Fill in your profile
• Picture please
• Not a private club
• Learn the importance of @ and ‘d’.
• Retweet selectively
Nowak and Roche (2007)
A recipient of an act of kindness is more likely to help others.
Openness the sine qua non
GSA. Centralise LMSs:
Where Academics get stuck – identity and status.
Zittrain (2008) ‘generatively’ ‘a system’s capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences’.
Low product OERs encourages further participation. The implicit message in these OERs is that the consumer can become a producer – they are an invitation to participate precisely because of their low quality.
In educational terms it may be that both (big OERs and little OERs) have a role to play within a learning context or course. Learners may want to feel the reassurance of the quality brand material for core content, but they may also want a mixture of the more social, participatory media that encourages them to contribute’.
- Joshua Bell playing on the underground story.
- Top violinist using an instrument worth 3.5 million dollars.
- Context of big OER compared to little.
- Naive to think putting stuff onto YouTube will get it noticed.
If Boyer’s four main scholarly functions were research, application, integration and teaching, then I would propose that those of the digital scholar are engagement, experimentation, reflection and sharing’.
Weller (2011 in Chapter 4, 20% of the way through, Kindle Location 1005. Is there a page number related to a print version? Amazon say not in a polite, informative and lengthy e-mail. What therefore is the answer to this referencing conundrum?)
Does Weller’s suggestion make anyone who keeps a student blog and shares it openly like this a scholar?
Making us all digital scholars?
(I love the term as a hundred years ago in Census Returns it was used to describe anyone attending an academic institution, whether school or university).
Goals of the Scholarly Activity
- Provide students with an opportunity to employ their unique skills and talents to pursue a project of their choosing under the mentorship of an expert in the field.
- Provide mentorship and guidance for students interested in careers that integrate research, teaching, and clinical service (academic medicine).
- Foster development of analytical thinking skills, rational decision making, and attention to the scientific method.
- Enhance communication skills.
- Enhance self-directed learning.
Boyer, E.L. 1990. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Princeton, NJ.
Weller, M., (2011) The Digital Scholar
Martin Weller proposes that those of the digital scholar are:
Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar. How technology is transforming scholarly practice. Bloomsbury
This explains a good deal and changes everything.
This forms part of a soon to be published Martin Weller book.
If you are studying MAODE (any module) you need to read this.
Weller takes us through a series of clearly expressed, persuasive steps, a brief history regarding the more recent shifts in education and how Web 2.0 changes everything. I conclude that in some respects the nature of learning is reverting to a pre-formal schooling model, whereby you learn on the fly vicariously, turning to groups and individuals of your own choosing, exploiting the abundance of the web to inform and connect, an apprentice of anything.
Boyer (1990) estsblished what scholars do
It intrigues me that this set of activities or practices is precisely what one does in social media: seeking out through research those ‘spheres of influence’ where the discussions are generating something fresh and pertinent, that is informed, even scholarly and that you proactively intergrate this ‘sphere of influence’ which might be an individual (blog, podcast, video) or a social media platform group, into your own online ‘realm of thinking’ through bookmarks, joining a group (and engaging in its vortex), and from observation on the periphery (Seely-Brown) to growing levels of participation you gain the confidence to apply what you understand to the degree that you too in turn not only express your thoughts in blogs, forums and discussion groups, but find yourself teaching others, itself a learning experience’.
Weller implies that to understand what could happen in education we ought to consider the shift in the way in which we purchase digital artefacts compared to the physical object, that just as the abundance of music, movies and books in digital form has altered our behaviours regarding shops and shopping, so the ready availability of digitised learning materials is inevitably altering the way students view and purchase education.
We are moving from a model based on the economics of scarcity to an economics of abundance.
Here, though Weller doesn’t offer it, a brief consideration of how centres of learning formed in the distant past is of value. How students gathered around a scholar, then as the technology made possible, books containing information and scholarly thought were gathered into collections. The student and educators had to be physically present and thus our university towns were formed. The formation of and subsequent success of establishments such as the Open University (begun 42 years ago) shows that separation of student and campus was possible where the technology and logistics meant that through books, TV, radio, tapes, and subsequently DVDs and the Internet the learning experience could be divorced from the campus.
This dependence on the physical artefact is now disolving too, the expense is no longer represented in the book, indeed the idea of a collection of many chapters in one place is challenged as the Internet allows far greater tailoring of content to the learning object.
Is this not a return to a more natural way of doing things? Should we be turning to the anthropologist and psychologist here?
Have we ever learnt in units of engagement that endure through the entire contents of a book in one sitting?
I wonder if the cook book as a model for e-learning is an apt one?
Chris Anderson (2008)
The future modus operani might be to give away ‘90% of a product to earn 1 %’.
The logic of accepting the way in which digital stuff is created, marketed and sold implies that the ‘long tail of higher education’ (let’s keep kids at school for now), will give much more control to the student purchasing their education; that niche and tailored learning will be desired. Of far greater worry, unless you and your institution are readily able to embrace change as an early adopter, is that modules themselves, like a set of wikipaedia pages offered in a myriad of personalised sequences, can be assembled like a set of smart Lego bricks by the learner themselves making substantial parts of an institution’s functions redundant. Indeed, being able to slot in uptodate content, easily achieved beyond the confines of a module, is indicative of a weakening in the relationship between institution and student. There is less dependence on specifc course materials when most references can be sourced with ease.
Even the social aspect of the campus based education is challenged; if you think of it as a form of tourism, education as an opportunity to socialise, be entertained and to entertain, then this can be done online. The gap between the physical and the virtual experience has closed.
Can learning be purchased, consumed and certified like an eBook from Amazon? Should the Milton Keynes Campus of the Open University be taking greater head of the vast distribution warehouses of Amazon on the other side of the M1?
Do you need the expert if their insights can be purchased through various forms of asynchronous communication? (a book) Or their synchronous insights and expertise supported by the hour through a webinar or Skype-enabled tutorial?
If the sphere of influence is reduced to that of professor and scholar, as that between a piano teacher and pianist do we need the institution at all? And in a world where all qualifications are not the same even if they have the same name, is the only outcome that matters for the individual, their job and how they consequently perform (or if it is an MBA how their business performs)?
If the same learning outcomes are offered, using largely the same set of materials in a sequence that is logical and engaging and will in any case be far more challenged or enabled by the context in which the student is learning, then surely the deciding factor is price and the only way to decide on which price to pay has to be a combination of the depths of your pockets and the perceived and actual desirability of the brand.
If Harvard Business School, for example, as the Mercedes of business schools, can now offer, like the car manufacturer, a range of products to suit different pockets, all with the same brand values and distributed with ease over the Internet, then how do others compete? Or what if its star product, once limited by the physical limitations of a campus and the manageability of a cohort can be purchased by thousands? Perhaps in a growing market, with significant demand, space remains for many players and new players. However, as any Internet search shows, if you are learning online the deciding point, exactly as a purchase of a packet of Cornflakes, comes as you reach up to the shelf and select product B rather tha product A. Might it be, that having been the only product for several decades, the Open University’s ‘product A’ is competing with a rich alphabet of alternatives, many written and supported without doubt if you look at the lists of academics and personal by people who were originally taught by or taught at The OU.
If the model is to give away the digital object and make money on the physical then Oxbridge, Ivy League and other campus based institutions could potentially increase their intake 12 fold by running all courses online, with physical presence limited to three one week long residential sessions. The College turns into a B&B with the residents changing every week, rather like turn around at a ski resort. At no stage is contact with fellow students, tutors or the college itself ever diminished, as everyone is readily contactable thanks to a smartphone and a laptop. Likewise distance learning Institutions such as The OU to compete with these upstarts should offer a campus based experience by creatings permanent bases strategically all over the world.
- The Long Tail
If we think of education as music, then we have two forms, the folk form inexpensively delivered in homes and community spaces and the elite form of the expert or most popular performer in access-restricted palaces and assembly halls. Whilst historically we have seen the music industry of the last century as the democratisation music, in hindsight, with the Internet, even this looks like a restrictive practice, holding purchasers back by the schedule of production, distribution and sales. Books are going the same way as discs; as both are formats for learning materials, is it not simply the case that with lectures, tutorials and assessment online, that there is an expectation from all quarters that we can have it all, anywhere, any time? And that this can be achieved by any institution. It isn’t difficult to digitise content, you simply don’t go to print.
Brand, like purchasing Cornflakes, the price and what you can afford is the only differentiator.
An instructivist model
While access to expertise remains rare, we have access to journals, videos, blogs, podcasts, slidecasts, also discussion forums, comments, and blogs. Weller (2011)
And these experts, certainly in distance learning institutions, are often bound only, like the students, by lengthy threads to remote locations. Their reputation, the weight of their knowledge a product of those parts of their thinking that has been published for public consumption. It then comes down to the quality of learning experience through tutors, online and other support. We should think of each online module as a virtual game, with all those ins and outs and possibilities thoroughly tested for the experience; exactly, in fact, as occurs in the Institute of Educational Technology atThe OU.
Siemens (2005) considers the shift to greater control by the learner rather than the institution.
Constructivism, social constructivism and now connectivism are the learning paradigms. If education at close quarters in the Oxbrdige tutorial, involves dialogue, reflection and critical analysis, these are the same qualities that can be acheived online at less cost and at greater conveniece.
The essence of learning
Conole (2008) Web 2.0 the collective and the network.
As in the physical world with its cliques and networks, from old school-tie to Free Masons, so online, despite our desire to exploit the ability to connect, there are controls and limits. You cannot wade in and exchange with much authority, the hero expert author of the books or papers yiu have come to admire. Seely-Brown and others are right to consider how all of us, unwittingly or deliberately, first engage as an apprentice of some sort. We must begin on the periphery. If dropped into the heart of things too soon our ignorance will mean we have no purchase at the centre and centrifugal forces will cast us aside.
As one commentator is right to point out, the Internet is the real world.
A movie, or novel is fiction, but online with increasineg ease, we behave in just the same way with someone a thousand miles away as someone sitting opposite us.
Web 2.0 = niche communities, social purposes, collective political action, amateur journalism, social commentary.
Just as we can have the successful, recognised and respected amateur journalist and amateur sports coach, so surely can we have the amateur academic, if only in the sense that none of these people are paid. We can all surely think of professional journalists, coaches and academics who are amateurish in their words, actions and thoughts. Just as there are successful ‘citizen journalists’ even the ‘amateur novelist’ who self-publish are there not likely to be ‘amateur scholars’ even tutors, anyone with that vocational desire to share their thinking in order to develop the knowledge of others?
Have we not reached a stage with the plethora of quality content online and the multitude of groups that you could join, that you could learn a great deal to a high academic standard or level of performance, entirely for free both in cost terms and the constructs of an educational institution. You may not have the piece of paper at the end of it or the letters after your name, or indeed the title before your name, but when did any qualification qualify you to do something with it?
Seely-Brown and Adler ( 2008) talk of this shift to participation and demand-pull.
They talk of education being:
- Socially based Connections light
Organisations (Shirky 2008)
User generated content
In a world of abundance the emphasis is less on the creation of new learning materials than on the selection, aggregation and interpretation of existing materials.
We don’t need more, we need systems that let us draw in the freshest and most significant content on the fly. Dare I also suggest, thst just as music is easily copied and shared for free, that course content, and the learning design can just as easily be lifted and reconstituted?
Weller 2011 i.e. New learning content becomes the remit of students who through the abundance of stuff and connectivity generate new content.
The trick is to isolate those places where people of a likemind gather. You cannot join more than a handful of groups and tske part and so cntribte or gain anything. The tasks therefore becomes to find or form such groups.
Barrows and Tamblyn (1980) problem based learning.
Is identified as the old way of learning. That you present a poblem then teach a way to solve it.
Wenger (1998) the social role of learning and apprenticeship as ‘legitimate peripheral learning’
Bacon and Dillon (2006) Communities of practice.
Siemens and connectivism.
The real issue is user-based content. Eric Schmidt, CEO Google.
More content is generated and put online in any two days in 2011 than was created, published or broadcast between the development of the first means of mass distribution, the printing press and the coming of the Internet. We do in our millions, with extraordinary ease, in 48 hours what had taken some 600 years to do.
Weller,M. (2011) in Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, 249′ pp223-236</p