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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)

Discussion

‘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.

REFERENCE

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

 

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Is it a good idea to base an e-learning module on a book?

Fig. 1. The Digital Scholar

Martin Weller’s Digital Scholar becomes the basis for H818 – The Networked Practitioner

This new e-learning module from the Open University uses Martin Weller’s book The Digital Scholar is part of a range of open access material used for the module and Martin is one of the authors of the module content.

Chapter 1 – Read it here on the Bloomsbury website

Over the last couple of years I have said how much I would like to ‘return’ to the traditional approach to graduate and postgraduate learning – you read a book from cover to cover and share your thinking on this with fellow students and your tutor – perhaps also a subject related student society.

Why know it if it works?

Fig. 2. The backbone of H810 Accessible Online Learning is Jane Seale’s 2006 Book.

Where the author has a voice and authority, writes well and in a narrative form, it makes for an easier learning journey – having read the Digital Scholar participants will find this is the case.

As in the creation of a TV series or movie a successful publication has been tested and shows that there is an audience.

The research and aggregation has been done – though I wonder if online exploiting a curated resource would be a better model? That e-learning lends itself to drawing upon multiple nuggets rather than a single gold bar.

There are a couple of caveats related to this tactic:

  1. Keeping the content refreshed and up-to-date. Too often I find myself reading about redundant technologies – the solution is to Google the cited author and see if they have written something more current – often, not surprisingly from an academic, you find they have elaborated or drilled into a topic they have made their own in the last 18 months.
  2. Lack of variety. Variety is required in learning not simply to avoid the predictable – read this, comment on this, write an assignment based on this … but this single voice may not be to everyone’s liking. Can you get onto their wave length? If not, who and where are the alternative voices?

 

Here’s a mindmap on ‘Digital Scholarship’

Fig. 1. Mindmap on Digital Scholarship

The Digital Scholar : Martin Weller (Notes)

11 Sep 11

COVER TO COVER

I developed a craving a year ago to read a book from cover to cover, rather than reading papers or bits of papers. Initially I got the book in the post, then to a Kindle. And now on an iPad and iPhone too. So the last three days I’ve read Martin Weller’s new book ‘The Digital Scholar.’ Read on, or read to me on the Kindle while I took notes on the iPad.

Notes run to several pages, all rather cryptic at the moment.

If you’e doing the MAODE the other books I would recommend are:

  • Diffusion of Innovations. (5th Ed 2005) Rogers.
  • Educationl Psychology. (1926) Vygotsky
  • Rethinking Pedagogy in a Digital Age. (2007) Beetham & Sharpe (eds)

This is one of fifty+ points I’ve noted from the book

‘This is a period of transition for scholarship, as significant as any other in its history, from the founding of universities to the establishment of peer review and the scientific method. It is also a period that holds tension and even some paradoxes: it is both business as usual and yet a time for considerable change; individual scholars are being highly innovative and yet the overall picture is one of reluctance; technology is creating new opportunities while simultaneously generating new concerns and problems’.

Weller (2011)



why academics should blog

In terms of intellectual fulfilment, creativity, networking, impact, productivity, and overall benefit to my scholarly life, blogging wins hands down. I have written books, produced online courses, led research efforts, and directed a number of university projects. While these have all been fulfilling, blogging tops the list because of its room for experimentation and potential to connect to timely intelligent debate. That keeps blogging at the top of the heap.

The Book

The Blog

Learning, or rather teaching as a form of education is moving towards greater fluidity and liveliness in the relationship between the academic (author/lecturer) and the student.

Fig. 1. Digital Scholarship (Vernon, 2011)

I’ve drawn on ideas from the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE) that I have been studying with The OU since February 2010. Also ‘The Digital Scholar’ by Martin Weller and ‘Preparing for blended e-learning’ by Chris Pegler.

I come to the conclusion that learning, or rather teaching as a form of education is moving towards greater fluidity and liveliness in the relationship between the academic (author/lecturer) and the student.

The model education should look to is one developed in business, something I stumble upon studying OU MBA Module ‘Creativity, Innovation & Change’

Drawing on a business model, the development of a more organic structure that is less hierarchical, as envisaged by Henry Mintzberg (1994), seems appropriate; it complements what authors such as John Seely Brown say about ‘learning from the periphery’ too. Mintzberg talks of an adhocracy, doodle here when I was making hand-drawn mind-maps during revision for an end of module exam (EMA).

Adhocracy

Characteristics of an adhocracy (Waterman, 1990; Mintzberg, 1994; Travica, 1999):

  • highly organic structure
  • little formalization of behavior
  • job specialization based on formal training
  • a tendency to group the specialists in functional units for housekeeping purposes but to deploy them in small, market-based project teams to do their work
  • a reliance on liaison devices to encourage mutual adjustment within and between these teams
  • low standardization of procedures
  • roles not clearly defined
  •  selective decentralization
  •  work organization rests on specialized teams
  • power-shifts to specialized teams
  • horizontal job specialization
  • high cost of communication (dramatically reduced in the networked age)
  • culture based on non-bureaucratic work

One could also draw on a simpler organic structure developed, again in the MBA arena, by Charles Handy.

Handy’s Shamrock (1989)

The advantage of a flexible organisation is that it can react quickly to a change in its external environment.

Since the 1990s, firms have examined their value chain and tried to reduce their workforce to a multi-skilled core, which is concerned with the creation or delivery of a product or service. All other supporting, non-central functions are outsourced wherever possible to the periphery.

Charles Handy suggested, however, that organisations do not consist of just the Core and the Periphery, since the periphery can be subdivided.

He calls this a shamrock organisation:

  • The first leaf of the shamrock represents the multi-skilled core of professional technicians and managers, essential to the continuity of the business
  • The second leaf Handy calls the contractual fringe, because non central activities are contracted out to firms specialising in activities such as marketing, computing, communications and research
  • The third leaf consists of a flexible workforce made up of part-time, temporary and seasonal workers.

However, the model I constantly turn to is the Activity System of Engestrom (via Vygotsky).

From E-LEARNING

which also has its organic expression, not dissimilar to the Mintzberg concentric organisational plan and John Seely Brown’s ideas of learning from the periphery:

A Mycorrihizae fungi

In the spirit of digital scholarship I’ve been experimenting with using Twitter to share thoughts on more than one book as I read them, highlighting a point and adding a Tweet. The feedback has been interesting, as has been the influx of new Twitter followers, invariable all with an academic or commercial interest in e-learning.

So come and join the feed, though from time to time you will receive tips on swim teaching best practice (how to fix a screw kick in breaststroke and some such) or as likely thoughts on life in the trenches as a machine gunner as we approach the centenary of the First World War.

Fig. 2. Expanding ideas with multiple e-tivities and assets online. Vernon (2010)

I’d like to see this offered as an APP or Tool so that digital assets (stuff) or ‘E-tivities’ (Salmon, 2002) are automatically aggregated as a fluid, initial offer. In other words, assets are seen as a way of catalysing a process of exploration.

REFERENCE

Brown, J.S., Collins.A., Duguid, P., (1989) Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning. Educational Researcher, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Jan. – Feb., 1989), pp. 32-42 American Educational Research Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1176008 . Accessed: 05/03/2011 13:10

Engeström (2001) article, Expansive learning at work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualisation

Handy, C (1989) The Age of Unreason

Mintzberg, H (1994), The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning: Reconceiving the Roles for Planning, Plans, Planners, Free Press, pp. 458, ISBN 0-02-921605-2

Salmon, G (2002) E-tivities. The key to online learning

Travica, B (1999) New Organizational Designs: Information Aspects, Ablex/Greenwood, ISBN 1-56750-403-5, Google Print, p.7

Vernon, J.F. (2010-2012) Open University Student Blog

Vernon, J.F. (2011) Mindmaps, screen grabs and other e-learning ephemera

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

Waterman, R. H. (1990). Adhocracy: The power to change. The Larger agenda series. Knoxville, Tenn: Whittle Direct Books.

An e-book should be more like the recipes for non-meat loaf and a vegetarian shepherds pie

Ed Techie says that there will be or that there are no recipes in his blog so I will add another to mine: comparing Deliah Smith’s non-meat roast or vegetarian shepherd’s pie to the digitisation of a book.

If you digitise what was conceived as a book that makes it an e-Book; if you put an engine on a carriage it simply becomes a ‘horseless’ carriage. Back to this recipe or recipes, unlike the absolute of the book or even the e-book every time I make it I assemble slightly different ingredients and today, in error, left something major out while deliberate putting something else in. For an e-book to be like this it would not only need to be more blog-like, but also live, quasi-synchronous and collaboratively wiki-built.

(All typed with two fingers of the left hand into the minuscule qwerty keyboard of an iPhone)

Why, as you read through an eBook, you should ‘highlight’ then share on Twitter.

This is just me mashing it all up, but at times I’ve moaned about wanting to read a relevant book from cover to cover, taking and sharing notes, following references, having a chin-wag and learning by default, on the fly ‘vicariously’.

This, I’ve discovered is possible by doing the following:

Buy an eBook, I’m currently doing this to Prof Martin Weller’s ‘The Digital Scholar’ (One of ours, from the Knowledge Media Institute)

You’ll come across his name as often as those of:

Fine me and them on any of the Masters in Open & Distance Education modules. H807, H808, H809, H800 and H810.

As you read through an eBook when you ‘highlight’ something interesting click SHARE and send it to Twitter.

In this way you indicate what interests you (and where you are up to). Step away from reading mode to chat a bit, then press on or go back.

I like it.

Already done this with:

  • Steve Jobs: the exclusive biography. Walter Isaacson
  • The Blind Giant.Being Human in a Digital World. Nick Harkaway

Currently doing this with:

  • The Digital Scholar: How technology is transforming Scholarly Practice. Martin Weller.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front. Erich Maria Remarque
  • Rethinking Pedagogy in a Digital Age. Rhona Sharpe

I’m thinking of doing the same with:

  • Educational Psychology. Vygotsky
  • Mindstorms. Piaget.
  • Flow. The classic book on how to achieve happiness. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

P.S. I’m between modules!

Amateur or professional? what does it take to be a digital scholar?

‘Amateurs’ often create content which addresses subjects that academics may not and also in a manner which differs from traditional teaching’, Weller (2011)

reference

Weller, M. (2011) The Digital Scholar

Martin Weller is the ‘Digital Scholar’ (Chapter 13) Skimming and skipping about instead of deep reading.

Skimming and skipping about instead of deep reading

Easily distracted, or persuasively detracted.

But the overall tenure will be rearing to you hear the narrative.

British Library Google Generation study (Rowlands et al. 2008)

• Has the need to learn by rote diminished?

Outsourcing mundane memory to Google.

• Skittish bouncing behaviour Wijekumar et al. (2006)

• Web 2.0 and the ‘mass democratisation of expression’.

To Think About

‘Low quality individual items because of their obvious ease of production, can be seen as an invitation to participate’. Weller (2011)

‘If the intention is to encourage engagement then low-quality routes may be more fruitful than seeking to produce professional broadcast material’. Weller (2011)

‘Amateurs’ often create content which addresses subjects that academics may nit and also in a manner which differs from traditional teaching’, Weller (2011)

A facial truism.. Any time you learn anything your brain is ‘rewired’ at a synaptic level. VS. The pronouncements of the likes of Carr and Greenfield.

Vague and ill-founded arguments.

Plasticity is as true of playing a computer game, or from my experience, coaching swimmers. Adaptation is desirable, ditto for touch-typing, drawing, sight reading when playing a musical instrument even driving a car.

… Based on supposition and anecdote.

‘The Internet hasn’t changed the way we think any more than the microwave oven has changed the way we digest food’. Joshua Greene.

Also see Gerschenfeld (2010)

… VS pseudo-scientific explanations to back up prejudices will not help us address the issues. Weller

CF Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Mayer-Schonberger (2009)

Idea of giving internet content a shelf-life. I disagree. Once rain water flows from a river into the ocean it is there, for potentially consigned to the depths, for ever.

Bug successes, something going viral, is not the norm.

For success, choice of tools and their perceived relevance to the main area of study are crucial elements. See Cann and Badge (2010).

VS. Creepy tree house syndrome (Stein 2008)

VS an LMS that is ‘organisationally controlled, bland and singular in focus’.

NB How to do it? ‘By making mistakes’ with each iteration generating an improvement (Hilbert space et al. 2000/2001)

Experience is required to understand what approaches are suitable.

It also requires a reasonable mass of contributions to work, a motivation for those contributions and an easy means to contribute.

Just as with the initial dot.com.  bubble

The fact that there is hype doesn’t mean the overall direction isn’t correct. A technology may not completely change the world in the next 18 months, but it may significantly change practice in the next decade’.  Weller (2001)

Roy Amara: we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.  Weller (2011)

It will never go back to the way it was.

The people best placed to understand it and adapt to it will be those who have immersed themselves in the current technological climate.

A willingness to experiment with new approaches and to explore the tensions between new possibilities and established practice is essential. Weller (2011)

REFERENCE

From Open University MAODE

BUY HERE

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