Notes from Margaret Hedstrom’s “The Future of Networked Knowledge”

Notes from Margaret Hedstrom’s “The Future of Networked Knowledge”

Overview Announcement:

Dr. Hedstrom is an archivist who is on the faculty of the School of Information at U of M. Her research interest is digital information. She has done some interesting cross cultural empirical research on user response to various methods of archiving digital files. (e.g. “The Old Version Flickers More:” Digital Preservation from the User Perspective. American Archivist http://www.ils.unc.edu/callee/dig-pres_users-perspective.pdf) Not just ease of use but also reliability of stored electronic files.

She is also a member of the American Council of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences. (Their report available at http://er.lib.msu.edu/item.cfm?item=050123)

Notes from the session:

  • Intro
    • Recent feature story from NYT on archiving digital materials
    • We are trying to build networks, facilities, and human capital that takes advantage of the burgeoning world of digital information
    • There are archival questions in every discipline, problems that we encounter in humanities and social sciences, as well as other sciences
    • Today’s talk will be to reflect back on the ACLS Commission’s thoughts on infrastructure for education and the humanities
    • What is the vision and potential of this, as well as the challenges that we experience on a daily basis and others that we can anticipate; then discuss some paths that we can use to move towards this vision
  • The Vision
    • The potential for cyber infrastructure allows for transformative research that were not possible for people to address in the past as well as open scholarship
      • This is the big goal for research cyber infrastrucure
    • Looking from the humanities and social science perspective at a report from science and engineering report on cyber infrastructure
      • What could we do if we had massive amounts of digital data, easy-to-use analytical tools, and networks of repositories, and well-trained people to use it?
    • There must be money out there for the scientists, and the humanists could ride on their coat tails, right? Well… it turns out that when you talk to scientists there are problems with funding for research, and competition is intense, too.
      • Many of us from outside of these science communities think that they are networked and forward-thinking, but there are many questions about what makes legitimate science, peer review, qualifications of researchers, etc.
  • More thoughts on the vision
    • What do we mean by infrastructure?
      • It is about the protocols for moving data, for sure
      • But, it is also about the people who know how to approach these new resources
        • Archivists who are getting data into shape so others can use it
          • There is a lot of technical work in adding metadata that goes unnoticed and, consequently, is different from what has been done in the physical world
        • To take advantage of this potential, we need to learn how to teach and research in different ways, and these are the bigger stumbling blocks that we need to get over
  • There are new ways of addressing research that are happening in a parallel with a move towards interdisciplinarity
    • How do you take ideas that have been historically separated by institutional boundaries that are now coming back together again in a digital convergence?
    • How does an interest in cyber-enabled learning happen in conjunction with this? Is there a dissastisfaction with the compartmentalized visions of scholarship?
    • A goal for cyber infrastructure shifts your way of thinking about research and looking at problems that allows for a new way to think about problems.
  • What would “big” humanities (transformative research) mean?
    • Because of the way that humanities research has been done in the past (single investigator, deep problem, specific set of data resources) — the problems have been scaled down to fit within the scope of work for one human being.
    • Now, we can scale the work across a team of people and apply knowledge to much bigger questions
    • Changing the culture is partly a generational change and partly thinking about not trying to convince those who do not want to change their ideas.
    • Some of the big issues with the humanities is that the early attempts to do quantitative research didn’t fit in with the paradigm of what people were trying to look at.
      • What has happened since then is that the kind of resources available to, say, historians, are richer and more vast.
        • You can get census data, yes, but you can also get images, primary texts, and other items more easily
      • UM and Google’s library project — how does a historian go about mining that data?
  • Resistance
    • You can enable other kinds of cyber science, but don’t take away from my current budget.
    • Is the work empirical? Does it have rigorous tests of validity? What happens when you triangulate it with other kinds of research?
  • Openness in Scholarship
    • Open in both the sense that it is making contributions to research as well as have access to the results
      • The raw materials for the research (documents, data, and even people) are networked and widely accessible
        • In this area, she gives librarians lots of credit for moving forward in this area
        • There are formidable monetary and intellectual property issues to overcome here, though
      • Research becomes much more collaborative
        • It doesn’t mean that the idea of the lone investigator goes out the window
        • Expertise is shared, however, and scholarship is open to new audiences and perspectives
          • Universities have done a disservice by trying to have “quality” through exclusivity
          • What is the line between a free-for-all and a very rich dialogue about the research questions we are trying to pursue?
        • Also, could we engage younger people with a degree of fun? Have we dismissed something that people might find engaging by dismissing it as frivolous?

Challenges

  • Where do you start with all of this?
    • There is a complex set of interdependent variables here.
      • How do we do research without a critical mass of resources and tools?
    • There have been some areas in the humanities where things have changed.
      • For instance, in the classics, you find many early adopters because the primary resources are finite (there are only so many original Greek texts) and you can get it online; it is the base of data that everyone draws there conclusions from the ancient world
      • On the other hand, what happens when you look at 20th century history and the endless amounts of content that are out there?
      • What happens when all the volumes in the world are digitized? Of all the primary sources out there, we only have so much money to digitize though…
        • What do we bring out that is trapped?
      • Within the disciplines, there is lots of room for advice from scholars on this
        • Someday, can we help make decisions about what is important in the field and what needs to be digitized?
        • Can we help develop the analytical tools to look at the data?
          • Can we do massive text mining?
          • Visualizations?
        • What about stimulating the demand for this new kind of scholarship?
          • Who wants to take a risk as a young scholar when it could fall flat on deaf ears or it could be the greatest thing since sliced bread?
          • Is there an in-between space that we can translate the goals of that vision on a reasonable scale?
        • Where does the money come from?
          • Most of the physical infrastructure in this country came in the early part of this century. The point is that we do no, as a country, invest in maintaining infrastructure. Universities do a little better at this, but there is more to do to mobilize these resources.

          How do we build an ethos of openness and the public good, when the culture and legal structure locks data up and attaches ownership to them?

  • Social and cultural challenges
    • Institutional Roles
      • Incentives and rewards for scholars who take the risk to do research in these new ways
      • There are challenges to the ways of doing this work
        • Conservative, traditional modes of funding
        • Finding others to collaborate with
        • Tenure and what counts as legitimate contributions to scholarship
      • These are all ways of thinking in institutions that are deeply held and may not be antithetical to these newer notions, but certainly don’t jive with them either
        • Everyone’s work will change as a consequence of this shift
      • The role of the brick and mortar university will still attract students from a variety of backgrounds and these interactions will not go away
        • But, what is it that distinguishes one place from another, especially with this notion of openness?
        • What are universities doing to attract faculty?
        • What physical resources does the university have (librar, facilities)?
          • What happens when anyone can get access to these materials? What is the value added by the institution?
        • One of the questions also becomes whether or not we are willing to do something different as well as what we were doing before?
          • Can we teach as much and do elaborate research projects?
            • In libraries, for instance, if we are out there cataloging every web page like we do every book, then there are certain things we can and can not do with every resource.
  • Conceptual Challenges
  • If we want to draw a variety of perspectives into looking at the problems, then how do we maintain scientific rigor and have inclusion at the same time?
    • The wisdom of crowds argument
    • What if everyone in the crowd is wrong?
    • How far can we push this from opinion to educated judgment
    • Universities that have resources as compared to those who do not
    • Digital ivory tower
  • How do we convince skeptics of the potential without solid evidence?
  • Avoiding the “trust me” syndrome and making a case for how to spend money

Where to start?

  • Starting in the schools, doing things in a connected way is good, but they are doing things on a superficial level and we have not done a good job of packaging this information
  • Getting info from 19th century and putting it out there for people to gobble up
  • Getting the next generation of scholars being more insistent on this kind of work
  • Encourage the convinced to talk to those who “don’t get it”
    • Don’t want to be dismissive, but there are some who need to at least not stand in the way for others to bring this work forward
    • There are those who place lots of value in traditional kinds of work and we need to convince them that there are ways to do otherwise
  • Look at pockets of innovation and support that work rather than spread things too thin
    • There are things that people are doing, but don’t contribute to the infrastructure
  • We can stop doing some things if they don’t seem important
    • The world won’t come to an end if the pre-prints don’t come to the mailbox
  • Some kinds of work that might seem frivolous might come to be valuable in the end
    • The gaming metaphor and how there is something profound there
    • If you can learn by doing something with a game, we need to embrace that kind of shift in thinking

My Reflections

As I prepare materials for CMU’s online repository, CONDOR, I have been considering many of these same issues. What “counts” for me in terms of creating blog posts, wikis for my class, opening up content that has been published in “locked” journals? I want to be a young scholar who pushes these issues in my department, college, and university, yet I want tenure, too. I think that I am striking a good balance in doing the types of scholarship that is considered as legitimate by my colleagues and publishing in these types of open forums, yet there are still the nagging concerns that my work will not be understood. So, I continue with the both/and philosophy (publish in books and peer reviewed journals as well as in digital formats such as blogs, podcasts, and other forums).

Certainly, these will be issues that I wrestle with for years to come, if not my entire career, so hearing her talk today helped me see my concerns in a larger educational context.

April Showers Bring Me Back from the Blogging Drought

March was like a lion for me… beginning, middle, and end. I wish there was a better excuse, but that’s the long and short of it. Conferences, prepping my portfolio for my annual review, teaching, grading, etc.

OK, enough of that.

My purpose tonight is to just capture some thinking on a presentation that Rob Rozema and I will give at the Bright Ideas Conference this weekend: Social Networking, Teacher Education, and the English Language Arts.

My main contribution to the presentation will be an annotated bibliography of sources on social networking in education. Here is what I have so far and I welcome any insights that you may have to add to this list. Feel free to comment here or jump right in and add something on the wiki:

Also, I am trying to think about how to discuss the idea of social networking. What I have found with my experiences in using any social technology is that the teacher really is key to making it work. Be it a discussion board, a blog, a wiki, or a social network, if the teacher talks the talk about using technology, yet doesn’t walk the walk, then it is likely that the students won’t follow.

On a related note, I often wonder about our efforts as teachers to adapt technologies that students are using for their own personal purposes and then connecting it to more academic purposes. In what ways does this co-opting of the technology change the use of it, for better and for worse? For instance, in the social network Rob and I set up this semester, I decided not to make it a “requirement” for my ENG 315 class, and I noticed that very few students have been active in the network as an extra curricular activity. What if I had made it a requirement? Would obligatory postings be worthwhile for students? Would the network have grown more in an organic manner, even though I required it to be fertilized?

As I prepare to present this weekend, these thoughts continue to roll around in my head. In some ways, I don’t even know that I consider myself a proficient user of social networks, as I am in a number of Ning, Facebook, and other groups, yet rarely participate in any meaningful way. I am just wondering how the norms of social networking map on to the academic life of a university faculty member, let alone K-12 teachers and students. I know that they can (as the examples above show), but I am still struggling to make it work for my students.


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Meme: Passion Quilt

Kevin tagged me to continue Miguel‘s Passion Quilt meme.

Cool! Given that I have been reading about memes in Lankshear and Knobel’s New Literacies, this was timely.

So, here goes:

Images from my ENG 315: Writing in the Elementary Schools Courses, Spring 2008

Why these images? Well, they highlight some of the conversations that we have been having this semester in ENG 315 about the teaching of writing. As I view these images, I am reminded both of how much I enjoy teaching teachers how to teach writing and how much these students learn over the course of a semester as they work together in class, assist in local schools, and become writers themselves. I am very much looking forward to their final projects in just a few short weeks of class.

All right, now for the fun part. Miguel provides three simple Meme rules:

  • Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
  • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
  • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.

And the five people that I am inviting in to the meme:

Enjoy!

Beginning to Think About Fall 2008 Courses

It is just barely spring break here (well, break at least, if not spring) and I am already turning my attention somewhat to the fall. I have been asked to adapt two existing CMU courses into ones focusing on digital writing. Here is what I have come up with so far:

ENG 460 – Current Issues in English: 21st Century Literacies

The study of English continues to evolve in the twenty-first century, based on changes in information communication technologies and the underlying social relations that they allow. Students in this course will explore print, oral, visual, digital, and critical literacies such as blogging, social networking, web-based collaborative writing, and multimedia authoring in relation to their own inquiry projects.

For this course, the main goal seems to be that students create a final research project, a capstone to their English major. So, I hope to attract students who are moderately interested in technology so that we can hit the ground running. I imagine that this group would go through many of the same steps that I am going through with my ENG 315 students this spring (starting a blog, wiki, and social network) and that they would quickly organize themselves around affinity groups. I would take special care to teach them about tools that would be useful in researching (social bookmarking, Zotero, Google Notebook, Scribe Fire) and the topics would largely remain their own, although I am sure that they would be influenced somewhat by the readings and technologies.

I am not sure what to use as a reading collection for this course (or the one below, for that matter). Right now, I am leaning towards only using open access journals and other web resources. Somehow, I want to use the MacArthur series on digital learning, although that could come in to play more in the other course.

Also, the main goal for students is to develop a quality research project, and I would act as a coach for that project. Thus, I need to think about a book that talks about research, yet in a way that makes it engaging and interesting. Right now, I am leaning towards The Craft of Research, although I don’t know if that is too “grad studentish” and if their might be something better for advanced undergrads.

ENG 402 – Rhetoric and Argumentation: Digital Rhetoric

By examining the histories, communities, and designs of digital spaces, this course will relate the rhetorical tradition of argumentation to contemporary rhetorics enabled by information communication technologies. Students will develop multimodal arguments based on issues such as online identity, the digital divide, intellectual property rights, gaming, civic engagement, and online communities.

For this course, I am going to build off the work of my dissertation director and mentor, Danielle DeVoss. She has an outstanding course in Digital Rhetoric already designed, and I would like to follow her lead in terms of the general direction of the course and the overall outcomes. As I mentioned above, I feel strongly that as much of the course material as possible will be open access, so I want to use the MacArthur series as touchstone for the units in this course.

I am also thinking about doing a digital literacy autobiography in this course, utilizing digital storytelling as a means for accomplishing that goal. Bonnie Kaplan and I are already talking about that. Also, I think that it will be important for this class especially (and maybe the 460 group, too), to be thinking about design issues. I just got the third edition of Robin Williams’ Non-Designers Design Book (with color!), and I am leaning heavily towards having my students investing in that text for this course.

Clearly, I will have to do some additional thinking for both of these courses in the months to come. If you have ideas about how I can make these courses stronger, I would really appreciate hearing them.

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Brown Bag Presentation: Multiliteracies in Composition

Last Friday, I was invited to lead a “brown bag” session for my English department’s composition program. Titled “Multiliteracies in Composition,” we focused our pre-reading on an article about a second-year college composition course developed at Michigan Tech called “Revisions.” Details can be found in the following article:

Lynch, Dennis A., and Anne Frances Wysocki. “From First-Year Composition to Second-Year Multiliteracies: Integrating Instruction in Oral, Written, and Visual Communication at a Technological University.WPA: Writing Program Administration 26.3 (2003): 149-171.

We began by watching the Richard Miller’s presentation: The Future is Now. This presented us with a variety of challenging questions about how we might pursue such a vision of the “new humanities” at CMU, including discussions about professional development, our beliefs about the changing nature of literacy, and how, if at all, a shift in our curriculum would happen in the time frame that Lynch and Wysocki describe from their context.

We then continued in small groups with a jig saw reading, where groups posted 2-3 responses or question in their own page on my wiki. After a watching Wikis in Plain English, they understood the basics of posting and were able to see how using a wiki could allow for multiple groups to post their work and then quickly share it with the class. The conversation continued in a large group discussion, including some emerging questions:

  • What do students need in terms of literacy in a changing world?
  • How do multiliteracies relate to technology and communications?
  • What does the multi-disciplinary approach do for departments? What about specialization?
  • If everyone talks the same language, do we have our own specialties?
  • What does this mean for us in terms of the course? Content? Writing?
  • Faculty-only vs. Graduate Assistants–How is this possible or feasible at our University?
  • What does this look like across the curriculum? Is it sustainable?
  • What about assessment? Individual? Groups? Programmatic?
  • Is there still a need for traditional comp courses? Don’t you still need a first year comp?
  • How does the continuing focus in professional organizations on 21st century lliteracies contribute to this discussion (last week’s NCTE statement on the future of composition), both for college and life?
  • What would the writing center need to/be expected to do?
  • Does this perpetuate a two-tiered society, a Gutenberg in reverse?
  • How do we support faculty in these collaborations?
  • Is the resistance about learning to do old things with new technologies or really coming to understand a new paradigm that the new technologies allow?

We ended with Michael Wesch and his students’: A Vision of Students Today, and just in time for a sunny mid-winter drive home. All told, it was a timely and lively discussion for our department, and I appreciated having the opportunity to facilitate the session. Given the release of the 2008 Horizon Report, it seems as though we are constantly reminded that things continue to change. I hope that this session serves as a spark that continues into further conversations about multiliteracies in composition later this semester.

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An Update on Blogging, Podcasting, and Wikiing with Pre-Service Teachers

January has been a busy month for me as I have been coordinating field placements for my ENG 315 students and we have begun exploring the use of blogs, wikis, podcasts, and RSS in our teaching lives. When we began this work a few short weeks ago, only a handful of these pre-service teachers had heard of a wiki or a podcast, fewer still knew about RSS, some had a general idea about blogs, and none of them were thinking about how these tools would translate into the teaching of writing in their classrooms. So, we started slow, and now things are moving along quite well.

The second week, we downloaded Portable Apps, and I explained my rationale for why would use these tools — both because they are free and open source as well as the idea that they need to be able to take their data with them. We also started setting up our blogs, and discussed the Common Craft video on blogs, thinking about implications for our classrooms and personal learning. The third week, we turned our attention to understanding RSS and reading each other’s blogs. This week, we set up our Google Readers, and I am now challenging them to begin using RSS reading in their professional responses.

So far, this process is going fairly smoothly and I do not feel that I am detracting from the “content” of the course by focusing on the technologies. In fact, I feel that they are helping me get some ideas across even better. For instance, it is one thing to encourage them to read each other’s blogs; it is quite another to provide them with a combined feed of everyone in their class and invite them to read, through their Google Reader, everyone’s posts. I will be building in some time for people to read and comment each week, as their reading of other blog posts will help them activate their brains for our class discussions.

Also, I am finding that they are all having “aha” moments as we move forward. Some are seeing connections to other classes an projects, and I think that they are all starting to see the ways in which we can connect with one another. For instance, one student explained how she immediately subscribed to all her friend’s blogs and, while it wasn’t purely academic, that solidified in her mind the power of RSS to gather information. In a time where we take for granted that all of our students understand so much about the web intuitively, it is good to know that we can talk about these technologies in relation to the teaching of writing and that they can begin to see some new connections.

Next up, we will be working with Rob Rozema’s class at GVSU to post our “This I Believe” essays to a Ning social network and get comments across classes. Then, after spring break, digital stories. As we continue on in the semester, I am looking forward sharing more ideas. It is interesting to compare the snapshots of two generations of teachers that I am seeing this semester — the pre-service students and the in-service teachers in Project WRITE — and compare how they are engaging with similar technologies in different ways. I feel as if with the pre-service teachers, they can pick up on the technology quickly once it is introduced, yet the conversations about pedagogy are still emerging. for the in-service teachers, we are able to talk about pedagogy very easily, but only after very thorough discussions of how and why to use the technology.

The differences are clear and makes me even more aware of the generational gap that must be happening as new teachers enter schools. They are very excited about the technology, yet can’t talk about it in pedagogically sophisticated ways. Veteran teachers are, as they should be, very concerned about pedagogy. This dichotomy makes me wonder how we can get everyone speaking the same language and beginning to think more about the pedagogy and the technology at the same time, regardless of age or experience. Then, we need to layer in discussions of literacy for everyone, because those are not present yet.

More teaching to be done, for sure and it is a great deal of fun in additional to a continual pedagogical challenge.


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Video Welcome for the Semester

Things are underway for the semester — I am looking forward to teaching ENG 315 again, and I made this quick video to welcome students to the class.

My daughter helped a bit, too. Enjoy!

PS — If anyone can help me figure out why I can’t embed YouTube videos in WordPress, that would be very helpful!


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