Friday, 18 November 2011

Reply to George

Thanks a lot to George for his response to my previous post. This started out as a short comment in reply, but grew like topsy into another speculative post.

First, I agree with George that there is a body of literature that describes non-digital scholarship with a similar lens to Kumashiro et al. However, there is also a body of literature about the ways that scholars have collaborated, and I think that to examine one without the other risks missing important points. Indeed, for me, some of the most interesting debates arise from the tension (creative, I hope) between these two views – a tension that goes back at least to classical Greece (eg.Leach) and whose most recent manifestation is as much to do with the rise of the “professional” or “expert” in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as to do with managerialism and marketisation. So I agree with George that interesting questions are which scholars are participating in which ways. What purposes do they use these media for and under what circumstances do they use others? How truly “open” are the debates and are they still excluding “others” in some way, eg. by the form of language and discourse used? What is the relation between an “open” or “networked participatory” scholar and a “public intellectual” (see, eg. special edition of Philosophy & Rhetoric)? I'm not at all surprised that George has found evidence of reputation building as a motive. It's one that we have also found prominently in our work on release of Open Educational Resources and is evident also in Downes (2007), OECD (2007), Atkins et al (2007).

However, I am wary of confining such questions to digital media as though these were the only possible media or space for collaboration or for reputation building – this closes down options and limits research. I am also wary of framing research on digital scholarship in terms of a debate about the relations of technology and society that was current in the 1980s and 90s, rather than looking at the processes of co-evolution of the two. George mentions co-evolution, but doesn’t really explore the implications in terms of the type of study required - though there are lots of examples in his paper that would be the starting point for a more nuanced and in depth study. This sort of work is now being done in the realm of science studies (see, eg. Carl May).

I think where George and I differ may be on whether values are changing, or whether it is the spaces and ways in which those values can be expressed or performed that is changing. My sentence before the one George quotes makes clear that autonomy and ideals of collaboration and sharing are not new values – though they have existed in tension with monastic ones. (I also wonder whether we mean the same thing when we talk about “autonomy”. I mean absence of control by government or managers. I do not mean that these people are socially isolated).

But this opens up the whole post-modernist debate, and whether values have a stable reality that can be expressed through different media, or whether they exist only in the performance of them. In the latter case, then it becomes trivially obvious that performance in new media is new - but the more interesting question is how is that performance enacted and how does it compare with performances enacted in other media? However, the way George expresses his argument suggests to me that he does assume the objective reality of values, in which case my initial point holds.

fact, though, I wonder in several places in the paper whether there is a post-modernist interpretation struggling to surface. This is evident in a paragraph that otherwise does not make sense to me:

This transformed view of the mind from a disembodied and objectivist reasoning tool to an embodied, experiential, and social faculty calls into question the validity of monastic scholarly practices which attempt to disassociate the mind, knowledge, and research from social experience This view paves the way for rethinking how scholarly knowledge is acquired, expanded, and validated given the embodied, social nature of human experience. Nevertheless, we should be clear that even though such embodied practice is present in some aspects of academe, it does not represent the dominant academic culture. (my emphasis)

If we take “the mind” as a fairly stable, objectively real, thing – which I think from George’s language throughout the paper that he does – then it is the “view of the mind” that has transformed, not the mind itself – which, indeed, is what he says. However, if it is only our view of the mind that has changed, and assuming that our current view of it as a social faculty is the correct one, then it calls into question the possibility of monastic practices, rather than their validity, ie. all scholarly practices in the past must have been embodied, experiential and social even if this was not talked about explicitly in the discourse of the time. To claim otherwise would be like claiming that nothing evolved before Darwin and Wallace, or that some process other than gravity held the universe together before Newton. Equally, if we are correct in saying that the mind is a social, embodied faculty, then it must be present in all aspects of academe, even if this is only explicitly discussed in the discourse/culture of some.

Now we could get round this objection by saying something like, "the transformed view of the mind legitimates a view/discourse of collaborative scholarly practices." Or we could take the view that “mind” is a social construct that does, indeed, change with the way we talk about it, and that our discourse powerfully constitues the way we think as well as the way we behave. This, of course, then raises the thorny issue of distributed cognition (eg. Vaesen 2011)if we are talking about thinking in networks. So, lots to explore and debate here.

Any thoughts anyone?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Networked participatory scholarship

Eleni has drawn my attention to Veletsianos & Kimmons’ new paper on Networked participatory scholarship. They take a historical approach and “delineate how scholarship itself is changing with the emergence of certain tools, social behaviours, and cultural expectations associated with participatory technologies.”

They build on Burton, Cohen and Weller, and then define Networked Participatory Scholarship as "scholars' use of participatory technologies and online social networks to share, reflect upon, critique, improve, validate, and further their scholarship."

So far, so good.

However, while noting that, "it could be argued that scholars have always shared their work with colleagues (eg. face-to-face, via correspondence, over the telephone, through conferences, etc), and disciplines have always had open (and less open) scholars," they go on, in the rest of their argument, to rely on Kumashiro et al's characterisation of earlier sholarship as "monastic and lacking ongoing participation, support, and conversation". In doing so, are they missing some of the most interesting things?

If we accept that scholars have always shared their work, and that disciplines have always had open scholars (there is lots of evidence to support these contentions), then what changes with use of participatory technologies?

One thing is the synchronicity with which the public, and other scholars, can observe the debate, and hence the ways in which they can contribute to it. Some of the ways in which scholars shared and reflected upon their work in the past were private at the time, perhaps not through intention, but because that was what the available technologies enabled. We can re-capture the sharing and reflection now, through archives of correspondence. James Clerk Maxwell, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), and Peter Tait, for example carried on an extensive correspondence with the frequency and brevity of blogs or email, all on postcards, in the 19th century, bouncing half formed ideas off each other. They also published in journals, books, and lectures, their ideas at various stages of development, but these were all in different media. It was only after their deaths, too late to join in, that the entire corpus could be assembled and the debate traced.

Another is our ability to capture the debate (or that element of it that takes place in digital technologies). Debate has been at the heart of what scholars do, at least since medieval times, and to enable debate in the absence of easy communication technologies was what prompted the formation of the first universities. Universities brought scholars together in physical proximity over extended periods of time so that they can talk to each other; conferences brought geographically dispersed scholars together temporarily for intensive bursts of talk. But that is what it was - talk - and most of it has left no trace. Only the published papers or books are seen.

Synchronicity and the ability to capture, then, enable both different geographic and temporal dimensions to the debate. Are these changed dimensions what constitute "openness" today? Scholars are doing the same things they ever were, but by using participatory technologies to do them, the dynamics have changed, and the nature of the debate is likely to change too?

Jim Secord has chronicled the changing nature of scientific conversations in the 19th century. Social norms governed what types of topic were appropriate in what situations, and these changed in response to wider social changes, such as the rise of a professional class and the changing organisation of science. Are any such norms and conventions yet evident in scholars use of participatory technologies? Can we observe and chronicle their changes?

If we view things this way, then perhaps there is a wider context in which we might view the adoption by scholars of participatory technologies. Bollier argues that until the 1960s or so, universities operated on the principle that academic research and innovation depended upon cooperation, collaboration and sharing. Aligned with this belief, university management, and funding policies, were based on collegiate principles, allowing considerable autonomy to scholars (McNay 1995*, Van Rooij 2011). The last 40 years, however, have seen increasing managerial control of universities and a "a frankly acquisitive ethic that aggressively seeks private ownership and profit from the fruits of university research" (Bollier). Might one of the social stimuli underlying increasing use by scholars of participatory technologies be the desire for a space in which they can assert their autonomy and ideals of collaboration and sharing? In this case we might expect to see norms emerging about what gets discussed there, and these norms will be affected not only by the scholars, but also by the expectations and interests of the "public" who join the debate - so the question of who else is involved in these debates, and what they contribute, becomes interesting also.

*McNay, I.(1995),“From the Collegial Academy to Corporate Enterprise: The Changing Cultures of Universities”, in T. Schuller (ed.), The Changing University?, SRHE/Open University Press, Buckingham

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Affected by the affective turn

I was recently at the at the PhD course run by the Doctoral School of Organisational Learning (DOCSOL) in Denmark where the topic of the course was ‘The affective turn. An invitation to new analytical engagements?’.

The course teachers were:

  • Christian Borch, Associate professor, PhD, Department of Leadership, Politics, and Philosophies, CBS
  • Brian Massumi, Professor, University of Montreal, Department of Communication Studies
  • Patricia Clough, Professor of Sociology, Women´s Studies, and Intercultural Studies at Queens College
  • Dorthe Staunæs, Associate professor, PhD, Department of Learning, DPU/University of Aarhus

The course was started with the presentation of Christian Borch and the use of concept of spheres and atmospheres in research, especially as they relate to the affective domain. Next day Patricia Clough was using a multimodal presentation style in exploring the affective as related to post-humanism and pre-subjective mechanic assemblages. The presentation was highly debated as it included the projection of an art-piece with disturbing images representing the state of the world and the debate about capitalism. Dorothea Staunaes discussed new form of ‘psy leadership’ where the affective domain was employed in the workplace. And the event was closed with a lecture by Brian Masumi who took a philosophical turn to discussing the concept of affect.

However, the morning lectures were only a part of the course. What was most interesting was the work with other people who came with diverse projects. The notion of organisation was understood in a wider sense, so the projects ranged from workplace learning, over project regarding educational institutions to gender and queer studies. The format of the whole course was very thought provoking. After the morning lectures (all of which were preceded by readings sent in advance) we had lunch and ‘walks and talks’ where we walked on the coast of Denmark, looking at the bridge to Sweden and tried to understand concepts presented in the morning. Only afterwards we would reconvene in the plenary room and discuss it fully with the presenter.

After that we worked in groups where we tried to discuss our PhD projects and try to use the concepts discussed on our data. These proved to be very interesting and useful. What was also striking was the variety of data sets we brought: newspaper articles, videos, photos made by employees, narratives in the form of storytelling and codes from analysis. This really pushed us to consider our project and analysis process from different angles.

Another form of learning was evening ‘reflection on a laptop’ where we would think about the day and what we take with us. Individual reflection is a general practice on such events but the insistence of doing them on a laptop made a difference as then the thoughts would be captured and could be accessed later on. In addition to these planned events there were of course informal discussion with the participants, way into the night about surprisingly serious topics such as questioning the value of research as a phenomenon. Moreover, we had an optional workshop with Professor Patricia Clough about innovative ways for presenting ideas: where we included dance, music, rhythm and un-standardised text experiments as forms of expressing academic ideas. This really challenged the boundary between my artistic and academic self that I was socialised into accepting (the format and canonical style of journal publications is sometimes really limiting).

Overall the whole event really made me think, in a kind of a roundabout way. I came with a very naive understanding of the affective domain as the world of emotions, only to find out that there are many more philosophical, sociological and psychological aspects to it that have relevance on the depth with which I do research in my project ‘Learning from Incidents’. I was really challenged to look on my work as a researcher more holistically and more in-depth. No matter how focused we are on the specific and practical impact of our study, as researchers, we should still seek deeper understanding by having different perspectives, crossing between different fields, ever crossing boundaries.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

PhD Vacancy: Networked Innovation

We have a PhD scholarship for a 3-year study "Networked Innovation: The role of collaborations in creation and diffusion of innovative teaching and learning practices in universities". The details are below:

The studentship is for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress and provides payment of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate (£3,450 pa) plus an annual stipend of £14,275. The successful candidate is expected to undertake up to 6 hours of academic support activity per week, which will include research, teaching or administration.

Purpose of Studentship
The Caledonian Academy is offering a 3-year studentship to carry out research leading to a PhD investigating whether and how collaborations impact the development and diffusion of innovative teaching and learning methods in universities.

Research project
While there is a growing body of literature on co-production of knowledge in research, in particular the essential role collaborations have been playing in the advancement of science, little is known about the role of collaborations in the development of innovative teaching and learning practices (TLP). The learning potential of collaborative innovation experiences for academics themselves is not well understood. Conducted within a range of disciplines within Glasgow Caledonian University, this study will explore whether and how collaborations impact the development and diffusion of innovative TLP. First, ethnographic case studies will be conducted to generate testable hypotheses. Second, participants’ networks will be analysed to explore the collaboration practices and test the hypotheses. Third, follow-up interviews will be conducted to understand if and how collaboration practices impact innovation in TLP. The study has dual goals of contributing to the theory and practice of teaching and learning in higher education. It contributes to 3 literatures: sociology of knowledge, workplace learning, and diffusion of innovation. It contributes to practice by identifying conditions under which teaching and learning innovations can be enabled and enhanced in universities.

Supervisory Team
The studentship offers a unique opportunity to work with an internationally-renowned research team which has strong links with leading research centres and the industry. The supervisory team comprises: Dr. Anoush Margaryan (Director of Studies and first supervisor), Dr. Isobel Falconer (second supervisor), and Prof. Allison Littlejohn (third supervisor).

Education/Experience sought:
The fellowship is open to candidates from EU countries.

* Applicants must be graduates (Masters or Bachelors Degree plus relevant Masters) with a background in Educational Science or its sub-disciplines. Candidates with a background in Social or Behavioural Sciences are also eligible to apply, but a strong interest in Learning and Education is essential.
* Strong interest in conducting applied research
* Strong interest in drawing upon and integrating research from both Higher Education and adult workplace learning areas.

* Experience (or strong interest) in contemporary network theories is a plus.
* Familiarity with relevant research on workplace learning, university learning, collaborative work and learning, sociology, and diffusion of innovation is a plus.

We are looking for a smart, dynamic, curious and motivated person who has the following skills:
* experience, or interest in, conducting mixed methods applied research
* strong abilities in writing and oral presentation in English
* ability to structure own work to achieve results within strict deadlines
* ability to communicate research findings efficiently to both academic and non-academic audiences

Those seeking further information should contact the supervisory team via Claire Carroll or by telephoning +44 (0)141 331 3680.

How to Apply:

Application Materials and Deadline:
Applicants should submit each of the following documents by e-mail to Claire Carroll,

1. Official Glasgow Caledonian University application form
2. Letter of interest specifying how you learned about this vacancy and outlining how your skills, experience and background meet the essential and desirable criteria for this studentship.
3. CV
4. A writing sample (e.g. a recent journal publication or a chapter from your Masters thesis)
5. Names and contact information of two references (academic and/or professional).

Deadline for applications is June 25, 2010. Applications received after this date will not be accepted. Interviews with shortlisted candidates will be conducted in the week commencing July 12, 2010. Interviews could be conducted either face to face at Glasgow Caledonian University or using video/audio-conferencing if required. The studentship is expected to begin no later than October 4, 2010.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Approaches to releasing Open Educational Resources

We (Helen Beetham, Lou McGill, Karen Smith, Isobel Falconer and I) have been carring out the Synthesis and Evaluation for the JISC/HEA OER Programme (see press release). We are working with all projects, in institutions/ subject centres across England and Wales, on evaluation.

The projects seem to be gaining useful models for their own evaluation and progress, and have opportunities to share with other projects in a structured way, while contributing to the further development of the collective understanding of the programme. At the same time we are collating evidence of effective practice that will be made available to the wider global community at the end of the project in June2010.

Synthesis is achieved through a common evaluation framework we are evolving. The framework captures key dimensions of the programme. The framework provides a foundation and common language for collating data; offers a range of questions/issues to support evaluation and review; supports the collation of key messages, challenges, solutions and outputs; and enables the identification of key areas of interest and highlights useful approaches.

The generic framework has been compiled from three separate frameworks, which capture the specific strands of the programme (projects focused in institutional, subject or individual sharing). Strand frameworks are updated and shared with projects and other support teams on a regular basis and are continually augmented. These feed back into the generic framework to provide a programme wide overview.

Our research is surfacing a very wide range of complex issues. Three distinct approaches to releasing and sharing OERs are emerging:

Open release by institutions Institutions are more likely to release generic resources which have a high impact across subject areas, especially where there are reputational benefits for the institution. Institutions may be more reluctant to release specialist resources, particularly if they see opportunities to marketise content, though some specialist resources are released to highlight an area of teaching and learning expertise. Quality assurance is important, and institutions may also invest in ensuring content is repurposable e.g. by disaggregating and tagging it effectively.

Open release by individuals Individuals may share with the wider education community to build their personal reputation as teachers and subject specialists. They may adopt approaches that maximise the integrity rather than the reuseability of their resources. Release by individuals can have a positive impact on the institution and act as an example of good practice to encourage others, however it can be easier to leave out institutional branding if repurposing is a driver for the individual.

Sharing within tightly knit topic communities These communities already share areas of research interest and tend to have personal contact, often face-to-face. Open content may fit in well with the topic ethos, or the topic may already have a strong public interest element e.g. climate change, public health, Approaches to sharing adopted by these communities do not necessarily have impact on institutional practices. They may adopt approaches to sharing which work well among teachers and researchers in their community but are less effective for other potential users.

We also have evidence of Open release by topic communities

At this stage of evaluation it is too early to list conclusive outcomes. Helen, Lou, Karen, Isobela nd I thought it would be useful to share these emerging approaches. We presented our initial findings to the JISC and HEA at a meeting in London earlier this month and a brief report is going to HEFCE to inform the release of phase 2 funding.

More information on OERs

The OER evaluation and synthesis wiki is at

Monday, 8 March 2010

Caledonian debates the future of universities

On Monday 1st March 2010 the Caledonian Academy hosted an event to discuss the future of universities. The event was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the ‘Literacy in the Digital University(LiDU)’ project.

The event included research partners from the Universities of Edinburgh, Lancaster the UK Open University and the Institute of Education in London, along with colleagues from the Caledonian Academy and the academic schools at Glasgow Caledonian University. Throughout the day there was lively debate and discussion both onsite and at remote locations via Skype and Twitter (#lidu).

The opening keynote by Helen Beetham (article)highlighted research carried out by the Caledonian Academy (Helen Beetham, Allison Littlejohn and Lou McGill) in 2009 on Learning Literacies for a Digital Age (LLiDA).

The LLiDA project was funded by JISC to explore the relation of current literacy practices to educational, societal and technological changes. The research involved:
• a review of literatures at the intersection of learning, e-learning, literacy, and 'the digital'
• a review of relevant competence frameworks (UK, European, and English-speaking education systems)
• analysis of 40+ practical examples of digital literacy support and provision from UK HEIs
• analysis of data from 16 institutional audits of digital literacy practice, including 60 institutional strategic documents

The LiDU project website is at

An overview of the event is available at

The LLiDA project website is at

Caledonian leads the race to share and ‘mash up’ Online Educational Resources

The Caledonian Academy is leading a project to explore how the sharing and ‘mash-up’ of online educational resources will maximise learning opportunities.

The Open Educational Resources (OER) Programme, a multi-million pound initiative funded by the UK Joint Information Systems Committees (JISC), Higher Education funding council HEFCE and the UK Higher Education Academy, aims to make a wide range of on-line learning resources freely available, easily discovered and routinely re-used by both educators and learners.

By releasing a wide range of new course materials online, including complete modules, notes, videos, assessments, tests, simulations, worked examples, software, and other tools, and by exploring the lessons learned, the programme aims to discover what approaches to resource sharing are successful and sustainable long-term.

Glasgow Caledonian University was selected to lead the evaluation and synthesis of the programme through The Caledonian Academy which specialises in the research and development of innovative forms of learning and teaching for a wide range of students. In 2003 Academy Director and technology enhanced learning expert Professor Allison Littlejohn published the first international text on Reusing Online Resources and has since led a range of national and international projects in this area. She will lead a keynote address at a national conference on Open Educational Resources at te University of Cambridge this month [March 2010].

She said: “The concept of sharing and reusing educational resources isn’t new – learning and teaching has always involved practitioners sharing resources, but growing access to freely available Web2.0 technologies such as Facebook and YouTube means we can now share information in ways that were not previously possible, breaking barriers to access and enabling people to adapt, reuse and ‘mash up’ existing course content with all sorts of other resources, including student generated materials.”

“GCU’s role in the OER Programme is to identify barriers and enablers to effective release and reuse of materials, aiming towards significant amounts of high quality resources being openly released and effectively used in the long term.”

“The ultimate goal is to kick-start a change in the way we all think about educational resources. In the future we hope students and lecturers will play an equal part in the creation and sharing of learning resources. Universities such as MIT and the UK Open University have already invested time and funding into making their resources freely available to anyone in the world who wants to use them and there are benefits for every university – and for society – in doing so”.

“GCU has just released a range of open educational resources for mathematics. The resources were released under an intellectual property license, called Creative Commons, which permits open use and adaptation. This move has been viewed by colleagues in the maths community as a milestone in moving forward how students and lecturers access and use maths resources.”

David Kernohan of JISC said: “The Funding Councils have identified the innovative use of digital technologies to maintain the UK's position as a global leader in education as having high importance and this is the first time a single country has taken forward OER release on this scale. GCU's role is analysing how the information can be released in the most helpful, user-friendly and sustainable way so is absolutely key to our success. If we get this right, the impact it can have is potentially phenomenal”.

The JISC OER programme comprises 29 projects, most based at universities and colleges in institutions across England and Wales, some involving the Higher Education Academy subject centres, all working towards open content release. Central to the programme is achieving sustainable change in educational culture, moving away from a focus on content ownership and towards openly shared content. Learning resources created by the programme will be released into Jorum Open (JISC supported national repository), using the Creative Commons licence.

The final evaluation and synthesis report will be available by June 2010.

More information on OERs The OER evaluation and synthesis wiki is at