Academic blog links

I mentioned yesterday that it can be a challenge for those who aren’t highly web-confident to find blogs in their areas of interest.

I Googled ‘academic blogs’ and came up with some useful links:

Crooked Timber’s extensive list of academic blogs, grouped under broad discipline areas.

BlogScholar.com also has a good list – you’ll find discipline links on the right-hand side, part-way down the page (it’s not especially obvious.)

Rhetorica’s Professors Who Blog link is no longer maintained as at July this year, but has a fairly long list of blogs, albeit with limited information about them.

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s site also has links to academic blogs, each with a short description of the blog.

And then I found that there’s a (relatively new?) Academic Blog Portal – a wiki of academic blogs that you can add your own to. So, yes, somebody else has already done what I was thinking of 🙂

(And does anyone else think it amusing that the spell-checker in WordPress – a blogging software – does not recognise the words ‘blog’, ‘blogs’ or ‘wiki’?)

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Should All Learning Professionals Be Blogging?

Over at the Learning Circuits Blog their ‘Big Question’ for the month is ‘Should all learning professionals be blogging?’ The question has generated a range of varied responses from educators – the post has links to them.

I came across the question yesterday at Jim Belshaw’s blog, and posted a spur of the moment response:

…perhaps the question isn’t so much ‘should all learning professionals be blogging’ but rather ‘should all learning professionals be actively engaging with the current developments in their discipline?’ To which, in my mind, the answer is Yes.

The ‘How?’ question then leads naturally to blogging or similar activities – because the exciting, new and innovative developments in pretty much all a university’s discipline areas are being discussed, reported, analysed and further developed on the web, through online journals, news, blogs, wikis and so on. The web is the home to the current knowledge and ideas, and is much more up-to-date than most traditional print-based academic journals, where the time-frame from research to publication can be years.

Participating in those online communities is a true scholarly activity – contributing to the ‘unending conversation’ in our discipline areas, debating ideas, furthering knowledge and understanding, and sharing that with the wider community.

Yes, it’s a time commitment, but it’s part of our pursuit of knowledge in our respective discipline areas – and it’s also a timesaver in some ways, with easy access to the leading thinkers and resources, the opportunity to share and seek feedback on ideas and drafts of papers, and so on.

On reflection, I haven’t changed my view much. I don’t necessarily think that all learning professionals/academics should be actively blogging – blogging is not for everyone, and it takes a while to develop one’s blogging ‘voice’ – but, as expressed in my previous post, I do think that we need to be very aware of, and participating in, the current developments in our respective fields. And, while I’m ready to be corrected, I can’t really think of any discipline where what is happening on the web is irrelevant.

Blogging is one way – and can be an excellent way – of actively participating in one’s discipline, and contributing to the application of ideas and knowledge in the wider community. Blogging goes further than traditional email discussion lists, conferences, academic papers, and other standard academic means of communication. So, yes, I think academics should be aware of what blogging is, reading the relevant thinkers in their fields, and at least actively considering whether blogging is an appropriate form of participation for them.

However, for those who are less confident navigating their way around the web, sometimes finding relevant blog communities can be a bit of a challenge. To assist the academic staff I work with, I’m working on putting together a wiki resource with links to blogs across a range of discipline areas. Although if anyone knows of a similar resource already existing, please let me know!

QUT and AOIR conferences

I spent last week in Brisbane, attending two conferences – QUT’s Online Learning and Teaching conference on Mobile technologies in teaching, and the Association of Internet Researchers international conference, Internet Convergences.

My brain is still trying to recover 😉

The AoIR one in particular gave me vast quantities of food for thought, and I’m still processing all the various ideas, discussions, implications. With 6 sessions going at a time, each with multiple papers, for three days, there was A LOT discussed.

One thing that’s standing out for me, though, is how far behind university education is in general in grappling with the changes that the networked, information-rich world has already brought to the ways in which people interact with information and build their knowledge and learning.

I’m not just referring here to the use of web technology and social software in teaching. I’m referring to the impact of this networked world on the fundamental ways in which we practice and understand our disciplines, the ways in which we undertake, publish and disseminate our research, the ways in which we teach our students about our disciplines, and the ways in which our disciplines and foci of study are themselves changing.

Last week’s conference reinforced my long-held opinion that, rather than leave epistemology and methodology to fourth year or post-graduate levels as we have traditionally done in most discipline areas, we need now to shift that right up front, explicitly focusing our first year units around these issues. Our students have access to so much information at the click of a button that, rather than feed them more ‘content’, our prime goal should be educate them in the epistemological bases of our disciplines – how we build knowledge, how we explore theories, how evidence is sought and assessed, and so on.

These are the skills that our students need for the even-more networked future. They need to be able to work effectively and professionally in this world in which more information that you could ever have dreamed about a few years ago is available instantly. They need not just information literacy and network literacy but explicit epistemological literacy in order to find their way through and make meaning of millions of terabytes of data, to build relevant knowledge, to negotiate significant choices and actions based on that knowledge with their equally-networked colleagues, peers, clients, constituents, bosses etc.

These literacies are not simple skills. To be brutally honest, they are certainly not skills that are developed by reading a range of 10 or 20 or 30 academic journal articles and writing a 2,000 word essay that only a lecturer or tutor ever sees. Or by setting up a standard experiment and writing a report. Or by cramming for two days for a multiple-choice exam.

We can no longer get by with an approach that might have educated people for the 1980s, but certainly does not educate them for 2010 and beyond. I believe that approach is doing a massive disservice to our students.

At all levels of higher education – policy and government frameworks and funding; institutional policy, structures and cultures; and individual academic level – we need to grapple with the challenge to make our educational processes relevant, to truly educate students in how their respective disciplines and professions will be enacted and experienced in the years to come.

And yes, it’s a darn big challenge.

Forthcoming workshops

Next week, I’ll be offering several times a 2-hour workshop on ‘Tools for Online Teaching’ for colleagues at UNE.

Since the recent changes to the ‘une-official’ email list, it’s a little hard to get the word out about workshops and other news, hence posting some information here for the benefit of any UNE staff who drop by!

The details of the sessions are as follows:

Tools for online learning

This ‘hands-on’ session will explore some of the new tools and social software that can be used to support and enhance student collaboration, engagement and learning. Tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, audio and video files, animations and student presentations will be explored and examples discussed of how these can be used effectively in University education.

It is highly recommended for ALL staff engaged in, or considering, online teaching.

The session will be offered four times next week:
Monday 11th September – 11am to 1pm (booked out!)
Tuesday 12th September – 2pm to 4pm
Wednesday 13th September – 11am to 1pm
Thursday 14th September – 2pm to 4pm

Please note that due to a limitation on places in the computer lab, bookings are required. These can be made online at http://www.une.edu.au/tlc/workshops or by phoning Kerryn Reeves.

Teaching and other Carnivals

Sorry for the absence of posts lately – I’ve been away on leave, enjoying a couple of weeks in the outback.

The 11th Teaching Carnival is now up at WorkBook . What’s a Carnival, you might ask? In the blog sense, a Carnival is a collection of links to interesting recent posts in the particular field or discipline. The Teaching Carnival is published every two weeks or so, an relates to blog entries about teaching in Higher Education. It’s a great way to get an overview about what university teachers are blogging about in relation to their teaching.

As an example, here’s the Teaching and Technology section of the 11th Teaching Carnival:

Carrie Shanafelt is trying out a Wiki for her British Literature class to facilitate the sharing of student work. She hopes that “[t]he creation of a wiki…would render these [assigned historical context] memos in an attractive, interconnected, easily browsable format that would ensure that they don’t get lost or forgotten in the bottoms of bookbags”.

Originally posted on the Humanist listserv, Alan Liu’s proposed policy for appropriate student use of Wikipedia generated significant online buzz, both on that listserv (1, 2, 3) and at Kairosnews, one of Jonathan Goodwin’s class blogs, cac.ophony.org, and the CHE‘s Wired Campus Blog.

Metaspencer explains the answer to “Why course websites?

At Academic Commons, Susan Sipple discusses Digitized Audio Commentary in First Year Writing Classes, and Derek Mueller has tried commenting with audio in some online courses. At the Rhetorical Situation, Oxymoron finds online students more willing to engage in discussion than in-class students usually are.

While I have a set of regular blogs that I subscribe to via RSS*, Carnivals provide an additional, easy way of seeing what’s current in the blogosphere of disciplines I’m interested in.

Other Carnivals I’ve come across include:

There’s also a list of Carnivals over at Blog Carnival – but many of these are not academic in nature. I’d love to hear about other Carnivals that are relevant to academic work.
*Links from the Teaching Carnival led me to a good explanation of RSS over at academHack.

New directions for academic publishing?

When I was a child, in the late 1960s, early 1970s, my father worked at the John Curtin School of Medical Research. My first engagement with the world of academic publishing and scholarship was the piles of printed cards my father would bring home – requests for copies of articles, sent from around the world, to the researchers at JCSMR (this being in the days before photocopiers, when authors received a certain number of printed copies of their article for distribution). As my sisters and I carefully cut around and soaked off the stamps for our stamp collections, the avid reader that I was read most of the cards, trying to decipher the handwritten names, addresses, article titles, journal names, and marvelling at the connections that paper made between professors and doctors in such far away places as Canada, Poland, and India.
Many things have changed since then, and as I sit in my office now, I have access within seconds to millions of journal articles. In fact, just yesterday I experienced a sense of frustration that a particular article I want is not available online, and I shall actually have to walk the 60 meters or so across to the library building, find the hard-copy journal, and photocopy it myself. (Yes, aren’t we spoilt these days!)

But apart from the relative ease of access to published material, has academic publishing really fundamentally changed in the last 3 or 4 decades? Is our model of scholarly dissemination still relevant to the 21st century?

Over at if:book, the blog of The Institute for the Future of the Book, they’re exploring this very issue, and developing an alternative approach. A recent article introduces the MediaCommons project-in-progress:

Our shift from thinking about an “electronic press” to thinking about a “scholarly network” came about gradually; the more we thought about the purposes behind electronic scholarly publishing, the more we became focused on the need not simply to provide better access to discrete scholarly texts but rather to reinvigorate intellectual discourse, and thus connections, amongst peers (and, not incidentally, discourse between the academy and the wider intellectual public). This need has grown for any number of systemic reasons, including the substantive and often debilitating time-lags between the completion of a piece of scholarly writing and its publication, as well as the subsequent delays between publication of the primary text and publication of any reviews or responses to that text. These time-lags have been worsened by the increasing economic difficulties threatening many university presses and libraries, which each year face new administrative and financial obstacles to producing, distributing, and making available the full range of publishable texts and ideas in development in any given field. The combination of such structural problems in academic publishing has resulted in an increasing disconnection among scholars, whose work requires a give-and-take with peers, and yet is produced in greater and greater isolation.

The whole post is worth a read, and has generated some interesting coments and views, some of which are outlined in yesterday’s follow-up post at if:book: initial responses to MediaCommons

Flickr and the expanded museum

I’ve always tended to think of a museum as a place, a building or specific space, somewhere one goes to to view (and perhaps experience) collections. While museums have evolved from the draughty, old, quiet places of static displays that I remember from my youth to more vibrant and involving experiences, often with web presences and access to information, images etc online, I still think of a collection, managed by experts, in a place.

An interesting item over on if:book recently, flickr as virtual museum challenged that concept and opened up more possibilities in my mind:

The Brooklyn Museum has been availing itself of various services at Flickr in conjunction with its new “Grafitti” exhibit, assembling photo sets and creating a group photo pool. In addition, the museum welcomes anyone to contribute photographs of grafitti from around Brooklyn to be incorporated into the main photo stream, along with images of a growing public grafitti mural on-site at the museum where visitors can pick up a colored pencil and start scribbling away.

What a great way to connect a very public form of art with the public that creates it and sees it, and form a far more creative, dynamic and involving exploration of the culture as well as the artefacts; an exploration that builds a collection even as it shows it.