I enjoyed reading (December)

This post is really delayed, mainly because I took a break from blogging over December and January. I was starting to feel an “obligation to blog”, which is when I know that I need to step back a bit and take some time off. There’s nothing worse than writing because you feel you have to, rather than actually wanting to. Now that I’ve had a break, I find myself feeling excited at the prospect of blogging again, which is a much better place to be.

9 reasons why I am NOT a social constructivist (Donald Clark): Interesting critique of the concept of social constructivism as a theory that explains learning. To be honest, I’ll admit to having accepted the authenticity of the theory because it fits in with how I believe the world is. However, I haven’t been at all critical of it. In the spirit of adopting a more critical view of my beliefs, this was a very good post to read.

Educators nod sagely at the mention of ‘social constructivism’ confirming the current orthodoxy in learning theory. To be honest, I’m not even sure that social constructivism is an actual theory, in the sense that it’s verified, studied, understood and used as a deep, theoretical platform for action. For most, I sense, it’s a simple belief that learning is, well, ‘social’ and ‘constructed’. As collaborative learning is a la mode, the social bit is accepted without much reflection, despite its obvious flaws. Constructivism is trickier but appeals to those with a learner-centric disposition, who have a mental picture of ideas being built in the mind.

Going Beyond ‘Learning to Code’: Why 2014 is the Year of Web Literacy (Doug Belshaw): I like the idea of people having a sense of how technology works. As more and more of our lives become integrated with technology, isn’t it important to understand how it affects us? How are the decisions we make increasingly influenced by those who write the code of the applications and devices we use? Think about pacemakers that determine the frequency and regularity of your heartbeat. Wouldn’t you want to make sure that there are as few software bugs as possible? My interest in this topic is more related to the idea of open source software and the importance of ensuring that as much code as possible is open for review by an objective and independent community. Mozilla’s Web Literacy standard is one small aspect of developing competence in a range of skills that are increasingly relevant to our ability to interact with others in the world.

In this post I want to argue that learning to code is part of a larger landscape that we at Mozilla call ‘web literacy’. I see that landscape as being increasingly relevant in 2014 as we come to realise that “learn to code!” is too simplistic and de-contextualised to be a useful exhortation. Web Literacy, on the other hand, is reasonably well-defined as the skills and competencies required to read, write and participate effectively online. We’ve included ‘coding/scripting’ as just one part of a wider strand identified as ‘Building’ (i.e. writing) the web. Other competencies in this strand include ‘remixing’ and ‘composing for the web’.

Do What You Love: A Selfish and Misguided Message (Dean Shareski):

By keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness, DWYL [Do What You Love] distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it. It is the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient.

Academic publishers must sort out their outdated electronic submission and review processes (Dorothy Bishop):

My relationships with journals are rather like a bad marriage: a mixture of dependency and hatred. Part of the problem is that journal editors and academics often have a rather different view of the process. Scientific journals could not survive without academics. We do the research, often spending several years of our lives to produce a piece of work that is then distilled into one short paper, which the fond author invariably regards as a fascinating contribution to the field. But when we try to place our work in a journal, we find that it’s a buyer’s market: most journals are overwhelmed with more submitted papers than they can cope with, and rejection rates are high. So there is a total mismatch: we set out naively dreaming of journals leaping at the opportunity to secure our best work, only to be met with coldness and rejection.

Side note: The above post included a screenshot of this tweet, which I enjoyed.

Selection_001

Alternative ways of sharing my PhD output

“Online journals are paper journals delivered by faster horses”

– Beyond the PDF 2

I’ve started a process of creating a case study of my PhD project, using my blog as an alternative means of presenting and sharing my results. Most of the chapters have already either been published or are under review with peer-reviewed journals, so I’ve played my part in the publishing game and jumped through the hoops of my institution. The full-length thesis has also been lodged with the institutional repository, so it is available, but in all honesty it’s a big, unwieldy thing, difficult to navigate and work through for all but the most invested reader.

Initially I thought that the case study would simply be a summary of the entire project but quickly realised that this would defeat the object of using the format. If people want the “academic” version, with the full citations, reference lists, standard headings (Background, Method, Results, etc.) then they’d still be able to download the published paper or even just read the abstract as a summary. The online case study should be more blog / wiki, than peer-reviewed paper. I’m starting to realise that one of the great things about the PhD-by-publication approach is that with the papers already peer-reviewed and published, I’m freed from having to continue playing the game. I get to do whatever I want to with the case study, because the “serious, academic” stuff is done.

After exploring a few other options (see list below), I decided that HTML was the best way to share the process in a format that would be more flexible and engaging than a PDF. HTML is a text-based format that degrades well (i.e. old browsers, mobile browsers and slow internet connections can all deal reasonably well with text files) while at the same time allowing for advanced features like embedded video and presentations. Also, being an open standard, HTML is unlikely to suffer from the problems of software updates that disable functionality available in previous versions. Think how many people were (and continue to be) inconvenienced by Microsoft’s move from the .doc to the .docx format.

Here are some of the features I thought were important for whatever platform I chose to disseminate my research. It should:

  • Be based on an open standard so that it would always be readable or backwards compatible with older software
  • Have the ability to embed multimedia (video, audio, images, slideshows)
  • Enable some form of interaction with the reader
  • Have a responsive user interface that adapts to different devices and screen sizes i.e. it should be device independent
  • Allow the content to be presented in a visually attrative format (“Pretty” is a feature“)
  • Be able to be adapted and maintained easily over time
  • Be able to export the content in multiple formats (e.g. Word, ODT, PDF)

Before deciding on using HTML and this blog, here is a list of the alternative diseemination methods I considered, and the reasons I decided not to go with them:

  • ePub is an open standard and can potentially be presented nicely, but not all ePud readers are created equal and I didn’t want anyone to have to jump through hoops to read my stuff. For example, an ebook published to the Kindle may not display in iBooks.
  • PDF is simple, open standard, easy to create but too rigid in the sense that it conforms to “digital paper” paradigm. It wouldn’t allow me to be flexible in how content is displayed or shared.
  • Google+ is visually pleasing but it is not open (the API is still read-only) and I have no idea if it will be around in a few years time.
  • Github was probably never a real option, but I like the idea of a collaborative version control system that allows me (and potentially others) to update the data over time, capturing all the changes made. However, it is simply too technical for what I wanted to do.
  • Tiddlywiki actually seemed like it might win out, since it’s incredibly simple to use, and is visually appealing with a clean user interface. I even began writing a few notes using it. The problem was that once I decided that HTML was the way to go, there wasn’t a strong enough reason to use anything other than my own blog.

If you’re interested in exploring this idea further, check out the Force11 White Paper: Improving The Future of Research Communications and e-Scholarship as a manifesto for alternative methods of sharing research.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-01-09

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-12-20

  • dRonaldArendse Boxing day #
  • @Shuayb702 the weather here is ridiculous #
  • @RonaldArendse spending Christmas and birthday with my sister & her family #
  • Just arrived in Durban, the air is wet #
  • Future of education. R we having the right conversation? http://ow.ly/1rYdPe. Ed. & social conditions are inseparable #
  • The Problem of Filters and Silos http://ow.ly/1rYdMu. Big ideas lie @ the edge of our field, where we spend the least time #
  • Which Ideas Are the Good Ones? http://ow.ly/1rYdM1. It may take time to recognise the value of innovating in the curriculum #
  • On my way to Durban for a week, let me know if u want to hang out #
  • Anyone got Cell C 3G USB modem running on Ubuntu 10.10? #
  • Playing around with #SlideRocket a bit. Very cool online presentation tool http://bit.ly/hk6njq #
  • Being Understood Requires Context… http://ow.ly/1rXX8t. When presenting, just giving the facts isn’t enough #
  • Been looking for an online project management tool. #Gantto seems pretty useful (still in beta) http://bit.ly/gnq3ac #
  • OER@UCT | Is the Lecture Dead? http://bit.ly/frv6ii #
  • Are You Making These Dissertation Writing Mistakes? « To Do: Dissertation http://bit.ly/gj1xLa #
  • Just applied to participate in the Chrome OS netbook pilot program. B nice 2 c if online only, all the time is feasible http://bit.ly/hbbYek #
  • Just confirmed my booking for camping at Monks Cowl next week, should be good times http://bit.ly/fKhNa3 #
  • Having lunch at #Barrique fantastic food, beautiful setting, great service. I’m just saying… #
  • RT @roballen101: RT @whiteafrican – Shouldn’t these #ICTD conferences be held in emerging markets, not Europe and the US? #
  • RT @whiteafrican: Turns out there are very few ICT Research projects done by African institutions (9%), or by Africans at all. #ICTD2010 #
  • Thought Leader » Jennifer Thorpe » The medical mutilation of women’s rights http://t.co/jsT6Gwx via @mailandguardian #
  • Tech Leader » Wesley Lynch » E-books: Publishing on the eve of a revolution http://t.co/ijK5Pyu #
  • How 10 Year Olds Explain Cloud Computing – ReadWriteCloud http://rww.to/ifIHfJ. “How big is it? How big do you want it to be?” #
  • Thought Leader » Christmas is sick! http://bit.ly/ihI5id. I have to agree with most of this. Comments are worth a read too #
  • Cellphones in the Classroom: Distraction or Tool? http://rww.to/hC1zYZ #
  • RT @wesleylynch: RT @spillly: When I see someone write a word like Twitterverse or Twitteriffic, I Twow up in my mouth a little #
  • Just voted for HootSuite for Best Social Media Management Tool http://mash.to/2ImZn #MashableAwards #
  • RT @newsfromtengrrl: Blind Students Demand Access to Online Course Materials – The Chronicle of Higher Education http://hoki.es/dPiwiJ #

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-03-22

  • To err is human: building a safer health system. Free book for download http://tinyurl.com/yzedbwk #
  • RT @amcunningham: A Culture of Fear and Intimidation: Reforming Medical Education http://bit.ly/cngjbU #meded #professionalism #
  • @Czernie Thanks Laura, there’s some good stuff there, will definitely use some of it #
  • @cristinacost responded to your comment and removed 1 of your duplicates 🙂 #
  • @cristinacost I figure that communication is about moving ideas between people, and you did it so well, regardless of typos 🙂 #
  • @cristinacost just reading your comment now, thank you so much for sharing 🙂 #
  • @Czernie Book looks great, saw Martin Oliver present at HESS in 2008, was brilliant. Would love to read anything else you have #
  • @ralphmercer I’m playing around with WordPress MU with the Buddypress plugin. Elgg is also supposed to be quite good. Both are PHP apps #
  • Gardner Writes: Assessment in a web 2.0 environment. Thoughtful post about the deep complexity of designing assessment http://bit.ly/9iqnTU #
  • RT @amcunningham: Post on #Conceptmap with #VUE from @neil_mehta http://bit.ly/9gNSMg #
  • @pgsimoes: “End of publishing as we know it” is interesting. See also “Lost generation” for original idea http://ow.ly/1nxvW #
  • @cristinacost Nice, brings back some good memories 🙂 #
  • @Czernie Thanks for the ppt, it’s great. Are you going to publish? Where did you get your sample ie. what departments? #
  • Collection of PLE diagrams http://ow.ly/1kV6v #
  • Jeff Jarvis’ presentation transcript from TEDxNYED. What’s wrong with education and some insights from media / journalism http://ow.ly/1kUSl #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-08-17

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Sharing documents and profiles

I’ve been meaning to play around with Scribd for a while now but never felt I had anything useful to put up.  After uploading some conference presentations on Slideshare a week ago and seeing the steadily climbing views, I finally decided to get a few abstracts together and upload them publicly.  You can see them on my Scribd profile.

I’m looking into alternative forms of publishing (see my Mozilla project on a collaboratively authored South African textbook), especially since the majority of the local journals I’ll be publishing in aren’t online (yet).   In order to get academic recognition, it’ll take years for my papers to filter out into the field if I rely purely on hardcopy.  This seems to be a useful alternative to get my academic content out right now.

I’m also starting to wonder where I can aggregate all of my online spaces into one place.  This blog would seem to be the natural place, but the structure doesn’t quite fit.  I need an online business card that could direct people to the places that interest them.  I’m playing around with a simple wiki at mrowe.co.za but don’t have the time to fiddle with the CSS to make it look right.  If anyone has any idea about how to aggregate my different profiles (e.g. find me on Mendeley, Facebook, etc.), my feeds (this blog and Twitter, Flickr), my conference presentations and article abstracts, please feel free to drop me a line.

Here’s an example of one of my abstracts using iPaper:
Abstract – Knowledge, Attitudes Towards Social Software

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-05-17

  • “Encouraging educators to blog” http://bit.ly/2X2hO #
  • Article on PLoS re. management of large digital libraries for academics, together with adding “social” to research http://bit.ly/CWgHE #
  • Blog post discussing different challenges for researchers / scientists in managing their digital libraries http://bit.ly/xrBOT #
  • To err is human: building a safer healthcare system (free book from the National Acadamies Press) http://bit.ly/AdDgO #
  • ASCILITE conferences, a brilliant source of content for anyone interested in technology and education http://bit.ly/EugZP #
  • Inequality in society = high rates of drug /alchol abuse, mental illness, teenage pregnancy, homicide, and low literacy http://bit.ly/KuWEb #
  • Thought provoking post by Steven Downes re. open systems of assessment http://bit.ly/16U0Df #
  • Mendeley blog post on how the software affects journal impact factors and publishing models http://bit.ly/43bCB #

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