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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-28

open access research

Sharing my article for open peer review

I’m interested in how changes in the internet are forcing changes onto institutions that haven’t traditionally responded well to change. One group that’s finding the transition especially hard are the publishers, especially the academic publishers. A little while ago I wrote an open letter to the South African Society of Physiotherapy, asking them to move towards an open access format. My proposal wasn’t exactly welcomed 🙂

There are clearly some problems with the current peer review model and I’m interested in exploring some of the alternatives. With that in mind I’ve taken an article I’m currently working on and that I’m planning to submit for publication, and instead of only sending it to my usual critical readers, I thought I’d try something different. So I’ve uploaded it onto Google Docs and made it publicly available for anyone to comment on.

This isn’t open peer review in the sense that it’s a transparent review of a paper by the journal reviewers, but is more like “open feedback” prior to publication. I have had a few colleagues raise their eyebrows when I suggested this, and I’ve had to try and convince them that I’m not crazy and that the vast majority of people are not going to “steal” my paper (please don’t steal my paper). In terms of any issues that might arise from this debate, I’ve tried to cover my bases with the following:

  • If you make comments that cause me to significantly change the direction, scope or focus of the paper, you will be acknowledged
  • If you add a significant portion of the content of the paper in lieu of the above point, and it’s included in the final publication, you will be added as an author (at this point, don’t ask me what “significant” means…I’ll probably take it to another open forum to decide the matter should it arise)
  • If you add ideas that originated from your own research and they are included, you will be cited
  • If you feel that there should be other criteria in this list, please add them to the Google Doc

So, if you think this is something you might find interesting to participate in please consider giving me some feedback, preferably in the form of comments. In the words of WBY:

“I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams…”

Here’s the public article on Google Docs: The Use of Wikis to Facilitate Collaborative Learning in a South African Physiotherapy Department

Note: if you go to the document and see that it’s been trashed with spam, etc. please consider letting me know via this blog post

social media technology

Wikipedia as a credible source?

I was recently asked about my views on the credibility of Wikipedia as  an academic resource, and soon realised that the question isn’t an easy one to answer. Since Wikipedia was launched in 2001, academics have generally decided that it’s suspicious at best, and many responded to students’ use of it with blanket bans on the site. I’m not going to try and weigh in on that debate here, or to cover it’s history, except to mention the Nature study that compared Wikipedia to Britannica (here’s an in-depth summary of the controversy that emerged). You can also read about the reliability of Wikipedia, but you have to make up your own mind about the credibility of articles about Wikipedia that are created using Wikipedia. My comments are around the use of Wikipedia as a source of content, and not as a platform for discussion or collaborative learning, and to take it further, I’m only considering the encyclopedia, and not any other associated Wikimedia properties.

I think it’s difficult to talk about the academic credibility of Wikipedia in general, only to say that some articles are brilliant, and others not so much. It’s kind of like saying that some cars are more fuel efficient than others, or that some teachers are better than others. Wikipedia is a collection of articles that have many, many authors of diverse backgrounds and motivations, and some of those articles are credible, while others are not. I personally encourage the use of any resource that can help my students, either as a starting point, or as a primary source that can be referenced.

The key (in my view anyway) is in teaching students and colleagues how to tell the difference between something that can serve as background information, and something that is an authoritative, credible voice. This in itself is a problem because articles on Wikipedia are composed of many voices, and so make authorship impossible to establish. Traditionally, academics have valued the voice of an expert who has been established over time through peer-reviewed publication. They find it hard to accept that the group may be just as credible as the individual.

In the previous paragraph I mentioned the importance of also teaching colleagues how to recognise  online credibility because I’ve found that they generally fall into one of two camps:

  • Everything online is true, because it’s online
  • Everything online is false, because it’s online

I don’t know how to get around this.

There’s also a psychological block against the fact that it can be edited by anyone. There’s an assumption that because an article can be corrupted by vandals, it will. An analogy would be to assume that everyone in a restaurant is armed and dangerous because they have a knife and should be locked in cages to prevent them from harming other customers. My response is to highlight the advantages of the “anyone can edit it” approach, and take a phrase from open source software development: “With many eyes, all bugs are shallow”, meaning that when enough people are looking at a problem, it becomes easier to solve. Mistakes are corrected and the resource grows more quickly than if the system was built around bureaucratic bottlenecks.

In conclusion, I would suggest that the tools you choose as an academic should depend on what your objectives are. If you’re looking to “prove” that Wikipedia should / could be used, it’d be easy to find a very credible article as an example. But that would be a weak argument because someone else will just as easily find a terrible article. I try to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of Wikipedia (or any other online resource) and let people make their own decisions. I used to try and convince people of the error of their ways but quickly realised that they often weren’t ready to listen. I got a great comment on another post that spoke about “warming people up to the concept”, which is really what we need to be doing. This is a not a shock and awe campaign, it’s a stealth mission using guerilla warefare.

I guess that in response to the question, I’d say it’s a bit like Schrodingers cat in that Wikipedia both is, and at the same time, isn’t, credible as an academic resource. You have to open the box to find out.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-08-10

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education technology

Digital course readers

When I took over the modules I currently teach, I inherited several folders containing the course readers for each subject, which had been “developed” over many years. They consisted mainly of a selection of photocopied or typed pages, loosely related, inconsistently formatted, poorly referenced, often duplicated and impossible to search. When students needed to find a paragraph or definition, it was a case of trying to remember if it was more towards the beginning, middle or end of the reader, opening it up and flicking through it page by page until they found what they were looking for. This clearly wouldn’t do.

The readers had to be converted into a digital format. Some of the more obvious advantages of digital text over printed text are highlighted in the introduction of Michael Wesch‘s video titled “The machine is us/ing us“. While the video is actually about the semantic web and how we’re creating meaningful relationships between content through our actions (clicking links), it does illustrate that the starting point is digital text.

I’ve spent a lot of my free time over the past year or so typing, collating, editing, formatting, referencing and indexing all of the original content from those course readers, as well as adding images, and links to videos (mainly YouTube) and open access research articles (like PubMed Central, BioMed Central and IJAHSP). It’s now possible to auto-generate a table of contents, which eliminates searching in the printed version, and regularly updating the reader to better reflect the latest evidence is trivial. I’ve added self-study questions related to additional reading after each section, as well as empty space for guided reflection on the topic just covered. The text is consistently formatted, as are the headings and references, which provide a framework for an easier understanding of the work.

I’ve also provided the digital version of each course reader to the students, so that they can update it as they see fit. I hope that as they develop as physiotherapists, their digital readers might be upgraded often and possibly converted to other formats. I’ve had one student ask about installing a wiki locally on his machine and moving the content into it. Finally, I removed the generic copyright notice on the cover and added a Creative Commons license.

The next logical step is to move the “official” course reader into a shared wiki and encouraging students to make changes there. If this were to be integrated with social bookmarking and blogs, it might facilitate real engagement with the subject, which I think might be a good thing.

education open access technology

Mozilla Open Education course: seminar 6

I know that this is all out of sync but the audio for sessions 4 and 5 aren’t up yet and I haven’t had a chance to go through the slideshows yet.  Today’s session was about the actual practice of teaching, using “open” as a framework.  Here are my notes:

Session 6 – Open pedagogy

Focus on educators and the impact of “open” on them.

Jason Jones

Initially started using wikis for groupwork.

Noticed a few problems when teaching – no one takes notes in class, “no real content”, inattention.  Also, when taking notes, educators aren’t always sure what notes are being taken.  Notes can “go wrong” when other thoughts intrude or when students mis-hear.

Paper notes are hard to improve and are private and difficult to organise.

Wikis are public and solve some of the problems just mentioned.  Everyone collaborates and there is negotiation of content.

An unexpected result was noticing that under the old system of teaching the only way you would know if the students have the wrong information is when they fail a test.  With a public wiki, you realise more quickly that students may be on the wrong track.

Lessons learned along with way.  Merely pointing students towards the wiki doesn’t work.  Students don’t always understand technology.  They’re also not sure what to record when taking notes, so templates are useful.  Students can sometimes find it difficult to use other resources (one benefit of using wikis / being online).

Problem of using old assessment techniques with new approaches to teaching and learning.

Garin Fons

Using wikis to get faculty to put teaching materials online, as well as collaborating with dedicated classmates to build community (reflect on communities of practice).

With wikis, faculty get a chance to have materials edited and reviewed in a way they can’t do alone.

Participatory pedagogy – John Seely Brown and the social view of learning.  We can no longer look at the classroom in a cartesian system.  We participate, therefore we learn.

Melanie McBride

Students create blogs as emerging professionals, rather than personal blogs (about what’s happening in their industry).

Found that some students weren’t very keen on blogging.  Reasons included: “I don’t know who I am yet, or who I want to be (powerful statement)…and that some don’t like the idea of being told what to do.  Anonymity was also an issue.

Students did take ownership of their own emerging industry knowledge.

“Banking” model of education = passive recipients of education.

Concerned with progressive asessment models.  Using wiki as means of checking in on student learning.

Issues of social justice and equity.  Not every student has access to tech (in America…try Africa).  Educators must be aware of that.

Pre-defined roles fall away with open pedagogy – students take ownership of courses and rewrite / restructure them.  Allow this to happen.  This can make teachers nervous.  Dichotomy of losing control but giving freedom.  Be careful about too much freedom.

Teachers and control…depends on the teacher, if they’re willing to dive into the participatory learning environment.  Getting teachers involved in the process.  What does their classroom look like normally and what is their teaching style?  Are they willing to break out of that?  if not, it’s difficult to move forward with this approach.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-04-12

  • UK students study blogging, wikis, podcasts as part of curriculum Wish that was included at university level in SA #
  • The lead up to elections in South Africa have started having an effect at our universities…and it’s not good #
  • UK university offers Masters degree in social media. Course too simplistic. £4500 to learn what students already know? #
  • Flutter: a nanoblogging tool using only 26 characters. Brilliant parody of Twitter #
  • Political satire and cultural stereotyping does more harm than is funny #
  • Introduction to lung auscultation with audio #
  • Ethics podcast from the Open University. Series of interviews on the role of ethics in everyday life #
  • Trying to log in to #mozopenedcourse, getting internal server errors, anyone else experiencing the suckiness? #
  • @epanto I’m still not getting any love 🙁 Will keep trying though in reply to epanto #
  • @kfasimpaur Thanks, I’m still unable to log in. Have sent message to Phillip but uncertain he can do anything about server problems. Enjoy in reply to kfasimpaur #
  • @epanto Thanks a ton, Phillip sent email, nothing anyone can do now anyway. Will download video later. Cheers in reply to epanto #
  • @sdkaaa Same for me, almost exact same system 🙂 Problems logging in and now audio is stuffed…frustrating as… in reply to sdkaaa #
  • #mozopenedcourse audio issues too frustrating, going to bail, enjoy the rest of it everyone #
  • @sdkaaa Sorry for late response, had Internet issues probably unrelated to the platform, hope you come right for the next session in reply to sdkaaa #
  • Microlectures, condensing only most relevant info into 1-20 min. mini-lectures, promising results & #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-04-05

  • @sharingnicely for what it’s worth, my vote goes to #mozopened in reply to sharingnicely #
  • @reflectivelrnr Sometimes, they find you 🙂 in reply to reflectivelrnr #
  • Just went through Alltop Twitterati ( Are the people with the most to say the least interesting to follow? #
  • Very excited to be participating in Mozilla open education online course #
  • Insightful post: “9 great reasons why teachers should use Twitter” #
  • I hate to be cliched, but “Slumdog Millionnaire” is the best movie I’ve seen in 5 years #
  • Participating in online, open education course with Mozilla, ccLearn and Peer 2 Peer University #
  • Great first seminar on #mozopenedcourse, minor tech glitches. Lots to think about. Looking forward to next week #
  • Just watched “Accepted”…it came on and the remote was too far away. Light hearted comedy about higher education #
  • @JasonCalacanis Every year the rich pledge a lot of money to the world’s poor. They have yet to deliver. Just another empty promise… in reply to JasonCalacanis #
  • Just posted my notes from today’s #mozopenedcourse seminar. Interesting session, plenty of food for thought #
  • “Physiopedia”, an awesome evidence-based physiotherapy reference site with really great content #
  • Just watched “Sicko”…scary, tragic, sad, criminal…all the things that healthcare shouldn’t be #
  • Another reason to not be a fan of Blackboard. Just my opinion #
  • Using wikis in learning and teaching, from Leeds University, interesting stuff incl. tips on assessing wiki content #
  • Great resource for summaries of physio-related articles, available at Physiospot #

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open access research technology

Open research

I’ve been thinking about the concept of open research since listening to Jon Udell’s interview with Jean-Claude Bradley on his open notebook science project.  The idea is similar to the open approach to writing software in that the process is transparent and open to scrutiny by anyone.  This could have important implications for the soundness of the methodology behind the research, the distribution of results and the potential for massive collaboration on research projects.

Open research makes use of social tools like wikis (wikiresearch), blogs, Google Docs and social networks of like-minded individuals, that allow for collaboration, rapid publication and increased access to information for anyone with an internet connection.  There is also the suggestion that openness in research could lead to more innovation by stimulating ideas that allow others to make contributions to the body of knowledge that may not have been the original intent of the researcher.

However, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of conducting research in an open environment, that is subject to scrutiny by everyone and largely against the culture of secrecy in scientific research.  There are definitely issues with the process and one example of how conflict could arise is by publishing primary data openly.  This has the obvious benefit in that anyone could take that information and use it in ways not intended by the researcher, taking data that may have never seen the light of day and creating new knowledge.  The downside is that someone else could beat you to the finish line by publishing your results and negating your work.

There are other approaches that aren’t as “open” as publishing everything concerned with the project.  For example, you could choose to publish only your methodology or ideas around where the project is headed and request input around that, or raw data could be summarised before publishing online.  Other, similar fields are also becoming more mainstream, like open peer review, in which the peer review process of publication is made public, and open notebook science.

What will the world be like when all knowledge is freely available?