Scholarly Communities

I am so grateful for my colleagues who are on this journey with me. Soon we will be added to the group who is doing their degree totally online and our cohort will be double in size. As a group we are looking for ways to see each other again and meet the other half of our cohort. I hope it will be at an academic conference. One conference that would have something for each of us would be the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. Next year E-Learn 2017 will be held in Vancouver, BC from October 17–20, 2017. The conference looks like it covers most of the backgrounds that my current cohort members come from and we could explore a new city and make some new friends.

Closer to home, and my heart, for my first academic conference there is one being held in Ponoka on September 29 and 30, 2016 by the Wolf Creek School Division called 21csymposium. This symposium has two great keynote speakers, Todd Whitaker and Alec Couros as well as presenters who are working in the field. I always came away from conferences with my mind brimming over from ideas I wanted to try in my classroom. Will it be the same this time or are my dreams already too big for people who are a little more set in their ways. I think I might go.

Rabbit Holes and How Much Trouble Can I Get Into?

As I think more about scholarly communities I wonder if this is like Junior High and it is possible to make a poor life choice. I wonder how our online identity will play out in the future?  Our little cohort is a safe and forgiving place but probably not without disagreements. Outside of the cohort if I voice/write an opinion that is not in keeping with current thought will I be ostracized? Are graduate students thought to be pretentious if they join As the winds of change blow, as they always do in education, from child centered to discovery to unschooling how much room is there for disagreeing with the established scholars?

Is something I write now going to have repercussions in ten years? How do we find ourselves in the quagmire of academia? Is there a proverbial star that I can hitch my cart to so that I might head in a safe direction? Or do I want to be out on a limb? There are so many rabbit holes to distract me from the really necessary parts of this degree. Do the readings. Do the assignments. Trust the process. The rest should take care of itself. Maybe I can entertain a rabbit hole then.

Mobilizing Knowledge

There are so many ways to “take” this phrase. Knowledge can move from person to person, group to group or country to country. The internet has changed the fluidity of knowledge. A greater variety of knowledge is available at less cost to more people than every before in history. And yes there is no citation for this. Knowledge can be mobilized when you find information that you didn’t know that you need to know and you apply it. From a blog written by Heide Estes called Blogging and Academic Identity I found the following. She has a disability, usually only part of the year. It is asthma. Now at the beginning of the term the students are notified that the class may be a blended deliver if she has problems with her breathing. Why would this affect anyone else? We aren’t in her class. Many of us know of someone who is an instructor at a post secondary institution. We all know someone who has some for of disability or some other problem that might only be a temporary disability such as a broken leg. Maybe there is a transit strike and it is very difficult to get to class or to work. Maybe the roads are not safe to be on. Being prepared for a blended program gives all instructors the ability to continue work and students to learn. We really need to think outside the box more and following a blog in a non-related area might do that for us.

A Place for Peer Review

I recently read Citations are not enough: Academic promotion panels must take into account a scholar’s presence in popular media. I do understand that sometimes articles that should be accepted aren’t. Sometimes in a peer reviewed journal in a very select field everyone knows whose article it is even in the case of a blind review. Some archives are very restrictive and they have the power to refuse the use of their material in anything except a journal of their choice. Those archives do not want to see any of the material they paid for be available online for free. They maintain their prestige as an archive by having documents that no one else has. This would definitely prevent an article using those sources from being printed online.

With an online publication that is not peer-reviewed the thin edge of the wedge appears. By this I mean, an article that might have slightly questionable methods of research could be placed in a non-peer reviewed journal. Some people likely would not read the article from beginning to end and then we would be using questionable research to support ours. We could then slant our reading of results and publish our results online. The end result could be erroneous. I think the peer review process, although tedious, is best. Having spoken in favour of peer-reviewed articles being used to judge a scholar there are other ways. There are conferences that the scholar can present at. This does not carry as much weight as an article but a number of conference publications do eventually add up to success. The British system includes something called a REF (Research Excellence Framework) where article,  complete book, chapter in a book, article, etc. all carry a separate weight.The total is what is important. (Remind me I said this when I am on the other end of the process).

Situating my Research

Shortly after beginning to volunteer in a school I realized how teachers were struggling to make good use of technology in their teaching and classrooms. To be the tech guru on staff means more work with probably no additional release time or monetary compensation. This led me to apply for a Master of Arts in Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University.

No one who knew me could quite believe I was applying to a technology degree. If I wasn’t using technology then why would I take a degree involving technology? The short answer is that not only is it the way of the future it is the way of the present. Teachers today need to be given some basic grounding in the apps and sources available to them to strengthen the delivery of their information. There are many ways to use an app or a program. Some are much better than others. There are organizational programs available, such as Zotero, where teachers can organize worksheets, project directions, lesson plans and then share these out with the rest of their teaching cohort. If the item is entered correctly it is searchable. There needs to be guidance and instruction on how to tag correctly so you can find information again. So much to know and so few teachers to pass information on—hmm I think I’ll do a degree in technology.

Culture of Inquiry

Our first glimpse into the various culture of inquiry was through the book, Mindful Inquiry in Social Research, written by Valerie Malhotra Bentz and Jeremy J. Shapiro. I was familiar with qualitative and quantitative research methods from high school Science labs. We might even have been told that there were two types of research and that we could tell the difference because quantitative dealt with numbers. How narrow our field of view was. In all fairness when we were observing a burning candle in Chemistry we couldn’t use Phenomenology because Phenomenology is used to obtain knowledge about how humans think and feel in the most direct ways. Hermeneutic Inquiry is also not applicable to the burning candle. Hermeneutic Inquiry makes me think of the story of the grandmother who cut the leg bone on the ham before she put it in to roast. The daughter grew up, moved out and she cut the leg bone on the ham before she put it in to roast. As the granddaughter approached the age to leave the home she said to her mother” Why do you cut the leg on the ham bone before you put it into roast?”  The mother replied, “My mother always did.” The granddaughter asked, “Why did Grandma do it?” Mother replied, “I don’t know.” So the granddaughter asked the grandmother to which the grandmother replied, “My roasting pan was too small to hold the entire ham so I cut the end off.” Hermeneutic Inquiry needs to know what the original intent was so it can be applied to today’s events. I’ll decide on my Culture of Inquiry after I narrow down my topic.

Correlation or Causation?

After reading several articles today I see that when I was studying linear algebra and calculus, I really should have taken a course in statistics.  Wei, Peng, and Chou who co-authored  “Can more interactivity improve learning achievement in an online course? Effects of college students’ perception and actual use of a course-management system on their learning achievement” are well cited scholars, however, I do question some of their methods.

In the abstract it states “This study aims to investigate how interactivity influence learners’ use of interactive functions in the course-management system (CMS) and their online learning performance.” Anecdotal information was gathered in the form of a questionnaire at the final exam. The researchers then applied statistics to the information. Although it is possible to do this I question how it makes the anecdotal information more accessible or meaningful. W. Trochim has some interesting information on conclusion validity in his book, Research Methods Knowledge Base.

In the Implications and recommendations section Wei, Peng, and Chou say “students’ online discussion scores were directly influenced by students’ self-reported frequency of logging into the e3-system”. This implies that self-reporting a login has a direct effect on the discussion scores. Perhaps that should read correlation but again I don’t have that stats course. (yet) I think that the direct influence comes from the actual logging into the CMS.

A more interesting question might have been to compare the correlation of the actual interactions of the student with the CMS to their online-learning performance, then compare the correlation of the self-reported interactions of the student with the CMS to their online-learning performance and then contrast those two results. That would be another study.