Archive for the ‘My Learning Journey’ Category

RAdioActive101 Dissemination *free* event

October 23rd, 2013 by Cristina Costa

RadioActive101 in cooperation with the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Strathclyde is organising a *free* dissemination event on the 13th of November 2013.

 

RadioActive101 promotes the engagement, informal learning and employability of disenfranchised young people through internet radio and social media. RadioActive101 is an approach to radio and social media that catalyses, organises and legitimises the digital practices, content production and critical and creative potential of disenfranchised young people – to provide a new and original community voice.

 

Please join us:

  • For a discussion of the impact of radio with disenfranchised young people
  • For a presentation of the evaluation of the advanced pilot
  • To learn how to get involved and roll out Internet Radio in your community

Registration can be done via this link.

Any questions of suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at cristina.costa[@]strath.ac.uk (remove [ ] when emailing me)

Gold… for sale!

October 12th, 2013 by Cristina Costa

The current discussions surrounding Open Access have left me somehow perplexed, mainly because of the turn the debate has taken and which is, in my opinion, a major setback.

So to start with, I think it is useful to remind ourselves of the original purpose of Open Access and where it all started… because sometimes we lose sight of that initial purpose which, in this case, is so, so important.

The Open Access term was first used by the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) in 2001 to campaign for the accessibility of knowledge for a wider community. And in their website they explain the need for Open Access (OA) by stating that

By “open access” to [peer-reviewed research literature], we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

This because:

“scientists and scholars…publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment” and “without expectation of payment.” In addition, scholars typically participate in peer review as referees and editors without expectation of payment. Yet more often than not, access barriers to peer-reviewed research literature remain firmly in place, for the benefit of intermediaries rather than authors, referees, or editors, and at the expense of research, researchers, and research institutions.

So, in part OA came to value researchers’ work by giving it the potential of a much larger audience, and in part it came to do what is morally expected of public funded institutions, i.e, that the outcomes they produce benefit the public good.  But we all know that these ideas (Or are they ideals?) cannot be materialised from day to night when there are other (commercial) players involved in the game.

Around the 1960s/70s academic journals started to gain the attention of commercial scholarly publishers who began acquiring the already established, high-quality journals run by non-profit scholarly societies. With research journals published by commercial publishers, dissemination of academic work is inevitably impacted by the provision of knowledge as a commodity for sale. And this has become even more visible now with the struggle to implement OA and the different interpretations different players have of it.

Academia not only yielded the monopoly of knowledge dissemination to publishing houses, but they also supported, even if implicitly, the rather atypical business that publishing houses grew from it. If academic publishing was already a peculiar business before the emergence of the web, the fact that it persists now is even more extraordinary. Simply put, the business model of academic publications is one in which one pays to work, not only once, but twice, and now apparently perhaps even thrice! Institutions pay academics to write research papers that are published in journals which institutions also pay to have access to!! And now apparently there is also the added option of paying an additional fee to have the work of their academics made free online. And this is what the publishing houses are currently calling the Gold Route to Open Access.

This is not my interpretation of what the Gold Route OA option is, nor what BOIA’s statement hints at. However, I do recognise that the language used can lead to different interpretations. When  BOIA put forward two primary strategies for OA:

OA through repositories (also called “green OA”) and OA through journals (also called “gold OA”)

they did not specify what an OA journal should be. It is unclear from their statement if it should include a no-fee policy for authors or not. That has given publishing houses room to play. As such, their interpretation of Gold Route to OA includes a fee. It’s another gold mine for them; one I am not sure academia will be able to afford. And this is where I see institutions and researchers backing down from the OA Movement because it is costing them even more.

Maybe it is high time that academic institutions regained control of knowledge publication. Research funding bodies and researchers may want to support and campaign for no-fee open access journals (there are quite a few out there already, so why not exploit the web in that way and use our own time to free our own knowledge). Otherwise, I fear that the push for the current interpretation of “Gold Route OA” will generate a even wider gap between different research institutions given that their economic power is already so uneven.

Digital Literacies – Post 1

October 6th, 2013 by Cristina Costa

This is a blogpost is based on a presentation I recently did for the Flexible, Distance and Online Learning open module that Chrissi Neranzi and her colleagues are currently running. It was part of Unit 2 that focuses on the theme of Digital Literacies.

Digital literacies is a very “hot” topic right now, and one that deserves our attention given the influence of the web on our working and social lives. And worthy of note is that the web is not only influencing the way we work nor solely the way we use it to socialise. The separation between formal and informal, public and private spaces has never been less straight forward and, as many would argue, the boundaries are blurry(ing) (See here, here, and here, for instance).

In its Developing Digital Literacies briefing paper, JISC state that
digital literacies define those who exhibit a critical understanding and capability for living, learning, and working in the digital society. 

I think this is a good definition. It goes beyond the initial concerns regarding the searching and retrieving of information online – as important as they are – to reflect the participatory culture that the social web supports because of its very interactive nature.

Yet, not everyone perceives the web in this way nor does everyone value it for its social(lisation) potential. The web as a field of participation and socialisation is not deprived of tensions, and it is far from being evenly distributed in the current global and network society [just to throw a couple of more ready made phrases in there!]. Consequently, different practices, and agendas, co-exist in a space that aggregates a wide variety of groups of people with a multitude of approaches on how the web can be appropriated to serve their needs.

This takes me to consider the Digital Visitors and Digital Residents debate initiated by White and Cornu. In wanting to take the digital native discussion to a new level, the authors devised a topology that looks at the frequency of use and explores the needs and motivations of individuals when using the web. This is translated into two different types of users: those who have embedded the web in their day-to-day practice (the residents) and those who use it sporadically for specific purposes (the visitors). Attached to this dichotomy between intense and occasional use of the web is a feeling of belonging, with the former feeling more attached to the “online world” than the latter. Although the Digital Visitors and Digital Residents metaphor provides us with an understanding on how individuals are taking to the Social and Participatory Web, it still offers, in my opinion, a binary interpretation of a more complex reality; one that educational institutions are struggling to get to terms with. And that has as much to do with how learners are using the web as it has to do with why some learners are more predisposed to do so than others, not to mention those who may be excluded of this topology altogether because of other factors that may preclude them from having access to technology or perceiving it as a useful tool for learning.

This makes me wonder what role individuals’ social, cultural and economic background play in prompting them to engage with the web for living, learning and working.

And more important even, it leads me to question as to the role (or duty) of educational institutions in cultivating and enhancing learners‘ cultural capital in a world mediated by technology.

Providing access to technology and wifi is necessary, but it’s effects will only be felt if the implementation of such technological infrastructures are accompanied by practices that promote its effective use.

The University of Southampton has recognised that and launched a module on Living and Working on the Web in an attempt to equip their students with relevant skills for the changing job market that the so called digital economy is bringing about. In our preliminary study we realised that the student population participating in the module was very diverse, not only in terms of their digital literacies but also, and above all, in terms of their attitudes with regard to digital forms of working and learning. This might be related to the way students have been socialised into learning and how they are predisposed to engage with digital practices. In this sense, I wonder how different these students are from staff who also feel less keen in changing their practices and attitudes to accommodate digital practices.

With learning technologies (and implicitly digital literacies) starting to feature heavily in Educational Institutions’s policies, what does it really mean to (and in) practice?

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    News Bites

    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


    Teenagers online in the USA

    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.


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