Wednesday, December 30, 2009

World is Open-- Not your parent's education--1

Today I began reading Curt Bonk's, The World is Open. There is much to learn from this book, but it is important to take a thoughtful look at Bonk's characterization of the the promise of the web for learning.
"If we could travel back in time with him [his grandfather], we would see that the educational opportunities of a century ago were phenomenally different from what we have today" (p. 13).
Bonk then lists the things that were not available to his grandfather, they include:

1. podcasts made of his school lessons in case he missed class;
2. instructors who waxed eloquently in their blogs about how a particular class was going or supplemental course links.
3. email messages that linked him to wondrous electronic course resources.
4. no virtual worlds to explore for hours on end.

He sums up this paragraph with
"Grandpa George and his classmates could not move about to computer labs and media rooms in accordance with their interests and learning pursuits or think about entering and exiting a course at any time of the day" (p. 13).
Of course, most students today don't have this experience either. In fact, very few students at any level of learning routinely have the experience that Bonk is describing. There are certainly examples of teachers who are providing this type of experience, but few students regularly have this opportunity.

This doesn't mean that this experience should not exist or could not exist (and Bonk wants us to catch this possible future), but at present today's student is mostly having the same experience as his grandfather. One of the questions we should be asking is why are more students not having this experience?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Evaluating Digital Scholarship: New Resource

The Modern Language Association continues to develop resources to assist faculty and others in evaluating the quality of digital materials for faculty. The newly produced Evaluation wiki is especially helpful because it allows many of us to contribute ideas and resources.

This short guide to the evaluation of digital works is an especially good resource to help faculty members think through their material.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Example of "Words as Video"

Here is an interesting way to use only "printed words" as a way to do video/audio. Would this be better than our usual slides or is this just the usual slides done in a slightly more animated way?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Streams of Learning: Courses as Conversations

I have borrowed the title of danah boyd's recent talk at the Web 2.0 Expo, "Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media" to express an idea that seems increasingly obvious to me which is that we can begin to build learning structures that are "streams of learning" rather than discrete chunks of learning. This past week I was busy trying to reorganize courses in our curriculum and this included a discussion of whether to organize the courses into two 8-week courses or one 16-week course.

There were persuasive arguments on both sides, but if you suddenly step back and think about this you realize that this structure is a function of how to organize a sequence of F2F courses over a four-year instructional time period... that has nothing to do with the content or learning itself. No particular body of knowledge fits neatly into 8 or 16-week segments. It is an artifact of our overall institutional design for learning.

We need to begin designing new institutional structures that allow us to create streams of learning, courses that are continuous conversations into which we can add new members over time. Although I am not a fan of most ideas about "personal learning environments" I do think that Stephen Downes has captured some important ideas in a recent talk titled, New Tools for Personal Learning." I particularly like the final part of the talk (slide 57-62) in which I think he captures the connectedness of learning. In this talk he also describes and demonstrates some tools that allow us to begin to understand how an institutional design for learning might be built that takes advantage of social and web-based media.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Media P & T Changing Research Impact

As research results move online, the measurement of scientific impact is beginning to look more like the ways in which we measure web-based material. The result is that issues surrounding promotion and tenure may be less troublesome for faculty whose work appears on the web for both teaching and outreach.

In short, all work whether research, teaching or outreach may be reflected in web-based impact assessments.

In a very interesting article, Neylon and Wu, discuss the multiple ways in which the impact of research articles may be measured in the future. They suggest the range of measures could include downloads, page views, citations in articles, blogs, etc., comments, ratings by other scientists/readers, bookmarks, blog coverage, trackbacks and so forth.

Many new media scholars have been concerned about how their work will be reviewed and how their impact will be measured. If Neylon and Wu are correct about the ways in which most research is headed, then there will be few differences between new media scholars and more traditional disciplines.

Nielsen On the Speed of Media Use on the Web

One of the consistent messages from Jakob Nielsen has been the speed at which users spend on content on the web. (See How Little Do Users Read.)

His most recent contribution is to remind us how different TV is from the Web. He reminds us that web users have many choices and much control over what they view and how long they view it. Likewise, there are many additional features in addition to just passively viewing content. He suggests that web users make decisions every 10-120 seconds compared to 30-120 minutes on TV.

He suggests that web video viewers are in the 2-10 minute range.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pediatricians Searching the Web for Diagnosis & Treatment Information

In a recent issue of the Archives for Childhood Disease, there is a report, titled, "The information-seeking behaviour of paediatricins accessing web-based resources."

In this paper Prendiville, Saunders, and Fitzsimons asked practicing pediatricians how they found information in regards to questions from patients that they didn't know the answer to or about possible symptoms/diseases that they needed more information. They reported that "67% of paediatricians utilised the internet as their first "port of call" when looking to answer a medical question. 85% believe that web-based resources have improved medical practice, with 88% reporting web-based resources are essential for medical practice today. 93.5% of paediatricians believe attempting to answer clinical questions as they arise is an important component in practising evidence-based medicine. 54% of all paediatricians have recommended websites to parents or patients. 75.5% of paediatricians report finding it difficult to keep up-to-date with new information relevant to their practice."

So does the thought that your pediatrician is reading Wikipedia scary you? Should parents be concerned? Does this simply reflect the high-quality of information online? Are pediatricians skilled enough information seekers that they can separate trusted sources from quackery?

These findings should be a nudge to educational institutions, professional organizations and others that it is essential to be creating access to high-quality research findings on the web and to designing professional resources to help pediatricians and others find appropriate information. Too much research is still not accessible in general on the web-- this is a problem.

The article concludes with the following:

"Web-based paediatric resources are of increasing significance in day-to-day clinical practice. Many paediatricians now believe that the quality of patient care depends on it. Information technology resources play a key role in helping physicians to deliver, in a time-efficient manner, solutions to clinical queries at the point of care."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Effects of Divorce on Children

One of the enduring questions in the last 30 years has been the question about the effects of divorce on children. Our scientific and clinical understanding of this issue continues to increase (see my summary of these findings.)

I am always interested in how scientific results get presented in the popular press so I was eager to listen the the American Radioworks documentary on "divorced kids" that was recently released. (Nov 20, 2009). The main challenge in presenting this topic is capturing the complexity of the findings which generally show that although divorce does have negative effects on children in general, the effects are small and most children are not much different than children who grow up in families in which there has never been a divorce.

Many popular media either emphasize the negative effects of divorce or the lack of differences. In short, they rarely tell the more complicated story. "Divorced Kid" generally emphasizes the negative effects. The produced only interviews social scientists who have generally found the negative effects of divorce on children (Judith Wallerstein and Nicholas Wolfinger). Other scientists who have provided an alterative perspective such as Paul Amato, Mavis Hetherington, Robert Emery, and Constance Ahrons are not included.

Despite the general emphasis on the negative effects, this report does not overwhelming emphasize the negative impacts. The produced does interview a variety of adults whose parents divorced and captures the various paths to healthy relationships and good marriages that were found (including the producer's own marriage). She also explores the development of parenting programs for divorcing couples and the creation of services for children that have been created in the past 30 years to help families deal with divorce. She describes some of the court reform efforts to introduce mediation as a solution to divorce that have contributed to less high conflict processes of handling issues of custody and child support. There is still much work to be done in this area, but we have developed better services and supports for families going through divorce.

We have also learned much about marriage in the past 30 years and we have tools that can help newly marriage partners develop better strategies for dealing with conflict and developing strong relationships. The most damaging outcome for children of divorce is for them to conclude that their future is doomed or pre-ordained by this one life event. This is completely wrong and there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case. The overwhelming evidence is in the other direction. Children from divorcing families can grow up to have healthy and satisfying lives. They may have to work harder, find extra supports from others and take advantage of educational or counseling services, but it is clearly possible.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Transforming Scholarly Communication -- the next step

The distribution of scientific information is changing... everything from how data are collected, analyzed, reported and archived so says, Lee Dirk, in a fascinating talk about Transforming Scholarly Communication.

In this talk he describes new tools that allow scientists to discover and share data and scientific outcomes in ways that look more like social networking and Amazon book recommendations than scientific meetings and scholarly journals.

I am struck that the behavioral and social sciences would benefit the most from this level of transformation, yet our work seems the least influenced by these trends.

I also find myself asking questions about how educating students and the general public will change with these new methods of science communication. How do we build these science communication tools into our educational platforms?

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Answer Factory: Just what education is missing.

In an article in Wired, Daniel Roth describes a company's efforts to automate content creation to address the questions/issues and searches of the day. Here is the formula:
"Demand Media has created a virtual factory that pumps out 4,000 videoclips and articles a day. It starts with an algorithm.
The algorithm is fed inputs from three sources: Search terms (popular terms from more than 100 sources comprising 2 billion searches a day), The ad market (a snapshot of which keywords are sought after and how much they are fetching), and The competition (what’s online already and where a term ranks in search results)"
That formula detects what people are looking for and then freelance authors and filmmakers get the chance to produce the results. Roth writes,
"Nearly every freelancer scrambles to load their assignment queue with titles they can produce quickly and with the least amount of effort — because pay for individual stories is so lousy, only a high-speed, high-volume approach will work. The average writer earns $15 per article for pieces that top out at a few hundred words, and the average filmmaker about $20 per clip, paid weekly via PayPal. Demand also offers revenue sharing on some articles, though it can take months to reach even $15 in such payments. Other freelancers sign up for the chance to copyedit ($2.50 an article), fact-check ($1 an article), approve the quality of a film (25 to 50 cents a video), transcribe ($1 to $2 per video), or offer up their expertise to be quoted or filmed (free)."
Now if you just pause and think about what it would cost to pay all this talent, you know that all kinds of institutions that produce content from newspapers, educators, etc. could not begin to compete with these low costs of employees.

There is much here to think about but my thoughts are about whether this model would work in education. What if rather than just looking at all the topics an educational institutions developed a focus on a narrow range of topics in which there were educators with a very specific kind of expertise that developed very specific content to meet a particular question. Although Demand Media's model is making money through volume, could you use the same model with lower volume, but pay for it with micropayments. What if in addition to producing content you sold "instruction" and/or "explanation" or feedback with such a system?

Health News Review-- A Model for Reviewing Health Claims in the Media and the Web

Health News Review is a website devoted to rating the ways in which news organizations report on health news. They have developed 10 criteria including 1) raising unrealistic claims about effectiveness, 2) cost of the treatment, 3) how the benefits are portrayed, (4 limitations of the treatment and or risks associated with a treatment, etc.

The criteria and the overall service of the website seem very valuable and provide a good way to educate the public about what to pay attention to in regards to the way scientific and/or health information is provided to the general public.

These criteria could easily be adapted to many other scientific topics when presented to the public.

Their ratings of TV health news reporting are particularly troubling. Sadly, the publisher of the website, Gary Schwitzer, Professor in the Health Journalism program at the University of Minnesota, writes that he is abandoning rating TV programs as there seems to be little evidence that they can influence this media.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Educating Parents One Month at a Time

The future of education is providing a way for individuals to get information in a timely way (just in time) in an easily accessible online/web/social network basis. Here is some good work by colleagues that are doing this work with parents on young children.

For information see, Just In Time Parenting.
The Effectiveness of E-mail Updates as an Educational Delivery Method
View more presentations from Aaron Ebata.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Openness in Higher Education-- Thoughtful Report

The Committee on Economic Development made up of business executives and college administrators released a recent report (Sept. 9, 2009) on the ways in which "openness" as the result of the Internet has change or failed to education.

The committee's basic conclusion can be summed up in this way--
"Information is more open when there are fewer restrictions on access, use, accessibility, and responsiveness. The Internet... has vastly expanded openness.... Like many other service industries such as finance or entertainment, higher education is rooted in information....But finance and entertainment have been transformed by greater openness while higher education appears, at least in terms of openness, to have changed much less" (p. 1).
The report goes on to explore ways in which higher education activities in teaching and learning, research, outreach and administration would benefit from openness and makes a series of policy recommendations for government and colleges. The recommendations for colleges include:
  • Foster faculty dissemination of research via open access publications and open education resources.
  • Establish open-source digital repositories for scholarly work.
  • Examine technology transfer policies that include exclusive licensing agreements.
  • Establish e-portfolios for students.
  • Be a voice for greater openness in access to information and for a re-examination of intellectual property rules for a digital era.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bridging the Research-Practice Divide

A central problem in the growth of knowledge about human development and family life is providing effective ways to translate that knowledge into practice. There are many problems, but a central problem is how to provide a way for practitioners to help researchers understand more about their practical work.

There are so many outcomes of mental health, development and well-being and there are no easy ways to catalog this information. Nevertheless, NIH has been on the road trying to systematize outcomes for mental health treatment so that clinicians can provide similar outcome information across a wide range of clients and eventually across a wide range of treatment outcomes.

This is a massive undertaking already five years in development. Called, PROMIS, Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System, an assessment system has been developed that draws on the best measures of pain, fatigue, depression, anger, social relationships and more and provides a dynamic system to allow clinicians to create and report reliable outcome data that can be shared across a wide range of treatment situations.

There is much for others to learn from this work in regards to how to build a successful feedback system for the measurement of other social, behavioral and educational efforts.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Growth of Online Courses

The Sloan Foundation has provided the most reliable trends about the growth on online higher education. It's most recent report suggests that more college students than ever are taking courses online. In 2007, about 20% of all college students took at least one course online.

The estimate is that now (2009), the percentage is about 25%.

Clayton Christensen in Disrupting Class has been following the trends among high school students and online classes and has predicted that around 2012, there will be accelerated growth in the percentage of students taking courses in high school. One would guess that higher education will not be far behind, but not every higher education institution will have the infrastructure to respond to providing education in this fashion.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Example of Helpful Structure for Teaching and Learning

This example may seem obvious to some, but it doesn't seem that common.

One of the great solutions to "information overload" in scientific communication was the perfection of the "abstract" or a summary of a more extensive amount of information. The "text" abstract of a longer text-based communication is a good idea, but what do you do when the world is text, audio, video, etc. We have the "advertising" version of this solution which is to give us "teasers" of the material that is supposed to make us want more, but we still need the "abstract" version which supplies us with a good overall sense of the message so that we can decide if we want to see, hear or read more. This isn't a teaser. It isn't designed to give us almost enough. It is designed to give us a good dose of the more extensive version.

In this example on the ReadWriteWeb, the authors provide a good example of how to provide an abstract of an interview with Eric Schmidt of Google. We get a sampling of some major points in the video (six minutes of the 45 minutes), a bullet point summary of the major ideas in the six minutes, links to the longer versions and links to more contextual information on the general points discussed in this interview.

It seems to me that over the long run, this is a good model for how to create valuable instructional and learning situations for people.

Nifty Little Tool for YouTube Video Editing

Tube Chop-- Here is a handy tool for editing YouTube video that could be especially helpful in putting together video for teaching. If you find a 10 minute video, but you only want about 2 minutes to illustrate your point, you just load it into Tube Chop and select the segment and chop it up into the pieces you need.

Here is an example

Thursday, October 29, 2009

eXtension 2.0-- Interaction, Participation and Community

A key part of our success in the online world is to take the lessons from our experiences as extension educators and create similar tools online. Extension work has never been solely about delivering research-based information to the public; it has always been about creating communities of people engaged in learning together and encouraging people to teach each other. This is the foundation of 4-H clubs, women's extension organizations, farmer groups, and so forth. The central processes of successful extension work have been creating active learning situations that engaged people, fostering participation in teaching and learning and creating community. This presentation explores the tools and methods for creating these processes online.

A Model for Successful Web Services

Fogg and Eckles (2007) outline a model that they identified as common for successful web services. They note that there are three phases—discovery, superficial involvement, and true commitment. Within each of these phases they note that web designers have created multiple processes that facilitate specific target behaviors. By engaging web visitors in these behaviors, they move people from discovery to commitment.

Active and Interactive Learning

Although the first level of interaction with material on a website may be to read the information, it is possible to do a lot more. To engage people in thinking about ideas and trying out new practices, it is often useful to create opportunities for them to interact with the material. For example, you can have people test their knowledge about a topic by taking a simple quiz. Newspapers and magazines are filled with quiz games that you have to flip to the back to find the answers. Surveys or polls are another easy way to get people to interact with information. This gives people an opportunity to see how others think about the same issue. With the use of audio and video it is possible to develop a wide range of interactive experiences including games, simulations, illustrations, demonstrations, analysis tools, stories, puzzles, explorations, and more. Mayo and Steinberg (2007) propose a bold scheme for the United Kingdom in which the government would develop a platform for using government-generated data about all types of activities (e.g., health data, economic data, crime information, etc.) so that citizens and companies can use the data to create their own new analyses, guides, and so forth. Translating this idea for land-grant universities would mean providing not just the results of research, but the data themselves.


"I think that participation is the saving of the human race. Participate in games, puzzles, fun, storytelling and when you're grown up participate in education….. It's the key to the future of the human race-- participation. " Pete Seeger, 2008.

eXtension should engage people to participate with others around the topics and issues. This could mean using blogs and wikis for forums in which to address current topics and controversial ideas. One way to address myths and misconceptions is to actively engage in thoughtful dialogue about these ideas. Our web presence should be a place in which the public can rely on thoughtful analysis and critical thinking about topics. We should invite the public into helping to develop ideas, thinking, and new solutions. This should not be a one-way broadcast.

Nielsen (2006) offered the following suggestions for increasing user participation: make it easy to contribute, make contributing a side activity, allow users to edit templates or material rather than create from scratch, highlight quality contributions and contributors.


One of the hallmarks of successful extension work has been the creation of learning communities that persisted over time. Whether through 4-H clubs, women's organizations and farmer cooperatives, effective extension work has brought people together to learn. The most robust and effective learning has always taken place within groups of people who learned from one another. Success in the online world will require a similar attention to the creation of communities. Creating communities online requires that we attend to issues of community building. This is not a teaching or information process, it is a social process. Success in community building either F2F or online requires attention to issues of creating a welcoming environment where people are treated with respect and people are encouraged to share ideas and information. Studies of successful online communities indicate that people participate for social reasons-- to meet and get to know people, to have fun, to be appreciated for their ideas and contributions, and to gain visibility (Butler, et al., 2008). Long-term success in creating sustainable online communities will require much attention to community building.

In short, the development of eXtension should continue to develop richer interactive learning opportunities, more avenues of participation and more community building efforts.


Butler, B., Sproll, L., Kiesler, S., Kraut, R. (2008). Community effort in online groups: Who does the work and why. (pp. 171- 193). In S. Weisband (Ed.). Leadership at a distance: Research in technologically-supported work. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum. Available online:

Fogg, B. J., & Eckles, D. (2007). The behavior chain for online participation: How successful web services structure persuasion. In Y. de Kort et al., (Eds.), Persuasive Technology (pp. 199-209). Heidelberg: Springer Berlin.

Mayo, E., & Steinberg, T. (2007). The Power of Information. Retrieved from on June 19, 2008.

Nielsen, J. (2006). Participation inequality: Encouraging more users to participate. Retrieved from on June 19, 2008.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What will New Media Look like in the future?

Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present

Bob Johansen, Institute for the Future

Embracing the Chaos (& other scary tales from the social web)

Tara Hunt, Author, The Whuffie Factor Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Citizen Agency

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Media-- Promotion and Tenure Guidelines

My presentation about New Media Promotion and Tenure Guidelines which was given at the National eXtension conference was recorded and is available to watch:

I have compiled additional reference material, slides for the talk and keep track of various conversations via Delicious tags.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Experience Economy

Clark Quinn in a recent article in eLearn titled, Publish or Perish, presents some very interesting ideas that fit the "fun, interesting and delightful" theme that dominated the National eXtesnion conference presentations last week.

Quinn is discussing books and publishing and his term is "experience," but he seems to be again capturing this idea that people need more than information, more than content. He writes,

"The opportunity is clear. The old cliché "it's not about books, it's about content" doesn't go far enough. What's needed is to make a compelling online experience, based on the content, tapping into the additional capabilities of the digital environment while not abandoning the value add.

For educational publishers, there's an additional consideration, and a market-differentiating opportunity. Pine and Gilmore suggest that the level beyond the experience is the transformative experience, where you pay for experiences that change you in desired ways. This is the core of education, when done right, and the ability to turn expert knowledge into a meaningful learning experience is a captivating premise."

He goes on to define "experience design noting, this

"is a new area, involving information architecture and design, engagement, and diverse media skills. Critically, it's having someone own the ultimate vision of the experience, and coordinating the elements to create the necessary engagement.

For educational publishers, an extra layer is learning experience design. To truly execute against this vision of an engaging experience and an effective learning experience, you have to understand not only learning, but also the alignment with engagement.

Learning experience design capability needs to be placed as a core competency, and one that is not in most publishers today"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Transperancy as a Scientist/Teacher

This week I was reminded again about the converging worlds of the personal and professional. One of the conference speakers, Tara Hunt, suggested that the personal and professional should all be one. (See didn't mention her own fame in which she lived out her personal relationship online and its demise in an article titled, So Open It Hurts.)

So even if we skip the idea of my telling you about my personal life. What should I tell you about my professional life beyond the usual stuff that shows up in my vita? What should students know?

What are my potential conflicts of interest that might bias my perspective on what I study and what I teach? If I teach martial relationships does my marital status matter? If I claim to have some expertise about divorce, do you you need to know if I am divorced? If I write about parenting, do you want to know if I am a parent?

What interests should I tell you about? How will this affect how you read my material?

The scientific journals I read? What books I read? My areas of interest beyond my science? The books and magazines I read for pleasure. (Of course, I read scientific journals for pleasure.)

The new cultural world invites us to be more transparent? How much is enough?

Free Online Higher Education Courses?

Despite all the "opencourseware" activities in higher education, the business model for delivering these courses remain in question. In a review of this work in the Chronicle of Higher Education, many of these issues are summarized.

There are many problems with this article and the whole discussion, for example:

"A freshman at Podunk U. can study with the world's top professors on YouTube."

Sentences like this are misleading. The idea that simply viewing lectures or having the homework is the equivalent of "taking" a course is very troubling. One of the essential features of "taking" a course is getting feedback and clarification of your ideas and your understanding of the material. Watching the video is not "studying with" a professor it is merely "listening to a lecture." This may be informative and you may learn something, but you have not studied with anyone.

"Social life we'll just forget about because there's Facebook," Mr. [David] Wiley says. "Nobody believes that people have to go to university to have a social life anymore."

Wrong. Surely there is no one left who really thinks that "Facebook" replaces social experiences at college or anywhere else. Scholars who have studied this work have shown repeatedly that online and real life social life is completely intertwined and some online social activity is with people that one knows already.

There was at least one sensible note in this article that is a significant reminder of the limits of much of this talk about our current round of open courseware.

"There's a pretty significant fraction of the population that learns better with instructor-led kinds of activities than purely self-paced activities," says John R. Bourne, executive director of the Sloan Consortium, a group that supports online learning. "Can you have a group of students who know nothing about quantum mechanics and have them work in a group and discuss it and learn a lot? I think it's going to be difficult."

National Extension Conference 2009

All the conference presentations at the National eXtension conference 2009 held in St. Louis, MO, Oct 21-23, 2009 are stored here:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ten Leadership Skills-- Bob Johansen, Institute for the Future

I am not a great fan of "leadership" and futurists, but Bob Johansen presented some interesting and compelling ideas at the eXtension National Conference. See Leaders Make the Future.

Here are some of his ten skills that I thought captured ideas that seem essential in my work:

1. Immersive Learning Ability-- Ability to dive into different-for-you physical and online worlds, to learn from them in a first-person way.

2. Quiet transparency-- Ability to be open and authentic about what matters to you-- without advertising yourself.

3. Rapid prototyping-- Ability to create early versions of new information, with the expectation that later success will require early failures.

4. Smart mob organizing-- Ability to bring together, engage with, and nurture purposeful business and social change networks through intelligent use of electronic and other media.

5. Commons creating-- Ability to stimulate, grow and nurture shared assets that can benefit other players-- and allow competition at a higher level.

Entertaining Education-- A good idea?

"Stop being important and start being interesting."
Michael Hirshorn as quoted by Tara Hunt in Embracing the Chaos.

"Whatever you do, make it fun." Bob Johansen, Institute for the Future

"Focus on customer delight." Russ Roberts, Northwestern University

One of the major themes at the 2009 eXtension National Conference was the idea that our educational work needs to fun, interesting and delightful. At first glance this seems out of place and antithetical to education, but is it?

Aren't most of us today here because some teacher made some topic fun, interesting, compelling and engaging? Don't we all remember a favorite lecturer who managed to make the most boring topics exciting? Hasn't effective education always been fun, interesting, and delightful?

Tara Hunt-- -- the future of the social web

Tara Hunt suggests a new of ideas about the future of the social web. From the perspective of an educator the most troubling, compelling idea is that "expertise" is less important or maybe not important at all. Is this true? Or is it that "expertise" is important, but the ways in which is is conferred has changed or is it that expertise is established in new ways? Slides 45-50 have a good set of bullet points that provide some important ideas.

Here are some quotes within her presentation that I found interesting:

"Stop being important and be interesting." Michael Hirshorn, The Atlantic

"you should be so lucky to have your work remixed. If it is not remixed you should worry about your relevance." Tara Hunt

"the more fun the mashup, the more likely you will get some press for it." Tara Hunt

"Put your audiences success at the core of every decision your make." Tara Hunt

Embrace the Chaos (and other scary tales of the social web)
View more documents from Tara Hunt.

New Media Promotion & Tenure--2009

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Promotion & Tenure Presentation on Slideshare

My presentation about a model of promotion and tenure using new media in outreach and engagement work within universities has been uploaded to Slide Share:

Promotion and Tenure Metrics for New Media-- 2009


Despite the transformation in information technologies, few universities have revised performance expectations and promotion criteria. These changes have had a profound impact on outreach and extension staff. The purpose of this session is to outline expectations for extension professionals (county, regional and state) and to define the metrics to assess these activities.

The basic expectation is that personnel will create unique information technology-based instructional material that address issues confronting individuals, organizations and/or society using knowledge based on scientific research. Generally, staff will be expected to develop instructional material for both the general public and professionals. Two broad types of information technology instructional strategies are expected to be developed—a broadcast strategy (one to many) and an engagement strategy (many to many). Broadcast strategies are designed to reach a broad group of people and might include such tools as an email newsletter, instructional video, or podcast. Engagement strategies are designed to foster extended learning communities and might include technology tools such as blogs, games, online courses, etc.

A standard set of metrics will be used to assess the quantity and quality of the information technology- based broadcast and engagement activities. Three general types of outcomes will be assessed—levels of participation, client satisfaction and participant change. For example, to measure the quantity of participation, page views and unique visitors will be recorded. Measuring the quality of broadcast strategies would include links and citations. Metrics for assessing participation within engagement strategies would include the number of people involved, the length of time people are engaged, and/or participant contributions.

Standard tools and indices will be used to routinely assess satisfaction, although quantitative measures such as repeat users, depth and length of time on a website, blog, or game can serve as a proxy for “satisfaction.” Metrics and strategies for assessing outcomes will have to be tailored to the types of changes sought in regard to the programs, but general procedures will be outlined that can be incorporated into broadcast and engagement approaches.

other reference material:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Scholarly Publication-- Michael Jensen

Jensen has been consistently at the forefront of thinking about how the publication of scientific information and scholarship can take advantage of new technologies. In a recent speech, he makes the following points:

"In a world of an ever-growing surfeit of content and distraction, when the clamor of voices for simplistic solutions to systemic problems, we must:

Promote our value to society, to justify our continued existence.

Further, we must:

Brand ourselves as becoming part of the CO2 solution, to our administrators and institutions, as part of *their* external messaging campaigns

Brand ourselves with the public as a key part of a civilized world trying to save itself

Brand ourselves as rethinking our relationship to scholarly communication

Brand ourselves as quality in a sea of content, by being openly accessible digitally

Brand ourselves as promoters of intellectual rigor and quality, online"
These last two points are worth repeating over and over. This is the difference that university faculty can make in regards to participating in the online world. It should also serve as a reminder that the point of new media is not to be "cool," but to produce high quality work.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Guidelines for New Media P & T

(presented at the National Extension Conference, St. Louis, MO, Oct 22, 2009).

References & Other Materials-- this is a list of useful resources and materials related to this presentation. You can find other materials tagged in Delicious.

Other posts on this topic:

Should Faculty be required to Publish on the Web for Promotion?

Can Faculty Post Stuff on the Web and get Tenure?
Online Science, Teaching and Outreach with Tenure
Measuring Scientific Contributions on the Web

Evaluating Performance

Here are some sources for understanding and developing metrics for client participation, satisfaction and impact.

Google. (n.d.). Google analytics tour.

Many of the metrics that are essential to reporting on blogs, websites and other new media platforms are available by recording media activities using Google Analytics.
Hughes, Jr., R. (1995). Are a lot of satisfied participants enough? Human Development and Family Life Bulletin,1(3).
Hughes describes a brief example of how satisfaction can be used to monitor program processes.
Lambur, M. (n.d.). Communities of practice evaluation guide.
Lambur provides some useful advice, tools and metrics for evaluating eXtension materials and other new media.
Larsen, D. L., Attkisson, W. A., Hargreaves, W. A., & Nguyen, T. D. (1979). Assessment of client/patient satisfaction: Development of a general scale. Evaluation and Program Planning, 2, 197-207.
The 8-item general scale described in this article can easily be adapted to measure satisfaction of a variety of programs and services.

Criteria for Promotion and Tenure

Anderson, D. L. (2004). (Ed.), Digital scholarship in the tenure, promotion and review process.
Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
This edited volume is one of the few examinations of digital scholarship and the ways in which it can be handled in promotion and tenure. Much of this work focuses on issues that are more central to the humanities, but there are still some useful insights about the overall issues. Anderson in the introductory chapter makes the following point: "it is not that they [scholars] use technology...but that they use technology so well that it transforms their field and the kind of work that is possible in it" (p. 9).
APA Style Guide.
When reporting the creation of information technology-based products it is useful to report these using a standardized format like APA for citing electronic contributions on your vita or annual report.
Extension Metrics Working Group. (Feb. 6, 2009). eXtension scholarship metrics.
Some good ideas of ways to capture contributions to eXtension efforts. These ideas could be applied to other new media activities.
Ippolito, J., Blais, J., Smith, O.F., Evans, S., & Stormer, N. (2009). New criteria for new media. Leonardo, 42, 71-75.
These authors provide one of the most complete descriptions of how new media can be handled in promotion and tenure. They write, "few new-media academics are going to bother with these innovations if their departments' criteria for promotion and tenure recognize only dead-tree journals" (p. 71).
Jensen, M. (2007). The new metrics of scholarly authority. The Chronicle Review, 53.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Should Faculty be required to Publish on the Web for Promotion?

Most of the discussion regarding the web and issues of tenure and promotion have asked questions like:
  1. Will web-based contributions count for promotion and tenure?
  2. What are the equivalences between traditional scholarly work and web-based work?
But maybe we should be asking another question:

Why shouldn't faculty be required to distribute their work via the web? In an age in which a significant amount of information is available in various online venues, shouldn't scholars be expected to contribute to the intellectual discussions in their fields? Don't scholars also have an obligation to participate in the public discussion of scientific issues?

In addition to asking scholars about their production of journal articles and books, perhaps we should begin reviewing their web-based contributions.

What's wrong with this expectation?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Can Faculty Post Stuff on the Web and get Tenure?

Most of the material that I have been able to find that discusses online faculty work and tenure has been related to the humanities. The Modern Language Association (2000) has posted these recommendations for faculty and committees making tenure decisions.

These general guidelines remind faculty to clarify their role at their institution, seek advice from administrators and senior faculty regarding types of work and to document their online work in a manner similar to other types of scholarly contributions.

The advice to committees reviewing promotion cases in regards to digital scholarship is to make sure that external evaluators are appropriate for this type of work, that the work is reviewed online rather than on paper (in order to fully understand the work) and to see advice from other disciplines that may be relevant to digital scholarship.

The MLA Committee on Information Technology has also established a wiki on the topic of digital scholarship that addresses a wide variety of issues and ideas about how faculty, administrators and faculty review committees can handle issues related to digital scholarship.

See all my delicious tags for p&t:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Online Science, Teaching and Outreach with Tenure

Some universities are beginning to think about how we deal with faculty contributions that are web-based, but there are much work that needs to be done. I am very interested in work by faculty and faculty committees regarding this issue. Please post comments about work at your institution or send me email at: if you have ideas about how this work should develop.

Over the next several weeks I will post a series of discussions of the issues surrounding online science, teaching and outreach and how we can begin to think more carefully about these issues. You can find all the posts on this topic with the label: "PandT"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Measuring Scientific Contributions on the Web

Michael Nielson (The Future of Science) has been writing some very interesting ideas about why scientists have been slow to adopt the use of information-technology as a means to distribute their work and to invite collaboration.

He cites the failures of significant efforts to foster online collaboration and communication. For example, the journal, Nature, launched an open commentary section on their website to foster discussion among scientists about papers published. Nature terminated the effort when the site failed to get many comments. The final report on the site stated, “…there is a marked reluctance among scientists to offer open comments.”

Neilson suggests that there are two major problems that prevent web-based scientific publishing and collaboration—a lack of software and cultural practices within the scientific community that prevent open sharing. He suggests that the second problem is the biggest problem.

He also notes that we don’t have good metrics for how to judge the value of online contributions:

1. What is the value of a blog post?
2. What is the value of a blog?
3. What is the value of a contribution to Wikipedia?
4. What is the meaning of having a webpage at the top of Google’s Page Rank?
5. What is the value of your lecture on YouTube?

These are tough questions to answer, but it seems to me that we have to begin to provide some best guesses and take this type of work into account in making judgments about the quality and quantity of scientific work. Failing to do this will only harm science and education because our best work will not be available in easily accessible ways.