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