The first morning session on day two had two presentations. Raul Chavez and Lisa Ames discussed their use of a Ning social network they had constructed which linked business students with alumni and local businesses. Their Ning, Project Management Student and Alumni Network was primarily constructed for instructional use, but two-thirds of the members were graduates of the program networking for jobs. I asked about their plans given the recent announcement about Ning dropping free sites, and they stated they planned to continue it at least through the next year but at the mini-level.
The other presentation involved Melanie Szulczewski’s use of class blogging to encourage students to connect with the relevance of their studies. In her undergraduate course on Global Environmental Problems, she had her students look for and post both reflections on the course topics and new resources they might find. What was fascinating was how the rhetoric in her class changed from passive to active as her students became engaged with the topics and each other. From reducing meat consumption to eliminating the use of bottled water, her students moved from personal action to evangelists urging others (family, roommates, even Congressmen) to take action. I also liked how Melanie used Awesome Highlighter to mark up her student blogs and provide feedback. It was an interesting study in both social media and learning.
Julie Meloni returned to provide a third keynote on “System, Self, and Society: Understanding and Controlling the Rhetoric of Information.” Her talk was fascinating as she discussed the underlying code of the web and how the choices made by individuals were in a way rhetoric. As she noted in her abstract, “…our collective experience has likely shown, the concept of the digital native is little more than a polite fiction.” That started an interesting backchannel debate on the efficacy of the concept of digital native. I liked the fact that Julie used her own freshmen students to debunk the concept. However, Derek Bruff defended Marc Prensky’s original use of the term, stating that the whole tech savvy emphasis had been tacked on later. Tom Woodward noted by tweet that the digital native term is an over statement that encourages a false divide, a divide that helps no one. I hope Derek follows up and blogs about this as he promised!
I found one comment by Julie insightful when it comes to this concept of shared learning on the web. She said that it was not her place to tell students where to go, rather it was her place to tell them where they could go. Interesting and subtle difference. Importantly, she works to educate her students towards understanding the ramifications that their individual choices online have. Jim Groom summarized this concept nicely with his comment that he tells students to get their own space and not be a sharecropper online!
The next session was a panel discussion on Is Digital Scholarship Really Scholarship? by Zach Whalen, Steve Greenlaw, and Jeff McClurken. As much as I expected three YES’s, they really were tentative in their presentations. They showed what I would consider some great digital scholarship, such as Zach’s dissertation morphing online, or Steve’s scholarship of teaching and learning, but seemed to fall short of declaring it scholarship themselves or something that would be recognized as such by their peers. As Zach’s grandmother questioned, did he write a real book or some online thing? I offered up the definition from ISSOTL which defines scholarship as follows:
… an act of intelligence or artistic creation becomes scholarship when it possesses at least three attributes: it becomes public, it becomes an object of critical review and evaluation by members of one’s community, and members of one’s community begin to use, build upon, and develop those acts of mind and creation.
It seemed to me that the examples they were showcasing fell into the broad categories of public, evaluated by one’s community, and used to build upon. Jeff cracked me up when he noted his next book would be considered scholarly because it had a colon in the title! Steve stated that he was less interested in going the book route in the future because the turnaround time was too slow and paper just did not engage him like hyperlinked text did.
So, two days of informative presentations, excellent networking, and engaging colleagues. I am still digesting all that I took in…and look forward to seeing how others who were there blog about the experience.
I said before I went that UMW’s Faculty Academy always re-energizes me, and this year was no different. My hat is off to the wonderful faculty and staff at Mary Washington…thanks for helping me get my learn on once again!