Learning 2008 Keynote: Networked Academic Conversations and the Liberal Arts

The creation of knowledge through conversation is the core of liberal arts education.

Presenter: Ruben R. Puentedura

The creation of knowledge through conversation is the core of liberal arts education.

According to research from the past 5-10 years, blended learning (face-to-face + online) is becoming more relevant and necessary on residential campuses. These studies show that truly blended courses where the face-to-face and online components are comparable in magnitude will fix some of the problems with both face-to-face and online courses.

Face-to-face learning is good for:

  • establishing a local presence
  • discursive task definition
  • generation of ideas

Online learning is good for:

  • sustaining social presence
  • discursive task execution
  • evaluation & development of ideas

[side note: I am seeing truth in the above thanks to online social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and the Library Society of the World, which are responsible for both sustaining and growing the connections I make at conferences.]

Prior to the development of the tools and technology that led to Web 2.0, we did not have the ability to see bi-directional conversations on the Web. Web 2.0 has re-defined the Web as a platform for small pieces, loosely joined. The Web 2.0 is the architecture of participating, with remixable data sources and data transformations, harnessing collective intelligence.

Conversations as continuous partial attention
Twitter is both asynchronous and synchronous at the same time. Conversations can be both instantaneous and over time, and there are no expectations that you will read every single update from everyone you follow.

Conversations surrounding production/consumption
Flickr has taken the static image on a website and enhanced it with conversational elements like comments, groupings, tags, and notes on photos. Partially because the content is self-produced, this has created a supportive community and a culture of intolerance for troll-like behavior. In contrast, YouTube, which offers similar features for moving images, is filled with content not created by the sharer, and the community is unfriendly compared to Flickr.

Ustream contains user-generated live streaming video, and should have a culture of users similar to Flickr; however, it appears to lean more towards the YouTube culture. Swivel is a site for sharing data and creating visualizations from that data, and it straddles the line between a supportive culture and one that is prone to troll-like behavior.

All of this is to say that if you choose to use these tools in your classroom, you need to be aware of the baggage that comes with them.

Conversations mapping the terrain
del.icio.us is a social bookmarking service that can be an information discovery tool as well as a conversation. The process of adding a new bookmark tells you something about the URL by showing how others have added it (leaning on the expertise of other). The network of users and tags can show connections outside of defined groups.

Conversations based on shared creation
Most blogs include comment functionality which allows readers to participate on equal footing. Trackbacks show links from other locations, branching out the conversation beyond the boundaries of the solitary blog. The blog has also cause the rediscovery of forms of discourse such as the exploratory essay, epistolary conversation, and public scholarly societies (scholarly societies that are visible and present in the public eye as authorities on subjects).

Wikis provide a forum for discussion with a historical archive of past conversations. Through the interaction between scholars and non-scholars on wikis such as Wikipedia, the articles become better, more comprehensible explorations of topics. A student project using wikis could be one in which they create a scholarly essay that for a topic lacking such on Wikipedia and submit it, thus gaining the experience of creating scholarship in the public eye and contributing to the greater good of the whole.

SIMILE Timeline is another tool for creating content relevant to a course that provides a forum for discussion.

Conversations about conversations
Ning allows you to create a social network with tools like those on MySpace or Facebook but without the culture and baggage. You can do similar things in traditional academic tools such as course management software, but Ning is more attractive and functional.

What’s next? Puentedura suggests the SAMR model. As we move from substitution to augmentation to modification to redefinition in the way we use technology and tools in the classroom, we move from basic enhancement with little buy-in or value to a complete transformation of the learning process that is a true academic conversation between the student and the professor.

Resources:
The Horizon Report
ELI: 7 Things You Should Know About…
50 Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story

CiL 2008: Catalog Effectiveness

Speaker: Rebekah Kilzer

The Ohio State University Libraries have used Google Analytics for assessing the use of the OPAC. It’s free for sites up to five million page views per month — OSU has 1-2 million page views per month. Libraries would want to use this because most integrated library systems offer little in the way of use statistics, and what they do have isn’t very… useful. You will need to add some code that will display on all OPAC pages.

Getting details about how users interact with your catalog can help with making decisions about enhancements. For example, knowing how many dial-up users interact with the site could determine whether or not you want to develop style sheets specifically for them, for example. You can also track what links are being followed, which can contribute to discussions on link real estate.

There are several libraries that are mashing up Google Analytics information with other Google tools.


Speakers: Cathy Weng and Jia Mi

The OPAC is a data-centered, card-catalog retrieval system that is good for finding known items, but not so good as an information discovery tool. It’s designed for librarians, not users. Librarian’s perceptions of users (forgetful, impatient) prevents librarians from recognizing changes in user behavior and ineffective OPAC design.

In order to see how current academic libraries represent and use OPAC systems, they studied 123 ARL libraries’ public interfaces and search capabilities as well as their bibliographic displays. In the search options, two-thirds of libraries use “keyword” as the default and the other third use “title.” The study also looked at whether or not the keyword search was a true keyword search with an automatic “and” or if the search was treated as a phrase. Few libraries used relevancy ranking as the default search results sorting.

There are some great disparities in OPAC quality. Search terms and search boxes are not retained on the results page, post-search limit functions are not always readily available, item status are not available on search results page, and the search keywords are not highlighted. These are things that the most popular non-library search engines do, which is what our users expect the library OPAC to do.

Display labels are MARC mapping, not intuitive. Some labels are suitable for certain types of materials but not all (proper name labels for items that are “authored” by conferences). They are potentially confusing (LCSH & MeSH) and occasionally inaccurate. The study found that there were varying levels of effort put to making the labels more user-friendly and not full of library jargon.

In addition to label displays, OPACs also suffer from the way the records are displayed. The order of bibliographic elements effect how users find relevant information to determine whether or not the item found is what they need.

There are three factors that contribute to the problem of the OPAC: system limitations, libraries not exploiting full functionality of ILS, and MARC standards are not well suited to online bibliographic display. We want a system that doesn’t need to be taught, that trusts users as co-developers, and we want to maximize and creatively utilize the system’s functionality.

The presentation gave great examples of why the OPAC sucks, but few concrete examples of solutions beyond the lipstick-on-a-pig catalog overlay products. I would have liked to have a list of suggestions for label names, record display, etc., since we were given examples of what doesn’t work or is confusing.