Questions from Scholarship in the digital age

Someone – Use Viewlet builder – do internal training with it.

Tony Nixon, MCT – Retain boundaries in University? Case for?

VC – Much more interdisciplinarity in calls for research funding, so breaking down boundaries is happening and matches the real world. Systems thinking is key; we have the best systems thinking group in the country.

Eileen Scanlon, IET – Conflict between move to Research Excellence Framework, citations framework – versus more open view.

VC – Not sure there is a conflict. Traditional measures take a long time to change. Want OU to be at the forefront of how we do measure those things.  Have philosophy (??!) blogger getting a lot of attention and reputation. Some academics deciding not to publish in print but just go to the web: academics are pushing at it.  More traditional measures are going to see enormous changes.

Brigid Heywood, Pro-VC Research – The REF is going to use very traditional measures – publish, citation. Academics should disseminate freely – but capture peer review and impact on the disciplines as well.  That’s the ground where we can lead.  In 2010 it’ll be classic measures, but we have a part to play in the new space.  All media to be used, but show peer review and academic impact too.

Web question – Martin Weller – via Twitter – Recognise in promotions criteria?  VC – yes of course.

Josie Taylor – move to Web 2.0 as scholars isn’t just learning to use the tools, it’s a culture shift.  Many of our colleagues need to recognise the demands on them – to rethink research and course development.  Very demanding!  VC agrees.

Anne deRoeck – Sustainability questions.  Web 2.0 turns everyone in to a publisher, but not in to a reader. Lots of stuff written but not read.  And environmental impact of technology.  Technologies are very new; has to be managed to make it sustainable.  How?

VC – Technology can help – e.g. collaborate online rather than drive or fly.  

Council member – how to get employer engagement, commercial ventures etc – how can OU lead on that area?

VC – People underestimate how much employer engagement we already do. But not shrinking from expanding it. A real grip on all this will make us more reputable and desirable to employers. Our stuff will show in the workplace.  Engage over what skills they want employees/graduates to have – and ability to work with the technology, and teamwork – are big there.  Management of teams learned via games.

Steve Swinthenby – Inclusion. Scholarship of inclusion?

VC – No favours by telling students you’re too poor or socially deprived to be engaged with technology.  Was pleased with Gordon Brown about giving broadband assistance to families – will help us greatly.  Access to Learning fund will include computers, we help in the costs of broadband for students.  And they think it’s fun and they enjoy it.  We have a problem with young men falling out of education – and they love the technology.

Pro-Chancellor (Lord Haskins) – Consumer power – e.g. reading bits from a newspaper.  A dangerous trend, narrows horizons – consumers are not guided through by an editor.  The same could happen in learning: students could set the agenda.  Consumer power has gone too far in some instances.  Academics will be running after the students, instead of helping students wider [their horizons].

VC – You won’t find that – academics aren’t engaging with the technology.  Still academics’ role to do assessment, curriculum design, students want the accreditation that comes out of that, and that’s a very powerful position so it’s not going out of the window.  Need to engage people more in learning. Participatory thing is good.

Conclusion – Pro-Chancellor (Lord Haskins) – VC has been a world leader in this, people listen to her wherever she goes.

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Medium and message (liveblogging debate round 2)

Today, the OU’s Vice Chancellor, is giving a speech to Council (the OU’s governing body – like the Board of a company) and an internal audience on ‘Scholarship in the Digital Age’.  She will be speaking “about the impact of new technologies, including Web 3.0, on the University’s business: how it affects teaching, research and the student learning experience”.

I’m really encouraged: this is exactly the focus we as a University need to be taking.  And I’m not just saying that because it’s my area and so I obviously think it’s important. (Although there probably is an element of that.)  I’ve said before that the VC is reading the right stuff (e.g. Here Comes Everybody) and there was further proof in the internal publicity for the talk – it was accompanied by a big copy of the xkcd Online Communities map:

But I’m also worried about whether to bring my laptop or not.  Last time I liveblogged from a talk by the VC, people complained – entirely reasonably – that I was disturbing them with my typing – which I was.  I did a post arguing (not entirely clearly) that the fact that such typing was disruptive showed that we have a mountain to climb in getting the OU to where we need to go. The discussion generated more traffic – and blog links – on here than anything else I’ve written, and ended up with me realising that by (inadvertently) reinforcing the stereotype of laptop users as antisocial inconsiderate types, I’d set things back, not forward.

Just to be totally clear: I am not saying that people are wrong when they say they are being disturbed.  They are being disturbed, and that impairs their ability to hear and understand what’s going on.  And with this particular presentation, people who aren’t (yet) natural laptop users and bloggers are the ones who really need to hear it: us techies are the choir the VC is preaching to here.

So do I bring it or not?  If I do, it’ll disturb people.  If I don’t, we lose (some of) the benefits of doing just what (I expect) the VC will be exhorting us to do.

Happily, our Comms team have come up with an excellent compromise: there’ll be a blogger area outside, with a screen showing the VC, and we can hammer away on keyboards to our hearts’ content without disturbing people who find such things distracting.  (There may even be sufficient power sockets!)

It’s not ideal – to exclude this group from the room itself is a little unfortunate.  But I’d rather leave the people inside free of distractions from technology so that they can come to love (appropriately used) technology.

… and I’m also going to try to keep the meta-discussion about liveblogging separate from the actual stuff, at least on here.  I’m sure there’ll be all sorts of stuff on Twitter.