Friday, 19 March 2010

The future of education

Lovely Slideshare presentation by Martin Weller.

It was a response to this invitation.

Which also elicited this:

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The cultural responsibilities of libraries as curators of the digital record

Jonathan Zittrain from the Berkman Center at Harvard gave this riveting lecture at Duke University on March 3. It's quite long -- an hour and a quarter -- so you need to allocate some serious time to it, but IMHO it's worth it. It starts slowly as he lays out an analytical framework that, at first sight, seems to have little to do with libraries, but about 27 minutes in to the presentation he really hits his stride. For anyone interested in the role of libraries in a digital era, this is eye-opening stuff becasue it gives some concrete examples of cases where libraries will need to assume really serious responsibilities as curators of the digital record, not just in terms of preservation, but also in defence of historical accuracy.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Towards a New Alexandria

Long, thoughtful and wide-ranging article by Lisbet Rausing in The New Republic about the future of academic libraries in a digital environment.

It is clear that if a new Alexandria is to be built, it needs to be built for the long term, with an unwavering commitment to archival preservation and the public good. A true public good itself, it probably needs to be largely governmentally funded. And, while a global and cooperative venture, it needs to be hosted by one organisation that is reputable, long-standing, nonprofit, and exists in a stable jurisdiction. The Library of Congress, the flagship institution of the world’s only surviving Enlightenment republic, comes to mind. There might be other possibilities, such as the New York Public Library, or the British Library, or a consortium of the world’s leading university libraries—UCLA, Harvard, Cambridge University, and so on.

In other words, the question for scholars and gatekeepers is not whether change is coming. It is whether they will be among the change-makers. And if not them, then who? Who else will ensure long-term conservation and search abilities that are compatible across the bibliome and over time? Who else will ensure equality of access? Ultimately, this is not a challenge of technology, finances, or ultimately even laws, difficult though they are. It is a challenge of will and imagination.

Answering that challenge will require some soul-searching: Do we have the generosity to collaborate? Can we build legal, organizational, and financial structures that will preserve and order—but also share and disseminate the learning of the world? Scholars have traditionally gated and protected knowledge, yet also shared and distributed it in libraries, schools, and universities. We have stood for a republic of learning that is wider than the ivory tower, and now is the time to do so again. We must stand up, as the Swedes say, for folkbildningsidealet, that profoundly democratic vision of universal learning and education...

Worth reading in full.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Reviewing my first week

I'm reviewing my first week as Arcadia Fellow and the experiences I have been fortunate to have had. I have been made very welcomed by all the staff at the University Library and also the college (Wolfson) I am associate with.

I spent the first few days, settling in, meeting people, sorting out my IT set up and just taking the time to familiarise myself with the University Library. Despite, being luck enough to have my own office, which I share with the other current Arcadia Fellow Harriet Truscott, I have been fascinated by the unique architecture of the Library and the history and tradition it represents. I feel honoured to have the opportunity to research here and have been finding lots of interesting and inspiring places to work around the library making me feel very scholarly. I strongly think the place where you work or study can really have a very remarked impact on you and your ideas.

This week I have planned a research timeline and fleshed out the finer details of my methodology. It is a relatively short research project so progress has had to be swift. I have also started my first research objective and started compiling a database of online opportunities for researchers, particularly referencing tools. I have found the thread on managing literatue on Graduate Junction most interesting. Thanks to all those that have contributed.

This week I also had the opportunity to meet with a former Arcadia Fellow Liz Edward-Waller whose IRIS(Induction, Research and Information Skills) Project report I have found a very interesting read. Listening to her experiences has also been really helpful, especially when planning finer details and practicalities. Sharing little tips learned from your peers' research experience is always so incredibly valuable, especially when the timeline of this particular project leaves little room for the unexpected. For example, little things like remembering to look for and un-tick a particular box when constructing a survey to ensure users of university computers aren't restricted by one survey for one IP address.

This week I also enjoyed attending my first Arcadia Seminar by Professor Martin Weller from the Open University about “the pedagogy of abundance – new teaching models in a digital age” as well as attending a researcher-led Thesis Writing Group. Briefly , I was interested that Martin drew parallels from the lessons learnt through the transformation of the music industry in the digital era. The role and place of higher education institutes is definitely changing, particularly as a result of the increased open educational resources (OERs) available, but exactly how HEIs will adapt is still an area of much debate. I will write more on both these events another time as they really deserves their own dedicated post and discussions.

My aim now I have settled in is to keep a more regular account of the daily experiences of my project on the esther @ arcadia blog I have set up on Graduate Junction. I see the esther @ arcadia space as my 'research diary/log' and people are welcome to follow and comment on either blog. You can also follow me on twitter @arcadiaesther.

So I start this second week with much excitment.........

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The gospel according to Google: The desktop PC is dead and only the paranoid survive

Interesting insight from a recent speech given in Dublin by Google's European sales chief.

Google believes that in three years or so desktops will give way to mobile as the primary screen from which most people will consume information and entertainment. That’s according to Google Europe boss John Herlihy who said that smart phones enhance Google’s mission to make information universal.

Speaking at the Digital Landscapes conference at UCD, Herlihy said that the cloud-computing opportunity will make sure that every mobile device will be capable of doing rapid-scale applications.

“In three years time, desktops will be irrelevant. In Japan, most research is done today on smart phones, not PCs,” Herlihy told a baffled audience, echoing comments by Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the recent GSM Association Mobile World Congress 2010 that everything the company will do going forward will be via a mobile lens, centring on the cloud, computing and connectivity.

“Mobile makes the world’s information universally accessible. Because there’s more information and because it will be hard to sift through it all, that’s why search will become more and more important. This will create new opportunities for new entrepreneurs to create new business models – ubiquity first, revenue later.”

In fact, the disruptive effect that Sergey Brin and Larry Page had on the internet when they were maxing out credit cards in 1998 to buy servers to build their search engine haunts Google to this day, Herlihy said.

“The fear is the next Sergey and Larry will come up with a disruptive technology or service that will eliminate the need for Google. That spurs us on to deliver the best quality return on investment to advertisers in an open and transparent partnership that works for them.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs to end the need for Google. It’s our challenge not to let that happen by continuing to drive innovation and value.”

Identifying Off- and On-line referencing tools used by researchers

Having spent the first few days, settling into the University Library and planning the timeline of my research, today I have started my research by identifying and compiling a database of current off- and on-line opportunities that assist early-career researchers in managing literature (information resources and particularly referencing tools). One of my aims is to assess the current usage rates of these different opportunities and identity particular advantages and disadvantages expressed by researchers who have used these different software options.

I decided to begin my search on Graduate Junction as I thought it would be a useful place to start. Part of my research will also be to look at the role of social/academic networks as not only a place to connect with others based on research interests, but as a place were researchers can share knowledge and experiences of more practical or generic skills, such as information searching and handling. Therefore this morning I was really excited to find an example of this on Graduate Junction in the form of a thread in the advice forums discussing managing literature . It’s provided a great starting point for my research as well as providing a great example about the role of networks in sharing experiences.

I personally used EndNote for my dissertation as this was already installed on my computer when I got it. I therefore didn’t really shop around at the time or evaluate the advantages or disadvantages of other opportunities. As it was also installed I didn’t think about the cost. I found it very intuitive to use but did find it a problem when I went to the university computing room or library and used other computers as I could obviously not access my library. I know that many universities provide researchers with a free EndNote, or sometimes Refworks, account attached to their university IT account. This has the advantage that you can log into any university computer and access your account, overcoming the problem I experienced. However, I am also under the impression that when you graduate and you lose your university IT account you also lose your subscription to this tool. Does anyone know whether you can then transfer your library to your own account or do you lose this?

I have also heard a lot about Zotero (open source) and I know that Dan Cohen of George Mason University, is coming to give the second Arcadia Lecture in Cambridge in April, which I am very much looking forward to.

It would be great if people could continue this discussion thread and share their personal experiences or thoughts.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Introducing Esther

Yesterday I started as the new Arcadia Fellow. My aim for the next ten-weeks is to use this blog to keep the group updated with my progress and findings. I see it as a useful space to obtain comments and feedback to my ideas as they develop over the next weeks. But I thought I would begin with a brief introduction.

As introduced by John I graduated from my Economics and Management degree at the University of Oxford in 2007 before completing my Masters in Research Methods (Education) at the University of Durham in 2008. During this time I also worked as a Research Assistant within the Department of Education working on a project funded by the Teaching Development Agency.
During my Masters and through my experiences as a new research assistant, myself and a fellow PhD researcher identified flaws in the information flows for early-career researchers. Researchers have three sources of information about work done in their chosen field: published literature, conferences and their supervisor. Literature reviews, whilst essential, can only ever reveal completed work, relevant conferences do not happen every week and supervisors mostly rely on these same sources. We felt it was very easy to become overly focused on the specifics of your own work and to lose a sense of what other related work is currently being done, especially by other early-career researchers. We also noticed that very distinct and separate literatures and conferences exist for different subject areas despite the large overlap between some disciplines. Networking is an essential part of the research process: promoting collaboration, generating new ideas and preventing duplication of effort. Consequently, we thought it would be great if there was a common point that brought together Masters, PhD and Postdoctoral researchers from all disciplines. By making ‘Research Keywords’ rather than ‘discipline’ central to the networking process, we hoped to break down existing disciplinary boundaries so that it would be possible to find others with similar research interests regardless of which department, institutions or country they were in.

From this idea Graduate Junction was founded in May 2008. Graduate Junction is now the largest online academic network dedicated to the needs of early-career researchers, providing an opportunity to network based on research interests as well as gain peer-support on issues related to undertaking doctoral research. It is a researcher-led, self-funded initiative which we have managed alongside our own research commitments. Whilst the other co-founder, Daniel Colegate, developed the website, I was almost entirely responsible for the original growth of researcher network, the website receiving over 150,000 unique visitors, 1.5 million page views and almost 15,000 registered researchers. Graduate Junction has featured in popular press such as the Chronicle of Higher Education (US) and the Times Higher Education (UK) and has been presented at a number of events, including at the Vitae Annual 2009 Conference. We have had a number of volunteers and recently Summer Interns from within the community who have help develop and promote Graduate Junction to whom we are very grateful. We have been overwhelmed by the responses we have had from researchers, academic staff and testimonials from Graduate Schools, which motivates us to continue, despite the severe lack of resources, to provide this opportunity for our peers.

Over the last 18 months I have become very interested in digital scholarship and the role of academic networks and online referencing tools. However, I have never had the opportunity to dedicate my time to investigate further. My Arcadia project proposes to investigate the information needs of early-career researchers and investigate particularly whether research masters and first year PHDs, require different and potentially additional support from University Library Services to help them develop efficient methods of searching and handling information resources in an ever progressing digital age.

Despite the last 18 months being heavily involved in the online community, I am still relatively new to blogging and hope to develop this skill during the project so watch this space.........

Monday, 1 March 2010

The 'perpetual beta' textbook

Interesting post in iMedical Apps. Excerpt:
However, while renting textbooks may seem like a strange and wondrous departure for those of us who still pridefully maintain shelves of outdated medical textbooks, the more necessary revolution will actually be upending the illusion of completion when a textbook finally reaches the printing press.

By this, I am suggesting the barrier between finished textbooks and the rapidly evolving nature of medical knowledge most certainly needs to be more porous. Going even further, the interactive and non-linear nature of learning are at odds with the centuries-old format of a linear, immutable text.

This is not to say that textbooks are anachronisms. Something very valuable comes out of the care and scrutiny of an author polishing each paragraph and page with great care. But, why should the craftsmanship stop at the moment of publication?

Why indeed? I was thinking of this when reading the New Yorker's recent profile of Paul Krugman and the account therein of his struggles to complete an economics textbook.

Library Widget screencast

The libraries@cambridge team have dipped a toe in the glamorous world of film making, the result being the Cambridge Libraries Widget Screencast, showing here:

Starring Emma Coonan, and written and directed by Rachel Marsh, it's a sweeping tale of romance and passion. Actually it's a short guide to using the Cambridge Libraries Widget, but you have to start somewhere.

We're keen to pursue the use of film and screencasts, so we're pleased to have made our first foray. It was a pretty steep learning curve, but thanks to Lihua Zhu, our friends at CARET, and Anton at the Streaming Media Service we think we managed to achieve a good result. Hopefully the sequels will be a lot easier!

New Arcadia Fellow

Esther Dingley has started today as an Arcadia Fellow. She'll be working on "Supporting the information needs of early-career researchers in a digital age". Esther holds degrees from Oxford and Durham and is a co-founder of Graduate Junction, a non-for-profit network for early career researchers. She can be found most days in the Arcadia Office which she shares with Harriet Truscott, this Term's other Arcadia Fellow.