Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Digital Scholarship -- don't wait, just leap in

Something I hadn’t considered before was the conservatism of the academic environment at the highest levels and how this might affect the reluctance to adapt new technologies in our elementary schools.  Over the weekend, I listened to my husband and his father talk about getting tenure at their respective institutions.   More so than I realized, for these very capable men hoping for tenure 5 decades apart, the tenure requirements have stayed very much the same.   There was some feel to the discussion of gratitude surely when tenure is acquired, but also of surviving the hazing of one’s peers and not wanting anyone in the future to get by with less.
When I got home, I discovered that the Change11 MOOC (#change11) speaker two weeks ago was Martin Weller, talking about digital scholarship.  His talk was focused on digital scholarship in universities and how there is a tension between traditional academics and new digital technologies.
The focus of his talk was on research, but his analysis can apply to any part of the academic process.  Weller shared his frustration with the conservative bent of researchers who are as a general rule, reluctant to accept blogging, social networking, open publication.  One interesting point, since both my husband and my father-in-law are scientists, was that for scientists blogging is almost antithetical to the way they usually publish their work.  Generally, scientists test and retest, changing one variable at a time, so to blog about the incomplete process is counter to “the way things are done.”
Just as I get frustrated at the elementary level because elementary educators require our students to leave all their technology at the door, academics at the university level are somewhat the converse of other industries where innovation is encouraged.  Elementary school has become about control and teachers fear they cannot control the student’s technology.  Similarly, research at our academic institutions is about control, and innovation is viewed warily as rife with surprises.
My take away from this is that we cannot wait for things to change “from above.”  This process is likely to take far longer than any of us is willing to wait (just look at how long we have been saddled with No Child Left Behind).  We must leap in and make our own classrooms child and technology friendly.  There will likely be some mistakes and surprises, but we will have plenty of support from the blogging, social networking, connected teachers who know that jumping in and sometimes failing is what learning is all about.  Most of all, teaching and learning will be fun.

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