Lecture and Official Opening for SASAH’s Digital “Educating Imaginations”

“Educating Imaginations: The SASAH Digital Lecture Series”
Thursday, 13 March, 2014

7:00-9:00 pm
Central Library
Stevenson & Hunt A&B
251 Dundas Street
London, Ontario

The School for Advanced Studies in the Arts and Humanities (SASAH) at Western University officially inaugurates it new online lecture series, “Educating Imaginations.” During this launch event, we’ll be introducing and demonstrating this new public resource for the Humanities.

A centerpiece of the evening will be a live presentation by Dr. Kelly Olson of the Department of Classical Studies on “Sex and Shoes.”


MOOCing About with Education

[The following is the text for a short piece on MOOCs that I wrote for the Western News, the “official” newspaper of Western University. The piece is an attempt to bring a little calm reflection to what has sometimes been an acrimonious and overheated debate here on campus. A PDF of the relevant issue of the Western News, within which the article appears (on page 5) is available for download here.]

The MOOC – or, on the off chance that you have been hiding in an attic for the last year or so, the “massively open online course” – is, we have been reliably informed, capable of great feats of pedagogical prowess. It is a transformative application of technology to teaching, a tremendous boon for universities, and a godsend for our hard-pressed students.

And, truly, it may prove to be all of these things. Arguably, however, what MOOCs seem to do best at the moment is polarize people. Try this party trick: introduce the subject at your next academic get-together. Techno-utopians will rhapsodize, Luddites will scowl, and Ministers of Training, Colleges, and Universities (should you be so fortunate as to have any of these at your party) will look alternately shifty and enthusiastic. The MOOC certainly has its champions; equally clearly, however, it faces an impressive phalanx of detractors, particularly within the academy itself.

Pity the poor MOOC: it tries so hard. To impress us, it can deploy a variety of technologies and tools to teach and engage students, including batteries of automated tests, interactive elements, algorithms that help customize content, and communication tools such as forums and instant messages. Some innovators are experimenting with “cMOOCs” that harness the power of peer-to-peer learning and collaborative content creation to make them even more engaging. On top of everything else, they are – most of them, and for now anyway – free for students. What’s not to like? Really, we should be very impressed.

So, why then are so many of us playing hard to get? Possibly it has much to do with the way that MOOCs are being marketed – and, given the fact that most MOOCs are produced by private corporations like Coursera and Udacity, marketed is indeed the operative term. MOOCs, we are being told by politicians, will “disrupt” higher education. This is putatively a Good Thing, as universities are apparently much in need of “disruption.”

Ultimately, though, we have a right to ask: what exactly will be “disrupted”? It is not coincidental that the rhetoric of “disruptive innovation” has been lifted from a business guide, Clay Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma: behind the intended disruption of postsecondary education is not, we are probably right in thinking, a shaking-up of our collective complacency as pedagogues, but rather a business decision predicated upon a desire for more “efficiencies.” The not-so-hidden subtext of the language of disruption that surrounds MOOCs is that new technologies can deliver more cheaply, efficiently, and widely the course content that the professoriate currently teaches.

We aren’t being offered a new teaching tool, then: we are being introduced to our replacement. It’s really rather sad: the MOOC could be a wonderful new teaching tool, but it is instead being trumpeted even by its champions as the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse.

Ultimately, perhaps, we are all Cassandra wailing pointlessly against the Trojan horse. Whether we approve or not, the MOOCs are coming. The three largest MOOC producers, Coursera, edX, and Udacity, are doing very well indeed, and new players are entering into the MOOC-building market all the time. MOOCs have the prestige of schools like Harvard and MIT to back them up, and they have some legislators positively salivating at the thought of the savings that they will supposedly mean: a bill introduced into the California State legislature in mid-March would compel institutions there to accept credits earned from MOOCs.

Nor are we safe north of the border: McGill and the University of Toronto are already onside with Coursera. In the wake of the recent announcement of the latter’s participation in the edX consortium, the question may no longer be, “Should Western MOOC?”, but rather, can we realistically afford not to?

It’s an important question: it’s a shame that we are having such a difficult time addressing it properly. In happier and more secure times, the debate about MOOCs would focus upon the pedagogy. It would recognize the benefits, as well as the limitations, that online instructional technology brings to the table, and it would explore the ways in which MOOCs might enrich the experience not only of distance learners, but also of those taking more “traditional” mortar-and-brick based courses.

Instead of being offered innovative technology, however, we have been threatened with cyber-replacement. As a result, we now find ourselves responding to what is in truth a political threat with pedagogical arguments, an untenable position because the MOOC does represent an attractive and worthwhile addition to our teaching toolkit. Who wants to argue that freely accessible knowledge, packaged in cutting-edge online technology and presented by some of the most prestigious teachers in the world, is a Bad Thing? Yet, this is precisely what we currently seem determined to do. It’s a line of argument that is doomed to failure.

We need to substitute for shotgun denunciations of MOOCs and online education a more nuanced and informed critique that acknowledges the roles, potentialities, and value of those forms of learning even as it calls out the “disruptors” for their own disingenuous championing of the form. The answer, in other words, is to do what we do best: employ intelligent and informed critique that cuts through the pretence that political interest in MOOCs is pedagogical and not merely economic and political. And we should not only accept the inevitability of MOOCs, but welcome them when they are deployed in the contexts for which they are best suited, precisely because we do value good pedagogy.

MOOCs are not the enemy: our focus should instead be upon those who are using them to shield a regressive political agenda. After all, the Trojan horse undoubtedly really was a rather handsome addition to downtown Troy; it was not it, but the Greeks concealed inside, that proved to be the problem.

Anatoliy Gruzd (Dalhousie) on “Wired Academia: Why Social Science Scholars Are Using Social Media.”

This term’s Digital Humanities Speaker Series continues on Friday, 1st March, with Professor Anatoliy Gruzd from Dalhousie University!

Anatoliy Gruzd
Director, Social Media Lab, Dalhousie University
“Wired Academia: Why Social Science Scholars Are Using Social Media.”
Friday, March 1st
3:30 PM
Room LH 2270C


Anatoliy Gruzd on Scholarship and Social Media

Wondering how and why social media has become an important part of scholarship? This is your chance to find out!

At 4:00 pm 0n Thursday, February 28th, University College 114, Prof. Gruzd will also be holding a tutorial on mining and analysis of social media for research.

As social creatures, our online lives just like our offline lives are intertwined with others within a wide variety of social networks. Each retweet on Twitter, comment on a blog or link to a Youtube video explicitly or implicitly connects one online participant to another and contributes to the formation of various information and social networks. Once discovered, these networks can provide researchers with an effective mechanism for identifying and studying collaborative processes within any online community. However, collecting information about online networks using traditional methods such as surveys can be very time consuming and expensive. This tutorial will explore automated ways to discover and analyze various social networks from social media data.

This workshop, designed for graduate students and faculty, has limited space available. Please respond to kmart5@uwo.ca if you plan on attending.

Dr. Anatoliy Gruzd (http://AnatoliyGruzd.com) is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information Management and Director of the Social Media Lab (http://SocialMediaLab.ca) at Dalhousie University, Canada. His research initiatives explore how social media and other web 2.0 technologies are changing the ways in which people disseminate knowledge and information and how these changes are impacting social, economic and political norms and structures of our modern society. Dr. Gruzd is also actively developing and testing new web tools and apps for discovering and visualizing information and online social networks. The broad aim of his various research initiatives is to provide decision makers with additional knowledge and insights into the behaviors and relationships of online network members, and to understand how these interpersonal connections influence our personal choices and actions.

(And with thanks to Elika Ortega and Kim Martin for organization and the poster!)

Online Citation Software: A Workshop on Mendeley and Zotero

On 5 February, the Research Group for Electronic Textuality and Theory will be holding a special workshop for faculty and graduate students, to be led by Kim Martin from FIMS:

“Online Citation Software: A Workshop on Mendeley and Zotero
5 February, 2013
4:30-6:30 p.m.
Somerville House Room 2317

Mendeley and Zotero are free online and desktop applications that facilitate citation, reference management, archiving, and online sharing of research materials and citation lists.  Zotero is open source software designed in particular for the Humanities at George Mason University.

Workshop on Mendeley and Zotero

Kim will begin with a brief discussion of the merits and advantages of both these applications, and then lead participants through the steps in setting up and managing their own online reference library. Participants should plan to bring a laptop computer with them to the session, and should (if possible) have registered for and installed both programmes on it. No registration is required for this workshop.

Zotero can be downloaded here: http://www.zotero.org/
Mendeley can be downloaded here: http://www.mendeley.com/

Making TIES@Western: There’s Still Lots of Time to Submit!

Making TIES@Western

The window for submissions to “Making TIES@Western,” the symposium for Technology in Education at Western University, closes on 25 January, but there’s still lots of time to send in a proposal for a session, paper, or poster presentation!

Submissions can be sent to:  ties.proposals@uwo.ca

“Digital Boon or Digital Doom? The Virtual Future of Higher Education”: A Panel Discussion

Digital Boon or Digital Doom: The Virtual Future of Higher Education

There is word from the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western of an upcoming panel discussion that is bound to be of interest to digital humanists and those interested in online education! The list of speakers for this event should especially attract attention.

“Digital Boon or Digital Doom? The Virtual Future of Higher Education”

Please mark January 16th in your calendar and join us early in the New Year for this panel discussion examining higher education’s adoption of digital technologies. Pro or Con? Boon or doom?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
5:00 p.m.
North Campus Building 113

The panel will be moderated by Ira Basen, longtime CBC Radio journalist, documentarian and 2012 CanWest Global Fellow in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies. Panelists include George Siemens of Athabasca University, Jonathan Schaeffer of the University of Alberta, Elizabeth Hanson of Queens, Luis von Ahn of Carnegie Mellon University, and Doug Mann from Western.

Everyone is welcome to attend and audience participation in the post-panel discussion is encouraged.

This event is co-sponsored by Ira Basen, 2012 CanWest Global Fellow in Media Studies, and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies.

CFP for “Technology in Education Symposium” (TIES@Western)

Western UniversityJust sent out tonight was the Call for Proposals for the “Technology in Education Symposium” (or “TIES@Western”), which will be run on 8 March, 2013. The intent of the symposium is to showcase some of the most innovative uses of different kinds of instructional technology at Western University; it is a cross-faculty and interdisciplinary event that will afford teachers and graduate students at Western an opportunity to learn from each other, exchange ideas, and create new connections (and maybe even collaborations!)

Expect to see more information on TIES@Western soon. In the meantime, the CFP is reposted below:

The Technology in Education Symposium (TIES) is an exciting one-day, university-wide event scheduled for March 8, 2013, which will showcase and explore the uses of technology in teaching graduate, undergraduate, and continuing studies students across all disciplines at Western and its affiliates.

This symposium will focus on quality of education as it relates to instructional technology and elearning. While the sessions offered will address the opportunities and challenges of using instructional technology, the focus is less upon tools than upon innovative teaching principles and practices.

Participants will hear and see how instructors and others employ technology to engage students and enrich learning, and to connect with others from across the campus who are exploring the potential of instructional technology and online education.

We are seeking proposals for panels, roundtables, papers, and posters on a wide range of possible subjects. Panels should be designed for 3 or 4 papers. Paper presentations should be 15-20 minutes each.

Please submit a proposal to ties.proposals@uwo.ca with the following information:

• Name of presenter(s):
• Email address(es) of presenter(s):
• Your Department or Unit:
• Your university (Western, King’s, Huron, Brescia, etc.):
• Title of presentation:
• The type of presentation (paper, poster, roundtable, panel discussion, etc.):
• (Max) 250 word abstract:
• Technology requirements (projector, SMARTboard, etc.):

Deadline for proposals: January 25, 2013 (vetting completed by February 1).

If you have further questions please email ties.proposals@uwo.ca.