Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Experience vs Youth?

Once again this year, I have been having a series of guest speakers come into my classroom of education students, both in person and via technology. Most of the presenters have a wealth of experience in their area and I am always amazed at how easily they give their time to freely share, pass on their learning, and interact with soon to be teachers. This past week saw the always thought provoking and entertaining Dean Shareski join us via a google hangout - we even got to see & hear his dogs. This week was a bit of a change of pace. I invited three young, new to the profession teachers (2 in their first year and 1 in her 3rd) to come and talk to my students about the things they were doing with technology in the classroom, as well as sharing stories of their challenges, frustrations, and solutions. These three shared some fascinating ideas, interesting and creative initiatives, and some great solutions to problems that arose due to a lack of Internet access, hardware, and other restrictions. I was proud of these teachers, and they could relate to my students well, giving some great tips, some of the realities - and exhibiting the enthusiasm they had for their work. It made me think about the types of people I ask to present. The experience of these experts, such that Dean possesses, offers so much depth, thought, and wisdom to share with those new to the profession. However, the recent experience of youth, and the problem solving and learning that goes along with it, offers much for discussion and contemplation as well. I have had a range of guests drop in over the past few years, I love the discussion, reflection, and learning that it provokes. I also thank these educators who willingly give their time to share with people they do not know. I am convinced that they all offer my students so many opportunities to learn and grow. I will continue to invite a mix of guests, we can learn lots from the stories all of these people tell. So this week, I send thanks to Tiff, Tyler & Kirsten for dropping by and sharing, and prompting me to consider the vast expertise that selflessly drops into my classes each year.

If interested visit the Internet for Educators class blog roll & check them out.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Academic Writing: Take 2.

A few posts back, I wrote about (ranted about?) publishing as an academic researcher. It seems others have been struggling with the traditional approach as well. I came across a few posts on this topic in the past few weeks. Check them out:

Bon Stewart wrote a post about her reflections on writing as an academic. To quote a short section:
 I’ve been trying to be both networked scholar and proper academic, whatever that is. I’ve been trying to wear two entirely separate hats and engage in two entirely separate identity economies and…well, it’s a mug’s game.
And I don’t want to do it anymore. But. I’m not sure, frankly, which parts to drop.
 I shared some of the same thoughts - although certainly not as eloquently as Bonnie, whose writing is so very good. My post was more about how highly valued publishing in major international peer reviewed journals as opposed to the value of other work done by those in higher education. A week or so later, I noticed a tweet linked to a post by Wesley Fryer who also wrote his frustrations with higher education. In particular he comments;
I have zero desire to publish in paywalled journals a very limited number of people are ever likely to read. I’m interested in supporting open educational research and publishing.
In his post, Fryer referenced another post by Sarah Kendzior ("What's the Point of Academic Publishing"). The following excerpt encapsulates the argument:
In order to maintain her professional viability, Day stopped work that she and the public found meaningful—work that directly relates to her role as a teacher—in order to have time to produce work that “counts” to a small number of academics. To “count” is not to spread knowledge, as Day did, or develop new ideas, as Higgs did. To “count” is to preserve your professional viability by shoring up disciplinary norms. In most fields, it means to publish behind a paywall, removed from the public eye—and from broader influence and relevance. To “count” is to conform. 
I think all these authors agree, and I don't want this to seem against publishing, it is an important part of being an academic researcher & thinker - academic publishing is important and has its merits. It is a way to share ideas, research that can spur change or support other avenues of study. There is value in a peer review process - those are not the issues, as far as I am concerned. It does seem, however, that it is valued above all other work and other types of publishing. As well, often academic researchers have to give away the copyright to their own work, some journals charge a publishing fee, and then the journal is behind a paywall - and usually a pretty pricey one at that. As well, all to often the goal is to publish - period (but that was the lament in my previous post). I have decided that I will try to publish only in open access journals as I move forward. In terms of the academic game, I am fortunate since I work at a small prairie university whose faculty of ed does value K-12 experience (& I have 30 years of that). I have earned tenure ... now to get some publications so I can go for promotion in a few years! Of course, I must complete this darn P.h.D first ...

Now, I promise not to raise this again, at least for awhile ;-)