Saturday, December 19, 2009

External supervisors confirmed!

Wow that was fast! David Wiley, Stephen Downes and Michael Wesch have agreed to being external supervisors over my open PhD project. This compliments an equally strong though perhaps lessor known line up of local supervisors, Keith Lyons, Robin McConnell, Robert Fitzgerald and James Neil.

Here's what I'm thinking:

David Wiley for his understanding of policy and implementation in western academic traditions. Especially his practical yet ground breaking work fitting that in with networked media and communications via open education. Dave was the first to blow my socks off with his paper Reusability Paradox back in 2003 (for some strange reason he omits the paper from his Selected Publications).

Stephen Downes is a must for his intensely principled stance, informed by a background in philosophy that I hope to get more grounding in, and an overview of the field like no other. SD is not afraid to challenge status quo, and will stand firm on ideas he believes in. On more than one occasion this has lead me to entirely new thinking and critical incite. I credit Stephen to starting me off on this journey with networked learning.

Michael Wesch has knowledge in ethnography applied to networked media and communications that inspires me a lot. I hope to learn his field and apply his methods to a focus group of people I am working with at UC. Video as a means of 'writing' is something I'd like do more of in this PhD as well.

I can certainly think of a few more 'externals' I will want to ask to be involved, but for now and for the purposes of my application, these confirmations are a great start. We all know wide and open review is how we work online anyway, especially in an openPhD model. This line up is really from the point of view of gaining acceptance to register for PhD. Many thanks David, Stephen and Michael for accepting the role.

Internally I look to James Neil, Robert Fitzgerald, Robin McConnell and Keith Lyons for majority supervision.

James Neil has always struck me as being very mindful in his use of the Internet. I've known and followed James' for many years now and the opportunity to meet and work with him at UC was a big draw card. I see him as a role model for networked teaching and research, and his expertise in psychology will be an important dimension to this study.

Robert Fitzgerald is the Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Education here at UC. He understands social media and is applying it in his own work. He also understands the PhD process within UC, and has been a key encouragement for me in taking on this project. Robert is cooking up a number of significant projects at UC that I hope my work will be helpful to.

Robin McConnell is someone I have only just met, who has next to no Internet presence, a veteran of higher education and research, and to top it all off - is a proud kiwi! Despite all his faults, he has shown me respect and enthusiasm that is literally like a breath of fresh air from a freshly whited NZ mountain top. He knows how academia works, and he's specialty in leadership and groups brings valuable and unique perspectives to my work. Robin is both a subject and supervisor to this project, and will make sure its a good time had by all.

Keith Lyons is protector, enabler, advisor and lead supervisor. I first met Keith back in 2005 when he invited me down to the Australian Institute of Sport for a day of edu-speak . He has quietly followed my work in the years since, recently offering me a job in Sport Studies at UC. Since the day I arrived he has taken me around to meet key people from Federal Senators, to leadership people at UC. (I have systematically but unintentionally offended them all! :( Keith is an avid enthusiast of what social media brings to teaching and research, and has a background in ethnography and deschooling! I am very grateful to have him watch over this ominous task, and I'm thinking hard on the notions of "invitational development" and being "platform agnostic"...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Starting an open PhD by Publication

I submitted an expression of interest to the University of Canberra to undergo a Doctor of Philosophy by Publication. I am still coming to terms with the whole PhD thing, but needless to say it will be openly documented, and I will push boundaries as I hit them.

My 250 word expression went like this:
Sport Studies at UC is engaging social media and the popular internet for teaching and research development. This project will determine pre development staff knowledge, skills, values and practices, and conduct an in-depth study of their progress. This includes evaluations of achievements; what level of investment is required by the University to support developments; a draft programme for skill acquisition; and recommendations on how the university can measure returns.

The project will primarily draw upon qualitative methodologies, particularly the use of life histories and personal narratives, researcher and subject diaries (journals of interaction, achievements, challenges, skill acquisition and critical reflection), participant observation, interviews (with participants, other staff, university administrators) and questionnaires. Participatory action research will include background stories from the staff and their own critical reflections on the developments. Document analysis will inform return on investment evaluations, engagement with University projects and policies, and researcher reports at key developmental intervals. An ICT industry partner will be sought sort for an ARC Linkage Project in 2010.

Discussion with the proposed UC Level 1 supervisors confirms there is no identical study that focuses on these questions at such depth. The outputs will be relevant to Australian Universities seeking to understand the value of social media and popular internet. Organisations and professional will gain insights in change management; leveraging new teaching and research opportunities, and developing new relationships between teaching and research practice and social media and popular internet.
My official academic publishing record is thin and a weak point in this application. I can only hope they will consider my public record by comparison...

I have asked some pretty top brass to supervise this work, but won't announce them until I have confirmation. I'd actually like to draw in a much larger network for supervision if you'd have me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Developing copyright policy at UC

I have heard a rumor that the University of Canberra may be reviewing its Intellectual Property policy. I'm keen to make a proposal to that review, that UC changes its copyright policy to a default of Creative Commons Attribution. Those familiar with my work will recognise I made this same proposal to Otago Polytechnic - to which they agreed and went ahead with.

The CCby license structure for UC will assist and encourage staff to retain rights over their work when entering into contracts with publishers, as well as the development of open access research culture at UC. If some publishers reject the UC staff member's proposed license, then staff decide for themselves whether or not to enter into an agreement with such publishers under their usual all rights reserved models.

To be clear here, this proposal is a compromise for me. My real and perhaps radical opinion is that individuals and organisations think of ways to resist copyright as an organising principle all together. I'm well aware that those who I aim to make this proposal to will dismiss such a position, so the Creative Commons Attribution license structure is my compromise, and perhaps the most pragmatic step at this moment.

At the very least, a CCBy default will encourage and help publishing staff to negotiate the retention of their own rights to republish, and will assist in the promotion of open access to important and largely publicly subsidised research information. Further though, such a policy move will generate substantial publicity for UC (as it did for Otago Polytechnic), being the first Australian University to adopt such a stance. To my interpretation, all this is very much in line with the strategic direction of the University.

My boss seems enthused by this proposal, so I've gathered up information relating to the same policy change I proposed at Otago Polytechnic. Below is a link role I will keep adding to over time. I hope I get a chance to propose this to UC leadership, I feel quite confident that it is a logical, moral and economically sound thing to propose, and that the culture at UC is ready to consider such an approach to copyrights.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Deschooling playlist

Using embedr to bring together a video playlist on Deschooling. Teemu Leinonen has a great idea for how this sort of multi channel playlist would be a powerful tool for education. My colleague Wayne Goldsmith pointed me to embedr, and in the context of what Teemu calls for, I realise how significant such a tool could be - if only it allowed for offline viewing...

Up until now, I have made use of playlist features within the one channel, such as my Youtube playlist.. but of course it doesn't pick up videos from other platforms. A multi media playlist would be perfect. One where a video is followed by a slideshare, is followed by a PDF reading.. all with the ability to backchannel responses through comments, twitter, blogger etc. The closest thing to a multi channel multi media playlist I can think of is Delicious.. but its a far cry still from the offline playlist that Teemu points to.

Anyway, here's my multi channel video playlist on Deschooling so far:

If you know of other videos that relate to the notion of Deschooling, please let me know and I'll add it to the playlist

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Vote for free Internet in Australia

The National Broadband Network is meeting tomorrow. Help me get free (as in non user pay) Internet on their agenda. Vote for the free Internet suggestions.

"Access to free wireless broadband, incl comodity Internet, coupled with wide scale adoption of open educational practices from schools, techs and universities will help nuture a culture of inquirey and informal learning that will lead to formal edu."

"Free wireless broadband, incl comodity Internet, made available from all community hubs like bus shelters, libraries, halls and pubs. A nation wide drive to get all Australian towns on Wikipedia, linked to local newspapers with social media basis."

Free wireless broadband, incl comodity Internet, signon + timed. Paid 4 by tourism, arts, libraries, archives, edu, transport.. (ie: not user pay). 52% without broadband + clear rich/poor access&literacy issues prooves user pay market ideas failed."

"Incentives and rewards for health professionals to contribute to a national health wiki, providing a central and reliable source for Austrtalian health issues. Note: It must compliment popular media like Wikipedia and Yahoo Answers"

More information about free Internet

What I wrote on Wordpress about the importance of free Internet in countries like Australia and New Zealand.

Hope you will give the notion your vote, and at least see it discussed properly.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The academic publishing scam

The Australian published an article called, Let the Internet replace journals, in which Oliver Marc Hartwich attempts to expose a scam in academic journal publishing.
Funding for all the academics involved in the research, review and editing comes from you and me, the taxpayer. However, most of the research is published by a small circle of corporate publishers, most of whom are based in Britain and the US. These companies then charge the same Australian taxpayer-funded institutions ridiculous amounts of money for subscriptions to academic journals to which the publishers' contribution hardly exceeds the provision of the paper on which they are printed.
Looking abroad, Adam Habib published an article in Business Day called Huge journal profits hit universities in which he covers the issue from a in South African perspective.
The situation reminds one of feudal relations established in the colonies at the height of imperialism. Yet such an industry thrives in the 21st century: this is the world of the international academic journals publication industry.

There are huge profits that are made. Reed Elsevier, a UK- based international academic publication company, made £1,379bn net profit last year, while its competitors, Informa and Springer, made smaller, but similarly obscene profits of £305,8m and €285m, respectively.

But there are huge social costs to these profits. Most academic libraries cannot afford to get all of these journals, so hard choices get made. The most well-endowed universities do manage to get the best of the journals, but the poorest do not. This effectively means that the least well-endowed universities, those that service the poorest of our citizens, do not have access to a quality academic journal base, which is an absolute necessity for quality higher education to be delivered.

In addition to this, the Wall Street Journal reported in their article Lawmakers probe climate emails, evidence of leading climate scientists corrupting their own peer review processes, drawing into question the integrity some of what many claim to be the most important scientific research being considered by humanity!...
The documents, hacked from the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University in the U.K., show that some climate researchers declined to share their data with fellow scientists, and sought to keep researchers with dissenting views from publishing in leading scientific journals.
The Wikipedia article Climatic Research Unit e-mail hacking incident, although locked, perhaps has the best coverage to date on this issue...

The issue of academic journal publishers profiteering from public (and private) investment in research, is compounded further by the fact that university academics are given financial and job security incentives to participate in this cycle. Success in their performance review is partly based on how many articles they have published in "peer reviewed journals" with noted "impact level". This in turn is driven by funding rewards that are offered to universities based on how many of their staff have been published in such journals. I don't know anyone up in the chain of command who is seriously questioning the academic publishing avenues, or the incentives and rewards that help sustain them. I would like to know their response to the growing evidence that these outlets are extremely inaccessible, increasingly irrelevant to those who can't be bothered even trying to access them, and perhaps even corrupt in their peer review and profit taking!

What I do know however is that the incentives to academics to publish in official journals are perhaps the biggest barrier to inspiring a serious consideration of alternative publishing outlets.
Instead this viscous cycle of academic publishing culture is perpetuated by those who are sold on the validity of their narrow, possibly corrupt publishing channels, and the incentives that go with it. Some believe in it so hard that they insist their students echo the respect and reference, cite and aspire to the journals as well. Many (though fewer and fewer it seems) ignore calls to consider more contemporary academic cultures like open journals, wikis or even networked self publishing. And I know of no university human resource incentive that encourages or rewards such publishing. As a result, I'd argue we have a die hard academic culture vastly out of touch with the needs of the society it seeks to inform, and ultimately running out of the information channels it relies on to function.

Combined with the return on investment evaluation and ethnographic report being prepared on the Otago Polytechnic case, I hope to find an opening at the University of Canberra to explore alternative peer review and publishing routes and perhaps a way can be found to reward and incentivise new publishing in such a way so as to satisfy the criteria of the government rewards that universities seem motivated by.

But just to end on a lighter note, Ben Rattray - frustrated by the seemingly non-sensible reviews he keeps getting back that are blocking publishing, sends us this video:

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Progressing staff social media presence

So far my proposal to UCNISS staff has received encouraging responses. What has impresses me is an intuitive understanding in the people I'm meeting, of the reasons and likely benefits of using social media. There is a willingness to engage and try things out, something I have not seen in the 5 years I've been helping tertiary teachers.

So what's different?

  • Perhaps higher education has a more accepting culture than vocational education? This is the first time I've worked in a Faculty of a university, with researchers and teachers. Up until now it has been almost exclusively vocational teachers in TAFE and Polytechnics
  • The boss gets it. This is the first time I have worked in a team where boss is a passionate user of social media himself, and who goes out of his way to introduce me to his colleagues, heaping praise and expectation :)
  • Maybe its time? Social media has had long enough time to bed down in this section of Australian society..
So far we have 6 staff using various accounts, and 2 more making tentative inquiries. I am playing a relatively passive approach, waiting for people to make contact with me, and responding to their levels of inquiry. This approach seems to be working so far.

Robin McConnell


  1. Add a profile image to Blogger and Slideshare
  2. Offer to change to a new template
  3. Consider activities to prompt quick and regular updates to the blog (perhaps Q and A)
Keane Wheeler


  1. Show how to use Delicious to update his links page on blog
  2. Presence is starting to look established, start looking at networking actions
  3. Ask for a post reflecting on my plan
Ben Rattray


  1. Suggest a navigation on blog that points to full presence. Pages that contain auto updating content from each area
  2. Encourage local networking - think of a posting a post that invites comment ("what do you think I should add to my blog?")
  3. Ask for a post reflecting on my plan
Wayne Goldsmith


  1. Suggest a thumbnail view of Slideshare in sidebar
  2. Profile image on Twitter
  3. More blog posts
  4. Invite comment, make comment. Be present.
Keith Lyons

  1. Add links to Twitter and Slideshare profiles
Jason Worthington-Smith
  1. Set up a Youtube account and create playlists
  2. Set up a Slideshare account and favourite presentations
  3. Leave comments on colleague blogs