Cyberinfrastructure: Leveraging Change at our Institutions. An interview with James J. O’Donnell

by David Green, Knowledge Culture

Originally Published December 16th, 2007

James O’Donnell, Provost of Georgetown University, is a distinguished classics scholar (most recently author of Augustine: A New Biography), who has contributed immensely to critical thinking about the application of new technologies to the academic realm. In 1990, while teaching at Bryn Mawr College, he co-founded the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, one of the earliest online scholarly journals, and while serving as Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, he was appointed Penn’s Vice Provost for Information Systems and Computing. In 2000 he chaired a National Academies committee reviewing information technology strategy at the Library of Congress, resulting in the influential reportLC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. One of his most influential books, Avatars of the Word (Harvard, 1998) compares the impact of the digital revolution to other comparable paradigmatic communications shifts throughout history.

David Green: We’re looking here at the kinds of organizational design and local institutional evolution that will need to happen for liberal arts (and other higher-education) institutions to take advantage of a fully-deployed international cyberinfrastructure. How might access to massive distributed databases and to huge computational and human resources shift the culture, practice and structure of these (often ancient) institutions? How will humanities departments be affected–willingly or unwillingly? Will they lead the way or will they need to be coaxed forward?

James O’Donnell: I think the issue you’re asking about here boils down to the question, “What problem are we really trying to solve?” And I think I see the paradox. The NSF Cyberinfrastructure Report, addressed to the scientific community, could assume a relatively stable community of people whose needs are developing in relatively coherent ways. If wise heads get together and track the development of those needs and their solutions, you can imagine it would then just be an ordinary public policy question: what things do you need, how do you make selections, how do you prioritize, what do you do next? NSF has been in this business for several decades. But when you come to the humanities (and full credit to Dan Atkins, chair of the committee that issued the report, for saying “and let’s not leave the other guys behind”) and you ask “what do these people need?” you come around to the question (that I take it to be the question you are asking of us) “Are we sure these people know they need what they do need?”

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Three Stars and a Chili Pepper: Social Software, Folksonomy, and User Reviews in the College Context

by Joseph Ugoretz, Director of Technology and Learning, Macaulay Honors College–CUNY

Originally Published June 9th, 2006

The “future history of the media,” EPIC, presents a fictionalized retrospective, from the year 2014, of the history of media, news, and information. “In the year 2014,” the “Museum of Media History” tells us, “people have access to a breadth and depth of information unimaginable in an earlier age. Everyone contributes in some way. Everyone participates to create a living, breathing mediascape.” While we have not reached the point predicted there, and only time will tell if we’re going to be there by 2014, there have, of late, been some significant steps in that direction. One of these steps has been the development of a constellation of online tools that can be (at least loosely) tied together in the broad category of social software.

Social software includes many communication media, but the new tools which are the subject of this essay all fit three broad descriptions. These tools are interactive, with the content created and structured by a wide mass of contributors. These tools are also interconnected, with user-provided searchable links structuring and cross-referencing that content. And finally, these tools are bottom-up and communitarian, with the users of the tools providing and benefitting from associations, reputations, and authority within a many-to-many community. The various tools of social software are an increasing presence in the online world, as well as the offline lives of their users. Four brief vignettes demonstrate this.

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Notes & Ideas: Paperless, Wireless, Inkless Mapping

by Meg E. Stewart

Originally Published September 25th, 2006

By now most in academia know of GIS, especially those reading an online journal discussing digital technologies in the liberal arts. GIS, or geographic information systems, is mapping on computers. GIS is visualization of geographic data, whether it be from one layer showing demographics taken in the recent census, to many layers that provide information on the surface of the earth (such as soil, topography, or infrastructure), below the surface (the geology), and above the surface (air quality or temperature, for example). GIS is used for analyzing geospatial relationships. One can look at those many layers and make spatial analyses across and between the variables.

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Review of “Connecting Technology & Liberal Education: Theories and Case Studies” A NERCOMP event (4/5/06)

by Shel Sax,  Director of Education Technology at Middlebury College’s Center for Teaching Learning and Research.

Originally Published September 26th, 2006

On April 5, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, NERCOMP offered a SIG event on “Connecting Technology and Liberal Education: Theories and Case Studies.” Examining the description of the event on the NERCOMP web site (http://www.nercomp.org) made two things immediately apparent. This was a workshop looking at a very broad topic and all of the presenters came from an academic background rather than a technological one.

The flow of the day went from the most general, with Jo Ellen Parker beginning the proceedings with a discussion of the various theories of liberal education and their impact and influence on institutional technology decisions, to specific case studies offered by faculty from Emerson, Hamilton, Mt. Holyoke and Hampshire Colleges.

Session 1: What’s So “Liberal” About Higher Ed?

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Cyberinfrastructure = Hardware + Software + Bandwidth + People

by Michael Roy, Middlebury College

Originally Published September 25th, 2006. A report on the NERCOMP SIG workshop Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished; Setting up Centralized Computational Research Support, 10/25/06

Introduction
Back to the Future of Research Computing

As Clifford Lynch pointed out at a recent CNI taskforce meeting, the roots of academic computing are in research. The formation of computing centers on our campuses was originally driven by faculty and students who needed access to computer systems in order to tackle research questions. It was only years later that the idea of computers being useful in teaching came into play. And once that idea took hold, it seemed that we forgot about the research origins of academic computing.

Lynch argues that the pendulum is swinging back again, as campuses nationwide report an increased interest in having libraries and computer centers provide meaningful, sustainable and programmatic support for the research enterprise across a wide range of disciplines.

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The Education Arcade

by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium

Originally Published September 24th, 2006

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LINK: http://www.educationarcade.org/

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin-Madison have joined forces to catalyze new, creative, teaching and learning innovations around the next generation of commercially available educational electronic games. The Education Arcade, a two-year-old research and educational initiative established by leading scholars of computer and video games and education at both universities, plans to focus efforts by partnering with educational publishers, media companies and game developers to produce new educational electronic games and make them available to a larger audience of students and their teachers and parents.

The Education Arcade’s mission has been to demonstrate the social, cultural, and educational potentials of videogames by initiating new game development projects, coordinating interdisciplinary research efforts and informing public conversations about the broader and sometimes unexpected uses of this emerging art form in education. Having sponsored several annual conferences with the Entertainment Software Association at its E3Expo in Los Angeles, and with a series of landmark research projects in the field now complete, the Education Arcade looks ahead to help drive new innovations with commercial partners.

Previously, researchers at MIT have explored key issues in the use of a wide variety of media in teaching and learning through the Games-to-Teach Project, a Microsoft-funded initiative with MIT Comparative Media Studies that ran between 2001 and 2003. The project resulted in a suite of conceptual frameworks designed to support learning across math, science, engineering, and humanities curricula. Working with top game designers from industry and with faculty across MIT’s five schools, researchers produced 15 game concepts with supporting pedagogy that showed how advanced math, science and humanities content could be uniquely blended with state-of-the-art game play.

Several challenges have severely limited broader development and availability of educational games in the market, including the collapse of the CD-ROM software market, the failure of educational media in retail spaces, strict state adoption requirements, expensive production costs, and limited collaboration across the variety of disciplines needed to create compelling and educationally viable interactive media. By working with leading textbook publishers, media companies and game developers, the Education Arcade aims to help overcome these formidable challenges by focusing on an initial set of strategically-targeted, educationally-proven and expertly developed and produced on-line computer games that will be distributed through desktop computers and mobile devices.

By serving as the glue between university-based research and commercial product development, the Education Arcade is uniquely poised to make a profound impact on the production and use of games in the classroom and beyond. Education Arcade contributions to game production include (1) creative contextual development, (2) pedagogical and learning framework development, (3) curricular and teacher support, and (4) assessment and student evaluation studies.

Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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What’s So “Liberal” About Higher Ed?

 by Jo Ellen Parker

Originally published June 10th, 2006

Are new digital technologies compatible with the aims and traditions of “liberal education?” Or do instructional technologies pose an inexorable threat to higher education understood as anything more than vocational training?

The answers to these much debated questions are yes and yes; it all depends on how the aims and traditions of “liberal education” are understood. My observation, admittedly as a practitioner rather than a researcher, is that there is no consensus in the higher education community about what liberal education actually is; rather, the term invokes a range of sometimes-conflicting academic practices and values. Specific instructional technologies support some of these practices and values and challenge others. Both “liberal education” and “instructional technology” are terms that point to a wide array of different things. In discussing their relationship it is therefore necessary to unpack our assumptions about liberal education and to specify which instructional technologies are at issue.

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New Directions for Digital Collections at Academic Libraries

by Mark Dahl

Originally published 23 September 2013

Digital collections at academic libraries have come of age. College and university libraries have invested in digital collections since the early 2000s, and they are now an established function of the library organization. At U.S. liberal arts colleges, it’s almost a given that the library hosts unique digital collections and has some kind of formal program supporting them. As I will argue, however, it is time for academic libraries to seize new opportunities around digital collections that add value to the process of learning and scholarship.

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Remote Learning at a Residential College

by Steven Taylor, Vassar College.

Steven Taylor, EdD is the Director of Academic Computing at Vassar College, where he has been since 1998. Previously, he was Director of the Faculty Information Technology Center at Emory University. (sttaylor@vassar.edu.)

Background

Since shortly after the web was developed, colleges and universities have used it for conducting distance education programs. Leaders in the practice included public institutions, whose mission included serving a wide geographical area of non-traditional students, and large universities, which were challenged to provide alternatives to courses taught in huge lecture halls. The emergence of MOOCs in 2012 brought more attention to the practice.

It has not been obvious, however, how distance learning technologies could benefit small, private, residential, liberal arts colleges. Many have doubted that an online course could offer a better learning experience than a face-to-face course with a small student/faculty ratio. A 2011 report from the Pew Research Center found that four-year, selective private colleges were the least likely of any type of higher education institution to offer online courses.[1]

There have been some explorations, of course. Wesleyan, for instance, began offering MOOCs in 2013.[2] And while there were some indirect benefits to their enrolled students,[3] the initiative’s target populations were alumni and prospective students.[4]

Other liberal arts colleges have explored the use of online courses for more limited audiences. The Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) has founded the New Paradigms Initiative, through which students in its 16 member schools will be able to cross-register for online and hybrid courses, in order to “broaden and enhance academic offerings for students.”[5] Many of these courses are on topics that would not draw sufficient enrollment at any one school. In some cases, the instructor has a specialized knowledge not found in the faculty of the other schools. In effect, each of these schools is enhancing the opportunities of its own students by facilitating their ability to take courses offered by other schools.

At Vassar College, a recent experience has identified a use for distance learning technologies that borders on the ironic: a residential college connecting with its students when they’re not in residence; an institution known for small class sizes interacting with a student cohort of 670. We’re using online tools to enhance our summer common reading program for incoming students.

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Capturing the Visible Evidence of Invisible Learning

by Randy Bass and Bret Eynon

Randy Bass is Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning Initiatives at Georgetown University, where he is also Executive Director of Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) and an associate professor of English at Georgetown. In 1998-99, he was a Pew Scholar in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and from 2000-2008, he served as a consulting scholar with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Dr. Bret Eynon is Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) and the executive director of the LaGuardia Center for Teaching & Learning. With CUNY’s American Social History Project from 1983-2000, he wrote acclaimed textbooks, produced award-winning documentary videos, and founded and led for 6 years ASHP’s national New Media Classroom program. A national faculty member for the Association of American Colleges & Universities, he recently founded LaGuardia’s new, FIPSE-funded initiative: the Making Connections National Resource Center on Inquiry, Reflection, and Integrative Education.

Originally Posted January 7th, 2009

Note: This is a synthesis essay for the Visible Knowledge Project (VKP), a collaborative project engaging seventy faculty at twenty-one institutions in an investigation of the impact on technology on learning, primarily in the humanities. As a matter of formatting to the Academic Commons space, this essay is divided in three parts: Part I (Overview of project, areas of inquiry, introduction to findings);Part II  (Discussion of findings with a focus on Adaptive Expertise and Embodied Learning);Part III (Discussion of findings continued with a focus on Socially Situated learning, Conclusion). A full-text version of this essay is available as a pdf document here

Here, in this forum as part of Academic Commons, the essay complements eighteen case  teaching, learning, and new media technologies. Together the essay and studies constitute the digital volume “The Difference that Inquiry Makes: A Collaborative Case Study of Learning and Technology, from the Visible Knowledge Project.” For more information about VKP, see https://digitalcommons.georgetown.edu/blogs/vkp/

Déjà 2.0 
Facebook. Twitter. Social media. YouTube. Viral marketing. Mashups. Second Life. PBWikis. Digital Marketeers. FriendFeed. Flickr. Web 2.0. Approaching the second decade of the twenty-first century, we’re riding an unstoppable wave of digital innovation and excitement. New products and paradigms surface daily. New forms of language, communication, and style are shaping emerging generations. The effect on culture, politics, economics and education will be transformative. As educators, we have to scramble to get on board, before it’s too late.
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