I’m incredibly excited—and deeply honored—to be joining the team at Hypothesis, the organization behind the capabilities that enable everyone to take digital notes, everywhere. At Hypothesis, I’ll be leading marketing: telling the stories that engage people to add a new layer to the web.
If you haven’t seen Hypothesis before, look in the upper right corner of my blog and you’ll see buttons that let you create and add to your own digital notebook of annotated links. For your further travels, the easiest way to use Hypothesis everywhere is with our Chrome browser extension.
Let me count the ways < see how annotation works! I’m inspired to join Hypothesis because it hearkens to what speaks to me: an essential need that people recognize and will sustain.
Getting the story right is essential. To make the changes I want to see happen, I need to connect others to what matters to them. Story has always been a part of my work, but I’ve taken on so many things across my career that I’ve never been able to make story my primary focus. At Hypothesis, I’ll be joining an awesome team that’s already doing such great work that I’ll have the unfamiliar luxury to focus my efforts on making the story matter: Why do we need annotation? How do we annotate? Who needs to know?
It seems like all paths were pointing me to Hypothesis. In true serendipity, I first learned of Hypothesis from a post by Marshall Kirkpatrick, who went on to found Little Bird, where I radically transmogrified my skills and experience as part of their founding team. Next I moved to Lumen Learning, where we recognized how annotation could raise teaching and learning to new levels and were already piloting Hypothesis in combination with open educational resources (OER).
Looking back, I can see I’ve been devoted to expanding access to critical engagement with information from my academic studies—where I focused on how media and culture intermix—to each of my jobs, where my focus has always been to enable deeper engagement with information for a wider array of folks. It makes sense that I would get to Hypothesis, where we are working “to enable a conversation over the world’s knowledge”.
I’m leaving Lumen in good hands: a team of talented folks continues the important work we started together to spread OER broadly in higher education: Alexis Clifton, Alyson Day, Alyson Indrunas, Bracken Mosbacker, Gary Abernethy, Heather Angell, Josh Baron, Paul Golisch, Ross Strader, Suzanne Jenkins, and all the other folks doing amazing work less in the public eye. A special thanks to my Lumen colleague, Julie Curtis, whose leadership of communications and strategy at Lumen taught me so much that will help me at Hypothesis and beyond. And of course nothing Lumen does would be possible without the vision cofounders David Wiley and Kim Thanos provide. Thank you all for the great work we have done together!
Going forward: let marginalia reign!
Read more posts about Renewable Experiential & Applied Learning (REAL)
I’m still thinking about the 2016 US election and what it means for the people, ideas and future I care about. One thing that is clear to me is that understanding and participating in such an election calls on all of us—regardless of our point of view—to increase our information literacy and use it to inform our critical reasoning. How’s your statistical and data literacy doing?
Folks are saying we now live in a “post fact” world, but I recognize that “facts” have always been generated within cultural, political, economic, and social contexts. If anything, we are drowning in facts, not sailing away from them. To survive, we need to get better at understanding how facts are now made, circulated, and given value.
As I continue to explore how what I’m calling “renewable experiential and applied learning” (REAL) can provide ways to improve education, I keep coming back to information literacy as a fitting and necessary foundation for REAL experiences based on renewable assignments. Renewable assignments promote learning goals for information literacy, and in turn, information literacy is a necessary component for learner success in REAL work. I’ll also provide a specific, example of a renewable assignment that demonstrates this close connection with information literacy.
Let’s start with the learning goals outlined in the best open resource on information literacy I know, the Open SUNY Textbook (OST) Information Literacy User’s Guide, and see how these goals both describe and call out for a REAL approach. Each one of these goals is fleshed out in the Introduction to this work, including more specific goals that are mapped to behavioral, cognitive, affective, and metacognitive domains.
While renewable assignments don’t necessarily require critical thinking, they do engage learners in open works that become dynamic through their own and others’ interactions. Obviously, any good assignment would also ask learners to exercise critical thinking.
The open-licensing component of renewable assignments asks learners to engage directly with the privacy and property rights of information, not merely in the object of the assignment, but by design also in the output of the assignment—their own work. Because learners’ work will live openly, they will at a minimum need to grapple enough with questions of privacy and intellectual property to publish their work with an open license. Questions of ethics aren’t necessarily built in to renewable assignments, but like with critical thinking in Goal 1, are natural extensions of thoughtful activities.
Again, REAL’s very structure leads learners to engage directly with this learning goal, as sharing through open publication is built into every renewable assignment. Like ethics and critical thinking, collaboration may not be a component of every renewable activity, but it’s a short step away when assignments ask learners to engage with already existing open materials often built collaboratively, and publish their own work openly, thereby inviting future collaboration.
REAL’s experiential and applied components specifically ask learners to think in multiple contexts directly tied to their larger lives, traveling the circuit from learning to experiential activity and back again to reflection.
For a concrete example, here’s a simple assignment, inspired by some of the activities in that same original OST work on information literacy and designed to lead to the same learning goals, but devised to be renewable, and fit any group participating in a common activity.
Simply, ask your group to build a guide for whatever activities the group shares collaboratively. I call this a “choral” handbook based on ideas from Mike Caulfield about how multiple, choral explanations can aid learning. Your group can make its own Choral Handbook using tools common and familiar to the group. A truly renewable assignment would produce a public, openly licensed handbook that would then be enriched and improved as new people engage in the exercise.
Thanks to an ongoing discussion with @twigz that has now taken place over so many days and channels that I expect she’s ready to unfriend me (or worse), I’ve been thinking on the role of the author in networked digital culture and how it might be different from the established role of the author.
At the very end of his essay, What is an author?, Michel Foucault imagines a dramatic shift in the cultural role the author plays in the “modern” era that he so carefully lays out in the rest of the essay:
In saying this, I seem to call for a form of culture in which fiction would not be limited by the figure of the author. It would be pure romanticism, however, to imagine a culture in which the fictive would operate in an absolutely free state, in which fiction would be put at the disposal of everyone and would develop without passing through something like a necessary or constraining figure. Although, since the eighteenth century, the author has played the role of the regulator of the fictive; a role quite characteristic of our era of industrial and bourgeois society, of individualism and private property, still, given the historical modifications that are taking place, it does not seem necessary that the author function remain constant in form, complexity, and even in existence. I think that, as our society changes, at the very moment when it is in the process of changing, the author function will disappear, and in such a manner that fiction and its polysemous texts will once again function according to another mode, but still with a system of constraint – one that will no longer be the author but will have to be determined or, perhaps, experienced [expérimenter].
While Foucault first delivered this essay in a lecture some time ago (in 1969), I’m here interested in updating “the historical modifications that are taking place” he mentions to be those of today, including those arising out of digital networked culture. I’m not sure what social changes Foucault was thinking about in 1969, but a lot of change has happened since then for sure.
All discourses, whatever their status, form, value, and whatever the treatment to which they will be subjected, would then develop in the anonymity of a murmur. We would no longer hear the questions that have been rehashed for so long: Who really spoke? Is it really he and not someone else? With what authenticity or originality? And what part of his deepest self did he express in his discourse? Instead, there would be other questions, like these: What are the modes of existence of this discourse? Where has it been used, how can it circulate, and who can appropriate it for himself? What are the places in it where there is room for possible subjects? Who can assume these various subject functions? And behind all these questions, we would hear hardly anything but the stirring of an indifference: What difference does it make who is speaking?
So I’m starting to collect examples of discourse that might bear on the question of whether new roles for the author are in play. Is it starting to matter less who is speaking? And if so, what matters now? Is a new “system of restraint” emerging? What answers can we find to the other questions Foucault asks at the end of the essay?
Possible counter examples—the “modern” author lives on:
Possible examples that something is changing in the role of the author:
After reading @mfeldstein’s EDUCAUSE NGDLE and an API of One’s Own and @holden’s LEGOs response, I’m inspired to also comment on what is fast becoming an encyclopedic conversation, so filled with ed-tech insider history and acronyms to be understandable only to very few, yet pertinent to so many.
But until users can see the relationship between their app-adopting behavior and their larger situation I’m not sure I see solutions like this in the near future. I’ll continue to promote and work on such solutions, because that’s where the potential is. But it’s the cultural issue that needs solving, and I’m still working out how we overcome that.
I’m left realizing that the conversation here is still mostly about technologies, and solutions, mostly about new somethings that will make a healthy, lasting transformation.
I think the solutions called for here are good, but history is rife with new somethings that have healthy generative capacity and effects, from TCP/IP to representative democracy, and yet go on to become standardized LEGO kits. Today’s emergent generative potential becomes tomorrow’s dominant structure.
Maybe the cultural shift @holden seeks is for us to realize and start holding ourselves to the idea that there are no solutions. As awesome as LMOS, a domain of one’s own, or federated wiki may be, their lasting transformative value is not intrinsic, but in that they are manifestations of people enacting @amcollier‘s not-yetness. It is that attitude of not-yetness that we should work to persist, by whatever local, timely means work.
So when it comes to education (that interest links us right?), our goal is to instill lasting mindsets that seek to dismantle dominant LEGO sets and make new things, reforming the standard bits and adding unexpected parts. The solution is not a something (LMOS, domain, wiki, API), it’s the cultural practices that led to those somethings. Today, enabling a student via a federated wiki at their own domain may be empowering them mightily, but not if they or we believe our work is then done.
The minute we think our something is the solution, we’ve already started becoming the next standardized LEGO kit. The insoluble solution is that the solution is insoluble.
I was taking a look at EDUCAUSE’s 2014 list of the top-ten IT issues facing higher education and was struck that—for the first time in this century—EDU IT’s top focus is on improving student learning!
Too often technology is the shiny cart put before the horse of learning, when we should always be asking how technology’s cart can be changed to speed and free learning’s horse. At long last, this EDUCAUSE list says it’s time for us to focus first on learning and then on what technology can do to support it, rather than our all-too-familiar custom of focusing first on new technology and then betting it will support student success.
EDU IT can work—and has worked—to improve student outcomes in a variety of ways: a lot of them revolving around infrastructure for the delivery and consumption of teaching and learning. EDU IT has done far less, however, to support innovation in content for learning. The majority of K12 and higher learning still hinges on book-based materials that haven’t seen a radical technical change since Gutenberg. Books are heavy, expensive, linear, material and finite.
Meanwhile outside our schools, innovation abounds in the development and delivery of content for learning. One of the most powerful ways EDU IT can improve student outcomes is to focus on supporting the adoption, adaptation and creation of post-book learning experiences that make it easier and cheaper for students to access materials and that track learning pathways and outcomes to help students, teachers, institutions and curricula continuously evolve to improve learning.
I love books—and I’d like to thank books for all they’ve done for all of us so far—but books ARE heavy. It’s time for EDU IT to support lighter, smarter learning materials.
Looking over the other items on the EDUCAUSE list, I see how each and every one of them can work to support that first priority. If nothing else, this year’s list says more than any other year’s that EDU IT should focus on aligning its work with the central mission of higher education and measuring that work against mission-driven outcomes.