In private industry, successful use of new media technology is evaluated by the subsequent effect on revenue, with recognition, pay increases, and promotion the payoff. In contrast, Higher Education is slow—some say glacially slow– to adopt new media, and is ill equipped to reward individuals when they do incorporate new technologies in their research, education, and outreach strategies. Let’s take a quick look behind the glacier.
In higher education, peer-review is the Holy Grail for gaining acceptance and receiving credit for scholarly work. This means that creative work is scrutinized by other experts in the field in an impartial manner for accuracy and quality of thought. This process is considered an essential part of academic life; with the traditional peer-reviewed print journal article the final result.

Ironically, many University faculty—especially those with Extension responsibilities–are under increasing pressure to move away from focusing solely on print publications, and begin to use all available media sources, and incorporate a variety of educational strategies in their education and outreach efforts. In a presentation to a group of educators at a recent Extension national conference, Robert Hughes, Jr., Professor in the Department of Human and Community Development at the University of Illinois at Urbana outlined this radical shift in educational focus, including “from one-to-many” strategies of short messages broadcasted through Web sites, email newsletters, tweets, videos, and “many-to-many” strategies, including blogs, wikis, and social media.

However, few if any of these strategies are represented in the peer review process, or in the evaluation of scholarly activity, otherwise known in the academic world as promotion and tenure (P&T). P&T drives innovation in the system, and Hughes challenged the audience with a proposal for developing guidelines to include new media technologies in that process. Otherwise we continue to be faced with a dilemma:

  • How can the development of new media be encouraged if those products don’t even appear on the radar screen for evaluation of scholarly success?
  • How can the wheels of peer-review navigate down new media roads if those who do the peer review are not familiar with this new terrain?
  • How do promotion and tenure committees apply metrics that don’t exist in typical faculty P&T guidelines?

In a preview of its 2010 Horizon Report, the New Media Consortium observed:

“New scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching continue to emerge but appropriate metrics for evaluating them increasingly lag behind or fail to appear. Citation-based metrics are no longer indicative of the relative importance of a given piece of scholarly work; new forms of peer review and approval, such as reader ratings, inclusion in and mention by influential blogs, tagging, incoming links, and retweeting, are arising from the natural actions of the glob community of educators. These forms of approval are not yet recognized as significant.”

Here at Oregon State University, we have been struggling with this issue of how to support and implement the scholarly acceptance of new media in a process traditionally dominated by print journal publications. To that end we have identified the need for two levels of peer-review: a review by the content experts (where the buck stopped before), and a simultaneous review by media/instructional design specialists, who can judge the choice of media and its design, and recognize the look and feel of a successful learning product. We have identified several pilot new media projects to shepherd through what we hope will become a model for scholarly peer review.

We’ll be entering new territory and will face numerous challenges, including–as Professor Hughes pointed out–documenting impact, identifying metrics, and translating new media citations to a format that is compatible with traditional P&T citations.

Perhaps the biggest challenge will be to get buy-in on a new model from administrators, and particularly those who hold the cards in the P&T process. We have to look at an evolution—or perhaps a revolution—in evaluation to endorse new media as scholarly activity, and really begin to meet the rapidly changing needs of our clients.

You can view an Adobe Connect archive of Dr. Hughes presentation here.

I’ve been waiting patiently, but couldn’t take it any longer as I’ve watched more and more friends whip out their iPhone 3G to get a GPS fix on our location or perform some other mundane task sliced, diced and served on the micro-mobile-super computer that is the iPhone 3G. I know, I’m late to the party, but from the perspective of a technophile, I have to admit I’ve felt very much like Batman’s understudy in these situations. Ultimately, I just couldn’t wait for Veriiphone5zon and Apple to make nice.  I honestly don’t know where to start and I’m not accustomed to blushing, so I’ll simply share where I see potential as it relates to learning apps on the iPhone in general.  But first things first: I’m now convinced that any dialog about the iPhone should begin with a mandatory effort to share one’s favorite iPhone apps.  In that vein, the list below highlights my top 10 learning or educational apps for the iPhone, and attempts to point out where innovation and learning potential inherent to each app might paint a picture of potential future approaches in the world of online learning experiences.

Chris’ Top 10 Eductional Apps for the iPhone

1. Touch Physics by Games 4 Touch

A glimpse of the future now: seamless, motivational learning that is fun, kinesthetic and fully accessible. Learn about friction, gravity, mass, angles and other principles of physics via a clever game that allows you to exercise agency on both the physical and mental level–suitable for just about any age over 4 years old. I’m completely intrigued by the category of “Doodle games” (games where you draw objects on the touch screen that instantiate themselves in the game). These games open up a world of possibilities for any subject and seem like the perfect convergence of device, content and user motivation.  I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention Geared by Bryan Mitchel–an extremely elegant interface that allows the user to manipulate spinning gears around variables of distance, proximity and speed.

2. Kindle for the iPhonekindle1
Of course you lose some ergonomics when compressing the Kindle into the iPhone shell, but the distribution system for e-books (especially those in the public domain) is wonderful. This app has a clever interface, lots of free books and access to the Amazon catalog via a “get book” button.

3. Abc Pocket Phonics

It’s not so much that my five year old adores this application (he does), but it’s what this type of application represents. For language acquisition, the approach is a highly compelling supplement and the touch screen features allow users to trace letters while listening to the sound or word.
Need to learn Chinese characters? Try eStroke Chinese Characters

4. iSeismometer


This application brought back memories of the first time I realized that the Wii controllers house an acceleramator and a gyrometer to measure motion and tilt. This application allows the iPhone to react to various types of external motion. This app provides a very innovative way to learn about how motion is translated into a digital representation.  You can submit your data directly to a website that associates your location with your seismograph data.  Can you think of some learning contexts for this technology?

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Filed Under (Science publishing) by Mark A.-W. on 13-03-2009

In future postings on this blog, I will talk about new frontiers in science education publishing. But today I’d like to take you back to an earlier era to celebrate a previous revolution in thinking made possible by science publishing.

This year marks the 200-year anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the famous English naturalist.

Charles Darwin (photo in public domain).
Charles Darwin (photo in public domain).

I’m not talking about On the Origin of Species, Darwin’s breakthrough work on natural selection.

Instead, I draw your attention to a lesser known work, The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms. In this, his final book, Darwin presented his observations on the role earthworms play in forming fertile topsoil.

The book on such a small subject met with a large reception in 1881. Thousands of copies were sold.

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