The Music Industry of Academic Publishing

There are parallels between what is currently happening in academic publishing to the array of digital disturbances brought upon recording production houses. These similarities are noteworthy for improving understanding of academic scholarship in the digital age.

It is interesting to be entering into the field of scholarship in an era of major disruption to the enterprise. It was about fifteen years ago I was venturing into the music industry in a similar kind of fashion. There are parallels between what is currently happening in academic publishing to the array of digital disturbances brought upon recording production houses. These similarities are noteworthy for improving understanding of academic scholarship in the digital age.

I was pleasantly surprised when I attended this past week’s “Open Access after Paywall: A Panel Discussion on Scholarly Publishing” in MSU’s main library, where discussants drew on such analogies. In Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s closing remarks, she charged all in attendance to imagine with her what a model of scholarship might look like resembling services like Spotify, Apple Music, or other new forms of mainstream media that have taken shape in the age of digitization. Of course, the internet and Open Access movements have resulted in a diverse array of publication and recording options where nearly anyone can grab a microphone or webcam and start developing audiences on the web. Similarly, the astronomical explosion of online journals and publications have provided many different options for scholars to weigh when publishing their work. Many have decried the eroding potential this could have on the businesses of publication and hence the quality of scholarship. And yet the music industry has changed dramatically in the past ten to twenty years and some argue for the better.

Take an example from the experiences of a musician named David Bazan (Pedro the Lion) who I’ve come to deeply appreciate over the past twenty years. David continues to be a far lesser known recording artist than the likes of Radiohead or Katy Perry who can claim world-wide appeal. Yet, he has continually developed a robust and dedicated fan base. Bazan used to tour and play with the band Death Cab for Cutie who went on to ‘make it big’ in the industry, but he describes a negative influence mainstream music had on their craft despite improved production budgets. In fact, Bazan maintains that artists who don’t ‘sell out’ and continue to stay true to a more intimate audience are far more interesting despite having to just scrape by for living expenses.

I had the chance to meet David at a living room house show organized by fans here in Michigan. I remember going to a bar with him after the show that evening and hearing him discuss his concerns with Spotify as an online distribution platform he claimed was not paying artists like him their fair due in royalties. It was only a few short years later that I encountered a distinct change of heart he had to the platform to the point where he embraced Spotify while enjoying his own resulting discovery of new music. I have to wonder if scholars will experience similar resistance and eventual acceptance to emerging forms of academic scholarship in the age of digitization.

Germination of digital scholarship?

Who knows where this might lead?

Last week, I joined an academic blogging group in the MSU Library’s Digital Scholarship Lab. Today, we have our second meeting. The first was really exciting as I could relate a lot with the other participant’s reasons for joining.

Major themes in that meeting’s conversation revolved around the value that comes from a blogging community for getting ideas out earlier for feedback than what would be possible through traditional publishing channels. There also seemed to be a common theme among us of solidarity. We all want to join this small group of folks to help us each get back to our personal digital scholarship development. Many of us have blog spaces that either have been left dormant for a long time or that were created and never actively utilized.

This group is being led by Dr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick who just came out with her second book last week titled Generous thinking: A radical approach to saving the university. It was a joy to meet Dr. Fitzpatrick last week. I have been reading some of her work in a graduate course I am taking right now called Scholarly communications for the digital age taught by Dr. Steve Weiland in the HALE PhD program I am in. I’m only in the 1st year of courses so far, but am beginning to experiment with dissertation research possibilities.

I’d like to begin getting those ideas out here for broader feedback in the coming posts in weeks ahead. So, if that sounds interesting to you and you would like to nerd out with me here, stay tuned! More to come soon…

Go, go, gadget reckoning…

There was a time when I believed the digital revolution would change everything. Maybe it has. But the changes are not entirely what I thought they would be.

There was a time when I believed the digital revolution would change everything. Maybe it has. But the changes are not entirely what I thought they would be. Looking beyond my own experience, there seems to be a historically emotional cycle of sorts in society – from thrills of technological advancement to crashes of disenchantment. I think back to mankind’s first discovery of fire and imagine the curiosity and excitement joined with fear and terror around new possibilities. Fire produced warmth and prolonged nourishment through the discovery of cooked food. But it also introduced new hazards and possibilities of arson. Or, I think of the invention of the car. I live in Michigan after all. No one would imagine only a little over a century ago that it would be possible to commute on wheels across to distances in minutes, hours, or days that previously took weeks, months, or even years. And yet, this catapulting locomotive innovation has simultaneously introduced a common cause of death today.

It is easy for the excitement around the discovery of what is new to overshadow the introduced risks that accompany technological innovation. This certainly happened when new digital affordances were being introduced to me in the formative years of grade school. Suddenly, my poor handwriting was a challenge of the past. Searching through text for keywords was mesmerizingly instantaneous. Hyperlinks allowed for endless rabbit holes of learning that flowed through many diverse sources. At the same time, new habits began forming undetected. Namely, my appetite for long form text reading began to diminish. My attention span for even relatively short articles online dwindled. Further, my memory and recall of vast amounts of article bouncing was less distinct than when I was steeped in a book series. I was not fully aware of these shifts. In fact, if someone pointed them out, I may have denied the accusation.

By the time I entered college, one of my professors described me as a “gadget guy.” I took it as a compliment. I had palm pilots, digital cameras, satellite radio devices, and mobile phones all in my pockets or attached to my belt buckles. I entered the classroom fresh out of college as a high school science teacher where I continued my fascination with digital technology affordances for my profession. Still, to this day, I carry and rely on vast amounts of technology as do my children. I’m not going to lie, in many ways I love it. It wasn’t until I began my career as an instructional designer where I started to unmask a dark shadow lurking behind pixels. I read online articles by Nicholas Carr. Maybe they were making me stupid, I’m not sure. But I paid further attention to debates around psychological and cognitive concerns being raised about the ill-effects of multimedia on the human brain. Most of these readings, I found to be amusing and interesting, but I didn’t take them too seriously at first. I brushed many of the debates off as conservative fears trying only to maintain a status quo. I then read a book by Shane Hipps called Flickering Pixels, How Technology Shapes Your Faith. It was here I was introduced to thinking of Marshall McLuhan and some of his controversial statements in the 1950’s and 60’s including his predictions of the future. McLuhan’s descriptions sounded eerily like the present realities we find ourselves in. I interviewed Shane Hipps to learn more.

This was, for me, the beginning of an ongoing reckoning. I find myself daily torn between forces of innovation and nudges of ancient wisdom. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go tweet about it.

Just write…

Makena with her really cool FreeWrite

Recently, my friend Makena Neal shared with me a super neat gadget she acquired for focused writing. It is called a FreeWrite. Essentially, it has a WiFi connection for the sole purpose of sending what you write up to the cloud. Other than that, it is geared for distraction free writing like we used to have on typewriters, but this thing comes with the affordances of having the writing in digital. Plus, the monitor is e-ink technology which basically means it is like reading ink on paper compared to reading on pixels of an LCD screen. 

The timing of her sharing this with me was so interesting because the weekend prior I had been doing extensive Googling on ways to convert my Kindle to a distraction free and eye friendly way of working on writing. How cool is a FreeWite to be designed for exactly this?

This sent me further into an online hunt for ways to better digitally write offline.

So, this past weekend I decided to do some searching on similar kinds of gadgets that wouldn’t break the bank and I was pleasantly delighted to stumble upon the AppleSmart 3000.

That’s right folks. I’m moving up in the world. I just upgraded to a brand new (used) smart device.

My 20 year old new nerdy writing tool

It doesn’t connect to the internet. It runs on 3 AA batteries for up to 700 hours. When I am done typing, I can connect it to a computer to send my writings there. Yes, it is 20+ years old and it feels like my 1998 typing class keyboard in high school. Still, I can’t even begin to tell you how gritty this makes me. Finally, I can write off the grid in a digital format without having the distractions of email, google, slack, twitter, texts and basically all the things that are so good at interrupting streams of thought that happen only while one can write. 

Writing with distractions is nearly impossible to do. For me, trying to write around the noise of other people or of social media is like trying to talk to someone while also talking to someone else on the phone. Now I am one step closer to writing distraction free. Bonus: it cost me $30.

Take that, internet.

The children of the 80s and 90s are still alive and kicking the truly smart technologies.

Loneliness is a Deadly Illusion

I was invited recently to respond to some questions about my PLN from the good folks who put together the Squad Goals Network.

I was invited recently to respond to some questions about my PLN (Professional Learning Network) from the good folks who put together the Squad Goals Network. The questions made me think deeper about the role my PLN has played in my work as an educator for the past 12 years. Ultimately, I believe learning is directly proportional to the depth and quality of one’s own PLN. Read further reflections to their questions below:

Access: Does regular access to other individuals from other institutions and institutional perspectives challenge your definition of access and what it means? If so, how?

Access itself is rooted in the concept of ownership. For instance, I am breathing air currently while sitting in a Wendy’s in Jackson, Michigan. The Wendy’s doesn’t own the air I am breathing, therefore I am not paying for it and I don’t think of it as something I have access to as much as I think of it something available to everyone at anytime and anywhere where our atmosphere reaches. Similarly, I don’t think of my connections to other people that work at other institutions as something I have access to so much as I think is something that I would have a very hard time living without.

I do have a difficult time with the concept of “institutional perspectives.” It simply doesn’t make very much sense to me outside of the context of a common set of values the individuals within an organization have collectively agreed to. How can an institution have a perspective outside of the multiple nuanced perspectives shared within the community of individuals within the institution? And what about the perspectives of those who have been a part of the institution in the past, but no longer officially are. Do they come into play somehow? I think of an institution as a construct that contains a culture of many different people sort-of how I think of my car as a construct that carries me and other passengers from one place to another. I wouldn’t say my car has a perspective so much as I would say it carries people with different perspectives. Does this make sense?

Faculty Satisfaction: How has your participation in the PLN benefitted faculty and colleagues at your home institution?

This might be an interesting question for me to ask of the faculty and colleagues around me. I would hope that my engagement in the PLN has directly benefited those around me by helping them to be connected to intellectual discourse around the ethos of the common work and goals we are all espousing to. If anything, it has challenged their thinking by giving them glimpses into perspectives, practices, failures and successes that can be directly informing our own work. Hopefully, we also have been in the continual practice of giving back in terms of sharing our own learning with our own broader professional learning networks.

Learning Effectiveness: When you reflect on your work, how has meeting and learning from individuals from other institutions and institutional perspectives helped you to clarify or re-define what it means for learning to be effective?

I’ve always understood learning to be a deeply social phenomenon. This is true even in critical aspects of learning that require independent study and reflection. The learning I’ve experienced with and from my PLN has served to clarify for me this truth. It has done so by reminding me of the power of shared experience and storytelling in the context of a community of inquiry as an essential component of my own ongoing professional growth and development. This is reminiscent of any meaningful learning experience I’ve ever encountered. Hopefully, this richly informs my work creating effective learning experience designs.

Scale: Is the PLN scalable and/or replicable by others at other institutions/organizations? If so, how? What challenges do you encounter?

Scalable and replicable are terms that make me queasy. I might reframe this in a way that describes the PLN as a reality encountered already in any effective educational entity. For instance, if someone were ask me if biodiversity is scalable and replicable, I might reply with a pinch of snark by encouraging the asker to open their eyes and look around them. A better question might be what the effects are of monocultures on ecosystem health? Similarly, I fundamentally believe that healthy learning environments are incapable of flourishing without the presence of a healthy community of inquiry being shepherded.

Most challenges I encounter around the concept of PLN development stem from common lethargy regarding the investments needed to make them a reality. You might think of this challenge similarly to how I encounter challenges with staying healthy, fit and in shape. Most of my challenges with these things stem from me lacking the will or discipline to carve out the time and resources needed to habitually be in the practice of various forms of exercise. Similarly, most of my PLN challenges are rooted in a lack of resources devoted to prioritizing my PLN appropriately in the juggling demands of life and work.

Student Satisfaction: Do you feel that your involvement and/or collaboration with the PLN has helped you create better student experiences at at your institution?

Undoubtedly, yes. In fact, if I didn’t benefit in the ways I do from my own PLN, I wouldn’t know the powerful effect it would have on my students. So, I try to encourage and cultivate PLNs for students in ways that are not formally mandated, but that can happen when the right kind of challenges are designed in ways that require learners to navigate them together rather than in isolation. I also try and be as transparent as I can about the positive things I glean on a daily basis from my PLN in terms of having mentors, mentees, sounding boards and critical dialog with folks around the things I am currently dealing with in my educative work or things I am trying to better understand.

It is extremely easy in this work of teaching and learning to fall under the illusive trap of feeling isolated and alone. There is nothing that threatens learning and life more than this deadly illusion. Similarly, there is nothing more opportunistic for learning than to recognize the deeply networked relationships that have always been a constant thread in all of human learning, growth and development. This truth runs deeply throughout history even to the point of a mysterious and little understood notion of collective consciousness.

Day 1, July 9th, 2018

Wow, today was a blast. I am impressed by these educators we get to work with in the next six weeks. I know I will learn a lot from each of them.

Today, one of the main objectives was to get to know each other better through tapping into prior knowledge, experiences and by articulating personal goals for this summer seminar. I’m going through and reading some of the writing the students did today and looking at the artifacts they made and seeing ways in which these main goals were accomplished. This will set us up well for success in this seminar going forward because we will always be able to point back to and iterate on the goal setting that took place on the first day.

I tried a brand new active learning strategy today that I learned at one of the sessions for the MSU Spring Teaching & Learning Conference this year. It is called kaleidoscope. I learned it is much different to experience it than it is to try and facilitate it. Namely, I sort-of botched up clearly explaining the instructions, but I think I was able to adapt on the fly in a way that made it work in the end. Essentially, the goal of the activity is to rapidly scramble groups so that more ideas are shared with random assortments of perspectives across the class. That ended up happening, but I realize now that when I numbered people off by threes, it was assumed that I wanted all people with the same number to join up across the room. Next time, I will explain it better, I’m sure. My approach was simply to renumber the people in the new groups that formed so that the 1s would go clockwise and the 3s would go counter-clockwise for the scrambling. I’m not sure others even noticed the goof, but I did. 🙂

I am reminded this fine evening at the simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting work of the educator. I’m what I would describe as out of shape as it relates to teaching (not to mention other ways). There is a certain type of muscle or stamina that develops when you are in the routine of teaching practice, but when you jump right into a sprint like this one having had a break in teaching, the demands of the work can be jolting. I’m sure every educator experiences this in some ways, but especially those of us who land more on the introverted side of the spectrum.

Tomorrow is another big day with a large focus on learning theories and the concept of mindset or grit.

Ok, back to writing feedback and reading for now until I can stay awake no longer.

Anyone who thinks the work of a teacher is easy either has no idea or has been led to think so by a teacher by trade only rather than vocation.

It’s Hybrid Eve!! #MAET

You know those butterflies you used to get before the first day of school?

I wish someone had told me those never go away.

I’m so excited about tomorrow being the first day of a six week learning journey with the MAET Hybrid year two cohort and my co-instructor Brittany (who is so phenomenal). I just finished watching some introductions that some of the educators recorded on our Flipgrid wall. I am so thrilled and honored to get to learn from and with this community!

Tomorrow is a big day with a lot of important ground to cover in ways that will shape the trajectories of the entire learning experience.

So, no pressure, but it is going to be one of the most important days of the experience.

I’m looking forward to learning more about each educator in the community and getting a sense of where they come from and where they are headed in their careers. This (among other things) is a foundational focus of tomorrow that will start off right away in the first meeting bright and early. Brittany and I are going to be facilitating some activities that we have drawn up and have put a lot of planning into them. Here’s to a successful first run at some brand new approaches for reaching the same outcomes of previous years.

It is going to be epic.

Embarking on teaching a nine credit seminar

This is an opening post to a series of daily posts reflecting on my learning as an instructor. This summer, I am teaching an intensive 9 credit hour seminar in 6 weeks on the topics of educational technology, educational leadership, and educational research.

Why do you teach?

I teach to learn. I learn to teach. In some ways, teaching and learning are as natural as breathing. It is essential. It is always happening. Most of the time we aren’t aware that it is happening or appreciative of its importance. I want to study and practice teaching and learning so that I can better understand healthy approaches to it for improving learning experience design.

What’s your next gig?

Next week begins a six week adventure of teaching a nine credit seminar course. This is a mosaic of three courses within the Masters of Arts in Educational Technology program in the College of Education at Michigan State University. It combines courses in educational technology, educational leadership, and educational research. I am excited and nervous.

What are you most excited about?

What I love most about this intensive seminar is it’s convergence within the larger overarching TPACK framework. TPACK has been a cornerstone of the program since it’s inception. It stands for the contextual relationships between three domains of knowledge: technical knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and content knowledge. As you can see, these three domains match up nicely to the focus of each of the courses in the seminar. In the same way TPACK has a sweet spot in the overlapping circles, this seminar affords a unique advantage of having all three courses interweaved into one common experience.

What makes you nervous?

This high intensity seminar makes me nervous because of all the planning happening in such rapid succession. What helps a great deal is that arrangements have been made for my full-time appointment so that I can focus exclusively on this course for a time. I love where I work and the supportive community that surrounds me each day.

What are you hoping to learn?

This summer, I would like to do a daily recap and reflection on this experience as one of the co-facilitators. It is important that I do this as it is a meaningful learning experience for myself as an educator. Doing so will allow me to have robust notes to remember the things that worked well and the things that can be improved.

What are you hoping educators gain from the seminar?

I would hope that they would remember that good leadership boldly builds on evidence-based practices while simultaneously maintaining humble postures of learning. These practices and mindsets must drive all technical and innovative decisions if there is any chance of them being successful. If the technology alone is expected to lead these conversations, we will inevitably fail. Let the learning commence!

Get serious. Play more.

A quote by a man named Lazer from the 70s got me thinking about science education today.

book coverI love the conversations that happen in The Hub. A few months back, Troy Livingston and I were shooting the breeze and somehow got on the topic of teaching science. Troy recommended a book to me called “Teaching Science to Children” by a guy named Lazer Goldberg. I told him I would read any science book by a guy whose first name is Lazer. The book was first published in 1970, but the content within it feels timeless.

Toward the beginning of the book, a paragraph that jumped out to me as being visionarily prophetic. So much so, I might insinuate that Lazer Goldberg may be viewed as a influencer of science education reform efforts in similar ways that Dr. Martin Luther King was influential to the civil rights movements. The following paragraph gets me fired up about science education in ways that remind me of the reasons I entered into the field in the first place.

“What is wanted is the will to organize a climate for children’s science learning. In such a climate children continue their play. The games whose rules they learn elicit their most intense participation. There is no shame attached to error and failure, and fear has been cast out. Interesting errors are admired, and perceptive questions are applauded. Task governs time, and there is freedom to make, to think, to remake, to chat, and to dream a little. It is a place where dissent and independence are honored, where thought is not deprived of feeling nor art of thought. Above all, it is a place of diverse activity—social, intellectual, artistic, manual. It is a place where children transform bits of their environment and in the process transform themselves.”

I believe that the climate of science learning described here could be applied to any discipline and learning level without sacrificing legitimacy. If we are going to be serious about improving, we need our working and learning environments to be open to more playful energy.

It might seem counterintuitive, but let’s get serious and play more.

If we hold on firmly to our ideas, our practices, our ways of living in this world, this is ironically the quickest way to lose them. If we, instead, play with and hold loosely our ideas, practices and ways of living, this is the only way we find them, grow and move forward toward a brighter future.

Why Go Up There?

As I watched the Falcon Heavy successfully pull of its test launch on February 6th, I was spellbound with awe and excitement. I’ve enjoyed sharing the exhilarating human achievement with friends and family in recent days. I can still hardly believe what SpaceX has pulled off and the future they are helping us charter.

I’ve also been randomly connecting with science songs from the 50s and 60s that were part of a 6 LP set called Singing Science. One of the songs is called “Why Go Up There” talking about outer space. I found it particularly fitting for the recent event.

Here, I decided to tie the beautifully animated video of the event with the song in the background.