Bob Herbert: Finding Inspiration Through Losing Our Way

January 28, 2015

Those of us involved in training-teaching-learning viscerally understand the power of a good story and the value of a good storyteller. So when New York Times columnist Bob Herbert left the newspaper in 2011 to accept a position with the public policy organization Demos, some of us felt as if one of the great storytellers in American journalism was vanishing—and that our world, consequently, would be a bit less vibrant.

Herbert--Losing_Our_WayHerbert’s writing in the Times was always strong, passionate, inspiring, and laser-sharp in its focus on stories that provided context and gave meaning to the overwhelming flow of reports that inundate us day after day. His final column (“Losing Our Way”), in fact, began with the observation “So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.” Those words provided a searing reminder to that learning, libraries, and involvement in the setting of public policy are integral parts of the overall responsibility each of us has to actively working to create the world we would like to have.

It’s a pleasure, therefore, to find that the storyteller has returned with a book that effectively and engagingly expands the thoughts included in that final New York Times column—Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America—and continues what he has occasionally produced via columns for Demos.

Losing Our Way focuses “most intently on four specific areas: the employment crisis, which was badly underestimated and poorly understood; the need to rebuild and modernize the nation’s infrastructure and the relationship of that vast project to employment; the critical task of revitalizing the public schools in a way that meets the profound educational imperatives of the twenty-first century; and the essential obligation that we have as rational and civilized beings to stop fighting pointless and profoundly debilitating wars,” he tells us in his introductory author’s note (p. 6).

As always, the real strength and value of what Herbert produces is in his attention to the human side of the story—just as so much of what we do in training-teaching-learning benefits from focusing on the human element of our efforts. We don’t, in Losing Our Way, find the typical unengaging diatribe against our failing infrastructure; we follow—and are moved by—the story of Mercedes Gordon, a woman who was driving across the I-35 bridge across the Mississippi River the day the bridge collapsed and sent Gordon and others into a plunge that shattered and took lives. We don’t find ourselves in another exploration of the financial cost of wars; we follow Dan Berschinski from the moment he loses his legs in Afghanistan, through the unexpected story of how he struggles to regain an incredible amount of mobility, and then muse, with Herbert, over the way the honoring of Berschinski for his achievements carries with it the deeper question of why “there seemed to be no collective sense that it was insane to allow the maiming of men like Dan…to continue so may long years after the attacks of September 11, 2001….What was the point?” (p. 169)

And when we move into the realm of learning, via an exploration of what is happening in our public schools, we don’t simply rehash the failed policies that, according to Herbert, have undercut rather than enhanced our educational system; we see how individuals including Jessie Ramey and Kathy Newman, in Pennsylvania, refused to accept billion-dollar cuts to educational programs and, through hard work, created partnerships that drew attention to the human cost of those reductions.

“The United States needs to be reimagined…” Herbert writes at the conclusion of his book. “Ordinary citizens far from the traditional centers of power…profoundly changed American society. Through sustained, thoughtful, and courageous efforts they…shifted the nation onto a better path. A comparable effort by ordinary citizens is needed today if the United States is to regain its great promise of fairness and opportunity for all” (pp. 245, 247).

ALAMW15--LogoAs I sit here in Chicago, about to join colleagues for a variety of discussions at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, I think about Herbert’s earlier references to the closing of libraries, about the challenges we face in providing effective learning opportunities, and about his call for reimagining the world around us—and I think I couldn’t be in better company to explore what training-teaching-learning, effective collaborations, and engagement in active communities of learning and communities of practice can produce.


NMC “Black Swan Ball” 2015: Teaching-Training-Learning-Birding

January 14, 2015

There’s an interesting, temporary migration taking place this week in Lost Pines, Texas—a spectacular rural setting on a slow-flowing segment of the Colorado River roughly 20 miles southeast of Austin. Many of the “birds” involved in this migration have flown in, from a variety of spots around the world, to nest for less than 48 hours. They/we can be observed eating and interacting together for brief, concentrated periods of time in ever-changing groupings that are far from predicable at any given time. And, if we are successful once we return to our regular habitats (schools, colleges, universities, classrooms, museums, libraries, and other educational organizations around the world), the eggs we lay and hatch here in Lost Pines could help change the way teaching-training-learning takes place.

NMC_Black_Swan_LogoOur gathering—“The Black Swan Ball”—is a by-invitation-only educational-technology symposium unlike any I have ever seen before. Organized and produced by the New Media Consortium (NMC), it has attracted approximately 50 of us who have varying levels of involvement in NMC’s Horizon Project—that ongoing global endeavor to document and examine “key trends, significant challenges, and emerging technologies for their potential impact” in a variety of educational settings.

What makes this particular gathering unusual and tremendously intriguing is that it has been framed around a specific book—Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable—and appears to be structured to produce what Taleb promotes in his book: a greater awareness of the incorrect assumptions we make in formulating predictions, and, with that enhanced awareness, a better ability to react to events and situations we previously considered “improbable”—particularly at that lovely intersection of the teaching-training-learning process and the educational technology that supports that process.

The “improbable” element that originally gave Taleb’s book (and our NMC symposium) its title was the long-held belief in Europe that all swans were white—a belief maintained until a Dutch explorer, in 1697, encountered black swans in Australia, a Wikipedia article reminds us. From this, Taleb draws (on the first page of the prologue to his book) the conclusion that a “single observation can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of confirmatory sightings of millions of white swans.”

NMC CEO Larry Johnson at the Black Swan Ball

NMC CEO Larry Johnson at the Black Swan Ball

Taleb, in his book, is extremely specific about what a Black Swan is in the world he inhabits: “First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable” (pp. xvii-xviii).

This makes the idea of a “Black Swan Ball” intriguing—not just for those of us in Lost Pines, but for anyone who wants to move from the familiar nest of ed-tech trends as we perceive them into the Black Swan world of teaching-training-learning where we look to what we see as the improbable to imagine how we might effectively react to it to the benefit of those we serve.

Where the “central idea of this book concerns our blindness with respect to randomness particularly the large deviations” (p. xix), a central element of this NMC gathering seems to be an exploration of how we can move beyond documenting and examining ed-tech trends, challenges, and emerging technologies so we set aside our existing assumptions about what is or is not improbable in the settings in which we work and live and play—a process that began unfolding yesterday as we arrived onsite in Lost Pines and gathered for an opening-night reception.

It didn’t take me very long to start seeing parallels between what Taleb has written and what at least a few of us are already experiencing at the Black Swan Ball. He begins, for example, with that story of the “discovery” of a black swan by a European visiting Australia; my own evening began with an unexpected face-to-face conversation with an Australian colleague I had previously only encountered via Twitter. Taleb, furthermore, consistently encourages us to set aside the pervasive, inaccurate assumptions that blind us to the existence of what we previously saw as improbable—just as my wonderful Australian colleague spoke eloquently of the need for many of us to look beyond the assumptions me make within our own countries so we can learn from what our worldwide colleagues—in places including Australia, for example—are doing.

And in what may be a completely inaccurate reading of where the Black Swan Ball is going, I left the opening-night reception wondering whether our playful and innovative colleagues at the NMC were recreating at least a bit of what Taleb describes to inspire significant Black-Swan thinking: an exercise designed to draw groups of us together so we could discover what we had in common led to inconclusive results among the members of the group to which I had been assigned—which makes me wonder, in the early-morning hours before the symposium reconvenes, whether we had been “purposely assigned” to groups with strong, shared connections simply to see whether we would “concoct explanations” for those assignments even though the assignments were actually random.

Detail from graphic facilitator Giselle Chow's work at the Ball

Detail from graphic facilitator Giselle Chow’s work at the Ball

I’m not sure whether I’ll encounter any Black Swans here in Lost Pines. But I do know that, in the spirit of that European who found his swans in Australia more than 300 years ago, I’ve already had the pleasure of literally seeing unexpected birds I had not previously seen—Carolina chickadees, Black vultures, Common nighthawks, and Eastern bluebirds—during an hour-long walk I took along the Colorado River before joining colleagues at the opening-night reception. If attending and documenting even a little of what comes out of this gathering helps all of us better identify and work with the Black swans and other lovely, infrequently-encountered birds in the world of training-teaching-learning, we will have been engaged in yet another rewarding intellectual migration thanks to our NMC colleagues and those who did all that was necessary to pull themselves away from the routine in search of wonderfully rewarding improbables.


On the Make: Co-learning, Making, and Sharing in the Connected Courses (#ccourses) MOOC

November 12, 2014

Let’s create and play a trainer-teacher-learner’s version of blog-hopping (specifically crafted for connected-learning students and aficionados) by seeing how many blogs we can link together into a cohesive asynchronous discussion. Our goal is to see whether the process leads us through the act of making something (e.g., a virtual, sprawling, multi-site learning object) that contributes to our understanding of our own learning, co-learning, and the learning process—and perhaps even to other people’s learning.

ccourses_logoThis particular learning object is already a work in progress thanks to interactions among a few of us connected via the Connected Courses (#ccourses) massive open online course (MOOC). It started with a self-contained set of reflections, by long-time learning colleague Alan Levine, on what constitutes “a make” (something created as part of the learning process to facilitate the learning process itself) within a connectivist MOOC (#ccourses, in this case). It grew a bit through #ccourses co-learner Maha Bali’s reflections inspired by Alan’s article and something I had written about the development of communities of learning similar to what we’re seeing in #ccourses. It continued growing rhizomatically as I posted individual responses to Alan’s and Maha’s posts and then realized that my own comments, if carried over into the article you’re now reading, could provide the foundations for what paradoxically is a self-contained lesson/make on “makes” that, at the same time, is interwoven into other makes—some of which are yet to come.

Alan deserves the credit for unintentionally inspiring this admittedly complex yet intentionally playful attempt at showing how a blog can be a make. He begins by suggesting that blog posts are “part of the regular things to do” in the connected-learning process and he explicitly says that he does not “see blog posts or comments as ‘makes.’” Maha responds by acknowledging how engaging and supportive of the learning process a collaborative make can be, then circles back to suggest that “for some people, blogging is ‘their thing,’” just as other learners may immerse themselves in equally engaging and productive makes. Our colleague Kevin Hodgson, for example, has produced course-related cartoons that are very much his version of a make and inspire the rest of us to absorb Connected Courses lessons through those playful makes. And, she continues, “every blogpost of Simon [Ensor]’s is a make.”

I initially inadvertently extended our make-in-progress by commenting on Alan’s blog. As a big supporter of experiential learning, I assured him that I agree that some level of making is essential in the learning process, and I obviously do believe that blogging can fit that category when we see our blogs as more than personal reflections. Blog postings, I suggested, can also be self-contained lessons (particularly through the use of hyperlinks that lead our co-learners to other learning resources). I’m ultimately not very concerned about what my co-learners and I make; an instructor’s recommended “makes,” in fact, often simply don’t support my own learning goals. I am, however, concerned that we make something that is seamlessly integrated into the learning experience so we have learned something useful, quantifiable, and rewarding to ourselves and others who learn with and from us.

The theme seemed to grow without much effort on my part as I turned back to Maha’s blog to assure her that I agreed about Kevin Hodgson’s cartoons and Simon Ensor’s blog articles being makes for them as learners and for others who see and are inspired by their work.

As we’re seeing through the current Connected Courses two-week module on co-learning, we have countless ways to creatively and effectively engage in making. I would even suggest, as I wrote to Maha, that participating in the “Case of #etmooc [the Educational Tecnology & Media MOOC]” panel discussion earlier this week was a form of making in that it produced a learning object—that online archived recording that is stimulating plenty of conversation and will continue to be a learning resource for anyone interested in knowing how sustainable communities of learning can develop out of well-designed, well-facilitated connectivist MOOCs.

It all very nicely wraps around and draws upon some of the other learning objects we have accessed during our co-learning explorations this week: the Howard Rheingold/Alec Couros interview about building communities of learning, the video of Dean Shareski discussing educators’ “moral imperative” to share, and Rheingold’s “Toward Peeragogy” article for the dmlcentral blog.

If some of the makes that Alan so rightly admires are grounded in collaborative efforts that shape new learning objects from mashups of open educational resources and other freely-shared items, then makes like the one you’re reading—drawing upon a variety of resources to create a unique learning object springing from the learning process itself—most certainly should qualify as makes. The beauty of this type of make is that, like the idea of MOOCs serving as a new form of open textbook, it is never completely finished. If you build upon this in your own blog or contribute through a comment to this piece, you’re contributing to the make—and, more importantly, to the rhizomatically-expanding set of learning resources available to us all benefiting from co-learning through connected learning efforts.

N.B.: This is the fourteenth in a series of posts documenting connected learning through #ccourses and other MOOCs.


Co-learning, #ccourses, and Keeping the Lights On: #etmooc and the Connected Courses MOOC

November 11, 2014

We may have a new corollary to one of the most famous lines from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life (“Teacher says, ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.’”): Every time #etmooc is mentioned, a learner gets new learning wings.

ccourses_logoWhich, apparently, is exactly what happened as the Connected Learning MOOC (#ccourses) webinar about #etmooc—the Educational Technology & Media massive open online course—and the development of online communities of learning drew to an end last night. No more than 15 minutes after “The Case of #etmooc” concluded, an audience member posted the following tweet: “Just watched the live #ccourses webinar about #etmooc. Impressed = signed up for my 1st MOOC. Excited to learn.” And if that means another teacher-trainer-learner finds the pleasures and rewards of participating in connectivist MOOCs and the sustainable communities of learning they are capable of spawning, then we have yet another example of what well-designed and well-facilitated MOOCs along the lines of #etmooc and #ccourses can and do offer.

There was something wonderfully circular, encouraging, and tremendously important there for all teacher-trainer-learners to absorb. The hour-long session began with #etmooc’s Alec Couros, two of his #ccourses co-facilitators (Howard Rheingold and Mia Zamora), and several #etmooc alums discussing what made #etmooc different from other MOOCs and, more broadly, from other learning experiences we had had up to the time we joined that course. As part of the current two-week-long #ccourses exploration of co-learning within connected learning opportunities, the session also served as an example of co-learning in action since the lines between learning facilitators (Couros, Rheingold, and Zamora) and learners (the #etmooc alums) quickly blurred—all of us were learning plenty from each other (and probably thinking about what we would next be doing to share those learned lessons with others). And it circled back to the idea of how interwoven our communities of learning are when Zamora surprised at least a few of us by telling us that she learned about connected learning by observing us in action while #etmooc was in progress. Turns out she had signed up for #etmooc when it was first offered in early 2013, but had little time to become actively involved: “I watched from afar,” she said. “I learned something from all of you…because I watched, because I lurked.

“Transformation,” she continued, “happens in places that you cannot even see it happening, not even in yourself….Watching community build is also a powerful learning process. I think that’s what #etmooc gave me as a sort of out-of-the-gate kind of experience for this” experience of helping develop and facilitate the equally dynamic Connected Courses MOOC.

etmoocAnd have no doubts: one of the most significant results of that hour-long session last night was that transformations were occurring. We could see that our explorations of what transformed #etmooc into a vibrant, vital, sustainable community of learning were also helping solidify #ccourses as another learning community that is likely to continue far longer than the formal period during which all of us are interacting within the current course structure. We could see that the same sense of openness—the commitment Couros and his #etmooc “co-conspirators” maintained to injecting a very human, personal element into that massive open online learning environment—was and is in play in the Connected Courses MOOC. We could see that the playful interactions among the session panelists reflected the playfulness that flows through #ccourses and just about every other successful, inspiring, and memorable learning experience we have—a reminder that we need to carry that level of playfulness, as much as possible, into the face-to-face and online learning environments we help create and nurture.

Most importantly, we could see that all-too-rare occurrence in learning: the transformation of a group of learners from students to collaborators to long-term friends—“which is really amazing,” #etmooc alum Susan Spellman Cann observed during the conversation. “I did not expect that from a MOOC.”

Among the reasons cited for the transformation from student to collaborator to friend were Couros’s tremendous skills at facilitating conversations, his natural inclination to make participants feel welcome into that developing community of learning, and the playful introductory activities that included a crowdsourced communal “lip dub” that quickly drew #etmooc participants together while using the educational technology and media tools explored at that point in the course.

As to the underlying question of what #ccourses facilitators and participants (and members of other learning communities) can do to create communities that outlast courses: there was an acknowledgment that connected learning endeavors have a tool we haven’t thought to develop in our more traditional learning environments—the learning environments (e.g., Google+ and Twitter communities united around a hashtag such as #etmooc or #ccourses) that don’t shut down as courses usually do when content within a learning management system is closed and archived beyond the reach of course participants.

It’s not as if “we’re turning the lights off now” when a connectivist MOOC delivers its final lesson, #etmooc and #ccourses co-learner Rhonda Jessen observed.

“Opening up the doors…was really cool,” our co-learner Erin Luong added.

And as long as we keep those lights on and those doors open, we’re likely to see an extension and continuation of learning communities unlike anything we’ve ever seen. And many more wings.

N.B.: This is the thirteenth in a series of posts documenting connected learning through #ccourses and other MOOCs.


Learning When No One Is at the Center of the Room: Connected Courses MOOC (#ccourses)

November 10, 2014

Frequent flyers, at one time or another, have the disorienting experience of having to consciously look for reminders of where we are; our minds simply can’t keep up with the frequent leaps between cities, states, and, occasionally, countries. Frequent learners engaged in co-learning (what Edward Brantmeier describes as the act of changing roles so teachers and learners become “joint sojourners on the quest for knowledge, understanding, and…wisdom”) within the world of connected learning may be facing a parallel challenge in at least a couple of ways; when interacting with connected-learning colleagues, we need to remind ourselves which of our wonderfully overlapping communities of learning we are currently engaging (Is this #etmooc—the Educational Technology & Media massive open online course? #xplrpln—the Exploring Personal Learning Networks MOOC? #oclmooc—the Open and Connected Learning MOOC? #ccourses—the Connected Courses MOOC? Or all of the above?), and we have to remember that the line between teacher/trainer and learner is increasingly dissipating in the best of teaching-training-learning opportunities.

ccourses_logo“The Case of #etmooc”—a learning opportunity that is less than two hours away as I write these words—shows us just how all-encompassing, rewarding, and intricately interwoven co-learning can be when it is effectively supported. The one-hour webinar, which initiates a two-week-long exploration of co-learning within the Connected Learning MOOC (#ccourses) and will be archived online for viewing, promises to be an example of how co-learning works to the benefit of everyone involved. Start with the idea that #ccourses facilitators are using the session to examine how co-learning in #etmooc contributed to the creation of a community of learning that still continues more than 18 months after that connectivist MOOC formally concluded. Continue with the fact that the learning facilitators have transformed several of us who are current #ccourses learners into co-learners by inviting us to join them in the formal discussion and recording of the session this evening. Then consider the idea that one of those #ccourses facilitators, Alec Couros, was among those who introduced so many of us to connected learning and connectivist MOOCs while deepening our appreciation of co-learning through all he and his “co-conspirators” did to bring #etmooc to fruition.

etmoocAnd that’s not all. Among the co-learners are colleagues from #etmooc, #xplrpln, and #oclmooc. But not just any colleagues. We’ll be with Jeff Merrell, an #etmooc learner who crossed the co-learning line last year by playing a key role in designing and facilitating #xplrpln. And we’ll be there with several of the #etmooc learners who, having sustained the #etmooc community since the course ended, reunited earlier this year to design and deliver #oclmooc. If it’s beginning to sound as if “The Case of #etmooc” is another homecoming party for many of us, a celebration of how co-learning in online environments fosters training-teaching-learning opportunities unlike any we could have imagined a decade or two ago, and an invitation to the ball, then #etmooc, #xplrpln, #oclmooc, and #ccourses are doing exactly what great learning opportunities should do: providing learning spaces where no one stands alone at the front or in the center of the room, where new long-lasting cohorts of learners/co-learners gather and coalesce, and where everyone with the least amount of interest is welcome. And the best is yet to come since so many of us continually engage in the overlapping roles of teacher-trainer-learner: we will, no doubt, continue to adapt our ongoing co-learning experiences in ways that invite our own learners to, sooner than later, become co-learners in our jointly-shared endeavors.

N.B.: This is the twelfth in a series of posts documenting connected learning through #ccourses and #oclmooc.  


NMC Horizon Report 2014 (Pt. 6 of 6): Educational Technology on the Four- to Five-Year Horizon

September 5, 2014

It’s all about connections, we realize as we read the final section of the newly-released (first ever) New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project educational-technology report on libraries. Skimming that section about technologies “very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making” in academic and research libraries four or five years into the future leads us through concise discussions of the state of the Internet of Things and Semantic Web/Linked Data developments—two technologies that are firmly grounded in connections.

NMC_HorizonReport_2014_Library_cover_borderThe Semantic Web/Linked Data section of the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition has plenty to say to anyone involved in libraries and other training-teaching-learning organizations: “Semantic applications and linked data have the potential to be immensely powerful educational resources” that allow us to “more effectively sift, query, and gather relevant information,” Horizon Report lead writer Samantha Adams Becker and her New Media Consortium colleagues remind us.

As is the case with big data, the semantic web “might be able to help people solve very difficult problems by presenting connections between seemingly unrelated concepts, individuals, events, or things—connections that it would take many people many years to perceive, but that could become obvious through the kinds of associations made possible when the semantics of the data are exposed” (p. 44).

For libraries and those who staff them, the implication is obvious: as organizations and people dedicated to providing access to information—and, more importantly, helping others find meaningful uses for that information—they become even more dynamic in their roles as community partners and resources when tools like a semantic web speed up the search process. For other trainer-teacher-learners, the implications are a bit more subtle, but no less important: semantic-web applications almost certainly would facilitate the training-teaching-learning process in ways we can’t even begin to imagine and change the way we support the process of change/transformation that is at the heart of successful learning.

nmc.logo.cmykThe 2014 Library Edition does not paint an unrealistic picture of where we are in terms of developing and employing a semantic web in our work: “While the evolution of the semantic web is still in its infancy for libraries, the worldwide linked open data movement is just beginning to adopt international standards for digital repositories that contain bibliographic information” (pp. 44-45). It is equally blunt about the state of development of the Internet of Things: “While there are many examples of what the Internet of Things might look like as it unfolds, it is still today more concept than reality, although that is changing rapidly” (p. 42).

But the fact that the report does help us focus on what is possible and what is being imagined—and provides examples of current semantic-web and Internet of Things initiatives—does help us understand some of what is currently happening and, more importantly, what may be possible within the four- to five-year adoption horizon described in this section of the report. Looking back over more than five years of reading and being involved in Horizon Project work, I realize how quickly those four- to five-year horizons become today’s horizons—and how important it is for all of us involved in training-teaching-learning to keep up with what is developing in the world of educational technology if we don’t want to be left behind the learners we are attempting to serve.

NB: This is the final set of reflections in a six-part series of articles exploring the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition.


NMC Library Horizon Report 2014 (Pt. 5 of 6): Bibliometrics/Citation Technologies & Open Content

September 3, 2014

Because trainer-teacher-learners are faced with and often focused on short-term, day-to-day pressures to produce new learning content—NOW!—we all-too-rarely take time to explore what the best peer-reviewed articles and open content might offer us in our efforts to produce more effective learning opportunities for those we serve.

NMC_HorizonReport_2014_Library_cover_borderThe newly-released New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project educational-technology report on libraries inspires us to look beyond that narrow field of vision. It is a fabulous tool that also helps us remember that we are part of “an expansive network of education collaborators” that can help connect us to “researchers, faculty, and librarians who are creating, adapting, and sharing media—and numerous repositories brimming with content” (p. 40).

While the focus on academic and research libraries within the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition means that report is often directed at those working within those types of libraries, the content within the section about technologies “very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making” in academic and research libraries during the next two or three years can easily be adapted to any trainer-teacher-learner interesting in exploring ways to apply educational-technology developments to the work we do in a variety of settings.

The first of those two technologies—bibliometrics and citation technologies—would, at first glance, appear to be of far more interest to those working in academic and research libraries than to those in other types of libraries and other training-teaching-learning organizations. But a quick skim of the section, with its summary of tech developments that help us “better gauge an author or journal’s impact,” reminds us that there are plenty of ways for us to sift through the drinking-from-the-fire hose flow of information that threatens to drown us.

Altmetrics_LogoThere is, for example, an introduction to altmetrics—an alternative to bibliometrics that “takes into account a scholar’s online social media imprint as well as their ability to publish their own research in repositories and disseminate it though  blogging or other avenues” (p. 38). If you’ve been relying on Facebook and LinkedIn likes and Twitter links to online resources when you’re trying to keep up with new developments, you’re going to find altmetrics to be a tremendous upgrade in terms of leading you to thoughtful, well-developed resources that keep your knowledge current. And if you want to further understand and use bibliometrics to your advantage—and the advantage of those you serve—you might also want to move beyond the report’s summary and skim David A. Pendlebury’s white paper on “Using Bibliometrics in Evaluating Research.” His simple observation, on page 7 of the paper, that “the goal of bibliometrics is to discover something, to obtain a better, more complete understanding of what is actually taking place in research,” helps us understand why bibliometrics is a topic we ought to be exploring more frequently and more diligently. We come full circle by following a link from the report to Mike Taylor’s “Towards a Common Model of Citation: Some Thoughts on Merging Altmetrics and Bibliometrics,” an opinion piece published in the December 2013 issue of Research Trends.

Moving into the second two- to three-year horizon technology—open content—we’re on much more familiar ground: “Open content uses open licensing schemes to encourage not only the sharing of information, but the sharing of pedagogies and experiences as well….As this open, customizable content—and insights about how to teach ad learn with it—is increasingly made available for free over the Internet, people are learning not only the material, but also the skills related to finding, evaluating, interpreting, and repurposing the resources” (p. 40).

ACRL_MOOCs_OERs_ScanWe come across reminders that “open” means far more than “free of charge”: it refers to learning resources that “are freely copiable, freely remixable, and free of barriers to access, cultural sensitivities, sharing, and educational use” (p. 40). Our models are increasing visible and, under the right conditions, appealing: massive open online courses (MOOCs), when they are well-designed and well-facilitated; open textbooks and textbooks that are evolving to provide engaging learning opportunities; and colleagues within libraries and other learning organizations where development of open educational resources is increasingly being explored and promoted.

It’s obvious, as we read and reflect upon the 2014 Library Edition, that resources like this one do not need to and should not remain siloed away—read only by the obvious audience of people within academic and research libraries. The fact that the report has, within its first month of availability, already been downloaded more than a million times—the most popular Horizon Report to date in terms of initial readership—suggests that its audience extends far beyond those directly involved with academic and research libraries. And if learning facilitators worldwide are among the readers, learners worldwide are going to be the beneficiaries.

NB: This is the fifth set of reflections in a six-part series of articles exploring the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition. Next: On the Four- to Five-Year Horizon—the Internet of Things and Semantic Web/Linked Data


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