The Association for Computers and the Humanities wants YOU to be a member. You get an OUP journal subscription out of it! And ACH, one of the organizations putting on this conference, is funded by its membership dues. Do it, folks.
Stefan Sinclair, chair of the ACH jobs effort, is putting on a jobs slam! Like speed-dating, but different. Job seekers are going to spend 30 seconds each presenting themselves, and perhaps they’ll get hooked up with jobs. But first, job opportunities:
[OK, not putting information copied from slides in quotes: no time. Thank you, panelists, for concise wording in your slides! If you want specific attribution, let me know.]
The big questions to be addressed by the panelists, as Martin Wynne proposes in his introductory remarks:
1. What specific problems have you identified, and how are you seeking to address them?
2. What services, if any, will you provide?
3. How might you link with other related initiatives?
4. What are the further elements of the jigsaw puzzle which are needed to create a coordinated and more complete research infrastructure?
The article, from the Public Library of Science, is this: “Clickstream Data Yields High-Resolution Maps of Science.” The authors collected “nearly 1 billion user interactions recorded by the scholarly web portals of some of the most significant publishers, aggregators and institutional consortia,” says the abstract. They proceeded to create maps that illustrate citations in the articles with which the users interacted. These maps “provide a detailed, contemporary view of scientific activity and correct the underrepresentation of the social sciences and humanities that is commonly found in citation data.” The most interesting illustration in this context is Figure 5—check out that big white and yellow cluster in the center. It’s worth the load time to view the larger image.
The CFP is for the next annual meeting of the Text Encoding Initiative Consortium. This year’s theme is text encoding in the era of mass digitization. The the first three suggested topics are conceptually larger than TEI, and are intriguing: In-depth encoding vs. mass digitization; Is text encoding sustainable?; Is text encoding scalable? People are bound to talk about crowdsourcing metadata, which I think is the only hope we have of scaling semantic encoding. (The quality control issues, which are the first concern that usually arises when people talk about collaborative knowledge work, are real. But there are ways to deal with them, and data that can be corrected may well be better than no data at all.)
The site I came across today is FairShare. It allows people to track how their online publications are used and/or remixed. Haven’t played with it yet, but it looks promising, particularly in the context of an institutional repository. Imagine a researcher depositing an article, pointing FairShare at it and seeing others respond to her work. Just the psychological boost from that is valuable in spurring future work.
Today I went to the instructional innovation conference organized by BU’s Center for Excellence in Teaching. Well, the first half of it, anyway: my phone charge ran out from checking my email and voice mail as if I were in the office, and I took that as a sign to go back and do some practical digital humanities: blogging and scanning old theses. The presentations I did see were exciting and diverse. People around the university are incorporating technology into their teaching in so many ways! Here are some highlights.
At the School of Medicine, audience response is used to create an interactive course review session. Faculty are using MS PowerPoint, with game-show-like templates to create review questions a la Jeopardy or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. They integrate this with TurningPoint (warning: ~3min Flash video you can’t stop), which enables students to interact with the PowerPoint presentation’s multiple-choice questions via clickers. The questions are timed—students have sixty seconds to respond to each, and the answer bar graph is updated in real time. This simulates medical board exams, and allows the faculty member to tailor review according to the responses received. For instance, if student responses fell mostly on two out of four choices, one of them the correct one, specific differences between the two choices can be emphasized right there and then. I imagine this also gives the students an idea of how their class as a whole is thinking, which implicitly teaches them about the learning process.
At the School of Public Health, educators are interested in practice-based learning. They asked themselves how they might convey foundational knowledge without using all of the available classroom time for the purpose, leaving time to put the knowledge to practical use. The answer: have the students write the textbook, which is used as the core reading for the course. Fourteen years ago this started; student groups were assigned a topical chapter each, and circulated it to their classmates the week before it was to be discussed. Every year since then, students have edited previously created documents, updating and augmenting information in the textbook. Right now they’re doing all of this in Word and emailing files to each other, but they are looking to transfer the process to more recent and perhaps better-suited technologies. Whatever the venue, what agency to give people in their own learning process! Retention must be through the roof.
At the School of Management, students have the chance to use the Team Learning Assistant web application in some of their courses. Aside from the subject-matter projects they pursue, teams work out contracts regarding their participation in teams: an agreed-upon common goal; performance standards; norms for behavior (how often do they expect each other and themselves to check email?), plans for managing performance and conflict. Participants end up learning teamwork skills that employers look for through mutual feedback and ratings. Because TLA was developed at BU (see the 2004 bulletin announcement), students here can purchase a license for a discount—$12.50 for six months or $18 for nine months—exponentially less than the price of some of their books. Faculty also have access to students’ reviews of themselves and each other, and can monitor both arising problems and how they get resolved. SMG’s next step is to track each student over multiple semester, to give them a bird’s-eye view of how they do working with a variety of groups.
Again at the School of Public Health, in one course students are given a choice: write a standard term paper, or participate in a semester-long team project. They research a public health problem (say, the spread of malaria), and then produce a video to engage and educate the public about the biological bases for that problem. There are many hooks that get people interested in this option over the term paper: they learn new skills; they’ll be authors of videos that will then be made electronically available by a recognized public health organization; they can put this experience on their resume; and who knows, it might be fun. Not to mention all that teamwork. Unsurprisingly, students tend to lean towards video production, and add to the internet-enabled world’s knowledge base.
In the CAS Sociology Department, one professor uses the NetDraw social network visualization package to help learners think about social networks by constructing models of their own. In Engineering, wikis with their easy and flexible formatting capabilities are used for homework assignments, tests and project development. At the Metropolitan College, a computer science professor produces videos for his distance-learning courses using a tablet PC instead of videorecording the whiteboard, and the recording quality goes up significantly.
Domenic Screnci, Executive Director for Educational Media and Technology on the medical campus, presented the Echo360 package, which records audio, LCD projector signal, video camera signal and whatever’s on the podium PC, sends it all to a specialized (not cheap, but reusable!) appliance, which then allows for some editing and integrates it all into a single video. This video can then be thrown on a server and disseminated via web links and audio and/or video podcasts. Faculty have had quite legitimate concerns about this—copyright issues, what if mistakes get immortalized, what if live attendance flags—but all seems to be working out well. Editing is now possible (it wasn’t in a previous incarnation of the software, but that’s the beauty of new version releases), attendance isn’t negatively affected, and copyright, from what I understand, is individually handled.
As I mentioned, the Echo360 setup isn’t cheap; but Screnci mentioned that as more people at BU buy in, the price goes down rather drastically. Interesting.
I can only imagine innovative uses of technology shown during the second half of this conference, which I missed. Happily, the conference was recorded using Echo360, and slides and/or videos will be (we were led to believe) made available on CET’s website.
By way of Geoffrey Rockwell, I came across Webilus, a blog that collects images that depict the web. The site is in French, but even the images containing languages other than English aren’t difficult to understand. Ignore the prominent ad right in the middle; the images are worth it. Here are a couple of examples—first, a social-media map produced by Overdrive Interactive (click for a larger version):
And how about an illustrative explanation of folksonomies?