Category: Education

Reinventing University Publishing – my perspective

This is the presentation I gave as part of a panel representing the perspectives of Open Access publishers in Australian universities, in my case UTS ePress.

PDF version on Google Drive

And here is a PDF version with my speaker’s notes:

UTS ePress future (notes)

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UTS Library Retrieval System

The slide show above illustrates the progress from excavation and building to loading of the operational LRS itself. 

As you read this UTS Library staff are busy overseeing the load of more than 400,000 books into the Library’s new automated retrieval system (LRS) under Alumni Green. It is exciting to see years of planning come to fruition and to be so close to realising the benefits of the LRS.

By storing low-use physical items in this purpose-built retrieval system we will be able to relieve overcrowding on book shelves in the Library and make room to continue to expand our collection of print resources. Regular library visitors will have noticed the tightly-packed shelves and perhaps occasionally been frustrated by difficulty in locating books. From the end of 2014, only the newest and most highly-used physical items will be housed on open shelves, making it easier to browse and locate items amongst the most popular books from our collection. The LRS also allows for the merger of the Blake and Kuring-Gai libraries at the end of 2015.

We realize that older items in our collection continue to have value and need to remain easily accessible. This was the rationale behind building an on-site retrieval system, rather than using off-site storage from which books could only be retrieved irregularly. Material in our LRS will be delivered regularly, with deliveries scheduled several times each day. It is also the reason we’ve been busy making enhancements to our catalogue so you can find new ways to discover items in our collections by searching and browsing online. Shelf View lets you browse a ‘bookshelf’ displaying book covers, our ‘collection ribbon’ is a unique way to delve in to our collection by subject, and we are working on recommendations and personalisation.

The LRS will therefore let us continue to build our collections, with room to expand to at least 2040, in a carefully controlled and secure environment ensuring the long-term preservation and protection of this valuable resource. It will also help us make our collection accessible by relieving overcrowding on book shelves. Of equal importance, it will help us meet the needs of our clients from study spaces as teaching and learning changes and our student population grows. Currently library space is dominated by book shelves, but increasingly we hear from clients, and observe ourselves, that there are not enough places to study in the Library. And we know we need diverse spaces to facilitate different types of learning from quiet, individual study to participatory group learning. This is why, once the lower use items in our collection are relocated to the LRS, we will be working on delivering new types of spaces for learning and research. We hope as well to provide spaces and technologies that facilitate access to productive activities such as multi-media, gaming and “maker” technologies because many of our students are no longer assessed purely on written output: they are making things like models, videos, games, etc.

We’ve tried to build sustainability into every aspect of the LRS. The building itself has major sustainability features*, and will store books in a highly compact format; storing the same amount of books in a traditional library would require a building 4-5 times larger. We’ve also paid attention to smaller details to reduce the environmental impact of our operations. That’s why, for example, our staff will walk between the LRS and the Blake Library using trollies and backpacks to deliver books, rather than rely on cars which add to traffic congestion and pollution.

The LRS presents an exciting opportunity to expand library services and collections for the future, helping the library play a central role in the learning, teaching and research activities of UTS. You can learn more about the LRS on our website http://www.lib.uts.edu.au/future-library/library-retrieval-system-lrs

* Sustainability Features:

There is no Green Star rating category for a facility such as the LRS, but it benefitted greatly from being constructed under the same project works as the 5 Green Star design rated Thomas St Building (an extension for the Science Faculty and Graduate School of Health). For example, the project utilised the sustainable concrete (required to be made with recycled rainwater) poured on the Thomas St Project for the LRS project. Other elements were the very strict waste management requirements, providing evidence of waste minimisation during construction. The design also incorporates significant natural lighting brought into the LRS picking station area via the large skylight that will double as a viewing lens from Alumni Green.

The LRS itself contains high-grade insulation which minimises energy consumption to the building to control thermal issues. A number of measures have been employed to ensure an easily maintained constant temperature in the book storage Vault. The LRS has been constructed under the Alumni Green with the 600mm of earth together with the insulated concrete providing excellent insulation, far exceeding the insulation requirements. The Vault is also insulated from the Plenum via lightweight insulated panels and insulated concrete and blockwork.

The Plenum itself pre-cools the air to be used in the facility by exposure to the constant cool temperature of exposed rock and concrete that surrounds it. The air path through the plenum is long and winding to ensure the maximum exposure to the surfaces and therefore maximum reduction of outside air temperature. The use of pre-cooled air reduces the energy required by the mechanical plant substantially.

Note: I’ve also posted this here https://www.lib.uts.edu.au/blog/university-librarian/2014/07/our-library-retrieval-system#

Leaked NYT Report on Innovation

Twitter and other social media yesterday was crazy about a leaked 91 page report from the New York Times on innovation in the mobile and digital age (use the Google or contact me if you cannot find it). It primarily addresses their environment of rapidly changing media platforms, but there is a lot in it that also applies to us in library-land. In particular, our own web strategy at UTS Library, which is very informal, and where we are going with our Open Access press UTSePress.

Initially I thought I’d just send it to the managers responsible for those areas, but after quickly reading the lot I found more and more general ideas that I liked, so I sent it to all of our managers and we will all meet to discuss it at a later date. If you can still find it, you’ll see that it isn’t a marvellous copy, but it is mostly readable and I think very valuable, even if it seems mostly to affirm some of our existing directions. 

Here is a start on some of the ideas it touches on that I think are of relevance to library-land:
  • web publication trends (we’ve been closely following these of late)
  • audience reach and why it is important (agreed)
  • reader experience (acknowledging it and doing something about it and we must do more in this area)
  • having a web strategy – do we want one that is more obvious, a little more formal and that evolves?
  • disruption and what it means for us (too)
  • content aggregators – what are they, how they impact on us and how we make best use of them
  • the importance of discovery – new tools & getting the basics right, like tagging and structure (we’ve been focussing a lot on this for the last couple of years)
  • experimentation – how it works, why it is needed (agreed and we do try to encourage this)
  • personalisation (see above re discovery as we’re trying to do something like a recommendation engine that our users can opt into)
  • using data layers or adding them in (I’m not exactly sure how this applies to us and need to think more about it, but I’m pretty sure we should be doing more in this area)
  • user generated content – is that relevant to us? (we are essentially doing that in the physical space now with curations of student works and could extend that to our online presence, perhaps using social media more – we’ve experimented with this a little already)
  • events (this is a big area for us and they always have a planned and strong online dimension)
  • going “digital first” or digital equally? (I think the latter is more relevant for us – we should not concentrate simply on either digital or physical programs)
  • boosting analytics (this is why I desperately want to get some professional UX people into the library)
  • employee movement between departments – to boost collaboration & understanding (I think we could really do more here)
  • failing, learning, & sharing results (I think we’ve already started on this path)
  • making more creative roles not just (passive or responsive) service roles: makers, entrepreneurs, advocates, observers (agreed)

Academic libraries, design and creative futures

This is a presentation (slides and speaker’s notes) from a presentation that I gave last week. It was a public talk at a UTS Shapeshifters event on Creative Futures. I was humbled to be on stage with Paola Antonelli from MoMA and Professor Anthony Burke and Hael Kobyashi from UTS. Read more here:

http://newsroom.uts.edu.au/events/2013/12/shapeshifters-creative-futures

I should explain more about the 3rd slide. The things listed on that slide are often forgotten or discounted in the blind pursuit of efficiency or traditional KPIs. For libraries, these things (i.e. delight, surprise, engagement, serendipity and curiosity) are at least as important and should not be forgotten, dismissed or left until later.

The video of this talk is also now available:

Highlights from Educause 2013 #3: Jane McGonigal

Jane McGonigal, the game designer and author of the best-seller Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World gave a wonderful keynote called Higher Education is a Massively Multiplayer Game

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She sees and advocates the incorporation of gaming as possible future for higher education, saying that over one billion people now play games for at least an hour per day. Some people are so committed that they  play games like it is their job. Apparently games bring us 10 positive emotions: joy, relief, love, surprise, pride, curiosity, excitement, awe/wonder, contentment and creativity. Games also provide an environment in which it is safe to fail and easy to learn from one’s mistakes.

She said that games also develop a 3:1 (positive to negative emotions) resilience that makes people more productive and successful. She showed some images of resilient gamers on stage like these two:

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She also showed some neurological research scans of brains from Stanford that showed the difference between active and passive brains. They were most active when engaged in a game. She said that Play was not the opposite of work, it was the opposite of Depression. Apparently, gaming activates the same part of the brain as a cocaine addiction. It encourages: the mastery of a skill, solving puzzles, driving personal ambition, motivation, the anticipation of rewards, practicing habits, determination and further skill development.

She urged educators to super empower learners about their own ability to succeed in learning  by using things like points to complete missions, badges for development of new skills – anything that gives learners a meaningful goal and recognises their achievement. What could be done with a billion gamers on connected devices? What could they do together? 

She then spoke of Joi Ito’s belief that students should now be creating knowledge and insight as part of their education, not just learning what is already there. More from Joi Ito (who is Director of MIT’s Media Lab) :

I don’t think education is about centralized instruction anymore. Rather it is the process of establishing oneself as a node in a broad network of distributed creativity.

And those thoughts beautifully flowed on from the sentiments expressed earlier by both Ken Robinson and Mimi Ito.

Jane then illustrated three projects that bring together the concepts of play and acting as a node in a broad network:

  • Foldit, from the University of Washington teaches protein folding, building on the fact that manipulation by participants in the virtual space was better than that of super computers because gamers were more skillful and possessed of better spatial intelligence. They knew not to apply brute force. Soon after an invitation to join the project was published in Nature, gamers solved in three weeks a problem with HIV/AIDS that had baffled scientists for over 10 years.
  • Evoke (based on Grand Theft Auto?) is a project that helps solve social problems with young people becoming super heroes for the rest of the world. It focussed on youth at university age in Sub-Saharan Africa as a source of solutions not just problems. The aim is to solve real-world problems by making the best use of youth skills and with their collaborators and allies. Blogs, photos and videos were uploaded to prove progress. The World Bank Institute (WBI) provided Social Innovator badges and it resulted in 20,000 students being enrolled from 130 countries. They accidentally ran a MOOC! 50 new social enterprises were funded by the WBI like Libraries Across Africa (now Librii) : a franchise model that is up and running in Ghana now.
  • Find the Future is a game that Jane helped to create for the New York Public Library (NYPL) Centennial in 2011. It kicked off with an overnight event that offered 500 places for players (18 and over) to explore the NYPL’s collections for clues locked away in 100 objects that changed history. They had 10,000 applicants. Together the participants put together a collection of stories over night for the NYPL’s rare book collection.

Jane believes the future of education is in a blended environment of gaming, something like MOOCs and live events that allow learners new ways of learning through creative practice anytime, anywhere and in collaboration with others.

Highlights from Educause 2013 #2: Mimi Ito, UC Irvine

Session: Open Networks for Social and Connected Learning

Professor Mimi Ito from UC Irvine is a Cultural Anthropologist. This was a great follow-up to Ken Robinson’s keynote.

She talked about adapting educational technology in the 21st century to platforms that can connect classrooms to a wider world of learning. For middle school kids those technologies centre around games like Minecraft and media sources like YouTube.

Education lags behind changes outside the classroom. It needs to move towards open networks that: increase the amount of information that is available; are production oriented; solve problems; include civic engagement; and are inquiry based. We are not there yet.

To tap the potential we need to forge stronger connections between classrooms and the world at large. Education needs to be seamless with life itself. Technology can be a powerful ally for this agenda.

Younger people are more avid readers – in all forms. And they average 7.5 hrs per day in media consumption (it is saturated).

Gaming is the entertainment media of our time – at all levels of society.

Abundance (of options, availability, continual connection, etc.), however, can also be too much of a good thing.

An example from her research. She worked with teams of ethnographers from 2005-08 and found:

  • There is a generation gap in the perceived value of online activity – younger people see it as a life line and older people see it as a waste of time (even though they use it themselves)
  • What do they do & learn? Heaps! Baseline technical literacy and to be a social being. Uploading photos, managing web pages, managing profiles, interacting, judging, etc. Some online tools really allow people to do amazing things, such as uploading to YouTube channels for civic causes. Some users are really out there, but they are a minority. At the other end of the spectrum there are the bullies. She quoted GIbson: the future is already here, just not evenly distributed.

She then went on to distinguish between Friendship-driven & Interest-driven participation. This started with MySpace and Instant Messaging and is now based around Facebook and Texting (or other fast ephemeral services like Snapchat and Kik). Dorks and geeks can connect with others who have shared interests and share knowledge and expertise – so that is very different to a friendship group. She used the example of Facebook being used to connect with those you went to school with and Tumblr (or Instagram) being used for those you wish you went to school with. So FB is more about friendship (with kids seeing adults there as just creepy) and Tumblr (& the like) is more about interests. It is now easy to find and connect to an online community that is very different to the one in which you live: communities of producers with like interests. It allows and facilitates the development of potential for those resourceful enough to take/absorb/use from their peers and interest groups and then apply it in an academic community. She warned though that only a few do this.

Mimi said the academic bubble now has to reach out and facilitate those connections. To overcome the cultural gaps they face young people still need and look for adult support and guidance.

She warned that some tools can also become “weapons of mass distraction”. Attention cannot be controlled the ways we used to. We need to more creatively deal with a culture or environment of media abundance. And we don’t want to go back to an environment of scarcity.

Quoting Howard Rheingold in NetSmart she says we need strategies to cope with abundance and distractions such as: crap detection; attention management; collaboration; participation; net know-how; etc.

Referring to Open Education Resources (and MOOCs?) she said that the build-it-and-they-will-come attitude tends to re-advantage those already advantaged and only serves to widen the gap. Access is not enough.

Some guiding principles:

  • leverage local relationships – peer cultures; the warm body effect is important; community based learning labs in libraries (e.g. MOOCs with local guides)
  • everyone can be a teacher – (not just the traditional experts) so peer-to-peer university; everybody can help (e.g. PHONAR); use aggregators; Jim Groom’s and DS106 – digital storytelling – it lets the internet do it
  • meet learners where they are – in interests; peer cultures (e.g. the Walking Dead MOOC)
  • recognise learning in the wild – credentialing such as coders and gamers being recognised in LinkedIn; open badging infrastructure; learning to be more visible and under learner control

She used a three-circle diagram to show that Connected Learning happens at the intersection of three communities: Interests; peer culture; and the academy. She described communities on Google+ as connected learning.

BUT: beware of putting a pop-culture veneer on something that not so pleasant, which she described as “chocolate coating broccoli”. Actually, I don’t mind broccoli; I am sure she meant to say cauliflower.

Finishing up, she reminded us that the major challenge in all of this was in getting faculty/teachers/academics on board, not so much the students.

Highlights from Educause 2013 #1: Ken Robinson’s opening keynote

Educause 2013, Anaheim

I was lucky enough to attend Educause 2013 in Anaheim, California in October. I had one arm in a sling after a fall that dislocated my left shoulder, but I took handwritten notes in a notebook and on looking back, some of the sessions I attended had some interesting and stimulating content, so I might do a few posts about the best sessions. This first post is about the keynote that opened the conference by Ken Robinson, the English author, speaker and adviser on education.

He started quoting lots of famous people like Asquith, Churchill and even Dorothy Parker. All very amusing and entertaining. My favourite (as a lapsed economist) was the J.K. Galbraith quote: The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. Then he focussed on the way we are as a species and the all pervasive effects of cultural norms on our behaviour. He said that some technologies, like TV for example can change that.

I liked his reminder that when Apple first introduced the iPhone in 2007(?) it had something like 800 apps. Now it has over 800,000 and that is well beyond what Apple would have designed themselves or even imagined/anticipated. It is a great example of people appropriating a brilliant idea and then seeing what they can do with it.

He then moved on to talk about imagination, creativity and innovation. He described Imagination as giving us the power of Creativity, which is a process in which you do something or make something. Innovation is putting good ideas into practice. I think there is a lot in this for future libraries: stimulating and inspiring imagination, then providing spaces, technologies, services that allow people to make things (not just write about them) and also assisting in bringing people together to put those great ideas into practice.

Ken said we are constantly evolving and modern technology enabled us to do things now that were not even possible before it was introduced. Sometimes it also allows us to imagine possibilities well beyond what we can now do. He warned that even though there has been so much technological innovation in the last 10 years, IT in education seems to have blockaded against it. (Unfortunately, this was further illustrated by many sessions in the conference that concentrated on controlling ICT from within and defending against all boarders or potenial collaborators from outside our institutions.) He went on to say that technology isn’t over now, it is never over and that the future will involve even more profound changes than we have already seen. He then postulated about the rights of robots in the future.

I think he mentioned that now you don’t even need to go to the library to access information, so it has to develop another role and embrace the technologies that gives it new purpose.

His next topic was the lack of a sustainable rate for consumption (by humanity). The planet will survive and so too will bacteria, but humanity is now at risk. We need to challenge what we now take for granted. For example a university degree no longer assures you of a job for life. For humans, life is not so linear or manufactured and we must think differently about ourselves to become more organic and creative. Creative education depends on different kinds of questions in which there is no correct answer. I doubt that the current obsession with big data collection and analysis will help us much in this quest. Currently we think in terms of improving old policies rather than looking at new systems.

Don’t even take for granted that we know what the question is. To sum up, I was reminded of two further J.K. Galbraith quotes:

Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.

The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.