Digital Scholarship (narrative)

Digital Scholarship: Examples of Modern, Engaged, Digital Scholarship

Let me be perfectly clear, here, that I have done my share of scholarly communication in forms most widely accepted in academia (e.g. publishing in peer-reviewed journals, presenting at research conferences, writing book chapters, grant proposals, etc.). I document those works extensively on the Publications (narrative) page. First, though, I offer two brief case studies that point out the problems with traditional forms of publishing and scholarly communication and the affordances of modern forms of computer-mediated communications. After that, I write briefly about another form of digital scholarship, a scholarly project of which I am quite proud.

Peer-review via a blog.

In late Spring 2009, Dr. Robert Marzano, a wildly popular author/speaker/consultant to schools and districts across the country, released the first of two reports of a study he conducted of Promethean ActivClassroom (wildly popular interactive white board (IWB) technology). The study was funded by Promethean, which caused a number of red flags to be waved. Funding issues notwithstanding, the report received a great deal of national attention and Marzano went on a speaking tour touting his conclusion that IWBs improve student achievement by 17%. Marzano’s research was never peer-reviewed, and after obtaining a copy and reading the report, I believed it needed a thorough vetting. In fact, I thought the research was sloppy, at best.

At that point, I decided to write a thorough review of his study. If I had written the review and attempted to publish it in a peer-reviewed journal, it would have taken at least 6 months, likely more, before that review would have been published. Yet, Marzano was on his speaking tour touting the results immediately upon release of the study and educational policymakers were listening. So, I decided to publish my review as a five-part critique on my blog. I pushed announcements about the posts to Twitter and pointed any educator on Twitter posting about Marzano’s claims to the posts. To this day, those posts remain the most frequently visited pages on my blog. As of August 15, 2012, Part I of the review had been viewed 1,403 times (1,136 being unique pageviews). On June 2, 2009, the day Part I was posted to the blog, the page was viewed 103 times. The next day, after word spread through the Twitterverse, the page was viewed 122 times.

Hack(ing) School(ing): One Week, One Book.

The second case is about books and print publishers. I currently have two book chapters “in press;” i.e. drafts have been sent to the editors who have contracts with publishers. One chapter was written and submitted to the editors in June 2010; the book is scheduled for publication no sooner than the end of 2012. The chapter is about legal issues around educational technology and the content is now quite dated. A second book chapter was submitted on August 15, 2012 and is to be included in a book scheduled for publication in April 2013. That 7-month lag is quite good for a book, especially when considered against the other book chapter.

However, consider my latest book publishing project. On July 10, 2012, education journalist Audrey Watters and I announced a “One Week, One Book” project. Borrowing liberally from the Hacking the Academy process, we solicited works around the theme of Hack(ing) School(ing). In one week, we received 77 submissions, ranging from blog posts, to full websites, to YouTube videos. Those submissions were then aggregated into a service called Readlists. Now, there’s a bundle of articles/posts about hacking schooling. The bundle can be read directly on the Web, or it can be downloaded as an ebook that can be read on the iPad, Nook, Kindle, or virtually any other ereader. In the span of a week, at virtually no cost, an edited book had been published.

The Hack(ing) School(ing) Readlist is considered the 1st edition of the “book;” it is a little rough and could use some refinement. There are plans to refine the content by adding invited content and by removing content that does not fit particularly well. The ultimate fate for the Hack(ing) School(ing) book is still unknown. However, we do not have to know exactly where this is headed. The publishing industry is changing rapidly, and the possibilities for publishing are growing. For now, the book project lives at and Audrey Watters and I will continue to move it forward.

NASSP Online School Law Guide.

In Fall 2008, the online school law guide that I jointly developed with Dr. Justin Bathon of the University of Kentucky exclusively for the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), went live.  Taking advantage of exciting technologies and the interactive nature of the Internet, Dr. Bathon and I took the school law textbooks out of the print realm and into the digital age.  Organized around modules that allow the learner to read and/or download the material and that also include audio-visual flash movies for the learner to watch and hear, the online school law guide was available to all NASSP members.  The modules also included links to published opinions of major cases, links to relevant online resources and a “test yourself” interactive quiz.  The FAQ sections of each module were to grow organically as inquiries arrive from principals/learners.  Dr. Bathon and I had an agreement to maintain the online school law guide in perpetuity and had plans to incorporate ideas such as archived webinars with experts in school law.  We had received much positive feedback about the guide, including from noted school law scholars such as Perry Zirkel. Also, an Assistant Superintendent in Pennsylvania sent an email that said, “I just checked out the new NASSP school modules and really like the concept. I will be sharing this with all my principals and look forward to your upcoming content.” Unfortunately, after three years as part of the NASSP digital ecosystem, the Online School Law Guide was discontinued. [NOTE: NASSP has allowed me to post some of the content from the Online School Law Guide to this portfolio. You can get a sense of what it is like by clicking on the School Law Guide page (private – password protected)].

This has tremendous ramifications for scholarly communication, but, above all for me, the new media landscape allows us to get outside of the “ivory tower” and to engage with the public.

Other examples of digital scholarship

In the last five years, I have played around with other forms of digital scholarship. At one point, in 2008, I was a contributor to a now defunct blog on school law issues called The Schoolhouse Gate. Beginning in February 2009, I engaged in a new form of digital scholarship.  On a semi-monthly basis, I had an hour-long conversation with three other professors of educational leadership: Dr. Scott McLeod (then of Iowa State University, now of the University of Kentucky), Dr. David Quinn (University of Florida) and Dr. Jayson Richardson (then of University of North Carolina-Wilmington, now of the University of Kentucky).  Those conversations were recorded and archived as podcasts and made available to anyone who was interested.  Nominally sponsored by the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology and Leadership in Education (CASTLE), this podcast series was an opportunity for four scholars/educators to talk about topics at the intersection of educational technology, leadership and reform.  All of the podcasts are still accessible at the following URL:

My newest venture is a website called the Virginia Education Report (VER). Co-founded with Chad Ratliff, a school administrator in Albemarle County (VA), VER is intended to be an independent source of information and ideas about educational policy matters across the Commonwealth of Virginia. The main page, dubbed “The Homeroom,” is intended to be a running feed of important education-related stories from around the Commonwealth. There is also a page called “The Lounge” where guests are invited to provide editorial pieces on education policy issues. We may eventually include other features, including a calendar of events and a space for live streaming of events. Development of VER was put on hold during the summer of 2012, but Chad and I fully expect to get it up and running again soon.

The possibilities for digital scholarship seem endless at this point. I look forward to continue to explore the horizons in the future. That said, I have always committed myself (and will stay committed) to more traditional forms of academic scholarship. Those are chronicled in the next section of the narrative.

NEXT: Publications (narrative) →


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