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The rise of socio-technical systems and new social media in university education. Peter Fox (Tetherless World) May 23, 2011 11th Teaching and Learning Colloquium “The Power of Many” Want to try some social media? • http://twc.titanpad.com/124 • Not to worry, this is not a talk about Facebook Socio-technical systems (STS*) • Refers to the joint social and technical aspects of „systems‟ • Sociological – people and groups of people • Technical – more than technology but the two are often conflated – of organization and process Primary contexts of STS application • Organizations (most) • Collaboration (more recently) • Research and education (very recently) – Especially in informatics fields 5th Generation of Work First generation work was essentially hunting and gathering; Second generation work started farming the land and raising crops and other food products; Third generation work moved to cities with factories and small businesses; and Fourth generation work moved to the office Fifth generation – technology (!) facilitated virtual organizations Virtual organizations – several defn. • „ …a geographically distributed organization whose members are bound by a long-term common interest or goal, and who communicate and coordinate their work through information technology‟ (Ahuja) Roles and relationships • „These members assume well defined roles and status relationships within the context of the virtual group that may be independent of their role and status in the organization employing them’ (Ahuja et al., 1998). Virtual organizations as STSs Technology Organizational Structure Communication Patterns Communication patterns A key feature of virtual organizations is a high degree of informal communication Because of a lack of formal rules, procedures, clear reporting relationships, and norms, more extensive informal communication is required Credit: B. Rouse (BEVO) 2008 Credit: B. Rouse (BEVO) 2008 Credit: B. Rouse (BEVO) 2008 Technical advances From: C. Borgman, 2008, NSF Cyberlearning Report Thus: 5th generation of learning • So let‟s briefly explore teaching and learning groups as STSs (not the whole body of knowledge on this) • Folding in some elements of social media • … and see if our students are learning! Social media reminder • Reach - more decentralized, less hierarchical, and distinguished by multiple points of production and utility. • Accessibility - generally available to the public at little or no cost. • Usability - does not require specialized skills and training, or requires only modest reinterpretation of existing skills; in theory, anyone with access can operate the means of social media production. • Immediacy - virtually instantaneous responses; only the participants determine any delay in response. • Permanence - can be altered almost instantaneously by comments or editing. Extracted from Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media Categories of social media • Communication • Collaboration • (Multi)Media • Review, recommendation, opinion • Entertainment • Monitoring Case study 1 - Xinformatics 2011 • A trans-disciplinary subject essential to modern information systems • Computer, cognitive, social, library science, architecture, design, and „engineering‟ … • STS is an informatics field of study, and informatics research and education requires STS approaches! • Offered in 2010/11, ugrad/grad Case study 1 – Xinformatics 2011 • To instruct future information architects how to sustainably generate information models, designs and architectures • To instruct future technologists how to understand and support essential data and information needs of a wide variety of producers and consumers • For both to know tools, and requirements to properly handle data and information • Will learn and be evaluated on the underpinnings of informatics, including theoretical methods, technologies Xinformatics Course Learning Objectives • Through class lectures, practical sessions, written and oral presentation assignments and projects, students should: – Understand and develop skill in Development and Management of multi-skilled teams in the application of Informatics – Understand and know how to develop Conceptual and Information Models and Explain them to non-experts – Knowledge and application of Informatics Standards – Skill in Informatics Tool Use and Evaluation Methodology for Informatics • Use cases • Stakeholders • Distributed authority • Access control • Ontologies • Maintaining Identity Team: roles and skillsets needed • Facilitator *** (usual key skills, knows method) • Domain experts (literate, knows resources; data, applications, tools, etc.) • Modelers (to extract concepts, etc.) • Software engineers (architecture, technology) • Scribe (to write everything down) • The social aspect is key - it is a team effort • Yes, it‟s a socio-technical system Case 2 – Research Theme „Group‟ • We have 5 projects with the related theme of science provenance (also 7 for escience) • We have 2-6 (at any one time) undergraduate and graduate students doing thesis work, research or independent studies • Virtual group is effective for student learning – as long as they participate Case 2 • Research group • Communi cation! • Identity* Case 3 – TWC undergraduate lab Objectives: • Have outstanding experiences exploring the Tetherless World • Learn how top-level research is actually accomplished • Make real contributions to world-leading research projects • Gain practical experience with rapidly evolving Semantic Web, linked data, eScience, Web 3.0, and related development practices http://tw.rpi.edu/web/undergradlab Case study 3 – Expectations • Weekly attendance: – Undergrad Lab team meetings – TWC project meetings for any projects you are associated with – "Auditing" of other project meetings is encouraged • Weekly blog/wiki entries: Platform of your choice – Brief explorations of technical topics of interest – Presentation of demos/"microapps" you have created – Example: technical deep-dives and updates related to project work. • Participation in other TWC activities – Example: Lectures by visiting scholars • TBD: Participation in Undergrad Lab "hackathon" on specific topics • Blog http://michellesh.wordpress.com/ • Blog http://ngp2.wordpress.com/ Ethnographic observations • Course – definition of value is diverse – Learning versus performing (grade) – Presence of absence of incentives to participate (recall organizational modes) • (Initial) Sheer terror of saying something wrong, asking the „dumb‟ question (yes, this persists in STSs) • Leadership becomes a key attribute • Personal commitments are obliterated by course deadlines • Many more… Challenges and some paths forward • One to many, many to many • Artifacts, openness • Many threads • Individuals v. groups • Identity • Different views of value • Bias, quality Modalities • One instructor to many in a class, after the initial adjustment, works ~ well • Different instructor, different mode(s), students have to adapt • In multi instructor/ educator settings, we see the many to many problem, again students have to adapt within one setting • Department level (?) dialogs on social media and STS modalities What to do with the artifacts? • In social media - we are generating a lot of artifacts • In courses though the materials are private… since they are – Used for assessment/ grading – Primary – to re-weave the threads of social media • First step, assign identifiers and (institutional) repository for artifacts* Many threads • A significant challenge in social media arises from the multiple means and modalities (let along implementations) and locations the media is hosted • Leads to a very incoherent view – which is quite okay for purely social systems – but is a disaster for quantification, assessing state, i.e. evaluating learning, understanding • Explore technical means for aggregation based on identifiers or annotation (dotCIO doing this for news.rpi.edu) Where‟s Waldo, and how did he do? • As we shifted to group approaches after they were shown to be very effective in learning, we encountered the need to assess the individual within a group • Now the „group‟ and how we assess it has so many more aspects, especially cognitive and personality factors • Educators seem to need to often guess at this • Develop rubrics for STS individual performance Identity • Social media has the means to restore some of the lost identity that comes with groups (STSs), since it‟s pretty much all about who you are and who you know… • Diversity of identities, check your login to each of the social media sites you use • E.g. taswegian, peter.fox or personal email address • De-conflict identities, move to micro-contribution, identification and citation/ attribution Value (of outcomes) • A lot of educational evaluation focuses on the outcome • Instructor wants students to learn • Students want an A (most of them), and some want to learn as well • But the value proposition is not well explored • Examine an evaluation framework for value Bias, quality (in social media) • A rampant (problem) situation in social media – relates to incompleteness, biased and selective participation, fragmentation of content, modality switching, and more • Partly based on the privacy/ openness but also on social context and do students think of learning in a social context? • Makes quantitative assessments difficult: quality control (contributor) vs. quality assessor (instructor) • Adapt social media analysis for education metrics • NSF • C4* • Umm. *Not the explosives http://www.nsf.gov/od/oci/taskforces/ Constellation Goal* (w/ EMPAC/CCNI) • Our long-term goal is to develop “exhibits” that let people develop/explore hypotheses by really interacting with data and information (research and education) – i.e. not immersion (cf. virtual reality) but experience • Multimodal, multimedia • Social and collaborative • Interactive, dynamic • At scale – Open world • New data, information, contexts – Teaching and learning opportunities? Summary • Socio-technical systems (and the theory), underpin much of our existing organizational entities but we‟ve not widely applied the ideas to teaching and learning… • It‟s not a perfect fit, nor are the technical means mature in many areas, but our students are unlikely to stop using social media any time in the near future… • Many modalities, incoherency and quality questions… • Time for Assessment 2.0! • TWC (research and curriculum) is confronting the coupled system (informatics and STS) Thanks for your attention • firstname.lastname@example.org • http://tw.rpi.edu Abstract • It is ~ 50 years since the term socio-technical system (STS) was coined. RPI has a rich history in innovative and collaborative education and learning, facilitated by technical means, noting that technical and technology have distinct but overlapping meanings. With the rise of social media, a new set of conversations and discourse has emerged, largely around social systems. However, the application and / or effective exploitation in education and learning settings alters some of the important factors to consider for learning outcomes, course objectives, and student (and course) assessments. This presentation will explore examples of STS in teaching and learning especially in technically oriented curricula and examine the extent to which new means of social media exhibit emergent characteristics consistent (and inconsistent) with STS principles and best practices.
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