Breeding Diversity of Thought

 This week we read two articles:

  1. MOOCs and Directing teh Academic Field by Kimmons

  2.  Nobody's Version of Dumb by Spelic


    The academic field is one that, at the highest levels, is heavily influenced by those who are already at the highest point in the academic sphere. It is ingrained into our way of mentoring those who are working toward doctoral degrees.   This kind of influence is strong and teaches primarily one way of doing research and one primary mindset for how you think about the issues surrounding your field. Kimmons compares this to MOOCs, where thousands can be influenced by the work of a single professor at the top of their field. It is this point that allows them to be even more impactful in the learning of other students for several reasons: First, they can influence more people in a MOOC than they can over the course of a career when they are mentoring. Second, the professor is delivering content to students who may or may not take another class in that area. In an undergraduate education, and particularly in MOOCs where the environment is different and students are potentially only taking on courses, it is possible to make a greater impact on them as they would not have experiences with other professors in that area that would help them to have a broader understanding of the ideas in that discipline.

    For me the message of the second article focused primarily around the ease or difficulty of creating a social network that is diverse. Sherri Spelic  write a lot about George Siemens, adamantly opposing his view of social media being a place that makes it more difficult to get a wide variety of ideas shared. I tend to agree with Siemens. The algorithms on social media make it difficult to get new ideas and people around us tend to want to debate rather than to ask and understand before they move forward with an ear to hear and understand.

    overall, I think that openness is a difficult thing to foster particularly because of the challenges in getting new ideas and connecting with people who are able to exchange ideas with us and broaden our horizons. This is in part because of the time that it takes and in part because of the difficulty in finding such people.  And so we end up holding conferences with people who have similar ideas and growing more and more narrow minded.


  1. It is interesting to me that when we assess scholarship one of the critical metrics are citations, which is a measure of influence. We put a lot of stock in this kind of influence, but when it comes to teaching or social media we don't consider influence in the same way. It is sad to me that we think citations are the "best" indicator of influence, but disregard other measures like number of students in a class, or the number of twitter followers. These too are indicators of influence.

  2. One of the interesting things about the Spelic article is that if you check out the comments, they are 100% positive. This is not a bad thing. I think it suggests that we still have some level of polite manners in our discourse. On the other hand, she said that she has created a diverse social media network, but it doesn't seem like she is getting more than echoes on that post. I think this speaks to your point about how hard it is to develop a diverse network.


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