National Digital Forum Conference – Day 2

Here is Day 2 of the National Digital Forum 2015 Conference held at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 13-14, 2015.

NDF Conference Day 2

Disrupt, Connect, and Co-construct – Claire Amos

An English teacher herself, Amos challenged us to re-think traditional education models, based on the research and real-life experience she has as Deputy Principal at Hobsonville Point Secondary School, a brand-new New Zealand secondary school. She said we have been forcing students through unrelated single subjects with a single teacher confined in a single-celled classroom, otherwise known as the “one size fits all” model of education. But we should we looking at the rate of change. Students need to be able to be adaptive experts and cope with constant change in their lives. If education didn’t provide a cheap, reliable babysitting service, people would vote with their feet and leave. Kids are learning outside of school, rather than in. We do have the power to change education to be what we want, but we have to do it. “Where’s the evidence?” cannot keep being an excuse – leaders create the research; followers follow the research – why can’t New Zealand be the leader? NCEA and National Standard (in New Zealand) don’t prove students can survive and thrive in their future world. We should be teaching independent inquiry through authentic projects. There is a common belief that “If you aren’t coding, you’re so last year!” However, what we need to teach is more complex language and the context for why they’re learning to code. Students need to learn how to handle distractions and critically analyze all the tools available.

Schools are often designed to control students, not deliver learning for them. We need free-range learners (slides compared images of caged hens versus free-range hens). At Hobsonville Point Secondary School, there is flexible space that is responsive to learning needs. Its motto is “Innovate. Engage. Inspire.” She and others traveled and did research globally before opening. There are learning hubs with 90-minute sessions weekly and each small group stays together for 5 years. Students are learning how to learn. Teachers make contact with parents every few weeks. They value both personal and academic excellence. Integrated, connected modules have 8 overarching structures and there is joint teaching like English and Science teachers working together to teach a class. She gave a nice shout-out to Science Fiction as the beautiful intersection of English and Science! The science fiction novel Ender’s Game was looked at in connection with the gamification of war. Authentic actions and outcomes are sought after, such as having students deal with sustainability and cleaning up foreshores as an activity (real world problems).

There is a We not Me culture. But we should give them a chance to prove they can do projects, etc. Senior students can do independent research projects. The HPSS Pollinator is a space for outsiders to come in and work and then interact with students. It is trying to seize the opportunity to connect with the community and get experts to “pollinate” students with ideas. Since students haven’t been told they can’t do things yet, they can have great ideas about concepts like new games. Amos discussed allowing an Open Internet because kids can get around filters with VPNs. We might as well have a conversation about digital citizenship instead of trying to restrict their activity. The school is purposefully Brand/Platform Agnostic and not an Apple or Microsoft school. It recognizes that games are a part of life so has board games and video games in the library.

GLM sector should assume leadership because it has a lot to offer educators and students. Museums have been offering curated content for hundreds of years for people to go and learn for themselves. She called for organizations to start identifying themselves as Innovation Hubs and consider involving kids in the construction of museum exhibits that will interest them (example: Minecraft in Auckland Museum). New Zealand is small enough to do something different. Why not have labs open to students or host unconferences for the Education sector (which are already running through EduCampNZ). Currently, many educators are stuck in echo chamber, recycling the same ideas. She emphasized, Let’s go free-range together! In the age of complex communication, writing essays isn’t good enough.

How Filmmakers Use Your Stuff – José Barbosa

Barbosa elaborated on some of the ways The Naughty Bits documentary film project used sources from the GLAM sector. High-resolution images were pulled off Flickr (example: White Rock Beverage Co.). Newspaper cartoons were pulled from Papers Past (then manipulated with Adobe AfterEffects). Material was also used from NZ Archives and DigitalNZ, called a lifesaver for the project. An interesting note from the film was that when Ulysses came to New Zealand in 1967, theatres sex-segregated the audiences because it was considered so scandalous. One of the tensions around content use is the issue of protecting rights vs. obvious engagement. For example, the Old Auckland site has 20,000 followers but was asked to take down Auckland Library photos. He suggested it would help filmmakers if content released on sites had timecodes that matched the original video. Also, it should be more clear what file format/codec the content is in so filmmakers know how much time and money to budget to format it in the version they need.

Panel Discussion on Wikipedia – Sara Barham, Mike Dickison, Courtney Johnston, Stuart Yeates

Yeates said that Wikipedia is trying to be a tertiary source, so it is important to have conflicts of interest listed on user page. He says he has created most Māori biography pages besides ones about sports heroes.

Dickison tried to change attitudes toward use of Wikipedia at the University of Canterbury and got it into assignments in conjunction with essays. He mentioned WikiWednesday and needing strategies to recruit editors. There was a Wikipedian-in-residence for 6 weeks at Wanganui because the Council realized that most people in the world were learning about the city through Wikipedia and that it was mostly about gangs and negative stuff. Now an edit-a-thon is being organized.

Barham discussed the Matariki Humanities Network and Marsden Archive at the University of Otago. One issue was how to address the question of whether the sources could be used on Wikpedia because they’re primary sources.

Johnston talked about how craft history is not taught at NZ universities so making pages for women craft artists from New Zealand’s past was a nice way for her to use her Art History degree for once. There was a kind of feminism-a-thon on the blog. One conflict of interest was that the artists were depending on the coverage so had a bias in what they wanted the articles to say. Johnston realized that others who might be more neutral didn’t have the knowledge and ability to make pages. Editing on the low-risk areas of Wikipedia meant fewer trolls (since New Zealand craft history not as important or popular as, say, Star Wars). She used sentence-by-sentence referencing and direct quotes when she wanted to use descriptive/aesthetic words and language that otherwise isn’t allowed as being too subjective.

Other things discussed were that the appearance of a conflict of interest can be as important as actual bias. You can’t say something (for example, the well-known head of an LGBT Studies department being gay, even if you know) unless it is referenced somewhere. There is a known issue with Wikipedia not being able to accommodate other ways of knowledge, like oral history, which apparently it is looking into how to incorporate. The entire primary, secondary, tertiary source concept is written-based. There is a lack of diversity in editors. Ultimately, the crux of the argument is: what is an encyclopedia? Kate Hannah (another presenter at the conference) brought up implicit bias and her work on women in science in New Zealand projects.

How to Make Literary Webseries – Claris Jacobs, Elsie Bollinger, and Minnie Grace (The Candle Wasters)

These ambitious 18-22-year-olds decided to make a literary vlog series based on Shakespeare and went viral. A vlog is a video blog, usually around 3 minutes. They have now done two: Nothing Much to Do and Lovely Little Losers. One inspiration was The Lizzie Bennet Diaries which ran from April 2012 to March 2013 and was based on Pride and Prejudice. Their audience is 94% female. They promoted it on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Over 50% of visits from the U.S. Their characters also had other social media accounts and commented on other characters’ videos (added to world-building effect). There are now fan fiction and offshoots like fan art, socks, tea, and songs. Their Kickstarter campaign to make the second series raised over $22,000! And they recently got funded for $100,000 through a New Zealand organization.

Finding All the Books – Greg Roulston

Dune poster

Roulston learned a lot by attending Kiwi Pycon 2014, including elastic search, and found out a lot of what he didn’t know before. He mentioned the Sublime text editor, Flask. And he was the one with the sweet Dune reference complete with slide and “fear is the mindkiller” quote, urging us to not be afraid to try new things with technology. Humans like data visualization. Nailing technology is a natural high. One question we need to ask is what kind of access are we happy with? If Amazon or other organization has it digitized, is that enough?

Revitalization of Indigenous Knowledge – Steven Renata

Renata opened with the Māori language to bring the language of the people into the room. He said there are over 7,000 languages in the world with merely 85 top languages spoken by most people. Language is the DNA strand of culture, part of society. But every two weeks a language is lost. Technology alone will not save it; it has to be passion. If not spoken in the home, language will die (even if it is taught in school). The company he is with, Kiwa Digital, makes digital book apps and uses the neurological impress method for literacy, digitally mimicking that effect in software (child hears you say word and intakes it). They started at the Chevak School in Alaska. A 48-hour book project was great for students and community engagement. Here in New Zealand, Ngāi Tahu is putting a lot of resources into language, including their creation story. Kiwa’s research has shown that young kids like female voices, and boys like graphic-style and violence rather than still images. When trying to work with Arabic language in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), they found it was very difficult to go right to left and with cursive script. The biggest cost is audio.

Assumption, Attention, Articulation – George Oates

Oates’ company is Good, Form & Spectacle, which is making exploratory interfaces for data and collection. Search is the dominant paradigm, but humans are not built to do this in a social context. Museums are good at facilitating wandering in physical space but not online. Humans are built to wander like in old cities (Florence) vs. cities designed for cars (Atlanta). There is a false assumption that people know what they’re looking for when they come to collections. Excuses for bad interfaces include that they’re “just for researchers”, but even researchers appreciate good design! Sector should look for bigger audience who might be interested (proto-researchers) or researchers who are looking for new connections or ideas. She gave the example of her godson who is now interested in geology after receiving gems as a gift from her when he was little. This gift enabled him to want to learn more about the field. Sector should enable wandering.

We are now spending our attention in continuous partial attention. It is hard to do deeper reading online or offline. Not using a phone now stands out in a crowd (picture shown of an elderly woman not on a phone while everyone else has their phones out and over their heads snapping photos and videos of something). Apple has entirely captured our attention with products and keynotes.

She mentioned the Wall Street Journal article “Museums Open Up to Power of Wiki” and monthly edit-a-thons to improve pages about art and what museums know about. Sculptures meant to be outside now are inside, encased in glass, against their purpose. Humans operate more on networks than a search function; can’t web accommodate that? Web 2.0 brought us live images that move, but we’re still stuck in broadcast mode (one-way). How can we articulate collections better and not just through search boxes and lists? She used the term “spelunking” (cave diving) for a project at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Get rid of search box; use data visualization not just words. It is quite frustrating to have to click multiple times to get to an image, and then it’s small. Give images more real estate! Can objects be internetually curious? (and hear what’s being said about them across the internet). One technique is to acknowledge stereotypes and issues openly (example of posters in a library saying: What’s in the Library? Mostly white guys. Come and find out and use our new tool.). About 80% of institutions have <10 staff.

She elaborated on a Small Museum project with rotating displays each day. For one object originally from Easter Island, when placed in one circle, sound played of what it might sound like if it were on Easter Island in its original habitat, and then when placed in another circle, what it sounds like when it is at the British Museum (silence or noisy kids, etc.). The project also explored how items made the journey to the museum (acquisition history). They can be so out of context in static cases. Calling it a museum calmed people. One user left a comment that “I learnt more here than I have in the British Museum”.