Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the e-Learning & Innovative Pedagogies Research Network.
Similar to higher education in the USA and elsewhere, higher education in China confronts unprecedented changes in how people acquire, use, create, and share information in a global media environment. Despite considerable cultural, legal, and institutional differences between Chinese higher education and that of the West, reinforced by China's restrictive Internet policies (aka, the Great Firewall), we in China still very much live and work in an era of ubiquitous computing. But also like our counterparts elsewhere, we have yet to realize a general environment of ubiquitous learning, particularly as demarcated by “New Learning: A Charter for Change in Education,” a significant and arguably visionary manifesto by the College of Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In educating generation digital native, in preparing our students for the challenges of China’s nascent knowledge society, this study discusses the progress being made at one university in China, and explores how our efforts—when successful, and when not—may offer valuable insights and examples for other institutions of higher education dealing with similar issues and challenges.
Three years after my participation at the Seventh International Conference on e-Learning and Innovative Pedagogies (2014), my engagement with many of the topics we discussed and my self-education continues. One major theme was the importance of data—for humanities professors, we were encouraged to not just rely on qualitative analyses, or personal experience, or even readily available and reliable information. Rather, we were asked to create data. In doing so, we were asked to explore how data is transformative – and why quantitative thinking is becoming part of the new set of literacy skills. This contributed to my start with data science for humanities, particularly with using the programming language R, with RStudio. My education with R is ongoing, and I am far from an expert. But I have learned to enough to know that my students, typically either English majors or Chinese majors, also need the opportunity to work with data.
Starting in Fall 2017, I will be teaching CLA 3206A: Text Mining for Liberal Art Majors. As the name suggests, the new course offers an introduction to text mining, with an emphasis towards text analysis for students of language and literature. Students use an Open Source data science toolkit, R with RStudio, to analyze various kinds of text data to visualize patterns, connections, and exceptions. The approach is active-learning, project-based, emphasizes doing over theory, and provides viable models for the students to employ, examine, vary, and build upon. The course also connects to several professional and academic knowledge communities, and so leverages existing and emergent digital resources and exemplars for best practices. (A follow-up course on more general data science for the humanities is under development).
Ubiquitous, life-long learning is not just for our students. My engagement with the e-Learning and Innovative Pedagogies Research Network has contributed to my career as educator moving in a new and unforeseen direction. But the result is that I now have more to offer my students, and can help them better navigate our increasingly complex, data-driven and data-saturated public and professional spheres.
—Thomas J. Haslam