Learning Just in Time (and not a moment sooner)

A Short History of (my) Networked Scholarship

The title of this blog post could also be “how to embed a Google slideshow into a WordPress blog,” since that’s what the images embedded below teach. But I also thought I’d write about searching for WordPress tricks, since so many of us are using WordPress (and other platforms) in our teaching, research, and personal digital presence. And then I realized that my real topic is the lifecycle of an idea in networked scholarship.

Today, I wanted to post some slides from a recent conference presentation to my blog. I’ve posted Powerpoint and Prezi slideshows before, but this time the slides were built via Google Presentation, and I wasn’t sure how to connect them. Now, there are, I’m sure, many ways to achieve this, but I wanted to find a simple, one step solution, and I was confident that I would be able to, given the prevalence of these two platforms on the Web. This blog will describe how I figured out how to embed the slides, why I wanted to do it, and a few thoughts about how scholarship is changing with this kind of instance publication to a networked public. If you just want to know how to embed your Google Slides into your WordPress blog, jump to this handy slideshow  and follow the steps.

Why we used Google Slides for this conference

Let me begin by commenting about creating the presentation on Google Slides in the first place. With two other colleagues, I just presented the slides in question at #dLRN15, the “Digital Learning Research Network” conference, which focused on “Making Sense of Higher Education 2015.” Our presentation was co-authored by the three of us, each in a different time zone, and presented at the conference in hybrid fashion: I was present physically, and my co-authors Maha Bali and Christina Hendricks presented virtually via a Google Hangout uplink. This structure made sense in a variety of ways, as we have been working together on a virtual game (with additional collaborators Janine DeBaise and Pete Rorabaugh) for a couple years, and we were presenting as part of a stream focusing on the “Ethics of Collaboration.” Being able to present at a conference from a remote location is a crucial component of ethical collaboration, as the ability to attend conferences in person tends to privilege those North American scholars, scholars in particular kinds of employment positions, scholars without children, etc. In other words: conference attendance is often yet an additional privilege of scholars who are already privileged in other ways.

Our project was thus networked, collaborative, and virtual in all stages of its conception and execution. We drafted our presentation on Google slides because we were all editing from different geographic (and temporal) locations. There are good alternatives to Google, of course, but in this case we chose to use the corporate giant because of their reliability of service, despite our qualms about contributing to their ongoing growth.

Why I wanted to post the slides

After I returned from the conference, I have continued to interact with many friends I met there via Twitter and other means. Sharing the slides on my blog is an additional way to open my work to others, including especially those who were not able to attend the conference physically. #dLRN15, like HASTAC and many other conferences that are associated with an ongoing scholarly community, continues to support lively interaction and to promote future collaborations among both physical and virtual attendees well after the conference itself.

This ongoing conversation and connection is an aspect of conferences that I value greatly. I teach at a small liberal arts college on the West Coast of the US, and my conference attendance is necessarily limited by geography, finances, and my teaching schedule. I used to feel quite isolated between conferences, disconnected from all but a few fellow scholars with whom I had long-standing connections or geographical coincidence. Now, because of the prevalence and activity of social media networks, my post-conference excitement can be sustained longer and lead to rich collaborative opportunities, as in the very paper I was presenting at #dLRN.

Digital Scholarship Lifecycle

So how has this digital connectivity changed the sequence and means of my scholarship? Profoundly.

I still write traditional journal articles and submit them through the slow and painstaking blind review process. (In fact, I just sent in a revised manuscript this morning!) But increasingly, those articles grow out of ideas, projects, conference papers, and blog posts that have preceded them.

So for example, the essay I submitted this morning began as a set of questions that I asked students to engage with in a course I taught in 2013. In order to better teach those questions, I did research both on the web and in traditional scholarly venues, and compiled a series of readings and assignments for my students. My students then read those materials, wrote their own reflections about them, and posted their work to their individual blog pages. Their blogs are connected to each other and to others who are also interested in the same author and topics, so their class work was not an empty exercise but a contribution to a knowledge community. After reviewing my students’ blog pages, I realized that that the class as a whole had achieved something rather wonderful, and I blogged (bragged?) about their success. That blog post became the basis for a paper proposal I then submitted in response to a call for articles I received. When my article proposal was accepted, I contacted a number of students in the class for their permission to cite them, and then wrote an article containing numerous links to their online work. (As I did so, I discovered that at least one student had continued to enlarge her blog well after the class was over!) The article also includes numerous links to assignments, blog posts, and digital journal articles by other faculty who were writing online about their own teaching and learning. When the article comes out, I will post a link to it here, on my own blog, and share it with future students in the same course, so they can learn from their peers from previous years.

The one unsatisfying facet of this post, for me, is that I cannot simply link to my article right now. I have to wait until it is published. But otherwise, the cycle of discovery, research, pedagogy, teaching, student work, reflection, research, and publication has been seamless. What an amazing experience! While not all teaching situations will integrate the professor’s and student’s research so fully, this example does embody a really exciting potential for faculty who teach undergraduate courses.

How to embed Google Slides into a WordPress post

How can I conclude a post with is all about an endless cycle of research feeding teaching feeding public scholarship feeding authentic learning feeding scholarship of teaching and learning feeding research, etc.? Well, I’ve already embedded the conference slides on a previous post, after learning how to do so from a wonderful, brief, anonymous slideshow I found via a quick search. So instead of bringing the multiple threads of this post together, I’ll just conclude without finishing, by simply embedding the short Google slideshow on how to embed a Google Slideshow into a WordPress blog.

Because why separate the how from the what from the why? Connecting the how-what-why is one of the reasons that networked digital scholarship is so transformative for me. So–here’s someone else’s slideshow. I hope it’s just in time for you, too.


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