I listened to a panel at SITE 2013 that dealt with teaching skills for digital citizenship. Among the skills the panel recommended: media literacy, cyber ethics, online communication skills, and knowledge of both open resources and those behind paywalls. Panelist Joke Voogt offered some levels of competence: a passive user understands what’s going on, an active one uses web resources, a competent user is able to interact online, and a skillful user also knows how to influence others. My own wishlist includes some practical skills: When teachers find an error on Wikipedia, they fix it instead of complaining. Students check other sources beyond the first hit on Google. Journalists avoid generalizations like “online crowds” and “internet users”, especially if they’re referring to comments from their magazine’s own forum. Entrepreneurs give up clumsy surreptitious advertising in social media and instead offer their products openly. People stop getting angry about strong opinions in blog posts – and bloggers will share those strong opinions with style but not with rancor. As long as I’m making wishes, maybe people will make a habit of acknowledging the original source when sharing material on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else.
Last week I attended the SITE 2013 conference in New Orleans. Many presenters summarized recent history and speculated about the future. They reminded me of Osmo A. Wiio’s finding that we overestimate the impact of technological change in the short term but underestimate it in the long term. The educational use of technology tends to spread slowly, according to its pioneers, but the eventual effect will be revolutionary. Keynote speakers Milton Chen and Paul Kim strongly supported the view that education must be connected closely to the real world: we need tools to enable learning everywhere, all the time, and not solely inside the walls of a school. On the Internet, you have to provide an easy, stimulating platform where students organize their own activities, and students will teach each other. Paul Kim predicted that in the future, formal grading may become obsolete; evaluation will be done by students, who will recognize and reward the contributions made online by their peers. He himself gave endorsements on LinkedIn to participants in his MOOC. Mariana Patru from UNESCO was concerned about the geographical and gender-based digital divide, which mobile learning may be able to narrow. Education cannot remain in the pre-digital era; digital age teachers need to update their skills constantly in professional learning communities.
I’ve just read the book Conflicting Science Policy by Antti Hautamäki andPirjo Ståhle. They contend that universities are grappling with the conflict between the expectations of the marketplace and the ideals of scientific inquiry. Universities should not exist simply to help maintain the economy; they also have a broad educational mission. Citing the philosopher Martha Nussbaum, the authors argue that technology and economic status are insufficient to ensure well-being. We need the humanities to teach people skills for democracy. The key idea of the book is that the university should influence the development of society more actively—for example, by addressing such problems as climate change, aging and sustainable development. These difficult problems cannot be solved solely by research within a single discipline. They call for a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving, and for cooperation among all stakeholders. The authors go on to say that a country like Finland can’t compete directly with the dominant Anglo-American universities; the annual budget for Harvard is 3.7 billion dollars, while Helsinki University’s is 830 million. Therefore Finland should choose its own path, developing itself as a center for science and innovation, whose universities focus on solving mankind’s wicked problems through interdisciplinary collaboration.
During the papal conclave, a radio journalist asked me the origin of the expression “cardinal error”. I would have liked to tell a colorful tale about an insidious prince of the church who turned the course of history by selecting the wrong pope. Sadly, word origins rarely offer such entertaining stories. In this case, the dictionary says that the adjective cardinal means ‘principal, fundamental, chief, very serious, grave’. The Finnish kardinaali isn’t widely used in a non-ecclesiastical sense; our dictionary mentions cardinal error, cardinal numbers, cardinal bird, and cardinalfish. In English, cardinalappears as an adjective much more often: cardinal principle gets 179 000Google hits, cardinal rule has 688 000 hits, and cardinal direction26 300 000. All cardinals have Latin roots; remaining unaware of thoseorigins could be a cardinal sin.
The Editor’s Book is worth checking out if your job includes editing or you just simply like a book as an artifact. It is a good example of a quality book, both visually and in terms of content. The appearance is harmonious and perfectly meets the requirements for book typography that Markus Itkonenspells out in one of the book’s selections. As for the contents, the book consists of twenty cogent articles that deal with publishing, book-editing, the book as artifact, and marketing. A large appendix presents sample contracts, proofreading marks, and an editor’s checklist. The book’s editor,Teijo Makkonen, says that there’s no formal training program for book editors; the work has to be learned on the job. The core competence is deciding what to publish, declares Harri Haanpää. According to him, the decision is based on the ability to distinguish the significant from the insignificant; rejection is an essential skill, since that’s what the editor does 99.5% of the time. Authors often forget that publishing is a business, and that a book is the product. Arto Tuokko calculates that in Finland a book has to sell two thousand copies before the publisher breaks even − and most books don’t come near that. That’s why Timo Salo suggests that editors add another category to their bedtime reading: sales figures.
A few weeks ago, I finished my language criticism course for journalism students. In all, they submitted 83 stories, totaling 21,871 words—and 181,504 characters. They did well with grammar, and even with comma usage I only found 59 errors. Most of those had to do with the Finnish rules about when to use a comma with “and”. Most of my criticisms dealt with redundancy: repetition (60), unnecessary words (44), and wordy expressions (39). I noted 55 cases of using inappropriate words, but I found many more opportunities to praise excellent choices. To translate some examples into English, students used “needle” instead of the more obvious “tease;” critics were “niggling” rather than “picky.” I also found vivid new expressions like “attitude factory” for a school producing like-minded students, “hikikomori,” and “baking wizard” in a piece about a creative grandmother. In sum, the students showed great awareness of language. They knew their own weaknesses and worked to avoid them, and they really wanted detailed feedback on their language. Not only did they make effective choices, but they could also defend why they wrote as they did. It was nice—I mean, invigorating—to work with such language champs.
In Saturday’s Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, Ville Blåfield compared two political cultures through speeches by two presidents, Sauli Niinistö of Finland and Barack Obama. Citing Antti Mustakallio and Jussi Lähde, he states that Niinistö uses a highly formal style laden with Finnish officialese. Niinistö presents issues abstractly and impersonally, while Obama frequently uses “I” and “me”. Why do Finnish politicians think they have to hide themselves? The former MP Rosa Meriläinen writes in The Researcher’s Book that in Finland politicians imitate the style of experts, because we Finns have very rigid ideas about the speaking style that a politician should use. In order to be credible, a politician must not only speak like a technocrat but also mask his intentions with a coating of facts and neutral language. This kind of rhetorical posing should not, however, add to someone’s apparent trustworthiness. Instead, credibility comes from openly stating what you think and what you propose to do.
I bought The Researcher’s Book at the book fair and read it last week. This collection of 26 articles reveals the work life of a researcher organized around three themes. The contributors are researchers at different career stages from doctoral student to emeritus professor. The book works well: it opens the tacit knowledge of the field to the reader in ways that are fascinating – and sometimes sarcastic. In the article by Joel Kuortti andTapio Rissanen, working conditions on the typical short-term research project are described with the expression ‘Japanese strike’: researchers do more and more work, because they’re never sure how much is enough.Anneli Anttonen and Jorma Sipilä temper the novice researcher’s enthusiasm to conquer the world by saying that bold initiatives are not well received in the strenuously conservative scientific world . An article is more likely to be published if it brings a little clarification to an issue that has been recently discussed in academic journals. According to Pirjo Nikander, a conference paper is likelier to be accepted when the title sounds interesting but not too clever; it’s also wise to embed in the title some words related to the conference themes. The Researcher’s Book also suggests that scientific writing is undergoing changes. For example, it now includes candid descriptions of the actual research process, and the writer is no longer completely hidden by facts and neutral phrasing.
Last week, the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper released a great tool for making your own bullshit bingo. This online resource even lets you add terms to bingo cards for fields like media, IT, government, and business in general. Clearly we also need a card for project management. If I were making one, I’d start with these terms: project methodology, development program, coordinator, objective, implementation, developing performance, development know-how, engagement model, best practices, network of experts, project application, resources, functioning pattern, deliverable, operating environment, peer community. Projects aim to do something in real life; that’s why they should describe their actions concretely, not vaguely. Managers justify such murky project language by saying it simply fulfills the sponsor’s requirements. Similarly, sponsors supposedly require the abbreviation of the project’s name, which explains freakish labels like VeTeVT, eEtu, PEPPIII, JoPe. If I were a sponsor, I would urge plain language instead of obscure project-management jargon.
At the end of January, I was one of 150 participants in a conference on online community management at the Hotel Rosendahl in Tampere. Keynote speaker Antti Isokangas believes that all media are becoming more and more social, and content sharing by media professionals is increasing as well. According to him, topics first arise on TV and in newspapers; only later are they discussed in social media. My experience is just the opposite: increasingly, topics first appear on social media; traditional media report on the topic after a few hours or days, often without mentioning their social-media sources. This trend seems to get stronger all the time. From a company perspective, Marko Suomi and Janne Ruohisto wonder how to get employees to use the available social tools. One answer was provided by Pirjo Friedrich, who presented F-Secure’s crowdsourced project, carried out on the Owela platform. They encouraged volunteers by making weekly assignments, sending email updates, and rewarding participation – that is to say, in the same way as in online instruction. Of course, the assignments need to be interesting and have a personal touch, otherwise people won’t participate.