Virtual School Meanderings

August 13, 2012

Academia, Research And Tenure

A colleague of mine, Jon Becker, has posted an entry entitled A little help, please?  In that entry, Jon describes how he is going up for promotion and tenure this coming year, and that the first thing in that process is for three full professors that he has had no professional collaboration with will review his dossier and provide an assessment of him (a process known as external review).

I too will be going up for promotion and tenure in the coming year.  In fact, it has only been this past week that I have finalized the initial materials for my dossier, and those materials should be sent to six external reviewers shortly.  As in Jon’s case, these should be people in my field (i.e., instructional technology), who have knowledge of distance education/online learning – and, ideally, K-12 online learning.  They should also be full professors at similar institutions (i.e., research-extensive based on the Carnegie classifications) and, ideally, at big name universities that would be recognized by academics in any field.  And, of course, people that I have not collaborated with on any kind of project (i.e., writing, research, development, etc.).   For those of you familiar with academics in the field of K-12 online learning, you know that the field is already quite small – and these criteria do make it even smaller.

In Jon’s entry, he asks his blogging audience to respond to several questions and states that it is his intention to include those responses in his promotion and tenure portfolio.  I’m guessing that our materials differ somewhat, as the space requirements I am given for the documents that I must include would not allow me to carry out such an exercise.  However, over the next five months I will try and document some of my own promotion and tenure journey in this space; and also try and provide some of the materials from that journey that I believe relevant to this audience.  I may also try and obtain some feedback – as Jon is doing – that while won’t be an official part of my promotion and tenure dossier, will be of great interest and importance to me personally.

June 23, 2011

“Dr. M.K. Barbour, Your Work Has Been Cited” – OR – Open Access Vs. Closed Access

So earlier today I got the following e-mail:

Online Version

CiteAlert is a  free, unique and automated service to notify authors when their articles are cited.
Dear Dr. M.K. Barbour,It is our pleasure to inform you that your publication has been cited in a journal published by Elsevier.Through this unique service we hope we can offer you valuable information, and make you aware of publications in your research area.Best regards,Author Support

Your article:
The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature
Barbour, M.K., Reeves, T.C.
Computers and Education
volume 52, issue 2, year 2009, pp. 402 – 416

has been cited in:
cover Classrooms matter: The design of virtual classrooms influences gender disparities in computer science classes
Cheryan, S., Meltzoff, A.N., Kim, S.
Computers and Education
volume 57, issue 2, year 2011, pp. 1825 – 1835

View all citations to your article in SciVerse Scopus

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What is CiteAlert?A service which automatically notifies authors by email when their work is referenced by a newly published article on SciVerse ScienceDirect.Only when your article has been indexed by SciVerse Scopus, the largest citation database of research literature, will you be eligible to receive a CiteAlert.View your Author Profile in SciVerse ScopusProvide feedback on this service

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If you click on the link, it shows you that the following people have cited this article over the past three years using their metric:

1 Classrooms matter: The design of virtual classrooms influences gender disparities in computer science classes Cheryan, S., Meltzoff, A.N., Kim, S. 2011 Computers and Education 57 (2), pp. 1825-1835 0
2 Reimagining schools: The potential of virtual education Searson, M., Monty Jones, W., Wold, K. 2011 British Journal of Educational Technology 42 (3), pp. 363-371 0
3 A comparison of organizational structure and pedagogical approach: Online versus face-to-face McFarlane, D.A. 2011 Journal of Educators Online 8 (1) 0
4 Intention, transition, retention: Examining high school distance e-learners’ participation in post-secondary education Kirby, D., Sharpe, D. 2011 International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education 7 (1), pp. 21-32 0
5 Enhancing online distance education in small rural US schools: A hybrid, learner-centred model De La Varre, C., Keane, J., Irvin, M.J. 2010 ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology 18 (3), pp. 193-205 0
6 Mii school: New 3D technologies applied in education to detect drug abuses and bullying in adolescents Carmona, J.A., Espínola, M., Cangas, A.J., Iribarne, L. 2010 Communications in Computer and Information Science 73 CCIS, pp. 65-72 0
7 Videoconferencing in English schools: One technology, many pedagogies? Lawson, T., Comber, C. 2010 Technology, Pedagogy and Education 19 (3), pp. 315-326 0
8 High school students in the new learning environment: A profile of distance e-learners Kirby, D., Sharpe, D. 2010 Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology 9 (1), pp. 83-88 0
9 Virtual school pedagogy: The instructional practices of K-12 virtual school teachers Dipietro, M. 2010 Journal of Educational Computing Research 42 (3), pp. 327-354 1
10 New capabilities for cyber charter school leadership: An emerging imperative for integrating educational technology and educational leadership knowledge Kowch, E. 2009 TechTrends 53 (4), pp. 41-48 0
11 Pennsylvania cyber school funding: Follow the money Carr-Chellman, A.A., Marsh, R.M. 2009 TechTrends 53 (4), pp. 49-55 0

Now it was only last week that a good friend of mine as visiting me from Brigham Young University and we were playing with the Publish or Perish tool.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this tool, it essentially uses Google Scholar as a way of indexing and ranking the impact of a particular article.  So, if you run the same article through Publish or Perish you get these results:

Cites Authors Title Year Source Publisher ArticleURL CitesURL
30 MK Barbour & TC Reeves The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature 2009 Computers & Education Elsevier,5&hl=en&num=100

Now one of the things about Publish or Perish is that it doesn’t remove your own self-citations, and if you look at the list of cites on Google Scholar you can remove three of those citations – giving us a total of 27 citations using Publish or Perish.

I describe this issue today for two reasons. The first is that I’ll be honest and say that many of the places where this article has been cited were articles that I am unfamiliar with. So it has been a great way to see some new literature that is being written by folks beyond the usual suspects.

The second reason is because I have been having discussions lately with people about open access publication, and the value of publishing in open access sources to have a greater impact on the community. Now I’m in a unique position – I think – to examine this issue, as I was a co-author on two literature review articles that were both published about the same time in 2009: the one above was in a closed access publication and a second, with Cathy Cavanaugh and Tom Clark, in an open access journal.

Now what I have found interesting is that using the same Publish or Perish tool (as you need a subscription to do your own searches using SciVerse Scopus), you get these results:

Cites Authors Title Year Source Publisher ArticleURL CitesURL
11 CS Cavanaugh, MK Barbour, T Clark Research and practice in K-12 online learning: A review of open access literature 2009 Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning,5&hl=en&num=100

Again, if you remove the self-citations from all three authors, you would decrease the number by three, leaving a grand total of 8 citations.

Now this seems counter-intuitive to me… You would think that the open access publication would have a higher ranking than the closed access publication – particularly given the fact that both were published about the same time. I would also expect that using Google Scholar as the database of comparison (as Publish or Perish does) would even out things in favour of the open access publication.

Needless to say that given I will be preparing my promotion and tenure application over the next twelve months, these kinds of issues (e.g., impact and academic reach) are becoming more and more important to me. But I wanted to share these observations this morning and invite my readers to comment…

Specially, I would ask the non-university-based folks if you have ever read either of these two articles? If you have, which one(s) have you read? For the more academic folks (i.e., those university-based or foundation-based researchers), which of these two have you read?

April 6, 2011

Sixth Blogiversary Or Blogging As A Form Of Knowledge Dissemination

So it appears that three and a half weeks ago, I forgot that it was the sixth birthday for Virtual School Meanderings.  Last year (well, one year, three and a half weeks ago) I used Five Years Of Virtual School Meanderings as a way to reflect upon what started this blog – an entry about a three year old article that had asked leaders in the field of virtual schooling, “How do you see the virtual high school evolving over the next five years and what questions need to be answered before that evolution can occur?” and I asked the simple question, “after three years since this article was published, how far have we come in addressing the issues raise by the participants in their responses to this question?” In the fifth anniversary entry I indicated that it was now eight years since that original article was published, but my question was still a relevant one (it was also where I announced this blog’s association with the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education [CASTLE]).

It is now a year later (well a year, three and a half weeks), and I want to take a slightly different look back this year.  I’ve spent a lot of time over this past year thinking about the nature of this space, the time in invest it in, and its place within my academic career.  Part of this has somewhat forced upon me through my participation in two panels on blogging in the academy over the past eighteen months (see Round-Up – Congress 2009: Academic Blogs – Connecting People And Ideas and EDGE 2010 Panel – Academic Blogging and Tweeting: Connecting People, Ideas And Research [REVIEW]).  In fact, in the past month as I was completing my narrative for my annual review, I felt the need to include the following paragraph at the end of my service section:

Finally, I have continued to manage a blog focused on K-12 online learning where I post content related to academic and practitioner-focused publications and presentations, professional development opportunities, news items, etc. to approximately 7,000 to 10,000 unique readers each month (see ). This blogging activity has actually brought my scholarship and expertise in the K-12 online learning field to the attention of many individuals, including those who were responsible for the invitations to keynote at the conferences organized by the Regional Educational Laboratory – Midwest and the Innovative and Digital Education and Learning – New Mexico. Additionally, it has resulted in invited participation in panels on the topic of blogging in the academy at the EDGE 2010: e-Learning – The Horizon And Beyond conference (October 2010) and annual Canadian Society for the Study of Education conference (May 2009).

At this stage in my academic career, and given the amount of time I was spending on it (an average of 1.64 hours a day during September 2010, at least according to my records I kept for EDGE 2010 Blog Panel: Your Blog In Your Academic Work), I felt it was important to note to those who will eventually judge my promotion and tenure application that this is an important part of who I am as a scholar.

I’ve continued to think about this role of blogging in the academy…  While I have been doing this, the folks at Mobilize This! have posted a series of entries that touch at the heart of the issue for me.

Now I will be the first to admit that I rarely use this space for knowledge creation or knowledge dissemination.  Generally speaking it replaces the traditional bulletin board on the wall of a staffroom – posting notices of events and calls, notifying folks of articles and other readings, and just relaying general items of interest.  But it has made me question the value to the community of this space and how I use it.  Last week in Statistics For March 2011, I reported that there had been over 12,000 hits on this blog during the month.  During that same time I posted 121 entries.  In fact, if you look over the six years this blog has been in operation, you see an interesting correlation:

  • 2005: 5-14 entries per month / statistics not kept
  • 2006: 12-16 entries per month / between 400-600 visitors a month
  • 2007: 8-14 entries per month (until October and then 31-40 entries for the final two months) / between 800-1200 visitors a month (no change with final two months)
  • 2008: 25-48 entries per month (until September and then 72-91 entries for the final three month) / between 600-1200 visitors a month until June, then 2000-2500 from July to September, and then 3300-3700 for the final three months
  • 2009: 62-112 entries per month / between 4600-7100 visitors a month
  • 2010: 67-114 entries per month / between 6300-11,100 visitors a month
  • 2011: 105-121 entries per month / between 10,700-12,300 visitors a month thus far

It is quite clear that the amount of per month content has been correlated with the number of visitors to the blog (i.e., the more I post the more people visit).  However, one of the biggest differences has been that back in 2005 and 2006 almost every entry was a substantive, reflective entry.  Whereas today, I may get the opportunity to do that with 5-6 entries per month (maybe as many as a dozen on a good month), but most of the entries are simply passing on information (which does have its place).  And while I haven’t done a complete analysis of it, I suspect that the increase in entries has resulted in a significant decrease in comments.

It is interesting because one of the ways I have taken to justifying the amount of time I spent blogging is that contribution to the community.  In her response to one of my EDGE 2010 entries, Cathy Cavanaugh included Boyer (1990) in her response.  If you look at the focus and scope page of the Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning, they describe Boyer’s four types of scholarship as:

  • Discovery – investigative research, with supporting evidence for new ideas. What is to be found? Discovery research is typically study-based, grounded in existing literature and with sound methodology.
  • Integration – the bringing together of existing ideas in a summarised form, with key themes identified. What does what is found actually mean? Integration involves working with existing ideas, based on extensive literature review across disciplines.
  • Application – accounts of how distance education theory has been implemented in operational contexts. How can what is found be used? Application firmly rests on literature, providing an account of how theory has been applied and providing transferable lessons and opportunities for further research based on the experience.
  • Teaching – accounts of innovative practice, preferably informed by student evaluation. How can what is found be understood by others? Teaching research is more than a ‘look at what we did’; it is informed, reflective and ultimately useful in other settings.

Cathy indicated that “the work of the academy should ‘relate directly to the realities of contemporary life’ (Boyer, 1990, p. 13),” and that was where she placed this blog – a way to relate the fact that I am essentially paid to stay on top of what is happening in the field of K-12 online learning by virtue of the fact that it is my research focus and a part of my teaching, and this blog is a way that I can share that with the larger community.

Yet I still struggle on a number of fronts…  The time it takes to use this space to disseminate general information and events related to K-12 online learning takes me away from being able to provide the more substantive and reflective (and time consuming) knowledge dissemination pieces.  But it does seem to be the information dissemination that drives the traffic to this blog.  I suspect the real answer is to try and find a healthy balance between the two, but the reality is that the demands of promotion and tenure requirements make that balance difficult to find.

Anyway, these are just some random thoughts about the state of this blogosphere over the past six years (well, six years, three and a half weeks).


Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. : Jossey-Bass.

July 23, 2009

FLVS Game: Conspiracy Code

Filed under: 360Ed,academia,academic,Achieve3000,administration,administrator,administrators,assistant principals,CASTLE,college,colleges,conferences,Conspiracy Code,cyber school,district,districts,edublog,edublogosphere,edublogs,education,educational administration,educational gaming,educational leadership,educational technology,educational technology leadership,eSchool News,Florida Virtual School,FLVS,games,Games Learning & Society 2009,gaming,GLS 2009,high school,higher education,Hugh Grant,ISTE,Julie Young,leaders,leadership,leadership development,leadership preparation,leadership training,learners,learning,McLeod,NECC,necc09,news,Notting Hill,postsecondary,presentations,principal,principals,professional development,research,school,school administration,school administrator,school administrators,school districts,school leaders,school principals,school superintendents,schools,Scott McLeod,scottmcleod,staff development,student,students,superintendent,superintendents,teacher,teachers,teaching,technology,technology coordinators,technology integration,technology leadership,training,UCEA,universities,university,virtual school,Wisconsin — Michael Barbour @ 1:33 pm
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conspiracy_codeAbout a month ago I first posted an entry about a presentation at the 2009 Games, Learning & Society conference about a game created for the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) called “Conspiracy Code” (see K-12 Online Learning And Games, Learning & Society 2009).

So, a week or two ago, I noticed that Scott McLeod had posted an entry entitled “NECC – My adventures with Horse & Hound magazine: Florida Virtual School, Achieve3000” on his blog Dangerously Irrelevant.  In this entry, he describes his experiences with an interview he conducted with Julie Young and Andy Ross of the FLVS about this US-history game that they use to teach the year long course.

Take a look at Scott’s entry – and the Vimeo video (which you can access by clicking on the image too), and tell me what you think.  In addition to the video, Scott has also posted this printed material:

In my earlier entry about this I mentioned that I thought the Academic ADL Co-Lab at the University of Wisconsin–Madison may be involved in this project – but have later found out that they were approached, but decided they weren’t interested as the project began to move forward (and I’d be interested in hearing some of the reasons why if anyone wanted to comment here or e-mail me privately).

Finally, after posting his original entry Scott has had some additional thoughts about gaming in education – see Do most educational games suck?

Note that I have used both my own tags and all of the tags that Scott used for his original entry as well – which accounts for the higher than usual number of tags and categories.

December 10, 2008

Blogging And The Academy

My good friend Clif Mims (see Clif’s Notes) sent me the link for a blog entry entitled I said, they said from the blog Dangerously Irrelevant.  Essentially Scott McLeod, is an academic that does a lot of work in schools – and the university that he worked at didn’t quite value that work that he was doing (and quite passionate about) with the K-12 schools.  The entry basically spoke to an annual review that Dr. McLeod had and then some of the experiences he had while interviewing.

While I can’t say I have the same complaints that Dr. McLeod, has, as my institution (like his current one) values my work with schools – virtual schools in my case – and like Dr. McLeod, I have been able to maintain my scholarly output.  But it did get me thinking about my blogging and its relation to my work as an academic.

As a researcher and someone who reads everything I can find about K-12 online learning in the United States, North America and around the world, I think that positions me to be a good person to comment on K-12 online learning.  However, I tend to quite opinionated (when I have the time to actually comment on issues) and I wonder if that affects my ability to do my research.  Does my general opposition to charter schools, based on political/ideological reasons, that I express regularly on this blog limit my opportunities to work with cyber charter schools?  I know that Cory (see The Next Step) deosn’t seem to mind, and my visit to the Odyssey Charter School that he arranged changed my opinion of at least that cyber charter school.  The folks at Connections Academy, who I have been critical of in places like Wisconsin, have continued to be classy individuals that are still interested in working with me.  But I always wonder does my blog and the opinions that I express here shut doors for me?

At the same time, I wonder about the investment of time and resources.  Some days it takes me very little to update this blog – as many of the items are simply cut and pasted into entries.  But some days I post entries that take time to compose.  This entry for example.  The entries are another great example.  These kinds of entries tend to take an hour or more in many instances.  These tend to be the entries that get the most response, in terms of comments and trackbacks.  As someone who lives in the academy, in the world of publish or perish, I often wonder if those hours would be better served actually writing manuscripts or conference proposals.  It was only a day or two ago I met with a group of my doctoral students to see who was interested in gaining some research and writing experience by helping me to work on the nine revise and re-submits that are currently sitting on the desk of my home office.  Let’s not talk about the other six to eight manuscripts that I have in various states of development and the data that I have collected over the years which I still haven’t had a chance to do much (or anything) with.  As an academic, where should my energies me focused and should the amount of time I put into the blog at present be a part of that focused energy?

For those other academic bloggers, what do you think?  How have you rationalized this in your own work?

Note: I have used almost all of the same tags and categories as Dr. McLeod used in his original entry.

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