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Open at SNC

Hear from several of our own faculty and staff about their experiences with open access, the Digital Commons and thoughts on why it’s an important endeavor for the SNC community.

Amy Lewis

Amy LewisAssistant Professor of Humanities and Liberal Studies

I’ve worked with digital mapping platforms to make the lives of enslaved African Americans visible. 

I started with Harriet Jacobs, because her early life in slavery, her escape to the North, and her fight for abolition and racial equality are all well documented. 

I created the map as an open-access resource [in the Digital Commons] so that anyone who’s interested in Harriet Jacobs can view, borrow and share the map. I hope that I’ve created something useful for scholars, teachers and those who are just beginning to study the history of chattel slavery in the United States.

John Pennington

John Pennington
Professor of English

Why is a raven like a digital archive? Answer at end of this article.

The above riddle is asked in a slightly modified manner in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was published in 1865. In that work, The Mad Hatter asks Alice, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” This question sets Alice off on a quest for the key to the riddle. Unfortunately for Alice, the Mad Hatter is indeed mad—there is no answer.

But the quest motif propels Alice on her absurd adventures in Wonderland, and the motif, in a Mad Hatter way, connects Alice to St. Norbert’s Digital Commons – the quest for the ability to archive, in part, the intellectual environment of the college. The mission of the Digital Commons is to showcase “the intellectual excellence of the college by curating and sharing content that includes faculty and student research; open education resources; official campus documents; and archival material that draws both from the institution's history and its Norbertine heritage. The commons will provide a platform in which the scholarly and creative output of the college is more readily available and accessible for the greater and enduring good.”

My involvement in the Digital Commons can also be considered a quest. I am the editor of North Wind: A Journal of George MacDonald Studies. MacDonald (1824-1905) was a friend of Lewis Carroll; in fact, MacDonald’s fantasy Phantastes (1858) inspired Carroll to write his Alice books. 

See? There was a madness to the opening of this piece. 

North Wind has been in publication since 1982, but scholars had difficulty accessing the journal since no library in the world (and I am not exaggerating) has all volumes. My quest, then, was to digitize all copies and house them on a site that was “open access,” thus making it easier for MacDonald scholars and students from around the world to study this Victorian writer.

The problem, however, was that there was no effective way to do such a digital archive at St. Norbert nearly eight years ago. In fact, there were no digital archives at all. I worked with IT to make a functional archive for the journal, but we were piecing it together in a band-aid way. While not elegant, it did serve its purpose. Except in one way—there was no guarantee for its permanence, a central issue in digital archive construction. Like many colleges, St. Norbert was moving to cloud storage, to all things Google, and the goal was to migrate material away from on-site servers, which were expensive and labor-intensive to maintain and back up, to the cloud, that nebulous thing that seems as fantastical as Wonderland.

What to do?

Stumbling down the rabbit hole with me, at this time, was the library, which was also searching for ways to digitize research materials and house them efficiently. At this time too, the Center for Norbertine Studies was struggling with this very issue – how could they preserve the vast historical documents of the Norbertine Order.

And then we had our own little Mad Tea Party as we searched for an answer to our riddle.

The solution was the purchase of a bepress Digital Commons license. bepress, from Berkeley, California, is the leader in digital archives, the standard in the industry that promises innovation and security in the ever-expanding and changing digital age. They guided us to create our Digital Commons site, which is housed on their cloud servers—any material that we put on their digital archive is owned by St. Norbert College . . . “forever.” The Digital Commons becomes the closest thing to permanence that we might have in a digital age.

St. Norbert is slowly building its Digital Commons to archive the history of the college in all of its manifestations. I built the archive for the North Wind journal, which now provides open access to all scholarly articles from the journal’s inception.

In a typical month, we get 250-300 downloads from the site, a staggering amount. These downloads come from around the world. MacDonald seems to be very popular this year in Israel and China and Russia. In addition, I also created an archive for the George MacDonald Society’s newsletter Orts, which has been in publication since 1981. This site, one would assume, would be of more historical value than anything, yet, on average, 60-70 downloads per month occur, which attests to the importance of archiving such material.

I urge you to tumble down the Digital Commons rabbit hole at St. Norbert to examine the variety of material on our new and expanding archive. And now, what you have been waiting for:

Answer:

 


Reid Riggle

Reid RiggleAssociate Professor of Education
Teacher Education

One of the promises of 21st-century technology is the opportunity to share information. As an academic community, we function in a scholarly world that often takes place “behind closed doors.” That is, our work is presented at conferences or published in traditional journals and books that are limited in availability.

While traditional scholarly strategies help produce a controlled flow of critical information, much of that content is often only really accessible to other scholars in a given field. However, digital tools mean that a wide range of works can now be seen by a broader audience. Open platforms to publish or share work are now widely available; consequently, some scholars have begun to consider how we produce work for more diverse audiences that are shared using open source tools.

By serving as a more public scholar and producing some work in the open, we model this process for students, who themselves are used to the more open world of social media. This connection paves the way for an extension of openness into the realm of teaching and learning, a path that has led to some interesting pedagogical ideas. I don't use a text in my course; I leverage the shared work of others on key websites, YouTube, and Twitter, curating a collection of materials that is dynamic and fluid. My students blog and tweet. They build videos to express their understanding rather than writing traditional papers. But that is not all that the idea of the open provides.

I find my thinking about teaching is pushed by those who embrace the possibilities digital mechanisms allow for deeper understanding through meaningful human interaction (e.g., Digital Pedagogy Lab). The idea of teachers and students working together to co-create, digitally or otherwise, seems to have been pushed forward by this movement.

Open pedagogy means more than sharing your ideas, it is about developing open spaces where ideas are exchanged and debated, not just by like-minded academics, but by colleagues, teachers, students, and interested others who collectively grapple with challenges and build understanding.

The digital world enables the idea of the open, however, it does not dehumanize it as some might expect. Instead, it allows for a new, more expansive, and deeper learning process that may involve many others beyond the walls of our institutions.

Openness, and embracing the possibilities of the digital, are not a panacea; but the idea creates new possibilities that can push the boundaries of what higher education is and can be.

Amy Lewis

Amy LewisAssistant Professor of Humanities and Liberal Studies

I’ve worked with digital mapping platforms to make the lives of enslaved African Americans visible. 

I started with Harriet Jacobs, because her early life in slavery, her escape to the North, and her fight for abolition and racial equality are all well documented. 

I created the map as an open-access resource [in the Digital Commons] so that anyone who’s interested in Harriet Jacobs can view, borrow and share the map. I hope that I’ve created something useful for scholars, teachers and those who are just beginning to study the history of chattel slavery in the United States.

John Pennington

John Pennington
Professor of English

Why is a raven like a digital archive? Answer at end of this article.

The above riddle is asked in a slightly modified manner in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was published in 1865. In that work, The Mad Hatter asks Alice, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” This question sets Alice off on a quest for the key to the riddle. Unfortunately for Alice, the Mad Hatter is indeed mad—there is no answer.

But the quest motif propels Alice on her absurd adventures in Wonderland, and the motif, in a Mad Hatter way, connects Alice to St. Norbert’s Digital Commons – the quest for the ability to archive, in part, the intellectual environment of the college. The mission of the Digital Commons is to showcase “the intellectual excellence of the college by curating and sharing content that includes faculty and student research; open education resources; official campus documents; and archival material that draws both from the institution's history and its Norbertine heritage. The commons will provide a platform in which the scholarly and creative output of the college is more readily available and accessible for the greater and enduring good.”

My involvement in the Digital Commons can also be considered a quest. I am the editor of North Wind: A Journal of George MacDonald Studies. MacDonald (1824-1905) was a friend of Lewis Carroll; in fact, MacDonald’s fantasy Phantastes (1858) inspired Carroll to write his Alice books. 

See? There was a madness to the opening of this piece. 

North Wind has been in publication since 1982, but scholars had difficulty accessing the journal since no library in the world (and I am not exaggerating) has all volumes. My quest, then, was to digitize all copies and house them on a site that was “open access,” thus making it easier for MacDonald scholars and students from around the world to study this Victorian writer.

The problem, however, was that there was no effective way to do such a digital archive at St. Norbert nearly eight years ago. In fact, there were no digital archives at all. I worked with IT to make a functional archive for the journal, but we were piecing it together in a band-aid way. While not elegant, it did serve its purpose. Except in one way—there was no guarantee for its permanence, a central issue in digital archive construction. Like many colleges, St. Norbert was moving to cloud storage, to all things Google, and the goal was to migrate material away from on-site servers, which were expensive and labor-intensive to maintain and back up, to the cloud, that nebulous thing that seems as fantastical as Wonderland.

What to do?

Stumbling down the rabbit hole with me, at this time, was the library, which was also searching for ways to digitize research materials and house them efficiently. At this time too, the Center for Norbertine Studies was struggling with this very issue – how could they preserve the vast historical documents of the Norbertine Order.

And then we had our own little Mad Tea Party as we searched for an answer to our riddle.

The solution was the purchase of a bepress Digital Commons license. bepress, from Berkeley, California, is the leader in digital archives, the standard in the industry that promises innovation and security in the ever-expanding and changing digital age. They guided us to create our Digital Commons site, which is housed on their cloud servers—any material that we put on their digital archive is owned by St. Norbert College . . . “forever.” The Digital Commons becomes the closest thing to permanence that we might have in a digital age.

St. Norbert is slowly building its Digital Commons to archive the history of the college in all of its manifestations. I built the archive for the North Wind journal, which now provides open access to all scholarly articles from the journal’s inception.

In a typical month, we get 250-300 downloads from the site, a staggering amount. These downloads come from around the world. MacDonald seems to be very popular this year in Israel and China and Russia. In addition, I also created an archive for the George MacDonald Society’s newsletter Orts, which has been in publication since 1981. This site, one would assume, would be of more historical value than anything, yet, on average, 60-70 downloads per month occur, which attests to the importance of archiving such material.

I urge you to tumble down the Digital Commons rabbit hole at St. Norbert to examine the variety of material on our new and expanding archive. And now, what you have been waiting for:

Answer:

 


Reid Riggle

Reid RiggleAssociate Professor of Education
Teacher Education

One of the promises of 21st-century technology is the opportunity to share information. As an academic community, we function in a scholarly world that often takes place “behind closed doors.” That is, our work is presented at conferences or published in traditional journals and books that are limited in availability.

While traditional scholarly strategies help produce a controlled flow of critical information, much of that content is often only really accessible to other scholars in a given field. However, digital tools mean that a wide range of works can now be seen by a broader audience. Open platforms to publish or share work are now widely available; consequently, some scholars have begun to consider how we produce work for more diverse audiences that are shared using open source tools.

By serving as a more public scholar and producing some work in the open, we model this process for students, who themselves are used to the more open world of social media. This connection paves the way for an extension of openness into the realm of teaching and learning, a path that has led to some interesting pedagogical ideas. I don't use a text in my course; I leverage the shared work of others on key websites, YouTube, and Twitter, curating a collection of materials that is dynamic and fluid. My students blog and tweet. They build videos to express their understanding rather than writing traditional papers. But that is not all that the idea of the open provides.

I find my thinking about teaching is pushed by those who embrace the possibilities digital mechanisms allow for deeper understanding through meaningful human interaction (e.g., Digital Pedagogy Lab). The idea of teachers and students working together to co-create, digitally or otherwise, seems to have been pushed forward by this movement.

Open pedagogy means more than sharing your ideas, it is about developing open spaces where ideas are exchanged and debated, not just by like-minded academics, but by colleagues, teachers, students, and interested others who collectively grapple with challenges and build understanding.

The digital world enables the idea of the open, however, it does not dehumanize it as some might expect. Instead, it allows for a new, more expansive, and deeper learning process that may involve many others beyond the walls of our institutions.

Openness, and embracing the possibilities of the digital, are not a panacea; but the idea creates new possibilities that can push the boundaries of what higher education is and can be.

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