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I just learned about an amazing project (still in Beta) sponsored by the Australian Eight, the eight largest national universities in the country,  called “The Conversation.”   The Conversation translates the best scholarly research into lively journalism.  A team of professional editors, quite renowned in their collective experience, curates and selects the best research from many fields produced by specialized academics and recasts it as journalism for the larger public as well as for academics in other fields.   They turn specialized scholarly research designed for peers into accessible, interesting, urgent, and sometimes even delightful fun and creative information for the public at large.

 

At a time when higher education is under constant assault from legislators looking for places to cut public funding and from taxpayers who aren’t sure that they are getting their money’s worth from higher education, The Conversation makes abundantly clear–to that very public and to policy makers–the wealth of ideas that universities contribute to the good of society.

Anyone can learn from these engaging stories, including other teachers (at any level) and college students, high school kids, home schoolers, informal learners, Peer-to-Peer learners, lifelong learners, those who cannot afford college but deserve and desire access to the world of learning college (literally) affords.  I can imagine open access coursework built upon this foundation.

 

Here’s the url so you can explore this rich, full, and inspiring website for yourself:  http://theconversation.edu.au/

 

Now, there are some drawbacks.   First, at present, The Conversation is heavily skewed towards science, technology, business, and policy.  This is not surprising given that the sponsoring, founding organization behind this is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national scientific research council.  Yet, when you look further, you find that CSIRO is very aware of this and is trying to find sponsorship to raise funds to support an arts and culture section, multimedia, investigative journalism, and other areas that broaden the focus.  When that happens, The Conversation will be much fuller and even more impressive.  And that’s saying a lot, currently, with about 1600 contributors and a large staff of eminent editors, this is an epic endeavor.

Kudos to all of you in Australia and at The Conversation and at CSIRO.   I hope this endeavor flourishes and has an impact on society, in Australia and worldwide.   Please let us know how HASTAC’s network of scholars and students can contribute.   –I hope you flourish, have an impact, and I hope HASTAC Scholars and network members will contribute to your endeavor.   What you are doing is invaluable to the future of higher education.

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Here is the charter of The Conversation:   http://theconversation.edu.au/our_charter

We will:
  • Unlock the knowledge and expertise of researchers and academics to provide the public with clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.
  • Give experts a greater voice in shaping scientific, cultural and intellectual agendas by providing a trusted platform that values and promotes new thinking and evidence-based research.
  • Provide a fact-based and editorially-independent forum, free of commercial or political bias.
  • Create an open site for people around the world to share best practices and collaborate on developing smart, sustainable solutions.
  • Ensure quality, diverse and intelligible content reaches the widest possible audience by employing experienced editors to curate the site.
  • Ensure the site’s integrity by only obtaining non-partisan sponsorship from education, government and private partners. Any advertising will be relevant and non-obtrusive.
  • Work with our academic, business and government partners and our advisory board to ensure we are operating for the public good.
  • Support and foster academic freedom to conduct research, teach, write and publish.

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Acknowledgment:  I learned about The Conversation via a Tweet from @toughloveforX, Michael Josefowicz, my favorite self-made scholar of educational reform, an invaluable resource to us all.   If you don’t follow him, you should.   He has an amazingly expansive sense of learning and education, is a retired printer who has no axe to grind, institution to support, or implied loyalty.  Just a lot of learning, wisdom, common sense, and energy.  He doesn’t mix words.  He isn’t afraid to give an opinion.  Since I rarely disagree with his, I like that directness and forthrightness or, as he would say, lack of “bla blah.”   I was so impressed by him that I profiled him in Now You See it. 

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Cathy Davidson

Cathy Davidson

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