Write + flourish by Tara Gray


Excellent advice to start writing🙂 The tittle is revealing and I think it is so true. We do flourish writing!

‘Big data’ in action: Linking 180 million tweets with 600,000 police records

New trends in social science research

ESRC blog

Professor Matthew Williams and Dr Pete Burnap are directors of the ESRC-funded Social Data Science Lab that continues the successful COSMOS programme of work. The Lab forms part of the Data Innovation Research Institute, which will be housed within the new Social Science Research Park at Cardiff University.

Together with colleagues (Dr Luke Sloan and Professor Omer Rana) they recently presented their intriguing findings about the power of pulling large sets of data from social media in front of 150 policymakers, academics and industry experts at the Data Science and Government ConferenceThe event, organised by the Behavioural Insights Team, looked at how emerging techniques in data science can best be used to support policy agendas in a range of areas.

Professor Matthew Williams and Dr Pete Burnap Professor Matthew Williams and Dr Pete Burnap

Many would say there has been a lot of hype about the promise of Big Data and…

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M-25 LTG meeting-comments and feedback

If you have any comments, please leave them in the section below.

The Storify of our afternoon meeting at University of Westminster



The Politics of the Global Challenges Research Fund


Pop Theory

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 16.14.24In UniversityLand in the UK, alongside various worries about the TEF, OfS, and UKRI (try to keep up) generated by the government’s Higher Education white paper, there is also a sudden flurry of notice being taken of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). This was formally announced before Christmas in George Osborne’s Spending Review. It is now officially launched as “a new Resource funding stream” (see the RCUK’s brief  on the GCRF).  That’s how it is being presented at University level, by research and funding councils, and in cross-University partnerships. The GCRF is part of the UK science and research budget, so it belongs to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), according to whom “It provides an additional £1.5bn of Resource spend over the next five years to ensure that UK research takes a leading role in addressing the problems faced by developing countries. This fund will harness the…

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#AcWriSummer: Week 2 – Abstract Writing & Selecting a Journal

TechKNOW Tools

Last week, I shared how we were setting up an #AcWriSummer accountability group. Well, it happened. Thanks to Patrice, Catherine, & Caroline who are joining me on this 8-week #AcWri adventure as we go through the workbook created by Wendy Laura Belcher: Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks. Also, much thanks to Wendy, who shared her syllabi, as we work through our “short course” this summer. Here’s what our #AcWriSummer 2016 Plan looks like for the next few weeks:

  • 6th June WEEK 1: Chapter 1: Designing your plan for writing => Ideas for article; barriers; planning this short course
  • 13th June WEEK 2: Chapter 2 & 4: Abstract writing & Selecting a Journal
  • 20th June WEEK 3: Chapter 5: Reviewing the literature => (Reflections on) Lit review
  • 27th June WEEK 4: Chapter 3 & 6: Advancing argument &…

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Writing! Writing! Only doing it I can improve

I will start tomorrow a summer challenge #AcWriSummer, aimed at improving my writing skills and to practice, coached by others, to stick to a writing schedule. Although I am a hard worker it is difficult for me to stick to a schedule. I tend to be driven by deadlines although I start to produce ideas and collect material at the beginning of any writing or research challenge, the engine starts producing very near of the deadline leaving little room and time for editing and revising, a fundamental part of writing.

We are going to use the book How to write an article in 12 weeks written by Wendy Belcher. I started to do some research about the book and I found a podcast with @WendyLBelcher on writing productivity.

Planning. Paragraphs. Post-it notes: A Dyslexic, part-time PhD student shares his writing tips and tricks

“I go through spells where I don’t do anything. I just sort of have lunch—all day.” Writing is not my natural forte, I like the Nora Ephron quote above about her writing process, so similar to mine…

Source: Planning. Paragraphs. Post-it notes: A Dyslexic, part-time PhD student shares his writing tips and tricks


Cyclops and the wild Poseidon in my Journey to Ithaca

This post I write inspired and humbled by a message I received yesterday from my Director of Studies after our supervisory team meeting with a new member in it.

I think one of the things that characterises a good supervision is mutual respect and both sides learning. I came away from Thursday with an increased respect for your attitude towards learning and growth.

Indeed, we had a hard and heated discussion about my report for the progression assessment panel. They made me many hard and harsh questions. Some of them I could answer but others I found myself caught in being the evangelist of my idea. This feeling I felt quite embarrassing and life changing in a way. It generated intellectual wounds that will make me grow. That void and sometimes black space where we have to enter if we want to make profound changes.

In the discussion, Mary questioned my assumptions and my beliefs and showed me in a cruel and brilliant way how much I am promoting my idea. How I am an advocate for the PLE instead of a researcher that is trying to find out about it.

And yes, it is true! I BELIEVE in the approach and I believe in the positive effects of working with such an approach. That is what the existing literature stands for, isn’t it? You read the empirical evidence of others, and you start to think of the approach as a useful means of achieving the goals that are guiding and driving your teaching. But this has a place in the research, I guess not at the beginning. In any case, what I do understand is that being an evangelist will not be of any help as Neil Selwyn suggests in his book. We need to be dispassionate and skeptic if we aim at contributing to any change in the status quo of educational technology.  I took the suggestion seriously, and my reflection process is unfolding painfully as transformation always is for me. But I feel so much better!

I want to answer to Darren’s message, which has given me strength and courage to keep me enthusiastic on this research journey with the key ideas that are in Cavafy’s poem: Ithaca (my mantra in life).

Five years ago, when I left my home country, Venezuela, I set out for Ithaca, this  was my vision. Ithaca being the journey of self-exploration and growth (also professional growth). That journey has been as Cavafy describes it, my mantra in life: Adventure and discovery!

I quote as it explains brilliantly what I think happens when I go to a supervisory meeting

Laistrygonians and Cyclops, angry Poseidon-don’t be afraid of them: you will never find things like that on your way as long as you keep your thoughts raised high, and long as a rare excitement stirs your spirit and your body. Laistrygonians and Cyclops, wild Poseidon-you won’t encounter them unless you bring them along inside your soul, unless your soul sets them up in front of you

Mary, my new supervisor, could have taken the shape of an angry Poseidon and Darren that of a Cyclop or/and a Laistrygonian when they were challenging my ideas asking me so difficult questions. I even felt scary. For a moment, I felt that my beliefs and ideas were not true and even worse, were somehow interfering in my journey to become a researcher, which is why I set out for Ithaca in the first place.

But this is not what happened in the session, Mary and Darren instead are the scholars I met in the Egyptian cities, from which I have been gathering stores of knowledge and wisdom to advance in this Journey to Ithaca. They are the harbors Cavafy names in his poem, the Phoenician trading stations where I have been stopping and finding in their advice mother pearls and coral, amber and ebony, gems of wisdom and experience to shape my raw and still naive ideas about educational technology and research.

There are still more storms to come as I move further in this journey. New scholars with which I will meet and new oceans and different directions that I will have to navigate. But I am confident and serene although sometimes the waves are big and swirls will surely come in my way. Because as Cavafy says, as long as a rare excitement stirs my body and my spirit I won’t encounter neither a wild Poseidon nor an intimidating Cyclop, instead I find two wise and loving supervisors that challenge me while holding my hand so I do not fall into a swirl but be aware of their presence so I can find an alternative route through which I can navigate safely to Ithaca.  Thank you for being there in my journey and teach me with so much care.

My journey so far has been amazing. Full of surprises, new discoveries, challenges, sad moments, grief and sometimes huge anxiety of being on the wrong track not being able to accomplish this part of the journey to Ithaca. But in all the difficult moments, although I am away from home, from the safe-space, that which I know well, I have always kept Ithaca in my mind and my thoughts are always, as Cavafy says, raised high, very high! Arriving there is what I am destined for. But I am not in a hurry. I have still so much to discover, to learn, to think about, to explore, to find out.

What I do hope is that when I arrive, full of experience and hopefully some wisdom, I can share my joy with some of these sensational people I met on that journey.




toolbox guantes

Is technology good for education?

Chapter 1: Digital technology and educational change

This is the latest book of Neil Selwyn. Illuminating and incredibly helpful for my research. The advice to NOT be an evangelist of digital technology is so useful for me. I have been observing this attitude very hidden but present in my thinking. When discussing my research project with my supervisors, I find myself, advocating for technology interventions. Even worse, I find myself, promoting the idea of the PLE. Reflecting on this, I have realised that it has nothing to do with being the PLE approach a good or a bad thing per se, but what is relevant is to let the research tell the story of what is best for the kind of students I am working with.

The book is relevant in that it brings to the fore the importance of the social reality in which education is embedded, a complex situation for which there is not a simple solution.

The overarching theme of the book is the need to be extremely careful with evangelistic discourses, phrases like “A digital fix for a broken system” is one of those. Selwyn acknowledges the potency of the space of digital education for voicing fears and visions about what will education look like in the near future. Therefore, he suggests, we need to treat any overly confident assertion of digital change in a circumspect and sceptical manner. I truly believe in the power of digital technologies for education, but I agree, any possible solution that is thought needs to be envisioned and treated with scepticism and moreover with a critical view were nothing is like magic and without any consequence. Where there are gains there are also losses; thinking about the balance of them, considering what is what we are losing when embracing a particular technological solution.

I like the phrase on page 19:

the essence of education has remained the same: punctuated by an entrenched grammar of doing things that reinforces the notion of the expert teacher and the regulation of time, space and place, alongside the routines of curriculum and pedagogy, and rituals of assessment and credentializing

What I like about it is the notion of regulating time, space and place alongside the basic rituals of education, namely curriculum and traditional assessment. Indeed time, space and place are the key elements for any educational experience to happen, but in my view digital tools and in general the Internet have changed the perception or notion of space, place and somehow, time. Although time as such never changes, not within planet earth, the managing of the time where people study is different. So students can view a lecture, a video or any other interactive element in the time that is right for them, which makes it less fixed to a particular time. The notion of place as gained a new dimension, space is no longer only the physical spaces we inhabit but also the virtual spaces that digital technologies have enabled to exist. These spaces then will hopefully become places where different experiences are mediated by digital tools and that are complementing all of the other experiences happening in the face to face experience.

In any case, the format of the teaching and learning experience within most universities is still fixed to the lecture format thus to the notion of traditional space -the lecture hall- and time -from 4 to 5-  and being the lecure the main event of the learning episode, taking that information as initial input to then try to give meaning to that knowledge through the activities designed for that. But this is the same as thousand years ago. What is that what can be changed through the new possibilities, affordances that degital technologies offer?

Genuine disruption involves re-thinking the very nature of education: its activities and relationships, as well as its core purposes and values. Genuine disruption is not about using technology to do the same differently, but using technology to do different things (p.20)

This is so true. It is about rethinking the possibilities available to learn any knowledge we want to teach. It is re-thinking how could we harness collaborative learning when we are showing, for example, the messy nature of social research. How can this topic be taught making use of digital tools? What activity would be best if we want our students to start to learn how knowledge can be co-constructed. Can we think of creating for each topic a wiki-page? But first, they would need to search what is already available on the web about the topic. If there are 3 wiki resources, is that the activity that would be relevant to do? Or could we negotiate with students which are the tools they would like to explore and this can be a way to explore that particular tool?

If we are willing to take part of the change that is happening in education we need to remain as dispassionate and circumspect as possible and ask suitable critical questions. Selwyn suggests that the idea of digital improvement/transformation/disruption of education require problematizing, namely, not taking them at face value. Questions like how are digital technologies actually finding a place in education settings and educational context, that is, finding out the state of the actual instead of the state of the art.

Sonia Livingstone suggests that problematising the place of technology in education involves 3 areas:

  1. What is really going on?
  2. How can this be explained?
  3. How could things be otherwise?

Selwyn proposes a set fo simple but complex and hard questions to move forward the critical agenda of educational technology with more chance to impact and change current deficits or improvable practices:

  1. What is actually new here?
  2. What are the unintended consequences of the use of ed tech?
  3. What are the potential gains and losses?
  4. What underlying values and agendas are implicit?
  5. In whose interests does this work? Who benefits in what ways?
  6. What are the social problems that dig tech is being presented as a solution to? 
  7. How responsive to a ‘digital fix’ are there problems likely to be?

Question 1, 5 and 6 I think, will become my underlying guiding questions along my research. There are not far away from my currently research questions, but I think I need to take a more dispassionate stance towards technology.

What drives my thinking is the need that I see to learn these different literacies that are related with being able to use digital technology at its full potential. I see it as the same situation that happened in the 18th century when the need to teach (in a more broader fashion) how to read and write started. I don’t think that the idea of digital literacies as need is bad per se, what I do see is that a simplistic or evangelistic view on it is the wrong way to go.

Chapter 2 comes next: Making education more democratic?






Catherine Cronin’s keynote at OER16

I wrote a post on a different platform -Medium- I am trying out but, I still wanted to include it in my research journal.
I am experimenting as part of my online identity in an open practice, which in words of Catherine, as it is open it is unfinished, dynamic and always in flux, becoming richer with each iteration.

Reflections of Catherine Cronin’s keynote at OER16 conference

The image in the heading of the post is CC licenced under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 available at Bryan Matters’ Visual Thinkery page.