Category Archives: Food for thought

Art as digital counterpractice
Excellent article that puts in evidence so much that is hidden in the digital hype. It’s an excellent critique of all that which most of the time stays hidden in the background shadowed by discourse of the bigger structure that use technology for their efficiencies and administrative agenda but not for improving students digital agency.

It brings me to think how dangerous it is to think that students are READYMADE for techonology, making us sometimes​ forget how anxious many of them are about the digital and how helpless they feel towards a format -the digital and it’s tools and concomitant skills,  they feel they can’t master. Many times, although they are as young as 20, they feel they are the forgotten generation!! No one has taught them how to operate digital tools to study! 

This quote is taken from the article and it illustrates a bit of this in a different context.

“Through their engagement the audience might become something other than “readymade” for technology—they too can entertain what a counterpractice in the digital space might look like.”

“Global EdTech Landscape 1.0”

“Global EdTech Landscape 1.0” @patrickbrothers

Christmas Trilogy 2013 Part I: The Other Isaac [1].

Barrow and Newton! Putting Barrow in its place 🙂

The Renaissance Mathematicus

In a recent post on John Wallis I commented on seventeenth century English mathematicians who have been largely lost to history, obscured by the vast shadow cast by Isaac Newton. One person, who has suffered this fate, possibly more than any other, was the first Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, and thus Newton’s predecessor on that chair, Isaac Barrow (1630 – 1677), who in popular history has been reduced to a mere footnote in the Newton mythology.

Statue of Isaac Barrow in the Chapel of Trinity College Statue of Isaac Barrow in the Chapel of Trinity College

He was born in London in 1630 the son of John Barrow a draper. The Barrow’s were a Cambridge family notable for its many prominent scholars and theologians. Isaac father was the exception in that he had gone into trade but he was keen that his son should follow the family tradition and become a scholar.  With this aim in view the young…

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ScholarStudio Sessions: Necessary Repetition in the Dissertation

In preparation for writing my dissertation!

Many people worry that their dissertations feel repetitive. If they don’t, there’s a problem.

Source: ScholarStudio Sessions: Necessary Repetition in the Dissertation

Describing Qualitative Methods in Educational Research: The Annotated Infographic

An excellent article that helps and guides my thinking about key points to consider when writing the methodology of my research.

Messy Thinking

As I described in my last post, Understanding Educational Research and Design, I have spent a significant amount of the last year reading and evaluating the educational research literature for its structure, themes, and methods. I found problems; too many articles lacked epistemological framing, glossed over faulty sampling and data collection, provided minimal information on analytical processes, and failed to advance the literature in any meaningful way.  As this concerns me in terms of the future of educational research, I have started to develop a collection of downloadable, CC-licensed visual articles that address some of the issues I found in the literature.

One of the qualities I enjoy about educational research is its strong tradition of using qualitative, quantitative, and mixed study designs. However, too often I found articles that described qualitative data collection without information about participants or the collection process, qualitative findings without information on the analytic processes…

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Open from different perspective: OEP as boundary crossing and OEP as open educational practice

Just assisted to a webinar with @weller and @AlgersAnne, from the University of Gothenburg.

Both speakers focused on OEP and OER, but from very different perspectives. Martin Weller a Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University  (UK) tackled the issue of open more from a pedagogical standpoint, what does it mean for academics to be open and how they have to face many different challenges in the open. He also mentioned that in times of Trump and Brexit it is important to reflect critically.

Martin Weller also talked about the American view on open which is much more focused on OpenText, it is more about costs, the motivation of students, retention, and so on. He also mentioned the various challenges that are in the open space related with aggressive discourses, anger, and the difficulty in interacting in such a dangerous space at the moment.

I ask myself, could ‘intra-action’ happen in the open wild web?

Anne Algers, Senior Lecturer in Higher Education Pedagogy at the University of Gothenburg instead, focused on OER more as an intellectual artefact. She called them boundary objects, objects that are created in the process of finding a common space, a common voice, in a particular situation that is affecting both spaces. Boundary objects are created at the intersection of two different, parallel spaces, i.e. academia and NGOs. There are tensions between the two and boundary objects and practice aims to ease those tensions finding a more productive and constructive intersection between them.

This idea of OER as boundary objects and OEP as boundary practice comes from or is influenced by Engeström’s idea  (1995) of boundary crossing also addressed by Akkerman and Bakker (2011). I remember @catherinecronin @francesbell @GoogleGuacamole in their presentation at NLC2016: Synergies, differences, and bridges between Network Learning, connected learning, and open education #NLbridge they used this framework.

Boundary crossing, @AlgersAnne explained, is when the issue at stake is happening between two spaces -academia and citizens in society (farmers). Horizontal movements of knowledge in two parallel worlds. Now the word parallel has an implication of disjoint, of non-crossing.  In geometry, parallel lines are those who never coincide. This is interesting because as I understood Anne, the idea is exactly the opposite, to cross those boundaries through OERs. And it is precisely the object or the practice the materialisation of that crossing, which happens as a product of trying to solve the tensions that are between the two ‘parallel’ worlds.  And it is precisely in that crossing where the power resides. Once that crossing has been made changes will materialise and both spaces would have been transformed. They have expanded, in Engeström words. I believe will then not be parallel worlds anymore but coincident places at some point of their trajectory. 

This idea is powerful! I am using it for my study. It fosters constructive conversation, it encourages actions of reconciliation, it looks at common voices in parallel spaces with the aim to change the geometry of that space to a more coincidental one, a more inclusive space where at some point, that which was created through the intervention has more common elements with the two worlds.

Anne presented a case study she just finished, about (if I understood it well) an NGO representing farmers (?) and academia. And one of the things that came out of the focus group was the need for a common forum for discussion where participants truly hear to one another and try to find commonalities and solutions that suit both worlds.

She said, on the one hand, we have academia, and on the other we have society but we have to reconcile the two. How can we find a more united world? She asked. 

There is a need to give citizens access to information, empowerment and awareness raising their agency to act critically for the bigger good of the world. Academia has a responsibility in this! That is my take on my own study.

I believe students need to be empowered, need to enact agency over the open space, the open wild web, so they can participate fully in an open practice and shape the culture to a more open and inclusive one where asymmetry and parallelism are less present. 

NGOs, animal protection organisations, communities, don’t get to be heard in the corridors of academia, many don’t have access to that space. But academia needs to talk with them, understand their needs and their ethos, and in doing so, producing a more sensitive research agendas that serve them and the greater good.  It is a very contested area. She said that a change in the attitude and values of academia could increase trust in science through inclusion. 

The creation of OERs from both perspectives is a complex endeavour, there are different views and conflicting perspectives. How to question and problematize knowledge among two different worlds? Researchers need to argue what they have open to the public. 

This webinar was excellent food for thought about open as pedagogical practices and as boundary objects. Both of them stressed the many paradoxes that are still to address in the hope of creating coincidental spaces instead of parallel worlds.

Thank you @weller and @AlgersAnne!!  And sorry if I have misunderstood any of your ideas. I hope not but if, there is always place for change and expansion 🙂

an ethics of analysis and writing

How do you work ethically with material generated in an interview? I’ve been pondering this question recently as part of a more general think about ethical research practice*. Research ethics are c…

Source: an ethics of analysis and writing

  • How do we record and then analyse the important sensory elements of interviews? What does it mean to leave them out?
  • Does our desire to find patterns (themes) lead us to skip over important tensions and individual idiosyncrasies? What does it mean to leave them out?
  • Does the use of particular forms of software accentuate our gaze on broad themes rather than emergent narratives and subtle underpinning metaphors? What does it mean to leave them out?
  • Do the ways in which we transcribe recordings pay sufficient attention to silences, stumbles, awkwardness, intonations, irony, sarcasm and so on? What does it mean to leave them out?

This post, in particular, the questions I have cited above, has helped my thinking process about the data analysis. I have been struggling to write what my interviewees have said in the focus groups in form of general themes. I haven’t found yet ‘themes’ that make justice to what they feel about the use of digital tools in the university. How they struggle, how they feel so upset with how this element has been addressed in the academic context. I think I fear, in words of Patt, to leave out important tensions, I don’t want to miss any ‘sensory elements of the interviews’.

I have analysed the data with such care, I have read through it so many times, but it is hard to find a sensible way, the right words to make justice to their feelings.

I think about this on a daily basis, I can not, not think about it, but every time I try to generate the themes I feel uncomfortable, not at ease with my participants and with myself, and I think it has to do with what Patt says in this post.

With this insight and the advice I recently got from a scholar to create my own categories, I will return to my data analysis, my transcriptions, the most precious bit of text I have in my whole thesis, and dare to be creative not feeling an impostor, and make justice to what I think is fundamental in any research, the inner world of the participants 🙂

The Gutenberg Parenthesis


Watching this video, made me think the value of having constructive and humble scholarly discussions. How Pettitt hears attentively and takes note of questions, he is asked, considering how the insights of others can shed light on his not fully formed ideas about what is writing and thinking. The penny fall when I saw how the crafting of an idea is an ongoing process and although we have some of those thoughts, some are just not fully formed. Having these scholarly conversations is such an important thing when one is forging one’s own ideas at the start of an academic career. Conversation with interested people that engage in your research is vital for one’s development. Humbleness and wisdom shall go together and guide us through a better understanding of our own idea.

I am writing up the things I will be sharing in South Africa in the OEGlobal conference and a seminar organised by the Global OER Graduate Network in the hope that the conversation I will have will shed some light on my still a-morphs ideas.

Things like performativity, what does intra-action means, what are the implications for practice, the role of language and technology in students’ development, the way to explain the relation between the subject and the object, how not to stay critical and open; reflecting on technological determinism. How can we separate language from the phenomena it is describing, is language an instrument that brings the phenomenon into existence, or is the event happening independent of the instrument we use to re-present it, and so many assumptions I am not yet able to explain. The keel is under construction hence the boat is still in the harbour not ready to depart.


We make the road by walking

The title of this book, which is taken from a poem of Albert Machado, for which Joan Manuel Serrat took inspiration to write his song ‘caminante no hay camino’ (walker there is not a path) is remarkably meaningful for me as it tells the story of the last 5 years of my life. I left my  home country looking for freedom and agency. Looking for my essence. In this long walk, there has certainly been no trail marked for me, I had to open my own. And as Machado says in his poem:

caminante son tus huellas el camino y nada mas, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar, y al andar se hace camino y al volver la vista atras se ve la senda que nunca se ha de volver a pisar. Caminante no hay camino, sino estelas en la mar

Saying, that the road is nothing else but your footprints. There is not such a thing as a footpath, one makes the road by walking, and in that walking, you make the road, and when you look back, you see that road that you will never walk again.

And yes, I believe we make a footpath while we walk searching for our essence, for who we are and more than that, we are the trailblazers of our destiny. This reading will be part of my path.

Ideas that have caught my attention:

  • Formal education prepares people to live in a system, the prevailed system, i.e. capitalism. Institutions block freedom creating this incredible contradiction of educating people that cannot move out of the system, perpetuating it and its pitfalls. I think this book is a conversation of alternatives to escape that. In the case of Hyghlander School, the idea of Myles was to make the experiences of their students the building blocks of the curriculum. This reminds me David Cromier’s idea of Rhizomatic learning, the community is the curriculum. Myles says: Students analyse their experience by storytelling and reflecting about an experience leads to change, or at least it is the beginning of change. Although they are talking here about adult education, I ask myself how can this idea be extrapolated to children or young people education.
  • The main goal for both, Freire and Horton, was supporting people in the process of finding their freedom. They had a radical democratic belief in the capacity and right of all people to achieve that freedom through self-emancipation. This has much in common with my idea of fostering agency, so students can pursue what they want and have the knowledge, skills and attitude to do so. The concept of freedom I am using in my work is the one by Sen and (here) and Marta Nussbaum. They have developed the human capability approach where freedom and agency are addressed in a holistic manner.
  • Both believed that participation is the means to freedom and educational practice ought to be seen as both liberatory and participatory. In a way, I think, it allows students to embody participation in education, and this way of learning could then be a means to participate in society involving the people themselves in the creation of their own knowledge. Much of this is argued when talking about the benefits of open practice.
  • These ideas grew from the struggle the authors had to connect theory and practice, which is still a struggle nowadays. All the brilliant ideas about OEP and OEP are a response to the unconnected theory and practice. We need to see how we can, through OEP, uncover and critically analyse the power structures that are once again doing their best to keep those structures that protect their power. This hopefully is among the aims of the OEGlobal conference in South Africa next year where I am presenting my ideas about how personal learning spaces are open context created by the learner but at the same time, they are part of open practices.
  • The main objective was linking participatory education to liberation and social change. Asking questions about the role of the student, the teacher and the organisation. How is education linked to mobilisation and culture to create a new society? Can society transform education or must education first be transformed?

I can see in their ideas much of the basic tenets of socio-cultural activity theory the theoretical approach I am using for my research.

What I see with this ‘movement’ of OEP is an attempt to transform education. My argument is that for that to happen, students need to have the skills, the knowledge and the attitude, an explorer mindset, I call it, so that they can harness the affordance of the digital revolution. Following Freire and Horton’s ideas, learning needs to happen through participation. How can we design learning for this digital participation to happen? The question of the microcosmos is important. Which is a suitable, ideal microcosmos where students can enact digital skills? It will be through satisfying that need that they will learn. This needs further elaboration, for now, I will leave it as it is because I will never hit the publish button.

How can we design learning experiences for this digital participation to happen? The question of the microcosmos is important. Which is a suitable, ideal microcosmos where students can enact digital skills through critical participation thus emancipation. This needs further elaboration, for now, I will leave it as it is because I will never hit the publish button.

finishing the phd – write a Tiny Text

Great advice for writing! Hopefully we’ll get there 🙂


You’ve finally finished your data generation and analysis. What next? Oh, it’s the big text… but working out how to move now, working out how to structurethe thesis … well it can feel a bit like trying to fight your way out of a maze.


Here’s one strategy that can help.

Before you start planning your thesis chapters, it can be a very good idea tomap out the overall argument that you are going to make. Once you know the rough shape of the whole picture, the line you are taking and the point you are making, you can then think about the best way to stage the text. You can focus on the choreography, knowing where the argument is going.

You can get a grip on the big pictureby writing a Tiny Text – your first go at a thesis abstract.

Now, a thesis abstract is not the same…

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