Category Archives: Methodology

three things examiners look for in methods chapters

Detailed analysis of what examiners are looking for when deciding if you can get a license to do further research!! From Patt Thomson’s blog

patter

Once upon a time, when I worked in schools, early childhood teachers routinely issued young children with a ‘pen license’.A pen license was much sought after as it meant that a child could ‘advance’ to using a pen instead of a pencil. Using indelible ink meant that the child was able to write legibly in longhand. But legibility wasn’t enough, the child also had to be able to copy and compose text without making lots of mistakes that needed to be erased. Writing in pen meant the pupil had been deemed competent at basic writing tasks.

Of course, while schools issued rubrics about what counted as the standard for the pen license, different teachers did interpret the rules slightly differently. And different children learnt differently, so they didn’t all achieve the license at the same time. However, by and large, it seemed that most children got their pen license well…

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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 🙂

Towards a digital sociology of education, an interview

The whole talk is brilliant! @Neil_Selwyn is interviewed by and  @mark_carrigan. Here is the blog: The Sociological Review if someone is interested in finding more posts and relevant information

Some key points tha illuminate my learning journey as an (very) early career researcher:

  • Digital technology must not be seen as a hubris-driven solution for educational problems. Loving this idea of hubris-driven. I have to admit that when I started my research I thought of digital technology as the panacea in education. After getting into reading, analysing and understanding technology from a more broader and philosophical perspective I started to see so many different avenues that were hidden for me before. I can see how much my position has changed, how much critical I have become, and there is so much to learn still. But defenetly it is imperative to know more and be aware of much more critical stances on technology to ba able to see beyond the fancy view on technology. My process has been amazing! And I have to Bbe thankful to scholars like Selwyn and Martin Oliver, as they have been my main eye-opening readings.
  • Experiences are happening in the digital space, what does it mean to research the practice that unfolds in that space? What is new and what is different in this space?
  • It is important to be skeptic about too much optimism, not to be a cheerleader 🙂 but to see the danger within the politics of educational technology. The power structures it favours.
  • Educational technology needs to be problematised, and there are areas recommended by Neil Selwyn:
    • Materialities of digital technology (software, coding, structure). It is about unboxing these materialities and looking at them closer. It is not about opening up the box when things go wrong; instead, it is about unboxing them while they are functioning and analysing them in depth
    • Platform studies, sociology of software. This, in particular, I found pretty interesting. It is about tearing a system apart. I would say it is analysing how it came what it is. Looking beyond the system.
    • The human aspect of technology. Exploring what people do, activities and practices, emotions, affects. It is not only questions about what works and what don’t and why? Meaning making, how do people make meaning of experiences that are unfolding in the digital space? what is new or different there? what are the continuities or discontinuities in that experience? Values that are shared.
    • Sociology of knowledge in the digital age and how that interacts with education? Exploring literacies and ways of doing things in the digital space. Digital identities and the struggle between the individual and the institutional, that debate between structure and agency.
  • An interesting view of schools as data farms, this I found fascinating
  • Then they talked about the different methods to do research, new modes of enquiry in a digital age where new tools and approaches are developed. What is the new toolkit that the digital offers?
    • Semantic analysis: Digital discourses as they unfold. Twitter feed, blog with comments, instagram feed.
    • Data mapping
    • Computational social science: Big data analysis
    • Trace ethnography: Tracing data through codes and networks. The data as the unit of analysis instead of the individuum.
    • Digital ethnography
    • Platform and software studies (I am interested in this): Researching the systems, the coded spaces, the digital learning environments. Looking for the coded elements of education. Interrogating those codes, the data, the online aspects of education. This tides in with critical reverse engineering which is interested in deconstructing closed educational system and look at how it is build, what assumtions, values and considerations are coded into the platform. Interrogate the code itself. Selwyn argues here that technology is higly political and it some how predefines structures of power within the design. This structures can be very interesting if they are dismanteled. An interesting thing to do would be taking a LMS terring it apart and building it again with your won assumptions, values and intentions
    • Cooperative critical design (I am interested for phase 2 of my research). I found a paper which I am starting to read: Critical Theory and Paricipatory Design. The aim of this method is build and design with the users. The process of designing is important not so much if the design works or not. It would be important to ask why it didn’t worked. It is bottom up design. I think that Feenberg in his book questioning technology talks about democratic design, arguing that this approach is powerful to foster change.
    • Life methods

The talk was highly interesting and enlightening for me as I am still questioning technology and my unit of analysis. I am thinking in applying cooperative critical design as students will be re-designing the informal system of tools they already have in place and through that design process I hope to foster more awareness and critical thinking about the role of technlogy in their education.

 

 

Digital natives? Not at all! Digital afraid I would say

Personal thoughts to start

I am writing for my progression assessment, which has been a real struggle. Writing is for me a difficult act. I have been identifying some aspects of it so I can improve. It might be because I need to stop, find silence within me, and try to find words and a way to structure them so they make justice to my ideas and all the bits and bops that float around but are an important part of the process of ideation. So yes!! It is an agony I am afraid. But here I am, holding the space of struggle and moving forward I hope! Courage is not missing, so I guess, there will be a productive outcome, in what form, that is still to come 🙂

I am receiving an incredible support from @gconole, my supervisor Grainne Conole. Thank you for that!

My research interest and reflection in relation with exploring the present and not so much predicting the future

Reflecting on my work through my writing and some reading (@DonnaLanclos and @Lawrie) I did this morning I came to realise how important the first phase of my research is. To give this reflection a context let me summarise my research and then explain what I am saying.

My research is about finding ways in which the university, through its members of staff and their institutional vision, can support students to enhance, improve and sometimes even learn about digital literacies. I think digital literacies will and indeed already are, in some occasions, taking the place of literacy as we know them, but I will develop this idea in another post, although I already started to reflect on it here.

When I was thinking about the idea of my research I had already a potential answer or hunch solution if you will. Then came all the process of thinking about how this question could be answered and planning the design research that goes with it. In this process something was not feeling right, I was very uncomfortable, still at an intuitive level, with the idea of how to implement this ‘hunch’ or idea about improving students’ digital literacies. It was definitely not standing in front of a group of students and presenting to them “my idea”! Who am I to present to them ‘The Solution’ without asking them. That felt very uncomfortable, so much so, that I decided to stop for a while and give it further thinking and time to  mature.

I then had the chance to give a talk about my research in the National University Galway with @catherinecronin in CELT (Centre for the Excellence of Learning and Teaching), where I had very good feedback and a rich and fruitful 1:1 discussion with Catherine to share our research ideas and the literature we had been looking at. The result of both, the feedback and the discussion session was a CLICK, an AJA moment. It all suddenly fall into place and I saw the piece that was missing: Students voice, their current digital practice, where they are at in this particular moment in relation with their digital literacies. What was missing was the ‘present moment’ which Donna Lanclos describes very nicely in her article (referred and linked above). An interesting point she makes is not to base our research in an imagined future, instead we need to explore the messy and not so sexy but indeed interesting present.

Future thinking is unfortunate because in part it encourages a neglect of the complicated and messy (and interesting!) present. It’s easier to think and talk about a future where the current problems with which we wrestle are fixed (jet packs!). It is more challenging to confront the present.

This idea of the problems of the future being fixed is relevant and more so the challenge that lies in exploring the present -not an imagined present she says- in order to see what is really possible to do. The core of her article is how the ‘digital native’ cliche does exactly that, hands us an imagined present where young people, all in general, do technology, are experts, hence there is no need to improve nothing, there is no need to teach nothing but only let them do what they know best and in a way we are liberated of all responsibility not only with them, but more over with our own improvement of digital literacies.

This idea of exploring the present is also encouraged by critical thinkers of ed tech like Neil Selwyn and Martin Oliver. They are also informing my work. They argue that there is a need in ed tech to explore more the ‘state of the current’ how they call it in order to attempt to bridge the existing gap between the enthusiastic rhetoric and the not so happy reality happening in the classrooms. And this is exactly what I am doing in phase 1, mapping students current digital practice so I can understand what is what they can and cannot do with technology and where is support really needed. I am using the V+R approach (another explanation here) to map students’ digital practice and it has been eye opening for my research. It shows exactly the opposite of what Prensky has established. From 20 students I worked with only 3 have located digital tools for academic purposes in their V+R Map, and less than 1/4 of the participants feel safe and confident with the idea of exploring new tools in order to work in formal settings and improve their academic digital skills. I also had a big discussion with a  group of 30 students (between 23 and 45 years old) and only 3 knew the meaning of digital literacies. In my case the evidence contradicts Prensky’s assumption totally, and it reveals how passive this cliche results.

Next step will be looking at the different factors that are hindering students to use more digital tools for learning and studying available in the Internet. As Lanclos argues, there is a need to look at the complex interactions of factors that are restricting students from being masters of the Web and its tools for academic purposes. The idea with phase 1 is to be able to extract  relevant elements from the data in order to design a scaffolding structure that supports students to improve their existing and informal personal learning environments reflected in their V+R map.

It is only exploring and knowing how their present practice looks like that anything relevant can be designed  in order to support them in the process of improving and teaching the so demanded digital literacies.

 

Jisc data service consultation service

@Jisc is working on the data service consultation online tool. They are creating a crowdsourced online survey that will take the best questions used in the Student Digital Experience Project to fill a database from where users can pull out questions that are relevant to their own research.

It is work in progress to which I am looking forward to use it in my own research!

Here the information in much more detail

So close and so far away

It has been some time that I haven’t been able to write in my blog, although I have been writing so much in my private space.
I have been working very hard in my research design (the image above is the result of that work) which is about all the logistics that I need to follow to connect my findings to the research question. It provides also a blueprint for success 🙂 It guides the process of finding the evidence or the data that will possibly answer the research questions. I also have been thinking about fare ways to invite students to participate in the project not using or taking advantage of my position of lecturer. I already have green light to address them in the core modules discussion time. I am thinking and writing about the benefits students will take advantage of when taking part of this study. I had a good conversation with my former external supervisor Jan van Maanen, a Dutch mathematician, teacher and historian. His advice was very dutch: think about having fun and providing them with time afterwards to have good conversations and a nice snack with drinks. So we decided to call it “the week summit”, I have thought to organise the activities near the end of the week in the student union launch in order to work first and then chill and enjoy the rest of the evening.

We coincide in using the summit in an arithmetic way –> sum-it a sum of activities that will bring us to know more about how students would like to be involved in re-shaping their own informal personal learning space which is the aim of the second phase of the project.

So my design research, the blueprint version 1.1 is ready to go and the idea is to brake my study in two phases. Phase 1 is about mapping students’ current digital practice. Understanding what motivates them when engaging in the Web with different platforms and tools in formal and informal settings. To explore their expectations, views, fears, anxieties in relation to their digital experience within the university and also when they are working from elsewhere.  My potential participants are going to be y-1, y-2 and y-3 students in educational studies, many of which are then taking the PGCE -postgraduate certificate in education-.

The methods I am using are:

  • focus group to start the conversation with students in relation to their experience and expectations,
  • the V+R continuum  approach which will give me an idea of what motivates students to engage in the Web both, in formal and informal settings and how does their informal digital space looks like
  • the day experience adapted by Dr. Mathew Riddle and Michael Arnold (university of Cambridge and Melborune respectively). It was inspired by social and behavioural science methodologies including the Experience Sampling Method (Hektner et al, 2006, Intille et al, 2003), the Day Reconstruction Method (Kahneman et al, 2004) and work on Cultural Probes (Gaver et al, 1999, Arnold, 2004).  The day experience was used on the Learning Landscape Project at the University of Cambridge in 2007. The method is attempt to reduce recall distortion and the ideological biases of other sampling methods such as interviews, surveys and focus groups. It can record temporal and situational information in qualitative and quantitative detail, and may be extended to a longer period if needed. The authors suggest It is particularly suited to those who wish to use a novel qualitative method to examine every day life situations.
  • An online survey

The aim of phase 1 is to capture how are students engaging with the Web, what platforms and tools do they use and for what purpose. Explore into their digital habits. Other aspects to explore are the views, expectations, vision, fears, needs and blocks students have in relation to the digital world and their experience in formal and informal settings. For that I am using Jisc’s cards and posters, both are already tested by other researchers and they seem to work well for starting a fruitful conversation about the topic.

One of the things I am also interested is how can the university digital literacy policy and culture include students’ informal digital habits and in doing so look at ways the university can match students’ digital literacy expectations where possible. Once all this data is collected it will be analyzed looking at what digital skills are revealed and what digital habits emerge. It will provide the study with a comprehensive view, a typology of students in relation to their digital literacies.

I am not only interested in the term “digital literacies” but also in “web literacy” which is an initiative of Mozilla Firefox in order to provide people with tools that will allow people have a proactive and informed attitude towards the web, teaching them the necessary skills to read, write and participate in the Web. How I will integrate both terms, digital and web I am still not sure. Intellectual work that needs to be done but what is clear to me is that both complement very well.

DML Central | Taking Another Look at the Digital Credentials Landscape

via DML Central | Taking Another Look at the Digital Credentials Landscape.

More resources to think about open badge as a way to map students skills while designing their own digital space.

From openness to permeability: reframing open education in terms of positive liberty in the enactment of academic practices – Learning, Media and Technology – Volume 40, Issue 3

Martin Oliver: From openness to permeability: reframing open education in terms of positive liberty in the enactment of academic practices – Learning, Media and Technology – Volume 40, Issue 3.

The University as a third space?

The University as a third space?

I am after an idea that will allow me to define and characterise the space students are going to design and hopefully live in for a longer period of time to make it sustainable for them. It seems to me there is something to take from Ray Oldemburg‘s work on ‘third places’.

Complementing to it is the metaphor of liquidity used by Bauman in his characterisation of modernity.  Bauman, a key theorist in pot-modernity thinks that social forms and institutions no longer have enough time to solidify and cannot serve as frames of reference for human actions and long–term life plans, so individuals have to find other ways to organise their lives. They have to splice together an unending series of short–term projects and episodes that don’t add up to the kind of sequence to which concepts like ‘career’ and ‘progress’ could meaningfully be applied. Such fragmented lives require individuals to be flexible and adaptable (agile in my words) – to be constantly ready and willing to change tactics at short notice, to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret and to pursue opportunities according to their current availability. In liquid modernity the individual must act, plan actions and calculate the likely gains and losses of acting (or failing to act) under conditions of endemic uncertainty. In line with this description of society is the work of Carlo Giovanella who argues for liquid spaces in an organic era. I aim to come to my own version soon!