Category Archives: Theoretical Framework

Margaret Wertheim on a constructivist way of seing reality

Each of us has a self and a mind and it is this mind that creates reality…

A beautiful podcast curated by Maria Popova as part of her wonderful and overarching project BrainPickings

It is about mathematics, physics, coral reeves, hyperbolic geometry, crochet and the construction of reality, a more mystical side of reality and the infinite being I guess?

And here is her TED talk

Powerful narratives and stoytelling within the context of my research

I have been doing some research looking for tools to work with for designing together with students their digital environment. One of the things I cam across is the idea of storytelling, which I always have been attracted to, a powerful tool when doing research with a participative mindset. A particular aspect of storytelling that captures me is the fact that when one tells a story inevitably the audience is giving meaning to that story hence co-creating it as it unfolds from the mind of the storyteller. It is in us, the storytellers, to decide what we do with this fact. We could ignore it and create a one sided story or we can take that into account and think about co-creating the story with our audience. In my case the last option is the one I have chosen. My story is a co-created story with students and other people involved in the research. More of this to come further in my research.

In another layer of the storytelling (more on the aspect of form) there are different audiences when telling a story. One is the story I am telling and co-creating with my participants -the co-researchers- and the other one is the one I am telling to the bigger audience, the story about my -our- research, a more static story that is aimed to communicate what has been achieved in the process of co-creation. In both cases I need to have a coherent story which unfolds in a plausible way implying space and time. How will I tell those 2 stories has been my intellectual journey for the last 3 years.

Why so long???
Yes it has been a long process. To start I have had to learn the language in which I wanted to tell the story -English-.
In order to address that particular audience -academia but general public as well- I need to talk a particular language with a special format. On the other hand I also needed, in order to craft a coherent whole, to be familiarized with all the components of that story. I see it like building a machine. I need to now for what is the machine for and what would make the machine do the job effectively and efficiently. For that I needed to find out what parts will suit best the job and how can they be assembled so that the machine functions smoothly and is capable of doing the job for which it was created.

Some of the spear parts are the topics I am interested in: Technology and society (science and technological studies is the big field where those components live in. Technology in this study is seen as a workbench to craft knowledge), Digital literacy which is a relatively new literacy students and citizens in general need to master in order to perform effectively and confidently n a society that is mediated mainly by digital technology. Education, the art of learning: What is that experience like when mediated by a set of digital tools? How can students become the designers of the system of tools they are deploying in their learning experience? How can the process of designing that space be scaffold? What is this scaffold like? What is the nature of the process(es) that needs scaffold? What is it in that process that generates the biggest anxiety and/or fear? Where is the biggest hurdle of difficulty to overcome? Where in the process of having a system of tools are students at? What kind of tools they use? Do they know that what they have is (an informal) system of tools? What does the word system implies or entails?

The bearing that connect those parts to make the motor move and work is still not clear to me. What theoretical constructs can link together technology, students with their needs and their learning experience? How can I link technology and learning in a way that it makes the process of producing some kind of knowledge in collaboration possible? What is the role of technology in that process? What can be done with technology that couldn’t be done without it? Or what can be improved in the process of learning through a digital environment, a workbench? And what can be learned in the process of crafting that workbench? This are, I believe, some of the crucial questions of this study and the process of finding the answers will be part of the story I want to co-create with my participants. Their thoughts, ideas, needs, expertise and experience as well as their hopes in relation to learn and become literate in a post-digital society where most of the future jobs are mediated through digital technologies is crucial in my work.

Students are citizens of a post-digital era, where technologies as the object of interest is disappearing smoothly as they become ever-present and easily available, not for all students but for now to the participants of this project (This study is done in a context of students that have access to mobile phones, the internet and the different platforms and tools that live in the Web). Although this research involves a small account of students, privileged maybe in that they have access to technology and to internet services, the findings I hope can be used with a wider range of students. My aim in the long term is to work with more disadvantage students that are also citizens of the same society thus are needing to become digital literate and able to design their working space as well. Ideas to this future project will be arising in the process of this research I am sure.

Still much to think about and write about…much stories to come and to tell 🙂

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.

Reflections about the post-digital

The post-digital did sound really weird to me the first time I heard it. What??? Post-digital?? But how can we be in a post ‘what ever’ if we are still struggling so much to keep up with the ‘what ever’? I looked into the literature, videos, talks and I started to understand what people were referring to when talking about the post-digital. I think we are in a transition phase more than being fully there yet. It seems to me we are at the right time to start to think about how this post-digital will be best embraced.

We as educators and researcher are still looking at ways in which we can embed the digital (tools, format, thinking and operating) in a seaming less way into the everyday experience of our students, it is not a straight forward task and we can see that the research space is packed with those kind of studies. Question in relation to how much web based tools and the web in general are empowering and liberating our students of the hidden power structure is an important aspect to think about but politics and hidden power is not a topic for every one.

What is happening with the gap between the rhetoric of the power of educational technology and the reality is also important. There is still a big space between the saying and selling of the idea and its benefits and real examples of how those tools are being use in every day practice. It need to be more about the ‘state of the current’ and not so much about the state of the art as Selwyn suggests in his text. My questions is what would be necessary from the side of the teacher to foster and encourage the use of web-based tools in order to improve student’s digital skills and competencies so necessary to succeed in a knowledge digital hyperconnected liquid society? If the general educational and political discourse is about the ‘inherent’ progress that technology implies then it would be necessary to have a clear definition of what we mean by ‘progress’ and who is benefitting of it? How can we empower students to be part of this so called -maybe wrongly- progress?

Some initial readings are to be done in relation to what progress means from a philosophical perspective and in conjunction with a deeper understanding about the nature of technology I think I can move forward my understanding in order to take actions in the near future

I tend to think that having skilled and literate citizens -amongst other- is how the post-digital will might be experienced fully.

Here some of the links I found useful in my understanding journey, which is still not closed.

The video is David White talking in a conference about the  Web as a ‘place’

Here the conference video 

Preparing for the Post-digital era is the document David White is referring to. Written by Group 52.

An interesting blog post about the post-digital

The illustration is from Julian Stodd’s blog

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!

PLE’s Castaneda Linda slideshare

This needs to be explored more in depth, an excellent presentation. Need to take notes and think about it. Homework with a big jar of coffee 🙂

Key note in CELT conference at National University of Ireland (online streaming)

Some notes to reflect on while seeing Doug’s presentation via online life streaming

  • digital literacies (the ies ending is an idea of Doug Belshaw while doing his dissertation, which can be found here) are contextualised, there is not such ‘A THING’ that defines it. It will depend on the context.
    I am relating this to the presentation I just saw from All Aboard were they aim -via wide consultation- to create a digital road map to help and guide institutions and organisations in the development of local and national digital strategies and to ensure alignment, coherence and a sense of common endeavour at a sectoral level.
    In relation to the contextualisation of digital skills that Doug mentioned, I think if it would be worth thinking about mapping the digital skills needed in my institution and see how can we provide students with opportunities to acquire those skills during their course at the uni.
  • Badge seen as a scaffolding aid for learning paths? Still not sure but I think this what Doug was explaining when he showed the inner structure of a badge

The idea with this anatomy is to understand what information is important in order to issue a badge and the process involved in issuing and getting it.

Taken from the Serve Ravet slideshare on Open Badge and e-Portfolio

This image is about this process. There is the person or institution, let us call it X, who is issuing the badge and the person, Z, who is interested in obtaining it (people need to get some external recognition for what they have learned outside formal academia, is part of the things you need to account for to get a job); Z needs to know what is wanted from her/him, what is the criteria that she/he needs to know in order to plan what is needed to accomplish the task. Z then needs to collect evidence that respond to the criteria. Once the evidence gathered is assessed the badge is issued. So in order for a badge to be a scaffolding aid for a learning path the idea would be to point out to some of the milestones that a particular learning path should accomplish and those milestones could be the evidence upon which the badge will be issued. Or maybe to design your own learning path and start to gather evidence for it with badges. I think it depends on the experience of the learner among other things.

Another point to reflect on is the difference between digital literacy and web literacy. Doug said that for him the difference is that web literacy is more tangible and bounded hence easier to work with and towards it. Web literacy is defined as the ability to read, write and participate in the web. Whereas when one asks what does it mean to be digitally literate, the answer can get very broad and very much context dependent. I am not very clear about this. Web literacy is definitely contextualised within the Web but what happens when you are trying to read and write in a year 4 class or in the last year course in HE? is this the same? Are the skills needed the same? I do not know…
Working with personal learning environments (in HE setting) as an aid to improve digital literacy I need to be clear about what am I referring to when I talk about digital literacy and secondly I need to define what do we mean with the word technology in the educational context. Those are 2 key ideas that need to be bounded and defined at least in the context of my thesis.
Questions like what is the difference in relation to learning for a student in 1815 and one in 2015? What was revolutionary in the class of 1815? What was the newest technological device of that time? Was the use of the slate a revolution then? and the big blackboard in the center of the wall, how does this invention impacted the learning experience of students and also of teachers? How did they adapt to such a revolutionary technique?  What did it change in the learning experience? What could students do with the slate they could not before it? What was the impact on reading and writing for society? How did this impacted humans way of thinking about different subjects?
 Some more random points:
  • Digital literacy is a contested term –> Literacy as a word has meaning and relevance, it is difficult not to fall in the trap of putting literacy behind any word to make it sound relevant 🙂
  • Digital literacy should not be a dead metaphor (Rorty). THIS is it and THIS is not it doesn’t work (I need to check Rorty’s idea of dead metaphors and Doug Belshaw ambiguity chapter in his thesis)
  • Digital literacy is a way of approaching the world, an attitude towards the digital environment
  • Work with other people, don’t take just authors. Work what is means in your context
  • co-created definitions–> every body has the power. Don’t sit there isolated, work with the people involved in the digital literacy project
  • link the badge with the web literacy map
  • Badges are Trojan horse in education (need to think more deeply about this)
  • Open Badges–> is different from digital badges
  • Make a Mozilla account to create badges. They are like endorsement
  • Finland has a badge initiative and Pearson as well. (check them)
  • Integration of badges into your web page or wiki or any web artefact you are creating to show your skills
  • System of currency with open badges
  • agile currency–>badges.
  • Check the Department of education in relation to badges
  • Learning pathways, how to design them? With students?
  • Check the startup design template. download from (link is in the slideshare)
  • Scaffolding–> how do we scaffold people’s skills?
  • check the open badges’ google group
  • Prescriptive or descriptive badge: we don’t have to be prescriptive don’t need to go ahead of time. Follow what students are already doing because they are doing!
  • why would you (student) bother with the formal ways of learning if there is other ways to learn things in a more open and integrative way

My (new) daily post (2)

My daily 700 words! Lets see if I can get on with them today 🙂

I had a fast read of a paper written by James E. Willis III: MOOCs and Foucault’s Heterotopia: On community and self-efficacy. 

The main question or quest they had was to understand why and help with the huge amount of dropouts in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). They touch the concept of self-efficacy and community and how intertwining them could help participants in completing a MOOC (very roughly put of course).

Why did I read the paper and where is my interest? I am trying to find theories that could explain the dialectic between being or inhabiting a place but not really doing so in physical terms, understanding the meaning of this relatively new phenomena and how can this feeling of inhabiting/not inhabiting can be analysed and make sense of it. I am trying to find some explanations or words, concepts, constructs that could define this dichotomy and its consequences. I am looking for theories that can account for the idea of belonging to a virtual space and transform that -even inexistent- space into a place. What are the differences then, between space and place? Geo-phenomenography is a theoretical framework used by Hung and Stabble (2011) in their work –Lost in space located in place– in relation to this idea of transformation but in a different context, namely school. What interest me is their idea of transforming the space into a place in the context of HE.

I am exploring ideas in relation to sense of belonging which the literature demonstrate is so important when learning. How can we enact this sense of belonging in students and in particular if we are thinking of having them designing their own space-place(?). Sorry I realised this is in the wrong order. It goes like this, I think or have a guess in Feynman’s words, that the idea of having a strong sense of belonging of a place will make you more likely to do things in this place, to commit to working in this place, to be confident or at least to feel safe within this place and you are more likely to learn in this place, hence building or crafting -co-creating- your own learning environment is very productive for a meaningful learning experience. Furthermore it is a rich learning experience per se, with varied learning outcomes, some of them unforeseeable. All this of course needs to be framed theoretically, which is always my biggest challenge!! I hope I can get there.

Here the video of one of Feynman’s lectures (where he speaks about the guess, the calculation or consequences and then the observations) that are always a pleasure to watch 🙂

I have made my guess, what follows now is the research for theoretical frameworks that explain this guess. In words of Feynman the next step is to do the calculations and look for the consequences of this guess and then compare it to the observations of nature, in the context of the event.

I found a work of Foucault together with Jay Miskoviec in 1986: Texts/contexts of other places

Starting with Galileo and the 17th century extension was substituted for localisation (P.22)

We might attempt to describe these different sites by looking for the set of relations by which a given site can be defined. For example describing the user of relations that define the site of …transportation, streets, trains  (P.23)

Well maybe there can be some answers find in this text? Some hours after…nop! I did not find any answer at the moment in this idea of heterotopias. A second reading will be done, lets see what emerges from that.

In any case I will keep on searching for theories that could have a language with which to name the phenomenon I am interest in.

There is a text of Carlos Giovanella: where he speaks of liquid spaces, fluid with no boundaries…liquid spaces in an organic era.

Non representational theory is another option I am looking at. John Wylie, Emma Waterton.

Exploring the theory, pedagogy and practice of Networked Learning (book)

Exploring the theory, pedagogy and practice of Networked Learning. (2012) by: Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Hodgson Vivien and McConnel David. Springer Verlag


Definition of networked learning

Learning in which information and communications technology is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners, between learners and tutors, between learning community and its learning resources. P. 6

What is the pedagogic framework can this kind of knowledge underpin?

  • Openness in the educational process
  • Self-determined learning
  • A real purpose in the cooperative process
  • A supportive learning environment
  • Collaborative assessment of learning
  • Assessment and evaluation of the ongoing learning process

One key aspect in network learning is connectivity not only among learners but also among learners and resources.

Chapter 2:

Network learning, stepping beyond the net generation and digital natives (Chris Jones)
There were variations among students within the Net Generation age band and students’s section of tools were related to other characteristics, including age, gender, socioeconomic background, academic discipline and year of study. A limitation or constraint I have to face is that students’ high levels of use and skill did not necessarily translate into preferences for increased of technology in the classroom (Schulmeister, 2010) and a large number os students still hold conventional attitudes toward teaching (Margaryan et al. 2011). The variation that are seen in the research, Jones (2012) argues that patterns of access to, use of and preference for a range of other technologies varied considerably among students of similar age. He argues the argument is not generational in character this is reinforced by a work done by Kennedy et al. (2008). 

 I think that there is a vernacular among young students, they are talking in a digital language, or at least they are communicating with each other in digital format through smart devices and this shapes their social identities which underlies that vernacular. It is very likely that when this vernacular is a natural part of the learning experience there is engagement 

The authors propose two ideas instead of using the “generation” concept. Agency and Affordances. The authors are against of thinking that technology is an independent and external structural factor acting on social forms but not being conditioned by them. They are more in line with the idea that young people are active agents in the process of engagement with technology. Agency concerned with the shaping of processes by the intentions and projects of humans.

For Archer, agency is emergent and cannot be reduced to structure nor vice versa. For him agency is related with the person and the self and social identity. Agent is a subset of personal identity, it is the individual who holds the power to be active and reflexive. With this concept there is no space for technological or social determinism. The author (Jones, et al. 2000) suggest that there might be a relationship between teachers’ approach to teaching and learners’ approach to learning. Margaryan et al. (2011) noted that:

our findings show that, regardless of age and subject discipline, students’ attitude to learning appear to be influenced by the teaching approaches used by lecturers. p. 10

Archer, M. (2002) Realism and the problem of agency. Journal of critical realism, 5, 11-20
Archer, M. (2003) Structure, agency and the internal conversation . Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

In this chapter the author finds that PLE is opposed to networked learning in relation with the extremely individualised and learner-centric view of learning in comparison with a more social perspective of networked learning. Again in my particular research which will be in the context of the dissertation module, there is a mix of personal and individual learning, a time for quiet and reflexive work and of course a part of a social work but the social work is not very much focused on learning together, co-constructing knowledge as such. I think the focus will be in sharing the knowledge in constructing the PLE and sharing valuable resources and tools used for the dissertation. Still of course under thinking and evaluating all this ideas. 

IMPORTANT –> The way research has been done is through self-reporting method, surveys and interview data. There is a need to step away from there and use new methods to access data that reveals the actual use of new technologies. It must be a way to access in a different way what students do while studying for example. What Judd and Kennedy (2010) call actual rather than reported use. (Logs of on-campus computer) I think in which could be a way to gather data within their devices. 

From this chapter there are articles that I have bookmarked in diigo and some I have put here in the post. There is an important page where there is good evidence that shows that “digital natives” are not a solid reason to make changes in education, one must go beyond this argument and look further.

For a good literature review

This is taken from Dr. Sonja K. Foss, she has a coherent plan in order to craft the literature review of a dissertation. I want to add that the idea of doing a literature review, I think is not to find any answer but to be able to state a good and relevant question. It is aimed to see which are the missing bits in the field of interest one is in. So one important skill in the literature review is to be able to discover things and to see if there are new connections one can establish among the key terms of the research. In those connections is where possible the new can emerge.

Here we go with the plan:

Create a conceptual plan for the dissertation first: The lit rev will be useful and efficient when it responds to a clear conceptual plan. The conceptual plan should include:

  • Research question and subquestions
  • Bodies of literature that will be relevant to review
  • Data to be collected to find the evidence you are looking for
  • Procedures for collecting and analysing the data
  • Reasons why the study is significant or relevant
  • An outline of the dissertation -What will happen in each chapter-

Then other steps are still to describe but I will start with my conceptual plan Research question:

What processes are involved in the design and development of a personal learning environment for last year Education Studies undergraduates to use in ED6001?

Another tentative question is:

How can the university support and encourage last year undergraduates in the Education Studies degree (the majority are prospective PGCE students) to enable their effective engagement with digital technology and research skills to become digital research literate and flourish in the 21st century?

How might the university encourage last-year Educational Studies undergraduates to design and craft a PLE to use as a workbench in the dissertation module and engage them with digital literacy building on their digital capability?  Sub-questions:

  1. What are students’ needs, expectations, visions, aspirations, fears, etc. in relation to the use of technology (the digital environment) and the dissertation process? Can both aspects be then matched? (Students voice and engagement in relation to the digital experience at the university level)
  2. What informal systems (of digital and non digital tools) do students have already set up? (How can I find out how students do their studying? How can I capture what I do not know about their habits and ways to do stuff related to their studies? Cultural probes? What needs to be seen is how they have put in place thier tools and how they use them in order to see how can any design improve what is already in place and attend what they need. What I need to do is to uncover the meaning which is going on within their minds. Observe them in action, see what is not obvious to understand how they use the web-based tools.
  3. What is involved (or what structures need to be in place) in the design, production, and implementation of a digital ecosystem –a personalised learning environment- for last-year Education Studies undergraduate? (i.e. scaffolding, modelling, feedback. This will be part of what the external environment provides).
  4. What prior competences -in words of Wild, (2009) minimal conditions, (skills, abilities, attitudes, habits, and knowledge) are (or need?) to be present in the student when beginning to consciously build a PLE?
  5. What necessary triggers (Wild, et. al.Ibid) are developed along the journey towards the intended outcomes of the process?
  6. What are the intended outcomes for the student? (Do I need to specify the area in which I am considering those outcomes? Is it about digital literacy or is it also about knowledge and metacognitive (LLL skills?)
  7. How can the digital experience be embedded in the curriculum in a way that is meaningful for the student?
  8. What is the impact for the student (digital literacy, self-regulation, digital capability), the teachers, and the university?

It is important to scope the challenge or question I are aiming to resolve. In order to do so I need to ask 3 question to the research question following IDEO methodology which is more focused in designing processes than objects. I think that I am designing a process, the process of designing and implementing a PLE in a particular compulsory module of last-year students. Or maybe how the process of effectively learning digital literacy and enhance the digital capability?

  1. Is the question focused on ultimate impact?
    • Ultimate impact is something that needs to be addressed in more detail but generally speaking it has to do with who benefits from the findings of a research and in which ways. In general terms the solution is addressing a current need: improving digital skills in last-year students and in doing so enhancing their digital capability on one hand and on the other is to engage students as change agents of their own process. Also addressing their needs and expectations in relation to their digital experience in HE. Enhancing their digital research skills which is the core of the module. On the other hand if I could be able to find some theoretical answers to this new learning paradigm (not quite sure if it is new paradigm) maybe just learning in the post-digital era, that would be also an impact in a different level, more theoretical.
  2. Does the question allow for a variety of solutions?
    • I am not sure about this point. I am afraid that I am already proposing a solution which might be a big limitation? Ohh my God! this all so confusing!!!
  3. Does the question take into account context and constraints?
    • Yes it does. Although new constraints will arise once I have interviewed the new cohort of students. The research question tries to overcome some of those constrains and it is very clear about the context of the research, namely last-year Ed Studies undergraduates working in the dissertation module.

Now let me go to the bodies of literature I will review for my study. I made a conceptual map where I outlined the main literature (of course a work in progress). I am working on the link to the web-page format of this conceptual map. I need to find out how to export it as a web page so you can access all the documents. Here an image of the map. E-DynamicSpace - How can we engage students in digital literacy across the curriculum

Important–> Think about constructing solid theoretical foundations in order to the solution be sustainable within time. Next step is to code the literature: Once gathered the literature, take each book and article and while reading look for:

  1. Ideas that will help your thinking about your project
  2. Ideas that have a direct bearing on your project
  3. Claims and findings that support or disagree with your ideas
  4. Definition of terms
  5. Calls for follow-up studies relevant to your study
  6. Gaps you notice in the literature

PilesCreating piles: Print out labels with the key terms. Pile the notes you have taken in the step before in the right pile. For example, I am reading: A pedagogy-driven framework for integrating Web 2.0 tools into the educational practices and building PLEs (an article in the special issue of PLE) This article will go on the pile of PLE and also in the pile of students’ model, which is the learning theory pile. Later I will need to rethink it but for now it is ok. The piles that are to small should be rethought. Combining piles that may need to be combined.

To be continued with the other stages of the lit rev, but I am now DOING this step, lets see how it goes.

 –> How to write a thesis? May be useful for others 🙂