Category Archives: PhD reflections and writings

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 🙂

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 🙂

My (new) daily post (1)

Reading and reading everywhere, I guess I am frustrated at the moment. Nothing seems to make sense to me in relation to my PhD. I can’t find the real question that will move me forward and basically I am blocked but not only writing blocked but also acting wise blocked. I can’t take the initiative to go to the students and start the collection of data. But actually now writing I am beginning to think that it has to do with this feeling of not having a good research question still in place.

One of my interest is the relation between cognition+intellectual tools, how people learn and how tools are aids in that process.

Constructs to explore: Intellectual tools (Daniel Denette Mind pumps book, Jonassen)

I have thought that technology in what ever form it comes, being it writing, reading, the printing press, the watch, the map, the telescope, the train, fire, and many more have impacted profoundly the way we behave and I think the way we think. For example the complex logical and structural thinking present in Euclid’s Elements would have not been possible without the skill of writing. Having to display many steps needed in order to proof the unicity and existence of the tangent line to a circle, just to mention one example, is only possible if you have a structured way of thinking and then writing the sequence of steps you need to do. Socrates was against teaching people to read and write, he said when people learn how to write they are going to forget everything and only have remembrances. We can see almost 2 ½ millennia after, that learning people how to read and write was much needed and that these new skills has make an impact in the advancement of society. Around these ideas is where my thinking goes. Technologies, digital technologies, in particular web-based tools, are bringing changes in the ways we express ourselves, how we organise our thoughts, how we re-present knowledge. This process of knowledge re-presentation as the idea of finding a personal way of presenting your personal knowledge (a piece of information, of knowledge we are trying to make sense of) and how can tools shape this process hence how it shapes the role of teachers and educators who also need to make sense of what students produce is part of my interest.

How are these tools, and more than just the tools, the use of a bundle of them combined helping students to make sense of what it means to do research. How can digital tools shape the research culture and practice?

For a tool to shape the thinking it must be used enough so it has an impact in our thoughts. Where ever I read advices for PhD students I read that we need to write every day, that the more we do it the better we become at it, writing is a matter of practice, etc. So my argument is that what needs to happen in education is that we need to use and use and use digital tools so we can be agents of change. 

I want to know about the informal systems (digital tools and tools in general)  students have already in place, how they use these systems. In relation to what emerges from there I want to explore how there different systems could be improved (if it needs to) and how can this be done. What will students gain from going through the thinking process of what intellectual web-based tools are available and for what task they serve best, how can I create my own system. I am interested then to bring students to design and plan their own PLE. This planning process entails reflective thinking which in it self is important.

Is there anything new or different in relation to learning theories that I see emerging from the experience of designing a personal learning and working space? And is that change relevant to any learning theory? In what way?

I will stop now and do some reading I think I need to do. And as my tendency is being everywhere I am aiming to change in this respect and try to close a process to start the next. So this process of writing about my research and reflecting on what are things I ask my self is finished for today