Tag Archives: literature review

Identity and teaching and learning spaces

Relevant and interesting ideas to look at! @catherinecronin and open spaces

kshjensen - always learning

Recently, a paper I co-wrote about the ‘Student Teaching and Learning Consultant’ scheme was published. I wrote it with Dawn Bagnall, who was one of the students working as a consultant, and it was a really valuable experience to be able to discuss and analyse what the scheme had been about with someone who had worked with the staff. I was the project co-ordinator and co-trainer of the student consultants and although I did get feedback from staff who participated in the scheme, I did not participate in the consultancy activity itself.

Although the scheme is not running this year, for a variety of reasons, I continue to reflect on the space that was created as a result of the scheme. I have characterised this space as ‘liminal’ in other posts (and in another forthcoming paper, link added 25th June 2015) because the roles of students/staff became ambiguous and…

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Bildung and its connection with the idea of flourishing in the post-digital era

This post is about my reflections in relation to why I think that being digital literate will help students to flourish in a post-digital era, moreover why I think that being literate, in particular, digital literate, is desirable and will lead to students’ progress (I will not cover this second part of my argument in much depth, but it is my first approach to justify these ideas more theoretically)

A note from the author: It is a difficult task for a non-native and relatively new English speaker as me, to tackle some of this complex ideas from this still foreign language. My thoughts are still bubbling in my head trying to find better words and better sentences and paragraphs that can make my argument intelligible to others. I get very frustrated when I read my finished work, not because my ideas are not clear to me but because I feel still the limitation of not being proficient in the language in order to make them clear to others. My excuses for the confusion and lack of precision in parts of my text, all of this is still a work in progress.

I will start with my Research question:

How and to what extent can the university support and encourage undergraduates to enable their engagement with digital technology and research skills to become digital research literate and flourish in the 21st century?

With some help of a more knowledgeable other 🙂 I refined the question:

How and to what extent can the university support, encourage and enable undergraduates to become digital research literate and flourish in a post-digital era?

I have a potential solution to this question (the idea of re-designing and implementing a personal learning environment (PLE) by students will demand the deployment of digital skills in a critical manner)--> Re-designing students' informal PLEs and use it as a workbench in the context of the dissertation module will improve students' digital literacies and at the same time will increase their digital capability. My hunch, guess, hypothesis is that the PLE is in itself a learning outcome and an aid to improve digital literacies in students.

What do I mean by flourishing and on what does this idea rely on?

Bildung is an old German word usually translated into English as ‘formation’, ‘education’, ‘cultivation’ and more recently by Richard Rorty as ‘edification’ (edification takes us out of ourselves by the power of strangeness, to aid us in becoming new beings).

The word comes from ‘bilden’, German for giving shape and it is related to the idea of giving shape to a certain object. In its origin, it had connections with the religious sphere, but  later, in the 18th century, it became an indication of a new anthropological model and a different outlook on the world. The origin of the word does not lie in the Enlightenment although it is a keyword used in the 18th century due to the protagonism of knowledge as the driving force to construct a better world. Bildung and the idea of self-cultivation through the acquisition of knowledge give voice to the new intellectual attitude of the men of the Enlightenment.

Wilhelm von Humboldt’s work at the end of the 18th century is a good example of such a tradition. He placed the idea of Bildung at the centre of his work, it was rooted in a dynamic idea of transforming the idea of the natural and human world while also being oriented toward a model of balance and perfection. It is about the self and the world. The world represented by the unity of nature, culture and society all exerting its power of influence. In this sense, bildung is seen as a reciprocal process of formation between the individual as a self and the world she/he meets actively rather than passively (Fossland, et al. 2015). It suggests self-education as a path to transformation, to strive and change in the process of meeting the world. In words of Humboldt, it is about uniting individual and culture in a rich mutual and complex interplay.

Paola Giacomoni puts it in beautiful words,

Being is Bildung for Humboldt, it is growth, it is transformation, it is never a given thing, a quality. The point is not to recognize and identify a state, a condition or a situation but rather to understand the continuous substitution of forms, the never ending metamorphosis, the unstoppable flow in which the human world may be adequately illustrated. (…) What moves the world and history moves man above all, pressing him to act and express himself as a primary need and with no other goal than the reproduction of his own movement and research: man as part of nature is impulse, energy, an irresistible longing to live in a multi-form way.

Being educated or ‘becoming’, how I see it, is a concept encompassing but subjective knowledge as Kierkegaard calls it; it includes a broad cultural orientation, the understanding of science and technology, and a cultivation of the fine arts. All of this shall bring transformation and, in words of Reindal (2012), thus foster responsibility.  In this sense being literate (the word comes from the Latin word litteratus: learned, cultured, educated) is a necessary condition for knowledge to become subjective, a necessary condition to be able to understand the world and act on it, or at least that part of the world that is available to us, and participate proactively in society, taking responsibility for our transformation thus, societies’ change.

Contextualising this idea of bildung in the academic world, Fossland et al. (2015) are of the idea that in higher education there is a particular form of bildung that is expected to happen in the student in formal and informal learning. They call it ‘academic bildung‘. The world students will meet is one of ideas, thoughts and practices. The authors argue that it is a normative concept, an idea with which I agree as it is loaded with values, it is linked with specific attitudes used in concrete situations. It is, therefore, a concept that describes a developmental process towards something better, a normative ideal in an educational setting. It is linked with critical thinking, society-oriented reflections, how Solberg and Hansen (2015) calls it, and autonomy. But it is also connected with self-development and existential reflections hence the development of the individual is not only concerned with knowledge but also with cultural sensibility linking the individual’s development with his/her wider potential through education. It seems to me that bildung and the development of greater potential are intrinsically related.

And it is precisely in the suggestion of developing more full potential where the idea of flourishing makes sense. The word flourish is derived from the Latin word florere, flourish, blossom, be prosperous. My idea is that developing the knowledge and digital skills that will enable students to interact critically with the world and the cultural reality they live in –a post-digital culture in this case- they are more able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by a digital mediated and knowledge driven society but at the same time being critical enough to think and speak from within their perspective and not only from the drivers of the labour market and other more deterministic agendas.

The link between digital literacies and progress still needs more development…


  • The idea of Bildung of the Faculty of Educational Sciences of the University of Oslo
  • Bruford, W.H. The German Tradition of Self Cultivation. From Humboldt to Thomas Mann (I only accessed today the pages available online, there is much to read when the book arrives 🙂 )
  • Fossland, T., Mathiasen, H., and Solberg, M. (2015). Academic Bildung in Net-based Higher Education. Moving beyond learning.
  • Giacomoni, P. (1998). Paideia as Bildung in Germany in the Age of the Enlightenment. Paper given at the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, in Boston, Massachusetts  August 1998. Available here
  • LLanera, T.A. ((2011). Shattering Tradition: Rorty on Edification and Hermeneutics. Kritike, Vol.5 (1). pp. 108-116.
  • Reindal, S. (2013). Bildung, the Bologna Process, and Kierkegaard’s Concept of Subjective Thinking. Stud Philos Educ (2013) 32:533–549. Available from here

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

..is 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, et.al. (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 🙂 


Dana Boyd’s book: It’s complicated

Danah has a powerful combination, her interest for teenagers and her work in the social media industry. It seems to me she knows, as she says in the audio, the industry from the inside and I can imagine in her interviews she must be very sharp in what questions she asks and what she can identify in the answers. I have read parts of the book, it is very informative and illustrative of teenagers reality and dissonance with adults and sometimes parents that in some cases as not understanding teenagers life tend to punish it making them quite anxious.

You can buy the book or download it here

The complexity of transdisciplinary literature review

Another to read from Giorgio Bertini’s Blog:

Reflective Writing

Notes from: Reflective `Writing from: Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams and Jane Spiro

Longer critical review




What it is about?

25% length

  •   The author’s purpose, aim or question
  •   Main argument, central idea, findings conclusions
  •   What sort of text is it? General, specific


What do I think about it?


  • Who is it written for?
  • Points of interest
  • Simmilarities or differences with other texts I have read
  • Weaknesses or limitations


How might I use it?


  • Has the text helped you understand something better? Or see/do something differently? What? How was it useful?


Keep this short. Give enough context so the reader knows what comes next

Outline the situation

Consider you include: actions, consequences, responses, feelings and problems


Keep this short. Give enough context so the reader knows what comes next.

Outline the situation

Consider you include: actions, consequences, responses, feelings and problems

So What?

Tho most substantial part

Make the link between your personal experience and the knowledge + experience of others




Discuss what you have learnt

Examine about: yourself, relatinss, others, attitudes, practice, understanding. Show what is important

Now What?

Short section- next steps

Identify the implications

What impact could have these ideas in your work, practice? Or thinking? What do you need to improve future outcomes?