Archive for the ‘My Learning Journey’ Category

Week 1 – #altsep12

September 29th, 2012 by Cristina Costa

Week 1

The Application of Learning Technologies (ALT) Module started this Thursday. It is a 10 week optional module integrated in the Postgraduate Certificate of Academic Practice here at the University of Salford. We have 16 members of staff taking part in the module this semester, and this is the first time I am teaching on it alongside my colleague Pete Whitton.

The module touches upon several current topics in the field of Technology Enhanced Learning such as Digital Literacies, Communities and Networks, Learning Design, Accessibility and Collaboration to name a few. We aim to make “learning in and beyond the classroom” as interactive as possible and each week we will be using a different technique to achieve that.  The course advocates the uses of different technologies and tools as a form of exposing learners to contemporary practices. Thus we made blogs (for shared reflection) and Twitter (for networking) imperative tools in this module. I am a great believer in connecting theory to practice and in the field of TEL it is essential to try the tools for ourselves to understand its real value.

Week 1 was divided into two sections. First, we introduced the module to the new cohort. We mentioned the tech, we discussed hopes and expectations and also let people voice their concerns. We presented the assessment designed for this module. We will be using negotiated assessment and a buddy system approach to add a peer assessment layer to students’ work. There will also be Action Learning Sets and these will be activated by engaging them in the preparation and delivery of some of the weekly topics.

Week 1 was about teaching and learning in connection to educational technology as a form of laying down the theoretical ground of students’ work given that part of the module assessment will be based on the development of a TEL project that is informed by current literature. I led on this session and Pete will lead on the next one.

I wanted people to have a grasp of the literature – even if only at a surface level at this stage, so that they can start thinking about their projects and connect it to research in this field. Yet, I did not want to perform a death-by-powerpoint presentation about the different research trends and concepts. That would take them right to sleep, not to mention that it could not be farther away from the type of concepts and practices we hope to inspire with this module: collaboration, sharing of ideas, co-construction of understanding.

In a conversation with my friend Ilene Dawn, she told me about this jigsaw activity she does with her students. I liked it, and so I adapted it to my own style. I sought five different texts that would provide an overview of the current literature and made several copies to use in class. I also decided to add ketso to the mix.

This was the lesson plan:


1.     Thomas, D. & Seely Brown, J., 2011. Embracing change. In A New Culture of Learning.

2.     Dias de Figueiredo, A., 2005. Learning Contexts: A Blueprint for Research. Interactive Educational Multimedia, (11), pp.127–139.

3.     McLoughlin, C. & Lee, M.J.W., 2008. The Three P’s of Pedagogy for the Networked Society: Personalization, Participation, and Productivity. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(1), pp.10–27.

4.     Conole, G., 2012. Online communities and interactions. In Designing for Learning in an Open World. Springer.

5.     Belshaw, D., 2012. Chapter 5 – The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. In The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

Jigsaw activity

-       3 groups of 5 people. (this did not go as planned because some people were missing – we end up with just 2 groups but it did not make much of a difference)

-       5 different texts (referenced above).

10.30 – 10.45

-       Each member of the group will be given a different text to read and 5 Ketso leaves to annotate the main points of the text.

10.45 – 11.05

-       Students reading the same text will come together to discuss their findings. Each member will be given 5 additional ketso leaves to re-write the key points of the text he/she has read, based on the discussions and negotiations of meaning within the group reading the same text

11.05 – 11.40

-       Students return to their group with their Ketso leaves and try to make sense of the 5 readings together. They should create a ketso mindmap that brings together the richness of the 5 texts as a coherent narrative

11.40 – 11.50

-       Break

11.50 – 12.20

-       Groups present their task


-       Debrief


I felt the activity went OK as I saw people immersed in the discussions the papers encouraged both within the groups that had the same text as well as in the groups with different readings. I also felt students needed more time and that we could have gotten more out of that activity if we had had an entire morning to devote to the exercise. As one of the groups was summarising their discussions and presenting it to the rest of the class, I thought it would have been nice to have used that opportunity to host a debate concerning the ideas presented in the readings, looking at both sides of each topic: What are the advantages?, what are the concerns?; what does it take from the student and the teacher?, etc

I know that for some people some of the concepts were hard to grasp. Just like in any discipline or area of knowledge, new concepts often come across as a blur, but as we engage more with it, they start to get clearer. I also think that engaging with the technology might help connecting the dots. In the weeks that follow we will be exploring the topics introduced in week 1 in depth.

There is something I want to consider in the future. It would be good to make week 1 just about literature and have the “introduction to the module” as an online session that all participants are required to attend.

This is probably the part that I am more concerned, and at the same time, a little bit  disappointed about: students’ engagement with the technology, especially twitter. Although a small number of students participated in the pre-activities online, the majority did not. I would be naïve to say that I thought everyone would have joined and engaged with twitter in a very enthusiastic way, but I was hoping for a better response. During the session on Thursday I could tell that those involved in the pre-activities could see the links better between their practices and the literature, simply because they had been experimenting with it.

But I am not one to be discouraged that easily and I have hope that by the end of this module we will all be using these tools in an effective and critical way.

So my questions are:

-       How can I encourage people to try the new approaches that technology offers? (as I was standing there reporting about the use of twitter during the module pre-activities I felt like an insurance seller that people tend to avoid. It is hard to explain the potential of distributed online networks and communities to those who have not yet explored that environment. I don’t want to sound so enthusiastic about it that people think I am mad, but I also don’t want not to mention so that people discard it as unimportant. How do you provide a balanced view?

  • For those participating in the module: how did you think the session went? What did you like and what do you think needs improvement?

In short, I think Week 1 went well, but there is room for improvement. I hope we have been able to excite people about the philosophies underpinning the use of technology and that people come back next week ;-)

I will be leading on week 3 and I am looking forward to working with Action Learning Set 1 on a session about communities of practice. I will report back!

#PhD #abstract #readyfortheviva

September 25th, 2012 by Cristina Costa

So here it is a glimpse of the “beast”. It took me almost 5 years to complete this. When I started this journey in January 2008 I had no idea what I had let myself into… I don’t think I know exactly where it will take me either. Not the least because the journey ain’t over yet! There’s still the viva. And to be honest, I don’t know if it will ever be, but I am looking forward to the next chapter!

In closing this chapter of my life, a full thesis is ready to be examined. I must confess I am both nervous and excited. I know this is not a spectacular work that will wow people all around, but I hope it’s good enough to move me to the next stage of learning and doing research. The way I see it, a PhD gives you a license to research!

Below you’ll find a summary of what I have been up to in the last 4 3/4 years. For the past two years it really took over my existence!  So, be kind and constructive in your comments. Maybe I can use this as an opportunity for a mock viva! ;-)

The Participatory Web in the context of academic research: landscapes of change and conflicts


This thesis presents the results of a narrative inquiry study conducted in the context of Higher Education Institutions. The study aims to describe and foster understanding of the beliefs, perceptions, and felt constraints of ten academic researchers deeply involved in digital scholarship. Academic research, as one of the four categories of scholarship, is the focus of the analysis.  The methods of data collection included in-depth online interviews, field notes, closed blog posts, and follow up dialogues via email and web-telephony.

The literature review within this study presents a narrative on scholarship throughout the ages up to the current environment, highlighting the role of technology in assisting different forms of networking, communication, and dissemination of knowledge. It covers emergent aspects of online participation and scholarship such as the open access movement, online networks and communities of practice that ultimately influence academic researchers’ sense of identity and their approaches to digital scholarship. The literature review had a crucial role in informing the interview guide that supported the narrative accounts of the research participants. However, the data collected uncovered a gap in knowledge not anticipated in the literature review, that of power relations between the individual and their institutions. Hence, an additional sociological research lens, that of Pierre Bourdieu, was adopted in order to complete the analysis of the data collected.   There were three major stages of analysis: the construction of research narratives as a first pass analysis of the narrative inquiry, a thematic analysis of the interview transcripts, and a Bourdieuian analysis, supported by additional literature, that reveals the complexity of current academic practice in the context of the Participatory Web.

This research set out to study the online practices of academic researchers in a changing environment and ended up examining the conflicts between modern and conservative approaches to research scholarship in the context of academic researchers’ practices. This study argues that the Participatory Web, in the context of academic research, can not only empower academic researchers but also place them in contention with traditional and persistent scholarly practice.

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    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.

    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time

    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”

    Teenagers online in the USA

    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.

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