Friday, 20 January 2017

Tips for a PhD defense or viva #phd

It is with quite some pleasure that I was awarded the PhD in Educational Technologies last week.

The UK version of a PhD defense is called a Viva, which resembles a closed oral examination (open book) with one external examiner (connected to another University than the one you are at) and an internal examiner (affiliated to your own University, but with whom nor yourself, nor your supervisors have co-authored a paper – so not closely professionally related). In addition to that, you have one observer (normally that is one of your supervisors, she or he will take notes on what is said, and possible recommendations) and a chair (Doug Clow, who explains all the details of the viva and who sees to it that everyone stays hydrated and in an objective state of mind). In my case the external examiner was Neil Morris (Leeds University), the internal examiner was Allison Littlejohn (The Open University, UK). The external examiner usually leads the questioning, which was also the case in my viva. Btw the central question to my PhD thesis was 'what characterizes the informal, self-directed learning of experienced adult, online learners engaged in individual or social learning using any device to follow a FutureLearn MOOC'. It resulted in a conceptual framework for informal self-directed learning, using a method that provided the voices (experiences) of the learners to come through, as such providing a theory from the ground up (in most cases a framework starts from theory, providing a top down dynamic to come to the conclusions). A draft version of the thesis can be read here. The picture shows my two supervisors (Mike Sharples and Agnes Kukulska-Hulme) and Rebecca Ferguson (who was kind enough to be my main examiner during the mock viva) and my wonderful colleagues Janesh Sanzgiri, Jenna Mittelmeier and Garron Hilaire.

The questions started off mildly (with a fair question, which aims at making you feel comfortable, so along the lines of: briefly describe your research, why were you interested in the topic you investigated). From there the questions tend to become more complex and they tend to demand a more in-depth answer. Normally the questions will start at the beginning of your thesis, and consist of overall (e.g. how did you select your literature) as well as very detailed questions (why did you select only that fragment here) which the examiner found either of interest, confusing, or lacking. This means you really need to understand why you did what you did, throughout your thesis.
These are some of the questions I got, with some additional information:  
  • How do your research questions follow from your literature review? During preparation I linked all of my research questions to the most influential paper I mentioned in my literature review. This is also handy for other literature related questions, as you memorise core papers and their subsequent authors.
  • Which element of your findings gave rise to the most poignant discussion; and can you list the main authors for that discussion reflecting on that part of your findings? Why did you limit yourself to these authors for the discussion on that part of X findings? I can tell you, this was a tough question. It means you relate the literature of your literature review and use some of those papers to fuel the scientific discussions on your findings taking into account what the literature already pointed to, as opposed to what your findings show to be different (or similar, as you will most likely find that your findings have commonalities as well as differences with prior research).   
  • What is the relation between the research of your pilot study and the main study? In my case the pilot study had different research questions (and sub-questions) than the main study, this had to be explained, and this had an effect on the findings. This change resulted from the qualitative, exploratory starting point of my study, and the resulting findings from the pilot which urged me to rephrase the research questions of my main study a bit.
  • Is there a theory runs through your investigation, and has an effect on the literature you choose to focus on, the methodology, and research instruments? In my case that was socio-constructivism, briefly: one of the theories I used (connected to the pedagogical design of FutureLearn) is Laurillards conversational framework, specifically the informal conversational framework, which is related to the socio-constructivist view of the world. Additionally, I choose to use Charmaz’s constructing Grounded Theory approach, which also is deeply embedded in the socio-constructivist heritage, and I used multiple learner voices to look at emerging codes, categories and concepts coming from multiple viewpoints (as I used multiple data sources provided to me over time by the participants in my study – participants were asked to self-report their learning through learning logs, sent at different moments throughout their learning experience with FutureLearn MOOCs.
  • Questions could also be limited in scope, for instance: what is your definition of socio-constructivism? Prepare core definitions that are key to your thesis.
  • How did your research questions guide your coding? Tough one, as there is a tension between qualitative research which starts from the concept of no-assumption, to research questions inevitably guiding codes (e.g. codes related to the sub-question of technology for learning).
  • Or considering one area of my findings: what type of definition are you using for social learning? And how does it differ from other social learning definitions? In my case, I used social learning as it is defined by Laurillard, which fits FutureLearn, and is based on the notion of Socratic dialogue, which means it involves at least two active people. This stands in contrast with for instance Bandura (who goes back to a behaviorist view as well, as Bandura’s definition of social learning can be traced back to Pavlov), where Bandura also sees passive learning (e.g. lurking) also as a form of social learning, as it is still embedded in a the whole of society as the learning environment and is part of observing.
  • Two difficult questions were raised during my mock viva. A mock viva is a sort of general rehearsal for your viva. It usually involves your supervisors, as well as a colleague who wishes you well and wants to strengthen your viva skills. In my case, I head the pleasure of having Rebecca Ferguson as my mock viva examiner and she is fabulous! I also used some of her tips in preparation for the mock viva, have a look at the top 40 viva questions she listed as important here. One of the questions she asked me was: what is the difference between MOOC learning and other online learning? E.g. active presence of a facilitator, scale, length of course versus length of curriculum, prerequisites, compulsory or not. Another difficult question was: why did not you taken into account the MOOC educators? Where the better answer would have been: I did take them into account educators, but only in the roles in which they were seen by the learners, not in their classical roles as defined by educational institutes.

Some general remarks:
Make sure you know your thesis, and use parts of it when looking for answers to the questions you are getting. I mean, physically point to your thesis, this will buy you some time to find the right answer, and will give you some additional content support.

Look confident and be succinct. This gives the idea of professionalism to your person, a research professionalism. It does not matter if you belief it, just know that you are indeed the expert on that topic, so you can and must be confident.

The questions you get can come from a variety of thoughts: interest in the approach, doubt on what you wrote, or simple trickery to see whether you do really understand what you are doing. This means that at times you might here a question, which prompts an internal voice to say “Hey! But I did do that, or I do have an argument for doing it that way!”, in that case voice your answer and do not be afraid to stick with your thesis, or correct the examiners. Of course, it is essential to always stay polite, also when you are entering a discussion. But really, the examiners are there to strengthen your thesis, so they are in a way trying to let you grasp how you can make your thesis even stronger, and you are the one who is the real expert in what you have investigated, you know the processes you used to get to your main conclusions.


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Academic job applications lessons learned... so far #phd #job

Once a PhD is almost finalized (I am having my PhD defense on Thursday 12 January 2017), the next challenge is finding a new job. Finding a new profession is always a challenge, but... it turns out that I was not that well prepared and I did not know some of the basic steps towards becoming a serious researcher. So, I thought that I would add to the previous PhD posts and accompanying slides (on Life as a PhD student and Is there life post PhD?).

Some elements are easily adaptable for future job applications, and other actions should have been undertaken early in the PhD journey. I learned to mention my experiences explicitly, to read the job applications 10 times over (as well as the information page of the related departments), to illustrate funding explicitly, and highlight teaching experiences. I did ask a Human Resource expert to have a look at my academic resume/CV from the HR point of view, and that improved the overall look of it. But admittedly, no one else but me knows what I actually did, so I had to learn to make my academic leadership/research/philosophy explicit, while staying true to myself (this last element can have a huge effect by the way).
On the other hand, there are some facts that are unavoidably part of the process of becoming a serious researcher, and it seems that I have to find and accept those rules. Here is what I learned so far, all mixed with some personal reflections on each step (reflections of someone who still has to learn the ropes despite (or because of) her age. If you know other points of attention, feel free to share, I still have a lot to learn, I am sure.

What accounts as scientific output: choose high impact journals to publish your research
However much you might be critical of the self-sustaining closed research publishing cycle... it has no use to solely publish in open access journals if you want to be seen as a high class researcher. Publishing in what is called A1 (or high impact) journals is inevitable if you want to be seen as a strong researcher. Even if you have a high h-index and accompanying citations, it just is not valued as strongly as the sometimes less-cited A1 journals.
There is a good, longstanding article on the debate of 'Why the impact factor of journals should not be used for evaluating research' comes from Per O Seglen which goes back to 1997, a more recent article published in Nature written by Ewen Callaway on some of the publishing elite turning its back on the impact factor. And there is of course the risk of being trapped by predatory open access publishers, which needs to be avoided by all of us.

Research versus practice oriented work
Another distinction is made between research articles and practice work and articles. To me writing practice oriented articles increases the public awareness of evidence-based research implementation. I also really like to put theory to practice (what works on paper and in life... is real evidence-based, right?). But, it can be used against you when your profile is compared to others who publish research articles solely, or only work on theoretical research. So, if you want to be considered as a serious researcher, collaborate with other high impact researchers and institutes to built your strong research profile.
This also means to use highly visible (and generally accepted) theoretical frameworks or theoretical grounding for any application which involves research. Share ready-to-be-used research instruments, based on theoretical sound frameworks. This is part of making your assumptions and expertise visible, if you have theoretical knowledge and you are planning to use it, than make those theoretical groundings shine like really bright stars in order to look as serious as the serious investigator you are.
On the other hand, look for practice oriented postdocs if you like putting theory to practice .

Making research assumptions visible
To me, it is very logical what I did professionally, but that is not the case with others reading my resume/CV. This is true from a theoretical research perspective, and from a practical perspective. A sentence like "I developed and rolled out multiple elearning solutions" covers what I did in terms of developing Technology Enhanced Learning tools and instruments. It turned out that such sentences simply get blurred if they are in the middle of a cv. Those types of sentences do not ring any bells, so they do not trigger the brain of whomever is reading the resume. I found that out the hard way, from feedback indicating that the person who was accepted had more experience with authoring tools and virtual learning environments ... I have used multiple authoring tools, each to build online learning that was meaningful for its context, delivery and target population, ... so that made me think about what I had mentioned in my resume, and what was actually understood by it. So, now I adapted my resume, and added a brief list of examples after the sentence: built content using authoring tools, increased social learning experiences by implementing a diverse social learning palet (cohort learning, jigsaw approach), linked indicators to meaningful learning analytics, engaged in expert recording, editing and using mixed media (audio, video, computer assisted animation tools), wrote html5 applications to be used in mobile learning, installed, supported and adapted Moodle for LMS (including basic learning analytics). But these are all very practice oriented deliverable's.

Now, I also understand that if I want to focus on my scientific work, I will have to briefly describe and than possibly offer more detailed accounts of my research work: instruments used, frameworks used, theoretical grounding I am familiar with... Looking as a serious researcher opens the door to becoming (an even more serious) one. Classes I have given (for which levels or groups).
From a personality perspective, listing these accomplishments felt difficult. It felt like bragging (a thing not to be done in my upbringing, but ... very necessary when applying for jobs in competitive fields).

Promote and support your independent research 
From a research perspective, there is a recurring question probing for any independent scientific work you have performed. Again, this is where I used the wrong sort of phrasing: I mentioned my independent scientific work, but I did not specify that it was independent (I set it up, coordinated it, built the instruments and found funding), which made it look like just something I was involved in due to being asked. Okay, I am changing the phrasing on those options as well.
But there is more, if you are writing a research or teaching proposal, make sure you use strong, supported theoretical frameworks for those proposals. Again, show that you know your field-specific research, and that you can use accepted theoretical frameworks as a means for your proposal.
Get affiliated with a major research institute. Not being affiliated with an well-established, recognised research institute might also keep doors closed. So even if you are an independent researcher, try to get a (free, but affiliated) title with one of the major universities. This will help you grow personally, professionally, and will help to open doors in the future.

Built and nurture your professional research network
Even if you cannot sell yourself that well to others you do not know, those researchers who do know you will understand your strengths more easily. This enhances your options of getting a job at their institutions, or

Ask more senior researchers to revue your proposal
Well, this is of course only possible if you write your proposal well in advance, as senior researchers have little spare time. I neglected this option with one of my research proposals, and the feedback made me realize that it could have been stronger, if I had only showed the proposal to more experienced academics in my network and gotten their feedback.

Understanding academic leadership, and making it explicit
Providing a good overview of your academic leadership is very useful. This means that you need to put yourself out there, ready to collaborate with others. Say yes to any research, supervision, funding, teaching opportunities you might be offered or you can attract yourself. This is VERY important. If you support anyone's (research) thesis, whether in a master/PhD track, make note and list it in your resume (preferably with a link to title and person of course).

Language is also a determining factor, being able to communicate in English is quite important in the Northern hemisphere. And although the academic world is seen as being international, you will have to make sure you learn your field-specific jargon and regional focus points (some countries look for international academics, others are more national in their search). And it seems to me that it is better to stay and get a post-doc where you got your PhD, than to immediately go out and move country immediately after having finished your PhD. So, first build up some extra seniority as a researcher.

Personal challenges
Everyone looking for a job has additional personal challenges: for me - or at least how I perceive it - there is my age (admitting that I do have a lot of pre-academic professional experiences). The fact that I come from a background without prior academics (so no common or informal knowledge was passed on). The fact that I belief everyone should be able to have access to any research output (which inevitably brought me to the idea that open journals are always the best choice, which ... they are not if you want to be seen as a serious researcher. My family combination (same sex couple with young child) omits me from some working environments, and omits some professional options.

Of course, these are only small challenges when compared to others in more pressing circumstances, e.g. what to do if you were educated in another country or having had to move from a forced displacement, and your at least one of your degrees is not acknowledged? But for me, it already feels like an uphill battle and sometimes one I had not seen coming.

I will become 50 years old in the year to come, and I must admit I feel a bit beaten by the norm once again. At this point in time it feels like I found my calling too late, or that I am not fully equipped for it, and that the choices made early in life keep weighing on the future steps you take.  

Monday, 19 December 2016

Call for papers: MOOC, artificial intelligence, immersive research... disseminate your knowledge!

eMOOCs2017:
conference dates: 22nd to 26th May 2017
Location: Madrid, Spain
Website: http://emoocs.eu/emoocs-2017-conference/

EMOOCs 2017, the 5th European MOOCs Stakeholders Summit, will take place from 22nd to 26th May at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain). In addition and during the same week on 24th and 25th May, Open edX will hold its first European conference in the same location.

Do not miss this great opportunity to learn first-hand about the best examples of MOOCs in the world. Organised by Universidad Carlos III de Madrid with the collaboration of P.A.U. Education, EMOOCs 2017 will bring together leading European actors in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which will range from policy makers to practitioners to researchers.

The event will be organised in five tracks:
• Experience Track, based on new learning and teaching models; • Research Track, to focus on research-based online methodologies;
• Policy Track, a session that will assess the current potential and future challenges of MOOCs in European education institutions; 
• Business Track
, that will look in depth at how businesses are taking advantage of new educational technology;
• Spanish Track, a session dedicated to analysing the use of MOOCs in Spain and Latin America.
Are you interested in submitting a paper? Your submissions are most welcome. The closing date for submissions for the Research and Experience Tracks and proposals for Workshops and Working groups is 16th January 2017. Paper submissions for the Spanish Track, Policy Track, Business Track and submissions for Work-in progress short papers must be received by 9 March 2017.
Check submission procedures and important dates at http://emoocs.eu/important-dates/ For any additional information, please contact registration@emoocs.eu 

Dates:
16 Jan 2017: Submissions deadline for Research and Experience Tracks. Proposals for Workshops
24 Feb 2017: Notification of acceptance/rejection (Research and Experience Tracks, Workshops)
20 Mar 2017: Camera-ready versions for Springer LNCS Proceedings (Research and Experience Tracks)


ECSM 4th European Conference on Social Media 2017
Hosted by Business and Media School of the Mykolas Romeris University (MRU), Vilnius, Lithuania Conference dates: 3-4 July 2017.
Extended deadline: 9th January 2017.
The European Conference on Social Media (ECSM) focuses on academic research and practical applications of Social Media in many areas. This includes topics within Business, Education and the analysis of society such as, Enterprise social network; Technology enhanced learning and social spaces– to mention only a few topics. The conference attracts a varied group of people with different perspectives on e-Learning and brings top research and proven best practices together into one location, for the purposes of finding ways to use Social Media.

For more information and to submit papers, please go to: http://www.academic-conferences.org/conferences/ecsm/ecsm-call-for-papers/
ECSM 2017 will also be hosting the final round of the Social Media in Practice Excellence Awards. We aim to showcase innovative social media applications in business and the public sector. We are keen to see how academe and business have worked together to identify, develop and implement innovative social media applications and to this end we encourage joint submissions with both academic and practitioner contributors. More details about the competition at: http://www.academic-conferences.org/conferences/ecsm/ecsm-excellence-awards/

Papers presented at the conference will be published in the conference proceedings which have an ISSN and an ISBN subject to author registration and payment and will be considered for further development and publication in a number of journals.

AIED 2017 CALL FOR PAPERS
Cebu, The Philippines - 
Conference dates: 26-30 June 2017
website: http://aied2017.ateneo.edu/

The 18th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education (AIED 2017) is the next in a longstanding series of biennial international conferences for high quality research in intelligent systems and cognitive science for educational computing applications.

SUBMISSION CATEGORIES
- Full papers (10-12 pages) - submission:
https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=aied2017

- Posters (4 pages) - submission:
- Industry Papers (up to 6 pages) - submission:
- Workshop proposals (2-4 pages)
- Tutorial proposals (2-4 pages)
- Doctoral consortium (4 pages)
- Interactive Events (2 pages)

SUBMISSION DATES
- Abstract for Full Papers Jan 17, 2017, 11:59pm HST
- Full Papers & Posters: Jan 24, 2017, 11:59pm HST
- Industry Papers: Jan 24, 2017, 11:59pm HST
- Workshop & Tutorial Proposals: Jan 13, 2017, 11:59pm HST
- Doctoral Consortium papers: Feb 26, 2017, 11:59pm HST
- Interactive Events: April 7, 2017, 11:59pm HST

For more information, visit the conference web page:
http://aied2017.ateneo.edu/

General Chair:
Benedict du Boulay, University of Sussex
Program Committee Chairs:
Ryan Baker, University of Pennsylvania
Elisabeth Andre, Augsburg University
Local Arrangements Chair:
Ma. Mercedes T. Rodrigo, Ateneo de Manila University
Jessica O. Sugay, Ateneo de Manila University

iLRN2017 3rd Immersive Learning Research Network Conference
conference dates: 26-29 June 2017
Location: Coimbra, Portugal, European Union

Special Track on Immersive and Engaging Educational Experiences

Overview
------------------------
Immersive and engaging experiences are powerful teaching tools and allow innovative forms of entertainment, learning, training, and other experiences. More and more virtual reality platforms, virtual world environments, augmented/alternate reality applications and game -based experiences, and various forms of interactive media are designed to create engaging and immersive experiences in an educational setting. This can be a traditional classroom, a virtual and remote classroom setting or activities that further the educational agenda.
In this track, various forms of interactive media and “entertainment with purpose” are
discussed to create different forms of engagement. In this special track we discuss how
we can design, develop, and analyze educational environments to be both, immersive
and engaging. The track does not only cover research on design, development, and
analysis of such environments, we also invite submission describing non traditional and traditional design practice and development approaches to create different engaging experiences.

Topics
------------------------
The topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

- Learning: learning in immersive environments, augmented realities, virtual realities, virtual worlds, and games
- Design: design techniques, practices, methods
- Analysis: frameworks, exploration studies, user studies
- Technology: platforms, devices, engines, environments, graphics, navigation, interactions, user analysis, data analysis, procedural content generation, artificial intelligence
- Non- traditional, non -classroom and non- curricular learning environments
- Development approaches to create different engaging experiences

Author Info
------------------------
All papers (including papers selected for Springer publication, Online Proceedings and poster submissions) must follow Springer’s style guidelines.
Contributions are welcome as work-in-progress, research results, technical development, and best practices. Research, development, and best practices contributions will be accepted according to their quality and relevance either as full or short papers. Selected papers from the main conference and special tracks will be published in the Springer Proceedings, and the rest of the accepted papers will be published in the online proceedings with a confirmed ISBN number/reference. Work-in-progress will only be accepted as short papers.

Full papers accepted for Springer publication must not exceed of 14 pages.
Long papers accepted for publication at Online Proceedings must not exceed of 10-12
pages.
Short papers accepted for publication at Online Proceedings must not exceed of 6 – 8 pages.
Submitted papers must follow the same guidelines as the main conference submissions. Please visit https://immersivelrn.org/ilrn2017/author_info/ for guidelines and templates.
For submitting a paper to this special track, please use the submission system
https://www.easychair.org/conferences/?conf=ilrn2017 , log in with an account or register, and select the track “Special Track 5: Immersive and Engaging Educational Experiences” to add your submission

Special Track Chairs
------------------------
- Johanna Pirker, Graz University of Technology, Austria
- Foaad Khosmood, California Polytechnic State University, USA

Program Committee (to be confirmed and extended)
------------------------
Allan Fowler, Kennesaw State University
Brian Mcdonald, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK
Dominic Kao, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
Kai Erenli, UAS bfi Vienna, Austria
Ryan Locke, Abertay University, UK
Volker Settgast, Fraunhofer Austria, Austria
Kai Erenli, University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna, Austria
Zoë J. Wood, California Polytechnic State University, USA
Britte H. Cheng, SRI International, USA
Helen Wauck, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, USA
Guenter Wallner, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Austria

Contact
------------------------
For more information, please contact Johanna Pirker (jpirker@iicm.edu).

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Free report & toolkit on MOOCs for development #MOOCs4dev #itcilo @alessiames

The International Training Centre for International Labour Organisation (ITCILO) has always been a forerunner in innovation for development purposes. When I met Alessia Messuti two weeks ago, she mentioned that ITCILO just published a free report and toolkit on MOOCs for development. The report is 29 pages and gives a brief, yet well-founded description of the past 5 MOOCs which were implemented since 2015 in which the ITC was involved with (including a MOOC on 'Crowdsourcing for Development'), and the report also highlights the challenges (business model, quality assurance, access barriers, and facilitation & teaching support quality). The pedagogical MOOC design they used is also mentioned and what I really liked was their non-video approach, as this enabled much more learners in developing settings to engage with the MOOC material.

If you read the report and are interested in more information, Alessia also made a toolkit available for those who want to learn more than just the basics mentioned in the report. You can ask for a copy of the more expanded MOOCs4Dev toolkit by emailing delta@itcilo.org .

It is a good read for all those in valuing the concept of education for all and what that means for MOOCs. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Commenting & sharing free 5th innovating pedagogy report #pedagogy #EdTech #OU

While I was reading the latest innovative pedagogies report, some comments came to mind, which I will gladly share a bit further down this blogpost after a quick description of the report itself. Researchers from the Instituteof Educational Technology located at The Open University (UK) together with academics from the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education in Singapore recently published the fifth Innovative pedagogy report. A full-text PDF version of this 47 page report is available to download from www.open.ac.uk/innovating. In the report they provide an overview of emerging innovative pedagogies. This report covers: learning through social media, the concept of productive failure as a pedagogical option, teachback, design thinking, learning from the crowd, learning through video games, formative analytics, learning for the future, translanguaging, and the blockchain for learning. The aim of the report is to explore new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world, to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation. This fifth report proposes ten innovations that are already in currency but have not yet had a profound influence on education.

This is definitely an interesting report, as it offers a quick overview of emerging pedagogies. There have been prior reports that I found inspiring as well (previous reports can be found here). The introduction situates the current learning science and puts it within the increasingly interdisciplinary realm of learning and teaching, both formal and informal. While most introductions are merely synthesis of what can be expected, the introduction of this report offers a truly rich – yet brief – background to the report, adding what went before it and providing a state of the art overview of EdTech.

As an educational technologist, some of the innovative pedagogies seem familiar, e.g. learning through social media is a topic most of us are familiar with, but indeed, it is not always implemented as a recognised pedagogical policy. The report also emphasizes the need for educators/facilitators to be part of the learning process to allow truthful curation of content. The examples given of crowdsourced and facilitator driven social media accounts are really inspiring (@realtimeWOII and pepysdiary.com both using direct quotes from the past to bring it back to life).

The productive failure option fits with the flipped classroom/lecture approach, as it allows learners to first try out finding a solution on their own, possible failing at it, after which a teacher/instructor steps in. Giving the students room to creatively work around a problem they cannot solve at first, and discussing it. I like this approach. I would also like to see deliberate flawed research presentations, I mean giving faulty presentations first, asking the audience to indicate where they thought a faulty research method/deduction… had taken place and then rectify it as a presenter. I guess that would make a conference audience more attentive and make the whole process more inspiring. … Yes, I will use this in an upcoming presentation. Maybe even a classroom or lecture option.

The teachback approach is slightly related to the productive failure, in that it tries to limit failure in communicating. This approach comes from the medical world, and I remember doctors in training having to learn to listen to patients in order to really grasp the medical condition as it is portrayed by the patient. Teachback asks one person (usually an expert or teacher) to explain something they know about a topic to another person (usually someone new to the topic). Then the novice tries to teach their new understanding back to the expert. If the learner gives a good response, the expert goes on to explain some more about the topic.

Massive peer learning, or learning from the crowd fits the next level of networked learning, in its nicest form is the citizen learning, where people share what they learn in their contexts/locations with others. This is used in http://www.NQuire-it.org

Formative analytics, based on learning analytics but giving the learners tools to visualize their learning and possibly adjust their learning is an upcoming trend. But then again, I do wonder what are the chosen indicators for visualizing learning (is it the learner who decides or others that decides what matters in terms of learning?).

The translanguaging is something that is in need for accepting. Most of us global citizens speak at least two languages. Mixing languages to deepen understanding is something most of us have been doing, but is now growing interest in formalized learning and I am truly happy to see that, ik ben er echt blij om, vraiment ça me donne de l’énergie! Or to use my native dialect: doar zenn’k na ne kier echt blaai oem! 

Blockchain learning becomes interesting (a blockchain stores digital events securely on every user’s computer rather than in a central database). It is of interest, especially when we will be able to keep our learning trajectories openly accessible for personal use. Creating our own learning across formal and informal learning environments.

Anyhow the report provides new ideas, and new ways of creating learning opportunities. But … pedagogy is only one part of the learning equation and recently, I wonder whether we as educational technologists are not loosing serious learning/teaching ground. Education for all is slipping through our fingers as we dig deeper into pedagogies, yet deny current filter bubbles as results of algorithms. For people do indeed learn from social media, but this learning increasingly happens in isolated information islands… only rehashing what you like. This means that what I get to see through social media is increasingly what fits my views… this means the learning is decreasingly Socratic, for I am not provided with discussion food the way I (or dare I include we) I used to.

If we learn increasingly with the use of social media, we are increasingly learning from results that are filtered by non-transparent algorithms. Numerous algorithms that we are unaware off. Are we slowly being brainwashed, now more than ever before?

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

How can we be safe in an online environment? #oeb16 workshop

Workshops tend to take at least half a day to come to a result. But at OnlineEduca I had the pleasure of meeting Christian Friedrich and it is amazing what this man can inspire people to do in just 60 minutes time!

To tackle the subject of 'how can we be safe in an online environment' and let people come up with ideas they did not know they had before in such a small period of time... is amazing. Admittedly, his material would enable a flipped workshop approach. Where - as an ideal participant - you would read up on all the material before coming to the workshop, but in this case, the participants simply did not have the time. OnlineEduca was packed with sessions, and this workshop was organised at the end of day 1, meaning that most of the participants were already slightly tired.
But somehow this did not affect Christian, for he got us to come up with a short statement on how we could safeguard our own ideas and writings while sharing ideas online.

If you can get Christian in your conference, I am sure that the resulting workshop will give the attending participants ideas, let them think about privacy, security, identity and contemporary digital traces.

For this workshop, the participants need to identify with a specific target group, then think about potential online risks they might face, and how to counter these risks. So, in a way it was all about openness versus privacy & security. Some interesting links provided by Christian: the ethics of big data in higher education, an introduction to online privacy, and Lawrie Phipps with a great analysis on the effect of algorithms, and an audio recording with Audrey Waters and Kin Lane on Online Ownership.

This was the result from the team effort of Jeanine Reuteman, Luca Morini, Christian Glahn and Marit from Denmark (sorry, I did not remember the full name) and myself.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Hybrid presence an emerging format #OEB16

Last week I had the pleasure of being part of a virtual connecting meeting at OnlineEducaBerlin. The initiative came from the VConnecting group. For this session, onsite buddies Christian Friedrich, Hoda Mostafa, and I spoke with guests Jeanine Reutemann (Jeanine researches the affordances of video and has great insights on it!). Ilona Buchem (Ilona has a long standing tech record, her latest research looks at open badges) and Aziza Ellozy (Aziza is a leader in faculty development, and making learning visible). The recording can be seen below (it was a hangout).

For those who are not familiar with the concept of Virtually Connecting through online buddies, have a look at the website. During Online Educa Berlin 2016 there were four virtual connecting meetings (I only could attend one, as I was chairing or speaking at the other moments), and it really provides an additional layer of interest to conferences. I had a previous experience with Whitney Kilgore at eMOOCs2015 which I blogged about here, and which worked inspiring as well.

The format has a basic idea behind it: connecting people with similar interests across conference boundaries (so those who can attend a conference, share knowledge that is provided within the conference to others who are unable to attend the venue).

Although the idea is simple enough, what is interesting is the emerging layer of knowledge that is transmitted. In some way those who attend get a meta layer going. Or at least that was what I felt when joining one of the virtual connecting sessions. When reflecting on why this extra - and to me meaningful layer of learning emerges - I had the idea that it might come from the available expertise in all who entered the conversation. The shared yet complementary expertise gave spice to the conversation, sparking new ideas and links to previous experiences on topic. And I think it was also related to similar interests that come together at that point, and drive the conversation forward. 

In the session that I was in, the conversation covered the plenary keynotes, some ideas coming from the keynote speakers and how we (participants in the virtual meeting) agreed or disagreed, the overall feeling of the conference, the formats and the consequent results of the sessions...

#OEB16 results from personalised learning session #personalLearning

This session, which I facilitated at OEB16, had one of the ‘slow cooking’ formats. It takes time for all the elements to come together, and you work with those elements you find in the room (so thank you to all the participants) and … somehow magic happened as you can see from the results shared below. Each of the participants got this synopsis sent to them. The participants had a background in volunteering (and supporting the volunteers across the country through offering online solutions to their questions), corporate environments (ranging from actual online developers, to medical support professionals, to management), and academics & teachers. All of us are faced with similar challenges as the world keeps coming up with technical solutions and keeps changing, where our task as educational technologists/trainers is to keep bridging the divides created by change and innovative technology.

The aim of this OEB session: enabling personalised learning by sharing experiences/knowledge
In this blogpost, I will first share the list of challenges that we (all who participated) came up with (pictures), then share the actions that could lead to solutions (also 5 pictures from the flip papers), and finally the way I interpret those challenges and solutions. To all, feel free to add your interpretation, as many brains make stronger solutions.

The list from the challenges we face: grouped as learning characteristics, technology and media, individual & collaborative learning, contexts, and organising learning.

The list of solutions we started to think off:

How can we enable personalised learning looking at what the participants shared. My interpretation of what we came up with:

From trainer/teacher perspective:
  • Try to cater to intrinsic motivation: solutions for the learner, adding to the interest of the learner, using tools the learner feels comfortable with.
  • Provide options for just-in-time learning (the concept comes from mobile learning, but the reality is that we live in a constantly connected world where just-in-time is more broadly available, yet under-used).
  • Deliver authentic learning opportunities. This includes selecting people in the field/workfloor to become trainers/teachers (eg. Offer action cam to record actual processes).
  • Crowdsourcing the learners for needs and solutions. Start from learning goals the learners might have: start from their learning goals to direct them to solutions, or – if the solutions is not yet existing – allow them to share a solution once they found it. This means following up on problems put forward by the learner. Maybe built a channel or list with problems or needs voiced by the learners.
  • The learner-generated products (movies, written problem solving options… all media) must be made retrievable afterwards in order for these materials to be found: meaningful meta tagging, offer strands of learning (see next point).
  • Offer strands of learning: e.g. offer Continued Professional Development options per field, where learners can register for updates on particular fields (e.g. if they work on language learning, provide a push-solution that notifies them when a new bit of information is available (a push-solution is a messaging service that pushes news towards either a mobile or internet-connected device to which people are registered. For instance: registering for an online list which only shares new information in one particular field). Another strand of learning is a blockchain learning option that can be build: one learner finds a solution for learning how to draw in YouTube (and shares it on a central list), another learner begins advanced learning by following a MOOC on it (and shares it)… where at the end the learners have collaboratively set up an informal curriculum for learning how to draw and become really good at it. Use micro-learning as a way to solve small needs, yet be able to organise these micro-learning moments into a larger learning pathway.
  • Stimulate informal as well as formal learning inside and outside the institute/company/organisation: if someone faces a problem, but they found a solution outside the company/university… then tell them where they can share that location or solutions.
  • Increase literacy skills by a variety of ways: using fun games, and formal dry options, … when digital literacy skills increase, more tech solutions can come from the learner.
  • Make learners aware of copyright options.


From a manager perspective:
  • We need to activate the experts: enabling durable sharing of expertise. Reach those who are willing to become champions for specific topics or skills.
  • A sharing culture is something that needs to be visible and used at all levels: top managers sharing what they learn, as well as volunteers. Leadership in sharing and collaborating must happen at all levels.
  • Make the outcomes of learning visible (indicators, productivity…) to show that investment in learning pays off.
  • Provide socializing spaces and times: on many occasions people keep information to themselves, until they hear others are also facing the same problems. By creating more social spaces, more information exchange can take place.
  • Allow learner-generated production time to take place (this is a way to compensate those learners who are willing to be champions in a specific field and allow them to deliver useful material).
  • Set up a learning support task force (a new product is launched, or a new production line or workflow needs to be implemented; the support task force can help with building change enablers or customised content with the help of the learners/workers/volunteers): instructional designers, media savvy people that can help to make learner-generated media/products be disseminated across the group/department/peer experts.
  • Provide a clear pathway from the moment a problem arises at the learner/worker/volunteer level: if something is a problem, to whom must they convey the problem and how. And once the problem is communicated, how will it be solved/acted upon (and by whom). Making these learning/teaching pathways transparent to all.
  • Designate content curators: allow people with expertise to curate content for a group. Make the curated content available to the rest of the group, like digital newspapers that highlight potentially useful new insights.


From developers perspective:
  • Integrate self-evaluation or visible learning options inside learning apps/designs/hard-& software.
  • Allow inside and outside information to be gathered or linked to: to enable learners to add additional information that might help others.
  • Use more learning solutions from the mobile learning evidence-based theories: make learning seamingless, use augmented/alternate reality options, just-in-time learning, provide access to immediate sharing of knowledge opportunities (e.g. mobile movies streaming from a device, sharing descriptions to an easily retrievable specific field content area).
  • Allow collaborative learning to take place: enable group formation to communicate more efficiently or intuitively to work on a problem.
  • Allow integration of existing tools (that way the learner can come into your tool, while still using their own preferred media).
  • Make the data that users produce secure, yet allowing them to share on other platforms (if it is allowed, and they want to).
  • Provide a granular approach, that can be embedded into existing systems, yet adds easy micro-learning options.
  • Create ways to indicate the usefulness of any part of the solution.


From a learner perspective:
  • Make learning visible for the learner: showing them the progress they have made (projects, building digital or real life artefacts), provide self-evaluation options (e.g. reflecting on the process, thus increasing meta learning skills).
  • Learning how to describe an existing need: knowing how to isolate the problem, where to go to next, and describing it to others that might be able to help.
  • Share with others (in corporate terms: Work Out Loud). Sharing can be quite scary at first, but sharing makes your own learning visible, it allows others to see you as a champion, and it increases your skills and knowledge as you automatically reflect deeper on any subject as you share with others.
  • Daring to fail: learn that it is okay to fail at first, but simply keep doing something if you think it will be useful in the end.
  • Built a network of people that are expert in your field of interest.


When looking at the above, I think that in most cases information is available, but enabling people to be able to find (and distinguish) good quality information, and resharing that new knowledge is still a challenge. The thought that sharing is caring, and will help all of us, must be either reinforced or reignited. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Limitless learning plenary #OEB16 on owning learning

A great set of speakers, all talking on the subject of owning learning (some limitless)

Alec Couros
Promise of open and connected learning is the subject. Promise of personalised learning is one of the elements that have changed in the last few years. The ownership.
Help with bowdril youtube is example of the strength of weak ties. Everyone has access to networks today. The longtail of learning helps to connect with people for niche learning.
Post napster idea of MIT giving 2002 all their materials away via the internet. Youtube is the ultimate MOOC as so many people have learned their own passion.
Audrey Clemens is another kid that he learned and shared through the web.
#learningproject (part for students): how can we learn from the web, and document the learning through web options. (eg Bob Ross tutorials to learn painting).
So if we can google it, why teach it. This is a bit of techno utopianism that we need to be critical off. Tech utopia , Langdon Winner on mythinformation. (from searching for the limits book).
Neil Postman on 5 things we need to know about technological change. It is not an attitude, but a ecological…
Emerging challenges for open learning:
information literacies; filter bubbles and fake news (Eli Pariser, youtube beware of filter bubbles).
Blue feed,, Red feed: looking at the tail of two different tail news. Very good article.
Most students don’t know when news is fake (wallstreet journal).
Trevelyan (1942) what is worth reading and easy prey to sensations.
Attention literacy: Mcluhan, heavy media multitaskers impacting learning and attention.
Problems of identity: resume is replaced by online portfolio (eg). One option is universities providing you with your own domain name for you to fill with relevant information.
We live in a world where one single tweet can change our lives for bad or for good.
Cybercrime: romance scams: fake network accounts (catfishing) to get money.
Greater societal problems: when we ask students to come to the web, this is not a perfect world and it is getting more hostile. Geography of hate website.
We need to really think about what we teach students on getting online tools.


Diana Laurillard
Who owns the responsibility of for learning. (using the conversational framework, see picture)
The outline of her argument is: what it means by learning, and what it takes to teach in the digital world, who owns the responsibility fr learning, how to plan the shift to effective blended learning, the education context for teachers and leaders. So her point is more formal, where alex couros’s focus was more on the informal, passionate learning.
What does it take us to learn formally? The point of the conversational framework was to distill the learning and put it into a fairly simple framework.
(see picture), and the idea should be to widen the learning conversations to embed all of these types of learning and interactions.
Question: teaching presence ? when a teacher is taken out of the framework. This is where education comes in, as it can cater specific learning that would take you much more time to get there. So the teacher provides something that you cannot reach quickly yourself.
The teaching workload is increased in terms of … (see picture).

Using learning technologies is our best bet to be able to do this. So, to Diana these are exciting times to be in education.
Challenges: MOOCs are free education for highly educated professionals most of the time. So we need to use the technology to scaffold/cascade those who do need education and cut off.
One option is to use MOOCs for teachers, as they are following MOOCs anyway, but aiming the course at training teachers for their profession.
Who owns the responsibility of learning? The new digital demands we make on teacher time will effect the time and tasks they need to do.
Learners were collaborating, working online in both class and at home, online.
Balance of responsibility looking at teacher and learners? With technology we can enhance the advocacy of both. Teachers should be able to think through how they can support learners with tech for independent learning.
Shift planning towards blended learning.  Modelling learning benefits versus teaching costs: see
The drivers are strong but not aligned with digital. And we invest in the enablers, which are weak if you do not have the drivers for innovation. Unlock the power of the teachers to support more blended learning, more personalised learning. Teaching is a design science, lets trust the teachers to do this.



Martin Eyjolfsson
He wondered about why Icelandians seem to be more creative? Because Icelandians are happy… but why?
Only a few of us young people know what they want to do later on in life… this calls for creative solutions to bring passion to their life. A massive participation from an early age into society. So becoming a jack of many trades from an early age onward to feel society, to keep an open mind and be a free spirit. Bjork has a project biophilia (http://biophiliaeducational.org/ ), which learns kids about creativity.   

Mark Surman from Mozilla
Web literacy empowers people and keeps the internet healthy. The stakes are getting higher on what internet means for education and for humanity.
What does it mean to have a healthy internet? Mozilla has a motto: guard the open nature of the internet. And this was said when it was launched in 2003 but it still rings true.
The internet is made by multiple people and in a way by us all. The internet is an ecosystem built by us, but we need to keep it healthy. But many things have happened.
The internet of things is increasingly becoming  reality. Every aspect of us will become connected. This also means it becomes an increased risk, as AI is embedded in these systems and filtering bubbles as well. Some of the risks of this ecosystem is IoT botnets are growing and they are up for hire. Where devices are much less secured. We have an increasing cybersecurity risk that risks of taking whole companies down. The stakes are very high.
What is the social structure as we live in an increasingly connected society? There is a digital divide (eg demographic digital divide is real and pervasive). The digital power and opportunities influence divides. Those divides are global.
Structures of economy are part of the healthy internet, eg major app producers are in the North, where growing smartphone use in South, so new/old colonial.
(look up latest worldbank report as it was actually critical and of interest).
Imperial ambitions from US and China corporations using the internet. Mozilla makes products with values and ethics embedded in them, but increasingly Mozilla found that the need to be part of a larger trend to keep internet health. We as Mozilla are choosing to become more political.
Teaching this to help people realize what the digital world is, is one of the best activist actions to take and be part of. This is an important activist role.
Are we teaching the right things? Web literacy is an important citizen skill, yet we do not take it seriously enough in schools. This is reading and writing and participating in the digital world. Critical reading skills as well as participation skills, and creativity is critical as a skill. We need to be successful to be a productive force.
www.theglassroomnyc.org as a way to interactively make people more web literate.
Why Europe’s new copyright proposals are bad news for the internet (see fortune article), the outcome of this debate will have a massive effect on citizenship in Europe. It might be giving an free road to censor personal internet content on a massive scale. It will have an effect on free digital speech.
Look at www.changecopyright.org which is just getting going, and Mozilla wants teachers and young people to be involved in.


Thursday, 1 December 2016

#OEB16 opening plenary live blogpost on owning learning

Owning learning: A great session with a range of experts on the topic of current learning problems… and possible solutions. This is a live blogpost.

Tricia Wang (designing for perspectives: the secret for learners to thrive in the 21st Century)
The individuals are getting too much of the blame. We need to design for perspectives, (@triciawang ).
Sally Ride was the first female astronaut. Once she stopped flying she developed earthKAM, which enables teachers to use the camera on the space station. The students can select the coordinates, and it gives the students a hands-on space experience.
The power of using tech and learning, at best the students really feel science. It introduces a new perspective for students. Video and photography provides participatory options for learning. Technology has seen so many innovations now applied to learning, it is mindblowing. Machine learning is a fancy term to describe what we do with computers, where computers get actions from humans.
Machine learning is a 3;7 billion industry, but what are its limitations? Machine learning still requires human designers and quality data. If the humans overseeing the training are not aware of their own biases, these biases result in the output.
Technology has not increased our understanding of the world. Example: the white interpretation of google photo’s. It is a result of failing to see outside of our perspective.
These technology mishaps happen a lot. Machine biases, Propublica 23 May 2016. (the high risk offender example).
Machines are directing our learning, as such biases in these machines might result in more biases in learning. No one wants these biases to be embedded in machine learning. But the outcomes reveal the limited perspectives of their creators. And this happens easily, perspective collisions happen.
Representing heterogeneity is a difficult challenge. We are still not truly globally connected. The social part is something all of us have a hard time with. Getting a multiplicity perspective is the challenge. There s a lot of confusion, as everyone gets to speak, this means all of that ends up into the social texture of life. So we need to teach people to navigate their own lives through this new social, machine lead system. Perspective shifting, a new form of media literacy, taking into account people that are not like you. This will be one of the most critical skills, but humans need to be trained for this. It is a learning behaviour, so qualitatively learning these skills is possible and should be a priority to enable a global world with true equality.
Relying only on quantitative data, it risks us to be blind by the known. This is why we need people that can actually address these multiple perspectives. To get outside the binary: replace the binary divide with the connected network, to ask different questions (computers replace humans), but why do we not ask what humans can do to work with computers to reduce biases. Always integrate both quantitative AND qualitative data to eliminate the risk of bias. In a pluralistic society, we need this approach.
Look up caroline synders or sinnders… for work with machine learning and ethonographers.

Andreas Schleiger (supporting learners globally to own learning)
The last couple of years we all got experienced at coping with economic crisis. If you look at who found solutions, skills seem to be the key driver to battle inequality or crisis. People at the high end of the skill spectrum see themselves as actors, while the low end sees themselves as objects.
Even today, corporates tell us there are no skilled workers, yet more people are looking for jobs.
So it is about skills and using them, learning them.
How to be ready for social problems, like jobs that will be erased. It is not about robots, just about automation. But augmented reality can bring the real world into any location. Google knows everything, and there is a huge challenge that is coming our way. There is no longer a digital economy. The economy is a digital economy.
People work harder now, then ever before, but the declining levels of productivity is affecting work. There is a growing divide that people with the right skills have less opportunities, thus those without skills have even less options.
The race between technology and skills.
Digital problem solving skills: finding solutions for every day problems. Only 1 in 5 people above 50 years can do this. Even if we look at people 16 – 24 suffer, as only one in two young people can solve every day challenges.
Lots of people are being left outside. The only area where employment grows is the high skills jobs. This is where the economy is quite stable (admittedly, the pay is decreasing for these jobs).
What skills are important: knowledge, integration of different fields of knowledge (think like historian, philosopher, technology… all at the same time will increase your skills and stability). And then looking at details to solve problems via different viewpoints.  
The world rewards for the opposite, for thinking about systems, not the details.
Digital literacy, global literacy… those different perspectives become the challenge.
Skills that matter today is critical thinking, creative thinking. Solving complex problems, social skills, communication…
But something controversial as skills is: resilience, figuring out problems when you cannot see the solutions, curiosity, mindfulness, ethics, courage, leadership, inclusion, empathy. Making judgments becomes more important, that is complex. Self-awareness.
Everything we do reinforces what we did when we were young. If we think of the science changes… it is amazing, we have developed 3D printing, iphones, google maps… you no longer need to teach people something, but skills.
Fundamental success in life: numerical skills (eg data), there is a direct relationship between low skills and declining jobs.
You no longer need to accumulate degrees, but contemporary skills mentioned above.

Literacy skills, learning to learn, cross-sectional skills. We need to teach people these skills to enable them to be able to find the right jobs. 

Roger Schank (who owns learning, not you, maybe AI can help).
This is a person you just need to talk to. The talk will be hilariously invigorating. 
Who owns learning is my question. Everyone but yourself. As the system tells you what to learn, with similar requirements, interpretations of what is best. 
Eliminate testing. The politicians support the testing industry. And forcing testing, forces what teachers need to teach.
Let’s built online learning that does not suck and really teaches us a lot of useful skills. 
Artificial Intelligence: at a certain moment it was put in the freezer due to over-expectation at some point. But now it is again a big business.
At present models human intelligence, but it is not. Schank mentions AI mentor (look up).