Archive for category Blogging

Building on previous research: FLAN Glasgow Meeting

This account that I wrote of a meeting of the FutureLearn Academic Network at Glasgow University was originally published on the FutureLearn Partners’ blog.

The meeting took place three weeks before the network’s fifth anniversary on 26 September 2018.

Tweet about Glasgow FLAN meeting alongside a picture of Glasgow UniversityTogether, we’re building a substantial body of work related to learning at scale. This was clearly evident at the autumn meeting of the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN) held at the University of Glasgow on Friday 7 September.

Adriana Wilde from the University of St Andrews and Conchúr Mac Lochlainn from Dublin City University both linked their research work to earlier work by the FutureLearn team that had identified FutureLearn archetypes. Each of these seven archetypes has a characteristic motivation for joining a particular MOOC, and is associated with a set of needs and values. Conchúr related these archetypes to student motivations on a specific course, while Adriana was interested in exploring different ways of clustering learners, dependent on their activity on the MOOC.

Two speakers presented research-supported tools that could be used to support exploration and learning. Phil Tubman contrasted the utility of the FutureLearn platform – what it does – with the usability of the platform – how this is conveyed to learners. He noted that a focus on progression may distract learners from reflecting on what has gone before. Phil’s Comment Discovery Tool, reported at earlier FLAN meetings, has proved to be a useful way of navigating comments on specific MOOCs. Another tool was introduced by Mike Sharples, who presented NQuire tool, the result of research into science teaching and learning. Mike explained how the tool could be used to support inquiry-based learning in FutureLearn MOOCs.

Three speakers from Dublin City University presented work related to the university’s series of MOOCs that provide an introduction to Irish language and culture. Each study dealt with the courses from a different perspective, building up a rich picture of motivations, identity, emotions and social media activity.

Shi Min Chua’s work built on previous research in conversational analysis and linguistics. She is exploring why some learners’ comments provoke response, while others go unanswered. If you want a response, it seems it’s good to use words like ‘please’, ‘wonder’ and ‘why’ when you comment, inviting opinions and expressing uncertainty. And, if you’re a language educator who wants to get a Twitter conversation going, Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl revealed that it’s really helpful to start sharing images and text about your dog!


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Eight years on WordPress

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 13.31.46My academic blogging goes back more than the eight years I have spent with my own account on WordPress – my first doctoral blog post was on 9 Nov 2015.

In it I noted, ‘I was at Dave Wield’s U500 seminar on research methodology yesterday, and remembered how crucial research journals are. Thought I’d take a break from the one for my Masters and start once again.’

I now have no memory of that Masters blog, but the research journal that I began on Blogger and then imported to the university’s installation of WordPress is still there, and I still occasionally add to it, and still make use of it.

It still has the great advantages over a physical research journal that I can search it very easily, and that it is available to me wherever I have an Internet connection.

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Digital pedagogy

I was invited to speak at ‘Digital pedagogy: How are new technologies transforming the interface between research and learning?‘ This one-day event was organised by the Hestia project and held at Senate House, University of London on 6 June 2014.

I talked about the ways in which augmented learning uses electronic devices to extend learners’ interaction with and perception of their current environment to include and bring to life different times, spaces, characters  and possibilities.

Given the date of the event, a topical example was D-Day as it happens. I also looked at projects such as Operation, @RealTimeWorldWarII and Gunpowder, Tweeting and Plot on Twitter, as well as the blogging Middle English poet Geoffrey Chaucer aka @LeVostreGC.

Anyone can engage in these informal learning experiences at any time, anyone can leave at any time, but a skilled facilitator can keep people engaged and actively contributing for weeks, months or years. Learning in this way requires a new kind of educator, one who

  • engages in educational outreach, based on long-term interests and personal enthusiasm
  • has the expertise, the time and the ability to act as a coordinator and a facilitator
  • can inspire and engage people, because no one is required to participate.

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My top 10 social media tools (2011)

Over on Tumblr I have been running a screenshot-a-day project for a couple of years. I layer screenshots upon each other, with an image to represent each day, placed on top of previous images. This functions as a semi-public (open, but not publicised) diary. It also, consciously, forms a record of the online tools I use, and of my digital experience. Sometimes I include a whole-screen shot, showing my applications bar and all open windows, at other times I go for a single image.

This week, I have been looking at the text from 2011, pulling it together in diary format. Wordle revealed my top ten tools, as mentioned in my text, for 2011 (As I was working on SocialLearn, I have excluded it from the list – it would have come in at number 6). The majority are social media, others I use as social media by sharing them via Slideshare (PowerPoints) and Tumblr (screenshots):

  1. Google (31 mentions)
  2. Facebook (20 mentions)
  3. Twitter (19 mentions)
  4. Email   (16 mentions)
  5. Screenshot facility (12 mentions)
  6. SecondLife (12 mentions)
  7. Blog (11 mentions)
  8. PowerPoint (11 mentions)
  9. Tumblr (8 mentions)
  10. Cloudworks and YouTube (7 mentions)screenshot a day

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Tools for digital scholarship

Tumblr project 3 Jan 2012On 31 December 2011, I came to the end of a year-long project to record a screenshot a day on Tumblr.

This was prompted, in part, by a post on Martin Weller’s Ed Techie blog about the tools used by digital scholars.

I can sum up some of the key tools I use fairly quickly, just by listing the ones that appear on my Firefox one-click favourites toolbar. They include blogs, the university library, Google Scholar, Twittter, email, Flickr and YouTube. These seem the most obvious at first glance, but are they the ones I really use all the time?

My year-long project overlaid screenshot upon screenshot, to give a sense of the interconnections between my online work on different days. The original idea was to do just a whole-screen grab, but that would often include people’s names and photographs that I didn’t necessarily want to share globally. So I made a selection each day, and only occasionally showed my entire desktop. I tried to select a key representative image each day – when I was on holiday I uploaded photographs, and when I’d had a day mainly offline I tried to find a website to represent it. The piece evolved into an online diary documenting my year – and I’m now continuing the project into 2012.

The picture above is my image for 3 January 2012, which captures my entire desktop. It brings together international events (New Year firework pictures from Google Images), personal interest (a mashed up manga-style pic that used iPhoto, Comic Life, Google and screen Grab), national events and online tools (I note the changes in Twitter with a Jing-ed picture, but also note the trending hash-tag on the racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence and reactions to the final verdict after 18 years).

When I have some spare time, I’m planning to look back over the year and try some analysis.

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Emerging practice: the liveblog as a tool for learning

We presented a new take on blogging research at the CAL conference, this time focusing on the practice of liveblogging.

Abstract extract

A liveblog consists of a series of contemporaneous notes of an event arranged chronologically and shared online by an individual author in order to support learning. Although liveblogs take their name from the blogs in which they originated, they can now be found on other social network sites, such as Cloudworks, and may appear as a synchronous stream of notes by the same author on microblogging sites such as Twitter. They are not transcripts or edited highlights but personal accounts, written for an interested audience, reflecting a personal understanding of an event or presentation.

This paper examines this new academic practice, and its implications for learning. It investigates the perceived benefits and disbenefits for the live blogger, for their audience and for the presenters and organisers of events that are live blogged. To do this, it draws on reflective accounts by four live bloggers, who have experience both of informal live blogging, and of live blogging conferences and presentations in an invited capacity.

For the live blogger, this practice offers an effective use of time, a set of easily locatable notes that can make it easier to focus on and remember a presentation. For presenters and organisers it can enhance an event by capturing questions, indicating audience response and adding to understanding of what is said. For the wider audience, it gives a flavour of an event, capturing elements and responses that are not available from an online set of PowerPoint slides. Balanced against these benefits are the problems: bloggers writing rather than reflecting, speakers wary of instant online critique, and audiences irritated by ill-structured notes and noisy typing.

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Shifting themes, shifting roles: The development of research blogs

Gill Clough and I returned to ALT-C – this time to present on the next stage of our research (with Anesa Hosein) into research blogging.

Ferguson, Rebecca; Clough, Gill and Hosein, Anesa (2010). Shifting themes, shifting roles: the development of research blogs. In: ‘Into Something Rich and Strange’ – Making Sense of the Sea-Change. The 17th Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C 2010), 7-9 September 2010, Nottingham, UK.

The study described in this paper investigated the use of research blogs by postgraduate students over a four-year period. An initial, one-year, pilot focused on the research blogs of three first-year doctoral students (Ferguson, Clough, & Hosein, 2007). Analysis indicated that blogs were used to promote a community where students were encouraged to reflect and share ideas, skills and stories of research life. The blogs also acted as memory repositories and encouraged collaboration. The main study followed the students’ blogs for another three years, as they completed their doctorates and took jobs as early-career researchers. It investigated changes in the use and content of research blogs during this period. All three students continued to make use of their blogs for reflection over this period, and the blogs’ use as a memory repository became increasingly important, especially during the period of writing up research. Once the students had made the transition to early-career researcher, the nature of their blog use changed and began to fragment. This was due, in part, to issues of confidentiality, and data protection associated with their employment. While they continued to use their original research blogs to promote community and collaboration, the constraints of their work meant that new posts were often posted in closed blogs, or were marked as protected. At the same time, they were required or encouraged to make use of project-related blogs as part of a planned communication strategy by their employers. The findings of this longitudinal study clarify the changing expectations and needs of learners, employers and society in relation to researchers’ blogs, and identify skills, awareness and knowledge needed to support the use of blogging by research students.

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