Antonella Esposito: The Transition “from student to researcher” in the Digital Age: Exploring the affordances of emerging Learning Ecologies of PhD Researchers
PhD e-Researchers: individuals using social media to carry out activities such as preliminary exploring new topics, searching for updates research materials, disseminating early findings, experiencing networking in digital spaces, improving their own personal development, etc.
Background: web 2.0 and social media. Architectures of participation and user-generated-content, such as Wikipedia, and the opportunity for creating one’s own profile and constructing online networks, such as Facebook/Twitter and Academia.edu/Research Gate. There are also changes in research practices enabled by technologies, producing new facets and models of knowledge production and distribution, personal and emergent in the individual-led scholarly uses of social media. New PhD students rather consider themselves PhD researchers: are engaged in creative mixes of education, new methods to approximate research, create personal ecologies of learning, etc.
Digital scholars + digital natives + digital literacies.
Focus of the research is on self-organized activities undertaking in the digital environments by PhD students. The socio-cultural entanglements of PhD students using the digital tools in situated context and temporary phases. Goals:
- To what extent do the PhD students learn to become researchers using digital tools?
- How can the trajectories carried out by PhD researchers be conceptualized?
- What can the qualitative findings tell us about the chronotopes activated in PhD researchers’ practices and ecologies?
- What are the tensions between institutional/old practices and new ones?
Methodology: questionnaires with data on tools adopted, actual digital practices and expectations; individual interviews; focus groups.
Data analysis: grounded theory logic of the ‘constant comparative method’. From an initial coding more ‘data-oriented’ toward a more ‘concept-oriented’ coding leading to identification of categories.
A repertoire of social media uses for research purposes. Mostly general purpose tools and common tools, in addition to tools specically supporting scholarly tasks (institutional digital libraries, Google Scholar, etc.). Social media uses to both support and expand practices. The open web is seen as a ‘network amplifiers’ rather than enabling building network from scratch. Have some struggle in creating ‘critical mass’ of followers and some question the practical value of having a large network of contacts.
A framework to conceptualize the trajectories of PhD researcher. In digital engagement we do not find clear typologies. It is more about ‘creeping along’, about moving slowly and carefully in the digital: taming the tools, going digital, learning the digital, making sense of the open web. We find, though, polarization of attitudes that range from total technooptimism to almost non-usage.
The chronotypes in digital engagement. The PhD e-researchers’ experiences in the digital can be easily aligned to the ‘road chronotope’ (as in the road movies), where they keep on embracing opportunities that come along. Relevance of the encounters can determine adoption. Forms of resilience: staying afloat, pursuing convenience, embedding the digital, playing as a bricoleur.
The tensions: two generations. Irrelevance vs. relevance for research; pros and cons for the PhD researchers; tensions for digital learners and digital scholars.
The digital engagement is understood as the core process where the trajectories in the digital emerge, in en ecological interplay of multiple dimensions and shifting states of experience.
In most places, PhD students are perceived as such, as students, and not as researchers. Thus, even if students are aware of the potentials of social media for research, they are reluctant to challenge the hierarchies of academia. On the other hand, when students are part of a research group and/or team, this can also act as an inhibitor to develop a (personal/individual) activity on social media related with their research.
In general, there is a major lack of awareness in academia, and even lack of knowledge and understanding on what is going on in social networks and its potential for learning and for doing research.
PS: congratulations, doctor Esposito!
Social networking sites and democracy: rethinking participation.
The use of social networking sites and the need to rethink democracy and the forms of participation
We’ve talked too much about citizen participation… we’ve been talking too much about it despite the fact that we are still doing too little.
The more global thing always has a very local background. Most big civic actions begin with small, local initiatives.
Representative democracy is old, and has aged badly. Public representatives are seen not only as unable to solve problems, but even to identify them. Will participation turn old representative democracy into a young participative democracy? The problem is that we use a loudspeaker to talk to people and let them decide… on a previously set of options. Participation is not about letting people give their opinions on what is already decide, but about deciding what has to be decided.
Then comes commitment. In participation, is there a commitment to take action? to transform things? Or is it just faking decision-making but, all in all, not deciding anything?
Participation should also raise awareness… on the limits of participation itself: what can be decided and what not, what are the costs of any option/decision, etc. It is crucial that people understands how did we get here, what is the logic and the process and means by which a final decision was made. The solution may be agreed by everyone or not, but the process should.
Participation, and even agreement or decision-making is not about turning diversity into a homogeneous mass. It’s about finding common goals within disagreement. Same with how to lead and how to facilitate a process. Who is an influencer, who is a local leader? Unless one does not know and engage these leaders and influencers, civic action is bound to failure.
Participation has to be inclusive. We should care that everyone participates, that everyone is engaged with both the topic and the process. This engagement many times by setting up places where people can meet each other, interact, do things together… not necessarily related with participation or decision-making, just creating bounds.
Defining clear goals and places for deliberation should be a top priority once a community and problem have been identified. Then, it necessarily comes making participation a collective action. And a collective that is connected. Collective: many people; connective: the collective connected.
If possible, participation should be disruptive, innovative: it is engaging and, most of the times, efficient in optimizing the resources at reach.
The construction of a new Mediterranean Sea: women, youngsters and new forms of participation (2014)
The construction of a new Mediterranean Sea: women, youngsters and new forms of participation
Asmaa Mahfouz calls on January 18, 2011, all Egyptians to go down to Tahrir Square on January 25.
Rima DAli protests before the Syrian Parliament on April 2012:
Women had always been active on networks and offline politics, but the events of the Arab Spring boosted it to higher grounds.
Digital activism in the Arab world begins with forums, then blogs and, at last, social networking sites. First activists in the Arab world come with a technological background. They come from both secular and religious organizations. Blogging or activism in social networking site always comes from offline activism. The blogosphere helped in levelling the ground of activism in gender terms: in the blogosphere there is no difference between male and female bloggers. Blogs were used to capture media attention and, from there, to enter politics and the political agenda.
Kolena Layla — we all are Layla — was a campaign that was issued in 2006 to raise awareness on women rights inequality.
Arab techies was a group that worked as a regional network and that first met offline in 2008. The goal of Arab techies was to foster the use of technology, especially for activism and awareness raising on human rights. Arab techies also fought censorship, which was tight especially in what concerns the use of the Internet.
HarassMap is an initiative born in 2010 to raise awareness and report on sexual harassment. Similarly, OpAntiSH (operation anti-sexual harassment) created in December 2012.
At the end of 2007, social networking sites — namely Facebook and Twitter — begin to gain momentum for (online) activism as their usage expands among the population.
Despite the rapid growth, at the outbreak of the Arab Spring in early 2011 both Facebook and Twitter still had very low adoption levels, and with important gender imbalances.
[Lali describes here more than a dozen most interesting initiatives led by women in the Arab World to fight for their rights and with a special use of ICTs and social networking sites.]
Q: These examples are very active, but are they majority or minority? Do they have a major/broad impact? Lali Sandiumenge: there especially is a qualitative impact in the sense that the Internet enables a much much more plural set of voices that now can have their voices heard. And not only heard, but very difficult to stop, both internally and externally. On the other hand, it is not only about diffusion and awareness raising, but organization: activists not any more need to remain clandestine, as they can meet online without worrying for their physical security. This has a secondary effect on disclosure of who is an activist and where: the Internet enables knowing who is fighting in what field.
Àngel Colom: Internet, in several parts of the Arab world, is acknowledge to have contributed that people could became full citizens. In some places maybe it won’t bring the revolution, but certainly deep democratic reforms.
The construction of a new Mediterranean Sea: women, youngsters and new forms of participation (2014)
Social Open Learning: Can Online Social Networks Transform Education?
Philipp Schmidt, Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab
The Internet changed how talent is distributed. And talent is distributed equally, but opportunity is not.
If we take 1088AD as the foundation of the University — the year of the foundation of the University of Bologna —, it is a huge achievement that it has lasted that long, but it also means that there are many tensions piled up along time, as its model has remained mainly unchanged. And engagement seems to be at its lowest levels when we measure lectures, accoding to Roz Picard’s work. When facing the future of education, we should certainly challenge the concept of the lecture.
How do we learn? How do we create an engaging learning experience?
4 Ps of Creative Learning:
- Projects. Does not necessarily mean “building” something, but the idea of setting up a project with goals, processes, tasks, milestones, etc.
- Peers. Sharing, collaboration, support.
- Passion/Purpose. Connection with your personal interests, so you’re engaged by the idea. Attach people to the things they are already interested.
- Play. Taking risks, experimenting, not being afraid to fail.
What about open social learning? We have to acknowledge that most of the “advancements” and “innovations” in education have limited themselves to replicate the actual educational model. Are open social learning communities the future of education?
- Contribute over consume.
- Peer to per over top down.
- Discover over deliver.
The future of education is not technology. The opportunity of internet is not connecting computers but people. It’s the community what matters.
Success criteria of the MIT Media Lab:
- Uniqueness. If someone is already doing it, we do not do it too.
- Impact. It has to change people’s lives.
- Magic. It puts a smile on your face.
The Learning Creative Learning began as a course and ended up as a community. The course itself enabled community building through individual, decentralized participation. A report on the experience can be accessed at Learning Creative Learning:
How we tinkered with MOOCs, by Philipp Schmidt, Mitchel Resnick, and Natalie Rusk.
Organization of an Edcamp in the line of barcamps or unconferences, but online, using Unhangouts. Unhangouts leverages on Google Hangouts, enabling splitting in several “rooms”.
Most of the times, the online experience ended up in several offline meetings, so it’s good to combine both ways of communicating and organizing. On the other hand, the experience proved to be highly engaging, as people would be much more prone to participate.
It’s all about networks and communities.
Discussion. Chairs: Valtencir Mendes
Q: how can you explain why the US is so advanced in learning and, on the contrary, it performs so poor in PISA tests? Schmidt: we should be careful about taking PISA as the measure for everything. That said, there’s a huge problem of underinvestment in public schools and universities, thus the bad scores.
Ismael Peña-López: when we talk about MOOCs, and most especially cMOOCs, we usually find that participants have to be proficient in technology, have to know how to learn, and have to have some knowledge on the discipline that is being learnt. The intersection of these three conditions usually leaves out most of the people. How do you fight this? Schmidt: there does not seem to be a single solution to scaling cMOOCs, and maybe one of the solutions is to take some compromises while keeping the philosophy of the cMOOC. For instance, use some common technologies even if they are not the best ones or the preferred by the leaders. Stick to few tools, good (somewhat centralized, planned) moderation, etc.
Q: how this specific example influenced schools? Schmidt: Learning Creative Learning courses was a course for teachers. That was a way to infiltrate schools from the backdoor. Same, for instance, with Scratch, which is used widely and carries embedded most of the philosophy of the MIT Media Lab.
Q: people usually neither like nor know how to work in groups or collaboratively. If groups work it usually is because there is a strong leader. How do you do that (leading or setting up a leader). Schmidt: we know some of the reasons why groups do not work. But the solution may not be that there needs to be a leader, but leadership. And this leadership can take different forms. Facilitation, the group fabric, etc. can be ways to approach the point of leadership.
Valtencir Mendes: how can we assess and certify what is being learnt this way? Are open badges a solution? Schmidt: certification is very important, as most of the people that approach these initiatives already have a degree. How do we reach people that are looking for a certification and would never participate in such initiatives unless they issue certificates? Communities are extremely good at figuring out who is good at what, who you go to ask a question, etc. Portfolios, portfolios of the projects they have done and the network of people you’ve been working with. Last, the monopoly of certification may have been a good idea in the past, but it may already not be a good idea any more, and it would be better many more ways to get/issue a certificate.
Q: how do you work with soft skills, how do you introduce open social learning in the corporate world to learn these skills? Schmidt: some things are very difficult to teach, but are easy to learn. Many of these soft skills are easy to learn if you create the appropriate context, even if they would be very difficult to teach. But it still is a very hard to solve problem.
Q: can these initiatives work in crosscultural contexts? Schmidt: this is a very complex question. For instance, authority if very related with culture: how do you manage authority in a crosscultural setting? Or, for instance, addressing elder people is differently regarded depending on the culture. So, there are no systems to support crosscultural learning and thus we have to see it case by case.
Josep Maria Mominó: are we now witnessing the end of the hype of technology in education? did we have too much expectations and we now see the impact is poor? Or what will come in the future? Can we really trust the initiative of teachers? Will that suffice? Schmidt: we usually have to wait a whole generation to see impacts in society, and this generation is just now coming of age. On the other hand, we should be expecting not a technology driven change, but a socially driven one. And this may already be happening.