Researcher Journal: Research Questions

When I changed my PhD thesis title a while back, I omitted to think through any accompanying research questions. At my last supervision meeting, Vic suggested that it was time to think about what my up to date research questions should be. Good plan!

My current thesis title is: “Underexplored issues determining the effectiveness for learning of peer interaction”, and I am looking at the #CLMooc community to try to find out what the secret sauce that makes things work. There’s three areas of educational research that I think that I will be using:

  1. Co-operative/collaborative learning (I’ve done a lot of reading around this early in my studies);
  2. Active learning (I’ve really not looked into this at very much);
  3. Social constructivism (Vygotsky) (I’ve read a fair bit about this, but need to read more).

So what questions do I need to guide my research? I am sure that I’ll think of more as time goes on, but so far I have thought of these:

• How do we know when learning has happened? (This is the biggie for me).
• What types of peer interaction lead to learning? All of them or not?
• What is different about interacting and solo learning?
• How does collaboration aid learning?

What questions do you think I should be asking?

Beach Question” flickr photo by cogdogblog  shared under a Creative Commons (CC0) license

Posted in #CLMOOC, Learning, MOOC, Online learning, Peer interaction, PhD, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Year of the Frog

At last it was the year of the frog. Frogina McFrog checked her fancy timepiece (1). “Cover my back” she said to the other reptiles (2) “I’m off”. After a drink or two she felt very emotional (3). “I can go anywhere I like” she said to herself. “Why make do with Swartswood State Park (4) when the world is my oyster? If female humans can explore space (5), so can I”. THE END

All images labelled for reuse in this Google search as per this Daily Create

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With the new year comes a new challenge for me: as of 4th January I take up my new post as a Good Practice Adviser at the U of Glasgow. This is a brand new role in what will soon be a restructured service, and nobody knows how it is all going to pan out. But it’s a promotion, and an opportunity to make the job what I want it to be – and that’s exciting. I’m sad to be moving away from working as a learning technologist  – but to be quite honest I will not miss being the first person folk think of when there is a problem with Urkund. It’ll be an opportunity to talk about designing non-plagiarisable assignments – to look at alternative methods of assessment such as Patchwork Text – to think about putting together some resources for using the Jigsaw Classroom in out new active learning spaces – to work with Niall to publicise his ACJ software more widely – to use the skills and knowledge I’m gaining from working on my PhD and with all of you friends who I engage with online – and who knows what else.

So Michael’s challenge – to choose one word to define my hopes for 2017 – came at just the right time for me. I’ve been mulling it over in my head, but as I’ve been writing this post it became obvious to me which word I should choose.

My word for this year is interaction – something that is vital for everything I do. Peer interaction is the magic that often makes learning happen, imho – and my interactions with all of you enrich my life and my learning. Here’s to an interactive 2017 🙂

“Interactions.” flickr photo by Moses Noghbaudie shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Posted in #CLMOOC, Jigsaw Technique, Learning, Online learning, Peer interaction, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Winter light

It was a glorious day today, so this afternoon N and I headed off to Ross Priory to get some winter air. It was cold down by the loch, but the light was wonderful:

Loch Lomond

Lots of planes were travelling overhead:

Speed of light

On the horizon, pines lined up like Daleks:

Winter skies

Walking through the gardens, Ross Priory peeps through the trees:

Ros Priory

And here, hiding behind this splendid tree:

Winter tree

Walking back to the car park we spotted this robin hopping up and down from this tree:

Friendly robin

As Kim says, on these winter days, we have to make the best of any light we find.






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Ten Little Nomads

Before Christmas I sent ten little parcels across the world to some of my friends – not sure of when they would arrive, but hoping I had got the timings right …

First was Ron – not surprising as the Netherlands is closest to me:

Next was Karen in Arizona:

Then Susan in Maryland – shown here with the blue nomad I sent her last year:

Charlene’s little nomad is winking, she says:

And Kevin’s nomad is the star in this stop motion animation:

That’s five. I do so hope the others eventually find their new homes.

Happy Moocmas all of you 🙂

Update: Number six checked in late Tuesday night – it found its way to Sheri:

And number seven arrived at Melvina’s in Hawaii on Wednesday:

Number eight appeared on Thursday at Stephanie’s:

Number nine arrived at Tania’s in Australia- just in time for Russian Orthodox Christmas:

Just one to go …

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Understanding lurkers

Last week I attended the most excellent SocMedHE16 conference to present a paper that I have co-written with Aras Bozkurt, Len Singh and AK based on some research we have been doing about learner behaviour in #CLMOOC – an online community I’ve been a part of for the last couple of years.

We looked at reasons that people might lurk and concluded that it is complex  – and that there is a lot more research that we could do to really unpack the different types of lurking and lurkers that are found in online communities. Lots of responses mentioned a lack of time, but I suggested that this needed to be thought about in more detail – as we often find time to do things we really want to – as James Clay highlights in this blog post.

After about 15 minutes of talking I threw the discussion over to the audience and we had a really lively discussion about learner motivations, whether we should “reclaim” the word “lurker” or whether there was a better term, and implications of our research to more traditional types of online courses. The session was recorded, and will be available on the SocMedHE16 pages in the New Year.

Thanks to everybody who came along for making this a great session – and thanks to Sue Watling for her take on it.

Posted in #CLMOOC, Learning, MOOC, Online learning, PhD, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Boris the Spider

Today’s Daily Create merges perfectly into what will be week 2 of our #CLMOOC #DigiWriMo pop-up animate week. I’ve been fairly nervous of animating things from scratch so far, but I’ve been paying attention to Niall and especially a recent animation by him, so today I thought I’d have a go. I dusted off a spider bought years ago for Halloween, looked out some blutack and switched on my camera. I took a series of photos moving the spider up the kitchen wall (stuck on with blutack) and climbing across the clock. I finished off with a couple of close ups.

Back at my PC I opened Windows Movie Maker and added the series of “moving” images four times to make a decent length “movie”, then added my two close up shots to the end. Next I  selected all the images and edited the duration to 1 sec each for all but the final, which I left for 2 secs. After a bit of searching through my CD piles I found my The Who compilation CD and ripped in in Windows Media Player to convert from CDA to MP3. After that it was easy to add Boris the Spider as the sound track. I should then be able to publish it to YouTube, but Movie Maker refuses to recognise my account, so I published to One Drive instead and shared out that link. Annoyingly, that has no embed code for WordPress, so I still had to upload a copy to YouTube to share here. The result is rough and ready – but it was really not hard to do and I am not unpleased with the result.

Why not give it a try? If you don’t have Movie Maker, then there are free versions of it available online, and many alternatives. Share the results with your favourite hash tags and tag #AnimWk so we can see it 🙂

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What makes an image digital writing?


This is a question that Karen and I have been mulling over for the past couple of weeks – without coming to any firm conclusions. This week we threw it open to the CLMOOC DigiwriMo Pop-up in the form of a S L O W chat embedded in a Google Doc. Here’s some of the things this got me considering:

  • When is a photo “just” a photo and when does it become digital writing?
  • Is it necessary that it contains alphanumeric text? Is it sufficient that it does?
  • What about the addition of hyperlinks?
  • What can we say about meaning? Can we make sense of a multiplicity of meanings/perspectives?
  • Is it better to talk about digital composition?
  • Are we asking the wrong question, as Tellio suggested?

And so, so much more. Come join us in the text and in the margins and add your voice to our conversation.

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img_1531Last year, as a way of introducing ourselves at the beginning of Digital Writing Month (DigiWriMo), Maha, Kevin and I came up with the idea of an ALT-CV (a Curriculum Vitae, or CV, is the British word for resume):

What if we could write a CV that was based not on degrees and position and peer-reviewed publications, but on what we think is most important about who we are and what we are genuinely most proud to have accomplished? We know it’s not the first time some of you see an activity of introducing yourself differently – so this might be easier for some than others, but we hope all of you will enjoy doing this.

I collected all of the results to a Hack Pad:

We were amazed by the variety of media that folk used to do this, and loved all of the rich content that resulted. So this year, as CLMooc does DigiWriMo, we’re inviting all of you to put together an ALT-CV and share it with us all by posting it to the Facebook Group, the G+Community, sharing with the #CLMooc hashtag on Twitter – or all of them.

Here’s mine from last year.

And here’s a brand new Hack Pad to collate this year’s ones:

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The British Library

It’s a long way to travel from Glasgow to London just for a two hour meeting, but that’s what I did yesterday. And although it was a long way to go, the thought of two longish journeys that I could use to catch up with some research was really tempting. So I set my alarm for 5:50 am and settled myself on the 7:37 pendolino to London Euston – armed with papers to read, data to code and socks to knit.

I started out huddled up in a big cardigan, but by the time I got to Euston that and my coat were stashed in my rucksack and I emerged from the station into bright sunshine. I was a little early for my meeting, so I wandered up the road to stretch my legs. St Pancreas Station was looking glorious in the autumn sun:

St Pancreas

The entrance to the British Library, where my meeting was taking place, is also spectacular:

Newton by Paulozzi

This statue, I discovered, is by Scottish sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi (you can see his name on the plinth):

Newton by Paulozzi

It’s a statue of Newton based on a print by William Blake (thanks Google!):

Newton by Paulozzi

At the entrance to the Conference Centre I spotted this plaque:

Plaque of Anne Frank's tree

These words gave me pause – they could be uttered by any of is today. It was hard to get a photo of the tree itself – this was the best I could do:

Anne Frank's tree

After a very productive meeting of the Futurelearn Learner Experience Advisory Group I  headed back to Euston and the train home.


Papers read, data coded, socks knitted and beer enjoyed. I arrived back in Glasgow at 8pm and headed up to our local pub to meet N and sample new vegetarian options on the menu: beetroot burgers and battered halloumi with chips. Yum!

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