DS The End

I’ve passed my dissertation and therefore my master in Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change at Sheffield-Hallam University. It has been an incredible ride! I learned a lot, met interesting people and gained a better understanding about technology and education. I still want to expand my knowledge and experience, but I’m glad that this part of my journey is complete.

I’m proud of my work. I got to write about the things I hold very dear and want to see used in education in a more balanced way than is now the case. My research on the connected educator made me think about the process of implementing technology and especially the necessary skills teachers need to have. A different mindset about how we will teach and what is to be expected of our students is one of the things I found to be very important. 21st skill are different from last century’s. We do need to consider using different tools to prepare our students for that new world that is emerging. So, try to connect to other interesting people out there through various social media. Engage with them. Ask questions. Experiment in your own classroom and try to do “the other thing”. It’s worth the effort, you’ll see!

DS Submission of Final Draft

That’s it! My work is done. After painstakingly constructing and adjusting my dissertation, I have finally submitted.

A big thank you to everybody involved, without you this could not have been possible.
This ride has been epic! Never having done this before, I’m proud that I’ve reached the end of the line. Working on my dissertation was very educating and exposed me to many different theories and opinions that will have forever changed me. My future educational work will never be the same, in fact, I feel encouraged to continue the search for a different kind of education.

DS Tutorial 3

Submitting my first draft was an empowering feeling. I felt like I had accomplished something. Proud of my work, I awaited prof. Merchants remarks. He was pleased with the results so far, but also had some suggestions for improving my work. We talked about the literature review, referencing and trimming down the rough edges of the text. Next up was my research itself. It was made clear to me that I needed to divide my work into sections as to create a better picture of what I had done, why I had done it and what the results were. I sort of got most of that in my first draft, but all this information needed its own place. We discussed how I should be going about that and came to an understanding.
These tutorials truly are an important part of this dissertation. I always feel that talking with someone who has a fresh and unbiased view on it, puts everything into perspective. I tend to notice my own flaws while discussing the overall work with the professor. Reflecting on what I have already done, also proved interesting since I needed to keep track of everything. This in itself, creating this roadmap, was also an important step in the creation process. It offered clarity and a purpose.
Currently working on the last pieces of text for my final draft and at the end of the month, the TELIC course will come to an end.

DS Tutorial 2

My second tutorial went well. I love working with Evernote to create my dissertation. Even for my tutorials it comes in handy. I can send the link to the different notes I’ve created to my supervisor, for him to have a look, he could even write his notes on the text in the same document. Apart from collecting all pdf’s and other data in the Evernote platform, the document creation option is just great for the purposes of my dissertation. Playing around with the creation date enables great flexibility to sort my notes in a logical way (to me at least). Tagging them for future reference and placing them in different stacks also helps to keep things organized and easy to retrieve. I really recommend Evernote for any type of work you might have concerning information aggregation, curation and creation.

During this tutorial we talked about my literature review so far, which will need some more work, but the basic framework is definitely there. Professor Guy Merchant was pleased with my progress so far. Then we talked about the survey and interviews I conducted. In the survey I focussed on the ‘what’, where my interview was designed to answer the ‘why’.  The survey thought me that a lot of participants said to working with technology in the classroom, be it in very small ways. In their personal context people tend to use the ‘obvious’ services out there (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), the same level of determination was missing the professional context, I found. During the interviews this was one of the things I tried to find out. Time constraints were one of the most named problems affecting the implementation of more elaborate tools/services. I’ve discussed this with prof. Merchant. He mentioned that true innovators do find the time to experiment. He suggested to think about possible reasons why most people find it difficult to coop with that. He also suggested the ‘researcher effect’, meaning that during the survey, people might tend to answer in ways that are not necessarily true. Not meaning that they have lied, but people tend to answer the ‘desired outcome’.

After a few questions about lay-out and the different parts of my dissertation, prof. Merchant also suggested to look a bit into Schatzky. He talks about schools being a mesh of different practices, which could prove beneficial in my data analysis.

For now, I’ll be writing my first draft of the dissertation. After the final remarks and suggestions by my supervisor, I’ll be on route to delivering my final text. Looking forward to that. What a journey it has been!

DS Data gathering

I created an online survey for my participants and the data is rolling in. Interesting results which I will explore in more detail, the following days as the final forms will be collected. Based on these results I will conduct interviews with key participants, focussing more on the why of their story. Looking forward to a more personal way of finding the data I need, than this formal survey.

This journey of the dissertation is teaching me a lot. My research is both interesting and educational on a personal level. I’m amazed about how much I’ve learned so far and the possibilities that lie before us in the field of education. My only wish is that these changes are embraced instead of frowned upon. Change is the more difficult road that lies ahead, but also the more interesting one…

DS Survey and Interviews

I’m entering the next phase of my dissertation. First up is a survey I will conduct with a group of people in the educational field. After discussing the matter with a fellow student and my mentor, I will be gathering information from a diverse group. Teachers from all levels of education, but also IT and supporting staff.  I’m hoping to get a broad picture of how they connect with others, find information both online and offline and how they use this information in their professional lives. Next are the interviews. Based upon the results, I will conduct a more in-depth interview with a number of people from the survey group. The idea is to collect more qualitative data on the subject. I would like to know why people do things in a certain way (or not) and how this affects their workflow.

After the data-gathering phase, I’ll try to connect the data to the theories I’ve used in my dissertation (constructivism – Bruner, Driscoll, Vygotsky; connectivism – Siemens, Downes; personal learning networks – Downes, Richardson, Mancabelli; technology enhanced learning environments – Beetham, Sharpe, Salmon).

In the mean time, I’ve had some interesting discussions with a couple of colleagues about the need for some kind of private space versus the open networks at hand and how they can affect students work and even their career afterwards. Important concerns were raised about the need for a “safe” environment where students can learn and reflect. Throwing everything into the open could provide the attitude of displaying only the successes that occurred, instead of a true learning curve displaying both the successes and failure. Something to think about.

DS Tutorial 1

Just had my first DS tutorial with my supervisor professor Guy Merchant. We had a great talk on my work so far. We started of by discussing my research questions for the DS and then looking at the text itself to see how I structured it to tell my story. As we walked through my DS, I was glad to hear that my work so far was solid. Professor Merchant had some helpful tips and new sources for me to explore. These new points of view were most welcome because it added a new and fresh perspective on the matter. Suddenly new path became visible! An overview:

  • The ladder of activity for users of online social media (Bernoff 2010) suggests progression, but is that the case? Do we all aspire to be creators? Can we be a creator in one field and just a spectator in another?
  • Look at these sources:
    • Howard Rheingold – information overload/filter failure.
    • Axel Bruns – Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage
    • James Gee – his work on affinity spaces.
    • Henri Jenkins – Confronting the challenges of participatory culture.
    • Caroline Haythornthwaite – Strong, weak and latent ties and the impact of new media.
    • Mimi Ito – Connected learning
    • Recent work on PLN by BJET (British Journal of Educational Technology).
After a couple of referencing questions I had, we had a look at the first draft of my survey questions and the accompanying information and consent form for the participants.

DS5 – Data Collection & Coaching

My literature review is slowly but surely coming together. Next up is my survey and interviews. For my dissertation I’ll be doing a survey with a group of around 20 people on how they perceive the value of technology in education and what it means to be a connected teacher. From that group I’ll select 5-8 educators to interview. This more in-depth “conversation” will hopefully give me the data and insights I need to prove my point. Then, I’ll be looking for the correlation between existing theories, present-day (technological) evolutions and real-life opinions.
Also, my first supervisor sessions are coming up! Looking forward to talk with professor Guy Merchant of SHU.

Evernote & IdeaPaint

Came across this interesting combination today:
evernote ideapaint
A Boston-based company that sells “a patent-pending dry erase paint, transforms virtually any smooth surface into an erasable canvas, giving you the space you need to fully explore your big ideas. It’s more than a tool, it’s a catalyst for better results”.
One of my go-to apps for basically everything. It lets you create and store notes, but it does far more than that! It has become my central hub, where I create, store and share information. Every document, presentation, link … is stored in designated notebooks and even stacks for me to keep track of my entire life. Also in education, this tool comes in very handy. Not only to store all my personal school-data, but also for sharing information with students and even collaborating! Students can gather notes around a project or a class, take photos of the things we’ve discussed and create their own portfolio.
Analog & Digital
I found this a perfect example of the combination of traditional and digital education. Kids can get physical with the whiteboard, brainstorm, work together and take their project to the next level with all the digital tools at their disposal! Just love this…
The little video kept me thinking for a bit about how I could change my workflow in the classroom and how to engage students more. I’ve always been something of a gear head. I like to have proper materials when working on/with something. Also, I’m a strong believer that an agreeable and interesting workspace add to the proficiency of the people in it. An office with fresh, lively colors, nice interior and good tools to work with will create a better working environment than say a grey traditional cubicle. Same for the classroom (if not more so), where kids have to learn for 7 classes a day.
Would love to get a budget to design my own classroom to teach in. Out with those old brown desks and left-over chairs, in with IdeaPaint walls and desks, WiFi and students bringing their own technology to learn.

iPads In The Classroom part 7

It’s been a while since I last talked about our iPad project. So what has happened in the past months. Let me give you a brief overview:

Teacher training

I started giving teacher training sessions on different apps, which could prove useful in the classroom. First I tried to explain the importance of a PLN and how it is constructed. Building on this philosophy, I tried to offer different apps that could add to my colleagues PLN. This is what I’ve covered so far:

Questions that need answering

Then we started getting some questions from people in our management team about how we were tackling the financial side of the project? Did we find enough teacher who were willing to start teaching in this iPad project? Maybe, this whole thing wasn’t such a good idea after all…
All hands on deck! We had to come up with concrete solutions, otherwise our project would be out the window. Off course we discussed these aspects at length last year, but (mistakenly) thought that others were on board with that.
  • We managed to eliminate a quarter of our student expenses list, making room for the extra costs of a tablet. But this is only the first step in our plan. We plan on doing the same and better in the following years, so the tablet would be payed of at the end of a 3 to 4 year period, while cutting costs elsewhere.


  • Of the 32 periods a student has in one week, we managed to find teachers to cover 23 of them. Not bad to get started…
  • As many of our colleagues (wrongly) suspected they had to banish all paper from school, we tried many ways to explain that wasn’t the case. We had to explain (rigorously) that our project is based on learning differently. The tool used to achieve this goal is the tablet. There will always be plenty of room for books, paper … “traditional” learning methods.
All of this resulted in a talk with management, which we considered to be the talk to end all questions and misgivings that still lingered. We managed to get our message across and finally got the OK we were desperately waiting for.

Battle plan

So, the plan is as follows:
  • 2013-2014 – raising awareness for the project and getting more people on-board to function as “prophets”.
  • 2014-2015 – an extra year to instruct colleagues on how to teach with the aid of tablets.
  • 2015-2016 – student implementation in one field of study (Human Sciences).
The delay of the extra “instruction” year is needed to prepare more teachers, more thoroughly. A concession we gladly made for the benefit of the project.