Posts Tagged ‘conference’

#srheconf12 Presentation

Friday, December 14th, 2012

I’m on my way to the last day of the SRHE Annual Research Conference at Celtic Manor where I’m presenting a paper as part of a symposium on social media with Pat Thomson, Inger Mewburn, Anna Tarrant and Jeremy Segrott. Here’s the presentation.

Social media practices: Benefits and risks for doctoral researchers from Andy Coverdale

SRHE Symposium

Friday, December 7th, 2012

This time next week I’ll be presenting a paper at the SRHE Annual Research Conference as part of a symposium on social media with Pat Thomson, Inger Mewburn, Anna Tarrant and Jeremy Segrott. The conference takes place at Celtic Manor where I presented for the Visual Learning Lab a few years ago. All the conference papers can be viewed here.

Digital Identit(y/ies) – Presentation and Notes

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Last Friday, I presented at the Challenging the Binaries conference hosted by the Centre for the Study of Literacies at the School of Education, University of Sheffield. It was friendly and engaging, with some excellent keynote presentations and subsequent debate facilitated by Neil Selwyn. Discussions focussed a lot on how the ‘new’ and the ‘digital’ are conceptualised within literacies studies, and – coming from outside this field – I found some of the approaches to researching digital technologies both refreshing and challenging. There is, I think, potential for greater dialogue between the literacies and educational technology fields around social media and digital practices. Thanks again to those who came to my session and contributed to the discussion. Here are the presentation and notes.

1. Introduction

Drawing on my own research into how PhD students are using social and participatory media.

Research question related to identity production and agency within doctoral education.

  • Theoretical aspects of identity – key themes from postmodernist and sociocultural perspectives
  • Methodological and analytical aspects of my research
  • Some key findings

2. Theorising / Conceptualising Digital Identity

The concept of digital identity is primarily a socio­technical construct that has evolved through a number of theoretical perspectives.

Digital or online identity generally understood as the representation of a persona that an individual presents across the digital environments in which he or she participates.

General Westernised notion of identity as a coherent, unified subject – maturation is conceptualised as establishing a consistent identity.

Digital identity is seen as multiphrenic (Gergan, 2000) – identity created through multiple subjectivities, but also performed and presented across multiple media / formats / genres.

Emergent contributions from the sociological and sociocultural literature – combining personal subjectivities with cultural forms and social relations.

3. Doctoral Contexts

Consensus that doing a PhD is not just acquiring specialised knowledge and skills, and making an original contribution to knowledge.

But constitutes a critical and transformation of identity – often the most transformative period of an academic’s professional life.

Kamler and Thomson (2006) – writing constitutes principal role of performativity in establishing scholarly identity – literature review reconceptualised as a key site of identity work.

Proposing social media as increasingly important sites for doctoral identity work.

Requires holistic approaches to develop authentic representations of ‘doing a PhD’:

  • Include academic practices beyond those related purely to thesis-development.
  • Challenge models of socialisation and enculturation exclusively within localised or disciplinary settings.

4. Usher Framework

Identity represents a hugely complex theoretical field – from psychology, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies.

Usher, Bryant and Johnson – Postmodernist educational perspective.

Schema of experiential learning – distinct social practices in the context of lifelong learning.

5. Confessional and Critical Practice

Two generally opposing social practices:

Confessional practice

Draws on Foucault’s notion of the ‘confession’ – as rituals in power relationships.

The learner is:

  • Disempowered in accepting the dominant (often solitary) model of learning.
  • Required to align her subjectivities with formal educational discourses.

Within digital environment:

  • Pedagogies are based on rhetoric of the ‘self’ – manifest in professional profiling, portfolio development, self-branding.
  • Reinforces educational binaries of formal and informal, and professional binaries of work-based and recreational activities.

Critical practice

  • The learner is a politically constituted agent able to shape her own learning.
  • Resonates with critical pedagogy – politics of self-representation.
  • Rather than adapting to specific learning contexts – these are challenged and potentially changed through discursive practices.
  • Partly played out in the digital environment.

6. Sociocultural Perspectives

Reified forms of perfomativity – social production, interaction and participation.

Identity development as a competency.

Provisional Selves – external feedback and internal beliefs – prioritise and value different activities and roles

Students assess their capacity to enact the behaviours associated with them before taking on the identity associated with that role. In effect, envisioning imagined possible or ‘provisional selves.’

Implications for socialisation and enculturation within norms and values.

Situated learning perspective – identity development is constitutive to the increased capacity to participate in multiple communities of practice

7. Figured World

Socioculturalist / postmodernist theoretical view of identity as distributed, constantly forming multiple, sometimes contradictory, selves.

Holland et al reconceptualise this as active participation in specific environments they call ‘figured worlds.’

8. Research Design

Highly qualitative, mixed-method design

Open coding and ‘thick description’

Consecutive interviews spaced at 3/4-monthly intervals – interpreting and refining participants’ perspectives.

Chose NOT to use Activity Theory notation (i.e. triangular model) – so not to compromise ‘authenticity’ of participants’ own terminology and meaning making processes.

9. Analytical Framework

Activity Theory

  • Social, cultural and historical perspective of doctoral practices
  • Culturally-mediated, object-oriented activity systems
  • Objects are emergent and partly shared, fragmented and contested

Activity Systems

  • Development of cultural artefacts
  • Figured worlds and genre knowledge

Analytical framework of interrelated activity systems – to describe shifting patterns of digitally mediated doctoral practices across multiple practice contexts and through key transitional phases of doctoral study

At operational level – objects as ‘problem spaces’ equate to interrelated doctoral practices.

Focus on development of contradictions and cultural artefacts.

10. Genres

Socio-cultural fork of Genre Studies (e.g. Berkenkotter & Huckin, 1993).

Traditions of using tools rather than artefact categorisation.

Conceptual fit with activity theory.

Development of ‘genre knowledge’ – social and dialogical process.

11. Figured Worlds

Identities are improvised:

  • within specific social / cultural situations
  • based on past experiences (history-in-person)
  • using the cultural resources available
  • in response to the subject positions

In appropriating these improvisations as heuristics they can become tools of agency and identity construction.

Figured worlds enable cultural artefact development by providing the social and cultural contexts.

12/13. Some Findings

The PhD student is characterised as negotiating multiple, wide-ranging, and potentially conflicting practice contexts.

Developing strategies across multiple contexts and sites of identity production provides PhD students with opportunities for effectively positioning themselves in sites of knowledge, resources, opportunities and influence.

Sophisticated negotiation of identity and roles – “playing the game.”

Doctoral identity construction and agency:

  • Within and across multiple practice contexts
  • Within and outside of formal institutional and disciplinary boundaries

Social media practices within and across figured worlds increase ‘authenticity.’

Diverse interrelated doctoral research cultures – (inter)disciplinary, supervisory, departmental, peer group, entrepreneurial, industry and third sector relations.

Use of social media provides spaces of authorship (Bahktin) provide opportunities for empowering and potentially disempowering this process.

14. Digital Literacies

Implications to digital literacies.

Digital literacies – highly contested term.

Beyond cognitive / functional use of digital technologies and related skills / competencies.

Towards holistic understanding of creative and critical uses of digital technologies, and social and cultural settings.

Digital identity equates to ‘ways of being’ in the digital environment

Navigating increasingly complex interdisciplinary and interrelated practice contexts.

Genre knowledge – compare with multimodal literacy (Gunther Kress etc.).

Contribution to a deeper and more nuance understanding of digital literacies – within the contexts of research practices and doctoral education.

Losing Momentum Conference

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

I’ve just got back from the Losing Momentum doctoral students conference at the School of Education, University of Oxford. There was a good mix of student presentations alongside excellent keynotes from Neil Selwyn, Martin Oliver and Avril Loveless. Thanks to everyone at the Learning and New Technologies Research Group for hosting this event. This was my contribution:

Challenging the Binaries

Friday, April 20th, 2012

I’ve had my abstract accepted for Challenging the Binaries, the Centre for the Study of Literacies International Conference at the University of Sheffield on the 29th and 30th of June. The paper will expand on ideas I discussed in a previous blog post. My abstract is as follows:

Drawing on my research into how PhD students are using social and participatory media, I problematize binaries associated with online identity by adopting two generally opposing social practices from lifelong learning studies: the ‘confessional’ and the ‘critical’ (Usher et al., 1996).

In a confessional practice, the learner is disempowered in accepting the dominant (often solitary) model of learning, aligning her subjectivities with formal educational discourses to articulate her own learning needs. Corresponding pedagogies are based on rhetoric of the ‘self,’ and manifest in professional profiling and portfolio development (Tennant, 2009). Identity is seen as stable, developmental and coherent across spaces of productivity, reinforcing binaries of formal and informal, and work and recreation.

In a critical practice, identity is multiple, fluid and fragmentary. Rather than adapting to specific learning contexts, empowerment is authenticated through questioning, challenging and potentially changing them through discursive practices. The literature on critical pedagogies locates the politics of self-representation within the cultural processes of education, and sees the learner as a socially and politically constituted agent able to shape her identity construction.

Through developing authentic representations of ‘doing a PhD,’ framed within the transformative nature of the doctoral learning experience, I argue identity construction extends beyond activities associated with thesis development and models of socialisation, to incorporate student agency within and across multiple practice contexts, ranging from entrepreneurialism to student activism.


Tennant, M. (2009). Lifelong learning as a technology of the self. In K. Illeris, Contemporary theories of learning (pp. 147-158). London: Routledge.

Usher, R., Bryant, I., & Johnston, R. (1996). Adult education and the postmodern challenge: Learning beyond the limits. London: Routledge.

ECEL 2011

Monday, October 10th, 2011

I’ve recently had my paper, ‘Negotiating Doctoral Practices and Academic Identities through the Adoption and Use of Social and Participative Media,’ accepted for the 10th European Conference on e-Learning (ECEL 2011) at the University of Brighton, 10-11 November. This will be an early opportunity to present some of my original research contributing towards my thesis. I’ve reproduced the abstract below:

This paper describes current doctoral research into how PhD students are using social and participative media (web 2.0) in their academic studies. It examines the role these media can play in identity-formation and induction into academic scholarship and professional development. The practice-context and situated approach of this study challenges some of the dominant discourses and idealised concepts within the educational technology field to address the significant gap between the potential of web 2.0 and the reality of low rates of adoption and use.

The study reconciles social media adoption and use with the self-efficacy and heterogeneity of doctoral practice. By taking an ecological approach, it recognises that doing a PhD requires the negotiation of multiple and interrelated academic and peripherally non-academic contexts. Such an approach legitimises doctoral practices beyond those related purely to thesis-development, and challenges models of doctoral education defined by a trajectory of increased participation and enculturation within a single, localised institutional research community. In addition, rather than focusing on one particular tool or platform, the study adopts a holistic perspective to social media that recognises the multiplicity, interrelatedness and transiency of web 2.0.

The empirical research uses a small sample of social sciences, humanities and interdisciplinary PhD students as participants. Adopting a qualitative approach and mixed-method design, data were collected through the observation of online activities across a range of social media, participant-reported accounts, and a series of in-depth participant interviews. Activity theory is used to support a grounded and recursive approach to analysing participant-produced digital artefacts, field notes and interview transcripts through open coding and thick description. From these data, an analytical framework of interrelated object-oriented activity systems was generated with which to identify and describe shifting patterns in social media practice through key phases in the participants’ doctoral experiences, and across a range of practice contexts.

Emerging findings indicate the role of social media in contributing to, and revealing, the tensions inherent in negotiating multiple and interrelated practice contexts through boundary crossing and interdisciplinary activities. The study reveals how participation in emergent online research networks and communities is enabling new forms of professional academic engagement, often beyond the immediate scope of thesis-related work. It examines how this contributes to the participants’ mapping of the research field by providing additional insights into the socio-cultural infrastructure that underpins academic discourse. It also highlights how the development of doctoral social media practices and identity agendas are influenced by localised research cultures and often compromised by ambiguous or perceived audiences.

Open Nottingham

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Thanks to everyone who organised and contributed to yesterday’s Open Nottingham Seminar. Whilst Open Education Resources (OER) are on the periphery of my own research focus, the event provided a useful overview of current initiatives and some of the key issues and challenges. The University of Nottingham’s activities in OER were briefly showcased alongside several case studies of adoption at Faculty level. Wyn Morgan, Director of Teaching and Learning, gave an honest appraisal of the University’s “social corporate” agenda for open education, as one that values promotional and cost efficiency benefits as highly as any related to pedagogy or widening participation.

Earlier in the day, the University had finally made the inevitable announcement that it is to charge the maximum £9,000 undergraduate fees in 2012. In response to Dave White’s ‘tumbleweed’ question, Morgan suggested that attending a University like Nottingham provides a richer learning experience, enabling access to resources and expertise.

In a previous post, I wrote how Weller and Dalziel (2007) identify the key functions of universities as providing:

  • Structured learning frameworks (i.e. curricula)
  • Access to resources and educators
  • Social learning environments
  • Formal accreditation

This corresponds closely with David Wiley’s categorisation of the universities’ role as an aggregation of:

  • Content
  • Support Services
  • Social Life
  • Degrees

Wiley argues that the development of OER supported by an increasingly social web represents a potential ‘dissagregation’ of these categories, and suggests universities need to present clear arguments for the value of their continued monopoly.

The issue of institutional accreditation of OER was central to the following presentation, an inspiring talk by Wayne Mackintosh, founder of WikiEducator, who described how OER can provide learning opportunities for students underserved by formal education, and the role of the OER University (OERu) in developing pathways to quality assurance for accreditation and assessment services.


Weller, M. J. & Dalziel, J. (2007). On-line Teaching: Suggestions for Instructors. In L. Cameron & J. Dalziel (Eds.), 2nd International LAMS Conference: Practical Benefits of Learning Design, 26 November. Sydney: LAMS Foundation (76-82).

Learning, Media and Technology Doctoral Conference

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Good News. I’ve had my abstract accepted for the Learning, Media and Technology Doctoral Conference at the London Knowledge Lab on the 4th of July. I’ll be submitting a paper (4000-6000 words) for the online conference proceedings at the end of May. Reviewed papers will be considered for publication in a special issue of the Learning, Media and Technology journal. In the meantime, here’s the abstract:

The proposed paper describes current doctoral research into how a small sample of social sciences, humanities and interdisciplinary PhD students are adopting and using social and participative media (web 2.0) in their academic practices. The study uses a qualitative, mixed-method design of observation of online activities, participant-reported accounts and successive in-depth interviews. An Activity Theory-based analytical framework of interrelated activity systems is used to describe shifting patterns of practice across multifarious academic contexts and through key phases in the doctoral experience.

The study adopts holistic perspectives of (i) doctoral practices, that legitimises academic activities beyond those related purely to thesis-development and established models of participation and enculturation, and (ii) of social media, responding to the multiplicity, interrelatedness and transiency of web 2.0 tools and platforms. In doing so, it recognises the self-efficacy and heterogeneity of PhD study in the negotiation of multiple socio-technical research communities and networks, and the complex role social media can play in identity-formation and induction into doctoral scholarship and academic professional development.

In addressing the significant gap between the potential of web 2.0 and the reality of low adoption rates and lack of widespread use, the paper proposes that dominant discourses and idealised concepts within the educational technology and media communities do not necessarily reflect the majority of doctoral students’ engagement with social media. Rather, key incentives, disincentives and barriers created by tensions with embedded research cultures within and without the faculty, and inconsistencies in training opportunities and shared practice, heavily influence and disrupt patterns of adoption and use.

The paper will also describe how the dissemination of the activity systems analysis is facilitating the ongoing participant interviews, enabling a negotiated understanding of participants’ use of web 2.0, and encouraging a shared, critical and reflective dialogue for the development of effective social media practices.

Future Learningscapes: Post-conference Draft

Friday, August 20th, 2010

This post presents a preliminary draft for a paper I am co-authoring with LeRoy Hill and Tracy Sisson. As some of you will know from previous posts, early this year LeRoy and I designed and presented a series of social media sessions for PhD students and Early Career Researchers at the Jubilee Graduate Centre with the cooperation and support of Tracy, the centre manager. In June, we presented this as a case study of a student-led training initiative, at the Future Learningscapes e-learning conference at the University of Greenwich, and we are accepting their offer to write up the presentation for their post-conference publication next year.

They are keen we incorporate reflections on our experiences from presenting at the conference and feedback from attendees. We also decided it would be appropriate to partly conduct the co-authorship process in the participatory arena of the social web. Therefore both LeRoy and I are presenting our personal perspectives through our own sites. You can read my draft on my wiki and download it here.

I would be happy to receive feedback on this from conference attendees or students who came to the original sessions, though comments and suggestions from anyone else would be greatly appreciated.

Future Learningscapes

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

In what looks like an excellent programme of presentations from researchers, technologists and educators – led by keynote Gráinne Conole from the Open University – LeRoy Hill and I will be presenting our Graduate training sessions in social media as a case study at the Future Learningscapes conference on July 7th at the University of Greenwich. Our Abstract is as follows:

The effective use of social and participative media is seen as a key requirement in 21st Century academic practice and professional development. This case study describes a collaborative, student-led initiative which, identifying a gap in existing Doctoral training provision, engaged in delivering a series of interactive sessions to PhD students and Early Career Researchers at the University of Nottingham. With an emphasis less on the technologies and more on their social, participatory and collaborative affordances, the sessions were designed and presented by two PhD students to raise awareness of social media and provide an opportunity for discussion and shared practice. Hosted and supported by one of the University Graduate Centres, the sessions were supplemented by an online resource. In this presentation, we will summarise the initiative with key observations, perspectives and feedback from the organisers and attendees, discuss implications for practice within training and professional development contexts, and outline future plans in this area.