Struggling on 

Since January 2013 I have been a part-time PhD student at Edinburgh Napier University. A lot have happened since then and my previously started and incomplete PhD in translation many years ago and 80,000 words later that didn’t lead to anything are not helpful to put me in a positive mindset. Can I do this? Will I do this?

I am currently reworking part of the literature review linked to open education responding to feedback I received.  “Radical editing” are the words I remember… The truth is that I have been struggling to make progress and actually often feel stuck but also guilty… guilty for not spending enough time with my family… guilty for not spending enough time on my PhD… often I feel like being pregnant again but without knowing when and how I will be able to give birth without producing a monster… and the pain is growing…

I am now in Greece and the plan is to rework the above section. I made a start on the plane on a very bumpy ride down south from rainy England. I decided to keep a short visual diary while I work on this and hopefully this will help me out some of my thoughts in some kind of order. Maybe somebody will access it and provide some help and advice.

My visual diary is below.


Tomorrow are MOOCs on the menu. Need to shorten from 18 pages to 2. Definitely radical editing needed!!!

It hasn’t been an easy day. I haven’t managed to cut that much, I am down to 12-13 pages, and will continue working on this tomorrow. I understand that I need to be more focused but so much seems relevant!  Thank you to David Hopkins who volunteered to read through the collaborative learning section and Frances Bell for her suggestion to create a visual representation of all the important concepts. I will see how I do tomorrow.

Some sense of achievement today, a tiny one. MOOC pages are now under half the original length of what I had and there is some sort of order there now. I have now shared this with Carol Yeager who kindly offered to read through this and comment. I hope this makes sense to her. Over the weekend, I plan to continue working on the open ed section, the non-MOOC stuff.

Ok, I have done some further work linked to the open learning section and it somehow feels a bit better. Still not happy with it and I have loads of questions but feel that I would benefit from some feedback before doing more on this.

Tomorrow, I will start working in the last section which refers to collaborative frameworks supported by technologies. This is the blue part.

I am still in the frameworks section…

Tomorrow, I will continue working on this again…. I need a small break to get fresh energy to continue. It all feels very messy at the moment. I have create a framework tabl,thank you for suggesting this Keith. This indeed does help me see similarities… There are so many! But v interesting things do emerge which seems to provide a stomg evidence-base for my work, I think. I hope to have a clearer picture of this section in my head and on file early next week.

Late last night, I felt the need to visualise what I have leant through looking at the different frameworks and what I discovered. Here it comes… thank you Frances Bell for this suggestion. I will also add the frameworks I looked at.


When Ody saw what I was doing he had the idea to call the doors at the top and the bottom of the hill, the door of success, and somehow it does make sense so this is a little but important addition made by Ody (11).

What follows is my MOOC summary…



Carol Yeager kindly read my open learning section. It was the first time somebody outside the supervisory team read any of my work for this thesis. In the past I was never sure if this is something I should be doing…  I have to say, that I found this really useful and hope that further colleagues will be willing to read smaller sections and comment. Thank you so much Carol and also for making yourself available to read the technology section as well.

I have now (16 August) prepared a visualisation linked to the cooperative, collaborative learning section and am adding this below. Any comments on all three visualisations are very welcome.

The following shows were  am at the moment, I have to admit that it does seem that I have made some progress over the last few weeks looking back at were I started. More is of course needed, Carol Yeager is reading the frameworks section. I know I need some more specific details linked to this, such as when the SOL framework was developed/used for the first time. If you are reading this and have any idea and can point me towards a related paper, please leave a comment below.

more to follow… I really hope I can make some progress while here in between jumping in the deep blue sea, eating souvlaki and visiting magical places with my family.

#blimage response and new visual trigger(s) > Rules, what rules? ;)

#blimage what is that now? Was my first reaction.

Yes, “image” was the vital ingredient that made me click on the link… as I love working with images, pictures, I love taking pictures, I love making pictures, I love expressing through pictures and I love using pictures in my teaching, learning and development but also research.

So I started reading David Hopkin’s post. I have to admit that I was confused. I guess I read it too quickly and it just didn’t make sense. What was I asked to do and why? I think I now understand that I have been asked to connect my thinking to the image David tweeted and then perhaps invite somebody else to respond to my visual trigger(s). Yes, you guessed right… there will be more than one. I am already thinking of this instead of capturing my thoughts around David’s picture. Is my brain future facing?

Is this a chain exercise? Is it about exploring the concept of reciprocity? Is it about speaking through images in a literal and metaphorical way? Is it more about the process than what we create and share? Or both or even more than that? Or following blindly what we are asked to do? But then again I could say no… Why didn’t I? Why didn’t everybody else? Did we also pick people we knew would respond? Did anybody sent the request to a complete stranger? Who broke the chain and most importantly why?

At the moment of writing this, I am in the train and on my way to London with no internet access. It is very very early. I feel that there are information missing… I don’t understand what I have been asked to do and how it relates to anything else and what the purpose of this activity actually is. What are we trying to achieve? What is the purpose of this activity? I feel like a student… a student who is lost and disorientated. What wants to know more… But also a students who is reactive to what what they have been asked to do… But there is also something about this task that fuels my curiosity and anticipation for exploration and discovery.

David’s picture echoes emptiness somehow. I have to admit that I don’t think that I would pick this to use on my blog… I didn’t connect with it immediately and I am not sure if I am fabricating what follows…

Yes, I am picky with images. I wouldn’t just use any randomly to decorate my blog as they have special meaning for me. If the picture doesn’t talk to me it will never make it here… Often I spend a lot of time, picking the right ones…. anyway, this one is here now… but not because I picked it…

In my imagination I can see people sitting there, avoiding looking at each other when I think of an airport while they would be talking in a learning situation. In my classroom they would and they would be making stuff as well and moving around. Learning doesn’t really happen properly when you are sitting down all the time! The fact that these seats are static is a disadvantage but we can turn this into an opportunity. We can use the floor, walk around, leave this space and go elsewhere. Why is this not happening enough when we think about fixed classrooms, for example. Why do we feel prisoners and often victims of a system? What is our responsibility?

The picture also reminds me that I will be flying to the sunshine very soon and therefore it also fills me with anticipation and joy. It might be me and my boys sitting on these seats. How will we behave? Will we feel in transit and be in our own little pink bubble of shared past and present, looking forward together to the future? We have each other. Why do we need anybody else? This question is indeed problematic, think about it for a minute.

While travelling on the tube to go to #legoHE15, I was in this space which did remind me of David’s watercolour painting and my challenge? Was I living it suddenly?

I also noticed just now that this is actually a watercolour painting? I guess when I first looked at it on my tiny phone screen, I couldn’t see the difference… my eyes are getting bad…? Is this painting a re-creation of what we see with our eyes, or what we see through our eyes? Copying reality? I am not good at this but does this mean this is not useful? I like paintings with depth, paintings that make me think. But then this  did but in a very smooth way. I guess this is ok too. What I am trying to say is that imaginative pictures speak to me more. Pictures that are interesting, unusual, not a direct copy of reality…

Not sure I did what I was asked to do but I feel I have done a little something to contribute to #blimage. I hope this means something to somebody.

Feeling dizzy writing all this. Should really stop… Still on train travelling…

The above was written in the morning on my way to #legoHE15 which was organised by Alison James in London. I am now at station waiting for my train home. Thinking again of the original image while sitting on a similar seat as David’s challenge pic. Everybody around me is using their phone… me too… are remote conversations easier? Is it a way to escape what surrounds us? Can we be here and everywhere at the same time? Is this a good thing? Always?

I have an idea for a new picture challenge and will add them (yes, there will be 3 + 1 in total so that the person has some choice. Will add these when home (ok they are here now). I hope the people who get my #blimage challenge can relate to one of the photos in a creative way and make a meaningful connection to learning and teaching… I have no idea where this exploration is leading us individually and collectively… It is however, fascinating and I can’t wait to find out…

Thank you David for involving me. Would love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts.

Did my thinking travel in the wrong direction?

Here come the 3 plus 1 images I would like to hand over to Debbie Baff and Stephen Powell. I am in holiday mood so they had to be bright. What do your eyes and/or  mind see? How do you connect with one of these pictures? What learning and teaching metaphors do you see in them? Pick just one and create a blog post that helps us see the connections you made. Share your stories back with me and colleagues via #blimage. Thank you in advance for taking on this visual challenge.

Thank you for the challenge David and Steve. I hope you don’t mind me adding the “pick-your-own” feature ;)


Visualising FOS as a pizza (globe)? #fos4l

FOS in 5 days, a pizza, a globe in 5 sections. What I noticed happening each day using symbols: question marks, hearts, stars. Frequency and size of these also matters. What do you notice?

Adding colour: from dark to light. Is this what FOS really means? I think some of you now know. Think of photo-synthesis, photo-graphy and you will get the real meaning of FOS ;) In Greek it is φως

Darkness everything around FOS?

The 5 sections, which day is which? My interpretation. How do you see it?


Not the end, not over. What do the spirals represent? Basically this image shows the FOS in 5 days and beyond. Would be good to have an interactive model… with colour movements as well. I can see it now in front of my eyes but would need some help to make this happen digitally.

Late addition (17 Aug): An important omission was observed by Ian Tindal which is now included in the below. Thank you Ian for making me reflect on this aspect of FOS.

Confession… I feel guilty as I just now (Sunday evening) managed to do what I said I would do in my last post about FOS and my experience. But perhaps this small time delay was useful to really filter out my interpretation of what happened last week.

Can’t wait to hear if others connect with my finger drawings (made on iPad using sketches, the free version, see here)  and what they mean to them.

Post also written on iPad and uploaded directly. Sleep well everybody ;)

FOS > let’s learn and play, challenge and be challenged #fos4l

It has been a while now since I added a blog post here. The last few months seemed to have zoomed by and I wish I had captured some of my thoughts here but I feel that it is too late… We are already in the middle of summer already and I am looking forward to jumping into the deep blue sea in a few weeks. But before I do this, we decided to offer a new professional development opportunity with my dear friend and colleague Sue Beckingham. We have been working for some years now very smoothly together remotely (I think it is because we give each other space, trust each other and have a common vision > we have found that we are on the same wavelength without even exchanging words) and we hope that many more collaborations will follow.


A clue… it will definitely be electric!!! image source:

This new initiative has been baptised FOS. If you are Greek or speak Greek you will immediately make the connection, if you are not and are now curious, you might want to find out what FOS as a word actually means beyond the acronym. There is always a Greek nearby… just reach out.

What I can say here is that FOS stands for flexible, open and social and we added the learning as it is all about learning but also living and working. A lot of blending is happening that requires a lot of flexibility and elasticity to maximise on opportunities for learning and teaching in higher education. This is the area we focus on as it is the area we focus on. FOS is an openly licensed course build on existing OER courses (FDOL and BYOD4L) that have their roots in an MSc dissertation around the use of PBL in an open professional development initiative (BOE programme at Edinburgh Napier) when I started experimenting with pedagogical ideas and explored open and connected professional development of teachers in higher education.

Sue and I have taken bits from both courses but also what we have learnt from the #LTHEchat initiative and created FOS that for me personally represents the next step of experimentation, a more playful approach to enquiry-based learning, using FISh (Nerantzi & Uhlin), the 5C Framework (Nerantzi & Beckingham) combined with new elements that I suspect will lead us to new discoveries. We have of course no idea how it will go… perhaps we have been too ambitious or over-engineered it… so to speak. I guess, we will find out soon!

The plan is to reflect on this experience over the coming week in a visual way, using drawing, photos and a mix of things as I currently seem to be better as expressing myself visually. I will share my thoughts here hoping that they will make sense to others and will become triggers for further exploration and conversation. Who knows…

A massive thank you to my serial partner in crime Sue Beckingham, our supportive facilitators: Neil Withnell,  Stephen Powell, Mike Nicholson, Stathis Konstantinidis, Deb Baff and Candace Nolan-Grant; Ellie Livermore who created the beautiful stop motion films and voice overs together with Sam Illingworth but also Whitney Kilgore for reviewing FOS and her constructive feedback which helped us make some final changes and corrections. A big thank you also goes to all previous collaborators.There have been many.

I am excited about this coming week and am looking forward to sharing it with those who decide to join us on this journey.


ps. FOS starts on Monday the 13th of July;) Join the community space at and let the fun begin. Who says learning shouldn’t be fun??? Lets learn and play, challenge and be challenged

fresh-baked thoughts about my recent #LINQ2015 experience

It was definitely a very fruitful, or should I say chocolaty, experience. When boarding the plane from Manchester to Brussels, I didn’t know what to expect except the weather,if the forecast was right: sunshine, It was my very first LINQ conference.

In a country and city I had never been before and where my language skills really let me down… this was so  frustrating,,, not being able to use the Internet to navigate through Brussels was an experience in itself and really proved how much we rely on digital technology. It did feel strange not to be able to use Google all the time and find my way through the city. Maybe especially because of my lack of French…. but I managed in the end.

It was lovely to be among colleagues from around Europe. Greece was represented very generously, I have to say. The theme of the conference seemed to echo the OER15 conference earlier this year and the main question open as default was challenged. I had the opportunity to find out about a number of really interesting mainly funded projects in different education sectors. The keynotes really framed the conference. It was great to hear Bono Richter from the European Commission to express his support for grassroots innovation in the area of open education. But he did remind us that open education is not really new. Sharing of ideas, resources and practices always happens among teachers. Bono expressed a difficulty the Commission is facing to develop teachers skills and competencies across Europe. He asked us: “How do we ensure our teachers know how to teach?” A bit earlier Prof. Alexander Khoroshilov from UNESCO highlighted also the importance of developing teachers and develop sustainable solutions for professional development. What are the possibilities and how does the knowledge society fit in with this but also the right of every citizen of our world for primary, secondary and further education (is higher education included in this? I am not sure and didn’t ask the question?..) Alexander and others really highlighted the important role of the teacher in education more generally but also open education. But not a teacher we used to know. This put a smile on my face and links nicely with my thoughts and practice. Our new Open Facilitator Project, an informal collaboration among MMU, the open Knowledge Foundation and Carol Yeager will hopefully shed some light around this and the very first collection of open facilitator stories as well.

Grainne Conole’s keynote was interesting as it brought out some of the dangers. Too often we seem to place ourselves in a soft bubble where everything is lovely, sweet and caring… but what happens when this bursts? Nasty things can and do happen… And we feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and hopeless. Some won’t have the strength to pick themselves up again… but how often can you pick yourself up again, before you had enough? So what is the answer? Grainne mentioned that technologies are pervasive and the book Information Bomb by Paul Virilio  mentioned around this sounded really interesting and I am looking forward to reading it.

Prof. Alan Bruce’s talk linked nicely with parts of Grainne’s keynote as well as Alexander’s. Alan approached it from an inclusivity angle and alarmed us that the imbalance is actually increasing and that we live in denial. Is open education exclusive? We talk about shared prosperity – but is this a reality for all? Others have written about it too. Prof. Andy Lane’s work springs to mind.

Project and enquiry-based learning featured strongly as pedagogical approached used on a number of projects, mainly from the school sector. as well as the need to collaborate among institutions was highlighted in a number of projects across Europe.

The Inspiring Science Education is an ambitious and .very useful project with partners across Europe that connects STEM school teachers, enables them to share resources and connect with other teachers in communities based on their interest and needs. There seems to be an emphasis on creating and sharing learning scenarios and learning through enquiry and problems. examples from Romania, Belgium and Greece were shared. One of the speakers said characteristically: “today is about collaborative problem-solving“. What a fantastic idea. How can we make this happen for HE? I am wondering if JORUM would be open to develop community features and explore if this would or could increase the use of the repository, sharing, development and collaboration among practitioners in HE and more widely.

The CAMEI project presented by Dr Stathis Konstantinidis from Nottingham University  in the area of medical education is producing useful findings and frameworks that can be taken further by other practitioners in medical education but also more widely. I am looking forward to discussing opportunities for collaboration with Dr Stathis Konstantinidis in the near future but also with Dr Nicos Fachantidis from the University of Macedonia who has an interest in playful learning among other things and the three of us had really good discussions (in Greek) during the conference.

Dr Yves Punie’ talk on the second day was really useful too as it provided an up-to-date insight into the research the Commission is currently doing in the area of open education, Preliminary findings from a survey shared with universities across Europe about open education showed some interesting results. The replies around why open, were left me wondering… Universities seem to engage in open primarily to extend reach (marketing tool?) and do public good (which is great). For universities across Europe at appears to be less about reducing costs. What I missed completely was the desire by universities to connect learners and teachers to learn collaboratively within and across wider and more distributed communities that have the potential to enrich learning experiences. Isn’t this one of the great advantages of open education?

A mini conversation I had with Grainne and Yves about formal, informal and non-formal learning was also useful and I think it did help me understand the difference between informal and non-formal learning which I had found confusing. I think it makes sense now ;) Must check with my dear Sue.

Looking forward to keeping in touch with colleagues I met at LINQ2015 and see were this journey will take us.

3 + 1 #OER15 useful reminders in pics

1. Think first! What is appropriate? Image source

2. We all have something to offer! Give something back. image source

3. We are a resource. Image source:

+ 1: Room for all! What can we learn from each other? image source

Special thank you to Cable, Josie, Sheila and Martin for their keynotes! Access also Martin’s blog post here where you will find a playlist to all keynote videos. Thank you also to Simon for organising together the social programme…. and my brand new stylus ;) Looking forward to working closer with Marieke and the open facilitator stories project and keeping in touch with old and new friends.

#OER15 really valuable experience overall in so many ways.

Exploring the Issue of Play, open invite to contribute to the next CAM issue @academiccreator

Play in higher education? Seriously?

Often we are reminded that universities are not playgrounds and that play is childish and inappropriate… Isn’t research a playful experimentation with ideas, concepts and situations, recognised as an essential activity that drives innovation, while play in a learning and teaching context at this level is often still interpreted as undesirable especially within higher education? In the next issue of the openly-licensed Creative Academic Magazine, we will explore the importance of play in higher education to create critical and creative thinkers and doers who have the curiosity, capacity and the vision to make the impossible possible.  There will be a potpourri of contributions and perspectives shared through practitioners and students eyes and minds that offer a valuable insight into the opportunities creative play presents for learning and teaching, students and their tutors. We are looking for articles that are written in a vibrant and accessible language, ideally around 500 – 1500 words max. Media-rich resources are also very welcome as this is a digital edition. Contributors will be asked to submit a doodle of themselves together with a short, 50 word bio, written in a creative way.

All voices are welcome!!!

If you would like to contribute to our survey around play in HE, please click here. Please share this invite with others who might also be interested. The deadline to submit an article is the 1st of May. Chrissi Nerantzi and Dr Alison James