Getting ready for #OEGlobal

logo-gogn-blue2-e14393890788191In 2015 I was made aware of the Global OER Graduate Network by Dr Bea de los Arcos and decided to join. As a PhD student, I often feel lonely, I am sure others do too, so becoming part of a network that would help me feel more connected with other PhD students and their projects around open education can only be a big big bonus.

After a few months of joining the network, I received an email about the possibility to share my research at the Global Open Education Conference in Kraków in April 2016 as part of the Global OER Network. I applied for a funded place and after a few weeks I found out that it had been accepted. This was very exciting and a great opportunity to share my work and get some feedback on my research-in-progress.

I started my self-funded PhD in January 2013 at Edinburgh Napier University and am now in my 4th year. I went through ups and many downs, so far and am sure more will follow. Working full-time, being passionate about my job and leading a professional life with many open-ended projects and internal and external commitments, having a family and doing a part-time PhD at the same time is an explosive mix. Juggling priorities is hard. Now in my fourth year, I feel that I am finally making some progress. Draft Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4 have all been approved as such by my two supervisors, Dr Sandra Cairncross and Prof. Keith Smyth. I have also written a draft abstract, a prologue and my growing acknowledgements section. I have even made a tiny start with Chapter 7… the conclusions and am adding ideas for further research… If I look back, I can say, that I am today in a much better place than I was a year ago… there is however still a lot to do…

All fieldwork has been completed and I am currently in the data analysis stage. I thought writing Chapter 3: Methods and Data, was hard but actually applying it is even harder. Learning being a phenomenographer while actually doing it is extremely challenging. But who said this would be easy?

During the conference, I plan to share some details about my research, the context I am working in as well as some preliminary findings linked to one of the themes that is emerging through the data captured in 100,999 words of transcripts from 22 phenomenographic interviews. The theme I will share is Cross-Boundaries. In case you are wondering, the context of my research is open academic development, which is organised through informal cross institutional collaboration. I am looking at how open learning is experienced in two particular cases with a focus on collaborative learning.

I hope delegates will be able to relate to my project and ask questions. As there will be many other PhD students there, I can’t wait to find out more about their projects, their dilemmas and discoveries as some of them might also be relevant for my project. Going to a conference, I think,is less about our work, and more about how we can connect with others and their work that will trigger dialogue and debate and move our understanding forward and possibly into new directions. This is what excites me most!

Some of you might wonder what my research is about… and perhaps I should have started this post explaining… apologies. I have created a page, where I provide an overview of my research together with related dissemination activities so far. Also, occasionally I blog about different stages and my reflections can also be accessed through this blog, sometimes using doodles to visualise my thinking. I also keep a, currently private, reflective diary of the phenomenographic analysis I am working on at the moment, which I plan to include as an appendix to my thesis. My data is linked to two open cross-institutional courses FDOL132 and #creativeHE which followed my professional journey from the University of Salford to Manchester Metropolitan University. The thesis will be made available under a Creative Commons licence together with the collaborative learning framework for open cross-institutional academic development, I plan to develop.


image source here

In a few days, I will be packing my suitcase for Kraków. My contribution is sort of ready for the pre-conference event and the main conference. I am sure there will be a few more tweaks. I really look forward to the week ahead and am very excited about meeting other fellow PhD students and experienced open researchers and finding out about their projects and the innovative work that is done globally around open education.

I am grateful and thankful to the Global OER Graduate Network for funding this trip.

See you there 😉

Keep going… moving to Chapter 1 and remaining data collection

Keep going… Keith reminds me of this regularly and  he is right. I need to keep going!!!

Almost three years now since I started this part-time PhD in January 2013 and it has been a very bumpy ride so far (… I don’t think I am a unique case though…). I think I am going through a smoother stretch at the moment (don’t think it will last…) and feel that I am actually making some progress. This fuels my batteries with fresh energy and the desire to keep working on this.

After recently submitting Chapter 3, the scariest of them all so far, to my supervisors, I started putting the puzzle pieces for Chapter 1 together. I know it looks more like Easter eggs, in the sketch below…

Sandra commented on one of my earlier doodles linked to Chapter 2 that was black with sharp edges that it did capture my frustration. She was of course right. I think this chapter progressed much smoother (so far…) despite its challenges and maybe therefore the sketch is much smoother…  but I didn’t think about this when I created it. Again, I decided to share the very first drafts with critical readers and I would like to thank Peter, Charles and Stephen for their critical questions.

I understand that Chapter 1 which is my introduction is something that should perhaps be done much later, but I think there is still value to create the backbone of this. It helps me make these broader links across the thesis and I have found it useful for this reason.

In parallel, over the last eight weeks, the open course #creativeHE was running and I am collecting data at the moment as I am using this as case 2 for my PhD research. Just a few more interviews to do and I will finally have all my data. All secondary survey data from both cases has been collected already and I will start looking at these and adding some related information to the relevant cases as well. I am thinking to include case specific data in the related appendices but bring all data together from both cases, similar as I will be doing for the interview data. Is this correct? I will ask my supervisors this question when I speak with them in December.
I will need to code the whole lot of transcribed text from all interviews! I estimate that I will have around or over 80,000 words of data from the interviews… same length as the thesis will be in the end. In order to get a feel of this data Everest, I plan to print all checked transcripts and read these as a manuscript, a story, a story in stories.

I will be back for further updates here about Chapter 1 and will add my reflections about the interviews together with survey data to a separate post and link back to Chapter 3.


I have questions around a Glossary of terms and where I should position this but also a more personal bit, my story and the connection to this research. Will these go into appendices?

If you are reading this and have any useful tips regarding Chapter 1, what to do and what to avoid, I would love to hear from you. 


Do you have a wide open mind? Join us! #creativeHE

While I am in the process of marking portfolios of our very first Creativity for Learning cohort, at the same time, I am getting ready for our second group from MMU starting at the end of September! Both activities fill me with excitement. Seeing colleagues growing as creative practitioners and sharing part of their journey is extremely rewarding, but also seeing what we have achieved together is fascinating.  I am confident that colleagues will continue on this creative path and make new and exciting discoveries along the way. Already a few colleagues from this cohort submitted a research proposal linked to learning and teaching. This secured funding very recently. I can’t stop smiling and am extremely proud of them. Our album from cohort 1 bring my memories alive.

This time round, Dr Nikos Fachantidis, Assistant Professor, from the University of Macedonia will be joining us remotely with a group of postgraduate students studying towards an MA in Lifelong Learning. Prof. Norman Jackson, from Lifewide Education and Creative Academic, as well as Sandra Sinfield from London Metropolitan University with a group of academics from her institution will also be with us on this journey. So there will be students learning with academics and I am really looking forward to this. We have opened-up an existing module and are now better organised than last time. Online participation of this blended course will hopefully be seen as meaningful and valuable for colleagues from MMU and further afield.

We extended the invite to the SEDA, ALT and NTF communities and hopefully I will be able to find at least one group of academics from another institution who would also like to join us and learn with us about how we can become more adventurous in our learning and teaching in higher education. This group could be working towards a qualification or course locally or use CreativeHE as an informal CPD activity that would be developmental and could be used when preparing for Professional Recognition.

FISh (Nerantzi & Uhlin, 2012) image created by Ellie Livermore, Image source here 

The plan for CreativeHE is to create extended and enriched opportunities for academics and students to interact and learn together collaboratively using the course site at p2pu but more importantly through discussions and collaborations within Google community we have set-up using the 5C Framework (Nerantzi & Beckingham, 2014, 2015) and FISh (Nerantzi & Uhlin, 2012). We would like participants to bring their own stories and experiences and share ideas so that we can all support each other and develop as a collective.

This second iteration of creativeHE will become my second case study as part of my PhD research and I am really looking forward to the next few months. Collecting data and gaining an insight into the experience from the learner’s perspective. Hopefully, there will be colleagues interested in my study and willing to participate. As this is a registration-free course for open learners, I have created a mini survey to identify #creativeHE participants who are teaching or supporting students in higher education who would like to find out more about my project and possibly participate. There is of course, no obligation to do so.

Please share this invite with colleagues who might be interested in joining. All are welcome to participate and work towards open badges. Please note, if you want to study towards credits and are not from Manchester Metropolitan University, there will be a cost attached to this. If you have any questions, please let me know, ok?

We start on the 28 September. The online facilitated part of the course will be offered over 8 weeks. Our very last day is the 20 November.

Access to join our community and find out more.

Don’t bin your ideas! Share them and see them grow!!! image source



Nerantzi, C. and Beckingham, S. (2015) BYOD4L: Learning to use own smart devices for learning and teaching through the 5C framework, in Middleton, A. (ed.) (2015): Smart learning: teaching and learning with smartphones and tablets in post-compulsory education, pp. 108-126, Sheffield: MELSIG publication, available here

Nerantzi, C. and Beckingham, S. (2014) BYOD4L – Our Magical Open Box to Enhance Individuals’ Learning Ecologies, in:  Jackson, N. & Willis, J. (eds.) Lifewide Learning and Education in Universities and Colleges E-Book, available at – invited chapter

Nerantzi, C. & Uhlin, L. (2012) FISh, original illustration, available at / FISh description available at

Putting my roller skates on… #phdchat

My summer has been fruitful in the end and reflecting on the rework of Chapter 2 and capturing the process here has been extremely valuable. So I decided to do the same for Chapter 3.

It feels scary as this chapter is probably the one that fills me with fear, with horror…  but it is not going to stop me. The scissors are out and I have my roller skates on. I will do this. I have to. Again, have written too much. The first draft is just too long, too descriptive with bits that are not needed… The appendices are filling up. A lot of stuff seems to be moved in there… not a bad thing, of course, I am learning. Learning to be more precise and that less is actually more. Easier to say than do, of course.

I will again attempt to capture the re-work of Chapter 3: Methods and Data in a visual way and will be updating this post until I am happy with the next version. My dear colleagues Leslie Robinson and Peter Gossman offered to read sections of it. I am very very grateful for all their help. I will probably reach out again to identify more readers. If this could be you, please let me know, ok?

I will be back soon, with my fist update. This was just a short intro.

Ok,I made a start…  Yesterday. It is definitely not going to be easy… but I think I am starting from the easy part, which is interesting behaviour… I guess I feel more confident in cutting the big bits out… the bits linked to the pilot and the case studies. While cutting, I also decided to start adding about my second case study and I will do this directly into the appendix… It will be useful for me personally, even if not significant for the thesis…

The Methods Chapter… Can this help? – it didn’t, so I started looking elsewhere… I seem to avoid looking at a completed PhD… maybe I fear that I will just copy how somebody else has done it, on the other hand I do need to do it properly…

I understand that this Chapter should not be that extensive (it needs to be short(er), I should say) and that it is best to stick to the standard format… but what is the standard format? What I did find interesting is that in some theoretical PhDs this section is absent… Mmm… how nice would that be? But then again, I don’t think I would ever be able to do a theoretical PhD…

I have been working on the Methods section > this is how I call it at the moment and I am talking in there about the collective case study approach (not the case study methodology) I am using to collect data. While writing this I am wondering if the stuff about case studies and my cases should be in the Data collection section??? HELP!!!

26 September: Today has been a super long day, and I can’t even remember how many hours I have been writing and struggling. It was early morning when I started… I wish I could say that I am happy with what I have achieved… I reached a dead end and need somebody to read what I have written. I have so many questions which do distract me from seeing the connections, the vital connections I need to make in this chapter. I think organising the stuff is my biggest challenge at the moment as I don’t feel confident enough to decide what goes where and go ahead. Obviously the existing organisation doesn’t work but what would? Maybe I am just tired and my brain stopped working.

Despite today’s challenges while also not really looking forward to tomorrow and my plan, I have actually observed a shift in my approach.  Many have told me about tables. Tables here, there and everywhere but they do make sense and while writing and editing, I have found opportunities to turn basic text into something more visual. It makes it easier to read and see the connections.

27 September: This is were I am now…

10 October: I struggled to come back and capture my progress as I felt lost. This is why the massive break and silence… on the blog at least… Through the messiness the following emerged with captures my methodology and data collection strategy but also links the cases which have troubled me a lot to understand how to explain these as I am not using them as method or methodology but as a strategy to collect data. No idea of course what and how many categories will emerge through the data but these will help me shape the outcome space and then my framework. As you can see, I, the researcher sits outside and the researched is all that matters. Will there be four, or five or even less? I understand that there wouldn’t be many… apparently.

!2 October: I spent the last four days reworking Chapter 3. It was painful and this is reflected in the above visualisations but also the longer absense from this post as mention on the 10th. The colours and stylistically different approaches, I had used so far show my confusion and the disconnect, if that makes sense. There was no common thread as I couldn’t see how I would ever be able to re-bundle this stuff. But today, I have to admit, that I feel a mini sense of achievement, finally. I have a basic structure for this chapter and some meat… also still too much fat… yes, my supervisors will probably still recommend radical editing. But that is ok. I have now reached a stage were I need some feedback on all five sections and have found some colleagues who kindly offered to help with reading some of these.

There is some harmony in the above picture and this is how I feel right now. Can’t wait to get some first feedback and continue working on the five sections.

17 October: I have been working on the thesis again today and also created the second version of the visualisation of my research design. This us below. The majority of sections of Chapter 3 have been read by at least one colleague and I have taken their comments on board. I am feeling so much better, I gave to admit. Next week I will be giving the whole chapter to a dear colleague from Salford and I can’t wait to find out what she thinks.

1 November

I have a revisited draft of Chapter 3 ready. Its sections have been read by my colleagues Bernard Lisewski, Dr. Charles Neam, Dr Stephen Powell and Dr Peter Gossman. All helped me refine my work further and be much more precise. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I knew I would struggle the most with this one but I think my understanding about the methodology, the methods and the analysis is developing and I am seeing the links clearer now. The use of the 2 cases has complicated things in my mind, but I think I am getting there. Dr Leslie Robinson has the whole chapter at the moment and looking at it holistically. I can’t wait for her comments.I think the chapter is probably still too long… and bits will be moved into the appendices…

This morning I noticed the following in my Twitter stream… very useful advice indeed

My next steps are to start looking at a phenomenographic analysis, how the categories of description are formed properly. I am really looking forward to carrying out the remaining interviews, hopefully all before Christmas and getting all my data together. I will definitely print out all the transcript and make a little booklet out of them reading again and again so that I can start seeing themes. Hopefully these will emerge…

I am also looking at Chapter 1 and what I would need for this one. My plan is when I submit Chapter 3 to my supervisors before the end of November to have also made good progress with Chapter 1 and share this with them after I have received feedback from them linked to Chapter 3.

I feel that I am moving. Doing tiny steps, but I am moving.

… I have been quiet here… not recording any of my activities and progress I have made… but I have made progress…

28 November

I have now completed the next version of the draft of this chapter and submitted to my supervisors. Again, I have found it extremely valuable to get feedback on sections and I am grateful for colleagues who helped me with this. It has made a real difference and is stretching me but also the process helps me become more precise. I am now looking forward to speaking with Sandra and Keith in December and finding out what they think about this version of Chapter 3.

Thank you all. I will keep going… as Keith keeps telling me.

ps. This was the scariest chapter so far… 


While winter is starting, I feel that I experience a tiny bit of spring and there is now a bit more hope that I will be able to do this. Is some of the darkness disappearing? image source here


Let’s open-up! Thoughts after a recent HEA seminar

It is already Sunday. I can’t believe this. Where did the week go? I started writing the below when travelling on the train to London this week and was planning to have the draft ready then but I felt so dizzy in the train that I had to abandon my plan… unfortunately. So this remained unfinished for some days… I will try now and stitch my thoughts together. Hopefully it will work. Ok, let’s make a start.

This week I went to the HEA and participated in a seminar around open educational practices. As I am currently engaged in research linked to this area as a PhD student at Edinburgh Napier University and am developing open CPD initiatives in the context of Academic Development, I felt that this was an important event to be part of. I was right.

Prof. Grainne Connole made me think about the importance of the learning design (reminder for self: need to read Grainne’s 7c learning design in more detail!!!), something I feel is vital to make it work, and the determining effect and impact this has on the practice itself but also the facilitator and learner experience and learning. If we want Learners to be engaged in meaningful ways, we need to be creative and focus on the learner. This applies for face-to-face settings, blended or fully online, closed or open provision. While I am writing this, my mind wanders again to the thought that no learning is fully online. But let’s go back to my question. How can we engage all learners in a meaningful way when we bring the masses or even the world together in one enormous chaotic classroom? Can learning happen in vast networks and decentralised and distributed communities?  I have used the term ‘communities’ here without even thinking about it. Suddenly the term ‘classroom’ was gone from my vocabulary. I think learning can happen out there, learning happens everywhere and all the time. However, as we are all different, different things work for different people. I have heard and read often that open education will engage the unengaged. Does it at the moment? Evidence seems to say that it is not the case. We might have seen new sections of the global population starting to participate in open educational offers and for many it will be the only offer there is, but it is not an accessible way of learning for many who are perhaps less experienced, confident and competent in such learning ecologies. After the MOOC hype,it becomes clear that we are now recognising the role human support and human interaction play for participation and learning. How could we have forgotten? How could we had assumed that machines would be able to replace vital ingredients of human interaction? Did we get carried away with making educators superstars in the global classroom? Turning the classroom into a world stage? We’re we blinded by the numbers? Is learning and teaching a popularity contest? Why are we teaching? I thought at the heart of learning is the learner…

It is encouraging that even the NMC Horizon Report for Higher Education 2014, actually focuses more on pedagogies instead of the tools. Grainne pointed this out and I should read the report in more detail. This is definitely a shift and signalises the need to focus more on identifying innovative ways for learning instead of replicating boring, bad and bold pedagogies. Grainne reminded us that the web is just coming out of its teenage years and social media is only turning 10. What does that mean for us? Rebellious years ahead? I think the only certain thing is that things will change and they change faster and faster. This makes it harder to keep up and makes lifelong and lifewide learning essential not just to survive but also to thrive and innovate.

All speakers talked about MOOCs and generally other open creations and open educational resources. Are MOOCs just OERs? And we know that these are under-used anyway? The world of resources is exploding. We are drowning in resources and content. Why do we keep producing more? Is this linked to our human desire of creating stuff? I am wondering. We do love making stuff and David Gauntlett has written extensive about this and I am grateful to Frances Bell who introduced me to his work during a train journey a few years ago. We do learn through making as he said. But if this is the case who is really learning more when we teachers make the stuff for our students? What needs to happen so that we focus our desire to make stuff on creating activities and spaces that foster interaction, exchange and learning? Should students make stuff instead? What about making stuff with our students?

Various acronyms came up and others were coined in the room. Not sure if it is important how we call something… shouldn’t we focus more on what it is and what we are trying to achieve? Why do we do the things we do in the way we do them? Could it be that many are on the MOOC avenue, as they want to be left behind but perhaps don’t know where they are leading or what they want to achieve? The conversation about open educational practices still seems to be an add-on. I am more interested in how we can open-up existing provision to connect learners and teachers worldwide and enrich their experience and help them grow into more open-minded individuals. Are there opportunities to join up courses? The EU calls for greater openness in the Modernisation of Higher Education to connect students, teachers and programmes more widely to enrich their learning experience and broaden their perspectives about the world but also make them reflect on the nature of collaboration and the potentials it brings within a connected world.

Prof. Alejandro Armellini was provocative and made us think about the physical campus and how this will be changing. He said

“We keep building impressive buildings but the campus of the future will be smaller!”

This is a good opportunity for all of us to reflect and capture how we feel about the above. Feel free to add your comments to this post so that we can have a conversation about this.

Alejandro, or short Ale 😉 also talked about Northampton’s baby steps in the area of open educational practices but also the need to open up more and connect with others – to collaborate! Prof. Neil Morris also emphasised on collaboration and actually suggested that all funded HEA bits for example should be collaborative ones. I really liked that idea as it would really bring institutions closer together and identify jointly opportunities for collaboration and   innovation instead of competition!!! Ale, noted that it will be hard to convince academics to be more open and consider open practices, he said, but evidence of its value, will be the driving force for change. “Academics want to see evidence” he said, but also that “we need talk to people and start from where they are“. As we all experiment with open, we should really evaluate and investigate our initiatives, even if they are mini. We need to learn more about the open learner and their experience but also open organisers and facilitators. My interest lies within collaborative open learning and how we can enable this in cross-institutional contexts. When we talk about open educational practice, it is usually a brand new flashy course (we heard numbers in the region of £30,000 to produce one of these), something that is de-touched form the normal institutional offer while I feel the potential is there to open-up all courses and connect our learners to other learners, professionals and global communities. I think if the open offer becomes part of what we do as institutions, there will be room to explore additional business models. Universities are in the business to advance knowledge and to innovate. Isn’t opening up our courses to enrich the experience of our students a good enough business model? I don’t like the phase I used here ‘good enough’ but struggle to express what I mean. Perhaps valid, valuable? Do you understand what I mean?

Too often staff are unsure if they are aloud to do things! I really liked Neil’s idea of giving academics the freedom to explore and experiment. Constructing and imposing no-no policies won’t work and definitely stifle creativity and innovation. Let them play, let them experiment and build a vision together. If there is buy in at all levels and we all work together great things can happen and they did happen at Leeds, according to Neil. There was a shared vision and this helped to put all puzzle pieces together and start creating a more open future together.

I could continue writing here as this event triggered a lot of thinking into so many different directions but I will make a pause here hoping that some will respond and we can turn this into a conversation. Just would like to add the following quote shared by Ale which makes a lot of sense to me…

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

messy thoughts by a rhizome #rhizo14

man made systems: standardisation? conformity? exclusion?

I was excited when I first saw Dave Cormier‘s #rhizo14 creation and decided to join. As a rhizome myself, I have been extremely weak to establish visible connections so far. There are many reasons for this and my simple excuse (I think it is more a reality, my reality)  is that I have been very busy. We all are busy, I know and we do manage to make time for what matters. For me what matters was and still is to think about the concept of rhizomatic learning and what that means to me personally and professionally. A lot of my engagement has happened in my microcosmos, my mind and my heart while also reading snippets of conversations and trying to digest some of these. I have struggled to follow and read all the postings and while joining #rhizo14 in p2pu I have actually not accessed this space again after first joining and making one or two postings. In FB, I saw some people I know and I think this helped me to create some hooks despite the fact that I didn’t really have any conversations with them. But just knowing that there were there felt perhaps somehow comforting? Somehow it helped. Rhizomes, I understand don’t grow roots? But how can I grow without them? Am I a ‘victim’ of my own history?

I am involved in a few open learning projects (see for example FDOL, BYOD4L) and am doing a PhD. “Doing a PhD” sounds like an easy thing but I have found this highly complex, frustrating at times, and rhizomatic in nature, so very very messy.  This morning, I decided to write a little something about how I currently interpret rhizomatic learning. I still want to make links to connectivist learning (Siemens) and the open context model of learning (Garnett) and other approaches which I probably have forgotten at the moment. Writing this little piece has been useful for me as I am also writing currently with Sue Beckingham about the concept behind ‘our magical open box’, a term I put together and emerged through a Facebook conversation with Fred Garnett. I avoid the term ‘understanding’ as I am not sure what the term ‘understanding’ means and entails. It is too fluffy!!! Also, I see this as a journey of discovery and re-discovery and hopefully some will read the below and help me make new discoveries and refine, challenge and change my perspective?

Ok, here are my first draft thoughts as a rhizome around rhizomatic learning.

Dave Cormier (2008) sees the “community as curriculum” a non-expert driven pedagogical model and has written extensively about the idea of rhizomatic learning, a philosophical concept  introduced by Deleuze & Guatarri (1987). When Cormier refers to rhizomatic learning he describes it as a messy and dynamic, organic and elastic being where the coupling and decoupling of connections, the marrying and divorcing of people, ideas, communities and networks happen all the time in a myriad ways. Are rhizomes nomads? Loners? For Cormier, there are unlimited entry and exit points. Individuals join in, appear and disappear or make themselves visible and invisible when they want to. Rhizomatic learning is dynamic and changes all the time and over time. There is no one, right or wrong direction. There are unlimited directions and pathways, cross roads and roundabouts. Rhizomes create their own journeys and at times follow others driven by their own internal compass. They also get lost and feel lost. There are no experts or authorities and individual and collective knowledge emerges through the rhizomes, through the individuals and the links they make. Siemens (2006, vi) notes “All knowledge is Information, but NOT all Information is Knowledge”. How does this relate to Cormier’s (2008) observation that knowledge is something  that emerges from within a community? Is it a community when we refer to rhizomatic learning or more of a nomadic ecosystem? How is information turned into knowledge within such a system? The links or connections themselves seem to be ephemeral, stronger and other times weaker, often they break off and start fresh elsewhere. Is this free-range learning? The rhizomatic learning ecosystem itself resembles perhaps more a cosmos with an unlimited set of visible, semi-visible or invisible to all amalgamated decentralised cultures, communities, networks, satellites and chaotic ecologies – or is it chaos and what does it mean for learning? Siemens (2006, viii) claims “structure is created by a select few and imposed on the many”. If, we rhizomes resist organisational structures, as Deleuze & Guatarri (1987) claim and we want to be in charge of our own learning, should we (rhizomes as learning-teachers, learning-facilitators or just lifewide rhizomatic learners) spend more time thinking about how we can enable this instead of focusing enormous energies in creating complex and complicated spaces and systems that hinder this?


Cormier, Dave (2008) Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum, Innovate: Journal of Online Education, V 4 No 5, Jun-Jul 2008, available at

Deleuze, G. & Guatarri, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia.London: University of Minnesota Press.

Siemens, G. (2006) Knowing knowledge, George Siemens.

Risky not to take risks and other thoughts around inflexible flexibility #flexcpd

I really don’t know where to start. Have you ever wanted to share every single moment of an experience with somebody… with everybody, and when the moment comes to do this, you struggle? You loose your words? They disappear? This is how I feel right now. My fingers touch the keyboard but I am not sure if they (my fingers with the help of my brain – is this learning through (automated) writing?) will manage to capture something that makes sense, something that captures my thoughts, reflections, excitement and discoveries. Whatever I capture here, will be messy, this is part of reflection and I plan to revisit what I write here. I don’t have a problem with this. This is normal but while I write the word ‘normal’ I actually seem to develop a negative feeling about ‘normal’ – this is very odd! Anyway, let’s stick with normal for now, at least. The messiness will help me organise my thoughts over time, and with others (so hopefully somebody out there will respond) make sense of my experience and move forward – to learn, to unlearn and relearn. I am super excited!

Now I have written a whole paragraph without actually saying anything… am I mumbling?

My head is filled with good stuff, loads of it. My developer batteries are fully charged so to speak.  Ok, so what actually happened? What on earth did this woman do (me) to get so excited? Some of you might ask… You will not believe this! Some of you will find this very strange indeed and not normal at all.  BTW, not normal, seems to work well here. It would actually be interesting to get your reaction, any reaction when you find out what put me in this state of super-excitement. Ok, I better tell you now 😉 because otherwise you might just click away from this post and I will have missed this great opportunity to share my story with you and engage hopefully some of you in a conversation about my experience.

Well,  I went to the HEA today where I attended (don’t like this word at all, makes my presence immediately very passive), participated in an event lead by Prof. Danielle Tilbury and Dr Alex Ryan around Flexible Pedagogies (the report was published today so feel free to access here). Yes, Alex and Danielle and their work, of course, are responsible for my current state of mind. I guess, I am also to blame as I have allowed this to happen. It was fascinating. I am unable to tackle the experience in a linear way, as my brain works better in pictures. To organise my thoughts, I look now into my notebook. I also did this on my way back (no, I wasn’t driving if anybody is wondering). Usually my notes don’t make much sense when I read them again, but I really could engage with these and they lid up parts of my brain and further connections were made between York and Glossop.

Where next?

I felt like a little Christmas tree. A lonely tree in the middle of a big and dark forest.  Another metaphor is popping into my head now… was I also Red Riding Hood. This is actually how I often feel. This is I think how creative people feel… often… too often. Red Riding Hoods (yes, plural, there are loads of them out there, I have seen many!) take risks, are not afraid to explore new paths. To make new discoveries.  But also mistakes. Curiosity is a good thing! The wolves (yes, plural also) are out there. Always nearby. What and who do they symbolise? Something we can think about. When I started writing this posts, I didn’t think about fairy tales, I didn’t think abut Red Riding Hood. Suddenly the story emerged, the fairy tale became real, was brought to life, and jumped out of the digital page I am typing and I find now that it actually links somehow in a metaphorical way with what I am attempting to say. The good thing is that fairy tales have good endings. I like that because the good will spread. For me it is not about winning. This is why I didn’t say ‘the good will win’. Perhaps winning over? Once upon a time, I used to be a translator, you see, and it is important to find the right words to be true to the original, to say the things we mean, to communicate a message properly and share how we feel, always respecting the original, the people. This is of course harder when using a foreign language… in my case English. Languages and cultures bring us together but they also separate us and are therefore exclusive. The same happens for other reasons, economical, social etc. We all have experienced exclusion, one way or the other. I don’t like this but it is not about what I like or dislike, but maybe it is. It is, I think, important to focus on the good for all, the wider community. And I would say that collaboration and open mindedness as well as flexibility are features we need larger portion of if we want to drive innovation. Isn’t this what universities are for? Am I getting anywhere yet?

Alex and Danielle talked about the need to focus on flexible pedagogies beyond just flexible learning (moving beyond pace, place and mode). And while they struggled a bit pronouncing the word ‘pedagogy’ it was not at all ‘all Greek’ to them! In the contrary! The researchers called for

  • learner empowerment (students as change agents – but also staff? We need educators who are change agents or educators as change agents, even better! Developers are frequently called change agents too)
  • decolonising of education
  • crossing boundaries
  • social learning
  • transformative capacities and
  • future facing education!

Wow!  How can we make all these things happen. Do we need to re-imagine higher education? Do we need to re-connect with our curiosity and drive for innovation? How do we support and reward innovators? And what about the risks? Alex and Danielle used the Socratic way to respond to a question about risks: “Anything outside the norm is risky. But can we afford not to take risks?” Can we afford to ignore the innovators? Can we continue pushing them to the periphery? Can we continue discourage experimentation? We all seem to agree that we do need some kind of framework to encourage creativity, adaptability and risk taking. In theory this all sounds fantastic and for me personally, I would love to see something like this implemented, yesterday, please. Is this possible? Institutions have responsibilities, they are the enablers. But also people within these institutions. Universities wouldn’t be anything without its people. But how can we change things from within and from outside? Academic development plays a vital role in this process. We Academic Developers push the boundaries and model innovative practices. Academic development is about quality enhancement and modelling disruptive innovation. Alex and Danielle agreed that Academic Development can have a transformative impact if we see and experience it as an open greenhouse for active experimentation, for research into our teaching practices, for collaborations beyond walled gardens. As Academic developers we work with people, ideas, concepts and pedagogies that influence and shape strategies and policies but also the people we work with. Alex and Danielle talked about the need to:

  • reframe academic relationships (students, teachers)
  • adapt a co-creation model of learning
  • focus on the application of knowledge in real-world scenarios
  • go beyond specialist expertise
  • use the virtual spaces that forster dialogic and collaborative learning and development
  • break down walls and open-up our practice
  • undestand global connections and embed diversity
  • develop the skills and behaviours to lead change and shape the future

We were reminded that “the technological mist is overshadowing pedagogical conversation” Experiences are fragmented and disconnected. What are the vital ingredients to deal with complexity and rapid changes, that will equip teachers and students for the uncertain future and put all the puzzle pieces together? What are the puzzle pieces? What do we really need?

#FDOL132 unit 3 or about individual & collective (in)flexibility @openfdol

Never standing still, always thinking

Can flexibility release inflexibility?

Can structure(s) get in the way? They do serve a purpose… but whose?

What about flexible structures? What makes a flexible structure flexible?

Do we need to remember that we are all different? Flexibility means different things to different people. How can we make it work?

Does the answer lie within us? How can we grow?

… what happened to the idea of free education for all?

Too Many Opportunities

making the impossible possible?

I thought the idea was to engage the unengaged in education? To provide opportunities for those that need it most? I thought it was about bringing people together and create new and exciting opportunities for exchange, learning, development, collaboration and experimentation?

Help is only a friend away.

finding each other

What happened to altruism? What happened to academic freedom? Are businesses taking over academia? Are we sold anachronistic ideas in new packages and are for some strange reason mesmerised by these?

I thought we agreed that transmission of information is kaputt. Doesn’t work! Dead! I thought we said it is not about content! We are drowning in stuff!

Social Media Information Overload

information overload?

What is blinding us and why? What are we afraid of?

Massive Container Freighter Ship MSC TOMOKO PANAMA in the Santa Barbara Channel  8400 TEU

all contained!

Is there too much noise about MOOCs? Are all MOOCs MOOCs? And why MOOCs? Is the MOOC acronym loosing its original meaning? Has it lost it already? I am wondering and am looking a bit closer at the individual concepts and letters this acronym stands for… and share some thoughts and questions here to enable perhaps a wider dialoge and debate.

Massive – yes, some of them have been as far as registrations is concerned. But even not so massive ones were quickly labeled as such. MOOCs became trendy! The ‘M’ I guess is quite handy… could also mean, mini, micro,  medium etc. But do we need the ‘M’ in MOOCs? From MOOC to OOC

Open – yes, some of them have been truly open, probably the first ones, the now called cMOOCs. These days we find MOOCs that are called open but are really half-open, or not that open at all. Open as in free to join? Open as in free to pay? And what about free to use, re-use and re-purpose? We seem to be moving away from open as in open educational practice. Small print and restrictions, provide providers, big money dreams? What do we really mean by the ‘O’ in MOOCs? Do we need this ‘O’? From OOC to OC

Online – yes, the offer is online but is learning happening only online? We still go to libraries, we still meet people, we still learn in the workplace and in practice. We learn in the physical world. Learning is a mix of individual and collective experiences in different places, spaces and times. So are we talking about blended? Do online courses present blended learning opportunities? And if this is the case, what about the second ‘O’ in MOOCs? Could this be scrapped also? From OC to C

Course – there seems to be a debate about this as well, in the context of MOOCs. Some claim that completion rates are irrelevant in the context of MOOCs because individuals pick certain aspects of a MOOC and their engagement is more targeted or focused at specific events and/or resources. I thought we were talking about courses? A course has certain characteristics. We start a course, we engage or not, in a course and we complete a course, or not. This is at least my understanding. … if we no longer talking about courses in the context of MOOCs and feel that completion rates are indeed irrelevant, why do we keep calling them courses? And if these creations are something else, do we need the ‘C’ in MOOCs? Does this need to be replaced too? From C to ?

So what is left? Not much from the orginal MOOC. Are we leading or experience already the signs of massive commercialisation of education? Massive business dreams?

What happened to open educational practices? What happened to bringing people together, learn together? Collaborate? Discover together? What happened to the idea of free education for all? I hope you will help me discuss this further and gain a deeper understanding of what we all experience.

#fdol131 unit 3 coming to an end @openfdol

THINK Together

together we are richer

Our first 2 weeks of PBL are over. Groups had the opportunity to work closer together using COOL FISh and explore one of the stories from our archive which were contributed by FDOL participants. Having authentic stories would contextualise learning and I could see that some groups also choose to get together and construct their story at the beginning of unit 3. My groups made a good start. I think the fact that they started working together in unit 2 was helpful and prepared them better for unit 3. I can sense that their experience became now more personal through the relationships they have started forming.

general observations about unit 3

  • Discussions in the FDOL community space did not happen
  • Webinar was well attended and the recording was accessed afterwards as well. Received really positive comments about the webinar.
  • We also noted limited activity in some of the groups and are thinking to merge further groups to enable more active participants to be part of an active PBL group. This did happen and we had 5 groups at the end of unit 3.
  • Some groups work really effectively together and I could see that the level of commitment and engagement was impressive. Group members supported each other really well, felt that they were learning and completed the task successfully.
  • My groups organised Google hangouts autonomously and they didn’t feel that they needed me there. A good sign that groups are maturing and are able to self-manage their activities. Wonderful. I am of course here if/when I am needed. I am kept up-to-date as I follow with great interest their group spaces where activities are captured and comment when needed or asked to.
  • There is a need to understand why some participants are still in-active and others who have been active have now disappeared. An invitation for reflection has been posted in my 2 groups and I hope that participants will use this opportunity to reflect on their unit 3 experience and share their thoughts with us.
  • Also thinking about the evaluation of FDOL and the interviews I would like to conduct. Putting some first questions together at the moment.
  • Would also like to suggest to my groups to write about their experience a reflective article for further dissemination and I hope they will be interested. They don’t know yet about this… but I guess they know now 😉

Invitation to reflect

As we complete our first PBL unit, it might be useful to briefly reflect on your experience working together during unit 3 and I am including here 3 questions to help you with this.

1. What did you enjoy most during unit 3?

2. What are the main difficulties you experienced during unit 3 and how did you overcome these?

3. How could your facilitator and group members help you enhance your experience during FDOL?