Looking back… #HEblogswap

Note, this post was first shared via Sue’s blog. It was also reblogged at GO-GN.

Thank you Santanu Vasant (@santanuvasant) for bringing #HEblogswap to life. It is a great way to share and connect experiences among practitioners.

Doing something in tandem with Sue Watling (@suewatling) came to my mind as soon as I received the information. Sue’s post can be found here. We first met at Lincoln University in 2012 during an HEA OER Change Academy project. Since then we both changed institutions. But we stayed in touch. We worked and work together in the open and are both PhD students. When Sue invited me to write about my PhD journey for this blog swap, I thought do I really want to reflect on the experience of the last 4.5 years at this moment in time? I just survived my viva last Friday. Everything was still very fresh in my mind… I decided to go ahead and am looking back not at the whole experience but specific only aspects of it.

Ok, how did it all start?
When I was an academic developer at the University of Sunderland, I started an MSc at Edinburgh Napier University in Blended and Online Education. My dissertation brought me to experiment with academic development initiatives that had a cross-institutional and collaborative dimension. I immersed myself into this study. The seeds for my doctoral study are in there and for the many open projects that followed. I was encouraged to consider a PhD by my personal tutor. That was then Dr Keith Smyth was leading the programme and who moved to a different institution and is now a Professor. The PhD I started was at a distance, part-time, self-funded, while working full-time and with a young family. Even before I started it was evident that it wouldn’t be a smooth ride. In fact it became a rollercoaster ride. There were ups and downs… Good times and bad times. I will focus only on a few aspects of the journey today.  

phd_journey3

How does your journey look like?

Closing my eyes and transporting my self back in time, the following fills my mind…

Loneliness
Community, or the lack of community, during the first years. I felt lonely and in the dark for a long time. I had no cohort, no peers to turn to. I was doing this study on my own and really felt it. It was hard, super hard. I missed the conversation with peers, other PhD students. People I could share my struggles with and my ideas. The lifeline came when I joined the Global OER Graduate Network for PhD students in open education from around the world. A project led by the Open Education Research Hub at the Open University in the UK. The network literally saved me and helped me grow and believe in what I was capable to do. The network has a face-to-face and online dimension and both are equally important. My own research has illustrated the importance of community in the context of professional learning. Find your network and if there isn’t one consider creating one. My colleague Penny Bentley did exactly that. She needed help with phenomenography, the methodology we both used in our study and decided to create a FB group, which has become a small but useful hub for phenomenographers, where we can support each other. So a sense of belonging was important to me and when I found my home as a PhD student, I started growing and gaining confidence in who I was and what I could achieve. 

Oh, no, what time is it?
There were time pressures from work, my studies and often I felt that I neglected my family. I felt guilty. Guilty for coming home switching on the laptop and working. Guilty for working during many many weekends and holidays. “Mummy will you get that PhD?” Is a question that my boys often asked. I needed to be disciplined, determined and stubborn, I guess, to keep going and bring this study to fruition. The discoveries I made during the study fascinated me, helped me to look beyond time. I did find time where there was none. In the end everything came together. It was an exhilarating process and I wanted to share my findings with others. I started sharing my work in progress with others through conferences and articles but also used my learning to develop open initiatives. Some might thing/say that these were distractions but in reality they helped me test some of my ideas and were invaluable for my development as a researcher and practitioner. I could do all this as my study was linked to my work. Some might not have this opportunity. 

Writing is super hard! 
It is one thing to do the research and another to write about it and articulate it so that it makes sense and is appropriate for a thesis. I am not an English native speaker, so conducting the whole research in English was not easy. However, I am not sure if it would be any easier in Greek or German, as my professional language is actually English. Whatever the language, academic writing does not come naturally to me. My background in teaching languages and translation literature, means that some of that more playful flavour was making its way into the thesis. What helped me was sharing early drafts with colleagues and friends. Even my husband read multiple versions… They could see much quicker what didn’t make sense, what needed to be explained better… Write everyday a little bit, set realistic targets so that you get a sense of achievement. Stick to the routine. Write, write and rewrite. We are all getting better at it through writing. I accepted criticism and learnt through this process. More recently, I have started helping other PhD students unofficially and I can see that I have grown and can help others. Something else, I did to get a break from academic writing… I started writing children’s stories again, especially near the end when I was preparing my thesis for submission.     

There were sunny times too
Some might get the impression that it was all a struggle… Yes, there were moments when I thoughts this is never going to happen. But I kept going. My supervisors kept saying “keep going”. I kept going. They were right, I got there in the end and much sooner than the supervisory team expected. And the feeling was amazing. You just need to get through the challenges and you will. A massive portion of determination and stubbornness is of course needed. And support! So so vital. Becoming a member of a  community really helped me and filled my batteries with determination and self-belief. I can do this and so can you. 

Viva o’clock
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I just had my viva on the 8th of September. There were many moments where I thought this day would never come. But it did. Today, I feel a real sense of achievement and can see that I have contributed a little something that can make a difference to my own practice and help others consider collaborative open learning in cross-institutional academic development settings through the cross-boundary framework I developed and released under a creative commons license and the specific new insights I have gained into collaborative open learning and the course characteristics that play a key role in shaping that experience. If you would like to read about my viva experience, the preparation I have done for it, check out https://chrissinerantzi.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/i-have-survived-big-friday-go_gn/ and related posts to the viva.

 

I hope some of these reflections on the journey will be useful for other PhD students, potential and current ones, especially those at the initial stages of their studies.

If you need help, remember to reach out! I think this is key!
Through the PhD journey you will discover who you are and who you are becoming.

I hope some of the above will be useful for you.

If you would like to get in touch with me, feel free to tweet me at @chrissinerantzi.

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#BYOD4L No. 3 looking back and ahead

It has been a fascinating week and such a rich experience working and learning with so many lovely individuals from different corners of the world but also our own garden.

The BYOD4L family, facilitators and mentors, was bigger than ever before. Nine institutions and two further collaborators from the US (Texas Educator Chat) and Germany (ICT-REV) joined us this time. These included all institutions from the previous iteration, July 14, and four further institutions from the UK (see the full team). The online inquiry-based, authentic activities scaffold using the 5C framework (connecting, communicating, curating, collaborating and creating), Nerantzi & Beckingham (2014), stretched over a number of social media platforms and there were opportunities to engage asynchronously throughout the day on Twitter, Google plus community, the Facebook community, but also synchronously via daily tweetchats (wow, what a buzz these generated!!!) and two hangouts (organised by Dr Sam Illingworth) and further creative activities such as the recipe project an idea brought to BYOD4L by Whitney Kilgore. In addition to the plethora of online planned and unplanned activities, participating institutions organised local events, extending engagement even further and linking global to local – is this what we call glocal?

Facilitators and mentors were busy bees during the week. For some it was their first time, others had been involved in similar activities before. We all saw ourselves as co-learners, supported learners but also each other and I observed the same camaraderie we found in previous iterations (Nerantzi et al., 2014).

A community of participants, facilitators and mentors emerged pretty quickly, if you think that byod4l only lasted five days. the team managed to make engagement personal and social at the same time and this is what, I think made a real difference. Interest in each other’s ideas, thoughts and reflections was demonstrated and communication had a warmth and caring tone. I am including a few links to blogs here: Ian Wilson (participant), Sheila MacNeill (facilitator), Deb Baff (participant).

It was wonderful that some participants from previous iterations came back for more and that there were many new faces as will. Engagement in the tweetchats was probably the climax of daily activities and brought probably the largest number of individuals together synchronously. We will be exploring why this is the case, what we can learn from these and what opportunities these might bring for other areas of professional development.

I personally, am particularly interested in inquiring into institutional participation, benefits and challenges to engage colleagues locally, in our own institutions. Sue and I developed the scaleable framework for cross-institutional collaboration and it is now time to find out how it has worked in practice and were it could take us. We are in the process to establish a working group and identify ways that will help us gain a deeper insight into what happened in our institutions and what we can learn from this.

Further research activities will involve the tweetchats, participants’ experience and impact of BYOD4L on them and their practice, open badges to recognise informal learning and others. As we are an extended team, there are now opportunities for many exciting collaborative research projects to be set-up to find out what works, fir whom and why and to uncover opportunities for the future that have the potential to take us to new adventures, stimulate our curiosity and appetite for learning and development.

Special thank you to my dear friend Sue Beckingham and all staff and student facilitators, mentors, badges reviewers, external collaborators -Marc Smith for the NodeXL SNA visualisation of BYOD4L interactions on the various social media platforms and Peter Reed for the tweetchat visualisations using Martin Hawskey’s code, both helped us visualise BYOD4L as it was unfolding – but also our artist and all colleagues and students who joined us during the BYOD4L week.

My favourite tweet of the BYOD4L week is:

@chrissinerantzi I enjoy using Doodlelicious-bet Coaches Eye would be fun. But in the bath and dictating tweets can’t join in #BYOD4Lchat (Kerry Pace @diverselearners, 8.31pm, 16 Jan 2015)

I think, this tweet sums up the atmosphere throughout the week perfectly!

We will start evaluating different aspects of BYOD4L and consider when and how to offer BYOD4L again later in the year. We will be exploring a number of options looking more holistically to connect and combine with other initiatives. Our thinking now develops more into a whole year plan that will enable us to scaffold activities and initiatives.

Bye for now and speak again soon,

Chrissi

References

Nerantzi, C., Middleton, A. & Beckingham, S. (2014) Facilitators as co-learners in a collaborative open course for teachers and students in Higher Education, in: Learning in cyberphysical worlds, eLearning paper, issue No. 39, pp. 1-10, available at http://www.openeducationeuropa.eu/en/article/Learning-in-cyber-physical-worlds_From-field_39_2

Nerantzi, C. & 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, avaialable athttp://www.learninglives.co.uk/e-book.html. – invited chapter

messy thoughts or #ilta141 session 1

Just started reading Alison’s and Stephen’s new book Engaging Imagination (check out the website too, where you will find loads of additional resources!) when I landed on page 22 where the authors mention briefly reflection as a power relationship between tutor and student, when reflection is used for assessment purposes. A valuable reminder and very timely too. Are our students just capturing stuff to please their tutors, to be strategic as it is happening with other assessment methods or are there ways that enable genuine and authentic engagement in reflection as a learning and development tool, process and establish reflective habits that are important for self-regulation and ongoing development and growth? I guess it is perhaps about what we assess, content or process… and what our criteria are. But also other parameters such as the environment, spaces, communities and ecologies, play a vital role, and most of all the people, I think. The people who come together to learn. But I am also wondering how assessing reflection is  different from any other types of assessment and why reflection is so important in so many professions, actually for all of us?

The purpose of this post was just to share some reflections linked to our first ILTA session… Am I getting carried away? Maybe not… I think this is all very relevant and the above made me think deeper about what we ask our students to do and why. Ok, ILTA stands for Introduction to Learning, Teaching and Assessment and is one of our core PGCAP units (CELT, MMU). I met my group for the first time last Wednesday at 4pm. Before then, I tried to get them talking online but it didn’t happen, unfortunately. I suspect that some might felt disorientated in this new Moodle space, which would surprise me, others might have been unsure responding there as we didn’t know each other? Some perhaps didn’t think that this was needed or were too busy? Also a possibility.  But I am making massive assumptions here and it would actually be very useful to find out what the real reasons of non-visible engagement were…

The purpose of this post is to reflect on the first session and I just noticed something else. Writing has become our default way to reflect. Often we are expected to reflect by capturing our thoughts on paper or on a blog using a writing system. What would Socrates say if he could see us? Dear old Socrates was against the technology of writing and felt that it would pollute the brain and make us lazy… It is not uncommon reception for new ideas…

But do we become lazy in expressing ourselves more creatively and perhaps even more fluently? What works for one, might not work for another? Did we forget, or do we forget that there are other tools beyond writing that can help us learn reflect and learn more generally? 

Alison and Stephen, the authors of the book I mentioned at the start, reminded me that we really need to consider other ways for reflection. Ways that will rattle our imagination and enable us to express meaning, emotions, experiences, successes, challenges and aspirations in a richer and more meaningful way to us personally through which we can create bridges between the known and the unknown, ourselves and others. Not going to get into this further but perhaps we can all think about what would help us develop reflective habits, where can we start and were can it potentially take us to discover gems. Is the model I shared on Day 1, Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, valuable when we are just making our first baby steps or does the structure actually get in the way and a more organic and fluid approach would work better? Again it would be lovely to find out what you think. Perhaps you can capture this in your portfolios and share so that we can discuss. BTW, I loved that you embraces the idea of an academic portfolio and am really looking forward to linking conversations up there.

by Sarah Dargie, based on Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, image source: https://chrissinerantzi.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/effb8-reflectivepurpose.jpg

I have used with others audio and images in the past but also drawings, digital stories, comic strips and LEGO and encouraged others to be a bit more curious, experimental and playful. Then there is video as well (I struggle with this!!! and audio!!!, perhaps because I am more conscious of the language I use and the mistakes I make as a non native speaker of English? I have to confess that it usually takes me a looooooooooooong time to create a mini audio or video file (you don’t really want to know how long it takes me!). But perhaps I should just relax into it and say so what? Isn’t the primary point to communicate and share? Anyway, the opportunities are endless, so have a go using different media for reflection and discover what works for you.


Often we just start writing without thinking if we should write. We just do it! Often our fingertips go straight onto a keyboard and we keep even notes digitally. It seems to come more naturally, but does it? Has it just become a habit and we satisfy expectations of others? Is this the easy way? The best way? The way that enables us to communicate our thoughts faster? But what are the implications? Often we also use models to construct and reflect on experiences, perhaps too mechanistically? What about the random, messy, non-linear and chaotic connections we make and experience when reflecting? Can or should we really box everything neatly?

After the above messy thoughts, which were mainly triggered by reading Alison’s and Stephen’s book (the power of reading and the influence on thinking and actions!), I have now decided to share with you key reflective points or questions from our first session in a more visual way.

Fireworks of experiences and ideas = sharing in the open thinking classroom? image source: https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1156/5155164244_0f4591720e_z.jpg

What is out there behind the walls we build? Let’s find out together! image source: https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4142/4941725337_83f9447298_z.jpg

Thank you Haleh, my co-facilitator, and all my lovely ILTA students for having an open mind, sharing experiences and experimenting together. Can’t wait to see you all next Wednesday but also connecting via Moodle and your portfolios, to share stories, reflections and engage in learning conversations!

See you all next Wednesday at 4pm! image source https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2934/13889784819_ffb5b3335d_z.jpg

Chrissi
ps: Thank you also for all your value jar contributions. Teaching is only valuable if there is value for learning! Your responses so far can be accessed here.

#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?

All learning comes from change! All learning is change!

potpourri of opportunities

We are social animals, said Aristotle;

the technology of writing is bad for us, said Socrates;

we learn so much more through play, said Plato!

These thoughts, I think sum up nicely our journey on this planet and beyond and also say loads about my life as an academic developer and our purpose to change  practices and the student experience in Higher Education. When I started writing this post, my thoughts took me to places which might seem disconnected but if you read this post carefully you will discover that it is deeply interwoven with thoughts about learning and teaching, and reveal how I see things and how these are inter-connected.

We are explorers, we use our curiosity and imagination for discoveries. We experiment, we use and make tools and we learn and evolve; we survive and thrive and push the boundaries and make the impossible possible!

And while we keep saying it is not about the tools, I would like to reflect on the importance of tools. We shape tools and the tools shape us said Marshall McLuhan. Humans were always resourceful. When we lived in caves, in big forests, in villages, in towns, in big cities, in hostile environments, in physical and digital spaces, in space. And we have mastered to connect these spaces and we are connected communities. Our brain grew because we started using it more and more; we pick up objects and use them as tools, we modify them and make our own tools and we make tools to make other tools. Progressively our tools have became more complex and sophisticated as we realised the significance of these for human kind and the potential and the places and spaces they were and are taking us. Our shopping basket of knowledge is full and expanding rapidly as we speak. Aesop said we are only limited by our imagination. Exchange and co-creation; learning from our own stories and experiences; our mistakes and misfortunes but also from our successes, connecting information, resources and ideas but also people, living, working, creating, learning and changing together. Playing too, is a necessity. Shaping and re-shaping who we are, what we know and imagining the future… shaping the today and tomorrow. The human web!

There will always be voices and actions to hold us back, boulders on our paths, some of them strategically or politically. The world is moving and we move on it and with it. Stopping is no option. We need to adjust and adapt to the environments we live in and make it a life worthwhile for us and future generations. Nothing can happen without learning. Learning is change! Change is learning!

We live in the digital age where opportunities for learning have exploded, literally. We live in physical and virtual jungles and try to make sense of it all. And we keep learning. We still love learning with others, we still love making stuff, we still love sharing. We always will… I dare to say. Digital technologies have ‘invated’ our lives, diversification, internationalisation and massification of higher education are on the menu. We express our hunger for creation and are now enabled to do so easily and quickly. We carry around with us smart devices that constantly link us up with information, resources and people. We learn how to navigate, communicate, co-operate and collaborate in vast networks. We learn how to harness digital technologies and create new opportunities for learning and teaching using these. Learning happens everywhere. Learning and teaching that happens exclusively within institutional walls, detouched from the world around is anachronistic and presents an utopic way of being. Opening-up, embracing change is vital to thrive and create new paths that will lead us into a brighter future. This is easier said than done and there is resistance… I have experienced this many time in my role as an Academic Developer. Kinash & Wood (2013, 184) wrote recently, and I can’t resist quoting it here, that “academic development means that people in these roles figuratively put their heads where bullets fly.” This is so true! Often we are indeed in the firing line! I have a little message hanging on my office door saying “only dead fish swim with the stream”. I think this says something about my approach to academic development, and learning and teaching more generally. We do need to learn to cope better with change and take advantage of changes. We need to take risks! We need to be the change we want to happen. After all learning comes from change! Learning is change!

References

Kinash, S & Wood, K (2013) Academic developer identity: how we know who we are, in International Journal for Academic Development, Vol. 18, No. 2, 178-189.

some thoughts and reflections linked to our eAssessment webinar #eass12

eAssessment Scotland webinar

this is my PC which I couldn’t use because of my silly headsets that didn’t want to work…

Yesterday, we, Dr. Chris Smith a former colleague at the University of Salford, Craig Despard, a current student on the PGCAP programme and I shared our social media eportfolio assessment approach at the eAssessment Scotland 12 Conference as part of the online programme.


Further clips about our e-portfolio are available here
It was a real privilige to be involved in such an exciting and innovative conference and we had a rich conversation about using social media to build portfolios with colleagues who asked us loads of interesting and challenging questions that made us think. Which is a great! We had the opportunity to reflect on the finer details of our intervention and identify further opportunities to make it even more effective for future cohorts.

Our webinar was well received and we were 40 participants in total (later we were invited to participate in a RadioEduTalk show in the evening, the recording is available at http://edutalk.cc/radio-edutalk-29-08-12-eassessment-scotland-o (our conversation starts 45min into this recording), including us and our conference facilitator. The webinar has been recorded (and I dread the moment when I will watch it…  still feeling very strange when listening to myself and seeing myself and hearing my own voice). I think though that the recording will be a useful resource for our programme and provide some details to future students why we are doing what we are doing and how it is working. We are of course, in constact conversation with our students and have taken their ideas and suggestions on board so far and will continue to do so.

During the webinar we shared some sample e-portfolios and I am including the links here as well for your information.

portfolios from current students on the programme

Craig Despard at http://despard.wordpress.com/

Rebecca Jackson at http://rebeccajacksonpgcap.wordpress.com/

Dr. Gemma Lace-Costigan http://gemmalace.wordpress.com/

a complete portfolio from an alumni

Neil Currie (Neil kindly made all his feedback, including summative feedback available to the public. So that you can get a rich flavour of all the feedback and conversations we had throughout the module.

Yes, we are very transparent. Feedback is not locked away. All formative feedback is openly shared and accessible to everybody who has access to the e-portfolio. Actually we never said to anybody that the formative feedback should be private or public. It seemed to be normal that they would keep it public, which is really encouraging for us tutors and of real value for all our students since all students would be able to access tutor and peer feedback provided. So learning through feedback provided to others is also enabled and there is evidence that students do read the feedback tutors and peers provide to their peers. Ok, here is Neil’s e-portfolio http://asboallstar.wordpress.com/

During the webinar questions were asked about

  • why we picked the specific platform
  • privacy
  • how assessment and marking works
  • impact on students’ own practices
  • if the style, organisation and creativity are included in the assessment criteria
  • how feedback works

As soon as the recording is available, it will be added here.

We didn’t really focus very much on the details of our feedback approach but disussed more generally the assessment approach and I am therefore including a link to a clip about the feedback we provide and what I feel is important and why. This can also be found within the list of clips linked to our e-portfolios.

eAssessment Scotland Conference

in full flow, using Cristina’s double screen PC, yeh, the headset worked!!!

Book chapter linked to this work
Smith, C and Nerantzi, C (in print) ePortfolios: Assessment as learning using social media, Waxmann publishers, series ”Gesellschaft for Medien in der Wissenschaft” (Association for Media in Science, http://www.gmw-online.de)

a(nother) visual experiment (draft, comments are very welcome)

Wow, 2 months now without blogging. How did that happen? And while I now feel the need to share some recent reflections, I feel a bit rusty and my thoughts are random and messy. Can I put some kind of order and present them in a way that will help me connect with others and start a conversation about some of the issues I would like to explore here?

I just returned from my holidays in Greece and feel the need to reflect on me sharing my Greece in images using social media through my phone during my stay there. I have been experimenting with images before and created a series of photovoices but also use them regularly in my teaching and learning. I have to say that it wasn’t a planned act, more an idea that popped into my head and when I started, I felt the need to continue until the end. It started feeling like a visual story, so I gave it a beginning, a middle and an end.

I am sharing here my thoughts about this experience and would very much welcome your views on this as well. People who know me will say that I never stop working… and will also say that I worked through my holidays… but if you love what you do, whatever you do, doesn’t feel like work… that is my answer. Also, since I have been active on Facebook and instagram, some might say that I wasn’t really away… not disconnected. And if this is the case, has connectivity made some of us more needy to seek and maintain the connections? Are we hungry for communication, non-stop communication? Do we need this dialogue all the time? Is this something we expect? Is this actually good for us? Have we become more impatient? Do we want everything now? Is it because we can share somethig when it happens, when we feel it, when it is fresh, that we want to share our happiness, sadness or anger with others? These are all fascinating questions and useful to explore in a learning and teaching context but also more widely.

Ok, let’s start. My iPhone was always in my pocket or not far away and the charger too! An extra continental adapter was also with me all the time.

Using the iPhone

  • the phone size is great when travelling. Fits in every pocket in every bag. This can also be a bad thing especially for women who tend to use massive bags… Pleased I have a protective cover on the screen. Still the scratches are there. Not sure if some of them are on the glass too… haven’t replaced the cover… maybe I should to find out especially since I dropped it ones on the tarmac… but it didn’t break. I was lucky!!!
  • the screen feels tiny when you use the phone all the time. Pictures are ok but the text can be a nightmare (I probably also need reading glasses!!! and had to get myself a pair…) :  The letters are harder to read when my eyes are tired and using the iPhone tires them out faster, I think. It would be good if the size of letters could be adjusted! Taking photographs in the sunshine could also be a problem. While I knew what I wanted to take, I could not always see it on the screen because of the bright sunshine! It is a shame that this happens and I am sure the technology is out there to produce a better screne for sunny climates?
  • easy to use: I found it really easy to get into taking photographs with the phone and uploading them through instagram (many of them were forwarded to Facebook too). Even the basic picture editing functions were useful! I took loads more photographs with the phone than with my digital camera. This was a big change for me.
  • double camera: great way to bring the photographer more into the picture! I was used to be behind the camera but now, I can actually take photographs of myself too more easily without relying always on other people. But there is a problem with taking the photographs. A self-timer would help and a tripod too, probably. Not sure if the phone has a self-timer but I couldn’t find one.
  • there were times when I was afraid I would drop the phone. Especially when shooting on the ferry over the water. It would be realy good if a strap could be attached to the phone, just like the cameras have and older phones where you had a little loop for charms. Does this make sense?
  • zooming in and nightshots: couldn’t make that work for me in most cases. The flash didn’t work as I wanted it to! I think the functionalities for such images are still very limited. This was a shame because I had always to have my digital camera with me as well. Too many gadgets??? If the iphone is a multigadget, it could be more reliable… do I ask for too much?
  • battery life: It didn’t even last a full day. I changed all the settings so that I would get more juice out of my phone but even that wasn’t enough! Always had to carry the cable and the adaptor, so I definitely needed a bag! I understand that there are external batteries you can attach when you ran out but there is an obvious solution here, to integrate a mini solar panel on the phone. Why hasn’t this be done yet??? When will we make better use of the resources available to us on the go? On the ferry I had another problem. The sockets were so high (almost on the ceiling!!! see pic). The cable I had was not long enough and I had to be resourceful to make it work. Should I carry an extension cord too??? I also got a car charger… which was useful at times.
without flash

pitch black, without flash

Using the internet in Greece

blending blues

blending blues

Before I left the UK, I investigated what the deal was with using my phone in Greece. My phone is sim free and I have a contract with Three. All-you-can-eat data is part of the deal and I love this. Why can this deal not operate abroad as well? Why do we need to activate our phones so that it works there as well? Don’t get this at all! Is it just so that companies make more money? Why can’t companies not agree among them, so that the contract we have in one country is un-interrupted when travelling to another country? Would this be too easy? Anyway. Three told me that I would have to pay £5 a day to get unlimited internet while in Greece. Hmmm. Didn’t like that number and decided to wait and see what deals I could get in Greece.

So pleased that my phone is sim free!!! Just had to change the micro-sim while there! Easy peasy… well, almost! My nephew directed me towards Vodafone GR. And yest, they had a better deal that Three in the UK! For 1 EUR, I could have the web on a daily basis and unlimited. Wow. After sticking in the new sim and a few hickups (you see I am not technical minded…) I managed with the help of the Vodafone people in Porto Rafti to get it working but the first think I noticed was that while my access was unlimited… the speed that I could access it was reduced as soon as I uploaded a specific number of images and when this happened, I mean when the slow speed kicked in, what still worked well were Twitter and Skype. Google stuff and Facebook were really slow and all instagram uploads failed then. But I did have the internet all the time… well, when the battery wasn’t flat, of course 😉

I say, I had the internet al the time and it probably was almost all the time. Even when on the ferry. But also what I quickly noticed is, that there was free wifi access in loads of public places, not just in Athens but also at the port at Rafina and and on the island of Naxos (even on some of the beaches!!!). Also, many hotels, tavernas and cafes provide also free wifi! I was really impressed by that and started using it more as the days progressed and I realised the limits of my paid internet access. At least with the wifi, I could also update my apps and do all the picture uploading too.

Sharing

If you know me, you also know that I am a very open person. I love sharing and having conversations with people about ideas and exchange views on things. Sharing using digital media is an extension of my nature, I guess and comes somehow naturally to me… At times, I have been sharing too much, too sensitive and not-processed stuff ;(, I am aware of that and am now trying to manage this a bit more. This is hard for me since what I do and what I feel about what I do and see are interconnected.

I have found it very useful to explore my views and emotions through pictures and melt my visual and emotional world through using captions on images.  My Greece, is definitely my Greece and not everybody will understand the pictures I took, why I took them and what they mean to me. Others might interprete my images in a different way too. But that is fine. Today, I actually showed some of them to Dave, my train friend, and he looked strangly at me when looking at some of the pictures. But looking at something doesn’t necessarily mean seeing. We need to see to discover and that needs engagement! Captions can give a hint. For me, images act as visual memories. They help me look back and reflect and try and make sense of what I noticed and what this means to me. Interpretations will change over time and the further away in time we are the meaning will be alterned… I think. So, do I really create them for myself? Not sure, I don’t think I would share them, if that would be the case. Or is it somehow ‘revealing’ stuff about myself through what I see? I got some re-actions from others, some likes and comments via Facebook and instagram. Mini conversations? Not sure if I would call them conversations… but at least there was some interaction with some of the images and myself. Why do we share? Why do you share? Is there an expectation when we share something with others that moves us?

I shared my favourite pictures on Facebook and a few on Twitter. Why did I do this? It was a conscious decision. Facebook is somehow a  more informal and personal space for me while through Twitter, I connect more with professionals, most of whom I have never met. At times, it is of course hard to distinguish and the boundaries of personal and professional are blurring more and more.

What I have learnt through this experiment

It was definitely worth doing this. I have managed to share my Greece with others and I think some of the images might have revealed a lot about me, what I like and what I don’t like, what is important for me and what isn’t…

plus

  • pocket technology is really easy to use these days, even the non-technical minded, like me, can manage
  • we can easily connect with others through the use of social media available on the go and share our experiences, ideas and thoughts in a variety of formats.
  • expressing creatively on the go in a more visual way
  • capturing special moments as they happen and share them rapidly
  • reflect on experiences through images
  • make sense of your own experiences and understand yourself better?
  • gives you a purpose, something to do and engage creatively on a regular basis
  • free wifi when available is an added bonus and an additional enabler (use it to upload images etc.)

minus

  • a (sim-free) smartphone or tablet is required – these are costly little machines!
  • extra cost to get a new sim and pay for internet access in another country (while paying a proper contract in the home country)
  • uploading images can ‘eat’ all your internet time ;( (didn’t try to upload a video but this would be best done when a  wifi connection is available) – unlimited internet is not always unlimited! Read the small print too and get advice!!!
  • time consuming activity, time needs to be devoted to taking photographs (some editing might be required), creating captions (didn’t always do this…) and uploading but also responding to comments, if you want a dialogue.
  • two-way communication not always obvious. There will be people lurking. The same people seem to comment. This will be your critical mass, which might bring additional people into the conversation at a later stage. Others will comment privately.
  • can easily become an addiction? Yes, it can!
  • setting the technology up in a foreign country can be a nightmare for less technical-minded individuals

Application for Learning and Teaching

I think sharing experiences, thoughts, ideas and emotions in a more visual way in work-based learning contexts to develop reflective skills. A sense of connectidness and community could be created and achieved if the approach I used would be refined further to suit a specific cohort of students and a buddy system might also be useful.

Sharing experiences during a placement via images can be a powerful tool to get started reflecting on own practice and encourage a dialogic approach. But we need to develop our visual literacy.

The big problem I see here is the availability of the technology. Do we expect all students to have a smartphone or a tablet? How can we be more inclusive in our learning and teaching? Could, for example universities provide a smartphone as part of the fees the students pay? Some unis give tablets, I have heard. If students stay in the same country, the cost will be smaller. Wherever students would be, free wifi spots could be identified in advance, as well as internet cafes.

resourceful on ferry

The most important part for me would be that tutors need to know what they want to achieve and how the technology can help them. They need to design learning activities that are meaningful, motivating and empowering. It will be important to define a focus and what is to be achieved through this exercise from the beginning and at the same time enable students to express creatively and have the freedom to take this activity where they feel they benefit most. Tutors and students need to familiarise with the technology in advance so that it doesn’t become a barrier of and for learning.

My plan for the PGCAP and the core module is to trial the development of reflection through images in semester 1.  More to follow about this in the near future.

If this post made you think, I would love to hear from you.