The next generation…

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Catching up with Catherine Cronin 

I’ve just spent an excellent couple of days in Dublin at Dublin City University where I am a visiting professor with the National Institute for Digital Learning headed up by Mark Brown. On the 1st November I did a keynote for ‘The next generation: digital learning research symposium.’ The other keynotes were Sian Bayne from Edinburgh University and Paul Conway from Limerick University. All three keynotes were live streamed so if you are interested you can watch them online. The symposium was well structured with lots of different types of sessions. After Sian’s keynote there was a panel reflecting on her talk. After my keynote there was an interactive session exploring what we have learnt from research in our field around three questions:

  • What are the three lessons or take aways, advice which have emerged from the research literature?
  • What are the three most pressing challenges we currently face that require further research?
  • Looking to the future, help what are the most important questions that we still need to address?

In addition to the discussions in the room, people could populate padlet. One of the sessions I particularly liked was the ‘rapid fire research’ session, where doctoral students had three minutes to present their research! The quality of the papers at the symposium was very good, as were the discussions during the day. The hashtag for the symposium was #NextGenDL and was very active, frequently trending on Irish Twitter! I wanted to pick out a few highlights for me from the conference.

Sian Bayne’s opening keynote as always was excellent. Her title was ‘Manifesto: making a teaching philosophy from research in digital education.’ She shared highlights from a manifesto developed at Edinburgh University. In particular she focussed on the ways in which teaching online is challenging us to think differently about some fundamental issues, such as the notions of place and space, new modes of assessment and academic writing, and new models of what it means to teach. She focussed on two aspects of the manifesto: teacher automation and the re-thinking of physical space.

Mark Brown described the work he and others have been involved with in terms of the Irish Horizon report on emergence technologies, which he compared with the NMC Horizon report and the Australian report. He gave a caveat at the beginning in terms of the Horizon reports, stating that they were not without critique, naming in particular Stephen Downes and Audrey Walters. In terms of the Irish context he cited the increased importance of blended/hybrid learning, but argued that in Ireland there is still an under resources technical infrastructure.

Catherine Cronin described the focus of her doctorate research, which is on openness and praxis. Her findings are drawn from 19 interviews with key practitioners around their perceptions of open educational practices and the benefits/barriers to openness.  She argued that openness is not neutral and should be seen as a socio-cultural phenomenon. She articulated four dimensions of using OEP for teaching:

  • Balancing privacy and openness
  • Developing digital literacies
  • Valuing social learning
  • Challenging traditional teaching role expectations

In his closing keynote, Paul Conway looks at the changes in writing and publishing as a result of digital technologies. He focused on the ways in which academic publishing has changed in terms of authorial practices, dissemination ‘publics’ and the political economy of publishing.

On the 2nd November, with Mark Brown, I facilitated a workshop on doctoral studies, participants ranged from those thinking about doing a doctorate to those currently doing one and a few people who have just finished. There was an excellent discussion, with people sharing their experiences and aspirations, along with tips and hints for ensuring a doctorate is successful. These included, ensuring you had a good supervisory team, managing the relationship with your supervisors, ensuring you choose a ‘doable’ topic that you are passionate about and participating in a network of peers, through conferences, professional bodies and social media.

In the afternoon I ran a Learning Design workshop, around 50 people had signed up for it, so running it was a bit of a challenge. Nonetheless it seemed to go well and the feedback was very positive. I focussed the evaluation around four questions:

  • What I liked about the workshop
  • Room for improvement
  • Three words to describe the workshop
  • Action plan.

So overall an excellent few days, stimulating and thought provoking!

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Wordcloud of the evaluation of the workshop 

One Response to “The next generation…”

  1. John Traxler Says:

    Interesting resonance in Catherine’s remarks with the work i contribute to on an IDRC programme. This looks critically, through projects in the global South, at ‘open development’, the notion of openness in the context of ‘international development’, and whether it is unconditionally benign or merely privileging the privileged. The projects are into their first year.

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