What now? Women in Physics, Computing, Engineering, STEM

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Grace Hopper Google Doodle on 9th December 2013, http://www.google.ie

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Yesterday, December 9th, 2013, marked the 107th anniversary of Grace Hopper’s birth. For many years an inspirational figure amongst women in computing, it’s immensely satisfying to see “Amazing Grace” receive wider and well-deserved recognition in recent years for her pioneering work as a mathematician and computer scientist.

Coincidentally (or not?), yesterday also marked the launch of the most recent report on gender and science from the Institute of Physics: Closing Doors: Exploring Gender and Subject Choice in Schools.

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As an educator and researcher in both IT and education — with undergraduate and postgraduate engineering degrees and an MA in gender and technology — as well as a woman, a feminist, and the mother of a daughter studying engineering, this latest report interests me greatly, of course. I’m encouraged by the efforts to understand and explain the persistence of gendered subject choice — and disappointed, though not surprised, at the familiar findings, i.e. that schools tend to educate in ways that conform to gender stereotypes.

Closing Doors is a follow-on report from last year’s It’s Different For Girls, which noted that for more than 25 years the percentage of A-level physics students who are girls has stayed at around 20%. Both reports are part of a long record of Girls in Physics initiatives by the IoP, most notably the excellent 2006 report by Patricia Murpy and Elizabeth Whitelegg, Girls in the Physics Classroom: A Review of the Research on the Participation of Girls in Physics.

In Ireland, as in the UK and many other countries, we can trace at least thirty years of research on gender, subject choice, and the under-representation of women in STEM subjects such as Physics, Engineering, Technology and Computing.

In 1983, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) published a report on schooling, gender and subject choice in Irish schools: Schooling and Sex Roles: Sex Differences in Subject Provision and Student Choice in Irish Post-Primary Schools, authored by Damien Hannan, Richard Breen, Barbara Murray, Niamh Hardiman, Dorothy Watson and Kathleen O’Higgins. The report analysed sex differences in subject take-up rates in terms of the effects of provision (what subjects are provided); allocation (how subjects are timetabled and made available); and choice (pupils’ decisions). The researchers found that gender played a role at all three levels. However, taking into account differences in both subject provision and allocation (for example: over one-third of secondary schools in Ireland did not provide Physics to girls — most of these schools were all-girl secondary schools), girls were less likely to choose Physics than boys. The researchers concluded that pupils’ subject choices appeared to reflect the gender bias of wider society (including parents and teachers) regarding subjects such as Physics and higher maths, and careers in those areas.

In the 1990s, research in Ireland continued into gender and subject choice. In 1999, Marian Palmer cited a longitudinal study by Millar, Farrell and Kellaghan (1998) which showed that “Biology on transfer from Junior Certificate Science was more likely by girls than boys” and “girls are far less likely to take Physics as compared to Chemistry”.  Regarding the tendency for girls to take Biology rather than Physics, Palmer also noted an allocation issue that can still be found in some all-girls’ schools in Ireland today: “one girls’ school requires all students to take Biology and then Physics or Chemistry has to be a second science.”

My own research during the 1990s, first in Ireland (Cronin, 1995) and then in Scotland (Cronin and Roger, 1999), noted a lack of evidence for gender differences in ability, yet persistent gendered patterns of participation for STEM subjects (Mathematics, Physics, Engineering, Technology and Computing), and highlighted the potential conflict for young women between feminine gender role identity and the masculine image, discourse and culture of technology:

“As a number of theorists have pointed out, the ideal characteristics of masculinity in western society and the characteristics required for an engineer or scientist are essentially identical (Harding, 1986; Benston, 1986; Kramarae, 1988; Saraga & Griffiths, 1981). While the socialisation process for girls in our society emphasises feminine traits, e.g. emotion, nurturance, cooperation and sensitivity; the ‘technical worldview’, characterised by its emphasis on facts, control, rationality, and distance from emotional or personal considerations, is deeply interwoven with the definition of masculinity. Thus, while men experience validation of their gender identity in choosing engineering as a career, women may experience conflict.” (Cronin, 1995)

In 1999, John Hammond and Marion Palmer found that “higher level Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and technology subjects are not generally part of the culture of either girls or indeed girls’ schools.” They summarised some of the strategies which had been put in place during the 1990s to address girls’ under-representation in these subjects:

“A recent review of strategies for attracting girls into science, engineering and technology suggests that successful strategies maintain and increase girls’ participation in these areas. Such strategies include enrichment activities through pre-school and out-of-school experiences, use of role models and single-sex environments for the teaching of some subjects e.g. physical sciences and information technology. Other strategies include reviewing teaching practice, classroom environments and considering the nature of school science and technology. International evidence suggests that such interventions need to be part of the ongoing process of education if girls’ participation rates in engineering related subjects and careers are to increase. We are reminded that ‘the world of science, engineering and technology is still, in the main, a masculine domain’ (Vlaeminke, et al, 1997, p. 26).”

So where are we today?

In the 2013 Leaving Certificate Examination in Ireland, 11.6% of the total student cohort took the Physics exam; only 25% of these students were female. Of additional concern was the fact that nearly a quarter of second level schools across Ireland still do not offer Physics at Leaving Certificate level. Thus, in 30 years (1983 to 2013) we’ve progressed from one-third of schools to one-quarter of schools not offering Physics. These were mostly all-girl secondary schools in 1983. Is this still the case today? Clearly, we need to understand the current situation. And we need to do better.

There are some bright spots, of course. NUI Galway’s School of Physics was recognised earlier this year for its commitment to gender equality. The Institute of Physics made NUI Galway the first university in Ireland to be a practitioner under the Institute’s Project Juno, which aims to redress the issue of the under-representation of women in physics in academia across Ireland and the UK.

What can we do? What should we do? Fortunately, there is a wealth of research from many countries, institutions, organisations, projects and researchers — along with suggested guidelines for how to enhance the motivation, achievement and retention of women in Physics and other STEM subjects. There are links to some of these resources below.

To wrap up, I note that many recommendations focus on role models and mentoring for girls. I believe such initiatives are powerful and necessary, but by no means sufficient in effecting the level of change that is required. If we want to change the fact that only 15% (approximate) of those studying Physics, Engineering and Computing are women, we need to provide girls and young women with encouragement and support for considering these exciting but nontraditional careers — but we also must change STEM culture itself. We need not only the 15% (women in STEM) to inspire and encourage girls and to change STEM culture, we need men in STEM, the 85%, to work on this issue as well. Women and men studying and working in STEM must tackle this issue together.  It is long past time that we adopted more inclusive curricula and pedagogy in STEM classrooms and labs (from primary through postgraduate), and more inclusive cultures in all classroooms, study spaces and workplaces, as well as in our wider society.

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“The most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” – Grace Hopper

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Resources:

A great place to start is this series of four blog posts written by Theresa Liao: How is gender bias in science studied? Each post contains a wealth of resource material.

The following  list of resources was prepared for a presentation Technology is everywhere, but where are the girls? for the STEMx 2013 conference with Kim Wilkins.

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References:

Benston, M.L. (1986). Questioning authority: Feminism and scientific experts. Resources for Feminist Research, November 1986.

Cronin, C. (1995). Is the ‘feminine engineer’ an oxymoron? Women’s views and experiences of gender and engineering. U.C.G. Women’s Studies Centre Review (3).

Cronin, C. & Roger, A. (1999). Theorizing progress: Women in science, engineering, and technology in higher education. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 36(6), pp. 637-661.

Hammond, J. & Palmer, M. (1999). Engineering education at second level in the Republic of Ireland: Provision and developments. International Journal of Engineering Education 15(2), pp. 82-93.

Hannan, D., Breen, R., Murray, B., Hardiman, N., Watson, D. & O’Higgins, K. (1983). Schooling and sex roles: Sex differences in subject provision and student choice in Irish post-primary schools, Dublin: The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

Harding, S. G. (1986). The science question in feminism. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Kramarae, C. (1988). Gotta go Myrtle, technology’s at the door. In C. Kramarae (Ed.), Technology and women’s voices: Keeping in touch. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Millar, D., Farrell, E. & Kellaghan, T. (1998) From Junior to Leaving Certificate. A longitudinal study of Junior Certificate candidates who took the Leaving Certificate examination in 1996. Dublin: NCCA/ERC.

Murphy, P. & Whitelegg, E. (2006). Girls in the physics classroom: A review of the research on the participation of girls in Physics. London: Institute of Physics.

Palmer, M. (1999). Science education in crisis: Science at second level. RDS Seminar: Science Education in Crisis? Dublin: RDS.

Saraga, E. & Griffiths, D. (1981). Biological inevitabilities or political choices? The future for girls in science. In A. Kelly (Ed.), The missing half: Girls and science education. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Vlaeminke, M., Comber, C. & McKeon, F. (1997). Breaking the Mould: An asessment of successful strategies for attracting girls into science, engineering and technology. Department of Trade and Industry, Great Britain.

New publication: Internet Research, Theory, and Practice: Perspectives from Ireland

2013 Internet research, theory, and practice: perspectives from Ireland Banner

Newly published this week, Internet Research, Theory, and Practice: Perspectives from Ireland is a welcome addition to the literature in this growing field. The editors, Cathy Fowley, Claire English and Sylvie Thouësny, have assembled an impressive range of new work which will be of value to both researchers and practitioners. All work is peer-reviewed and available openly via Research-Publishing.net.

I thank the editors for inviting me to write a foreword for the new collection — shared below. Congratulations and thanks to the editors and all of the contributors for producing and openly sharing this excellent collection.

Foreword:

Created by humans, for humans, the Internet resides intimately with us – and before long, perhaps, within us. From 2000 to 2012 the number of Internet users rose from less than 0.4 billion to 2.4 billion (about one-third of the world’s population) [i]. This continues to rise; predicted estimates of the number of Internet users in 2020 range from 4 to 5 billion [ii]. The Internet is becoming increasingly wireless, mobile and geographically dispersed. We are moving closer also to an Internet of Things [iii] as opposed to simply computers, as objects from appliances to buildings to roads are equipped with digital sensors and communicative capabilities.

Many metaphors have been used to describe the Internet, its growth, and its role in our lives: the Internet as a network, an organism, a non-hierarchical space, the ultimate panopticon. Both utopian and dystopian views of the Internet abound in the popular press, on topics such as social networking among young people, the future of privacy, the future of reading, online education, teleworking and more.

Scholarly, evidence-based Internet research is of critical importance. The field of Internet research explores the Internet as a social, political and educational phenomenon, providing theoretical and practical contributions to our understanding, and informing practice, policy and further research.

This new collection, Internet Research, Perspectives from Ireland, is a unique and welcome work. The editors have compiled a diverse range of new scholarly, peer-reviewed research, spanning the fields of education, arts, the social sciences and technology. The authors provide academic perspectives, both theoretical and practical, on the Internet and citizenship, education, employment, gender, identity, friendship, language, poetry, literature and more. The collection comprises a rich resource for researchers and practitioners alike.

The locus and focus of the collection is Ireland – in this the collection is unique. All of the authors are based in Ireland. They are self-described Digital Humanities scholars, as well as researchers in literature, languages, psychology, philosophy, sociology, political science, information technology and media studies. They explore the global in a local context. Thus the collection provides a vital resource for researchers in Ireland, hoping to learn from and build on country-specific Internet research, as well as an important node in the global network of Internet research.

I applaud the researchers and editors for publishing this work, and more so for publishing it openly. Enabling open access to this research will only increase its value, now and for years to come.

[i] International Telecommunications Union (2013) ; Internet World Stats (2013)

[ii] Microsoft (2013) ; Intac (2010)

[iii] Ashton, Kevin (2009) That ‘Internet of Things ‘ Thing, RFID Journal
Image and Foreword: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Research-Publishing.net

Creating spaces for student voices

“Why can’t we be tested on what we learn,

rather than learning what we’re going to be tested on?”

- Colm Keady-Tabbal, secondary school student

When asked to give a keynote at the ICT in Education conference “Student Voices” at LIT Thurles recently, I knew that it would be impossible to speak for 40 minutes about student voices. Students would need to play a key role. Indeed, student voices were present in many of the workshops and presentations during the event — in addition to students participating in the conference as part of the Youth Media Team (described in previous post). As the ICTEdu conference is focused on creating connections across all education sectors, I shared student voices from 3 different groups: third-level students (IT Professional Skills, which I teach), secondary students (Media Studies with James Michie) and primary students (5th class with Maire O’Keeffe). Following are the keynote slides and a short summary.

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The first appearance of “student voices” in the educational literature was in the early 1990s, when educators and social critics like Jonathan Kozol and others noted that in conversations about learning, teaching and schooling: “the voices of children have been missing from the whole discussion”. These critics challenged the previously dominant images of students as silent, passive recipients of what others define as education. Over the past 20 years, many educational research and reform efforts have focused on student voice.
But what do we mean by student voice? The term tends to signify a set of values and behaviours which includes Sound (the act of speaking), Participation (student presence and involvement), and Power or Agency (see Cook-Sather, 2006). Making space for student voices confronts the power dynamics within schools, classrooms, and the relationships between teachers and students. Without addressing the notion of power in these relationships, student voice initiatives may be simply window dressing. When we truly value and create spaces for student voices, students feel respected and engaged, teachers listen, and students and teachers learn from one another.
During my keynote, I included student voices from three different learning environments (as noted above) where students and educators are working towards this goal:
  • 3rd level: The work of IT students was shared via the Scoop.it showcase of student presentations and projects, as well as the CT231 class blog , our class Twitter account, and individual student reflections.
  • 2nd level: James Michie and I have connected for some time via Twitter and I recently joined James and his Media Studies students via Skype to discuss the topic of digital identity. After a fascinating discussion with the students, I asked if they’d be willing to contribute their thoughts on the theme of Student Voices for the ICTEdu conference. They kindly contributed a set of creative slides and videos, many of which I shared, and all of which are available on the CCC Media blog.
  • Primary school: I’ve interacted with Maire O’Keeffe and her 5th class students here in Kinvara throughout the past year, discussing how learning is changing, their own class blog, the 100 Word Challenge and much more. Maire’s students expressed their ideas about Student Voices through a wonderful range of artwork showcased on Flickr, much of which was shared at the conference.

Of course not all students have these opportunities. Students often complain about school, about their lack of choice and comfort, let alone voice. One student whom I asked to share her thoughts about student voice and agency sent me links to these spoken word performances by @sulibreaks – Why I hate school but love education and I will not let an exam result decide my fate, saying “this sums up everything that students feel about the education system and the importance of students’ voices”.

To attempt to give these students a voice at the conference, I invited a talented young filmmaker Colm Keady-Tabbal — still in secondary school — to create a short film for the conference. Colm asked fellow students: “How do you like to learn?” and created a powerful 3-minute film. The message from these students was clear: more freedom, more choice, less listening to teachers lecturing, more practical work, more fun, and more opportunities for connecting and interacting.

Although this film is not directly available online (the participants preferred that it not be shared via YouTube or Facebook), the video will be included in the set of keynote videos which will be available soon from the ICTEdu conference website. Please contact me if you would like the link.

My thanks to every one of these students for their generosity, creativity and honesty. Your contributions led to a powerful learning experience for all of the educators who participated in the conference.

Thanks also to the wonderful Grainne Conole, someone with whom I’ve connected via Twitter, Flickr and our blogs, but had never met before. Grainne explored the theme of Student Voices in her keynote “Learning journeys and learner voices – promoting innovative pedagogies through new technologies”, focusing on the importance of learning design in creating spaces for active, authentic and connected learning. Grainne’s blog post The Trip to Tipp! summarises her experiences of the conference. Thanks also to Martha Rotter, developer at woop.ie and founder of Idea Magazine, who gave a wonderful overview of student voice initiatives globally. Both Martha’s and Grainne’s keynotes are well worth viewing once they are available on the ICT in Education website.
Many thanks again to all — Pam O’Brien and the conference organisers, the participants, and especially the students — for the opportunity to learn and to share.

Enacting digital identity

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When we ask our students to share online — in a discussion forum within an LMS; in a wiki, course blog, Google Doc or Facebook group; on Twitter or anywhere on the open web — we are inviting not just online interaction but an enactment of each student’s digital identity. Involvement in or resistance to online interaction is largely rooted in ideas and beliefs about identity, privacy, voice, authenticity and power. These ideas and beliefs may be articulated easily or they may previously be unreflected, but they will be invoked each time we ask students to participate online.

As connected educators, it is essential that we think deeply about digital identity — both our own and our students’.

In previous posts, I’ve shared some of my ideas about exploring digital identities with students (Exploring digital identities, Resources for exploring digital identity, privacy and authenticity and Learning and teaching digital literacies). However, when asked recently to facilitate a discussion about digital identity with academic staff as part of the NUI Galway Learning Technologies module #cel263 (short presentation below), I opted not to share specific practices, but instead share some of the key ideas and resources which have helped me to reflect on my own ideas about digital identity and develop my learning and teaching.

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In research on social networking within education, for example, Keri Facer and Neil Selwyn (2010) found that students saw a clear divide between “social interaction” and “educational interaction” on social networking sites, based on existing educational assumptions that “learning is organised around the individual and… oriented around content rather than process”. However, this may be changing. In their review of the research, Facer and Selwyn concluded that educators might need to “pay attention to social networking sites as important for the social construction of identity, including personal, social and learner identity”.

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IRL is the international abbreviation for Ireland as well as the acronym for In Real Life…

A key concept in considering digital identity is the relation between the physical world and the digital world, the organic and the technological. Nathan Jurgenson has written extensively about this, coining the term digital dualism to refer to the notion, held by many, of a clear separation between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’.  Jurgenson refutes digital dualism:

“…our reality is both technological and organic, both digital and physical, all at once. We are not crossing in and out of separate digital and physical realities, a la The Matrix, but instead live in one reality, one that is augmented by atoms and bits. And our selves are not separated across these two spheres as some dualistic “first” and “second” self, but is instead an augmented self. A Haraway-like cyborg self comprised of a physical body as well as our digital profile, acting in constant dialogue. Our Facebook profiles reflect who we know and what we do offline, and our offline lives are impacted by what happens on Facebook…”

Regarding digital identity and digital dualism, as educators we must be willing to critically examine our own assumptions as well as the expectations of our students. Are my online and offline identities enmeshed? Is my online identity reflective only of my professional self, or of me in other contexts as well? How comfortable am I with sharing online — with colleagues, students, an unknown audience? How comfortable are my students? How does the power differential in the educator-student relationship affect the enactment of our digital identities in online spaces? Important questions such as these must be explored. Embracing the notion of an augmented self does not preclude critical analysis of differences in the online/offline experiences of space, time, visibility, privacy and power.

Considerations of digital identity are personal and individual. Yet we negotiate them daily in the enactment of our digital identities — as individuals, citizens, learners and educators. Inviting our students to interact online is not a simple or neutral act. We invite more than just the sharing of information and opinions — we invite an enactment of digital identity in all its complexity. As Facer and Selwyn (2010) conclude:

“…learners need to practice and experiment with different ways of enacting their identities, and adopt subject positions through different social technologies and media. These opportunities can only be supported by academic staff who are themselves engaged in digital practices and questioning their own relationships with knowledge.”

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Additional resources were considered and discussed during the presentation and ensuing discussion, including the following contributions from danah boyd, Bonnie Stewart, Chris “moot” Poole, Alan Levine, Neil Selwyn, Howard Rheingold and Rhona Sharpe, Helen Beetham & Sara de Freitas (as shown below). My thanks to all.

Social Network Sites as Networked Publics by danah boyd @zephoria (2010)

Digital Identities: Six Key Selves of Networked Publics by Bonnie Stewart @bonstewart (2012)

High Order Bit by Chris “moot” Poole @moot (2011) at Web 2.0 Summit

We, Our Digital Selves, And Us – YouTube (2012) by Alan Levine @cogdog (2012)

Social Media in Higher Education by Neil Selwyn @neil_selwyn (2012)

Social Media Literacies syllabus by Howard Rheingold @hrheingold (2012)

Rethinking Learning for a Digital Age: How Learners are Shaping Their Own Experiences, by Rhona Sharpe, Helen Beetham & Sara de Freitas (2010)

Image source: CC BY-NC-ND Will Foster

Empowering the next generation of tech women: #GlobalEd12

I was delighted to join Kim Wilkins (@kimxtom @TeenTechGirls) and Carrie Anne Philbin (@MissPhilbin @GeekGurlDiaries) in presenting a session in the Global Education Conference this week. The week-long online conference is an inspiring model of openness and collaboration, with presenters and participants from across the globe — mostly students and educators, but open to all.

In our session Geek Gurl Diaries: Empowering the Next Generation of Women in Tech we explored the gender gap in computing and technology and shared our experiences and best practices in promoting and changing science, engineering and computer studies to address this gap. Click the link above to view the session (then just click the purple Blackboard Collaborate icon to view). The presentation slides are below:

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Kim Wilkins and Carrie Anne Philbin are quite inspiring tech women themselves! Kim is an educator and technology activist in Virginia (USA) and creator of these excellent Tech Girl resources. You can subscribe to Kim’s Tech Girl newsletter for regular updates.

Carrie Anne is a teacher and digital heroine in London and creator of these excellent Geek Gurl resources — Carrie’s wonderful YouTube videos are well worth sharing with girls.

I joined Kim and Carrie Anne by speaking about girls and women in technology here in Ireland and highlighting some important research on gender and technology. A few key themes emerged in our session:

  • The underrepresentation of women in technology has been remarkably persistent over time and across countries. The current proportion of women undergraduates in computing, for example, is 15% in Ireland and the UK, under 20% in the US. Although the proportion of women studying computing and IT was higher in the 1980s and 1990s, computing and IT are now in the same category as other STEM subjects such as engineering and physics in which women are dramatically underrepresented.
  • Attitudes toward computing and many STEM subjects are highly gendered. Kim Wilkins cited studies from the US which show that girls form positive or negative attitudes towards technology by age 13. Thus, initiatives to break down gender barriers must be in place in primary school and early secondary school, not just at career choice time.
  • Computing — as well as a focus on creating not consuming technology — should be part of education from primary school onwards. But it is not just in school that such initiatives can take place. Local community initiatives such as Coder Dojo, coding clubs for young people, can be powerful opportunities for children to develop coding skills as well as breaking down traditional gender stereotypes about technology. The open, collaborative and peer learning ethos of Coder Dojo attracts many girls as well as boys, as well as many female mentors.
  • Long-standing research in the area of gender and technology indicates that while encouraging girls and women to consider careers in computing and technology is important, it is not enough. Initiatives to encourage girls to study STEM subjects have been in place for many years — and still just 15-20% of our undergraduates in these subjects are female. The social construction of STEM itself must be placed under scrutiny. Thus, efforts to address the underrepresentation of women in computing and STEM must include breaking down gender sterotypes held by girls and boys and creating a more inclusive STEM culture which encourages diversity of participation by age, class and race as well as gender.

Our thanks to all of the #globaled12 session participants with whom we engaged in a lively chat session both during and after our presentation. We would love to continue the conversations and develop further collaborations — please contact Kim Wilkins, Carrie Anne Philbin and/or myself (details above).

Additional resources:

Marder, J. (2012, April 25). Why the engineering, computer science gender gap persists. Scientific American.

Varma, R. (2007). Women in computing: The role of geek culture. Science as Culture, 16, 4, 359-376.

Cronin, C. and Roger, A. (1999). Theorising progress: Women in science, engineering and technology in higher education. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36 (6) pp. 637-661.

Exploring digital identities

In previous posts, I have shared some of the resources I use for exploring digital identity and digital literacies with students (e.g. Resources for exploring digital identity, privacy and authenticity and Learning and teaching digital literacies). All of these resources and approaches have been developed through my work with 2nd year Computer Science and IT students as part of a Professional Skills module.

This year we are using an open course blog to share our work. Instead of preparing and posting static presentations as class notes, I prepare a blog post after class each week, summarizing what we explored and discussed. Students and others are free to comment and engage in discussion on the blog. Later this term, the course blog also will link to student blogs, as these are developed. We also have a course Twitter account @CT231 which you are invited to follow — or simply check our course hashtag #ct231.

This week’s class on Exploring Digital Identities was fascinating. Students engaged in reflection and discussion both in class and online. We were joined online (via Twitter) by Bonnie Stewart, whose excellent blog post Digital Identities: Six Key Selves of Networked Publics we analysed. The discussion continued on Twitter and on our blog with contributions from @sharonlflynn, @marloft, @tweety4bird and @fboss (so far). Many thanks to you all! Please check out our blog (link below) and feel free to join the conversation — we welcome your thoughts.

>> CT231 Week 6: Exploring Digital Identities

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Image source: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 KayVee.INC

Pecha Kucha: tips, resources & examples

Some wonderful examples of Pecha Kucha presentations were a highlight of the recent Galway Symposium on Higher Education (#celt12) held at NUI Galway. If you’ve attended or delivered a Pecha Kucha presentation, you’ll know that it can be both a dynamic and challenging presentation format. Over the past two years I’ve had the opportunity to prepare and deliver four different Pecha Kucha presentations. Each time is a unique learning experience! This past year I did something I’d considered for quite a while: I assigned Pecha Kucha presentations to my students. In terms of presentation quality and the skills students developed, this was a great success. In this post I’ll share a few tips about Pecha Kucha presentations, some resources which my students and I found helpful, and a few examples of PK presentations.

I. Pecha Kucha presentation tips

A Pecha Kucha or 20×20 presentation contains 20 slides, with each slide shown for 20 seconds, for a presentation of exactly 6 minutes, 40 seconds. The format is similar to an Ignite talk, which is 20×15 (i.e. 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide, 5 minutes in length), so advice for preparing and delivering Ignite and Pecha Kucha presentations is similar.

The advantages of the Pecha Kucha format for a conference or a class are clear. Within a given time slot, more presentations can be scheduled and the schedule is predictable. In addition, the atmosphere in a Pecha Kucha session is usually very engaging. Once the “clock starts ticking”, the audience is on the side of the presenter, willing them to succeed. This is a wonderful atmosphere for both new and experienced presenters.

Tips for presenters:

  • Images are the key to effective Pecha Kucha. Try to find images which are illustrations or metaphors of your key points and/or use words-as-image, as in the example above. This makes delivery of your presentation much easier, as you’re not trying to race through a list of points. It also makes your presentation more engaging. This is why Pecha Kucha is so successful, I think. It’s not the timing, as such, but the fact that it leads presenters to use best practice in creating presentations which are visually strong and appealing. Let’s banish the bullets! :)
  • Practice, practice and practice again. I’m not a person who tends to memorize my presentations. For a Pecha Kucha presentation, however, memorizing your key points for each slide is usually the best approach. I suggest writing down the 2 key points you want to make for each slide and trying to stick to that. Then practice delivering your presentation until it flows easily. Practice really makes the difference.
  • Hack the format! If you want to go into depth on one particular slide and 20 seconds just won’t be enough, repeat the slide and add text or graphics to develop your points. Your information will then be on-screen for 40 seconds, with small changes appearing midway through. This is a very graceful way to keep within the format but still go into depth.
  • When delivering the presentation, don’t worry if you finish making your points on one slide before the next slide advances. Pausing will break your flow. Just start speaking about your next slide; it will likely appear midway through your first sentence. This makes for a more polished presentation rather than pausing for a few seconds to wait for the next slide to appear.
  • In working with students, I found that it was important to spend plenty of time beforehand to help students to develop not just an understanding of good presentation skills, but also of copyright, Creative Commons, and how to find, use and assign CC-licensed images. Most students who completed Pecha Kucha presentations in my Professional Skills course assigned CC licenses to their presentations and uploaded their work to Slideshare, forming part of their e-portfolio and digital footprint (some examples below).

Tips for organisers:

  • If possible, schedule Pecha Kucha presentations in a room that is not too large. I’ve attended Pecha Kucha sessions in small rooms and in large lecture halls, and I’ve found the atmosphere in rooms with a higher density of people is more connected and more fun. Participants tend to feel in touch with the presenter and the presenter can feed off the positive energy of the audience.
  • If you are organising a Pecha Kucha conference session, make sure all presenters send you their presentations ahead of time so that you can be sure that the timings are set correctly to 20 seconds per slide. Another approach you might consider is creating one long presentation for each Pecha Kucha session, with a transition slide (or two) between each presentation. This makes for a seamless session.
  • In one conference I attended (#ece11) yet another element of excitement was added by putting the presentations in each session in random order. Presenters didn’t know where their presentation fell in the running order, so had to be prepared to pop up when their name appeared. This led to much hilarity and great audience engagement and support.
  • When organising Pecha Kucha presentations for a class, I took on less of the organising work. I asked students to bring their own laptops or share laptops. Students learned a lot from loading presentations, connecting to the projector system, adjusting the room lighting, etc. And in one or two cases where students had not set the slide timings correctly, it served as a great learning moment for everyone.

II. Pecha Kucha resources

Pecha Kucha 20×20 –  This page gives the basics and a brief history of Pecha Kucha.

Why and How to Give an Ignite Talk by Scott Berkun — This terrific presentation (in Ignite format) is relevant for both Pecha Kucha and Ignite presentations. Take Scott’s advice and “hack the format” if necessary. If it’s Pecha Kucha, just be sure your presentation is 6 minute and 40 seconds long.

Creating an Ignite presentation — This article was written by presentation expert Olivia Mitchell about creating an Ignite presentation, however the guidelines apply just as easily to Pecha Kucha. This is a terrific, visual article, very helpful for careful planning of your presentation.

Choosing good images for presentations — This blog post has excellent advice on finding relevant, potent images for your presentation.

Finding CC-licensed images — the following sites are helpful in finding Creative Commons-licensed images and learning how to reference them:

  • Compfight – excellent search tool for Creative Commons-licensed Flickr images
  • Creative Commons Wiki – a Creative Commons image directory
  • CC Search — powerful search across a variety of platforms (e.g. Flickr, Google images, YouTube) to help you find content you can share, use, remix
  • Flickr images – enter search term, click Advanced Search, then tick the box “only search within Creative Commons-licensed content”
  • Content Directories — extensive list of directories of Creative Commons-licensed materials (audio, video, image, text

40+ Tips for awesome PowerPoint presentations — This is a useful checklist for all presentations, not just PowerPoint.

Prezi workshop – Prezi videos, examples and templates

Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte — Nancy Duarte is the author of the excellent books Resonate and Slideology – unbeatable sources of ideas and inspiration for all presenters. This 25-minute video is worth viewing if you want a deeper understanding of what makes a presentation which truly connects with an audience.

III. Pecha Kucha examples

The first two presentations below are examples of student Pecha Kucha presentations. Each of these was the first presentation ever created by the student — wonderful work, I’m sure you’ll agree! Links to other student work in CT231 Professional Skills (including presentations, blogs and audio podcasts) can be found on the CT231 Student Showcase on Scoop.it.

The final two presentations are conference presentations. The first is by Mary Loftus, an excellent presentation from #celt12 on ‘ways of being’ in the online classroom. The second is one of my own Pecha Kucha presentations, delivered at #ece11, on learning and teaching Professional Skills.

If you have additional advice or tips, I’d love to learn from you. Best of luck in creating and delivering your own Pecha Kucha presentations!

Image source: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 edmontonnextgen

Connecting & learning in schools: students, teachers and parents

On a sunny, blustery afternoon here in Kinvara, I’ve just returned from an uplifting meeting with teachers at our local primary school. Nearly every year for the past 8  years, I’ve participated in information evenings for parents, speaking about internet safety issues related to social networks popular at the time (e.g. Bebo, Club Penguin, YouTube and most recently Facebook) – for example Our Children Online workshops. This year, when asked to give a similar talk, I hesitated. I explained that I simply couldn’t focus on “internet safety” without also discussing social media in the context of learning – for students, teachers and parents.

So today I met with teachers, as a parent and as a fellow educator. We discussed how learning has changed enormously, particularly in the past decade, through technologies such as broadband and wireless internet access, YouTube, Wikipedia, social networking, and open access to education resources. The trend towards learning that is more open, mobile and social provides many opportunities for more authentic learning, at every level of education. Social media, in essence, breaks down the walls of the classroom – the world becomes the classroom, children can become one another’s teachers, and teachers can facilitate deep learning experiences.

Of course there are challenges. Resources are scarce: for faster internet access, for more computers and devices, and for training. None of us were taught to learn nor to teach in these ways.  We rely on our PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) for information, ideas, inspiration, encouragement and support. And we can use tools like Twitter to build those essential networks of support.

I posted a question on Twitter earlier today, inviting messages to our session in Kinvara, using the #kinedu hashtag. Our thanks to all who took the time to say hello and to send encouragement. As I explained to those of our group who are new to Twitter, just this small sample of tweets conveys the warmth, humour and encouragement available on Twitter – plenty of encouragement to begin building a PLN! :)

During our session today we explored Twitter and blogs, checking out some wonderful work by students and teachers in Ireland and beyond, including the #edchatie Twitter chat and community; @MrsBellsClass Junior Infants class on Twitter; @DeputyMitchell‘s QuadBlogging initiative; and Heathfield school students talking about blogging (a great response to this video!). A list of resources which we explored today is below. This is just a starter – please feel free to suggest other resources in the comments so that we can add to this list.

I was simply inspired by the enthusiastic response of the teachers today. “How do hashtags work?”, “How can I get Twitter on my phone?”, and “What can I do with my students on Monday morning?” were some of the questions. Our session ended with lively discussion, plenty of laughter, and promises to check out Twitter, blogging, Google Reader and more. I look forward now to meeting with parents, and to continuing to participate in these essential discussions between teachers, parents and students. We communicate, we connect and we learn.

Finally, several of us will be attending the ICT in Education Conference in LIT Tipperary (Thurles) on May 19th. The theme is “Learning Spaces” and with keynotes by Ira Socol (@irasocol) and Pam Moran (@pammoran) and workshops by many Irish educators it promises to be a great event. Hope to see many of you there!

Resources explored today (Twitter, blogs and more) particularly relevant for schools:

@SeomraRanga  |  @IrishTeachers  |  @NL_84   |  @fboss  |  @sccenglish  |  @thefrogblog  |  @Parents_GortCS 

@DeputyMitchell  |  @TheHeadsOffice  |  @ShellTerrell  |  @kvnmcl  |  @MrWejr  |  @gcouros  |  @InnovativeEdu   

Irish Teacher Blogs – aggregate of blog posts by educators in Ireland

Anseo.net – monthly magazine-style website, edited by Irish primary teachers @simonmlewis and @rozzlewis

SeomraRanga.com – blog run by Damien Quinn, primary teacher in Sligo, sharing a wealth of resources for the primary school classroom

Coderdojo.com lists all Coder Dojo clubs in Ireland and abroad – great new initiative for young people to learn how to code

NetFamilyNews.org – excellent site for advice on technology and internet safety, edited by Anne Collier

Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum – collection of resources for schools, published by CommonSenseMedia.org

A Parents’ Guide to Facebook (2012 edition) – published by NetFamilyNews.org

Great blog post by danah boyd (@zephoria on Twitter) about parents helping their kids to violate Facebook’s 13+ rule.

Stephen Heppell’s resources on using mobiles, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. in the classroom

What schools are really blocking when the block social media (DML Central, January 2012)

Sincere thanks to all of the teachers and the principal at St. Joseph’s National School, Kinvara.

Kinvara image: used with permission

Resources for exploring digital identity, privacy and authenticity

At the CESI (Computers in Education Society of Ireland) conference last weekend (#cesi12), I presented ‘Social networking with our students: digital identity, privacy and authenticity’. A number of people have asked for details of the articles and resources I referenced, so here are both the presentation and a summary of resources.

Digital identity, privacy & authenticity – #CESI12

[=> presentation updated 18/04/12]  The presentation is based on student work in a Professional Skills module, in a 2nd year BSc Computer Science and IT programme (see our Scoop.it for additional resources). The module aims to help students to improve their research and communication skills. Students gain experience in writing and presenting, both online and in class. Together we explore digital identity, privacy, social media, openness, copyright and Creative Commons.

Authentic learning is at the heart of the module. It is unrealistic to believe that students can learn or practice modern communication skills effectively in a traditional academic situation — i.e. submitting assignments individually to a lecturer, in an essentially private transaction. Communication today, particularly for IT academics and professionals, often takes place in open, online environments: discussion boards, social networks, blogs, wikis, etc. Ideas can be presented, discussed and defended; collaboration and feedback are enabled; better solutions can be found. To make the most of communicating in these different modes, in different media, a good understanding of digital identity and privacy is essential.

My CESI presentation focused on our use of Twitter, and particularly Google+, in autumn 2011 as an environment within which to discuss digital identity and privacy. Following is a summary of resources which we found useful, thought-provoking, interesting.

Search for your digital footprint
Resources

This Is Me is an excellent set of learning materials about digital identity, produced by the This Is Me project and modified by Nancy White, Shirley Williams, Sarah Fleming and Pat Parslow.

danah boyd’s (@zephoria) work is essential reading for anyone seeking a deep understanding of digital identity, privacy and social networking, with a particular focus on young people. In her 2010 paper, Social network sites as networked publics, boyd identified 4 key attributes of information which exists (about us) online, i.e. it is persistent, replicable, scalable and searchable.

The private/public debate is fascinating, and one in which students can actively engage. For example, while Mark Zuckerberg has asserted that sharing or “public” is the new social norm, 4chan founder Christopher Poole argues that anonymity allows users to reveal themselves in a “completely unvarnished, unfiltered, raw way”.

Helen Keegan (@heloukee) is a recognised expert in the areas of digital identity, digital media, social networking and learning. Keegan has written of the “tyranny of authenticity”, particularly in the dynamic between students and educators, and the challenge of authenticity in the context of higher education.

Videos

TED Talk: Beware Online Filter Bubbles by Eli Pariser

TED Talk: “moot” (on Anonymity) by Christopher Poole

I Know What You Did Five Minutes Ago by Tom Scott  (many of my students enjoyed this video — possibly better for older students)

Books

Eli Pariser (2011) The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You — The “filter bubble” concept is a great one to explore with students of almost any age; Pariser’s TED Talk is excellent and accessible, and the related website has useful tips.

Jeff Jarvis (2011) Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live — Jarvis, espousing extreme “publicness”, acknowledges that fear accompanies the adoption of any new technology and notes that “we will make a lot of mistakes as we develop social norms around how to treat information online”.

Sherry Turkle (2011) Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less from Each Other — Turkle has received praise and criticism for this book, in which she maintains that democracy requires that we retain a “zone of privacy” around the individual.

We’d love to hear about additional resources which you have found useful.

Online education – a snapshot

Open online education is changing rapidly. The first few weeks of 2012 has seen the launch of Udacity, Stanford’s Coursera and the first course offering by MIT’s MITx. In trying to put these developments into context, I’ve drafted a table illustrating key aspects of this evolution in online education, focusing particularly on open online courseware (as opposed to more discrete OERs). This is not meant as an exhaustive catalogue, but simply as a concise summary of recent developments, enabling comparisons. [Table updated 5th March 2012.]

Full table click here:  Online education – a snapshot

(Summary table below the break.)

Image: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 sundaune

Related blog post: Distributed Creativity: open education and challenges for higher education

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