Marvellous Mapping: Visitors & Residents workshop in Galway

Creative Commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) Flickr photo shared by Catherine Kolodziej (Calyon)

As networked individuals each of us makes choices – on a daily and sometimes minute-by-minute basis – about how we share, interact, learn, and teach within and across different online spaces. We do this in the multiple (and often overlapping) contexts within which we work and live… as students, educators, researchers, professionals, parents, citizens, etc. In each of these roles, but perhaps particularly as educators, it is important to reflect on our identities and practices in online spaces – and how we learn and teach in those spaces.  Visitors & Residents (V+R) is a tool which helps us to do this.

Last week – to celebrate Open Education Week 2015 – we were fortunate to have Dave White and Donna Lanclos here at NUI Galway to facilitate a Visitors & Residents workshop, “Marvellous Mapping”, sponsored by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education in Ireland. Dave White is Head of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of the Arts London and Donna Lanclos is Associate Professor for Anthropological Research at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Dave is the originator of the Visitors and Residents concept, and both he and Donna are on the research team that developed the related JISC infoKit.

Creative Commons licensed (BY-SA) Flickr photo shared by catherinecronin

Thirty-five educators – lecturers, tutors, librarians, educational technologists, researchers – participated in the workshop on a gloriously sunny day here in Galway to reflect on and discuss our online identities and practices using Visitors & Residents mapping. Following is a short summary of the workshop.

Visitors & Residents – the concept

Visitors and Residents is a way of describing the range of ways we engage with the Web. In particular, V+R encourages us to think about the social traces (rather than data traces) that we leave online. In Visitor mode, you might access an online resource in a purely instrumental way, i.e. simply to get some information. In Resident mode, you view the web as a series of spaces or places; you engage with people – not just with information. As a Resident you typically have a profile, and at the extreme end of residency you are visible to others on the open web, i.e. you will show up in search results (e.g. your Twitter profile, your blog, etc.).

We are never wholly Visitors or Residents, however. Our behaviour depends on our choices and our context, i.e. what we are doing and with whom. V+R is a continuum. Somewhere in the middle of these two poles, Visitor and Resident, is where a lot of online activity happens – behavior which is “resident in character but within bounded communities”, i.e. resident behaviour which is not visible on the open web. This would include interactions within Facebook groups, within members-only wikis or discussion forums, or in module discussion boards within VLEs, for example.

V+R mapping

Dave and Donna described Visitors & Residents mapping as a useful exercise for “making the virtual visible”, and thus for reflection. The metaphor helps us to talk about the digital as a space or a place: “the web is a place where we do stuff… mapping helps make it more visible.” The two axes used in V+R mapping are a horizontal Visitor-Resident axis and a vertical Personal-Institutional (or Personal-Professional) axis. You can then add the various tools and spaces that you use to this map, locating them according to how you use them.

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Simple Visitors & Residents map by Dave White

This is described in more detail by Dave White in the video below:

For education professionals the line is often blurry between the professional and the personal. Convergence is an interesting concept to consider: how comfortable are we with this, or do we deliberately want to separate these? There are many ways to separate the personal from the professional, or even to separate different strands within our personal and professional lives. Some people separate these by having different personas, e.g. on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, blogs, etc. Some enact boundaries by using different devices for different activities, e.g. gaming on their PC, work on their laptop, no email on their phone, etc. We make our own boundaries, consciously or unconsciously – separating or merging the different spheres of our lives. During our discussions at the workshop, there were differing opinions about this. Some found that making their personas and practices separate (personal vs. professional) made things easier, others found that this made things more difficult. One thing was clear, however, and that was that the act of mapping, of making visible, was a significant aid to both reflecting on these ideas and discussing them with others.

During the workshop, each participant created their own map and had the opportunity to share and discuss their map with others. As a follow-on activity, Donna and Dave asked participants to think about where they might want to change their existing practices, i.e. what might they like to do more or less of? Participants annotated their maps with arrows to show the direction of these proposed changes.

When discussion moved to our practices as educators – in various roles (lecturers, tutors, learning technologists, librarians, etc.) – the VLE was the focus of some interesting debate. Some participants see the VLE moving on from being a repository to becoming/being another learning space. One participant, a tutor in a fully-online course, noted that the discussion forum within the VLE for that programme is considered to be the “heart of the course”. But what do students think? In their work with students, Donna and Dave found that many students liked the idea of the VLE as a consistent home or a hub for each module, with other connections (e.g. social media) being voluntary. As recounted by Dave, one of these students noted that they liked the fact that “there’s always somewhere to come back to”. In general, for undergraduate students, many of whom are just forming their voice, it is useful to have a home, a place to start and to return. But must this home be within a VLE, or could it be a more open, networked hub? As one participant noted, for those who operate predominantly in Resident mode it can be tough to have a VLE-based course home page. This can be “just another place to visit”, “a dead end” rather than a place on the web that can be integrated with other learning activities and networks. Compromises can surely be struck. As educators, we need to think about the best ways to facilitate a home or hub for our courses – depending on the particular course, the context, the needs and preferences of our students, and our own abilities, experience, values, and preferences.

V+R reflections

There were many other dicussions on the day, but this summary provides an overview. Overall, the workshop provided educators with an opportunity to reflect on our own online  practices; to share perspectives on learning spaces, digital identities, and openness; and to consider how such insights could inform our teaching practices. The Visitors & Residents mapping exercise proved to be a useful starting point for reflecting on overall approaches to learning and teaching, for informing ways to work with students online, and for considering the relationship between the formal institution and online culture.

On a personal note, it was a joy to meet and work with Donna and Dave in Galway after connecting online for some time. Along with my co-conspirators in CELT, Sharon Flynn and Iain MacLaren, we all enjoyed the “eventedness” (thanks Dave!) of bringing the workshop to fruition. Thanks to all of the workshop participants from Galway, Donegal, Sligo, Limerick, Athlone, and Dublin (and remote participants from within and beyond Ireland) for your openness, enthusiasm, and thoughtful feedback. CELT will follow up with the specific requests for training and information which emerged during the workshop.

A video recording of the workshop is available here; and a Storify of tweets (thanks to Sharon Flynn) captures the spirit of the day very well. A reflective blog post by Mairead Seery sums up the workshop beautifully:

The take-home message for me was that even when we inhabit the digital spaces of the online world, we are seeking something very simple and fundamentally human: a sense of belonging, connection and community, moments of fellowship with others.  For educators who are working to create meaningful learning experiences for students in real, online and blended learning environments, that is something worth remembering.


White, Dave & Le Cornu, Alison (2011) Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16 (9).

Marvellous Mapping: Visitors & Residents workshop in Galway

#EdTechBook launch!

15884117317_7fa8b69065_oI’ve had the pleasure of witnessing an impressive collaborative authoring project during the past several months. A group of 15 dynamic and talented EdTech professionals — coordinated by the dynamic and talented David Hopkins — has just published The Really Useful #EdTechBook. As described by David, the book is about “the experiences, reflections, hopes, passions, expectations, and professionalism of those working with, in, and for the use of technology in education” — mostly in higher and further education, but also in primary schools and various workplaces. The authors draw on their own experiences, supported both by research of their own as well as existing research in education, education technology, pedagogy, creativity, and innovation.

I was delighted to be asked to write the foreword for the book, which you can find below.

The book is for sale now — the official launch date is January 28th. Please check the #EdTechBook hashtag, or the link to the book above, for more information. Excellent blog posts also have been written by many of the contributors, including Sharon Flynn, Sheila MacNeill, Sue Beckhingham, and others. I believe it will be a rich resource for many.


“Dialogue cannot exist in the absence of a profound love for the world and for people.” – Paulo Freire

Fires rage all around us in education today. As educators we face many familiar challenges, some of which have taken on new forms in recent years. What is the purpose of education, of further and higher education? Who should fund it? Who benefits? Where does learning happen? What role could and should technology play? Whose technology? At individual and institutional levels we face new challenges also. Among these: How best can we support learning in a landscape in which the boundaries between formal and informal learning are blurring? How do we support networked learning in the age of surveillance? How do we, and our students, effectively manage our data, our privacy, our digital identities?

Your work will no doubt be affected by many of these challenges – whatever your discipline, your education philosophy, your politics, or your role. And it is these challenges which inform much of the work of learning technologists.

The role of the learning technologist, particularly in further and higher education, is relatively new and has evolved considerably in its short history (Conole, 2004; Hopkins, 2013; Oliver, 2002). This volume is authored by a diverse group of learning technologists who share their experiences of and reflections on their work. More importantly, however, they reveal much about their individual approaches to learning and teaching, to technology, to change, and to the future. The authors define themselves variously as learning technologists, educational developers, digital pedagogues, lecturers, and consultants. What unites them, however, is a collaborative and cross-disciplinary approach to curriculum development, and to professional and personal development. This is, at its simplest, a collection of articles by learning technologists. But the collection is also a live network of trusted and generous education professionals, each of whom describes their own learning as well as how they collaborate and support learning at their institutions. The Freirean spirit is evident here in the critical questioning and dialogic approach; in the joy and love of learning and of people.

There is plenty of polemic today about how technology could and should be used in education, and no shortage of criticism about how it is being used. This volume is neither. The collection is a resource for anyone interested in the use of technology in education and learning, authored by those responsible for the messy reality of “managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology” (ALT, 2010). The authors draw on their own experiences, supported both by research of their own as well as existing research in education, education technology, pedagogy, creativity, and innovation.

I am not a learning technologist. But like many of the contributors to this collection I consider myself an open educator, committed not just to open educational resources (as this book will be), but to open teaching, open thinking, and open learning. I invite you to dive into this volume, as I have done, with that spirit. Read about approaches that you agree with, as well as approaches with which you may disagree; read about work that is familiar to you, as well as work that is new to you. I join each of the authors in hoping that these contributions will form part of a wider and ongoing discussion about technology, learning, and the future of education.


ALT. (2010). What is learning technology?

Conole, G. (2004). The role of learning technology practitioners and researchers in understanding networked learning. Proceedings of the Networked Learning Conference 2004, Lancaster University, UK.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin.

Hopkins, D. (2013). What is a Learning Technologist? 1st edition.

Oliver, M. (2002). What do learning technologists do? Innovations in Education and Training International, 39(4), 245-252.

Image source: David Hopkins, Flickr. The Really Useful #EdTechBook

#EdTechBook launch!

Workshop: considering openness

I facilitated a workshop with academic staff at GMIT (Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology) last week in which we considered, mostly through group discussion, openness as educators. Carina Ginty invited me to share some of the ideas from Navigating the Marvellous: openness in education as a prompt for the discussion. The following slidedeck summarises some of the concepts we explored and the activity used to kick off the discussion.



The academic staff who participated in the workshop were from a wide range of faculties: engineering, IT, business, marketing, tourism and arts — as well as the library. In addition to their discipline-specific work, all of the lecturers teach a skills development module Learning and Innovation Skills for first-year students, with the goal of “empowering students with the skills to be successful in third level education and the workplace”.

After initial discussion and exploration of our definitions of openness, OER, copyright and Creative Commons,  I asked participants to work in small groups to map their open practices on a scale from Low to High, using this colour code:

Slide1Each group created a different map of their current practices — here is one of the maps produced:


This activity was a quick and engaging discussion-starter. There were lively conversations in small groups, and afterward in the large group, about openness, privacy, use of social media, and how academic staff are — and are not — protected when working in open spaces.

Not surprisingly, all of the the participants had used or adapted Open Educational Resources (OER) when designing their own teaching activities and materials. However, there was little experience, across the group, of creating and licensing OER, or supporting students in publishing their work openly. This was noted by the group as an opportunity for future development. We discussed a few of the many different social media tools that can be used by students and educators to create, share, and publish work openly, e.g. various blogging platforms, Twitter,, Wikipedia, Google Drive, Google maps, etc. A few examples can be found in this great post by Debbie Morrison: How-to Use Social Media Platforms to Create Meaningful Learning Assignments, and in the CT231 blog post: A Module Ends, A Networked Community Continues.

Apart from using this as a simple group exercise in considering openness, many of the academic staff participating described how they might adapt the simple “coloured dots” activity in their own learning activities with students. Like any workshop with educators: always many levels of teaching and learning happening :)

My thanks to Carina Ginty and all of the participants for a thought-provoking session — and for an outstanding lunch afterward, cooked and served by students from the College of Tourism & Arts at GMIT.

Image: CC BY-SA catherinecronin “considering openness” on Flickr

Workshop: considering openness

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

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Grace Hopper Google Doodle on 9th December 2013,


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. 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 remained 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 still can 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 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.


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



Resources from Technology is everywhere, but where are the girls? a webinar which I co-facilitated with Kim Wilkins for STEMx 2013.

Another 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.



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.

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

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

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.


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

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.

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 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 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.
Creating spaces for student voices

Enacting digital identity


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.


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”.

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.”


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
Enacting digital identity

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:


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.

Empowering the next generation of tech women: #GlobalEd12

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


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

Exploring digital identities

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!

>> Also, please check out the CT231 Student Showcase on — an up-to-date collection of student work including Ignite & Pecha Kucha presentations, blogs and audio podcasts.

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

Pecha Kucha: tips, resources & examples