Wednesday 27 January 2016

Motivational currents to understand informal #MOOC learning #PhD

A PhD journey has its ups and downs. And there is also an ongoing tension to put any findings you might have in a strong theoretical body of knowledge. Proving that your study is part of a scientific field, with strong arguments and good foundations. While I am investigating how experienced learners self-direct their informal MOOC learning (looking at MOOCs in the FutureLearn platform), I have come across a couple of findings that could all be connected to educational research. The difficulty is finding a way to convincingly link the data outcomes: motivation, proximity of context, emotions guiding learning, personal traits (e.g. self-esteem), personal goal setting, individual or/and social learning into a full picture of how my experienced, adult learners go about learning in MOOCs. This lead to some anxiety in my write up stage. The problem was not that I got these outcomes (for the data were clear), but that I had to somehow pin it to a strong previous research that could embrace all these outcomes (or at least most of them, while leaving a possible new angle for my study). So I read a lot, yet kept hitting a wall.

This is where the help, knowledge and experience of supervisors came in (once again). I have been lucky to get two very experienced, intelligent and supportive supervisors (Mike Sharples and Agnes Kukulska-Hulme). I truly mean that. As a PhD student your supervisors are appointed to you, so you need to accept those that you will work with. Supervisors will be your closest colleagues for at least 3 years, which means that they (and you) are the core social team of that part of your professional life. At several points in my PhD journey I would get stuck, or become very anxious, and somehow, supervisors put me and my research back on track by giving pointers (just pointers, not grabbing you by the hand, just simply directing you toward the yellow brick road to find your way home: getting the PhD title).

Similar this time. In this case it was Agnes who pointed me to new research by Zoltan Dörnyei , Christine Muir & Alastair Henry,  Motivational Currents in Language Learning with subtitle: Frameworks for Focused Interventions.
All of a sudden my findings seem to have a central meeting point, and after a first reading, it seems that I will be able to pin what I found to a previous and strong bit of research. Zoltan Dornyei has worked on motivation most of his professional life, but in this book/research he gives it a twist, bringing motivation, emotion, goal/vision setting together and with a clear personal drive that directs the learning. True, what Zoltan looks at is (formal) language learning and cases are mostly coming from project work in class, and not (informal) MOOC learning which I investigate, but as I looked at the lecture he gave (embedded below), my eyes opened and I got the feeling that I had found (thanks to Agnes and Mike) what I was looking for all along: my research hook. So I ordered the paperback version of Dornyei's book, and will get to work with it next week. In the meantime, I am sketching outlines of what I want to say based on the information I got from the shared keynote below.

Thursday 21 January 2016

Call for papers: mobile and online learning #CfP

Just a couple of open calls to get papers and/or speaking proposals in:

Practical Pedagogies 2016: 3 - 4 November 2016 in Toulouse, France.

A high-impact, grass-roots training conference for classroom teachers by classroom teachers. Two days of inspiring keynotesworkshops and evening social events: only 100 Euros*
Workshop leaders attend free of charge - submit your proposal here in January 2016!
not-for-profit event at the International School of Toulouse, November 3rd/4th 2016.
Important dates: Proposals need to be submitted by 30 January 2016.


EDEN Annual Conference 2016, Budapest

Re-Imagining Learning Environments

Dates: 14-17 June 2016
Venue: Budapest, Hungary
More information/website here.

Important dates:
Submission for all Categories: 1 February 2016
Except: Synergy Submission: 29 February 2016
Registration Open: mid-February 2016
Notification of Authors: 31 March 2016
Conference Dates: 14-17 June 2016

Description: The responsibility of the scholarly community includes widening the concept of learning and its role in society and exploiting transformative knowledge to drive social change.
We need renowned reflections of practice that support paradigm-changing transformations based on systematic knowledge.
Join the Conference in Budapest to tell about your research, projects and experience!
Networking and interactivity, sharing and discussion will be core aspects of the conference experience, focusing on what you can learn from and with your peers.
Submissions that relate to the Conference Scope and one or more of the Conference Themes are welcome in paper, poster, workshop, training, demonstration and synergy formats.


12th International Conference Mobile Learning 2016, will take place 9 - 11 April 2016 in Algarve, Portugal

* Keynote Speaker (confirmed):
Prof. Dr. Prof. h.c. Andreas Dengel, Scientific Director at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI GmbH), Kaiserslautern, and Professor, University of Kaiserslautern, Germany

* Conference Scope
Mobile learning is concerned with a society on the move. In particular, with the study of ".how the mobility of learners augmented by personal and public technology can contribute to the process of gaining new knowledge, skills and experience" (Sharples et al. 2007).
The ML Conference seeks to provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of mobile learning research which illustrate developments in the field.
For more details and information about topics please check

* Paper Submission
This is a blind peer-reviewed conference. Authors are invited to submit their papers in English through the conference submission system. Submissions must be original and should not have been published previously.

* Important Dates:
- Submission Deadline (last call): 5 February 2016
- Notification to Authors (last call): 29 February 2016
- Final Camera-Ready Submission and Early Registration (last call): Until 18 March 2016
- Late Registration (last call): After 18 March 2016

* Paper Publication
The papers will be published in book and electronic format with ISBN, will be made available through the Digital Library available at
The conference proceedings will be submitted for indexation by IET's INSPEC, Elsevier, EI Compendex, Scopus, Thomson Reuters Web of Science, ERIC and other important indexing services.
Authors of the best published papers in the Mobile Learning 2016 proceedings will be invited to publish extended versions of their papers in the "International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning (ISSN: 1941-8647)".

* Conference Contact:
Web site:


Call for Papers: Special Section on Hot Spots in Learning Analytics from Latin America
More information: SOLAR / LAK website here.

* Submission by: 25 February 2016
* First reviews: 10 June 2016
* Revised submission: 10 July 2016
* Final reviews: 25 August 2016
* Final versions: 10 September 2016
Cristian Cechinel, Federal University of Pelotas, UFPel (Brazil)
Xavier Ochoa, Escuela Politécnica Superior del Litoral, ESPOL (Ecuador)

Learning Analytics has been distinguishing itself as one of the fields of learning technologies with the highest growth in the last years. This growth and attention has to do with the fact that Learning Analytics has become a multidisciplinary area where computer scientists, learning researchers, educational managers and practitioners can all cohabit. Learning Analytics aims to use the knowledge developed by these different professionals not just to understand, but also to improve learning processes. Through the analysis of digital and analogical traces left by students and professors during the process of teaching and learning, researchers of this field extract key indicators that allow for the development of systems and tools that are able to improve the effectiveness of the process itself.

This new field of investigation has been widely developed in Anglo Saxon countries. USA, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia are amongst the main contributors to this domain. Latin America is also starting to measure and optimize teaching and learning processes through Learning Analytics; however, the existing efforts in this direction are very isolated as there is a lack of a regional community to foster the interchange of ideas, methodologies, tools and local results in the field. In 2015, during the 4th Brazilian Conference of Informatics in Education (CBIE) and the X Latin American Conference on Learning Objects and Technologies (LACLO), the First Latin American Workshop on Learning Analytics (LALA’15) was organized as a forum for researchers of Learning Analytics in Latin America to meet each other and share their investigations. The aim of the present Call for papers is twofold, first, to widespread the best papers presented at LALA’15, and second, to enable other Learning Analytics groups from Latin America to present their research work to the international community.

Global Learning in College

A Network for Academic Renewal Conference
October 6-8, 2016 in Denver, Colorado; USA.
More information/website here: 

Proposals Due Friday, February 26, 2016
The Association of American Colleges and Universities is pleased to announce the Call for Proposals for AAC&U’s 2016 Conference on Global Learning in College.
Sessions at this conference will examine how institutions are integrating and assessing global learning across the curriculum and in general education; creating, implementing, and assessing globally-focused courses and programs; developing and implementing global civic engagement experiences at home and abroad; integrating international students in meaningful ways; providing global learning experiences for new majority students; and examining global sustainability issues.
AAC&U invites proposals that examine how faculty, student affairs educators, and all campus sectors are working individually and collaboratively to advance student understanding of, commitment to, and agency for effectively and meaningfully engaging the global issues of their time. Proposals that showcase evidence-based practices that reflect any of the themes below, and that can be adapted readily to a wide range of institutional types, including community colleges and minority-serving institutions, are encouraged.
  • Outcomes, Assessment, and Curriculum/Co-Curriculum Global Learning Pathways
  • Ethical Obligations to International and Domestic Students and Community Partners
  • Strategic Planning for Global Learning: Designs for Greater Inclusivity
  • Integration of Global Learning with Other High-Impact Educational Practices
Visit the Call for Proposals to find out how to submit a proposal to share your work at the conference.
For more information, please call 202.387.3760, or write to Karen Kalla

Friday 15 January 2016

@ITSligo keynote and inspiring people

About nine months ago I had the pleasure of meeting GavinClinch, who works for ITSligo in Ireland. His institute does amazing online course work, and in constantly looking for ways to improve opportunities for students who transition from secondary school to university, or from university to professional fields. Like many other countries, Ireland has multiple challenges to orient their citizens for the future, luckily they have strategically, knowledgeable people working on it, such as the teams at ITSligo. Gavin is an expert in learning with technology, and he can bring out the best in people. I also had the pleasure of meeting Brian Mulligan who has 25 years of elearning experience, ranging from web programming, mixing media, drawing up online learning roadmaps… what a great bunch of people to exchange ideas with.

Sheila MacNeill joined us all to give the afternoon keynote, focusing on the blended learning journey she helps to roll out at GCU. She shared multiple tools, tips and struggles, which is always useful if you are in the same field (I twittered some of the tools here). As Sheila is a very generous scientist with a clear believe in transparent knowledge, we had many great talks on a variety of EdTech topics during breaks. Including a potential funding opportunity. Informal learning at these venues is such an enrichment. Mary Loftus also joined the seminar, which was a delight as I had never met her in real life (I had not seen Sheila IRL either). And today Sheila, Gavin and I had the opportunity to visit the grave of Yeats in Sligo (picture). 

My keynote focused on the secondary project I set up together with colleagues from GUSCO Kortrijk, to get 16 – 17 year olds ready for lifelong learning based on digital literacies and skills. Although I did give parts of the talk a few times, when preparing the talk at Sligo, I realized the overlap with my PhD study. So I also added the challenges and reasons for building the project as we are. And especially why this project is shaped the way it is, for the goal we have set ourselves: inspire more students to become passionate, successful learners.

While attending the symposium, I also had the pleasure of meeting two people of my online network for the first time. And also Kieran Tobin of ITSligo and an amazing brain to pick or more accurately learn from. Kieran seems to have sailed through many professions, each time increasing his insights, knowledge and wisdom. Kieran, Brian and I talked about nano-needles used for diabetes, the challenges for building a closed circuit insulin pomp, innovations that are happening in Sligo with top companies such as Oracle, the brain versus evolution, the need for interdisciplinary people to create holistic solutions, and of course learning in general.

I had a great, inspiring time, and I am now going home with loads of new ideas. Now, all we have to do is touch base again on the EU project.  

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Natalie Panek on Learning without Boundaries #devlearn

This keynote by Natalie Panek (she is a real rocket scientist, NASA Mission Systems Engineer, MDA Robotics and Automation Learning) will only be available for one week through the ELearning Guild's archive. Natalie gave the closing keynote at the DevLearn conference in 2015. She describes her journey on how she came to work for NASA (perseverance, keep on knocking on that door). The nice thing is that she focuses on getting more girls, women into engineering and science (if they are interested) by being a role model, mentor, active professional out there. 

The video is available here (in the archive of the eLearning Guild). 

It is definitely worth half an hour, for all of us dreamers and actors in learning technology. 
"She sees everything in life as an opportunity to demand the most of yourself: To commit to a goal and develop intellectual fortitude. Natalie Panek is passionate about lifelong learning through experiences removed from your comfort zones. As learning professionals, we have the challenge of igniting this passion in others. In this inspiring session, Ms. Panek explores how the ongoing pursuit of knowledge should take place throughout life and across an array of experiences. You will leave this session able to encourage yourself and others to be drawn to the rewards of challenge and learning, because the incentive is the fulfilment of our dreams, and our dreams are what will transform the world."

You do need to register for the eLearning Guild, but you can do it as an associate member (free). Once you are registered, you get access to the video (this week). 

Monday 11 January 2016

Power Learners, #DavidBowie and Creativity

There is so much power in Learning. In the ongoing quest for creation, trial, error, and renewal. There is something mystic in those of us who keep on creating (learning) and exploring the new on top of the old. Heightened creativity inevitably leads to estrangement, and at the same time getting closer to pure understanding. Going out of every comfort zone, building on the immense knowledge and experience one has gathered during a lifetime, and then mold it into what only the minds eye can see, beyond the known. The learning process, in its full power leads to unknown territories, it makes us want to do, want to keep doing it, until the end of time.

The first time I saw personal, power learning, was when I was at a Picasso exposition in Spain. My mother has introduced me to Picasso's work early in life (we went to his atelier in Antibes, as we stayed nearby during our summer vacations), but I did not really feel related to much of his work (some exceptions). But then, in the attic part of the exposition, there were these seemingly endless erratic drawings of bulls.... just chaotic drawings. Again and again, trying to depict the perfect multiple viewpoints of a bull in a two-dimensional piece of paper. As I moved slowly passed these drawings (and at first with little interest) ... I suddenly was drawn into them. So I stopped. And started to look again. There it was. The master at work, for himself, by himself, relentlessly seeking something, sketching viewpoint upon viewpoint (those drawings were made at the end of his life). It suddenly became clear that this was not a drawing, this was a man at work. Dedicated to finding something, following a quest. For this to happen, fame, artistry... all of that was not necessary. Simply a dedication to a topic, for decades. Trying to find a clue in detail, that would explain the bigger picture. Power Learners seem to move beyond themselves, could it be said that they become the medium? Is there such a threshold, from where the personal learning journey for enrichment suddenly turns into the medium itself? Many artists have said at certain points that some work gave them the feeling of being more then themselves. They became the object of something invisible.

Power Learners have to keep creating: carpentry, engineering, programming, sculpting, writing, thinking, ... and of course making music. David Bowie seems to have done that, learning, power learning, and then moving beyond the sum of his learning. What a thrill that must be. Starting from a passion, and then becoming it. (picture: )

Friday 8 January 2016

#Phd journey and shifts in punk identity

Learning is a constant journey, a lifelong journey and that is a true fact when I look at my life. But what I did not realize, was that learning - and the internal/external growth that comes with it - can push identity shifts. My current identity shift, together with my recent  job quest, has led me to rethink who I am, and who I would like to be. If I get my PhD, then who am I?

For years I felt I was the one that "had no diploma" and yet (somewhat against the odds) was "doing stuff with innovative tech in difficult settings", so in my minds eye that was me. No more, no less. 
Practically, that meant that I was the one who you could give a tech challenge, which would evoke enthusiasm instantly: "hei Inge, I want to build a really, really low cost solution for setting up patient records with basic cell phones in sparsely connected areas, any thoughts?" or "how do we hack current MOOCs to use them in non-English speaking high school classrooms?" or "do you have ideas on how to build a MOOC for highly experienced tech people that can be used both internally and publicly while using varied pedagogical options for high-end learners?"... Ah, a challenge! Gimme just a minute......*brain excited and filled with joy of exploration* 

But, my identity was ... (elearning) punk. The others had the degree, I had the solution against the odds. That was who I was. But now this (if I get the degree) will be different. Getting a master three years ago, allowed me to still ignore having a degree. It simply did not dawn on me that I was 'formally certified'. Once I go across the Phd threshold... would that mean I would no longer be an elearning Punk? Will I have succumbed to the system? Which identities did I have? I was at times a truly bad secretary, a moody waitress. I was (and I hope I still am) an activist! I fought for LGBT marriage, for gender equality, for education for all, I was (and am) part of the informal, outsider feminist movement... but it was all DIY, at every stage I was punk... so, who am I becoming, who am I now? Where is my place on this new earth? This might sound funny, but honestly, when looking for a job I just freeze... I do not feel I can charge forward like some lunatic Donna Quichotta, battling all the usual suspects/job seekers by mowing them down with my lack of formal education, and most of all raw energy. Being punk made me fearless. Now I am formal... or am I? 

Two days ago, a twitter friend called me a MOOC ninja. I could honestly have kissed her with oodles of gratitude. Can I still be considered a ninja? When I talked to Stephen Downes at Online Educa Berlin a month ago, he said "now you will be higher qualified then me"... I fell into the abyss when he told me. Completely impossible. Stephen Downes is the one to have several honorary doctorates at the same time, I am just me. I felt as if the ground beneath me was about to devour me for being unreal. It really shook me to the bone, like I was betraying my (old?) self. And for weeks it haunted me, this illusive new me to be.  

So, yesterday I needed to get out of this idea, holding me back. Holding me back from getting my chapters written (no, I do not want to leave my punk status), and keeping me from energetic job hunting. I need to understand the new me, and add her to the identities I have had in the past. I somehow need to find a way to merge this new me with my old one's. 

At this point in time I have been around for 48 years. I have used learning at a distance since 1999, which gives me about 17 years on that field. So quite a bit of time, using technology for learning purposes (either for myself, or with others). The learning technology I have been working with was/is used in low resource settings (eg. Sub-Saharan Africa; rural Latin America) and high resource settings (eg. Northern Europe/America). It spans high school settings and continued professional development (medical field, train-the-trainer options). It spans corporate, academic and NGO's. Financially, budgets of on average 100.000 EUR/Y to get new, sustainable projects, with sustainability and scalability at their core). On a technological side, the learning solutions varied from developing tech solutions for wap-enabled basic phones to smartphones, to mobile MOOC for any type of device, and embracing major MOOC platforms like FutureLearn right now as well. I worked with diverse target audiences from all continents (no, not the antarctic) and I am lucky to be friends with many of the people I work/ed with. The last couple of years I have written articles (academic and corporate style), I have authored one book on MOOC (in the process of another more philosophical/sci-fi) and co-authored one (thank you David Hopkins), and set up MOOCs, eg. MobiMOOC (low-fi), MOOCs on the Internet of Things (high-fi), used by iMinds, one of the top 5 business incubation programs out there. 

Looking back I am quite surprised, it looks like quite a bit of work... so I cannot ignore that I do something. At least I can still have 'I do stuff' in my identity. Maybe that is enough. The fact that I will keep on doing stuff... just doing, not thinking first, but doing ... immediately. No matter what the boundaries look like, just go out there, and make it happen. Just like I did before, but soon with another piece of paper in my backpack. But I cannot ignore that piece of paper. I asked Ellen Wagner whether having a PhD makes a difference. She said very clearly "yes!" and added "when I am stuck in an important meeting with high power people, I just throw my title in and it shifts the balance in the discussion". So, okay, if it is a tool for her, it can be a useful tool for me as well. 

So this is what I came up with (up to now, any suggestions welcomed): I need to ignore the side of me that is scared about getting a degree, and realize it will not destroy the punk in me. I need to set a new, ridiculous goal. That always worked in the past. I need to embrace this new phd reality. Why not set out to become the Susan Sontag of eLearning? Or a futurist, but with a twist?Maybe a bit like Audrey Waters (but, admittedly I am more positive minded). And I need to find a job that will enable me to keep up online shares (looking at the cost that Stephen Downes and the Brain Pickings site have... I need to built in a safety net for punk online activities), as well as looking for a job that will be utterly inspiring due to its many challenges. 

Now, just find an institute, university, or someone that wants to hire me... a love-to-do-and-write-stuff punk with a phd in online education and lots of solution-finding experience.... where art thou ye mind-blowing new job?!