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Event report: Keynote for Education Scotland Social Studies Digital Learning Day #digilearnscot

As part of the outputs from the Digital Commonwealth project, David and I were invited to deliver one of the keynote’s for Education Scotland‘s Social Studies Digital Learning Day (#digilearnscot)

The event was broadcast live on Glow Scotland (the virtual learning environment for schools in Scotland) but we were asked to record the talk again so it could be embedded in other places too. The below video gives an overview of the project and key learnings/challenges from the perspective of the schools programme. It also gives wider insights in terms of delivering a similar digital literacy project of this scale.

The schools programme promoted digital media literacy skills through a series of in school training workshops, using readily available technology to help pupils tell their own stories through blogs, video, audio and social media. As part of their participation schools received learning materials (the digital storytelling handbook) enabling schools to built upon for future school projects and creating a legacy.  The materials including topics such as e-safety, copyright, active citizenship and media ethics which help pupils use their imagination and knowledge to produce creative, appropriate and engaging content.

 

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PhD Update: Enter the warpzone…

Reading through my research diary and blog posts at the time, I realise it’s been exactly five years since I was in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. In all honesty, back then I would have thought my PhD about the alternative, resistance and social media of those games would have been long completed by now. In fact, it is only really been the last year where it has felt entirely possible that it could happen. I’ve had to reverse engineer much of my research design and conceptual framework – despite much of it being close to my original thinking at the time, I had really no idea how I would begin to write about something that has taken me working at 2 mega events, 7 house-moves and 2 supervisor changes & a 16 month suspension from registration to finally get to grips with.

The story of my PhD and how it gets finished is not about my displacement and what I haven’t done – it is what I have done, where I’m at and what is happening now. I posted on Facebook last night about how I have reached a turning point – after 10 months re-registered part-time back on the programme, technically my ‘4th year’ – I’ve now completed a thesis summary for the last 4 chapters of my PhD. Something has had to tip from “what I am going to do?” to “what I have done!” – and having spent the last 2.5 days working through my record of data collection from 2010 – which, when I was feeling at my lowest, I thought was a pile of shit and a waste of time – actually is a pretty reflective, organised and backed up collection of materials, that makes sense and actually can start to be analysed, presented and contextualised in these last 4 chapters.  Similarly, I have set a deadline to submit 40k words (that’s exactly half of the final word-count) to my supervisors by the 30th of May 2015 (before a week off to York). That’s chapter 1-4, much of which is drafted and needs a couple of rounds of editing between now and May. It’s not an unrealistic goal, I have it all there – it does require quite a bit of library time, quite a lot of reading about epistemologies and ontologies and paradigms – but in terms of chapter plans, outlines and structures, I’m working with a jigsaw, not a blank page.

It makes me super happy to be able to write about this in my blog – especially as this blog has pretty much been with me through the whole process from application, data collection, dropping out, angst and PhD blues – it’s not a stage where I’m not having to write about how I am going to restart my PhD, it’s about how I am going to finish it, and perhaps even be able to share results, discussions and thoughts about methodology (which I feel I was much better at before I embarked on this half decade of brain-freeze!) I owe most of it to writing retreats and being able to spent more of my time with people who understand and encourage and notice change and progression. Also, I enjoy my job, it’s close enough but different enough to be able to explore the same themes from different perspectives.

The consistency of the writing retreat format means I can see my progress, I can notice how my mood and experience of working on a PhD changes. I’ve arrived at some retreats and been through the roof with stress but more recently I’ve been a chilled customer, finding it much easier to let go of things before it gets to that stage. I even have a detailed record of what I was writing this time last year, what my goals were and have I made them.

So, yeah, in terms of accountability, here we go – plan is full draft of PhD in by September this year, done by January 2016? I think that’s entirely possible now.

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Workshop: Social Media In and Around Research, @UniWestScotland

Bit behind on blog posts as been between projects, jobs, phd writing and the dreaded Christmas holiday dip in productivity (which was spent mainly lying on the floor, listening to NPR podcasts and drinking all the coffee) but hopefully this is me caught up now.

I delivered two related workshops at UWS in the last few months relating to social media and postgraduate research. The first was part of a school of education seminar series (I sit between two schools because I have a PhD supervisor in both the School of Media, Culture and Society (Prof. John Robertson) and the School of Education (Prof. Rowena Murray) – makes sense!) and it was basically 3 hours of ‘here is a bunch of things you can do with the internet in and around your research’ with the premise of opening up dialogue between attendees and spark a few ideas about how we could be using the Internet better within our research group.

And since then, I’m going to help record a series of short videos with other PhD students who attend out monthly research group to be added as profiles to Rowena’s website in the coming months. They will sit alongside the videos I made previously relating to the impact of writing retreats.

The second workshop was with Prof. David McGillivray part of the wider university postgraduate research training programme and sat within the academic writing and skills course organised by Gordon Asher.

Slides:

Session overview:

This session focuses on the value of social media for the emerging researcher, both in terms of their academic practice and career advancement. We start by outlining a set of critical commentaries on the role of social media in academic settings, before exploring how PG students may go about creating and maintaining a digital identity as they undertake their research. Consideration will be given to how PG students can differentiate between competing social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Academia.edu, Research Gate and blogging.

 The session will be theory informed, but practically relevant and students interested in attending should come armed with example from their own practice to share with others.

 Tutors: Professor David McGillivray (@dgmcgillivray)& Jennifer Jones (@jennifermjones), School of Media, Culture and Society’

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Honeycomb: Digital Storytelling workshop with Una Murphy from View Digital

I was approached by Prof. Nick Higgins to develop a workshop based on my work around digital storytelling training for community groups for the EU-funded Honeycomb Creative Works project.
As the Honeycomb project looks to provide training opportunities to those on the western seaboard of Scotland, parts of Northern Ireland and border region of Ireland, I saw this as a opportunity to approach Una Murphy from View Digital in Northern Ireland who I had met in London as part of our duties as Media Trust steering group chairs for Brilliant Northern Ireland and Brilliant Scotland programme.
The workshop took place on the Ayr Campus of University of the West of Scotland on the 26th of January.
Workshop overview: 
Through the fast-moving innovation and growing access to mobile, digital (and social) media tools, platforms and practices, it is now easier than ever to be able to create a piece of multimedia content that can be shared online in order to help support community engagement on and offline. Similarly, many groups and organisations already working in community, voluntary and third sector are tasked with telling the story of what they do to members, users, stakeholders and funders but often are not given the support required to capture the process effectively.
The Digital Storytelling workshop will cover four areas; blogging, video, audio and social media. These four technical areas will give the workshop participant the opportunity to create, host and share different forms of media, whilst also being able to cascade learning to others within their community, group or organisation.
About the Trainers:
Jennifer M Jones, Digital Commonwealth Project Coordinator & PhD Researcher. She is a digital media practitioner who has delivered digital materials, training and resource support for a number of third sector and cultural organisations including the Big Lottery Fund, British Council, Carnegie Trust, CILIPS, Robert Burns World Federation, Renfrewshire Council and a number of Universities around the UK.
Una Murphy, co-founder of VIEW, coordinates our digital and broadcast media workshops. She has produced and directed current affairs/factual/documentary programmes for UTV, TG4, RTE and BBC, reported for The Daily Mirror and The Irish Times, and worked on media campaigns for Save the Children Northern Ireland and CARDI, The Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland. She has taught journalism courses at various universities and colleges.
Who is this for? Community development, Voluntary and 3rd sector organisations. These opportunities are available to individuals (service providers) or 2-3 persons from your group who will be tasked with cascading these skills amongst your organisation. These skills allow those participating the chance to tell their own and other stories online, helping to develop the confidence to use the internet in a way that help better represent community issues, how to find a story and most importantly how to connect these stories to wider social and digital contexts, ensuring that the possibility can arise where those who are often unheard in the media get the opportunity to not only tell their story but to be in control of direction of it as well.

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Guest on @EduTalkr Internet Radio: On lessons from Digital Commonwealth

Over Christmas, I was invited by David Noble as a guest on the EduTalk live internet radio show. I spoke about my role as project coordinator on the Big Lottery funded Digital Commonwealth project, discussing the opportunities and challenges of managing a national digital literacy project of this scale.
Some of the key lessons that I address in the podcast below:
  • In terms of a national schools project (targeting 20 learners in each local authority in Scotland between ages of P6, P7, S1 and S2), access to advocates, technology and skills vary depending on the individual contact, teach and local authority, however, it is possible to buoyancy action by using best practice and similarities in projects to help teachers and local authorities gain momentum by using each others’ successes to influence change.
  • Many organisations and facilities already had access to some forms of technology that could help them with teaching digital storytelling within the classroom – however – it was not always clear what was available, who had access and what was allowed. It was important to be flexible and work with each school/group on an individual basis to ensure that the skills could be taught within each varying context.
  • Using an event as a catalyst for producing content allows for those participating to have a ready made focus to begin developing content. It is much harder to learn digital storytelling skills when you are staring at a blank page. Similarly, it doesn’t need to be an event the scale of the Commonwealth Games, any event will do.
You can listen to the full programme here – and EduTalk Radio is broadcast live Tuesdays and Thursday nights 7-8pm GMT here.

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Phd update: 13 months on since restarting

And just like that, it’s December. I’m writing this with my last hour of my third writing retreat of the academic year 2014/2015. I wanted to use this time to give a quick update & reflection on my PhD progress, as I started 2014 with the good intention of doing monthly updates, which subsequently ended up being kept offline instead. Regardless, I’ve managed to keep to the writing schedule that I set myself when I was appealing to restart, despite working full time in a fairly intense role as a project co-ordinator. So far, I’m on track to complete my entire first draft of my thesis by the schedule that my supervisors and I had set out as part of the re-start agreement.
I’ve now bypassed my one year anniversary of attending retreats – and the difference between where I was this time last year and where I am now is night and day. I’ve been to 6 in a 13 month period, the very first one being the first time I opened my PhD document since suspending back in October 2012, and subsequently feeling sick, upset, angsty and angry about what happened, yet the retreats forces me to keep looking at it and in turn writing myself out of the emotion that I attached to the document. If I’m being honest to myself, I had been quite a tough, mental excavation process, working out when to admit fault but also letting go of the rest.
Nevertheless, something clicked at the retreat last month, when I realised I was beginning to move on from feeling like a failed PhD student who had dropped out and was on the ropes, but instead a person that was capable to finishing it. I don’t know what was the reason for the shift in mindset, but I think the combination of the supportive peer-led environment, and the consistency of the space and place in which we work and socialise, it is easier to keep a tab on how you are feeling about your work and how much progress/confidence you are gaining as a writer. Finally, I was able to talk about my work without having to explain the messy context behind it, why I felt I wasn’t good enough to do a PhD and why I had had a break. It’s just something that I am doing now. And it is moving forward at a pace that I’m happy with (and, importantly meeting targets). I remember in the early discussions of returning, when my new supervisor offered to support me, I said that all I wanted was to get to this stage, the stage where I wasn’t having to contextualise my work with a massive diatribe of mis-justice and general distain for the academic system.
Thankfully, I can now say that this has passed. I can describe what my PhD is about without any of that.
I’m about to submit two redrafted parts of my thesis “Part 1: Purpose/Context/Literature Review” and “Part 2:Research Design/Methodology” based on all the documents, readings, writings and notes that I had available between 2009-2012 -the timespan of my full-time PhD prior to suspending. I will take joy in using a pun here, but essentially these redrafts represent a certain chapter in my life and now I can move onto the next sections, Part 3: Data Collection/ Discussion/Analysis – all of which is fresh new words and getting to grips with analysing ethnography data. They’ll probably need another million redrafts before they are ready to submit, I don’t doubt this for a second, but it feels so rewarding to have turned around what was essentially 3 years of jumbled lostness and arranged them into sections and chapters, without much additional reading or data collection at this stage.
I also have a ‘PhD shopping list’ for the work that I need to do between now and the end of January, things I need to do in the library, things that I need to do with my data, things I need to spend writing and things I need to discuss with my supervisor. I know that I will be able to pick up these tasks and systematically work my way through them, when in contrast I felt l was stabbing around in the dark, spending many a day in the library, feeling like I wasn’t writing when I was reading, wasn’t reading when writing, and not even sure I was I was there and if I was doing the right thing in the first place.
So yeah, December is always a pretty reflective time of the year anyway, and to be able to look back through what I’ve managed to achieve has meant that I’m now starting to see myself at a stage where I will begin thinking about my external supervisor, the viva and all the other things that start to come up on the horizon when coming to the end of a PhD. I don’t want to say that I never say myself at this stage, but, there has been times in the last few years where I felt like it would have been easier to just throw it in the bin and start again.
The best way of describing it now would to say that I now own my own PhD, its not this abstract scary document that I don’t want to show people because I’m not entirely sure what it is, but at the same, I’m about ready to let it go. I’ve been a PhD student for so long (Jan 2009, Leicester Uni moving in October 2009 to UWS) and so many things have changed in my life during this period of registration. I’ve lived in 15 different houses, I’ve lost count of how many jobs I’ve had to supplement my stipend, I’ve lived in opposite sides of the country and the people have came in and out my life, some staying & getting closer, some never seeing again. It’s just bizarre to think that actually, I might come to the end of being attached to this thing that has been consistent in my life when other things have been changing so rapidly and I’ve (only recently) have had any real stability.
Anyway, the purpose of this post really is so I can stick a flag in the sand – I hope by this time next year, I am writing about the end or being very near to it. Certainly, this will be the last time I will be writing about what came before, I’ve got to the end of all the materials that I had collected previously, those difficult conversations and reflecting on moments and memories that the writing brought up can now be concluded, there is no more I can work through at this stage. It’s only new words and new ideas from here on in. And this must be what doing a PhD should really feel like. Finally.

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