Archive | March 2012

Searching the literature

Doing a literature review you’d think would be simple – read a paper, write something about it and move on.  but first you have to find the relevant literature, you know – PROMPT

  • presentation
  • relevance
  • objectivity
  • method
  • provenance
  • timeliness

Experience and knowing where to look helps because you know which databases to search,  which journals to read and which authors to check, and the Literature Review HQ blog from a PhD student who’s gone through it helps remind you of the resources and the pain.

But recently, agreeing to write a paper with a colleague,  I committed myself to review literature in a field that was not in any of my PhD research areas, so I had no experience.  First with my limited knowledge, I checked papers of people who’d written in that area to see what journals they’d used, including in that check what my colleague had cited.  Then I drew up a list of possible journals and checked the university library for possibly suitable databases to use.  I kept a table of what databases I’d searched, what search terms I’d used, how many hits I’d got, and comments on the worth of these hits.  My PhD training on systematic reviewing helped.

Searching for papers and finding something useful is so empowering.  Six years ago I couldn’t do this and found it very difficult to put forward a research proposal to get on the PhD programme.  Now I can follow up newspaper articles to find and read the original source,   to form my own take on it.  Try it – find the sources for these articles:

And that’s just the search, -I haven’t started the review.

A story of engagement and stuff

Once upon a time, researchers wrote about engagement as something wanted of employees at work, but practical people who did engage, thought that engagement was a trusting relationship between at least two people. At the same time researchers wrote about people having things and stuff that reflected their different lives, work and ideas.

But, people haven’t researched engagement between people, or even identified what engagement is, and there are lots of definitions of engagement but they’re all in metaphors because it’s too difficult to explain what you mean by it. And on top of that, the connection between engagement and how things can help engagement hasn’t been made.

My research has made that connection and shows how IT suppliers and their public sector clients use things to engage with each other to get things done in work time and places.

Findings are that if people don’t have things to start with, then they don’t have anything to talk about, to use to persuade and influence, and work doesn’t get done. If they use similar types of stuff like logs or plans but if they don’t share them, then they can’t share ideas either and work doesn’t get done. But if people have and share material things and places and time, work progresses a heck of a lot better.

So the argument is that if you’ve got things and share and use them then it’s easier to talk and then it’s easier to get work done.

In the end, it boils down to sharing stuff and then everyone can work happily ever after.

A first attempt to create a proposal for the Strategy-as-Practice Workshop meant absolutely nothing to my test reader.  I had to rewrite it as a story.  Does it make sense to you?

Learn about fair

The university held its annual ‘Learn About’ fair, a selection of stalls and presentations showcasing the digital projects that the university has going.  Such projects include:

  • SocialLearn – going live in April
  • Learning systems such as Google apps for education and learning analytics
  • Mobile learning
  • Gaming in Education including the XDelia project
  • Podcasting
  • Library resources
  • Plagiarism checks
  • Securing greater accessibility

I see from the SocialLearn blog here, that research from the SocialLearn project will be contributing to the LAK conference in Canada in summer. Given that the OU is contributing so much, I found it slightly surprising, perhaps disturbing that when I visited the Learning Analytics stall there seemed little information cross-over .  The OU Learning Analytics stall was about developing the OU’s  IT data warehouse to enable more sophisticated learning analytics providing coherent information to enhance student retention and progression, improvement to learning design and the university’s ability to make more informed learning and teaching efficiencies.  That sounds like aiming at reducing costs and has more of the provider’s interests in mind than the learners.  David blogged here on the ethics of using data analysis like this.

What I couldn’t easily see was how my university was going to provide me with analytics about what my students are learning; I was told that it will provide me, but I’m still feeling sceptical. If the practice and theory parts of my university aren’t getting together, how can I believe a tutor will get learning analytics support?