Final summary

My Education and Digital Cultures journey was certainly a rollercoaster ride, blending the new such as IFTTT with prior experiences such as MOOCs. Each of the three blocks presented content challenges alongside practical ones, and many times cognitive dissonance was at the fore, pushing and pulling my actions and beliefs against theory.

Image: tug-of-war-monument-wismar on Pixabay CC0 – falco

It all culminated in the final weeks with a focus on theories and critical approaches to educational technology (Plant, Haraway, Bayne, Gardner, Watters). Many of my stream elements lauded technological achievements yet balanced by calls of caution such as this from Neil Selwyn (2016):

“First and foremost, we need to recognize that all these claims of ‘fixing’, ‘disrupting’ and ‘game changing’ are being made for a reason. These are not value-free extrapolations of neutral technological innovation.”

What went well

Finding content to feed into my Lifestream was straightforward (but too little?) and using Twitter was by far the most seamless method. It afforded the ability to add metadata on the fly, the space where I felt most connected to peers and resulted in interactions from an external audience. However, I continued adding different types of feeds into my stream to increase variety. Some of these were new to me and I will continue to use in the future, such as Pocket.

Another element of my stream that I enjoyed immensely was creativity. I have coloured in, made videos, created sketch notes, visualised networks with toys and software, curated images and employed music.

Adding metadata was one of the push-pulls for me. Feeding the Lifestream continuously, and reflecting at the end of the week in my summary came naturally. However, after my mid-way feedback, I tried to change this to a continuous reflection with shorter summaries, which hopefully shows in my stream.

What didn’t go well

The integration of IFTTT with my installation of WordPress was not a happy fit. Frustration abounded with embed problems as time was lost attempting to find solutions. Eventually, I resorted to manual intervention which, despite eating into reflection time, ensured the visual elements and hyperlinks worked.

Keeping up with other blogs proved difficult as feeding my own, reflecting, reading and creating my artefacts took significant time. I tried to comment on as many posts as possible but setting up separate RSS feeds for each person was time consuming, with many IFTTT recipe failures. However, replying on Twitter was an instant solution which also afforded conversation better than blog comments.

The end of the road?

Overall, the experience has been fun, tiring, challenging and ultimately very rewarding. As my feed developed, my learning through a multitude of modes, together with the realisation that the journey is actually only beginning – I want to delve more into critical pedagogy theory and also ethnography as a research method. Throughout, my common threads have been the human, connections and critical approaches. With that in mind I’ll say farewell to my stream with words from Paulo Freire (1994):

“One of the tasks of the progressive educator, through a serious, correct political analysis, is to unveil opportunities for hope, no matter what the obstacles may be.”


Freire, Pauolo. Pedagogy of Hope, Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Bloomsbury Academic, 1994. Print.

Selwyn, Neil. Is Technology Good For Education?. 1st ed. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016. Print.

Week 11 summary

This was a slightly strange week as I initially was thinking about finalising my Lifestream and chatting with others about reflecting and ideas around artefacts.

The Brainpickings article on Dewey and reflection not only served me well for this course but also seemed perfect reading for Understanding Learners in an Online Environment. Strangely, it was only after the formal teaching period was over that I began to increase the level of leeching knowledge, information and thinking from one to the other. It also resulted in an enjoyable international conversation about whiskey and coffee!

Then I turned more to the final assignment both with regards the delivery method and the critical perspectives. Therefore, I returned to Sian Bayne’s talk, given last November at Dublin City University, which I had actually attended in person.

Then I came across a Gardner Campbell interview, the title ‘Educating the Whole Person’ jumped out at me. This tied together many of my threads around learning analytics and personalised learning.

Going a bit further, the article with the tagline ‘Edtech caught in industrial capitalism’s narrative’ by Benjamin Doxtdator again seemed timely to my end assignment. Pushing me to consider technology in the widest sense. A theme further highlighted during Audrey Watters talk on ‘Automating Education and Teaching Machines’. This talk was wonderful as always from Audrey, not least as it is based on a metaphor, which never fails to draw me in.

This week also was a difficult one personally so overall I felt I wasn’t able to engage with my stream but it was still ever present in my mind.

Week 10 summary

Unbelievably it is the end of week 10 and it will be strange easing off to move onto thinking about the final assignment without having any formal additional reading or activities to attend to.

This week continued the theme throughout the course, with me remembering the human within technological achievement. The week began with a Jisc video which includes a message from Sheila McNeill : “ is really important that we don’t forget the human element of learning analytics. It is easy to get carried away by technology, by the data, by the dashboards…”

Many other entries focused on visualising data and some of the beautiful objects and art that arises from (I suspect the assignment might be on my mind).

Finally, through the analysis of the Tweetorial and discussions during the Hangout I began to suspect that I look at the data perhaps somewhat differently.  It was raised that the data privileged quantity over quality and it was clear that in the data sets those who shout loudest and most often win the day.

Even out and about in the park I was seeing ‘networks’ in everything

However, I saw the data as how I experienced the tutorial. I generally hang back and think about replies for quite a while before pressing send. Throughout the two days I probably deleted as many tweets as I sent. For me, it was more about being in a class, yes the topic was serious and I did file away papers and links but I chatted and learned from my classmates and felt part of #mscedc, something I chatted further about off lifestream.

The data will never be simply numbers to me, I will always want to analyse thinking of the humans as the nodes, joining and connecting. Maybe lots but maybe less, like the organic nature of a tree with many branches and buds, as the ‘visible’, roots and seeds as the ‘invisible‘. I still believe our networks are too complex to be reduced to this binary referred to in Knox (2014).


Knox, J. (2014). Abstracting Learning Analytics. Code Acts in Education ESRC seminar series blog.

Week 9 summary

At the beginning of the week I focused on looking around to get some basics about Learning Analytics (LA), adding links to the HEA and Jisc for example. Overall in general I got the sense that the advantages of LA for the learner was for the institution to be able to provide support and guidance. The proof of this seemed to be increased retention. However, I then explored many examples of algorithms gone wrong and the human impact of this.

I have been a LA sceptic without having an in-depth knowledge on the topic and I was quite surprised that during the tutorial many shared my cynicism and highlighted the need for more qualitative and contextualised analysis.

As education has higher and higher student numbers and fewer teachers LA is yet another way to solve this problem – I tried to show this on my image – but I don’t believe that it will. In any conversation I have ever had with others LA is always framed in terms of surveillance. Essentially, ‘we need to track our content to prove student didn’t engage’.  Every time I ask why.  ‘Proving’ the student has clicked on content is absolutely no proof of engagement. Only a human making contact, face to face or virtual, can deduce this and know if the student is having problems or is simply working at their own pace and timetable. I added my own annotated LARC report to help me frame this.

In addition, there is also the issue of ethics around the collection and analysis of all this ‘big data’ and I tried to highlight this by including the blog post by Lorna Campbell who tried to question a software company on its collection of data policies.

I ended the week by including a Storify and a TAGS Explorer map of the, very informative and enjoyable, Tweetorial as I tried to visualise the conversation as this helps me see past the numbers.

Week 8 summary

Another week has flown past before I feel I have truly got to grips with it. I am a bit stuck in a ‘catch up one week at the start of the next‘ loop. I really enjoyed looking at and commenting on quite a few ethnographies, but made myself move on mid-week. However, I did add Pocket to IFTTT!

Trying to make sense of algorithms was worrying as I am definitely out of my comfort zone with numbers never mind big numbers. I began by watching some instructive talks and videos.

Despite my focus on my YouTube algorithm exercise the main element that has come through my week is yet again online community. On Twitter I spotted a good article about Google and education and this started a conversation about community and sharing and it turned out to be very circular indeed.

The Tweet from Amanda Taylor re article in the Conversation, author, Ibrar Bhatt brought algorithms and/vs serendipity to life: Amanda in Lancaster University, worked in Queen’s previously, Ibrar wrote article whilst at Lancaster University, now works at Queen’s in a different department from me. When I first retweeted the article I had no idea where Amanda was located or anything about the author so discovering such close network nodes showed me how algorithms are at play without me even realising, as I have no recollection of how I came to follow Amanda in the first place.

Lastly, as the week closes I am again thinking on the paradox of Higher Education’s continual resistance to change whilst simultaneously lauding technological innovations as potentially disruptive. Each time change is slow and minimal with a focus on administrative benefits rather than the learning experience. The virtual learning environment, VLE, is an ever present piece of evidence of this.

There you go Jeremy, proof I act on your feedback – word count under 300!

Week 7 summary

My stream is unusually skewed this week, light at the start and heavy near the end. There were several reasons for this, I was at a conference on Tuesday, my MOOC analysis was ongoing and I think my frustrations at IFTTT were beginning to drag me down a bit. My initial response to my feedback was that it was exactly what I had been expecting, however, as the week went on I think it did over shadow my output to some extent.

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Week 6 summary

I ended my thoughts last week with the question “I wonder if we now have overly high expectations of community in the online sphere?” and looking back through my stream for this week I see that I have been probing away at this.

The paper Participant association and emergent curriculum in a MOOC: can the community be the curriculum? (Bell, Mackness & Funes) looks at participation and community and its conclusion states:

There was confusion over what community meant, and where and how to perform it in Rhizo14, as participants brought different tacit understandings of the term to the course. The ‘warm glow’ communitarian notion of community emerged as a shared meaning that often defined both interaction and curriculum.

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Week 5 summary

This week’s stream seemed to have three different elements – community, robots and spaces.

Robots and ethics still seem to be on my mind in this block and Philip and I have been discussing the worries around the future of these. Using autonomous vehicles as an example, even Elon Musk is warning humanity that they need a plan for the displaced workforce due to these vehicles.

Spaces and their importance offline and online have also appeared due to our discussions and also from my MOOC on designs for the future. As with the vehicles we need to redesign our spaces to work with technology and not against it – the library is now used more than ever but needs to be more than just a building to house physical books. We need to encourage collaboration and communication for users and access to the Internet.

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Week 3 summary

My summary this weeks leads directly on from my last post looking at the emotional aspect of humans and how that is intangibly different to computer coding. Many of my tweets and conversations with fellow students circled around the dystopian aspect of this and the worry about AI replacing us, both in care roles and the workplace (such as in call centres or social care settings). One author, a new father actually took solace in his wife’s exhaustion feeding at night as he couldn’t foresee any robot being able to emulate this human trait and all that it entailed.

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Week 2 summary

I specifically spent the week focused on robots, developing from week 1. Looking over the week two key themes seem to have emerged in my unconsciousness. Firstly, dystopian/utopian binary perspectives of robots in society, both now and in the future. Secondly, the human/machine interface and the ethics of the blurred line between them.

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