Participation on Twitter supports identity development

Today’s editing of the conclusion has been fun, I am sharing my favourite paragraph as it reminds me of the penny-dropping moment of learning I had while preparing for the DRHA2015 conference. I was exploring how higher education professionals  were using Twitter for learning, but I had neglected to give importance to identity and it’s relationship with learning. Data brought up issues of belonging, participants feeling different from others and confidence, all related to who they perceived themselves and others to be.

I am sure I will re-word this again, but here it is now warts and all…..

This research has highlighted that development of digital capabilities (Beetham, 2015) digital and identity (Neary & Beetham, 2015) is important to the many activities and responsibilities of those who work in higher education. Indeed Wenger (1998) argued the politics of participation included influence and personal authority (Ibid, 1998) but with that in mind Visitor participants in this study, lacked a digital footprint and digital identity which suggests a lack of power to influence others (Stewart, 2015).

In this study professional confidence arose an issue that inhibited participants from engaging outwardly on Twitter and this was correlated with feelings of lack of a sense of belonging with other professionals on the online space of Twitter. However reflections on the research findings and literature have highlighted the opportunities for developing awareness of the self that online social networking offers (Wesch, 2008). Investigation of other literature (Turkle, 1997) emphasises the critical learning opportunity that being online offers the professional in that “computers brought philosophy into everyday life” (Ibid, p.x). Indeed this study shows that presenting oneself and exposing one’s views, opinions and practice online contributes to dilemma inviting further inquiry into the self, into who a person identifies as professionally and personally. To summarise activities online on social networking services such as Twitter can inspire thinking about digital identity but in turn can trigger significant consideration of the self and about one’s position in societal, cultural, institutional and global contexts. Therefore, I think, that introduction of social networking services such as Twitter into professional learning and development opportunities might prove very helpful in the identity work of academic development, whereby academic developers endeavour to develop the professional.

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Reflection on ‘belonging’ in online networked spaces

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We want more, We want more!

We want more, we want more! That was the overarching theme from results of  evaluations from recent participants on the Assessment and Feedback module I’ve been teaching on.

I have been teaching on short modules* that offer opportunities to staff to explore teaching and assessment practices at DCU. Unique to the Irish higher education setting, these academic development modules are delivered almost entirely online, providing opportunities for both DCU staff and teaching staff from other HEI’s to engage in developing their skills and capacities as teachers.

What I’m really excited about is that outcomes of the module have been extended further than the module itself. Five of the participants have disseminated their assessment related  work in through blogs and

One staff member  has been invited to speak about his innovations with PeerWise:

DCU staff seem to be hungry for more professional development in the area of teaching and learning. At the moment these short modules  offer [5 ECTS]  opportunities for staff to ‘propose’ changes to teaching/assessment

…..but wouldn’t it be great if we could extend our work** to support staff in implementing changes to practice, thus supporting them in researching their practice as teachers!

* Module design was competed during a DRHEA project, curriculum designed by Jean Hughes, Morag, Munro, Leone Gately and Eloise Tan

** Qualifications in teaching and learning to PG Dip, and Masters level can be attained from other HEI’s for example from NUIG, DIT, UCD

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How I create podcasts for student feedback

Some of my students have been asking how I feedback podcasts

So here goes: No theory about feedback cited here, just the practical stuff that I think of and apply when creating podcast feedback for students

Firstly I read the assessment piece and compare it to the assessment rubric criteria

I make brief notes (aka messy scribbles) about what I liked about the piece and what I think could be improved into the future

Then I use QuickTime player on my MacBook Air to record ‘audio’

I record once only and try to make the audio file max 3 minutes long

I do not edit out my uhms and ahs, I think that it adds authenticity and shows I am a real-thinking-human-being!

I save the audio file and then upload it to Google drive from where I share it privately with the student

Here is a short screencast to show how I record the audio in QuickTime player and upload to Google drive.

I found these brief notes on composing feedback useful (Staff 2016)

  • Be kind – celebrate what is great about the assignment.
  • What is my favourite part – be specific.
  • Be helpful and specific when providing feedback.
  • What could make this assignment even better?
  • What would you like added or taken out to make the piece even stronger?

What the research says:

For literature in this area I suggest reading Hattie & Timperley (2007). They assert that feedback needs to answer 3 questions

  1. What do I have to do? – clarifies goals for student
  2. How am I doing? – helps close the gap between current and desired performance
  3. What can I do next?

This video from John Hattie on ‘Learning Intentions & Success Criteria’ discusses helping students achieve success through feedback and transparent assessment processes.

An Irish research project on enhancing feedback practice with 1st year students has just published a synthesis of literature


Hattie, J., Timperley, H. ( 2007) The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research Vol. 77, No. 1, pp. 81–112

Staff, c. (2016) Assessment Webinar. Retrieved on March 31st from

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Can we really consider Twitter a learning tool?

This gallery contains 2 photos.

For the past 18 months I’ve been engrossed in the research topic of how Twitter is used by professionals for learning. Finally I’m nearly there, tomorrow I will present at a doctoral conference at UCL Institute of Education in London. Creation … Continue reading

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I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff..

Yesterday I came across the following quote via I need to read more Carl Rogers work after my doctorate – I feel completely high when I read these views of learning – The freedom that learning can be, the curiosity that it should be, the love for life and being in the world that learning is. Learning is an embodied life-giving  experience, it is lifeforce. Often I forget this when I am talking about important but more formal curriculum planning like constructive alignment to academics, but I hope in formal curriculum we can aim to keep this sense of discovery and joy alive for students.

I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that is crammed into the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds  of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING – the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of his ‘cruiser’. I am talking about the student who says, “I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me.” I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: “No, no, that’s not what I want”; “Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need”; “Ah, here it is! Now I’m grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!” Carl Rogers 1983: 18-19


Accessed on 17th Dec 2015

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#Day100  – Celebration, my voice, and  becoming a reflective practitioner 

Day 100 of Writing – I decided to celebrate with a video. Today a light bulb was switched on, I love days like this helps me love my job, love my research and lets me fall in love with learning all over again 🙂

In short I have just realised that my perspective of reflective thinking, writing and practice have changed since my Masters. Eureka.   I have developed a ‘voice’ (somewhat!) so video seemed the most suitable way to demonstrate this.

This video is 11mins in length, so it’s kinda long, but if you can endure my reflection on my own learning, please listen in.

Ciao for now


Reference: Smith, E. (2011) Teaching critical reflection. Teaching in higher education.211-223, Vol 16, 2

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#Day65 Exploring identity – the importance of social interaction

I presented my research at the #DRHA conference in September and this was a point of realisation about my findings. From the data analysis I found it interesting that while all the participants claim to use Twitter as a tool for professional development, not all participants are engaged and interacting discursively within the social network of Twitter.
In describing this finding, I had portrayed participants as novices, as lurkers, competent and expert users of the social network. However these terms were not describing the situation or the actions of the participants accurately.

The penny dropped when in preparation for the #DRHA conference, I returned to the literature on professionalism and on identity. I realised that a better explanation of  participants’ use of twitter was related to identity. I started to reflect on the data and how the participants perceived themselves as part of the social network that Twitter provides.

Anyway to summarise my current understanding of identity I believe that identities are multi-layered, Our identity within the home, in leisure pursuits can differ mildly or greatly from the identity that we have in a professional context.

Focusing on the workplace or our professional contexts, other professionals see us through the behaviors and the actions that we exhibit. We also shape our identities by interacting with other professionals in our professional arena, through others we shape and change who we are. We become the professional, we identify our roles with certain tasks, values, knowledge and skills.Identity formation is a continuous evolution; it is a growth process and a reflective learning process.

While in many cases interactions with others can be a pleasantly stimulating experience, occasionally we can find ourselves deeply challenged by interactions with others. Tensions can arise among professionals and between professionals and the organisations within which they work. This tension can be a cause of external demands placed on the individual; and these demands might not align with the values of the professional. In some cases this can cause the professional to reflect and examine the cause of the tensions and to reexamine their internal value systems compared with the values of the organization .

These tensions or incidents instigated by professional or life challenges can instigate transitions and in some cases can trigger major metamorphosis, such as what Jack Mezirow proposes in his theory of transformational learning. Through critical incidents in social situations such as workplace or society at large we redefine ourselves and create our identities.

But when we think about identities in the online space, things are ultimately more complex. How can we start the process of negotiating our identities when we can’t easily see or connect with a person or community? How do we find the best communities in the online space that will help us professionally?

Eraut (2008) considers that professional development in the workplace happens informally and socially with other professionals. He established 3 factors needed for informal professional learning in the workplace, these are: challenge, support and confidence. Eraut’s research focused on a traditional workplace within which workers met one another in the physical space and exchanged information and discussion in a face-to-face way.

I think that these 3 factors are also important to consider in the online space. Professionals often feel challenged by situations and by incidents in a workplace.  Online communities are a means to discuss professional issues and come to solutions through discussions ti others. But in order to have a challenge addressed by the online community it is vital that we feel supported in a community. To feel supported we need to know and trust other members of a community, we need to participate and feel part of a community. In the online space it is more difficult to become part of the community without the scaffolds of support, the onus is on the person to reach out and ask for support, and this takes confidence. For professionals at the early stage of their careers confidence might not be that well developed, and often early career professionals have established a social support structure around them to help them participate.

Finally Eraut’s factors are linked to identity, a lack of challenge, support and confidence contribute to a lack of professional engagement within online communities, thus the professional does not engage in online discussion and in turn this inhibits the development of their online professional identity.

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#Day51 – Getting to know myself better

Well I am just over half way in the 100 days of writing, still trying to forge ahead, even though I have been  feeling very off-form over the past 10 days.

So here is what I have been doing, thinking and writing about over the past 2 weeks:

After reading They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing I returned to my literature review and started to use  templates resommended by this book to reshape aspects of writing, trying to bring more argument and voice into my writing (I love this book for that reason!)

Also I’ve been visiting and listening into the MOOC How to Survive Your PhD discussing the topics of confidence, frustration and loneliness. The most interesting thing for me has been the discussion about supervision and relationships with supervisors. I have supervised Masters students over the past 5 years and from my experience I think that while it is important to provide dialogue and questions to a student to ensure a rigorous research approach, it is equally, if not more, important to establish positive relationships with students, establishing trust is very important. As a supervisor I am interested in getting to know the students from a professional point of view but also I believe that is important to listen and hear what is going on for students in their lives as from my experience this has an impact on their studies and research.

Furthermore I value interpersonal relationships and getting to know others and acknowledging how they see and understand the world. The ‘How to Survive Your PhD’ MOOC really highlighted that as a student I do not have this type of relationship with my supervisors, but I acknowledge a number of reasons for this: I am a student working at a distance, we don’t share common research interests, possibly different outlooks on what a supervisory relationship is, power relationships and undoubtedly other reasons…

However the process of doing this EdD has helped become more aware of what I need as a learner and as an apprentice researcher.

If I was to embark all over again I would have that conversation at the beginning to manage expectations better, although I acknowledge I don’t think I would have been able to set out my expectations at the beginning, because I have only identified my needs through the experience of being a research student.

As a supervisor myself into the future I will make to sure to outline expectations that I have with as a supervisor and encourage open conversation in as much as possible with students.

Finally while ‘The How to Survive Your PhD’ MOOC emphasizes the emotional rollercoaster of the Doctoral journey I think challenges will always be present despite models of supervision.

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#Day35 Break On Through To The Other Side

Since I got draft 1 feedback I have been trying to dive into parts of the dissertation and make improvements. I want I enhance ‘my voice’ within the thesis, and while I can chat with others about what I think about informal learning, about social networking as part of learning, I’ve been finding it hard to transform thinking into meaningful words on the screen.

So to solve my problem I turned to ‘They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing’.

What I like most about the introduction of this book is that I feel the authors already know me! They recognise where I am coming from and agree with me on the issue of finding Voice, many students have this problem. This book feels like a someone holding out their hand to me, and reassuring me that I am cognitively able, I just need a bit of compassionate support in my critical writing.

I find writing hard work. And I am not alone. Kathy Charmaz, the renowned grounded theory researcher and author of multiple books is very open about how she finds the process of writing difficult. Rowena Murray and Lynn Nygaard also mention that writing is not innate to us, but it can be learned and practice helps this learning process. So here I am blogging, helping my writing practice. Rowena and Lynn both mention other reasons that writing can be a challenge. My biggest barrier to my writing practice is my own internal critic – the critic that says constantly that I am not good enough, the critic that says that I am not part of the community, and who am I to think I can join in?

For the moment I have chosen to not listen to this voice, and just write…. write on this blog some days, and write directly on my thesis on other days.

So this morning I had breakfast with ‘They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing’. I felt I had the 2 authors in the room, empathizing with me as a student, trying to read vastly, coming to know myself as a professional in my area of research, coming to know what I value and believe in and how these values and beliefs fit with current literature.

I feel I need to make a huge jump so that I can better represent my position as a researcher and Graff & Birkenstein provide a bridge to that gap. This bridge is in the form of templates. Sentences that can help critically argue the case for my research. Graff & Birkenstein describe research as part of an ongoing conversation and it is the researchers job to state what others say, and then state my own opinions on these statements. This model is helping  to scaffold my voice and research and is helping me get over the daunting feeling of putting my words out there.

It is claimed that templates curb creativity but in this book the authors maintain templates support creativity and my thinking on it is that these templates can help me with the threshold concepts of writing. The templates can help me to express my informed thinking, leapfrogging me across the threshold into the research community.

But I have another fear  – that I don’t know enough and that I keep forgetting what I have read and who said what…… Graff & Birkesntien come to the rescue on this as well stating that “Good arguments are based not on knowledge that only a special class of experts has access to, but on everyday habits of mind”.

Also I feel hugely vulnerable in saying that I disagree with other author’s findings, and the authors reassure that this is the natural course of the apprentice researcher/writer. On reflection I feel that if I was firmly established in myself, in my values, beliefs about learning; if I understood and accepted my own epistemology then it I could be more secure and in moments of disagreement with others. This is part of my own professional development and identity development.

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