Tag Archives: Researcher Journal

Creative playfulness⤴


I submitted a draft of my PhD discussion chapter yesterday. It’s over 7,000 words, so I won’t post it all here! I can never remember the actual title of my thesis – but I am looking broadly about how peer interaction helps to support learning, and I am using CLMOOC (and a bit of DS106) to think about the question. My draft thesis statement at the moment is this:

CLMOOC is best conceptualised as being an affinity space, or affinity network, in which the principles and values of connected learning support and facilitate a participatory culture of lifelong learners who engage in reciprocal and collaborative practices such as remix. This ethos of creative playfulness leads to meaningful learning because members of CLMOOC perceive themselves to be in a safe space where they can experiment and learn new skills without fear of ridicule or censure, and can ask openly for help and advice as they need it. Much of the learning that occurs in CLMOOC is emergent and thus unplanned in one sense, and the structure and ethos of CLMOOC are carefully designed so that they support and facilitate this emergent learning. However, although this structure is carefully designed, this design is not immediately obvious.

I’ve done various types of analysis – some social network analysis (using TAGS), and a textual analysis of some CLMOOC tweets. To do this, I focused on the 2016 summer pop-up, as looking at the 40K tweets I have in my TAGS database would have taken me years. My summary of that analysis is this:

CLMOOC is a highly connected, non-hierarchical community of lifelong learners with an ethos of social justice who support each other and learn through creative play. In summary, CLMOOC has the following features:

  • Connected community: the social network visualisations in particular show that CLMOOC is a highly connected community of learners, and the thematic analysis shows that many members feel a sense of belonging and being connected to each other;
  • Communicative conversations: the content analysis shows that many of the conversations in CLMOOC are more than just informal chit-chat. They are:
    • highly cognitive and meta-cognitive: members talk about teaching and learning and consider how to apply what they are learning to their own teaching practices;
    • highly social and supportive: members praise each other, are not afraid to show their feelings for each other and their appreciation for what others are doing;
  • Creative and collaborative: the thematic analysis shows that CLMOOC is a maker space where participants engage in reciprocal creative play and that this leads to serendipitous and surprising happenings and emergent learning.

I am calling CLMOOC an affinity space, or affinity network, based on my reading of writings by James Paul Gee and Mimi Ito (especially the book some of us recently read together), and characterising the interactions that we engage in as HOMAGO. In order to explain this, I’m adding some examples of the sorts of collaborative and reciprocal activities we play around with. I’m also adding pictures to make it look pretty (all CLMOOC designed with CC licences, of course. At the moment my examples are:

  • Off the cuff play: I’ve used our giffing around as an example here,
  • Volunteer suggestion: I’ve used the badges from CLMOOC 2016, and Ron’s artwork,
  • Shared practice: I thought Silent Sunday would be good here. with a collage of a few pf the pictures,
  • Collaborative: I’ve chosen Story Jumpers for this, with a pic of Miss Direction,
  • Transcending the virtual: well, the postcards have to be mentioned, don’t they? I have a pic of my pin board to illustrate this,
  • I have not added this yet, but I will write something aboutdaily rituals – either the daily creates from DS106, or the daily doodles some of us have been drawing.

I’m also suggesting that the broad values we subscribe to are those of connected learning: that is, learning that is socially connected, interest-driven, and oriented towards educational opportunity.

In the next section, I’m going to look at the design of CLMOOC, using papers written by Anna, Christina, Mia and Stephanie as a starting point.

So what do you think? Does this sound like CLMOOC to you? What have I missed out? What would you want me to say about CLMOOC?

A haiku for the weekend⤴


Writing a chunk of my lit review this weekend. I am not sure if these are my favourite books, but they are definitely some of the ones that have had the most influence on my thinking. Some are old friends, others recent recommendations from friends. So it’s opportune that today’s Daily Create asks us to write a haiku about our favourite book. Here’s mine:

Creating with friends

Making, sharing, remixing



Authentic writing and academic voice⤴



A meeting with my supervisors this week to discuss some of my work. A good meeting – they like my writing, they’re confident in my ability to finish writing up this PhD.

Then Vic speaks. He tells me that he likes my writing style, that he finds it easy to read … and I can hear the “but”  hanging in the air between us.

So is this the style of writing you are going to use for the final draft?

He asks. Or words to that effect. I say that it is, that this is my voice, and that authenticity is a value that runs throughout my thesis.

He nods. I know that he agrees with me, but that “but” still hangs in the air. I say that I’ll put something into my introduction to justify my use of my voice. He nods.

Back home, I search for “academic voice”. I find this:

We use the term academic voice to talk about distinguishing between your thoughts and words, and those of other authors.

So far, so good – I don’t want to be accused of pretending that other folks’ words are mine – I have plenty of words of my own. But how, exactly should I do that? I find this:

When writing a research paper and other academic writing (what is called academic discourse) you’ll want to use what is called the academic voice, which is meant to sound objective, authoritative, and reasonable.

No, no, no. I really do not want to use that voice. That’s not me, that’s not my thesis. This is more like my voice:

Academic voice is a formal way of writing and speaking that is clear, straightforward, and professional without sounding fancy or using unnecessarily complicated vocabulary words.

Clear – I hope so. Straightforward – that would be a goal. But what does it mean to sound professional? I suspect we’re back to that objectivity malarkey again.

It would be awful to get right to the end of this process and trip up because I’ve used the wrong voice.

But this is my voice, and it would be even worse if I stopped myself from speaking authentically.

It depends how you look at it⤴


Blind men and elephant3

There’s a story that’s often told about a bunch of blind men and an elephant. Each man only encounters a part of the elephant and, based on their partial understanding, disagree with the others about the *real* nature of the animal. I wrote about this years ago on another site, now lost, and I can’t remember exactly what I said, butI said something related during rhizo15.

I’m not a fan of pretending that educational researchers can be objective. However, I don’t think that an implication of this is that all educational research is a matter of subjective opinion – there’s an alternative candidate that’s worth consideration.

Perspectivism is the view that every point of view is a matter of perspective.* Everybody has their own perspective, and it’s important to recognise that this might not be the whole story. This doesn’t mean that truth is subjective, or relative – perspectives can be better or worse than others, and some perspectives can be aggregated to make a bigger story, as the blind men can do in order to get a fuller picture of the elephant – if they take the time to listen to each other.

Rhizomes are like this. Each of us finds our own way of navigating then, each of us have our own perspective. We can often understand others’, and we can agree or disagree with them. Rhizomes are heterogeneous multiplicities, to use some of D&G’s words.

Perspectivism grounds my methodology and my ethical approach for my PhD. I am looking at CLMOOC and putting my interpretation on what I see there, then making my interpretation open to others to agree, or disagree. I’m not pretending to have all of the answers, but I am suggesting a point of view that I think is plausible. I think that’s how educational research should be viewed.

* There’s a lot more to this, of course. I’m not suggesting that there is no such thing as objective truth, it’s more complicated than that. But this will suffice for here.