Mika Launikari

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Social Learning Analytics - A new participatory online learning culture

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Recently I read an inspiring article on Social Learning Analytics (SLA) written by Simon Buckingham Shum and Rebecca Ferguson (2012). Social Learning Analytics deal with elements of learning that are relevant when the overall learning process takes place in a participatory online culture. The focus is on processes, in which learners are not solitary, but engaged either in direct interaction with others or in using forums where other users will be experiencing their online activity and presence.

The authors address the fact that there is a profound transition towards a new learning paradigm and that this shift calls for finding totally new ways to define how we as a society think about learning. Thus, more attention will have to be drawn to understanding learning and knowledge construction as a dynamic group process. Social Learning Analytics stress that new skills and ideas are generated and passed on in collective interaction and collaboration. Rarely idea generation or skills development can be regarded as an individual achievement only in the context of SLA.

There is already enough evidence that traditional barriers between formal and informal learning as well as between face-to-face and virtual learning have been broken down. The education system is moving from delivering learning to helping people to help each other to learn. All this creates tremendous challenges, but opportunities as well, to educational institutions. Due to the SLA evolution, their societal role will undergo changes in terms of how much power and control they have over individual learning and the way learning is organised in an online environment.

High-quality interpersonal relationships, tacit knowledge, dialogue and passion are key ingredients for the way humans catalyse learning and innovation in future. The aim of education is to ensure that students upon their graduation are equipped with detailed knowledge of their study field, and with key competences and learning dispositions (such as creativity, curiosity, resilience) required to go on learning on a lifelong basis.

Core skills in high demand among graduates are, for example, an ability to assess new information and changing situations, reflective capacity to support professional judgement for improving their activity, and networking skills to act and cooperate effectively as team members. Learning analytics should enable all learners to acquire these critical skills as they are highly needed in the knowledge- and competence-driven economy.

Buckingham Shum, S. & Ferguson, R. (2012). Social Learning Analytics. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15 (3), 3-26. Available on the Internet at www.ifets.info/journals/15_3/ets_15_3.pdf

A few thoughts about identity

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I just finished reading the book entitled Identity written by the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. He explores the notion of identity in our liquid modern times and discusses how our professional, cultural, religious, sexual and socio-political identities are in a continuous and never-ending process of transformation. Identity, as Professor Bauman explains, is by its very nature deeply elusive and ambivalent. I imagine that for most of us it is easy to agree with his notion of identity.

The other day I had a look into how the European Commission is collecting data on the public opinion on the sense of European citizenship and identity across the 28 EU Member States and the candidate countries. The Commission is interested in knowing, if Europeans primarily see themselves as European citizens or rather define themselves by their nationality.

For research purposes the Commission uses the so-called Moreno question in its Eurobarometer survey on citizenship and identity: “Do you in the near future see yourself as (nationality) only, (nationality) and European, European and (nationality) or European only?”. The most recent Standard Eurobarometer survey (N:o 77, 2012) on European citizenship revealed that overall an increased majority of Europeans define themselves by their nationality and as Europeans (49 %). In the light of this Eurobarometer survey the respondents most attached to the European Union are in Luxembourg (72%), Poland (60%) and Belgium (58%), whereas the least attached can be found in the United Kingdom (27%), Finland (33%) and Cyprus (33%).

As many researchers say, a European identity, if such an identity exists, is to be regarded as work in progress. This in mind, also the EU and national policymakers acknowledge that a European citizenship contributes to a feeling of belonging to a community shared by more than 500 million people. I believe myself that in the long run, despite the fact that there will always be national differences across Europe (which is only a positive thing), a European identity can become something that really unites us Europeans. 

Postgraduate studies – I am a doctoral student!

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All in all, my professional career has been an enriching, empowering and enlightening experience in many ways. I have been blessed with great people with whom cooperation has always been highly fruitful and rewarding. Thanks to my work I have been to numerous countries and cities, and to many interesting conferences and meetings held in those places. Moreover, the diverse professional roles that I have had in different institutions in Finland and abroad have resulted in broadening the horizons for what is possible in one’s own life.

But now after more than 20 years in working life I have to admit that I gradually got a little tired of it. I realized that I had reached a saturation point. This did not happen just overnight! No, it was a long process during which I was coming to my senses little by little. Whatever I did was not anymore giving me the joy, satisfaction or motivation that I would have needed. Thus, I was getting angry with myself, angry with my pretty negative state of mind due to the fact that I did not quite know what to do, where to go, how to deal with the growing frustration in my mental system.

It was obvious to me that I had to start exploring new opportunities. Mapping out options that at my age still would be realistic and relevant for me was the first step. Should I change my job or my whole career? Should I go entrepreneurial? How about taking a leave of absence from work, travelling around the world, enjoying life, meeting new people? Or how about taking a sabbatical leave from the office for pursuing some intellectual challenges, such as studying?

All of a sudden I just knew it … it was like having been hit by a lightning bolt … explosion of the mind, serenity of the soul, wisdom of the spirit … indeed, I had to make a work-to-learn transition in my life! In the past weeks I have made all the arrangements required for launching doctoral studies at the University of Helsinki. Stepping out of working life and becoming a student again is a dramatic change, but truly welcome! I feel rejuvenated, motivated and eager to enter this new phase in my life!