torsdag 26 december 2013

Most popular Future of News

A fortnight ago, the 10 project groups in my course Future of Media presented their results in front of an audience of 150-200 persons. The largest contingent in the audience were younger students in the Media Technology Engineering Programme. They had been strongly encouraged to listen to these presentations and (in order to gain bonus points in another course), were to hand in a short, half-page long text, where they name their two favourite groups and shortly justify their choice.

For some reason, only around 80 students handed in these short texts (in time) and I have had a brief look at them. The easiest thing to do is to analyse these texts quantitatively: which groups were the audience's choice?

The winner is heads and shoulders above the other groups and almost 50% of the audience voted for "You've got bias". Do note that since each student in the audience casted their "votes" on two groups, these percentage numbers will add up to 200% instead of 100%.

Two other groups were also very popular and each garnered votes from around 35% of the audience, "Gossip" and "Future of Ads", followed by "Newsify" with 25% of the audience's votes. Two other groups each got 17.5% of the audience's votes, "Matroshka - responsive news" and "Gismo". While every single group got votes, only around 25% of the audience voted for the four least popular groups. The results of the popular (audience) vote was thus:

1st place - You've got bias
2nd place - Gossip and Future of Ads
4th place - Newsify
5th place - Matroshka - responsive news and Gismo
7th place - Deafining news - Surdi screen, Crowdopolis, The morticians - Death of reading and Screenworld - The rise of the second screen.

While the actual presentations were not recorded, all supporting materials (movies, powerpoint pictures, final reports) are available online, so do go ahead and read/watch whatever piques your interest. The quality of the movies are in general really good and some movies are great.

I can not dismiss the notion that groups that presented earlier in the day were poised to get more votes that groups that presented later. The whole thing took three hours - with a break in the middle - and it's obviously an advantage to go first (or among the first) rather than among the last. Of the four least popular groups, three presented after the break. It is therefore all the more impressive that the very last group to present (Future of Ads) was also among the very most popular. Perhaps they would have been voted the most popular group if they we had started off the day with their presentation?

Furthermore, if the quality of the presentations were evenly distributed, then around 25% of the audience "should" have given both their votes to groups that presented before the break and another 25% "should" have given both their votes to groups that presented after the break. These numbers instead turned out be 36% and 11% respectively and I haste to add that to me, the groups presenting after the break were just as strong as the groups presenting before the break (which is also reflected in the grades).

While most students in the audience stuck to the task at hand - selecting two groups and specifying why these two groups were their favourite groups, a few students had some general comments (all of them positive!) about the course and the final presentation itself:

"I think that listening to the various projects that have been undertaken in this course has so far been the most inspiring activity since I started at KTH earlier this autumn. I have had a rather blurry idea of what a media technology engineer can work with, but it became a little more clear now and I really look forward to take the course myself five years from now."

"I want to start by saying that the Future of Media course seems very exciting and useful for future jobs where we should be able to communicate our ideas. As I understand it, you choose pretty freely what to do in the course, although the overarching theme has already been chosen. This means you can apply much of the knowledge that has been gained in the education if you want to. Overall, I thought most of the ideas were interesting and the presentations were ok and/or well executed."

"I think the Future of Media presentations were very good and interesting, there were many groups that had good ideas that I was inspired by. It will be fun to see if variations of these proposals will actually be on the market a few years from now. I very much look forward to reading this course since it provides an opportunity to be creative and innovative while solving a problem. For me, it's exactly why I chose this education and the course feels very relevant to the degree."

"I found the entire presentation really exciting and entertaining, both because the projects were interesting but also because some groups really had fun presentations with more or less successful results [?]. The jury's feedback was also very good and many times fit with what I felt myself. It's fun that people from the business community came to listen too."

"I think both [of my favourite] groups have done a great job in such a short time. To be able to produce these visions and hone them as well as they did really represents a job well done. I have to say that the presentations (including those by the other groups) were very entertaining and humorous, and they really got the audience to sit up and listen."

A dissenting rebel (of sorts) disliked the very trends that many of groups had latched on to:

"I thought that the scenarios for the future of news 10-20 years from now that the different groups presented described developments that I myself would rather not see, with individualised news and continued large amounts of advertisements."

söndag 22 december 2013

Communication technologies as an umbilical cord

We are on vacation and will not come back to Sweden until next summer. My children's initial enthusiasm for moving abroad was lukewarm, especially in the case of my eldest (10 years old). He can appreciated what he will loose while being away from Sweden for half a year (his friends), but he can't appreciated what he can/might/will gain (new experiences, new friends, much better command of the English language). The opinions of my youngest (6 years old) is less relevant - he was easily bribed by promising a visit to Disneyland and other theme parks in Southern California...

I thought leaving Sweden would constitute a clean break between my children and their friends. We have a bunch of e-mail addresses and Skype accounts, but I assumed it would be difficult for them to stay in touch and that contact would quickly taper off as soon as we left Sweden. It turned out I might have been wrong, at least in the case of my eldest.

My eldest is playing a game on the iPad (Clash of Clans) with a built-in chat function and he can chat with a number of his friends through the game. But, just a few days before he left Sweden, he acquired the Kik messenger/social networking iPad app. Kik makes it possible for him to send SMS-like messages to other Kik users. He left Sweden with just a handful of friends in his Kik address book, but that was enough for him to spend literally hours chatting with his friends back home as soon as we landed. And now more friends of his are signing up and he can initiate group discussions with several Kik-friends at the same time too.

I can now foresee a possible future where my son will be in touch with his friends back in Sweden all spring, despite them being 9000 kilometers away from each other. And all of a sudden, something I have only read about in Sherry Turkle's book "Alone Together" is right with us.

Turkle describes how digital and especially mobile technologies "tether" us to others. A 10-year old can suddenly both have more freedom - since his parents can allow him more freedom while safely knowing that he can be reached at all times by cell phone - and at the same time less freedom - since he is under strict orders to always answer his phone and can't carve out even temporary total freedom from parental supervision. The cell phones becomes the primary example of modern panoptical technologies. He is tethered to his parents through his cell phone.

An exchange student can similarly decrease the stress and loneliness of being abroad in a strange country by being in touch with friends and family back home every single day. But these practices might unfortunately also detract from the very experience of being abroad. Turkle writes that "leaving home has always been a way to see one's own culture anew. But what if, tethered, we bring our homes with us?"

Perhaps the exchange student might have been a little bit more daring, or felt a little more pressure to try to find friends locally in a pre-Internet era? Perhaps the experience of having your home with you in your back pocket detracts from the possibility of learning to rely on your inner resources and growing emotionally (i.e. "growing up")? That at least is what Turkle worries about as she compares her own experience of being an exchange student in Paris in hear early twenties with the experiences of her daughter.

This brings me back to my son. My first question is if he will keep in touch with his friends back home during the spring. 9000 kilometers makes little difference in an age of instantaneous communication, but nine time zones makes it difficult to find time slots to communicate in real time except, perhaps, during the weekends. Will he be adamant about staying home on weekend mornings to chat with his friends back home? My second question is what the consequence will be if he does stay in touch with distant friends. Will his stay abroad be (very) different from what it would have been in a pre-Internet era? That's a question that is exceedingly difficult to answer and something to ponder during the following months...

torsdag 19 december 2013

Me, Björn and all our projects

Me and Björn Hedin have so many different projects and gigs together that I find it useful to write a blog post about them just in order to help me (and him) to keep track of them all!

The common denominator in all of these projects is - in one form or another - teaching, learning and pedagogical development/research. The strange thing is that this is strategically not really the direction I want my work and my research to move in. What I really want to work with is ICT/Media Technology and sustainability. The "problem" is that everything me and Björn touch turns to gold - most of our applications are granted, our papers are accepted to conferences (and hopefully soon to journals) and the results that come out of these projects are observed and appreciated by others.

My take on this is that Björn should be the lead researchers in preferably all, but at least 75% of everything we do together. That would leave me with enough time to pay attention also to other things (other areas of research). We'll see how that works out. As King Canute learned the hard way, it's tough to swim against the tide. Anyway, here is a list of all of our current projects:

Granted research applications:
- The Swedish Energy Council. This is the big one that we have just landed. We will, together with our colleagues Henrik and Jorge, sink 2.5 person-years into the project "Improved energy habits through quantified self" between 2014 - 2017. The work effort will be minor during the spring 2014 and pick up the pace after next summer.
- ECE school. We were granted a relatively small amount of money to work with "social annotation systems and formative peer feedback for bachelors' thesis" during the spring of 2014. We will more specifically work with our bachelor's thesis course in order to improve the course and our (successful) work with group supervision and social annotation systems.

Research grant applications in the pipe: // Comment (Jan 2014): both these applications were granted - we're on a roll! //
- CSC school/CPU application 1. We handed in our application "Do it now! Support for better education about procrastination" in the end of November. It follows up on our earlier application about procrastination (granted almost two years ago) and we will get to know if we receive this sliver of funding during the second half of January at the latest.
- CSC school/CPU money 2. We handed in another application, "Improved thesis quality through increased goal focus and peer- and self-assessment", that tags on and extend the ECE school application above. This new application aims to extend the already-planned work regarding our bachelor's thesis course also to our master's thesis course - as well as to modularise the results so as to be able to easier disseminate them also to other programmes.

Not yet written research application:
The Swedish Research Council (VR). Me and Björn have discussed the possibility of writing an application about procastination and studying habits. The deadline ought to be sometime in March or April next year. I don't think it's at the top of our agenda and we might (for several different reasons) push it forward one more year.

Teaching projects:
- We are currently looking for bachelor's and master's students to do their theses within the Swedish Energy Council project above. I might have a minor, supporting role in these theses (since I'm away all spring).
- ITM school. We have been contracted to adapt and run our procrastination module on all (600) first-year students at all the five engineering programs at the School for Industrial Engineering and Management during the autumn of 2014.
- CSC school/MT students. At the end of 2014 it is time to again run our procrastination module on 250 students at the Media Technology Engineering Programme.

Writing projects:
- We should upgrade the paper that was presented at the 4th developmental conference for Swedish engineering educations into a short "best practices" paper and send it to the online open-access journal Högre Utbildning [Higher Education]. We have previously written such a "best practices" paper concerning our experiences with group supervision and social annotation systems.
- It might be the case that my wife will roll up her sleeves and work with a corpus of materials that we have collected and (hopefully) write a paper about social annotation systems and practices.
- There are several (many) papers "in the pipe" based on already collected data about our media technology and computer science students' procrastination and studying habits. We have data from 700 students and we will acquire more/new data from at least as many students next autumn. I am however adamant that Björn has to take the lead on writing these papers and his priority right now is to finish his ph.d. thesis, so I assume nothing much will happen until after the summer at the earliest. At that time we will however be poised for collecting more material, so we might further postpone these writing projects until 2015. At that point we will have collected (comparable) data from 1500 students in eight different engineering programmes and ranging over a period of six age cohorts in the case of the Media Technology program.

That's it. Most of the projects above need some or quite some attention during the spring. Some projects are run by me but most projects are run by Björn and that's how I like it. These are side interests of mine - spin-off projects due to the fact that I as a teacher am engaged in the courses I teach in and in my/our students. The same goes for Björn, but the projects above are also in line with the research he has done and wants to do in the future. I wish him (us) all the best of luck with all our projects during 2014.

söndag 15 december 2013

How to get in touch with me during the spring

I will be on a sabbatical all spring. Me and my family will go to Irvine in California where both me and my wife will be visiting scholars at the University of California, Irvine. I wrote a blog post about it in the beginning of November. Irvine is near Los Angeles (also the same time zone as Seattle).

(For all potential thieves and thugs who lurk on the Internet: we have rented out our apartment and another family will live there - please refrain from breaking in and trying to steal our TV or their underwear ;-)

This blog post is really mostly a "service text". I will refer colleagues and others I collaborate with to this text for some basic info about how to get in touch with me during the spring. I will update this blog post in the end of January when I know more about my/our US habits and routines.

To get hold of me from now on and until the summer, you can:
- Send an email to my usual KTH address. I will read my mail regularly.
- Set up a Skype meeting. If you're not already in my Skype contact list, please send me an email in advance (or send me your Skype handle directly).
- I will get a cell phone in the US, but calling it is probably going to be very expensive and only interesting if you plan to visit us!

There is a 9-hour difference in time zones between Sweden and Irvine/the US west coast. There are two possible choices for when to schedule a Skype meeting:

1) I could possibly have meetings at 06.00-10.00 Swedish time. That's 21.00 - 01.00 in Irvine and that could be ok since I tend to have late evening habits.

2) I could possibly have meetings that start 15.00 Swedish time at the earliest. That's 06.00 in Irvine which means I would have to get up extra early and can't take part in the family morning routines that day. I would thus prefer to schedule meetings for slightly later and best for me would be sometime in the morning or mid-day, i.e. early, mid or late evening in Sweden. Morning (10.00) in Irvine is 19.00 in Sweden.

I will be on vacation in South America from mid-December to mid-January and will arrive to the US on January 17. In fact, as this blog post is published, our plane has just left Arlanda and we won't be back in Sweden until the middle of July next year!

I presume we will be pretty busy during the second half of January just setting up shop, acquiring cell phones and Internet etc. I will probably answer e-mail pretty promptly in December and January, but don't expect me to contribute with any serious work effort until February. It miiight happen before that, but please don't assume it will! Again, I will update this particular blog post when I know more (in January/February), so do check back later to learn more about the ins and outs of getting hold of me.

As to what projects I expect (hope) to work with during the spring, check out this Google document. Anyone who has that link can hava a look the document as well as leave comments in the document.

onsdag 11 december 2013

Future of News - invitation to final presentation & book intro

This is a two-for-one blog post. First an open invitation to tomorrow's (Dec 12) final presentation of The Future of News, followed by the introduction to the limited-edition book we are publishing about the Future of News / News of the Future.

1) December 12 final presentation at 13-16 in lecture hall Q1

You are invited to the final presentation in the course Future of Media. This year's theme is Future of News / News of the Future. Sign up here!

The course is given for the 11th year and I think this year's presentations might be the best and the most ambitious ever. Do note that the 10 project groups go far beyond the issue of (only) news and will also touch upon the future of individualized news, the future of crowdsourcing news, of advertising, public service, media bias and the very future of the text medium (and more)!

Here are eleven (news-related) trends for the next 10-20 years that we have identified and that has had an impact on the scenarios of different project groups [further developed in the book introduction below]:

More mobile devices
- Multiple devices used
- Always connected, always synchronized
- More news channels
- More (co-)creation and sharing
- Personalized/individualized news
- More non-text formats for news
- Increased need for high-speed, high-quality infrastructure/networks
- Hurried, time-pressed news consumers
- More commuting
- Big data & surveillance


/Daniel Pargman & Malin Picha


Below are two of the 10 projects that will present their results on December 12 - and who isn't interested in news that changes according to your current needs (top) or the future of citizen journalism and crowdsourced news (bottom)?

2) Book introduction, "The Future of News"

Information, communication, media, and media technologies have become increasingly important in today’s society and in people’s everyday lives. Media technology can broadly be characterized as technologies and methods for supporting communication between people across distances in time and space.

The KTH Royal Institute of Technology has offered a Master of Science in Media Technology since 1999.

The Future of Media
In the project course “Future of Media”, advanced graduate students in Media Technology and Media Management explore the relationship between technology, economy and social factors in processes of technological innovation and development. The course load corresponds to a third of a semester and runs throughout the autumn semester.
This year, 2013, the course is given for the 11th time, and for the third time in English, with participating international students. A special effort has been made to document the work, and to make the results of the course available on the Internet. The results include this book, “The Future of News”, a webpage, as well as concrete practical “design representations” such as for example movies and prototypes that have been created by different project groups within the course. The results of not just this year’s course, but of previous as well as successive courses are available on the internet at

This year’s theme: The Future of News
Each year, the theme of the course is different, although it always deals with a topic related to media and the future. Past themes have for example included The Future of TV, The Future of Books, The Future of Music, The Future of Radio, The Future of Magazines, and the Future of Computer Games. This year’s task has been to analyze, reflect upon, review, refine and further develop the Future of News and News of the Future from a media technology perspective.

The Future of News – what an exciting and at the same time challenging topic! Let’s start by defining what news is. News is published and broadcasted locally and globally through a variety of channels. Some examples of channels are news agencies, newspapers, websites, TV-channels, and radio channels. News can be described as a product of journalistic activity, and journalism can be defined as an activity dealing with the regular practice of producing information about contemporary affairs of public interest and importance.

We live at a time in history when the production and consumption of news is evolving and developing into something very different. New news channels as well as new types of content are developing, together with new stakeholders and entirely new business models. However, it is still uncertain what these developments will lead to, and what the new media landscape will look like.

In the course Future of Media, we will this year think long and hard about technological, economical and other aspects that made the news industry into what it has been (past), what it is today (present), and what it will become tomorrow (future).

The upside of the ongoing changes mentioned above is that opportunities have never been greater when it comes to introducing new content or new business ideas. Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection has unlimited choices regarding what to read – or can become a news channel of sorts and publish his or her own news. However, the threats facing traditional publishers and broadcasters have never been greater than they are today. Traditional business models struggle and new business models might – or might not – be forthcoming.

So what will the future bring us? What genres, what purposes of consuming news, what content, what technologies and what business ideas will emerge and become important in the future? These are questions that the students are exploring and attempt to answer in this course. In short, what will news look like 10 or 20 years from now?

No less than ten groups of students have explored ten different futures for news during the autumn of 2013. The students presented their suggestions and the results of their projects in front of a live audience on December 12, 2013, but the results are also available here, in this book, as well as online,

A framework for all project groups has been to aim for a future that will happen sometime in the next 10-20 year, i.e. sometime between 2023 and 2033. All projects have also had to limit themselves to, or at least orient themselves towards, a Swedish (Western, relatively affluent) context. The proposed futures might, but do not have to, assume large technological breakthroughs. Some technologies and ideas are already around today, or are being explored in laboratories at this very moment, but might take many years or even a decade or two to germinate – to spread and take hold among a larger proportion of the population. The challenge might not always be to invent a purely technological future, but to imagine patterns of usage and new business models emerging when current (or future) patterns of usage among small groups of early adopters spread to larger groups in our society.

Despite widely different ideas and scenarios, there are still at number of trends that the ten project groups position themselves in relation to.

News trends
Below are eleven trends that we have identified in the course and that are of importance for The Future of News and The News of the Future. Each trend is important for at least a few groups, and sometimes for many project groups.

1. More mobile devices
We will use more mobile devices in the future, such as smartphones, tablets etc. Just as virtually everyone today owns a mobile phone, they will own a smartphone and/or a tablet in the future, and will to a large degree use these devices for media consumption.

2. Multiple devices used
People will use and switch between multiple devices, depending on their moment-to-moment situation. Even when moving between different rooms at home, people can switch between different devices. This will lead to a high demand for shared or uniform security and “sensible” subscription or other payment plans.

3. Always connected, always synchronized
As we will use our mobile devices more in the future and switch between different devices, there will be a higher demand for seamless solutions. Devices will always be connected and perfectly synchronized with each other. These always-connected, always-synchronized devices will be a natural choice for consuming media.

4. More news channels
Besides current media channels, there will be alternative channels in the future. These could for example include individual channels, such as “ordinary” persons publishing blogs or podcasts, or corporations starting a TV-channel, or non-governmental agencies with their own Facebook and YouTube channels.

5. More (co-)creation and sharing
There will be a greater volume and variety in the news landscape, because of more co-creation and sharing of content, for example via blogs, Facebook, and other social media. Ordinary persons who cannot be regarded as full-fledged news channels (see above), will produce news-related content that will be shared among smaller or larger groups of people.

6. Personalized/individualized news
Beyond mass media, there will be real individualization of news, according to each individual’s interests and preferences. While there are some attempts to go in this direction today, we have really only seen the beginning of this development. In the future, you will read articles from sources that you haven't heard of before.

7. More non-text formats for news
News will to a higher extent be consumed through non-text formats, such as video, images, and audio. Today’s popular cat images and YouTube videos hint at this growing trend. In a time-pressed future, short news items will win out over long complicated in-depth stories.

8. Increased need for high-speed, high-quality infrastructure/networks
In order to cater for higher volumes of data traffic, there will be an increased need for better infrastructure. According mobile traffic forecasts from 2010, the amount of traffic will increase by a factor of 33 between 2010 and 2030, and the broadcast network of 2020 will be ultra-high speed and ubiquitous.

9. Hurried, time-pressed news consumers
The future will be high-paced, with hectic lifestyles and impatient users. This implies a need for shorter visual news items and more overviews presentations. Multitasking is on the rise, which will lead to an increasing use of audio while performing other tasks.

10. More commuting
People will spend more time commuting due to continued urbanization and a continued spatial and geographical expansion of cities. This trend implies that we will access and consume news on the move; in subways, on buses, etc. This will also be a driver for using more mobile devices in society.

11. Big data & surveillance
More data will be collected and more surveillance will be performed – for good and for bad. This has important implications for issues having to do with integrity, but it also brings about possibilities for more convenience and better service in many different areas of society.

Work process
During an intense six-week long start-up phase (beginning of September – mid-October), the whole class read selected literature about news, worked with news-related issues in seminars, and welcomed around 20 guest lecturers from industry and academia. These guests had a variety of backgrounds and presented us with a wide variety of perspectives, over-all giving us a well-rounded picture of the history of news, the present situation of news, as well as suggestions for trends and possible future developments.

At the end of this start-up phase, ten project groups were formed around course participants’ emerging interests. During the second half of the autumn semester, these groups independently explored different aspects of this year’s theme; The Future of News / News of the Future.
The result of each group’s effort is a proposal and a scenario connected to the future of news. The results are presented as a chapter in a book (printed in a limited edition), as well as in a presentation that was held on December 12 in front of a live audience of more than 200 persons, consisting of younger students at the educational program as well as teachers, guest lecturers and people from the news industry. Documentation in the form of texts and other supporting materials can be found at

The texts in this book
The ten scenarios that are presented in this book are not written in a purely academic form. They aim at being somewhere in between an academic and a popular text. These texts are meant to inform and entertain, but should also be grounded in references to relevant literature and the students’ own original research and inquiries.
The chapters in this book have been produced as a part of a university course and under many constraints and severe time pressure. We apologize for any errors in the texts.


Daniel Pargman and Malin Picha Edwardsson,
Head teacher and assistant teacher for the course DM2571 Future of Media.

söndag 8 december 2013

We got funding!

This is the third blog post in a row about different research project applications that I have worked with together with my colleague Björn Hedin. This blog post ties back to a previous blog post ("Improved energy habits through quantified self") where I wrote a little about an application we had handed in to the Swedish Energy Agency back then, at the end September. We just found out our application will get funded!

As apart from other recent blog posts about applications for funding smaller pedagogical development projects, this time we are talking about serious money, i.e. millions of Swedish crowns. The approved amount is 20 times larger than the asked-for amount for this project that I wrote about in the previous blog post - and almost 30 times larger than the money we actually got for the project after the asked-for amount was reduced by 25%.

More specifically, the funding will in total cover almost 2.5 man-years and 60% of my annual salary - but spread out over three academic year (summer 2014 - summer 2017). Although the work load will shift (more work during the first year and less during the second), I will on average work 20% in this project (i.e. one day per week) during the following three years.

The four persons who will work in the project are Björn Hedin (project leader), Daniel Pargman (me), Henrik Artman and Jorge Zapico. The project officially starts right now - but only a tiny part of the project will run during the spring of 2014. I guess I could start to read up on things that have been published in the area this spring and we should also have some planning sessions, but there is hardly any time for planning before I leave Sweden a week from now.

Another thing we (Björn) could start to work on directly though is to get students to write their thesis within this project during the spring. That would be a good, lightweight method of starting to explore the area immediately. Each master's thesis represents 800 hours of work on behalf of the student and it would be wonderful if we could recruit one or two students to do their theses on something that is related to the project during the spring!

While this is excellent news for me personally, it is also really good news for the recently-christened (MID4S) sustainability team I lead at our department (MID). We are pretty new as a team (and it takes time to come together and jell), but we have together managed to produce five "items of output" this calendar year (2013); three papers and two research grant applications that altogether have involved no less than eight team members in total. This is thus the first approved research grant application that our team has produced and all four persons in this project are (at least nominally) MID4S members. A number of team members will now have funding to officially work in the area of ICT and sustainability - something that has previously only been true for me and vice team leader Elina as we teach a course on Sustainability and Media Technology each autumn.

While this blog post has wallowed in good news, the one fly in the ointment is that my other, equally great research grant application to the Swedish Energy Agency was turned down :-(

fredag 6 december 2013

One more social annotation project application

My last blog post treated a relatively small application for pedagogical funds that me and my colleague Björn Hedin recently handed in. Well, we actually handed in not just one, but two applications to the same call.

Our second application, "Increased thesis quality through increased goal focus and peer- and self-assessment" tags on to another small action-oriented development/research application for pedagogical funds that we handed in back in October and that I wrote about back then. That application was called "Social annotation systems and formative peer feedback for bachelors' theses" - and, we got the project funded! Well, actually we did get the project funded, but our asked-for budget was decreased by 25% and it is right now not totally clear which of the stated project goals we won't need to feel committed to any longer...

Anyway, in this second application on "the same" topic, we offer to extend the work we got funded to do in the previous (approved) application so that it will cover not only the Media Technology programme's bachelor's thesis course (DM129X), but also our master's theses course (DM228X). The new application also promises to modularise our findings/results so that the results can be used in other bachelor's and/or master's theses courses - for example the corresponding courses on the Computer Science and Engineering programme.

While it might seem strange to apply for two project that are so close to each other topically, it is important to notice that the funding for these two projects comes from different sources. Also, a lot has in fact happened since mid-October when we handed in the previous application and there is now a lot of pressure on CSC to improve the quality of our bachelor's and master's theses at both the Media Technology and the Computer Science and Engineering programmes. This second application of ours could in fact be framed as an altruistic offer to "do our bit" in helping our School out of a precarious situation by leveraging/spreading the great results we currently have in Media Technology bachelor's thesis course. Our School has to show progress a year from now and funding this project of ours could be one way that the School can show it is working seriously on improving the general quality of all the theses written at our School.

As it turns out, only seven applications were handed in this time around, but these applications together applied for 50% more money that what has been set aside in the call. Both of the applications that I and Björn have written are relatively near the average asked-for amount of money. I guess that might mean that it's possible to fund as many as five out of these seven applications - if the non-funded applications are on the more expensive side of the spectrum. At least four of these applications (57% approval rate) "should" get funded though and I thus think our chances are great (says the eternal optimist). We'll get to know more sometime during the second half of January. Some applicants will get conditional acceptance (a soft rejection?) and will have the opportunity to complement their applications before the final decisions will be taken before the end of February.

onsdag 4 december 2013

Do it now! - on our new procrastination application

I've written about the work me and my colleague Björn Hedin have done on the topic of procrastination and students' studying habits several times before on the blog. Here is a summary:
- On procrastination (Oct 2011)
- On work habits and on getting things done (Oct 2011)
- Increasing the quality of education/dig where you stand (Jan 2012)
- Procrastination project progress (April 2013)
- I just have to color-code my books first (Oct 2013)
- School of procrastination" (Oct 2013)

Two yeas ago, me and Björn applied for a small amount of internal money that had been set aside for pedagogical developments at the KTH School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC). Our project, "Support for better studying habits in the age of procrastination" got money that covered 200 hours of our time. We used that money to (among other things) transform what had been a one-shot theme ("procrastination") that 225 students had worked with in our Media Technology programme into a module that could be spread elsewhere. One year later (i.e. one year ago), our then-recently-developed course module on procrastination was used by a lot more students (450) in the larger Computer Science and Engineering Programme. We have collected a lot of data about our students' studying habits from these two study programmes (and from almost 700 students) and me and Björn recently wrote and presented our first joint academic paper about procrastination.

Right now we sit on a treasure trove of data, but I'm adamant about Björn taking the lead on this research project and taking the lead on writing the different papers our data could generate (we already have a list of possible papers we could write based on the data we have collected). It's much more his area than it is mine (I want to move into sustainability, not pedagogical research - so I'm just in it for the ride). Rolling up our sleeves and wallowing in all the data we have is on hold though until Björn has finished writing up his ph.d. thesis. He's under pressure to present it during this coming spring (2014).

While all the paper-writing is in front of us, the actual, practical work that we got funded to do more than one and a half years ago is all water under the bridge now. We concluded our project by presenting the results at a CSC pedagogical seminar half a year ago, right before the summer. As I wrote recently (Oct), we have been asked to use our course module to teach 600 first-year students at another KTH school next year (autumn 2014), but that's not really research (even though it will generate new data), and it's not pedagogical development work, but rather "just" teaching/applying the course module we developed within our pedagogical project.

Well, it now turns out we have a new opportunity to apply for means for the same purpose (pedagogical development) and from the same source (KTH School of Computer Science and Communication). The deadline was a few days ago and me and Björn handed in a new application called "Gör det nu! Stöd för bättre undervisning om prokrastinering" [Do it now! Support for better education about procastination]. Since we are on a roll, we want to develop our own teaching materials as well as revamp our course module so that it's adapted specifically to first-year students (we have this far used the module in two different program-integrating courses - where first- second- and third-year students are integrated). Here's a translation of the project summary for our new, recently-handed in application:


Do it now! Support for better education about procastination 

Last time it was possible to apply for these funds, we [Daniel and Björn] were awarded funds to implement our project "Support for better studying habits in the age of procrastination" . The term procrastination stands for "postponing until tomorrow, another day or a later date; to delay " (Nationalencyklopedin) .

With this application, we would like to build upon our previous, successful work with the theme procrastination. This theme can be linked to more general issues of relevance to our students' studying habits, media habits, their habits of managing distractions, to course objectives and planning and to examination and throughput.

In the previous application, we applied for means to examine and analyse the results of working with the procrastination theme in the media technology programme (2011/ 2012). One of the key results was that a course module was developed that was used during the following year by 450 students on the computer science programme (2012/ 2013). The module was much appreciated (Kann & Magnell 2013) and the results were above expectations (Hedin & Pargman 2013).

Next academic year (2014/2015), it is time for 250 new students at the Media Technology programme to work with the procrastination theme, and the following year 450 new computer science students will do the same. In addition to this, all the first-year students on all five engineering programs at the ITM school will work with our procrastination theme during the autumn of 2014. In the long term (from 2015/2016 for Media Technology and hopefully the following year after for Computer Science), we want also students at MT and CS to use the course module during their first year at KTH. We will, during next academic year, have a golden opportunity to test an updated structure and updated content on the 600 first-year ITM students - and then to debug and embrace it at the CSC school.

With this application we apply for funds to work with materials collected from approximately 700 students at the CSC school in order to further develop and improve our module. The purpose of this is twofold:

  • We want to develop their own teaching materials - a tailored, KTH-adapted compendium - dealing with the topic of procrastination and nearby areas such as study habits, distractions and the use of technology. This will give us the opportunity to replace (because of the current rules for copying lecture materials) the grab mix of materials that we use right now and instead tailor materials that are adopted to students in general, and to engineering students at KTH in particular. We will also weave insights and results from our previously work at KTH into these teaching materials.
  • In parallel with the work of developing a compendium, we will naturally be "forced" to process and work with our already-collected material and thereby further improve our module. Our goal is to further "sharpen" the material so as to have maximum impact on the (malleable?) first-year students with a minimum of effort in terms of student and teacher time we claim.