torsdag 25 september 2014

Björn Hedin's ph.d. defense

I attended Björn Hedin's Ph.D. defense earlier this week when he presented/defended his thesis "'Exploring opportunistic use of mobile devices for studying in higher education" (available online here). The basic question Björn asks is how we (e.g. students) better can use "inter-time" - e.g. low-quality time in-between different activities. Instead of reading Facebook updates or playing Candy Crush Saga, could our students use mobile technologies to study when they commute or when they wait for the bus?

The opponent was professor Urban Nuldén from the Dept. of Applied Information Technology at the University of Gothenburg and the Chalmers University of Technology. The grading committee consisted of three persons; Professor Marcelo Milrad from the Linnaeus University, Associate professor Johan Lundin from the Dept. of Applied Information Technology at the University of Gothenburg and the Chalmers University of Technology and Dr. Ester Appelgren from the Dept of Journalism at Södertörn University.

I had to leave after two hours due to teaching duties, but it felt like Björn got off the hook pretty easily. The opponent was very "nice" and didn't really ask any difficult questions. I think it would have been "fun" to hear a few questions that were a little bit more difficult, critical and pointed (I have full confidence in Björn's ability to answer them).

I've been one of Björn's assistant supervisors. My colleague Stefan Hrastinski has been the main supervisor and Olle Bälter has been the other assistant supervisor. My assistant supervisorship has been a pretty small part of my relationship with Björn though - we have worked with quite a large number of smaller projects together during the last few years and we now also have a larger, three-year long project that is just now starting up. I thus very much look forward to several years of fruitful collaboration with Björn!

The most significant aspect of Björn's thesis is that he has been working with it for so long. He changed the topic after some years and started with a clean slate, and he has since had to conduct his research and complete his thesis at spare moments - and nowadays also with two young children at home. I'm really happy that Björn can finally put the thesis behind him and I imagine it must be a huge relief for him when this finally sinks in and he can direct his energies at new projects instead of continuing to drag the ball-and-chain thesis of his along...

Björn and I have collected a large amount of wonderful empirical material together, but actually doing something with this material (working with it, writing up papers) has been on hold due to his thesis. I have been very reluctant to take the lead on working with the collected material since it makes a lot more sense for Björn to be the main/first author - the area we are working on together is my side interest but his main research interest. I now really look forward to write articles and climb up the academic food chain together with Björn.

One of the six articles included in Björn's thesis is indeed one of the shorter (Swedish-language) articles we wrote a year ago together, "I'm gonna study now! I just have to color-code my books first".

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