söndag 14 januari 2018

Higher education meets private use of social media technologies (dissertation)


Pernilla Josefsson presented her ph.d. thesis "Higher education meets private use of social media technologies - an exploratory study of students' use" Tuesday January 9. The thesis is available through DIVA. Me and my colleague Olle Bälter are co-advisors and the main advisor is my ex-colleague Stefan Hrastinski. Pernilla's compilation dissertation has four papers and each of her three advisors is a co-author of exactly one paper each. Well, me and Stefan (and my wife!) are actually co-authors of the same paper:

Josefsson, P., Hrastinski, S., Pargman, D., & Pargman, T. C. (2015). The student, the private and the professional role: Students’ social media use. Education and Information Technologies, 21(6), 1583-1594.

Much has happened since Pernilla started her ph.d. - like the fact that she nowadays is the mother of two. She was in fact supposed to have presented her thesis before her second child was born (summer of 2017) but it was postponed, so I'm really happy Pernilla's long journey has not come to a successful end!

The paper above builds on material that Pernilla and I collected from a course we taught together at KTH in 2010, "Social Media Technologies". I was responsible and Pernilla was my side-kick at the time but she later took over the responsibility for that course and I became her side-kick. One thing that is interesting is that the course had a home exam and one of the two sources of data for the paper came from the students' answers to a question on the home exam that was specifically customized/adapted so as to yield data for this study: "The exam question asked the students to imagine themselves bing the teacher of a fictive course, and to reflect upon advantages and disadvantages of implementing social media technologies in that course. The students were further asked to argue for their use or non-use of these, to suggest examples of use, and finally to motivate their choices." The other source of data for the paper was Pernilla's (follow-up) interviews with a subset of the students.

Pernilla has since conducted a variety of studies and written a slew of papers that weren't included in the thesis. While she now ends her employment at our department, she will start work at the Learning unit at the KTH School of Education and Communication in Engineering Science. What was exciting for me was that I had several interesting ideas that I took down on paper during the dissertation defense and I will have a meeting with Pernilla in March where I will propose and we will explore the idea of (perhaps) writing a paper together.

The designated opponent at the dissertation defense was professor Gráinne Conole (the Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester, UK) and the grading committee consisted of:
- Lise Busk Kofoed, Department Architecture, Design & Media Technology, Aalborg University, DK.
- Thomas Ryberg, Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University, DK
- Cathrine Tømte, Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU), NO.

Jonas Moll also wrote a blog post about Pernilla's defense!

This photo was taken by my colleague Mario Romero.

Higher education meets private use of social media technologies - an explorative study of students' use 

The work in this thesis sets out to explore how students perceive social media use in the context of higher education. More precisely, the focus is on students' use of, experience with, and attitudes toward the integration of social media into their learning environment. To complement this, teachers' incentives for including social media have been studied; to some extent their communication, attitudes, and online activity were also analyzed.

The four different studies included in this thesis incorporated three major types of social media technologies: a social networking service (Facebook), a collaborative editable webpage (Wikipedia), and a microblog (Twitter). The studies adopted different approaches to data collection and analysis, including both qualitative and quantitative methods. The specific methods for each study were chosen to accommodate the research questions, for reasons of access to information, and due to ethical considerations.

While each study differs in starting point and scope and provide particular contributions to the research area, the main contributions of the work as a whole are connected to findings on attitude changes, the professional role in students' use of social media, their teacher-like actions, confusion regarding moving between the identified roles, and the implementation of social media in higher education.

The findings presented here are appropriate for guiding a nuanced discussion regarding the implementation of social media technologies in higher education, an implementation that was found to be contingent on appropriate use and a suitable social context. The findings suggest that the inclusion of social media in non-private contexts generally needs to have a clear aim and strategy for achieving it. The roles defined in this work - in terms of both being a student and the private and professional roles - could also serve as the basis for further exploration in other areas with comparable hierarchies in which it is necessary to understand how the individual relates to self-presentation, technological constraints, and roles, such as the relation between an employer and employee.

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