#scribbles

by Karoline Nanfeldt

Author: Karoline

Transitioning from student to adult

In preparation for #pressedconf19 on Twitter tomorrow, I thought I would write a blog post reflecting on transitioning from studying to working – this is a topic I think might require more than one post!

People always told me “You will never have as much time as when you are a student!” and “You will never be as free as you are when you are studying!”. This did not really seem the case when I was running around from morning till evening, trying to fit everything into my busy schedule. I went from enjoying a first year mainly spent on trying to make friends to a fourth year being involved in everything I possibly could. You can read this post about my four years at university in pictures.

It was recently a year since I handed in my dissertation (blogged about that too of course!). I still remember my lovely colleagues giving me an applause at a meeting and I was too sleep deprived to do anything but give a little smile.

Having now graduated, I feel like what the adults told me seem to be a simplified version of the truth.

Now that I work 9-5, I may have less time on weekdays. But I now enjoy weekends doing nothing productive, instead of that constant guilt when I was studying that I should be actually studying. I feel a lot less stressed. I feel much more useful working than I ever did when I was answering the same essay question as the 150 other people in my class.

But I be lying if I did not admit I really truly miss studying. Not because of the spare time or even the long holidays like everyone said I would (though they were perk before I started working). I have been thinking about writing this blog post for a long time, trying to figure out to phrase what it is I miss, and I am not sure it is something easy to put into words.

I miss the social life. Taking a break with friends on the library stairs when you are all trying to write an essay or cramming for your final exam. Having looooong chats on the group chat about lectures or how difficult something is. Having a catch-up with all my kickboxing friends at a social. Spending lunch in Teviot.

I miss being taught new things and engaging with advanced academic topics. I miss studying psychology. Spending hours discussing statistics or reading papers on developing literacy. I am really fortunate that working in higher education, I still engage with research, but it is in a completely different way than when I was a student.

I miss sleeping in and not worrying about dressing professionally every day.

But most of all; I miss being surrounded by people who are trying to figure everything out like me. I remember everyone stressing about what was next, trying to figure out what type of adult we wanted to become. Some hopeful, some not so much.

I miss being surrounded by people who were at what felt like the same life stage as me, worrying about similar things. Currently I’m in that middle phase, transitioning away from studying to becoming a young professional, transitioning away from living in my own little studio to getting married next summer (though that is quite exciting!!!) and figuring out what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.

No one really pre-warned me about this phase. The yearning of an era you have left behind as you transition into a new one. The sadness of the opportunities you never took when you could have. Moving on from people you used to see every day. Being excited to be trusted with a much higher level of responsibility. Realising you are much more capable than you ever believed.

It seems it really is not that uncommon to feel this, but maybe it is not very talked about because it is so hard to put into words. Maybe the craziest thing is that one day I will probably yearn for this phase again.

Learning Technologist: A dear child has many names

A little picture from graduation with the lovely Anne-Marie who got me into learning technology in the first place

Translating Danish sayings never work as well as I expect, but it is the most appropriate saying to suit my blog post today.

Having now been a Learning Technology Support Officer and an actual Learning Technologist, it is interesting to see the difference in the type of tasks and areas of expertise you can have within what seemingly fits under the same title.

This becomes even clearer when you start looking for jobs in the field. The saying “a dear child has many names” essentially means that while few people now question the importance of learning technologists, there are so many different job titles. You can range from an e-learning designer to a technology enhanced learning support officer. No wonder the discussion of what the best job title is pops on the ALT mailing list semi-regularly.

All of this led me to think of learning technologist jobs as a spectrum. You can see an initial markup below:

My made up spectrum of learning technology

On the one hand, you have jobs which mainly includes instructional design. Jobs very much on the end of this spectrum will spend most of the day creating and managing courses, using pedagogical knowledge to influence course design.

On the other hand, you have people very much dedicated to technology support. Dependent on the size of institution and where they are based, they may be in the central team and support one specific technology (from the virtual learning environment to electronic voting) or be school-based and deal with first-line support such as “My course looks wrong” or “I would like to make a quiz”.

Each side of the scale could have another element added. There are definitely also a second scale that defines the level of specialisation.

Sometimes that are reflected in higher grades or a bigger amount of strategic responsibility for a certain things, other times not at all. No wonder it is really complex figuring out what a learning technologist can offer when they can vary so much. I definitely also think I can add more detail and further develop this spectrum as I myself define what type of learning technologist I would like to become.

The reflections on what type of learning technologist I would like to be could be 10 blog posts in itself. In my previous role, I was very support focused and did not do very much instructional design besides filming and editing a few videos and putting a finishing finesse to certain courses. In contrast, my new role has so far been a lot less daily support, but more revolved around strategy. I have also had the chance to try more instructional design by providing support to our postgraduate certificate in learning and teaching. It has been interesting to try out more parts of the spectrum, and see what suits me best.

Can you see any similarities between what your role involves and this type of spectrum? Is there a part of learning technology I have completely missed out?

I do wonder where on the spectrum something like research into learning technology would go, and how roles that are not fully learning technology would fit in. I think it is fair to say there will probably be a follow-up to this.

Learning HTML and CSS quickly

Thanks Pixabay for being my favourite source of CC-0 pictures

I feel like the title sounds more like an advert pitch, but in all honesty as we are still before my morning tea, I went with the first title I could think of.

As part of my new role at Heriot-Watt University, I have been asked to provide support on Blackboard courses which have HTML and CSS embedded in them. Having never used either before, I have had to figure out the basics in a few weeks (It has to be said I volunteered very quickly to take on learning this).

Maybe there are other people out there who could benefit from hearing about the resources I have used to at least get comfortable enough to do a bit. I know lots of people are interested in coding, but it can be a bit daunting to figure out how to start.

I started out with these really helpful videos from Jake Wright on both HTML and CSS;



These two videos provided the perfect understanding of the structure for each language. It also gave enough basics that I could write small, simple snippets of code. I would recommend signposting people to these videos before attempting anything else. They are a real gem.

Next up, I needed to build on my understanding by adding more complex pieces of code. As I am (at first) planning to use these skills in our virtual learning environment, I did not want to use resources intended for people to develop whole websites, as that is not relevant for what I will be doing.

Having sat next to the person who championed the use of Lynda.com, I was really happy to discover HWU also subscribes to LinkedIn Learning. They are essentially the same service, as the content originates from Lynda. I think there are many members of staff who do not realise how many courses you can access. As much as the internet can teach you everything for free, I like the structured nature of following courses.

My two initial courses were HTML for Educators and CSS Essential Training 1. (LinkedIn learning does not allow you to easily share content outside, so my apologies for the weird embeds)

Welcome from HTML for Educators by Chris Mattia

Welcome from CSS Essential Training 1 by Christina Truong

I hope you find at least some of these videos useful. Next step is to actually put what I have learned into proper practice. I have enjoyed dappling in programming languages again, so I am currently thinking of further personal projects where I can really put it to good use and learn more advanced techniques. Please let me know if you have any tips or tricks, other valuable resources, or any ideas on how I can learn more. Next big step would be to understand the basics of JavaScript.

Blog about being the most read blogpost

A picture of balloons saying "PPLS 2018" in a big room with windows.
Picture from when the graduation party hosted by my school after I graduated

It feels a bit meta to blog about blogging, yet here it is.

In 2017, I wrote a blogpost for the University of Edinburgh’s blog on teaching (fittingly called Teaching Matters) on what research says about attendance when lectures are recorded.

The post was the most read blogpost on the blog in 2018. This blogpost was written as it was a very commonly asked question by academics whenever lecture recording came up, and clearly it is still relevant.

Having now graduated university and no longer being a student intern (or really a poster child anymore, no one at Heriot-Watt has ever seen the infamous poster all over UoE campus) I stand by what I say more than ever. I actually attended most of my lectures, but I did have a lot of stuff going on besides my studies.

If I had not spent a lot of my time on extracurriculars, I would have never ended up working in learning technology and found an area so well-suited to me. My CV may still only have consisted of a degree and not much else, and I am so grateful I took advantage of just a few of the opportunities studying at UoE offered me. Shockingly, it has turned out that a degree teaches you a lot more than just subject-specific content – it teaches you lots of things from how to learn things quickly, to balance your time to meet as many deadlines as possible, working under pressure, working on things that does not interest you, meeting new people, and the list goes on.

If I missed a lecture here or there, it clearly was not detrimental to me or many of my friends who sometimes did the same. Be there for students to come to you with your concerns, but also accept we need to learn from our own mistakes.

We will usually turn out okay, I promise.

4 Years of University in Pictures

It has now been a bit of time since I finished my final exams. I have spent more amount these past few weeks feeling 22 than I have in the last year. I have also had time to reminiscence about these past four years and the change I’ve gone through – hope you’ll enjoy a trip down memory lane with me!

Year 1

Before actually starting – very excited and nervous about what was to come

I started at Edinburgh thinking I was going to become a social and economic historian. That lasted about 2 weeks until I realised it was the completely wrong choice for me, and that I was much more meant for psychology. I also spent a fair bit of first year wondering if I had taken the right choice in moving so far away. I think I suffered a bit from the idea that first year is supposed to be amazing and the time of your life, yet I did not really find a group of friends before it was almost November. Semester 2 I felt a lot more settled and I started to enjoy living in a big city. I also did a bit of studying, but managed to get through first year without too many late nights.

Studying hard or hardly studying?

Halloween at Teviot – the actor that played Hodor was the DJ

Year 2

The view of my second year flat onto Princess Street

I managed to transfer to a psychology degree in the summer holiday, and I did not look back. I did not do any courses in history in my second year. Instead, I continued on with sociology and did a course on social policy. I also thoroughly started to enjoy statistics, which took up a lot of my time in second year. While living in a flat with the most beautiful view on the Royal Mile, my flatmate and I was not a great match, and I spent a lot of the year in library to avoid being home.

My ex-boyfriend and I also spent our first proper year together, and he managed to drag me up my first (and only) munro. I also took up climbing and spent many hours at the climbing wall (some of it also included climbing and not just chatting). That summer I stayed in Edinburgh to work, without having a lot of friends, and it was in many ways quite lonely, yet I also realised how fine I was on my own, and how I did not really struggle to fill up my time. It was definitely a highlight when my grandparents came to visit. I also went on a very romantic getaway to Portugal.

There is not really any going out photos, because well, I did not really do any of that in second year. I was too caught up in other things to really care.

…. yet I spent most of that year looking onto the Meadows from the main library instead

On my way to the top of Ben Lomond

Finishing my first 6A. Yes, my chalk bag is the Danish flag – one of my favourite pressies!

My grandparents visiting – here we enjoyed an amazing meal at our favourite, The Outsider

A beautiful sunset in Portugal

Year 3

Best friends are not always the ones you have known the longest – here I am with two friends at the psychology ball

I had not found the academic side of things to take up too much time in first and second year, so I decided to fill up my timetable a bit more. In the end, I ended up being school convenor part of the lecture recording procurement, took up jiu jitsu (until I got injured end of first semester), working part-time, being a voluntary research assistant while dealing with a bigger course load than I ever had before.

On top of all of this, my ex and I were long-distance for most of the summer until February in semester 2. It was not always easy, and I found myself constantly running around trying to juggle it all. The worst part of third year was definitely managing 7 deadlines in the span of about 2.5 weeks, having not written an academic psychology essay since first year. I am not sure I enjoyed any of my courses, and I wish I could re-do the year now with what I later learned.

It was not all bad, though. I realised that while jiu jitsu was not for me, I definitely wanted to join a sports club. I also made new friends, which helped me a lot. I finally enjoyed living with a flatmate, and I started to feel at home. I loved being school convenor and rediscovered my love for education. All of this led me to spending my summer working on the lecture recording project at the university, with a month home in June where I interned as an educational psychologist. I did not have a lot of time off, but I started to thrive on being busy, which was lucky as I did not really get any less busy. I still loved statistics, and managed to get to work with my number one choice of supervisor.

My wonderful flatmate, Melina, at our favourite Japanese restaurant for a good bento box

Spent a bit more time in third year being young – here with a group of jitsu friends

I also got all dressed up for my first Scottish wedding

Still a proud statistics nerd

Also went home in the middle of the semester 2 exam diet to celebrate my sister’s confirmation

Spent most of my summer indoors working – here teaching about creative common licenses to academics

Year 4

This sums up fourth year pretty well – a group of friends and me posing next to my poster child photo after a spontaneous night-out

Fourth year flew by before I had even looked around. It was potentially also my best and most eventful year. Throughout my years at university, I matured a lot and I think I really felt that throughout 4th year. While still taking on too much stuff, I struggled much less with juggling all my responsibilities, and I prioritised a better work/life balance that kept me sane.

I started kickboxing, and ended up on the committee. While it took up a lot of my time, it was potentially one of the most giving experiences at university. I loved being part of a sports team, and I found even more friends. I also spent a lot of time on fun socials, which gave a nice contrast to my very adult job and the seriousness of my courses. I also figured out what type of psychology I enjoyed, and only really did courses I liked. It made studying a lot less tedious. I also wrote a dissertation, which really suited my interests. I also continued working on the lecture recording project, and I knew learning technology was the field for me.

A week and a half before my dissertation deadline, my ex and I split up after almost three years together. It was not easy at the time, but I found myself being happier and more optimistic about the future. I also feel much more certain about my choice of (hopefully) staying in Edinburgh long-term. I actually also enjoyed my exam period for the first time ever. I think living on my own for the first time also made this hectic year easier, even though I missed Melina.

And just like that, the year was over, way faster than I could ever have imagined. To be honest, I enjoyed fourth year so much that if someone offered to sponsor me to do a masters, I would not say no.

A beautiful picture of my white sheets before a friend and I ate indian on them and spilled curry.

My dissertation idea was presented on a poster (though it changed a bit before the final version). I also got to use some of my PowerPoint skills from my internship.

The Kickboxing Committee 2017/2018 at the Sports Union Ball

These two came to be a big part of my fourth year, all thanks to kickboxing

I also spontaneously went on a trip to Budapest with Melina – my first proper holiday since I went to Portugal

Leaving the lecture recording team was not easy. I do not think many interns get the goodbye I got, and I am still so grateful to have been allowed to be part of the programme. Hopefully, I’ll get to see all of you again.

Sat an exam in the McEwan hall basically a perfect 2 months before my graduation date

As you can tell, I had fun on the night I finished exams even if town was empty. You only have the fun you make yourself!

And it only got better once these two finished as well. They get a lot of credit for getting me through fourth year.

You cannot really finish a post like this and cover everything there is to say. I think it is fair to say I grew to love Edinburgh and the university more than the nervous and excited little fresher could ever have imagined. I also kind of wish I could do them all over, but I guess it is time to accept I am one step closer to being an adult, with only about a month till graduation.

Why I Chose My Dissertation Topic

After surviving writing my dissertation, I knew I wanted to reflect on the whole process. At first, I was thinking about blogging about what I learned and what I would do differently, but to be honest, I am not sure I can do that before I actually get the dissertation back. As a colleague of mine said; I mainly looked shell-shocked the day I handed it in. The featured image is also definitely a lie; majority of the dissertation process looked more like this:

Of course with a full cup of tea at hand. Extra kudos if you recognise the programme at the bottom.

My dear colleague, Lorraine, suggested that I could write about why I chose my topic. In a field considered as interesting as psychology, my topic may pale a bit at first. But here’s why you should care. (Buckle in, this is going to be a long one)

The main thing I set out to research was whether different approaches to learning had an effect on how well psychology students did on a statistical reasoning test. This end result of a research question was definitely not my initial intention.

I knew when it was time to pick dissertation topics that what interested me the most is the critical analysis of psychology papers and theoretical issues in using statistics in the 21st century. Long story very short; it turns out that psychology academics have one time too many used incorrect statistical methods, not understood what a significant result means, and not understood the problems of having small sample sizes. This paper by Button et al. (2013) really highlighted the issue for me. These issues have led to a replication crisis, where as little as one-third to one-half of replication studies find the original findings.

This is hugely problematic.

Why?

Because psychology considers itself a science based on hypothesis testing. Where every finding should potentially lead us closer to discover more of the real world. If we can’t trust published findings in peer-reviewed journals, how can we really trust any finding in psychology? If we base future studies on previous findings, which we should to not try to reinvent the wheel constantly, but they’re not a true reflection of reality, are we just fumbling around in the dark getting no closer to real findings?

This importance of not only replicating findings, but also being okay with your results being challenged, is more common in harder sciences, such as physics.

Hence, there needs to be massive change in academic psychology if we, as a field, want to be taken seriously. As much as I wanted to challenge the capability of academics, my supervisor said it was a tad bit early in my career to do so. Perhaps later.

Instead, I decided to focus on who will helpfully be the next generation of academics; psychology students.

My degree has changed massively since I started, mainly thanks to my two statistics lecturers who has worked tirelessly, and most of the time thanklessly, to help us become capable data analysts. They have taught us statistical methods usually not encountered before master’s level to help us become more statistically literate. While we will not all become academics, having an understanding and ability to critically assess findings is an important and transferable skill.

Lecturers and course organisers need a way to ensure that students are actually learning what they are intending them to. Things like exams may not always be a true reflection of skills, and certainly if the content has been crammed, it may be forgotten a few months later. Therefore, you’d like students to be able to apply the thinking and reasoning skills in general situations, and not only in an assessment setting. This is what I tested using a statistical reasoning assessment, which measures both correct reasoning and incorrect reasoning. I then used a measure that divides students into three different approaches to learning.

What I found was that students too caught up in following the syllabus, having a high fear of failure, and always feeling behind were less likely correctly apply statistical reasoning. Hence, while they did not seem to have a lot of misconceptions, they were not as good as the two other groups at applying their knowledge in ambiguous situations.

What does this mean? I’m not completely sure. My sample size was small. I couldn’t compare groups as well as I wanted. I couldn’t control for demographics. It was interesting that my model did not have a better fit for misconceptions. Perhaps our statistics courses are already great at ensuring we at least understand some statistics.

But I do think it would be worth doing more work into how we can suit up psychology graduates in the best possible way for the future. I hope I’ve convinced you to (sort of) believe the same.

 

Both a big relief and at the same time strange handing in two printed copies of my dissertation.

 

Being Cool with Being Uncool

Allow me to set the scene: It is a Friday night in a nightclub on George Street (read: one of those fancy ones where the interior is nice and the drinks are expensive). The scene can almost be compared to a park back in the day where the better folk would be promenading to show off how much money they have to spend on clothes.

As other people tried to do the socially acceptable form of rocking to some kind of electronic remix, I realised I wasn’t concerned with being cool. Being one of those other people would look to and think “wow I wish that was me”.

Instead, we decided to trade the least cool dance moves we knew. Slowly, this group formed where the main aim was not to fit in with the rest, but instead to have a good time. I think that night may go down as the most fun I have had in a long time.

I have started realising that in contrast to my teenage years, I have started to reach a point where it is not as important to me what others think. Instead of being concerned with my image and fitting in with the norms, I have accepted that I’d probably lose a sense of myself in the process.

I have several uncool things I do; how many 22 year olds neatly stack their Tupperware? (most of my drawers are actually neatly organised) When I started kickboxing, I knew I’d never be the best, and that I’d probably struggle to learn most of the moves. (just have a look at tornado kicksBut I enjoy the kickboxing, so why should that be important? Karoline 5 years ago would never have done a sport where she’d inherently suck, but the importance of being the best in other people’s eyes is just no longer a main priority for me.

On a popularity scale, there’s no doubt I am far away from the top. And you know what, I’m cool with that.

#adulting

So….

Here it is, ladies and gentleman. I think it is now official that I am truly integrated in the learning technology community as I am both on Twitter and have my own blog.

Spurred on by my awesome boss, Anne-Marie, I set up this website. It may or may not be a challenge whether I could get it up and running in less than an hour. Needless to say I managed in about 15 minutes. Picking the theme seemed to be harder than setting up the domain!

I am hoping to use this to share my thoughts on different areas, to showcase the work I have done, and to have a bigger digital footprint. (also hoping that learning how to work with Wordpress will help me to add another skill to my linkedin) 

I also hope it will serve as a way for me to share a massive change in my life. As much as I try to deny it, in June 2018 I will be done with my studies and unemployed. As someone who has always gone the direct route through the educational system, it will be a really big change to suddenly have to consider what I would like to do. I feel ready to leave studying for a while, but I also feel like I am really young to suddenly be an adult. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for reading my very first blog post – may it be the first of many!

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