Procrastination, teachers, and posthuman theories – when social media and educational research collide

Procrastination, teachers, and posthuman theories – when social media and educational research collide

The use of social media by teachers and education researchers is a topic that generates a lot of debate – much of it, ironically, on social media. Jo Albin-Clark found unexpected benefits from using Twitter and agreed to share these with us. 

If you’d like to join in the discussion on Twitter, here’s where to find the EERA twitter account and Jo on Twitter

Procrastinating with Twitter

Twitter is a gift to the procrastinating researcher. As anyone with a writing deadline will attest, you get very creative.  At times I can write fluently, collaborate with ease and produce abstract after abstract. But other times, I can find so many reasons not to write.

The ultimate procrastination tool nestles in the palm of my hand. Twitter is the gift that keeps on giving. Discovering other people’s research, snorting at funny memes, and networking with like-minded souls has brought fresh collaborations (Albin-Clark et al., 2021). Twitter has me hook, line and sinker, and it can stall my writing plans if I let it. But what I had not expected was how Twitter would become a means to write. I didn’t see that coming. 

Researching with Twitter

As a teacher of young children and now a university-based researcher of documentation practices, I started to notice how my subject manifested through Twitter. I’m interested in teachers’ documentation practices, where photography, video and/or written narration capture playful learning (Albin-Clark, 2021).

I’ve found posthuman and feminist materialism theories happy bedfellows for researching documentation. Through this, you can imagine the rich, dynamic entanglements afoot (Strom et al. 2020 p 2). Documentation is re-imagined as lively and agentic matter (Lenz Taguchi, 2010; Elfström Pettersson, 2017; Merewether, 2018).  When you start thinking about a non-human thing (like documentation) having an agency, teachers slip from the central focus. Such moves have enabled leaps from questions about the meanings of documentation to what documentation is doing (Albin-Clark, 2021).

Now I’ve started wondering about how teachers engage with Twitter and in what ways documentation can become a digital doing (Albin-Clark, 2022; Thompson, 2016).

Teachers using Twitter

Teachers are always looking for the new and have employed technology through digital documentation (Flewitt and Cowan, 2019; Flewitt and Clark, 2020). Mobile documentation is gaining in popularity, where mobile devices connect home and school (Lim and Cho, 2019). But once I started to pay attention, teachers were tweeting documentation all over the show.

Klinkenborg (2012 p.127) attests that; ‘Being a writer is an act of perpetual self-authorization’.

So, it seems I can combine procrastination with research practice! 

Twitter and documentation of children’s learning

Most days, Michelle, the teacher I researched with, put documentation to work. It adorned classroom walls; shared endlessly with children’s families.  Charged and troubled planning-assessment cycles (Albin-Clark, 2019). What got me thinking was a tweet Michelle made called ‘Rainbow Spaghetti’. It told stories of exploratory play with unconventional materials. ECEC teachers have an eye for the unorthodox.

In the tweet, Michelle’s home kitchen countertop provides the setting, with cold, cooked, brightly coloured spaghetti sitting in bags.  Counterposed with the day after, sociable little fingers lunge into an overspilling spaghetti-filled tray (Albin-Clark et al., 2021). Michelle explained how the hashtags came about (#readytowrite, #sensory play, #messy play). They gesture towards playful learning as instrumental to curricula progress and associated learning with active and sensory exploration.

If you notice the mobile documentation of Rainbow Spaghetti, the more-than-human comes into view. Bags of cold spaghetti on the kitchen top are timestamped and reveal evening time activity. Social media here becomes an additional labour; the personal and professional blur. As Michelle’s family kitchen becomes visible, vulnerabilities become observable in digital spaces (Stratigos and Fenech 2020).

Implications for tweeting teachers (and procrastinating researchers)

So, what were these tweets doing in the “digital-material-sensory-affective-spatial assemblage”? (Ringrose and Renold 2016, 238).

I have only just scratched the surface. But mobile documentation performs. For teachers, it blurs the boundaries between personal and professional subjectivities. Hidden labours lurk in liminalities, ethical tensions remain for children being documented and objectified in cultures of surveillance (Lindgren, 2012).

Further enquiries might investigate socially mediated multiplicities. Diverse and lively intra-actions abound in creating, sending, hashtagging, reading, liking, commenting, datafying and much more besides (Albin-Clark, 2022; Mertala, 2019).  

Amongst the liveliness of timestamps and hashtags we glimpse more.  Whole discourses vibrate with the phone’s materiality in teachers’ back pockets. And pedagogical tools present themselves (Luo and Xie 2019).

Now more than ever, teachers need to tell stories (Moss, 2015). Storytelling what is important could open fractures to resist dominant neo-liberal narratives (Moss and Roberts-Holmes, 2021; Archer and Albin-Clark, 2022). Twitter, therefore, offers accessible ways for teachers (and researchers) to swiftly operationalise digital doings that are hopeful, bite-size and accessible storytelling.  

I am telling you; Twitter is where procrastination is at!  It can be a productive space. So, use social media to connect to like-minded souls.  You never know where it may take you.

Key Messages

  1. Social media is not just procrastination, with theories from posthumanism, they can bring interesting lenses for early childhood research practices.
  2. Social media offers accessible ways for teachers (and researchers) to swiftly operationalise digital doings that provide hopeful, bite-size and accessible storytelling. 
  3.  Documentation of young children’s learning in digital spaces brings ethical questions and recent platform changes may add further complications. 

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Dr Jo Albin-Clark

Dr Jo Albin-Clark

Senior Lecturer Early Education

Dr. Jo Albin-Clark is a senior lecturer in early education at Edge Hill University. Following a teaching career in nursery and primary schools, Jo has undertaken a number of roles in teaching, advising and research in early childhood education. She completed a doctorate at the University of Sheffield in 2019 exploring documentation practices through posthuman and feminist materialist theories in early childhood education. Her research interests include observation and documentation practices and methodological collaboration and research creation through posthuman lenses. Throughout her work, teachers’ embodied experiences of resistances to dominant discourses has been a central thread.

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6247-8363

https://research.edgehill.ac.uk/en/persons/joanne-albin-clark 

References and Further Reading

Alasuutari, M., A. Markström, and A. Vallberg-Roth. 2014. Assessment and Documentation in Early Childhood Education. Abingdon: Routledge.

Albin-Clark, J. 2019. “What Forms of Material-Discursive Intra-Action are Generated through Documentation Practices in Early Childhood Education?” Educational Doctorate thesis, University of Sheffield.

Albin-Clark, J. 2020. “What is Documentation Doing? Early Childhood Education Teachers Shifting from and between the Meanings and Actions of Documentation Practices.” Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood: 1-16. doi:10.1177/1463949120917157

Albin-Clark, J., Latto, L., Hawxwell, L. and Ovington, J. (2021). ‘Becoming-with response-ability: How does diffracting posthuman ontologies with multi-modal sensory ethnography spark a multiplying femifesta/manifesta of noticing, attentiveness and doings in relation to mundane politics and more-than-human pedagogies of response-ability?’, entanglements, 4(1): 21-31 https://entanglementsjournal.org/becoming-with-response-ability/

Albin-Clark, J., 2022. What is mobile documentation doing through social media in early childhood education in-between the boundaries of a teacher’s personal and professional subjectivities?. Learning, Media and Technology, pp.1-16. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439884.2022.2074450

Archer, N., & Albin-Clark, J. (2022, Jul 7). Telling stories that need telling: A dialogue on resistance in early childhood education . (2 ed.) Lawrence Wishart. https://journals.lwbooks.co.uk/forum/vol-64-issue-2/abstract-9564/

Elfström Pettersson, K. 2017. “Teachers’ Actions and Children’s Interests. Quality Becomings in Preschool Documentation.” Tidsskrift for Nordisk Barnehageforskning 14 (2): 1-17. doi:10.7577/nbf.1756.

Flewitt, R. and K. Cowan. 2019. Valuing Signs of Learning: Observation and Digital Documentation of Play in Early Years Classrooms the Froebel Trust Final Research Report. Edinburgh: Froebel Trust.

 

Lenz Taguchi, H. 2010. Going Beyond the Theory, Practice Divide in Early Childhood Education. 1. publ. ed. London: Routledge.

Lim, S. and M. Cho. 2019. “Parents’ use of Mobile Documentation in a Reggio Emilia-Inspired School.” Early Childhood Education Journal 47 (4): 367-379. doi:10.1007/s10643-019-00945-5.

Lindgren, A. 2012. “Ethical Issues in Pedagogical Documentation: Representations of Children through Digital Technology.” International Journal of Early Childhood 44 (3): 327-340. 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2007.01517.x.

Luo, T. and Q. Xie. 2019. “Using Twitter as a Pedagogical Tool in Two Classrooms: A Comparative Case Study between an Education and a Communication Class.” Journal of Computing in Higher Education 31 (1): 81-104. doi:10.1007/s12528-018-9192-2.

Mertala, P. 2019. “Digital Technologies in Early Childhood Education – a Frame Analysis of Preservice Teachers’ Perceptions.” Early Child Development and Care 189 (8): 1228-1241. doi:10.1080/03004430.2017.1372756.

Merewether, J. 2018. “Listening to Young Children Outdoors with Pedagogical Documentation.” International Journal of Early Years Education 26 (3): 259-277. doi:10.1080/09669760.2017.1421525.

Moss, P. 2015. “Time for More Storytelling.” European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 23 (1): 1-4. doi:10.1080/1350293X.2014.991092.

Moss, P. and G. Roberts-Holmes. 2021. “Now is the Time! Confronting Neo-Liberalism in Early Childhood.” Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood:  doi:10.1177/1463949121995917.

Ringrose, J. and E. Renold. 2016. “Cows, Cabins and Tweets: Posthuman Intra-Active Affect and Feminist Fire in Secondary School.” In Posthuman Research Practices in Education, edited by C. Taylor and C. Hughes, 220-241. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK. doi:10.1057/9781137453082_14.

Sparrman, A. and Lindgren, A. 2010. “Visual Documentation as a Normalizing Practice: A
New Discourse of Visibility in Preschool.” Surveillance & Society 7 (3/4): 248-261. 10.24908/ss.v7i3/4.4154

Stratigos, T. and M. Fenech. 2020. “Early Childhood Education and Care in the App Generation: Digital Documentation, Assessment for Learning and Parent Communication.” Australasian Journal of Early Childhood,46 (1): 1-13. doi:10.1177/1836939120979062.

Strom, K., J. Ringrose, J. Osgood, and E. Renold. 2020. “PhEmaterialism: Response-Able Research & Pedagogy.” Pedagogy . Reconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology, 10 (2-3): 1-39. https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10091313.

Thompson, T. 2016. “Digital Doings: Curating Work-Learning Practices and Ecologies.” Learning, Media and Technology 41 (3): 480-500. doi:10.1080/17439884.2015.1064957.

EERJ Special Issue: Researching space and time making in Education

EERJ Special Issue: Researching space and time making in Education

The European Educational Research Journal  (EERJ) was created by EERA to further the aims of the association and its members, educational researchers across Europe. It is a scientific journal interested in the changing landscape of education research across Europe. It publishes double-blind peer-reviewed papers in special issues and as individual articles. As part of the ongoing cooperation with EERJ, the EERA blog will share updates and information about upcoming and published special issues and articles alongside blog posts from EERJ contributors. 

Introduction―Space-and time-making in education: Towards a topological lens

Vol 21, Issue 6, 2022

First published online February 16, 2022

Mathias Decuypere
KU Leuven, Belgium

Sigrid Hartong
Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Germany

Karmijn van de Oudeweetering
KU Leuven, Belgium

Have you ever had the feeling that time is going faster than it used to? That this acceleration is doing something with our idea of what good education is, or should be? That the pandemic has done something to our understanding of what it means to teach and learn physically ‘here’, or digitally ‘there’? That it is hard to say where and when exactly the workday of an educator starts or ends?

Space and time are made

These questions show us that it is increasingly getting more difficult to talk about space and time as if they are naturally just ‘out there’, surrounding us and our social lives. Contrary to such an instrumental and ‘neutral’ understanding of space and time, nowadays, we equally often hear that space and time are (partly) human constructions, and that our understanding of them changes continuously. For instance, the emergence of online educational platforms and other digital tools allow people from all over the world and across different time zones to be simultaneously present in a class or lecture.

Like a magnifying glass, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has powerfully invigorated and accelerated processes of digitization, and even more clearly illuminated how much impact they have on the educational field. As living rooms have transformed into do-it-yourself classrooms, as computer screens have served as both blackboards and lecturing halls, and as after-school programs have spread over the day, the pandemic has concretely shown how space and time are not only abstract ‘givens’. Rather than that, they have turned the self-evident and previously somehow “tacit” character of space- and time-making in education, into a topic of crucial concern.

Social topology at work

In our Special Issue in the European Educational Research Journal, we discuss and elaborate on one approach that allows us to research such processes of space- and time-making: (social) topology. The usage of topology is not necessarily new in educational research, but it has hitherto merely been used in very complex, theoretical, and abstract manners. In this Special Issue, our aim is to bring together various empirical studies that work within the framework of social topology. In adopting a topological lens, all the studies contained in the Special Issue show topology ‘at work’: they make it very concrete how you can, by means of this framework, research different sorts of space(s) and time(s) in educational practices.

Making educational spaces and times

Topology thus focuses on space and time as relational constructions that are made by humans, and that at the same time have a very profound impact on humans. A very intuitive example of this is the switching of the clock when we enter and exit daylight saving time – we then all very clearly feel the impact of our (human) tinkering with time. In our Special Issue, we have collected various contributions that show the different sorts of spacetimes that exist in the field of education; most of the time even existing at once. Where, for instance, does a lecture take place when it is being distributed in a digital form as a lecture capture and when it is equally being discussed online on Twitter?

Similarly, when and where does something like a borderless ‘European education’ take place when it is happening online? Where does it begin and where does it end?

These are the kind of questions that are addressed in our Special Issue, and that show the importance of using a topological lens in order to do research that focuses on the making of educational spaces and times. Moreover, as the Special Issue shows, these newly emerging spaces and times, when they are introduced in our educational systems, are doing something with and to do those systems. For instance, they create new sorts of professions and new types of professionalities. Equally, they are rhetorically deployed in such a way that they install particular future visions and desires into students and teachers.

Conclusion

In summary, then, our Special Issue focuses on educational spaces and times as things that are continuously being made. Moreover, the articles in the collection do so by giving mutual attention to space(s) and time(s).

As such, the collection greatly advances our understanding of how the spatial and the temporal continuously interact with each other, and thus makes a clear case for the importance of analyzing both conjointly, without seeking to privilege one over the other.

You can access the EERJ Special Issue here (open access). If you are interested in submitting to the EERJ, you can find the Submission Guidelines here.

Prof. Mathias Decuypere

Prof. Mathias Decuypere

Associate Professor of Qualitative Research at KU Leuven, Belgium.

Mathias Decuypere is Associate Professor of Qualitative Research at KU Leuven, Belgium. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mathias-Decuypere

Professor Sigrid Hartong

Professor Sigrid Hartong

W3-Professor of Sociology at Helmut Schmidt Universität Hamburg, Germany.

Sigrid Hartong is W3-Professor of Sociology at Helmut Schmidt Universität Hamburg, Germany. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sigrid-Hartong

Karmijn van de Oudeweetering

Karmijn van de Oudeweetering

Doctoral candidate at KU Leuven, Belgium.

Karmijn van de Oudeweetering is a doctoral candidate at KU Leuven, Belgium. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Karmijn-Van-De-Oudeweetering

7 things I liked about EERA’s Summer School in Porto

7 things I liked about EERA’s Summer School in Porto

Just as each of us is unique, our PhD journeys will also be unique. However, very often, there are common elements. Engaging in networking activities with other doctoral candidates at an early stage of one’s PhD journey, therefore, proves to be a very enriching experience.

We asked Daniela Clara Moraru to share her personal experience of participating in her first EERA summer school in Porto.

To give you some background information, I have just finished the 3rd semester of my PhD programme at the University of Luxembourg. My research topic is “Perceptions and attitudes of the vocational education and training actors related to soft skills needed for employment”, a critical topic, especially in today’s context where local employers are increasingly finding it challenging to find employees equipped with industry-ready skills. 

In this context, I am very grateful to have been one of the lucky few – and the only one from Luxembourg – accepted at EERA’s Summer School 2022 at the University of Porto in Portugal. I also wish to express my gratitude to my Doctoral School of Humanities and Social Sciences for supporting my participation in this one-week intensive summer school.

I love Portugal for many reasons, the amazing food being just one of them. However, what made me place the host country as my #1 was the fact that being in a different time zone allowed me to gain 1 hour in the morning, which offered a great extra time to explore and discover the beautiful city of Porto.

As a self-funded student, the summer school was an incredible opportunity to meet and interact with other researchers who are at the same research stage as me. It helps to know that I am not the only one struggling with the research design at times, for example, in making sure that the proposed research questions and the methodology are aligned. 

This summer school was a great chance to benefit from tutoring by experienced researchers. My group tutors were Xana Sá Pinto and Joana Lúcio, who both took their job to heart. I am grateful for their generosity, encouragement and support throughout the summer school.

My doubts about one of my research questions are now gone, and I can focus confidently on the current research design. 

The organisation of the summer school was perfect! Only someone who has arranged such an event could understand the complexity of the undertaking – how many resources are required and how much time and energy is needed.

First, the logistical tasks, such as finding hotels for participants within a 10-minute metro trip from the university, arranging mealsproviding the buses for our trip to the University of Minho, assigning people to small groups by research topic and tutors to each group, planning the rooms, and so on.

Then there is the programme – arranging small hands-on group working sessions and plenary sessions featuring keynote speakers who are experts on topics of general interest for all researchers. In addition, the organisation of field trips.

Kudos to the organisation team. You’ve done a fantastic job! 

This experience was an excellent motivational factor. The PhD journey can be quite a lonely one, especially for someone like me who is a self-funded student, and motivation has its ups and downs at times.

It was extremely enriching for me to be together with other emerging researchers from a variety of countries/universities, and to learn about the diversity of their topics of research.

In addition to the learning factor, I greatly appreciate the motivation and enthusiasm I feel now, upon my return home, to further work on my research project. 

I highly valued the multicultural aspect of the training, enhanced by the diversity of participants.
Beyond our research projects, we also exchanged views about our universities, PhD programmes and supervisors. It was fascinating to discover that some universities offer different PhD programmes than those we have at the University of Luxembourg.
Our diverse backgrounds and experiences also contributed to the rich discussions and varied perspectives on the same topics of discussion, a valuable aspect of the summer school.

This event allowed us to establish direct contact with the editors of the Portuguese Journal of Education.

During our visit to the University of Minho in Braga, we were offered the opportunity to get in touch with the editorial team of a prestigious education journal indexed by Scopus.

During her sabbatical year, Board/Deputy Director, Iris Pereira, took the time to present the Portuguese Journal of Education to us, explained the publication process, and offered us tips on how to write a journal article.Thank you very much!

To sum up, the EERA summer school offered its participants incredible value. I highly appreciated the quality of the activities provided, the networking opportunities, and the motivational factor. 

I sincerely thank the entire team of EERA for another amazing job done, and I highly recommend all EERA’s events to emerging researchers. I look forward to seeing some of the participants again at the Emerging Researchers’ Conference in Yerevan, face-to-face or online. 

EERA Summer School – Porto 2023

26 – 30 June 2023 , University of Porto, Portugal

The European Educational Research Association (EERA), the Centre for Research and Intervention in Education (CIIE) of the University of Porto, the Center for Research in Education (CIEd) of the University of Minho, the Research Centre on Didactics and Technology in the Education of Trainers (CIDTFF) of the University of Aveiro and the Adult Education and Community Intervention Research Centre (CEAD) of the University of Algarve, with the SPCE – Sociedade Portuguesa de Ciências da Educação (Portuguese Educational Research Association), are pleased to announce the 2023 EERA Summer School “Participatory approaches in educational research” which will be held 26 – 30 June 2023 at the University of Porto, Portugal.

Theme and Aims

The EERA Summer School 2023 “Participatory approaches in educational research” aims to support doctoral students interested in bringing participants’ voices and actions to the core of educational research.
Read more

University of Porto and the City of Porto

Founded in 1911, the University of Porto (U.Porto) is a benchmark institution for Higher Education and Scientific Research in Portugal and one of the top 200 European Universities according to the most relevant international ranking systems.
Read more

EERSS 2023 Partners and Supporters

We are thankful to the following partners and supporters
Read more

Application / Cost / Terms of registration

Applicants are doctoral and advanced research students who primarily come from or study in EERA‘s member countries. Their thesis must relate to educational research.
Read more

EERSS 2023 Dates

Applications
15 November 2022 – 31 January 2023
Information on acceptance
1 March 2023
Registration/Payment
2 March – 15 April 2023
Summer School
26 – 30 June 2023

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Daniela Clara Moraru

Daniela Clara Moraru

CEO, Languages.lu, PhD candidate, University of Luxembourg

Ms. Daniela-Lacramioara (Clara) MORARU is an educator, author of 11 publications, and serial entrepreneur from Luxembourg. She is the founder of the main women’s association of Luxembourg: Fédération des Femmes Cheffes d’Entreprises (FFCEL) in 2004, Femmes Leaders du Luxembourg in 2007, and Inspiring Wo-Men in 2009.

She holds an MBA from Jack Welsh College of Business, Sacred Heart University, with a double concentration in International Business and Marketing, and a Master in Management from the Faculty of Engineering, University Lucian Blaga of Sibiu. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Luxembourg. Her research focuses on the topic: Perceptions and attitudes of vocation education actors related to soft skills for employment.

Since 2004, she is the CEO of Languages.lu, a language school and translation center based in Luxembourg. Ms. Moraru is also an international independent director certified by INSEAD (France), where she obtained a Certificate in Corporate Governance (2015) and a Certificate in Global Management (2017). She has been teaching Marketing at the University of Cooperative Education in Germany and regularly gives lectures and presentations in Luxembourg and abroad, mainly on entrepreneurship and education.

In 2013, Ms. Moraru was elected “Women inspiring Europe” by the European Commission’s European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) for her contribution to promoting inspiring female role models.

Gently down the stream(ing): Can digital literacy help turn the tide on the climate crisis? 

Gently down the stream(ing): Can digital literacy help turn the tide on the climate crisis? 

The ubiquitous availability of digital content and web services has transformed the way we live, work, and learn (List et al., 2020). Technology provides us with tools to manage and accomplish work, content to entertain us, and applications to document, store and share our lives online. It is within this context that digital literacy features prominently in policy documentation and educational literature, recognising digital literacy as an essential skill for 21st-century living (Pérez-Escoda et al., 2019). However, as we stand on the precipice of climate disaster, is it time for digital literacy to focus its attention on the impact our increasing digital activity has on the environment?

Environmental impact of users’ digital lives

In education circles, conversations around the impact of educational technology on our environment have begun in earnest (Facer & Selwyn, 2021), however, this is less evident regarding the use of digital content and tools in our day-to-day lives. The usage of streaming services, for example, has soared in recent years and while providers such as Netflix have improved efficiencies in these services, their carbon footprint is still significant (Stephens et al., 2021).

Our music consumption habits have also shifted away from physical media, but overall greenhouse gas emissions from storing and distributing music online have doubled since 2000 (Brennan, 2019). Social media activity continues to increase at a remarkable pace, and a significant carbon cost (Perrin, 2015), and popular apps like TikTok and Reddit have a disproportionately large carbon footprint. Our regular scrolling of ‘news feeds’ contributes carbon emissions equivalent to a short light vehicle journey, per person, per day (Derudder, 2021).

This online activity, coupled with our desire to store data in the cloud, means data centres account for 1% of the global energy demand (Obringer et al., 2021). The continued desire for the latest phone is also costing more than our wallets, with the environmental impact of the device lifecycle being well documented (MacGilchrist et al., 2021). Current figures suggest that over half of consumers in many EU countries renew their devices every 18 – 24 months.

In our work environment, too, our digital impact must be acknowledged. While conferencing platforms such as Zoom come with great environmental benefits when compared with face-to-face meetings and conferences, further efficiencies can be achieved by challenging ‘camera on’ policies. A seemingly innocuous task like sending 65 text emails can cost as much carbon as a short car journey, and when factors such as attachments are considered, the cost is even higher (Duncan, 2022). This snapshot reveals just some of the impacts of our digital lives, some of which our students are unaware of.

Current focus of digital literacy and digital literacy frameworks

An acknowledgment of the need to develop our students’ digital literacy has existed since Gilster (1997) first coined the term and defined it as “the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of [digital] sources”.

Definitions of digital literacy have remained remarkably consistent in the decades that followed, focusing on the ability to source, evaluate and use digital information. In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis on content creation and communicating using digital channels. However, academic definitions of digital literacy lack any real focus on the environmental cost of our digital activities. In fact, there is little evidence of this aspect of digital literacy being discussed in academic literature.

There are many digital literacy frameworks available to help academics and other users understand digital literacy and its competencies. Only the UNESCO and DigiComp frameworks refer to the environmental impact of technologies and their use, and this is nestled under the ’digital safety’ strand. The range of digital literacy frameworks (e.g. DigiComp, UNESCO, JISC) and volume of journal publications suggests that academics and policymakers are committed to the development of digital literacy, however, it appears that the impact of our digital lives on the environment has been largely left out of the debate. 

Shifting our focus

Calls for action to avert a climate catastrophe are becoming more strident. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (2022) paints a very troubling picture regarding the widespread and severe impacts of climate change. We must act now. We must adapt our practices and become more sustainable in everything we do.

I believe we can refocus our attention on digital literacy to guide our students to being more critical users of technology and understanding its impact on our world. Using familiar language and strategies, we might encourage students to identify their current digital activities and analyse their carbon footprint, before evaluating areas where improvements can be made. Students could be encouraged to construct new meaning from their investigations by capturing trends associated with work, study and social practices, and communicating these findings with a wider audience.

This shift in focus is essentially a repurposing of what we already ask our students to do with regard to digital content, but targeted at addressing the authentic and urgent issue of climate change. While frameworks such as DigiComp and UNESCO should be commended for including environmental impact, further development of this area should be encouraged.

Digital literacy frameworks should provide a detailed scaffold which encourages a multidimensional understanding of digital tools, their impact on the environment, and consideration of actions that can be taken to affect change. Developing this aspect of digital literacy would increase students’ awareness of the ‘cost’ of technology and promote a more critical use of the tools and services they use in their day-to-day lives.

Conclusion

The coming years present major challenges for society to tackle the climate emergency. It is crucial that we shift our mindset and begin to understand the impact our actions have on the environment, and make the necessary changes to recalibrate our relationship with nature.

Changes are required in all aspects of our lives, from energy and waste, to the provision and rewilding of natural spaces. While a refocussing of digital literacy and digital competencies in this way is not the panacea to the situation, it can act as a move in the right direction, one more component of our lives where we begin to understand and address our toll on the environment.

The post is an abridged version of an article in the upcoming (October 2022) issue of the Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy

Key Messages

Society’s use of digital and online content is increasing

Digital literacy is recognised as a set of competencies for this digital world

Our day-to-day use of technology has an environmental impact

Digital literacy definitions and frameworks largely ignore the environmental impact

We should begin including environmental impact in our digital literacy definitions, frameworks, and discussions

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Dr Peter Tiernan

Dr Peter Tiernan

Assistant Professor in Digital Learning and Research Convenor for the School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies in the Institute of Education at Dublin City University.

Peter is an Assistant Professor in Digital Learning and Research Convenor for the School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies in the Institute of Education at Dublin City University. He lectures in the areas of digital learning, digital literacy and entrepreneurship education. His current research focuses on digital literacy at post-primary and further education level as well as entrepreneurship education for third level lecturers and pre-service teachers.

Peter was shortlisted for the DCU President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in 2021.

Find Peter on Twitter.

References and Further Reading

A framework of pre-service teachers’ conceptions about digital literacy: Comparing the United States and Sweden https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360131519303380

Dimensions of digital literacy based on five models of development (Pérez-Escoda et al., 2019) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/11356405.2019.1603274

Digital technology and the futures of education – towards ‘non-stupid’ optimism (Facer & Selwyn, 2021) https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000377071″>https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000377071

Carbon impact of video streaming (Stephens et al., 2021), https://prod-drupal-files.storage.googleapis.com/documents/resource/public/Carbon-impact-of-video-streaming.pdf

MUSIC CONSUMPTION HAS UNINTENDED ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS (Brennan, 2019) https://www.gla.ac.uk/news/archiveofnews/2019/april/headline_643297_en.html

Social Media Usage: 2005-2015
65% of adults now use social networking sites – a nearly tenfold jump in the past decade (Perrin, 2015) https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2015/10/08/social-networking-usage-2005-2015/

What is the environmental footprint for social media applications? 2021 Edition (Derudder, 2021) https://greenspector.com/en/social-media-2021/

The overlooked environmental footprint of increasing Internet use (Olbringer et al., 2021) ​https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921344920307072?via%3Dihub

Shifting scales of research on learning, media and technology, (Mcgilchrist, et al, 2021) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439884.2021.1994418

Text Messaging & Emails Generate Carbon Emissions (Carbon Footprint), (Duncan, 2021) https://8billiontrees.com/carbon-offsets-credits/reduce-carbon-footprint/texts-emails/

A Global Framework of Reference on Digital Literacy Skills for Indicator 4.4.2 http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/ip51-global-framework-reference-digital-literacy-skills-2018-en.pdf

Digicomp https://joint-research-centre.ec.europa.eu/digcomp_en

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report https://www.ipcc.ch

Featured Image Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Networking for Global and Sustainability Education – UNESCO ASPnet in Estonia

Networking for Global and Sustainability Education – UNESCO ASPnet in Estonia

UNESCO is tasked to ensure that education serves the values of peace, human rights, freedom, justice and democracy, respect for diversity, and international solidarity as defined in the UN Charter and the Constitution of UNESCO. Since 1953, the organisation has offered schools in its member states the opportunity to apply to be part of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet), which supports the promotion of the UNESCO ideals. Today, the ASPnet connects more than 11,500 schools in 182 countries, and the current strategy aim for the network is to support Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED). These are seen as the key instruments for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Target 4.7 with the aim of giving all learners the knowledge and skills to promote sustainable development (UNESCO, 2014).

The ASPnet has, throughout its existence, aimed to strengthen the horizontal links between schools through twinning and flagship projects which support the diffusion of participatory and critical enquiry pedagogies (Schweisfurth, 2005). The Baltic Sea Project (BSP) is one of the oldest flagship projects. Since 1989, it has united schools in the countries bordering the Baltic Sea to tackle regional environmental problems through education. Currently, in the nine participating countries, over 165 schools (mainly upper-secondary level) are involved in the BSP activities (BSP, 2022).

My research deals with the history and current state of these school networks in the context of Estonia and analyses how the process of tighter integration of the BSP network into the UNESCO ASPnet contributes to achieving a more holistic understanding of a sustainable future through enhanced cooperation between different subject teachers and civil society organisations (CSOs).

Revitalising the school network

The process of revitalising the school networks started in 2014, when the Estonian UNESCO National Commission gave the task of coordinating the networks to two separate CSOs that both work as resource centres for schools and teachers: the Tartu Environment Education Centre (TEEC) started coordinating the BSP network while NGO Mondo’s Global Education Centre restarted the UNESCO ASPnet. Both centres are highly valued actors in their respective fields in Estonia.

The integration process of the networks started in 2018 with first the CSOs coming together – the coordinator from TEEC took part in Mondo’s Global Education training with some key teachers from the BSP network and the integration proceeded with joint planning, events and new guidelines for schools. According to the renewed guidelines, all ASPnet schools are encouraged to include global and sustainability education into school development plans, school regulations, management style, and community participation. They are required to do a minimum of one international UNESCO project/campaign/program and two UN thematic days yearly.

ASPnet schools are also expected to mainstream ESD and GCED to curriculum, working plans and lessons and support cooperation between teachers. As a follow-up activity to strategy renewal, all BSP schools were awarded ASPnet membership.

Analysis of the ASP Network in Estonia

The main aim of my study was to analyse the institutional and ideational context of ESD, GCED and ASPnet in Estonia, questioning whether networking can support a more holistic, critical, and transformative GCED and ESD – dimensions which are seen as crucial in the academic literature (Bamber, 2019). I used mixed methods to gather data from the ASPnet teachers and Estonian education policymakers and experts.

A survey questionnaire was completed by 24 teachers in the network, and 20 teachers took part in a participatory workshop during the ASPnet Annual Conference. In addition, ten teachers, five policymakers and five experts and coordinators were interviewed online. A review of annual reports from schools, previous studies, and policy documents was also conducted.

Identifying silos 

The survey data, interviews and workshop conducted with the ASPnet teachers showed some silos between different subject teachers. While teachers of natural sciences (chemistry, physics, biology) linked global competence to environmental awareness, teachers of social sciences (civics, history, geography) and languages linked it to intercultural competence. While all teachers saw the need to encourage students’ critical thinking, social science teachers saw more value in introducing controversial topics to discussions as well as critical examination of topics such as capitalism, colonialism, and nationalism.

Silos also exist in an institutional context where different ministries support various aspects of Target 4.7: the Ministry of Environment supports environmental education and ESD while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives funding for GCED activities. At the same time, the joining of the networks and increased collaboration between different subject teachers has been useful in breaking down the silos and increasing cooperation. However, there is room for improvement in ASPnet at all levels, from the school to national and international levels. Activities often end up being one-off events without a profound impact on the school as a whole. Communication problems and lack of resources also hinder UNESCO ASPnet from reaching full capacity.

Opportunities and challenges

Since the restart of the network, several new educational institutions have applied to join the Estonian ASPnet (including pre-schools, primary schools, and secondary schools), which could be seen as a positive result of the new, more inclusive approach. At the beginning of 2022, the Estonian ASPnet included 60 educational institutions (7-8% of all schools in Estonia). Many schools have joined after their teachers participated in Mondo’s in-service training in GCED.

Being a member of ASPnet is seen to give prestige and legitimacy to the schools (especially in situations where schools need to compete for students), as well as more resources to work on global and sustainability education. The network coordinators motivate teachers to be active by offering recognition, awards and opportunities for student participation and their resources are appreciated by the participating teachers.

Looking at the overall context of GCED and ESD in Estonia, we can see both opportunities and challenges for the promotion of UNESCO values. The main challenges are related to the overall policy discourse, which emphasises neoliberal, nationalistic and security discourses with limited reference to global solidarity. Emphasis is on subjects tested in high-stakes exams and PISA. At the same time, the autonomy of schools and teachers gives opportunities to place more emphasis on ESD and GCED in schools where teachers are trained, resourced, and motivated. The curriculum encourages including these themes in a transversal manner, which supports the activities of ASPnet. Openness and expertise in digital learning are also assets (GENE, 2019).

The study concludes that the ideas around holistic, critical, and transformative dimensions of GCED present in academic literature need contextualising. The decolonisation discourse is becoming more prevalent in academic GCED literature, where it refers predominantly to Global North vs Global South relations, while ignoring the post-Soviet experience.

When asked about criticality, one of the Estonian teachers noted that:

“in school, we should talk more about colonialism as we were ourselves colonized only recently, but we should not be too critical of nationalism as we need to protect our minority language and culture”.

This shows how concepts like ‘colonialism’ and ‘nationalism’ can have different meanings and connotations in different contexts. The ‘west’ in this context is not a symbol of past and current injustices, but a symbol of democracy and human rights as opposed to Soviet and Russian authoritarianism and chauvinism.

 One of the biggest current challenges for the Estonian education sector is the war in Ukraine, the integration of Ukrainian refugees into Estonian schools*, continuing integration of the Russian-speaking minority into Estonian society, as well as fighting propaganda and hate speech. In this situation, GCED can have a key role to play in supporting peace, global solidarity, and human rights, but special emphasis needs to be put on critical media literacy.

 

* By the end of May 2022, Estonia received more than 40 000 refugees from Estonia (3% of the Estonian population), and thousands of refugee children need access to education in Estonia.

Key Messages

UNESCO school network in Estonia motivates a growing number of schools to work on global and sustainability issues

There are silos between natural and social science teachers as well as different ministries in their understanding and promotion of Global Citizenship Education (GCED) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Networking between different subject teachers can lead to more holistic approach to teaching global challenges

Critical theory needs to be contextualised in the local history and experience

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Johanna Helin

Johanna Helin

EdD candidate at OISE (University of Toronto)

Johanna Helin is an EdD candidate at OISE (University of Toronto) and carries out studies and evaluations through UbuntuEDU in Finland. She has many years of experience in Global Citizenship Education from Finland, Estonia and Canada. Her dissertation research is on global citizenship education and critical media literacy in selected ASPnet schools in different country contexts.

References and Further Reading

Baltic Sea Project website (accessed June 10, 2022): https://unesco-bsp.blogspot.com/ 

Bamber, P. (Ed.). (2019). Teacher Education for Sustainable Development and Global https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/oa-edit/10.4324/9780429427053/teacher-education-sustainable-development-global-citizenship-philip-bamber 

Citizenship: Critical Perspectives on Values, Curriculum and Assessment (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi-org.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/10.4324/9780429427053

 GENE – Global Education Network Europe (2019). The European Global Education Peer Review Process – National Report on Global Education in Estonia. Available at: https://www.gene.eu/peer-reviews

Schweisfurth, M. (2005). Learning to Live Together: A Review of UNESCO’s Associated Schools Project Network. International Review of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, Vol. 51 Issue 2/3, p. 219-234. DOI: 10.1007/s11159-005-3579-9 https://research.birmingham.ac.uk/en/publications/learning-to-live-together-a-review-of-unescos-associated-schools- 

UNESCO (2003). UNESCO Associated School Project Network (ASPnet): historical review 1953-2003. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000130509?6=null&queryId=4f483e5c-0778-470e-9a63-5aaac01f9c13 

 UNESCO (2014b). ASPnet strategy for 2014-2021, Global network of schools addressing global challenges: building global citizenship and promoting sustainable development.Available at: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000231049?14=null&queryId=d968d1b3-3718-42c0-a1ea-8835499d4ccc 

 UNESCO (2018b). UNESCO Associated Schools Network: guide for national coordinators. UNESCO: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000261994

 UNESCO (2019a) UNESCO Associated Schools Network: guide for members. Available at: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000379707?4=null&queryId=3021db41-accf-4546-bf3f-12e6441595a9    

 

Ukrainian Higher Education and the International Education Community in the Context of Russian Assault on Ukraine 

Ukrainian Higher Education and the International Education Community in the Context of Russian Assault on Ukraine 

On the 24th of February 2022, the world witnessed the most unexpected and unbelievable turn of events – a full-scale war in a country located in geographical Europe. Russian government and military, in cooperation with their partners in Belarus, launched a military assault on Ukraine’s infrastructure, civilians’ lives, freedoms, and sovereignty. Higher education (HE), along with other areas of life, has taken a backstage while people have been sheltering and/or fleeing to seek safety. Nevertheless, the backstage for Ukrainian wounded HE in these circumstances does not mean a full submergence by the war.

The number of damaged or destroyed educational establishments, including higher education institutions (HEIs), has been growing. Ukrainian academics and students are among those feeling the country seeking safety. Some students still hope there will be a chance to come back to their studies in Ukraine. Other members of the HE student community in Ukraine are staying, putting on a soldier’s uniform, and fighting for Ukraine. Some still manage to continue with their studies in various formats in the regions less affected by the war after the initial impact, as the Ukrainian government supports HEIs in ensuing uninterrupted payment of academics’ salaries.

The Ukrainian government and other HE stakeholders in Ukraine have been developing ways to support Ukrainian HE. For instance, on the 12th of March 2022, the Ukrainian Rectors’ Union supported the initiative of the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science: to cancel the requirement for final year upper-secondary school students to pass the final exams (State Final Attestation) as well as the External Education Assessment previously used to determine university entrance; to simplify the rules for applying for master’s degrees in 2022 and cancelling the final exam ‘Krok’ at medical universities; to give the right to HEIs to set the amount of tuition fees; to request that the government of Ukraine increases the number of students by 30% whose fees would be waived for 2022 start, particularly for prospective students from the most affected regions of Ukraine; to appeal to all universities to donate one day’s pro-rata salary of academics to supporting Ukrainian soldiers, etc.

Such measures are being actively discussed and further solutions are being negotiated at multiple meetings with various Ukrainian stakeholders and international guests. An example is the online Open Consultation on the 16th of May 2022 with presenters such as the rector from a Ukrainian university, the leader of the non-governmental organisation ‘Emotional Intelligence Institute’, the director of the Ukrainian Start-up Fund, and an Association Professor from Lithuania.

Ukrainian HEIs have received a lot of support from the international community that has been watching the impact of the war on Ukraine, including its HE sector. For example, following the bombing of Karazin University in Kharkiv in Ukraine on the 2nd of March 2022, universities from other countries (e.g., Austria, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, Slovakia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Senegal, and Turkey) sent their letters of support to Karazin University, condemning Russia’s aggression.

In another example, the Estonian University of Tartu has generously offered mental health support to Ukrainian academics as well as support with applications for studies and academic jobs for Ukrainians. Similarly, Polish National Agency for Academic Exchanges (NAWA) has launched a program of support for Ukrainian undergraduate and postgraduate students to continue their studies in Poland free of charge between March and September 2022. Comparable conditions have been guaranteed to 51 Ukrainian researchers who are going to continue their work in Poland, supported by the Polish National Research Centre. These are a handful of examples to illustrate the measures that have been so generously developed by other countries to support the Ukrainian higher education community.

Such developments have been an expected chain reaction to other important milestones in the changing geopolitics of the international HE space. Early examples include:  the announcement of the European Commission on the 3rd of March 2022 about ceasing its cooperation with Russian entities in the area of education and research; on the 7th of March, Quacquarelli Symonds announced the plan to exclude Russian and Belarus HEIs from international university rankings; subsequently, the European Association for Quality Assurance in HE (ENQA) Board issued a statement on the 8th of March 2022 in response to the war about suspending the rights of their member and affiliate agencies in Russia. Organisations of different executive power in Ukraine and HEIs have also been actively pursuing justice in the face of the brute force of the invaders, holding consultations with multiple international organisations regarding breaking the ties with the aggressors in the area of HE. A couple of examples include appealing to the international-level coordinators of the European Education Research Association and the European Higher Education Area.

An appeal was made by the Ukrainian Education Research Association – the biggest and most influential national-level research organisation in Ukraine. It issued an open letter with a request for action to its sister organisations in the European Education Research Association (EERA) on the 4th of March 2022, following  EERA’s timely statement about condemning the war. In response, on the 13th of April 2022, EERA unanimously and unequivocally denounced the invasion of Ukraine, and announced a few generous ways of supporting educational research in Ukraine, such as cancelling the need for Ukraine to pay EERA membership fees, granting free entry to all Ukrainian researchers to the conferences organised by EERA, committing to continue working to develop funding opportunities for Ukrainian researchers, and more.

In another example, the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine addressed the international Bologna Follow-up Group which coordinates the work of the European Higher Education Area on the 1st of March 2022 with a request for them to lobby for justice and break ties with Russia. A similar letter followed from the Ukrainian Education Research Association on the 28th of March 2022. European countries were divided in whether to break the ties with Russia in the area of research and education, including HE. This was because academic cooperation was still seen by some as a potential tool to save the lost diplomacy with Russia and override the disinformation campaign within the Russian borders. However, these optimistic voices were set aback by the statement made by Russia’s Rectors’ Union in early March, which openly supported Russia’s propaganda which masks the war under the disguise of ‘a special military operation’. In this statement, Russia’s Rectors’ Union maintains: ‘This is Russia’s decision to finally end the eight-year confrontation between Ukraine and Donbas, achieve the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine, and thereby protect itself from growing military threats’. This disgrace on behalf of Russian rectors is disheartening.

This could not have gone unnoticed by the international Bologna Follow-up Group which met on the 11-12th of April 2022 and issued a statement about suspending the memberships of Russia and Belarus in the European Higher Education Area. This membership suspension did not mean, however, burning all the bridges with Russia and Belarus since Bologna Follow-up Group has asked in the statement everyone affiliated with the EHEA to offer support and protection to those actively condemning the war at their own risk.

This description of the examples above of the apparent shift in the international geopolitics of HE and the national-level adjustments to the war in the Ukrainian HE sector suggests the onset of long-term changes and subsequent consequences for the structure of the Ukrainian HE, the HE of the countries that are hosting representatives of the Ukrainian HE community and helping them in other ways, and consequences for international cooperation in HE more broadly. These changes are emerging as an area which calls for academics to advocate for democracy and be at the forefront of the (re)production of knowledge and truth about HE in the dynamic context of the war.

Research into this area is needed for evidence-based policy-making to support the Herculean task of the Ukrainian HE community to handle the situation and preserve its identity. It is also essential for developing further the so-called ‘protective factors’ currently in place, illustrated above, such as the generous support of other countries and external organisations, policy adjustments both in Ukraine and abroad, and technological opportunities connecting people and enabling communication and joint decisions. Pathways should also be explored for mitigating possible risks resulting from the developments, such as a potential brain drain in Ukraine, the marginalisation of those from Ukraine who do not receive support or those abroad who cannot benefit from the opportunities that have now been channelled to tackle the consequences of the war, and the difficulty of promoting democracy through HE in the world which the war has changed.

Key Messages

There has been an apparent shift in the international geopolitics of HE and the national-level adjustments to the war in the Ukrainian HE sector.

These developments suggest the onset of long-term changes and subsequent consequences for the structure of the Ukrainian HE, the HE of the countries that are hosting representatives of the Ukrainian HE community and helping them in other ways, and consequences for international cooperation in HE more broadly.

These changes are emerging as an area which calls for academics to advocate for democracy and be at the forefront of the (re)production of knowledge and truth about HE in the dynamic context of the war.

Dr Iryna Kushnir

Dr Iryna Kushnir

Dr Iryna Kushnir is currently a Senior Lecturer in Education Studies at Nottingham Trent University. She previously worked at the University of Sheffield and the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Kushnir’s interdisciplinary research interests combine the following main areas: higher education, education policy, European integration, post-Soviet transition and migration. Her interdisciplinary approach has led to empirical and theoretical contributions, which reveal how education policy on the one hand and Europeanisation processes and post-Soviet transition on the other hand are interrelated and mutually shape one another.

Twitter: @IrynaKushnir7

Orcid: 0000-0003-0727-7208

University webpage: https://www.ntu.ac.uk/staff-profiles/education/iryna-kushnir

World Education Research Association: A Global Community of Educational Researchers

World Education Research Association: A Global Community of Educational Researchers

In April 2009, representatives from 24 education research associations around the world unanimously affirmed their commitment to establish a global network of educational scholars to advance education research worldwide. The establishment of the World Education Research Association signaled an ambitious commitment to work together as a global community of organizations to undertake initiatives that are global in nature and celebrate the diversity of traditions of local communities of educational researchers.

As an international, non-profit, non-governmental association of associations established for scientific and scholarly purposes, WERA seeks to forge new collaborations and cooperation at a global scale on such issues as:

  • building capacity and interest in education research,
  • advancing education research policies and practices,
  • promoting the use and application of education research around the world.

The ambition is to transcend what any single association can accomplish in its own country, region, or area of specialization.

WERA is situated to promote and stimulate such a worldwide perspective and is committed to doing so to inspire excellence and inclusiveness in education research and thereby serve the public good around the world. 

For more information about WERA and its member associations and institutions, please visit the website.  

What are the WERA activities and initiatives that researchers can benefit from?

WERA undertakes the following initiatives and activities to increase its support to educational researchers and research communities, particularly with respect to strengthening their international network and research capacity.

  1. INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH NETWORKS (IRNs)

International Research Networks (IRNs) aim to advance education research worldwide on specific academic topics. IRNs are temporary collaborative networks of educational researchers working on a particular scholarly topic, primarily through virtual communications. IRNs produce knowledge, analyze the state of research, and stimulate partnerships or otherwise identify promising pathways in research areas of worldwide significance. Primary products for IRNs are substantive reports that integrate the state of the knowledge worldwide and set forth promising scholarly directions.

 

  1. TASK FORCES

The WERA Council establishes WERA Task Forces to address education research or research policy issues where WERA may wish to disseminate information or present a view about sound research policy. Task Forces undertake a synthesis of the relevant research literature and prepare a report and recommendations, with the goal of providing an overview of the state of the empirical knowledge, core trends and issues, future research directions, and relevant policy based on extant research. Here is the list of current Task Forces with the links to their websites:

WERA and the response to COVID-19

World Education Research Association responded to the global Covid-19 crisis by establishing the Global Challenge and Education Taskforce in 2020. The taskforce coordinates the activities to disseminate education knowledge in the WERA community which can serve as resources to advise and assist educators and educational researchers around the world in responding to global crises, particularly to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Armed conflicts, forced migration, and climate change crises have already disrupted the education of millions of children and youth around the world. And the number has been increasing in an unprecedented way during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeing a ‘pile-on effect’ of existing crises being exacerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, leading to interruptions in education that can have long term implications — especially for the most vulnerable groups including girls; refugees and migrant children; children and youth with disabilities; and children with low SES status. The task force has developed an action plan with short, medium, and long-term strategies to demonstrate how educational research can contribute to the efforts of solving the challenges faced during the time of global crises.

For more information about the COVID action plan, please visit our website.

 

  1. FOCAL MEETINGS

Each year, WERA holds a Focal Meeting in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of a WERA member association. Focal Meetings consist of a strand of paper and symposia sessions, lectures, and other substantive activities focusing on issues of significance to education research through a worldwide perspective. Research that is comparative, cross-cultural, international, or transnational in conceptualization, scope, or design is emphasized.

 

The World Education Research Association (WERA) 2021 Focal Meeting was held virtually in collaboration with the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela and Sociedad Espanola de Pedagogia (SEP), an EERA member association.  The 2022 Focal Meeting will be held in San Diego, USA in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Previous WERA Focal Meetings were held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (November 2010); Kaohsiung, Taiwan (December 2011); Sydney, Australia (December 2012); Guanajuato, Mexico (November 2013); Edinburgh, Scotland (2014); Budapest, Hungary (September 2015), Washington DC, USA (2016), Hong Kong (2017), and Tokyo (2019). In 2018, the first-ever WERA World Congress was held in Cape Town, South Africa.

 

  1. DOCTORAL AND EARLY CAREER NETWORK (DEC)

WERA Doctoral and Early Career Network (DEC) aims to provide doctoral and early career scholars with the opportunity to network with and meet each other, as well as to build relationships with expert researchers in the field of education.  

The Doctoral and Early Career Network established three important initiatives for the members:

  • Visiting Researcher Awards:  In collaboration with the International Evaluation Association (IEA), University of Hamburg; Leibniz-Institute for Research and Information in Education in Germany, and American Educational Research Association (AERA), WERA offers three Visiting Researcher Awards. 

There are two important aims of the award program:

    1. Provide young scholars with direct access to big data and resources to help them carry out their research projects
    2. Provide the opportunity to collaborate with IEA, AERA, and Hamburg University research staff and promote networking within a global research community.
  • Online Seminars: World Education Research Association is dedicated to capacity development and recognizes the importance of equal access. Therefore, our online seminars allow researchers from all over the world to access these opportunities. The seminars are organized in collaboration with our Member and Institutional Associations.

  • Online MentoringWorld Education Research Association aims to develop an innovative, online-based Mentorship Program that links senior scholars and postdoctoral educational researchers who share a common research interest.

 

  1. PUBLICATIONS

 One of the aims of the World Education Research Association is to advance education research as a scientific and scholarly field. By publishing the WERA 2015 Yearbook, the two-book series, as well as research articles and books authored and edited by WERA Individual Members, International Research Networks (IRNs), and Member Associations, WERA contributes to the body of scholarly knowledge of education.

 By clicking on the links of the WERA publications below, educational researchers can access WERA-generated and WERA-related knowledge on education research: 

Which research associations are part of WERA?

WERA is an association of major national, regional, and international specialty research associations dedicated to advancing education research as a scientific and scholarly field.

WERA member associations include education research associations from countries around the world, including: Brazil, Cyprus, England, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United States.

The European Educational Research Association (EERA) is also a prominent member, further reaching out to scholars across all EERA countries. The founding president, Ingrid Gogolin, the current president, Mustafa Yunus Eryaman, and the current vice president, Joanna Madalinska Michalack, of the World Education Research Association have served the EERA community many years in the capacity of a member of the EERA council or executive committee.  

WERA conducts outreach to education research associations and groups of scholars around the world, particularly from developing nations in Africa, Asia, and the Global South.

Inclusiveness is a key goal of WERA. WERA promotes initiatives to cultivate and support education research associations in developing regions of the world.

How can I become a member of WERA?

In addition to the Association Membership, WERA provides two different types of membership to the public: Institutional Membership, and Individual Membership.

Institutional Membership includes non-profit research centers and institutions, higher education institutions, and other research organizations while Individual Membership is open to scientists, scholars, students, and other professionals.

Professor Dr Eryaman

Professor Dr Eryaman

President of the World Education Research Association

Mustafa Yunus Eryaman is professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Turkey. Professor Eryaman currently serves as the president of World Education Research Association. He was the past-president of the International Association of Educators (INASED) and Turkish Educational Research Association. He has worked as a DAAD-TUBITAK professor at the Institute for International Comparative and Intercultural Education in the University of Hamburg, Germany for two years.

He was a visiting Professor and Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Education at London Metropolitan University, UK in 2011. He received his MEd from the University of Missouri-Columbia and his PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.

Professor Eryaman has served on the EERA Council as the representative of the Turkish Educational Research Association (TERA) from 2009 to 2018. He currently serves as the series editor of a Springer Book series entitled “Evidence, Science and Public Good in Education”and as the regional editor of the “Bloomsbury Education and Childhood Studies” series of Bloomsbury Publishing.

He is the managing editor of International Journal of Progressive Education; the author of Teaching as Practical Philosophy (2008), and the book editor of Evidence and Public Good in Educational Policy, Research and Practice (2017), International Handbook of Progressive Education (2015); Accountability and Transparency in Education: Global Challenges and Local Realities (2014) and Peter McLaren, Education, and the Struggle for Liberation (2009).

Similar but Different: Small Rural Schools in Northern Ireland

Similar but Different: Small Rural Schools in Northern Ireland

 As children returned to school after the summer break in 2021, five small rural schools in Northern Ireland didn’t reopen their doors. What that means for the former pupils and their communities has barely been given any attention.

What is a ‘Rural School’?

Many small rural schools in different European countries were also forced to close last school year due to declining pupil numbers and financial pressures. In our recent review of the European research literature, we found that small rural schools have been defined in different ways.

While many definitions relate to the number of pupils enrolled (typically between 70 and 140 for primary schools), in the Republic of Ireland, for example, they are defined as schools employing four teachers or fewer. However, north of the border in Northern Ireland (United Kingdom), there is no official definition of small schools despite a history of small and very small schools in the region, partly because of its rural character and the segregated nature of the school system. In fact, in 1964, there were over 450 schools with between 26 and 50 pupils, although by the early 1990s, there were less than 150 schools with such number of pupils.

In 2006, an Independent Strategic Review of Education (otherwise known as the Bain review) indicated that there was an excess of schools in Northern Ireland because of falling pupil numbers and the existence of many school sectors. The review argued that there should be fewer, larger schools, and established that primary schools in rural areas should have at least 105 pupils enrolled. So, in the context of Northern Ireland, we understand a small rural school to be a primary school situated in a rural area (i.e., settlements with a population of less than 5,000 and areas of open countryside), with 105 pupils or less enrolled.

Small rural schools in Northern Ireland

There is scarce research on small rural schools in Northern Ireland, as most studies have concentrated on schools in urban areas. Between April and July 2021, we conducted an online survey of principals of small rural schools in Northern Ireland. Out of 201 principals invited, 91 took part (86 completed responses and 5 incomplete). In this post, we are sharing three themes that emerged when analysing the survey data.

1. SEGREGATED SCHOOLS SERVING SEGREGATED COMMUNITIES:

Northern Ireland society is segregated along ethno-sectarian lines between an Irish Catholic group and a British Protestant group. This is reflected in its school system, so most pupils from a Protestant community background attend Controlled (de facto state) schools (in which the Protestant churches have a formal role), and most pupils from a Catholic community background attend Voluntary Maintained schools, owned by the Catholic church. There is also a small number of integrated schools, which are attended by children and staff from Catholic and Protestant traditions, as well as those of other faiths, or none.

From the survey results, it was clear that the 

schools were serving very segregated communities. Thus, the majority of Controlled school principals described the communities their schools served as mostly Protestant, and the majority of Catholic maintained school principals described them as mostly Catholic. Only a few described them as mixed or fairly mixed. Surprisingly, all three principals from integrated schools described their communities as mostly Catholic.

 

In both Catholic and Protestant rural communities, the churches appeared to have a significant role, with most principals (90%) identifying them as key institutions in the communities their schools served. However, we found a clear difference between school types. While 91% of Catholic Maintained school principals identified the sports association as another key organisation, only 12% of Controlled school principals did so. That is because in many Catholic communities, the GAA club is very influential. GAA stands for Gaelic Athletic Association, and it is Ireland’s largest sporting organisation (which promotes Gaelic games). Community voluntary groups and cultural associations were less likely to be identified by principals, and they were selected by a larger proportion of Controlled school principals rather than principals in Maintained schools.

2. CHALLENGES:

According to the principals surveyed, the main challenges these schools were facing were similar to those found in other research in different European countries. The ones that were most identified by the survey respondents were:

  • financial pressures and lack of funding (selected by 74 out of 90)
  • staff’s intense workloads (72)
  • increasing numbers of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (47)
  • declining pupil numbers (45)
  • pressure or threat of potential closure (28).

However, in contrast with other studies, difficulties in staff recruitment and retention were barely ever selected as current challenges (just two principals did).

Some of the comments written by principals highlighted the main challenges they encountered:

“… Our school, that twenty-thirty years ago would have had 7 straight classes, now is struggling with 4 composite classes.  Our parents ARE supportive of our school but small numbers means we are struggling to survive in this community.  ….”

There is now so much paperwork and accountability not just educationally but from a health and safety and financial perspective that I feel the role of a teaching principal is no longer feasible.”

Unfortunately, the threat of closure is ever present and this has stopped some families enrolling at the school thus resulting in a fall in our enrolment numbers which are hard to recover from. Our physical site also needs a lot of investment but this does not fail to materialise because of question marks over our future which results in the local community not having faith that our school will remain open and so they choose to travel further away.”

3. AT THE HEART OF THE COMMUNITY?

The connection between the schools and the families and wider community was generally described as strong. Most principals (80%) considered the school as a key institution or organisation of the community they served. This is also clear from many of the principals’ open-ended comments:

“Our school is the heart of the rural community. Our families often have no other outlet or community-based organisation to support them. We offer support for parents and work closely with community groups to offer social events. Many of our parents do not drive and have no public transport, meaning they live isolated lives apart from their connection to the school.”

“The local community is very important. Pre-pandemic we had good contact and well attended events. We had a great Mums and Tots group.  Our PTA are fantastic at organising and promoting school events.”

“The school is a central part of our rural community. Enabling local groups to access our facilities assists local groups and clubs to exist.”

The most common ways schools engaged with the communities they served were:

  • Church/ religious leaders coming regularly to the school to visit pupils and teachers (78%)
  • Community leaders being on the board of governors of the school (77%)
  • Pupils being actively encouraged in the school to get involved with particular community organisations (63%); and
  • After-school (or outside of school hours) activities organised by community/sporting/religious organisations/institutions taking place on school grounds or being advertised by the school (64%).

We asked whether the pandemic had had an impact on the level of engagement of parents/families and the wider community with the school. As expected, most principals believed that the pandemic had a negative impact – 88% believed there had been less engagement between the school and the wider community, and 57% believed there had been less engagement between the school and parents/carers.

In conclusion, small rural schools in Northern Ireland face similar challenges as other small rural schools in Europe, but their situation differs mainly because of the segregated environment in which they are immersed. Also, small rural schools in NI are not a homogenous group. Some schools appeared to be experiencing more challenges than others, some have more resources than others or are considerably bigger/smaller, etc., and their community contexts are also distinct.

If you would like to find out more about our study, please visit our study blog.

Montserrat Fargas-Malet

Montserrat Fargas-Malet

Research Fellow

Montserrat Fargas-Malet is a Research Fellow at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast. Her background is in Sociology (BSsc), Women’s Studies (MA), and Education (PhD). She has over 15 years of experience in social science research and an excellent publication record.

Professor Carl Bagley

Professor Carl Bagley

Professor of Educational Sociology

Carl Bagley is Head of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast where he holds a Chair in Educational Sociology. He has held research posts at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and the Open University (where he obtained his PhD) and previously held a Senior Lectureship in Sociology at Staffordshire University, before Joining Durham University in 1999, obtaining a Chair in 2008 and serving as Head of the School of Education from 2013-2017.