Something strange happened today…

Something strange happened today…

…we saw sunlight and a bit of blue sky. My friend Antony and I were both pretty excited, as this time of year in Finland it seems to be a rare thing. I checked with some people passing by, and they confirmed that it was indeed the sun light. Antony recommended I take a picture of it, so now that wonderful moment is captured for future reference (this picture is taken just as the sun was setting – between 2:00 and 3:00pm). Hope you enjoy. 🙂

Sunshine in Finland

P.S. Has anyone ever met someone (either foreigner or local) who looks forward to this season in Finland because they simply love the darkness? (As a joke the other day I thought it would be a funny thing to tell people – when they ask me why I came to Finland, that I just really liked the darkness. The instant laugh reaction is a pretty good sign that no one really believes that is a possibility – but at least it all gives us something interesting to talk about, and perhaps a chance of acquiring an extra measure of “sisu”)Sunshine in Finland

Opening a Discussion: (1) How to frame good research questions in Educational Technology, and (2) How to match them with an appropriate methodology

Opening a Discussion: (1) How to frame good research questions in Educational Technology, and (2) How to match them with an appropriate methodology

Question MarkI have been involved in a lot of interest and discussion lately about

1. How can I frame good research questions in Educational Technology?

and then

2. How can I match them with an appropriate methodology?

There are a lot of sources you could use to answer these questions (and I am interested in what other people know in response to these two questions too, and what are the best resources you can suggest to others).

As a starting point for the discussion, here are two short articles which helped clarify some things in my mind as I was preparing to conduct my own dissertation research.

1. Explore, Explain, Design

2. A Model of Technology Capable of Generating Research Questions

For any who are interested in participating in an online discussion about these questions, please post your questions in a comment response to this blog post. Also please post any insights or questions in response to these two articles.

I have also invited the author of these two articles (Dr. Andy Gibbons – very well known in IDT) to be available to help read and respond to some of the questions/comments that you post, according to his availability. Potentially we will also have a chance to do a live online meeting with him at some point within the next couple months (I will post more as I know it).

This discussion is intended to help any who are in the process of deciding what and how to do their research. I have a feeling that we can all learn a lot from this discussion.

Kitee PhD Day Seminar – Saunas, S’mores, and Snowmen

Kitee PhD Day Seminar – Saunas, S’mores, and Snowmen

Kitee Logo

We had a great PhD day seminar, with about 13 participants from FinlandKitee snow men party, Estonia, Australia, UK, USA, and Spain. We want to thank Ulla Kakkonen and Eeva Turtiainen for allowing us to use the facilities at The Evangelic Folk High School of Kitee, and Ulla even teaching us about “toivon, valvon, and kiitan”.

Snow Men building at Kitee

In addition to building two excellent snow men (more pictures available at Antony Harfield’s blog), enjoying some s’mores with everyone, and having a relaxing time in the sauna, pool, and steam room — we also had some great presentations and stimulating discussions about a variety of topics.

Below are some of the presentations. Each description is now a hyper link to the corresponding mp3 of the discussion.

My questions for you again:

  1. Do you listen to these at all?
  2. Are they helpful – or how could they be more helpful?
  3. Should we continue to provide recordings like this?
Day of Defense, Take 2: The Questions I Would Have Asked…

Day of Defense, Take 2: The Questions I Would Have Asked…

Maxim defense

Today Maxim Mozgovoy, from the University of Joensuu, defended his dissertation titled “Enhancing Computer-Aided Plagiarism Detection” against his opponent Prof. Kinshuk, from Athabasca University. After responding to 18 slides-worth of pointed and well-thought through questions, Maxim had a look of relief on his face as Prof. Kinshuk announced that he would recommend Maxim and his dissertation work worthy of the position of a doctorate.

The floor was then opened for questions from the audience, and as is typical in Finland no questions were asked. Had it been part of Finnish etiquette for people to ask questions and had I known more about the computer science discipline, here is what I would have asked:

“Your opponent questioned how you would distinguish your work as research instead of simply as software development, and I have three related questions to this. Your research questions on page 9 can be answered a hundred different ways. It is typical in most fields to document your particular approach to solving the problems/answering the questions, making explicit some of the strengths, limitations, and assumptions and some justification regarding the framework you chose for as the way that you wanted to go about answering those questions. (1) Did you have a framework (sometimes called a methodology) for answering your research questions? (2) If so, what was it? (3) If so, why did you not write a section about it in any of your papers or in the dissertation as a whole?”

Afterward I talked with Erkki and Kinshuk about this, and they indicated that it is much less likely for those in computer science (specifically when dealing with algorithm development) or mathematics to have such a section. Although it is more typical to have a methodology section in hypothesis-based research, I still wonder if it would be good in any dissertation to at least make some effort to understand and explicitly state what assumptions (along with their underlying strengths and weaknesses) went into the approach chosen for the research.

Any thoughts?

A Sad Day in Finland

Most people already know the sad news about why the Finnish government ordered a day of nationwide mourning today.

Click here to see associated press article

Today I was at a house meeting where several people were talking about how to work through the grieving process. While he was talking, one Lutheran minister mentioned that one in four deaths of males in his congregation here in Finland were due to suicide. He suggested that for many reasons we need to do better at sharing with each other, even sad thoughts and emotions, and generally we need to be more concerned about and connected with each other.

The Role of Faith / Religion in Education and Intercultural Communication – Questions regarding peaceful co-existence and collaboration of people with different belief systems

Today I sent an email where I raised this discussion and these questions on the ITForum Listserve. I will try to summarize the best comments I receive from them as they come, but I am also interested in anyone else’s thoughts and feelings.


I realize that this email ventures into the realm of one of the two forbidden topics in polite conversations – but if it makes any difference, at least I’ll try here not to mention the “p” word ( i.e. politics). 🙂
</end – my weak attempt at being funny to try and defuse a potentially sensitive topic>

In studying cross-cultural issues over the last several years, I have been fascinated by the impact culture has in how people define themselves, their relationship with others, and their perspective of the world. Please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems like at the heart of education, we are interested in these same issues? Or can someone define the purpose of education in a way that is completely unrelated to these issues ( e.g. identity, relationships, world-view, etc)?

Although we rarely talk about it in academic settings, it seems that one of the most pervasive influences in how people in various cultures and sub-cultures develop identity and purpose is their faith and religion (including, of course, even the belief in no God).

I have recently witnessed several disturbing scenes in which religion became the point of stereotyping, skepticism, and conflict (something not uncommon in the history of the world) – which leads me to the questions that I have for all of you:

  • Is it possible to discuss the role of faith in education (or religion in general) in a safe way in which people don’t feel threatened? (If so, how?)
  • Is it possible to discuss these issues in a way that people can set aside (at least for a moment) any personal agenda or need to convince/persuade/defend – but rather to simply seek for increased mutual understanding and respect?
  • From what you have seen/experienced, how can arrangements be structures so that people of very different belief systems can understand/respect each other, peacefully co-exist, and even collaborate with each other on joint projects intended to make the world a better place?

I realize that this is a deep and sensitive topic, and I realize that in even asking the questions I am making certain assumptions (which, by the way, you are also free to challenge if you wish).

I have some initial ideas of my own in answer to these questions, but I am very interested in any comments that you all might have. Please don’t feel like you need to be an expert in the topic to respond, initially you can just share your personal strategy, thoughts, reactions, etc.

Even you don’t have any answers to the questions, I am almost equally interested in your general reaction to being presented with questions like these.