Microsoft 365 and Windows 10 for Education

Today I visited some of Microsoft’s offices in London to check out Office 365 for education. This was a very informative visit and Microsoft had a fully equipped showcase classroom where we could get to grips with some of their latest hardware and software. The day was structured to overview Windows 10, inking and the powerful combination of this with Office 365 for Education. This includes not only Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher, but an all-encompassing productivity solution that combines Office with OneDrive/SharePoint, Yammer, Skype, Video, Microsoft Teams and more. I’ve seen and used most of these packages, but I’ve never seen them all working together – properly linked and synced and all in the cloud. The result was convincing.

While I am a fairly confident Office and Windows user, it was a great opportunity to try Microsoft’s own hardware. I personally fell in love with the Surface Book, a hybrid laptop-tablet with a powerful processor that delivers a punch on the go. I particularly enjoyed the deep integration of ink within the operating system and Office as a whole. While I am an experienced user of Windows 10, I’ve never had an ink enabled device so it was nice to get to grips with this. I liked it. I like it a lot! I could quite easily see a device like this replacing the MacBook Pro and iPad Pro I carry, although the Microsoft Product would struggle to beat the battery combination of them both. I think I’d miss the general portability of the iPad too.

Take home points from the session

Office Mix

I think one thing I have learned from this process is that I need to be a bit more patient when trailing previews of software. When I tried the very first release of Mix for example I wrote it off. Yes – the outputs were fantastic but they were locked onto the Mix website. This of course is not the case anymore. The introduction of video exports from Mix solves this problem and makes it a great product. Sadly – it has been able to do this for AGES according to the trainer and I regret not playing with it sooner.

Office Mix Snip

This fantastic little tool is in preview at the moment. It basically replicates everything I love about the Camtasia capture tool I use on Mac. It allows a user to ‘snip’ any area of the screen, annotate and share. The tool is far more developed than the in-built ‘snipping’ tool and it takes full advantage of inking in the OS. You can try the Snip Preview yourself.

Sway

Ok. I like Sway. I really like Sway. However – students and staff are not really that aware of it. This session reminded me of the important gap it fills in the presentation market. I think we need to really push this out as an alternative to PowerPoint or Word for certain kinds of presentations.

Edge

It is getting better and it isn’t as bad as it used to be. I think it is some time away from being a stable replacement for Chrome or FireFox, but I could see this being a contender really soon. I loved the seamless integration with OneNote, but this is replicated within the OneNote plugins for other browsers so not too much a selling point.

Ink

Everything is better with Ink. I’d only really played with this on the iPad before, but seeing it across all the Office programs and across the Windows 10 OS I was overwhelmed with the potential. I am so sad I don’t have access to this on a daily basis.

OneNote

I’ve used OneNote in patches over the last decade, but recently decided to commit to it as my main note taking application. I transferred all my stuff from Evernote and I couldn’t be happier. Today really convinced me I have made the right decision. I already have it up and running across iPhone, iPad, Window 10 and Mac OS X.

While I learned nothing new about OneNote today, I did discover OneNote Class Notebook. This has some amazing potential and I look forward to seeing it in use within higher education.

Concerns

Training, support and change

I always get excited about the latest shiny technology. However, not everyone is as confident as I am. I work with a lot of novice users and technophobes. The powerful combination of all of these Microsoft products is kind of overwhelming. While this combination can deliver amazing efficiency and savings, it is problematic from a user training perspective.

For some users, the change to 365 solutions for their existing tools (e.g. Slack, DropBox, Evernote) presents a huge transition. This is no where near as large as the transition for some users who have yet to even move to a cloud tools. It is a new way of thinking. It requires all new business processes. Online training can only go so far and an institution rollout that maximises the user of this software and the efficiencies it can deliver seems like a mountain to climb.

Ink

All of the exciting stuff we saw today surrounded Ink. No one in the whole team I work for has access to any Ink enabled hardware. This would represent a significant investment and it is one I don’t see coming. At present, a lot of our work relies on BYOD (Bring your own device) and we all pretty much have an Apple iPad. While that allows us to use some Office 365 apps, these are lighter versions than those you can install on powerful Surface equivalent. While these app versions support Inking, the feature set is nowhere near as good as the program.

Ultimately, it made me realise just how amazing it is to be able to pick up a pen and draw directly onto something running full Windows. It’s just something I am not going to be able to afford to do for some time… although I should note there are some excellent devices from companies like HP that do not destroy the bank.

Mac versions

Most of my use of Microsoft Office is on a Windows PC, although I am a frequent user of Word on my Mac. With Word, I notice little difference between Windows and Mac. There are a few differences, but nothing I miss too much. Today I realised there are larger gaps between Windows and Mac in some of the other programs. Ink is one of these gaps but with my MacBook Pro it isn’t something I had even looked for before. Then again – it is little use on my MacBook Pro.

I hope OS X and Windows versions become more aligned over time and I would like to see versions of other programs like Visio and Project joining team Mac too.

 

Conclusion

Office 365 is amazing. But it is only amazing when you go whole hog. Unleashing the full power requires integrated versions of Office, Skype, Teams, Outlook/Exchange, OneDrive/Exchange and Yammer. It is the totality of all of these tools, speaking and syncing with each other that really brings the power. Access to Ink helps too 🙂

A big thank you to the team at Microsoft and their consultant for hosting us in London. Lunch was excellent and it was a great opportunity to see all of this in practice within education.

Is ‘student engagement’ a dangerous concept?

Do some of the common conceptualizations of student engagement overshadow what is really important? This post will somewhat (intentionally) overstate an argument, but I want to summarise some of the discussions from the SRHE Conference with the respect of ‘student engagement’. It has been argued that in the UK context, ‘student engagement’ has been under-theorised (Gourlay, 2016). This is not to say there is no theory. Trowler (2010) has demonstrated some diversity in how ’student engagement’ is understood and while this isn’t surprising for any ideal in academia, it is suprising how rarely it is defined in use. To consider one such definition, Trowler (2010) introduces ‘student engagement’ as:

concerned with the interaction between the time, effort and other relevant resources invested by both students and their institutions intended to optimise the student experience and enhance the learning outcomes and development of students and the performance, and reputation of the institution

Still doesn’t really say much…

At the SRHE conference, many speakers suggested that outside the UK context, ’student engagement’ is better theorised and this is reflected in Trowler’s (2010) introduction, arguing the term is more established in the North America and Australian literature. Perhaps the problem with the term in the UK is that it is associated too heavily with league tables, metrics and university advertising.

So why is ’student engagement’ a dangerous concept? In her session, Gourlay exemplified ’student engagement’ with the use of Coats (2007) definition. This is because it is a widely used definition, which constructs student engagement as “a broad construct intended to encompass salient academic as well as certain non-academic aspects of the student experience” (Coates, 2007:122). This is :

  • active and collaborative learning;
  • participation in challenging academic activities;
  • formative communication with academic staff;
  • involvement in enriching educational experiences;
  • feeling legitimated and supported by university learning communities.

All of these words focus on participation with others. This is problematic for many reasons but I want to focus on two:

1 | Where is learning?

Okay, so this isn’t just learning. It’s to do with everything related to education. Most definitions of student engagement focus too much on process and do not necessarily make learning, knowledge application and knowledge creation clear. Surely the most important aspects of student engagement is engagement with learning? There are often too many references in the ‘student engagement’ literature to wider and extra curricular activities/experiences. Yes – all of this may be an important part of higher education, but it isn’t the sum of higher education.

2| It’s all interaction

‘Student engagement’ focuses too much on interaction between students, staff and others. To engage students (or for them to be engaged) there must be some physical or measurable interaction. They must actively participate. This could be group work with others, discussions with the lecturer or participation in a debate. Perhaps attending lectures alone is enough to class as engaged in some situations! In the world of metrics and learning analytics, interaction can also include usage of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). These are all quantifiable, observable and measurable interactions. The interactions of the engaged!

But not all people want to engage like (nor do they need to all the time).

What does ‘student engagement’ hide?

The essence of ‘student engagement’ focuses on active forms of engagement (collaborative, participate and communicative learning). However, not all students learn like this – or at least not all the time. Gourlay (2016) argues learning can be placed on a spectrum:

The ‘intense’ and ‘collaborative’ forms of working very much align with the active forms of working expected within the ‘engaged student’. The problem is that this overshadows the ‘independent’ and ‘passive’ forms of working. These forms of working can be seen as ‘unengaged’ as they are counter to the active, collaborative, participative and communicative learning. Somehow along the way this has become seen as problematic for it is not representative of the ‘engaged’ student. Yet, independent, solitary work is a major part of learning in higher education. Such independent work is a vital part of assessment in higher education and, as a learning process, it enables students to grapple with their own understanding of key concepts. As suggested in Gourlay’s (2016) paper, this is problematic as an important part of the learning process has become labeled as ‘unengaged’. This a damaging perspective for something that is core to the student learning journey. Even more problematic when considered in the terms of league tables, the TEF and university marketing…

Conclusion

Okay. So ‘student engagement’ may not be dangerous – but it can be problematic. The focus on active and measurable engagement overshadows legitimate working practices. This is an important for consideration for anyone researching student engagement as it is far too easy to sideline learning. This is perhaps further problematic for prospective students as universities sell their courses based on the whole range engagement opportunities. While these are valuable for building student experiences and employability skills, they often neglect learning and learning support.

References

Coates, H. (2007) A Model of Online and General Campus-Based Student Engagement. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 32 (2), 121–141.

Gourlay, L. (2016) ‘Student engagement’ and the tyranny of participation, Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE) Annual Research Conference, 9-11 December 2016, Celtic Manor, Newport, South Wales, UK.

Trowler, V (2010) Student Engagement Literature Review. York: Higher Education Academy. Available online: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/studentengagementliteraturereview_1.pdf

SRHE Newer Researchers Conference

Today I attended the SRHE Newer Researchers Conference at the Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales. Titled Exploring freedom and control in global higher education, the conference has been a fantastic networking opportunity to meet other researchers and look at some of the latest developments in diverse fields. The day started with an icebreaker where we got to meet everyone on our tables:

Which leads well onto the keynote:

Knowledge creation – a dialogic approach: the power of networks and networking, mentors and mentoring

Helen Walkington opened the conference with a very throught provoking keynote. She demonstrated the importance of dialogue in the creation of knowledge, but also stressed the importance of involving undergraduates in this. A core part of this process was the use of students as researchers, engaging undergraduates in real research-based courses that enable them to make their own discoveries.

From the library perspective, this was particularly interesting as their institutional repository was used to disseminate the student outputs (or at least those that have passed the assessment criteria). This emphasis on real and meaninful research was very interesting and it is easy to see how this can be very engaging for students. Arguably, the role of student as researcher highlights a new liminal space providing students a real taste of academia, particualrly when research outputs are later disseminated via papers and conferences.

While this summary does the session no justice, it was very useful for my work and research.

[NOTE: Take a look at Universities, the Citizen Scholar and the Future of Higher Education, this was recommended by Helen and it is something on my list now!]

Parallel sessions

The parallel sessions (which included my own contribution on rhythmanalysis) were really interesting. The first strand, research methods and methodologies contained presentations looking at diverse tools in interviews, models for research-based learning and research risks. From a work perspective I was quite interested in the card sorting, network maps and documentary analysis of the first presentation. In particular I would like to thing about how this could be analysed with software like NVivo 🙂

The next set of parallels looked at supporting student success with presentations on student leader development, perceptions of failure and mature student experiences. Choosing one again the paper on student leader develop was particualry interesting as it looked at the advantages of a monastic retreat in helping leaders develop, reconceptualise time and realise the benefit of their volunteering on others. While the context for my own work is very different, I think there is a lot of benefit to be gained from remote retreat in helping students cope with pressure.

The final session looked at educational futures including my own peresentation. This strand was interesting and featured other presentaitons considering the REF and gender conceptualisaiton in Turkey. The feedback for my own contribution was very productive and I look forward to taking some of the ideas sparked from this in my own work.

Fireside chats

Sadly – no fire, but lots of chat. These sessions were an excellent opportunity to network with experienced researchers and get general advice. The group I was in focused heavily on work-life balance, time management and general career advice. It was good to know my concerns are not mine alone and to realise there are a whole range of pressures researchers face. It seems emails continue to be a major problem for a lot of people and it was interesting to see a number of people choose to only check their emails once a day. I’m not sure I could manage that but I am interested in the different management techniques people choose. I was also facinated by the different spaces people chose to work in and it continues to highlight the beauty of ‘finding a space to work’.

Conference close

I have already made some connections from the conference and look forward to making more at the main SRHE Conference tomorrow through to Friday. So fortunate the SRHE Newer Researchers Conference provides us with business cards.

Writing your way to success

Today I took part in my first writing retreat, organised by @azumahcarol as part of the University of Hull, Doctor of Education (EdD) programme. I have to admit that while I had read some literature on support of this process (Murray & Newton, 2009; Moore, 2003; Petia & Annika, 2012), I was sceptical about it in this context. Sitting down from 9am to 5pm and focusing on writing alone sounds like a great idea – but I had two main concerns:

  • The third year EdD students had not seen each other for weeks. In the case of our three Netherlands-based peers this was MONTHS. Surely after so much time apart we had too much catching-up to do to sit in silence?
  • We are all at the very start of our thesis stage and sitting and writing for a whole day seemed like a big commitment and something we may not be ready for. (Okay – I admit, moving house has seriously destroyed my reading time!)

Despite my concerns, I hit the ground running this morning. I was determined to make the most of this opportunity. It isn’t often that I get such a large block of time to work on EdD coupled with the guarantee of no distractions. I had to make the most of opportunity as it was costing a day of annual leave. If I was going to waste the time, I’m sure I could have found something more fun to do.
For the first session I was able to write over 1,200 words in the 90 minute block. In honesty, most of this was achieved in the first 60 minutes as my concertation seemed to stagger towards the end of the block. I had a similar record for my second session 90 minute session, taking my total to around 2600 words. I have to admit I was proud of myself. 2600 fairly decent words in 3 hours. Just some tidying and referencing to go.
We concluded the morning at 13:00 and set off for an hour break. I was certainly hungry by this point and needed the break. I have to admit I had some concerns about the afternoon as my head was rapidly running out of things to write about. My lack of reading was finally coming to bite me.
Strategically, I spend the third session in the afternoon looking at something different. I was recently rejected from a journal and had to respond to some comments. This wasn’t my best idea as after the first 40 minutes I was thoroughly depressed and it soured the rest of the session.
That brings me to the last hour. It gave me the opportunity to Mindmap some new ideas, add another 300 words to my total and then write this.
All in all, I’ve written 3460 words today (including this blog post) and I’m pretty happy with that 🙂

Yes – I’m completely sold on structured writing days and I look forward to the next similar opportunity. We also did pretty well at resisting the temptation to write so clearly we’re all very dedicated! The power of finding ‘space’ to work.

References:

Moore, S. (2003) Writers’ retreats for academics: exploring and increasing the motivation to write. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 27(3), 333-342.

Murray, R. & Newton, M. (2009) Writing retreat as structured intervention: margin or mainstream? Higher Education Research & Development, 28(5), 541-553.

Petia, P. & Annika, C. (2012) Using structured writing retreats to support novice researchers. International Journal for Researcher Development, 3(1), 79-88.

An 8 point manifesto for the EdD

As part of the EdD weekend we were asked to develop a manifesto for the professional educational doctorate. This was something we were challenged to work with in isolation and here is my first (and very under-developed) draft.

  1. There needs to be a contribution to professional knowledge

    The primary differentiation between a second tier doctorate is the contribution to professional knowledge versus the philosophical contribution of the PhD. This is not to say the EdD is absent of philosophy, but that the outcome must have some practical implications for practice.

  2. The EdD must have a grounding within a conceptual framework

    This will ensure the EdD provides an original and academic contribution to knowledge – not an evaluation.

  3. The EdD must be gounded in literature 

    A full appreciation of the wider literature must be incorporated into the EdD. This will ensure existing debates are established, helping to ensure the EdD provides an original contribution to knowledge.

  4. Community is core to the EdD experience

    The EdD is not a solitary journey. The community surrounding taught elements are a core part of the EdD experience and it is important to have peers for both support and critical friendship.

  5. Be resilient!

    The EdD required writing at level 8 from the first assignment. This is not easy and there will be set backs along the way. Critical comments, minor and major amendments and the stress of balancing research and work – The EdD researcher needs to be resilient.

  6. Be independent

    This is a doctorate! The EdD experience provides a whole range of support mechanisms but it is also a doctoral qualification. Researchers must take responsibility for their own work and be the driver of their EdD.

  7. Negotiate supervision

    The assessments and thesis provide a range of supervisory experiences. it is important to not only take advantage of these opportunities, but to negotiate them in a meaningful way to ensure that you both get the most out of the experience.

  8. Relish the discomfort

    Relish the discomfort. It is in the liminal spaces that we have the opportunity to discover new things.

Exporting from EndNote to NVivo

In EndNote, all you need to do is open your library and select the papers you wish to export. You can use Ctrl/Command and A to select all, or you can hold Ctrl/command and select individual papers. Papers you have selected will be highlighted in blue. Once you’ve done this, go to File > Export…

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Save this as an XML file (Save as type) and keep the output style as Annotated.

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You can now head to NVivo to import.

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Importing into NVivo

I’ve started a new NVivo 11 Project so I have a blank file ready to go. To bring in all the papers from Endnote, all you need to do is head to Data > From Other Sources > From EndNote…

This will open a dialogue you can use to browse to the file exported from EndNote. Once found, select the XML file and click open:

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This will open the import dialogue in NVivo. This has a series of useful tools that will check for existing papers in your project and allow you to specify where you want to store the imported papers. Anything with a PDF (journal articles for example) attached will be imported as an Internal. Anything without a PDF attached (most books for example) will be imported as an External. As this is the first import and the project is literature only, you don’t need to change anything here so click Import.

5.png

You’ll see the status of your import reported at the bottom left of the screen. Be patient while it loads:

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This should give you an NVivo file with all of the relevant papers for your project.

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The official QSR guidelines for this can be found on their online help guide, including instructions for Mendeley, RefWorks and Zotero. Additional guidelines for making this work with EndNote and NVivo on different machines can be  found in the Importing EndNote references in NVivo help guide.

Using EndNote to collect literature

This is a short blog post that looks at how you can collect literature on mass from a database for export into EndNote. I wrote this brief post to provide some background on how to prepare an EndNote library ahead of using it with QSR NVivo. When this second post is ready, I’ll link it here.

Collecting the literature

No matter what I am working on, it always starts with a literature search. Like most of us, I focus on using the resources available through my institution and as an educational researcher, I tend to use a mix of databases available though Web of Science, ProQuest or EBSCOhost depending on the topic. I start by identify my key
search terms
and then use a mixture of operators and Boolean logic to develop my search query. While I try to be precise with this step of the process, I don’t worry too much as I can use NVivo later to prioritise my reading.

After conducting a search, I’ll either batch add all the results, or skim through the abstracts to select the most relevant papers. How this works varies by database and I don’t want to spend too much time discussing this as I want to get to NVivo. Here are a couple of examples on how to export results to EndNote.

Web of Science

 

Select relevant results and then ‘Save to EndNote desktop’ or batch export by range (e.g. results 1-500)

ProQuest

 

Select relevant results then click ‘more’ and then ‘RIS (works with EndNote, Citavi, etc.)

Essentially, this will download a file with the metadata for each article including title, authors, abstract, DOI, journal and other relevant information. This can be achieved with pretty much any academic database that lets you batch export results into an EndNote compatible file format like RIS.

Using EndNote to collect PDF files

You can either use an existing or new EndNote Library for the next bit. In EndNote, select ‘File > Import’

 

Browse to the RIS files you downloaded from the database and select them. This will import all the information about the articles into EndNote. Then all you need to do is highlight the references you have important and then select ‘References > Find Full Text > find Full Text…’. Generally speaking, this will only work on campus unless you can authenticate at distance with something like EZproxy (ask your library). In doing this, EndNote will try it’s best to find the PDF file of every article you have. If it finds it, it will download and attach it to your EndNote file.

 

This will give you an EndNote library with all of the papers from your search including their PDF files. Now this might look like a lot of work, but generally speaking, this can take about 15 minutes when you know what you’re doing and that includes loading time. By this point you should have an EndNote library with the papers that are useful or relevant to your current project and it is all ready to import into NVivo.

You’ve got to love the journey. Simple and straight it is not.

Today I hit a wall.

I’ve been working through some of my research plans and I simply could not connect the dots. I have solid pieces of work here and there but I just could not get the connections to work. The connections seemed illusive and the most frustrating thing was that I knew the connections were there.

So, I took the metaphorical wall, and made it literal:

Post-it wall of ideas

Sometimes that change of environment can make a big difference. Stepping back can help you seen new things and new connections. I always find the flexibility of some post-its and a wall invaluable, especially if it means getting away from the computer screen or a book.

Now the real reason I wanted to share my troubles today is found in the title of this post. While stepping back helped, what really made the difference was a simple message from @JaxBartram. I was venting my frustrations to her and she simply text back the following:

You’ve got to love the journey. Simple and straight it is not.

That one liner made me smile and somehow made it all better.

The doctoral journey is definitely not simple or straight.

But it sure as hell is fun!