#DigPed Narratives in Education: Critical Perspectives on Power and Pedagogy – Transcript

Transcript from Koseoglu, S., & Bozkurt, A. (2018). An examination of #DigPed narratives through the Lens of the Capacities and Signals Framework. Ireland International Conference on Education (IICE- 2018), Dublin, Ireland.

Hi everyone, thank you for joining this session. My name is Suzan Koseoglu, I’m an Academic Developer at Goldsmiths, University of London. My collaborator is Dr. Aras Bozkurt, who is currently a Researcher and Faculty member at Anadolu University.

We are really excited to be presenting at IICE. We weren’t able to visit Dublin in person, but at least, thanks to the conference organizers, we have the opportunity to connect with you virtually. This notion of connecting virtually with others, constructing a presence through online technologies, the meaning of this connection and how that impacts our everyday lives, form the essence of our work. Connecting, creating online, with colleagues and with friends, with people we care about… Living in online networks, in hybrid spaces that are neither entirely online or offline…

Today, we are going to talk about how educational narratives spread on Twitter, on hashtag DigPed (#DigPed): a hashtag focusing on digital pedagogy. Before we begin, I’d like to give you a brief overview of Twitter and hashtag communities just to build a common understanding of the platform.

Twitter is a flexible open platform which can be used for microblogging and social networking. I mainly use Twitter for connecting with colleagues and with other educators, from all around the world. Just to give you an example, my colleague Aras Bozkurt and I met around 2016 on Twitter and have started collaborating on a number of projects in 2017. Interestingly, there is a name for this: networked participatory scholarship or open scholarship, which is defined as “any teaching and research practices that are public and that espouse openness.”

So what is a Twitter hashtag? We’ll define it as adding a keyword, or set of keywords, to a Twitter post. Hashtags help us organize and make sense of information on social networks; they help us connect with others. And also, hashtags tell stories – I’ll give you examples for these shortly.

You can only use a limited number of characters for a Twitter post: this was 140  characters until quite recently, but then was improved to 240 characters. It is still quite a small space to share things with others. So one way of making good use of this limited space is by using hashtags.

For example:

  • Check this out, great article on XXX (isolated tweet, disconnected to other hashtags)
  • Check this out, great article on XXX #DigPed (I’m now connecting my tweet with all other users who follow hashtag DigPed)
  • Check this out, great article on XXX #DigPed #HigherEducation (I’m extending the connection to Higher Education by using a secondary hashtag)
  • Check this out, great article on XXX #DigPed #HigherEducation @arasbozkurt (I’m tagging another user so that they can see and respond to the article)

Now, let’s look at an example for a Twitter narrative:

#BlackLivesMatter (This began after the tragic death of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin; has started as the story of injustice towards African-Americans and state oppression in the US, but then expanded to include societal issues in other countries.)

Screenshot 2018-07-30 at 9.52.55 AM.png

Twitter threads have a lot of capacity if they are used well: the capacity to spread a vision, as Zeynep Tufekci argued, the capacity to change the status quo. As long as  they exist, any post can be quoted, retweeted, liked and commented on anytime, by anyone. New stories can be created, existing ones can take new forms, become even powerful or slowly fade away. Virality matters in these networks.

Going back to #DigPed… We examined #DigPed activities during three Digital Pedagogy Lab events: Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo, Digital Pedagogy Lab PEI, and Digital Pedagogy Lab 2017 Summer Institute. All of these were face-to-face professional development events designed by the Digital Pedagogy Lab. These events had online components such as virtual meetings, Twitter chats and blogging. If you haven’t heard about the Digital Pedagogy Lab, I strongly  encourage you to check their website, also their online peer reviewed journal Hybrid Pedagogy. So Digital Pedagogy Lab used #DigPed as their Twitter hashtag during these events.

We used SNA and thematic analysis of content for this research. We collected all Twitter posts tagged with #DigPed during the three events I mentioned. We analysed top tweets, top domains, top URLs, top hashtags and top words used in each event. We also looked at social relations within each event and examined the connections between users; that is, their weight in the connection and their reach. You can think of this as follows:

Imagine in a conversation I’m doing all the talk, like I do now. And you mostly listen to me and take notes—a classic classroom situation, isn’t it? But also imagine, perhaps a small group in the room becomes active. They start a new discussion, they react or respond to what I’m saying. Their conversation begins to draw more attention, others in the class start responding to them too. My talk slowly fades away. I’m no longer in the center of everyone’s attention; this other group has more “weight,” more power in the class. So with the SNA, we could look at how connections occurred: who did the “most talking,” with whom, and when? Who held the power and how?

Screenshot 2018-07-30 at 9.52.39 AM.png

What have we seen in the quantitative analysis? The figure you are seeing on screen is a sociogram. This sociogram is a visual  representation of social relationships on #DigPed during one event. This sociogram is important because it shows that the #DigPed network was not controlled by a single person, which is something that is typically observed in “ego networks.” That is, rather than depending on a focal node/person, power was distributed among different groups of people.

We thought, isn’t it remarkable that connections are grouped like this on #DigPed? But we still could observe key influencers directing the flow of conversations in each group. These were mostly people leading the Digital Pedagogy Lab events like keynote speakers or event facilitators. In a way, we thought, they were like “de-facto leaders.” As Zeynep Tufekci argues, de-facto leaders “consistently emerge as informal but persistent spokespersons [on social media]—with large followings.” Key influencers had charisma; they produced artifacts like blog posts, keynote speeches, talks which stirred the community.

Our findings confirmed the view that online spaces are organized by hidden hierarchies and these hierarchies are marked by influence. On an open platform like Twitter, although many voices can be heard and potentially the space is open to all, people with influence still hold strategic positions in the network. Influential people help spread educational narratives; in fact, they are instrumental for increasing the narrative capacity of online networks. But, what we also observed was, #DigPed had a capacity that we are all familiar with in educational contexts: pedagogic capacity, which we defined as the power to initiate a productive and potentially transformative educational discourse, within one’s self and within communities.

Through qualitative analysis of Twitter posts, we identified three prominent narratives on the #DigPed network (which were all initiated by somebody influential on the network): “love in pedagogical work is an orientation”, “every student can have their own domain — to share their work, knowledge, memory” and “most stories about student debts/struggles go untold. All of these narratives, all the work and thought that went into initiating one, could be considered pedagogical acts.

Interesting questions arise from our findings on power in online networks and the interaction of narrative and pedagogic capacities.

A thread on Twitter, a narrative, can spread wide irrespective of geographical boundaries. But does it lead to positive change? Does it allow co-construction, an openness to other worldviews and ways of being? Does it have the capacity to grow not only in size, but also in depth, within one’s self and within communities? Does it lead to social change? Our research led us to believe that there is a need to strengthen the pedagogic capacity of educational narratives spreading on networks like #DigPed. We need to talk about network literacies (like using hashtags effectively), multimodality, access and capital.

Apple asks: “What stories, what names, what struggles, do you wish to add to enable a more democratic education to be built?” We can be active participants, good listeners, or we can simply be lurkers (quite/non-visible engagement) online. Regardless of our level of engagement in online networks, we believe, as educators, we have an ethical responsibility to be good pedagogues—online or offline or in hybrid spaces. This is something we owe to ourselves and others.

Thank you.

#DigPed Narratives in Education

Koseoglu, S., & Bozkurt, A. (in press). #DigPed narratives in education: Critical perspectives on power and pedagogy, Online Learning.

#DigPed Narratives in Education: Critical Perspectives on Power and Pedagogy

Extended Abstract

“What stories, what names, what struggles, do you wish to add to enable a
more democratic education to be built?” asks Apple in his seminal book Official
Knowledge [1]. It is this question that drives this research into collective
educational narratives and acts of resistance on Twitter. By resistance we mean
an attitude that rejects colonial, strictly behaviourist, androcentric, consumerist
and industrialist views in education. Using Tufekci’s [2] Capacities and Signals
framework, we conceptualise Twitter as a politically charged public space,
where educators from all around the world occasionally act against mainstream
models and common practices in education through a complex interplay of
individual performance, spontaneous interactions with others, and organised
structured and semi-structured events.

The context of this mixed methods research is #DigPed activities during three
Digital Pedagogy Lab events: Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo (March 20-22,
2016), Digital Pedagogy Lab PEI (July 13-15, 2016), and Digital Pedagogy Lab
2017 Summer Institute (August 7-11, 2017). We analyse #DigPed through the
lens of the Capacities and Signals framework to understand (1) how educational
narratives develop and spread on #DigPed, and (2) the nature of their

Social Networking Analysis (SNA) is used as a starting point in this research
to map key people in the network, ties in the network, the hashtags used and
moments of intense activity. We then turn our attention to the nature and impact
of some narratives that have spread on the network using thematic analysis. We
approach the study through an interpretive paradigm; that is, we acknowledge
the fact that knowledge is socially constructed through language and interaction
and is always partial. Thus, we seek understanding through self-reflexivity and
iterative cycles of data collection and analysis.

Findings showed that #DigPed falls into a unified-tight crowd network
pattern in which discussions are characterized by highly interconnected people
with multiple connections and few isolated participants. SNA also revealed that
key influencers (i.e., DPL organizers, keynote speakers) held strategic positions
in the network. Three prominent narratives emerged from the thematic analysis:
“love in pedagogical work is an orientation,” “every student can have their own
domain – to share their work, knowledge, memory” and “most stories about
student debts/struggles go untold.” The nature of these narratives led us to
consider a capacity different from the ones proposed by Tufekci: pedagogic
capacity, which we define as the power to initiate a productive and potentially
transformative educational discourse, within one’s self and within communities.

Overall, findings suggest that although a network like #DigPed is open to all,
there are hidden power structures that shape the network activity. Findings also
align with Stewart’s [3] argument that “hierarchies of influence relate to
identity and attention, rather than [institutional] role” (p. 306) on an open
platform like Twitter. These hierarchies of influence are not taught through
formal practices (such as staff induction events or earned ranks) but learned and
earned through ongoing participation in a community, both through professional and personal means. Multiple implications in relation to the pedagogic and
narrative capacities of online networks like #DigPed are drawn from this
research: (1) there is a need to strengthen the pedagogic capacity of educational
narratives; (2) there is a need to acknowledge the power dynamics in open
networks; (3) there is a need to further investigate the complex nuances of

[1] Apple, M. (2000). Official knowledge: Democratic education in a
conservative age. New York: Routledge.
[2] Tufekci, Z. (2017). Twitter and tear gas: The power and fragility of
networked protest. Yale University Press.
[3] Stewart, B. (2015). Open to influence: What counts as academic influence in
scholarly networked “Twitter” participation. Learning, Media and Technology,
40(3), 287-309.

#HEdigID Chat No. 6: Open Educational Practices with @SuzanKoseoglu #OEP #OER #OpenEd


It’s almost Friday, July 13th, which means it’s time to get ready for the monthly Higher Ed Digital Identity (#HEdigID) Chat! I am excited to expand the #HEdigIDconversation to welcome Suzan Koseoglu (@SuzanKoseoglu) as a guest moderator (MOD) for this slow Twitter chat. In preparing for the #hedigid MOD -ing role, Suzan has developed a list of questions and prompts to facilitate this ALL DAY discussion on Open Educational Practices (#OEP) she details further:

There has been growing interest in digital Open Educational Practices (OEPs) in recent years as evidenced in the increasing number of research papers, reports and conference presentations on the topic and in the discourse on open practice in general. Although OEPs are mostly discussed in the context of OERs, mostly in terms of OER creation, adoption and use, it is actually a multidimensional construct which encompasses many different dimensions…

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Emotional Violence in Education

“When writer Sir Terry Pratchett died in 2015 he was working on one last story: his own. … Back in Black reveals that Terry’s road to success was not always easy, from his troubled school days to being dismissed by literary critics, to his battle with Alzheimer’s.

This is how BBC 2 introduces a documentary exploring the life of Terry Pratchett on their website. This narrative highlights three very different events that marked Pratchett’s life: bullying at school, his talent not being recognized, and a terminal disease. According to a Guardian article, this is how Pratchett describes bullying in his “incomplete biography”:

I had a mouthful of speech impediments that left me with a voice that sounded like David Bellamy with his hand caught inside an electric fire. But it was not the kids that really got to me, it was the crushing of my boyhood dreams by someone 3ft taller.The headmaster of Holtspur School in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, took a “rather vicious dislike to me” and thought “he could tell how successful you were going to be in later life by how well you could read or write at the age of six.

Can you imagine this? An old man on the verge of dying with Alzheimer’s describes something that has become part of his self-narrative here: the bullying, his bully, the headmaster of a school. I imagine that he doesn’t need to make an effort to remember this. He knows it all by heart; it is part of his identity. It is not forgotten. Yet.. When Pratchett looks back on this experience, what does he see? Rage? Shame? Humiliation? Puzzlement? Perhaps, at that time he wasn’t able to articulate any of those but could name them years later, when he became an adult.

What Pratchett experienced as a six year old boy was emotional violence at its very best. It was violence because, as Palmer argues, it violated somebody’s integrity, his sense of self.

Emotional violence is, and has been, happening in our society, in families, communities, and in our institutions, in the north and south, west and east and the middle. I believe often times we confuse it with “tradition” or we simply don’t recognize it because it’s quite well disguised. When a teacher tells a black student excelling in maths and science that she should go into a career in sports because that’s what she’s naturally good at, that’s abuse. It closes down possibilities for a person and imposes a top-down, often times false and misinformed, identity.

bell hooks writes about the detrimental effects of emotional abuse in education; she tells the stories of young women and men who end up leaving formal education because they become  paralyzed with racism, hatred, and simply ignorance. Her stories are familiar, and, yes, I can relate to most because although I’m not a black American, I can recognize oppression (i.e., “prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority”) when I see it.  I’ve known advisers who crashed their students’ spirit with cruel remarks. I’ve known teachers who openly scolded students because they were in a position to speak with authority. I’ve known many teachers in my life whose presence simply meant fear and shame for their students.

In an authoritarian educational system, emotional violence can easily occur because authority feeds from violence. The heads exercise their power over teachers, teachers exercise their power on students, students exercise their power on weaker ones–it’s a vicious cycle. If you are questioning whether authority exists to a great extent in our educational institutions just reflect back on your own education, think about those around you – you’ll find examples.

I believe that by opening up education, we have a better chance of moving from fascism to democracy because the structures of learning and teaching become explicit; they are open to debate and change. Opening up education certainly doesn’t mean everything will be and should be public and online. The kind of openness I’m talking about is not about a change in the delivery method; it’s a change in structure: the structures of thinking and operating.

I talk about these open structures in my next post.

Strange thoughts


strange thoughts on the way home today…

an Iraqi artist painting horses. just horses and nothing more. perhaps a few fields…

I think about a woman. a mother whose baby has measles but she won’t take him to the hospital because she has four other kids no five other kids to take care of because the doctors are going to play tricks on her because somebody will take the kids away, because it’s so damp in their tent, and so cold.

and I think about a brother quietly saying to himself, shouting to the world, “I never would have thought that one day I would be relieved to see other people’s losses,” because you see, he was looking for his sister in the hospital morgue and she wasn’t there. yet.

strange thoughts on the way home today…

painting horses and nothing more. and brushing my daughter’s beautiful soft hair, weaving pink flowers and butterflies into her curls.

The context of plagiarism

I need to write the acknowledgments section of my dissertation but I can’t help going back to Maha and Groom’s post on the ethos of educational technologies. Now I’m thinking about plagiarism in higher education courses, what it means for instructors and for learners themselves. In every undergraduate class I taught there were always one or two students who copied material from other resources and used them in their work without appropriate references. However, I’m very careful to say that they were plagiarizing, because in my experience, most students want to do a good job in their projects and they don’t understand why copying content without references may not be appropriate. Consider this:

In a ceramics class the instructor tells student that she can’t just copy a design from a book onto her vase. Student tries to explain that the design is traditional and anonymous. Instructor isn’t interested. She cuts the conversation by firmly saying “No. That is not your design. You can’t use it. That’s plagiarizing.” The instructor is patient but it’s clear that the conversation is over. The student is offended, can’t understand the instructor’s point of view. The instructor can’t understand the student’s point of view.

Ehem, so that student was of course me. 🙂 To give this incident a little bit of context, that was my 2nd year in Minnesota and I had a book that I brought from Turkey on traditional shadow puppets Hacivat and Karagoz. This was a precious book; my husband’s grandmother (who is now 99) had given it to me. Its pages were falling apart and that day I must have taken it to the class with great care. I’m sure I was excited about using it for my project. But I remember coming home frustrated and disappointed. I hated the instructor (although I’m sure she had good intentions), and why were we so far away from home anyway?


Picture taken from here

So you can clearly see how context complicates things when it comes to plagiarism (to this date I still don’t know if it was ok to use the design on my vase). This experience significantly shaped how I go about plagiarism in my own classes. In one class focusing on children’s and youth’s use of social media, students were given the option to design an educational website on a topic of their choice for their final project. To my surprise one student in the class, and she was doing really well in class discussions and in other class activities, copied most of the content of her site from other sites. The website itself looked really nice; it wasn’t a last-minute project where she dumped all the content to her site. When I brought the issue to her attention, she panicked. She explained to me she never had the intent to plagiarize stuff. She wanted to make her site look good, professional. By taking content from other credible sites she was making sure that she was providing professional content.

I believe it’s the instructor’s responsibility to offer as much guidance and support as possible long before a project begins to avoid issues like this. And this is not only about  technical guidance or even about ethics. It is also about helping students understand that a course project, a website, a blog post, an essay, can always be a work in progress. It can always be improved and they shouldn’t be afraid of failing. What matters is the way they go about their work rather than the end result. I have had hundreds of undergraduate students in my courses and in most cases of plagiarism (using it for the lack of a better term), I chose to trust my students. Even if they were being dishonest it didn’t matter because I knew that when I had a positive attitude and when I believed that they approached their work with all the best intentions, our relationship would always, always be better.

So when we use a tool like Turnitin in our classes, what are we saying to our students? I wouldn’t prefer to use the tool in my classes because I don’t think it gives the right message to students. I think it creates power issues between instructors and students when actually it’s so much more important to remove those barriers in a meaningful way. And when you know your students, you just know when something is not quite right and you can always use that as a way to improve your relationships in class.

The schizophrenic Moodle

picasso-portrait of sylvette david~b99_1433

Picture taken from here

Can we separate the way we teach from the technological systems in which we work? This question was posed by Maha Bali and Jim Groom in a thought-provoking post critically examining the ethos of educational technologies. Maha and Jim argue that the choices we make in educational technology say something about our values and pedagogical visions–they are inseparable from how we go about teaching and learning.

Couldn’t agree more. When I was teaching online classes in Learning Technologies at the University of Minnesota most faculty and graduate instructors were using Ning as an alternative to Moodle (institutionally supported) because its design better aligned with the values of the program. In Aaron Doering’s words, the goal in LT courses was “for students to discover and create knowledge as a group, with the instructor acting as a guide through the assigned materials” and Ning was a great platform to achieve that. A lot of what we were doing in Ning was driven by pedagogy but we were also guided by the possibilities and limitations of the platform itself. On the plus side learners could easily get a sense of others’ presence in the course through features like member pages, blogs, discussions, chat and photos and videos. There were small design touches we liked a lot, like how each forum post appeared with a member thumbnail picture. (In a class I’ve taken as graduate student all students had administrative access to Ning so we could even change the design of the platform if we wanted to.) On the other hand, I had to grade students’ work and Ning didn’t have a gradebook, I couldn’t set up assignments or create a sophisticated system to archive course resources. After all Ning wasn’t originally designed as a Learning Management System (LMS) and the way it worked was so different than Moodle, which is specifically designed for that purpose. I’m not saying that Ning is better than Moodle, it’s just for our purposes Ning seemed to work best.

Now I’m going to diverge a bit because it is really interesting to think about the multiple layers of values and visions embedded in educational technology. Especially when we think about technologies that are designed specifically for the purpose of education, like a course management system.

Let’s consider Moodle, for example. I find the misalignment between the ethos of the Moodle developer community and the end product quite puzzling. Let me explain:

Moodle as a design project: is community driven, globally supported, open-source.
Moodle as an LMS (how the end-product is typically used in higher education institutions):  is institutionally driven, locally supported, closed. Also supports the use of copyrighted materials because it’s institutional (this is one point I deviate from Maha and Jim because they argue that LMS are copyright havens).

I believe there is a strong mismatch between Moodle as a design project and Moodle as an LMS because there’s a disconnect between the field of computer science and education in general. A recent TaLIC lunchtime conversation where two computer scientists presented their work also made me realize the big gap between the two fields.

Solution? More partnership, more conversation between computer science and education and less bias toward our own assumptions and the paradigms of each field. Result: (potentially) innovative products to use in education. What do you think?