Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

Identity Accelerator #1: Twenty Questions

mkoole, · Categories: Identity



Twenty Questions is an old game that many of us played as children. But, we can also use it as a “serious game”.  I would recommend that it be used as a warmer later into the semester after the students have already introduced themselves and engaged in some interaction. If used as a collaborative activity, the students can discuss strategy. Online collaborative activities help the students get to know each other better.






Teacher demonstration



I used this activity last night during a synchronous discussion with some graduate students studying program evaluation. Since I didn’t want to take too much time, I used one concept to get the class warmed up. I chose a concept that allowed the session to focus on a fundamental idea that branched into the current assignment. The concept was “program”. The exercise allowed us to discuss the definition and characteristics of a “program” as per program evaluation parlance. The discussion for the subsequent hour centered on program evaluation planning: focusing the evaluation, determining stakeholders, questions formulation, and selecting appropriate models. For the current assignment, it is essential for the students to wisely select a program of clear scope and boundaries in order to succeed in the development of a program evaluation plan. (It is a 6-week course!  They need to choose something do-able.) Anyways, I recommend that you choose the concept(s) strategically: something relevant and important to the subsequent discussion.  The students appeared highly engaged.

Rating: 4.5 stars 

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Identity Accelerators for Online Teaching and Learning

mkoole, · Categories: Identity

As higher education embraces educational technologies to greater extents, it is not uncommon for faculty to find themselves suddenly facilitating online classes. They might be asked to lead online discussions through synchronous tools such as Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate, and Big Blue Button to name a few of the tools available. Asynchronous, text-based discussions remain common likely due to temporal and spatial flexibility.

Those new to online facilitation might feel that the online environment is one of disembodiment offering few contextual or physical cues that instructors traditionally rely upon in face-to-face classrooms in order to determine comprehension, prior knowledge, and attentiveness. Some instructors might feel a sense of isolation because they cannot see and, therefore, feel they cannot get to know their students well enough to anticipate their needs.

Some scholars suggest that online learning offers a more egalitarian environment where learners can interact unimpeded by issues of race, nationality, gender, and social status; others suggest that the online environment is simply another modality. I take the position that online modalities offer an array of social cues. Walther (1996) proposes that participants in mediated environments form impressions of one another much as they would in face-to-face environments, but that it takes longer to generate and collect observations. He argued that online interaction can even become hyperpersonal?leading to greater intimacy as individuals employ additional techniques to plan, contemplate, edit, and project identities of self and others (Chayko, 2008, Henderson & Gilding, 2004; Merchant, 2006, Walther, 1996). Furthermore, anticipation of future interaction has been found in some longitudinal studies to prompt “communicators to seek more information about one another, to act more friendly, and to cooperate in negotiations” (Walther, 1996, p. 12).

Beyond the notion of the hyperpersonal, we might also see students actively shaping their identities based on what they would like to project. Walther et. al. (2006) propose that, in the absence of visual cues in online interactions, people will actively select aspects to present, taking more time to compose their messages. In return, those who receive these messages will develop “idealized attributions of their online partners” (p. 637).

And, humans are never disembodied. In any given online class, students and facilitators are tapping on keyboards, speaking into microphones, snapping pictures, and sharing videos. They are using their fingers, voices, ears, eyes and minds to manipulate the technologies that surround them. They are situated within physical contexts; they have been socialized in physical contexts. And, they bring their situatedness, their prior knowledge, with them into their online interactions. As online facilitators, we need to harness the tools at our disposal in order to get to know our students. We need to learn how to read online cues. Our students also need opportunities to share their prior knowledge and express who they are outside of andin relation to their instructors and fellow online classmates.

To this end, I am going to start sharing and collecting what I am calling “identity accelerators”. These are activities that can be used in a variety of online contexts. I would like to invite anyone out there in the world to share ideas on how to increase engagement and identity development in online teaching and learning environments.

And, I am always looking for ideas and collaborators.


References & related materials:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities: The dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Henderson, S., & Gilding, M. (2004). “I”ve never clicked this much with anyone in my life’: Trust, and hyperpersonal communication in online friendship. New Media & Society, 6(4), 487–506.

Koole, M. (2014). Identity and the itinerant online learner. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(6), 1–19. Retrieved from

Koole, M. (2010). The Web of Identity: Selfhood and Belonging in Online Learning Networks. In The 7th International Conference on Networked Learning (Vol. Aalborg, D). Retrieved from

Koole, M., & Parchoma, G. (2013). The web of Identity: A model of digital identity formation in networked learning environments. In S. Warburton & S. Hatzipanagos (Eds.), Digital identity and social media (1st ed., pp. 14–28). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-1915-9.ch002

Merchant, G. (2006). Identity, Social Networks and Online Communication. E-Learning, 3(2), 235–244. Retrieved from

Walther, J. B. (1996). Computer-mediated communication: Impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Communication Research, 32(1), 3–43.

Walther , J. B., Loh, T., Granka, L. (2005). Let me count the ways: The interchange or verbal and nonverbal cues in computer-mediated and face-to-face affinity. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 24 (2005), pp. 36–65. Retrieved from:

Six Styles of Classroom Video Projects – A Handout

mkoole, · Categories: Educational technology

Thanks to my Twitter buddies, I was notified of this rather excellent resource. In this handout, Richard Byrne shares some excellent ideas for teachers who wish to use video in the classroom. He outlines the following types of video projects:

  1. One-take videos
      • Post to YouTube


  2. Audio slideshows


  3. Whiteboard/screencast instructional videos


  4. Animated videos


  5. Stopmotion and timelapse videos


  6. Documentary/feature films


For a full description of each category, visit Richard Byrne’s page: Free Technology for Teachers.


Tools for Mobile Learning

mkoole, · Categories: Mobile learning, Teaching

Technologies useful in mobile learning

This list is being developed as I sit and listen to workshops and presentations at the Mobile Learning Week at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris (February 17 to 21).

I’ll clean up this list when I get a chance:

Interesting technologies

Nifty Tools for Instructors

mkoole, · Categories: Teaching

Before using any of these tools, check the legal agreements. In some cases, you might forfeit ownership over your creative work. Nonetheless, these are some useful tools. For the most part they are free except where indicated. If you know of any additional tools, let me know . . . leave a comment.

Quiz tools


Concept Mapping


Video Creation


Image Capture


Online Multimedia Posters


iPad tools


Mobile Tools




Another project using the FRAME model

mkoole, · Categories: Mobile learning, Uncategorized


Diagram of the FRAME Model

The FRAME Model

Places: Evaluating Mobile Learning (University of Leicester)
Funded by JISC


References to/from:



Interesting Research Tools (Goodies) to Investigate

mkoole, · Categories: E-Research · Tags: , ,


Google Maps Mashup: MapTube




Digital Replay System


National e-Infrastructure for Social Simulation


Survey Mapper


My Experiment: Social Networking Site for Scientists

E-Research Tools & Resources

mkoole, · Categories: E-Research
Paper and keyboard

Notes on e-research

When I first heard the word “e-research”, I thought it was unnecessary nomenclature. Research is research. Our research topics are based on our interests and/or perceived needs (gaps) in our fields. How we shape our research questions and approaches is interwoven with our ontological and epistemological perspectives. We choose and shape our methodological approaches in ways that help us answer our research questions. The actual methods for gathering, analyzing, and interpreting our data is commensurate with our perspectives and designed to answer our research questions. We choose the tools according to all of these above criteria along with some considerations for timelines and finances. Or, perhaps, we simply use the tools at our disposal, making modifications and concessions if necessary and defensible. It all fits into a tidy series of steps—or so I thought. The problem, however, is that researchers are confronted with a stunning array of tools and possibilities. And, eventually, we must ask ourselves to what extent the tools might influence the research process, the researchers, and the participants. More importantly, there are ethical and legal implications surrounding how we employ these tools.

So, what is e-research?

Hooley, Wellens, and Mariott (2011) suggest that there are two basic forms of online research in the social sciences: 1) that which examines the Internet itself, and 2) that which uses the Internet to conduct research on social issues (also see Carusi, 2008). There is a large variety of e-research tools including, but not limited to:

Researchers can use more than one tool in a given research project. This may mean mashing together quantitative data with qualitative data (mixed methods). Researchers may combine video, audio, and textual data (Carusi, 2008). This may further complicate the research process as the researcher is confronted with a huge amount of data. Furthermore, s/he will have to determine whether inclusion of different media and modes of expression can result in meaningful analysis. For example, is an interview conducted purely by audio comparable to an interview conducted using audio and video or an interview conducted asynchronously by text. Each medium may draw focus to different aspects of interaction (visual cues, auditory cues, textual cues such as spelling and grammar). The different media may also permit more or less reflection time during interaction. They may compel different techniques for conveying meaning (such as voice modulation or physical gestures).

More to come . . . nifty tools . . .


Carusi, A. (2008). Data as representation: Beyond anonymity in e-research ethics. International Journal of Internet Research Ethics, 1(1), 37–65. Retrieved from

Hooley, T., Wellens, J., & Marriott, J. (2011). What is online research?: Using the Internet for social science reserach (p. 176). New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA.


Thoughts on E-Topia as Cosmopolis or Citadel

mkoole, · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,


Hand, M., & Sandywell, B. (2002). E-Topia as Cosmopolis or Citadel: On the Democratizing and De-Democratizing Logics of the Internet, or, toward a Critique of the New Technological Fetishism. Theory, Culture & Society, 19(1-2), 197–225. doi:10.1177/026327640201900110

Computer mouseThe main purpose of Hand and Sandywell’s (2002) article is to bring awareness to the social discourses that are used to paint a picture of technology as democratizing, progressive, and benign or, alternatively, as destructive, corporate-driven, and hegemonic tools. The authors suggest that these discourses are oversimplifications of much more complex phenomena. Whilst I agree with their position, I am left with some questions about their underlying epistemology. Particularly troublesome for me is their presentation of social constructionism and essentialism. First, I will examine their argument on technological determinism, then I will examine their epistemology.

Hand and Sandywell divide the positions into a utopian-dystopian dichotomy.

  Utopian Dystopian
Associated terms
  • Democratic
  • Global citizenship
  • Borderless world
  • Deregulation
  • Global village
  • Voluntary association
  • Continuous town meeting
  • Grassroots social movements
  • Computer-mediated civil interaction
  • Participative democracy


  • Global capitalism
  • Social inequality
  • Enhancement of power and wealth structures
  • Dumbing down society
  • Poverty and cyber-exclusion


Types Computer-mediated Cosmopolitanism

  • Communication that was few to many is now many to many
  • Hierarchical society gives way to flatter structures
  • Unidirectional becomes multidirectional

  • Globalization becomes homogenization
  • Have-nots cannot participate

Global Citadel Theory

  • End of the social; end of politics
  • Consumerism & capitalism
  • Hedonistic

Electronic Panopticon of Cybernetic Capitalism

  • Technocratic control and surveillance
Extreme form Technological fetishism




Hand and Sandywell, define technological essentialism as a view of technology that is intrinsically utopian-ist and dystopian-ist. Essentialist views are based on notions that technology has some underlying “essence” or characteristics that determine their effects upon society. The authors suggest that when these notions surface solutions include grafting “the ‘social’ or ‘historical’ dimension onto the technology” (p. 206). They refer to this as a kind of social constructionism that “often results in a kind of ‘balance sheet’ perspective in which ‘technical’ factors are counter-balanced by ‘social factors’” (p. 206). They then call for a more radical socio-cultural perspective that emphasizes a human-machine dialectic. They observe that some historicism abstracts machines from their contexts, and that the development of technology is contingent and situated rather than linear. In addition, they note that some historicist models suggest that technology was intentionally constructed for specific purposes with clear stages of development. And, finally, they add that historicist accounts are themselves socially constructed (see Abbate, 1999) and that essentialist accounts are aimed at prediction—that is, deterministic.

The new, radical perspective that the authors offer takes a view of technology as relational, contingent, non-synchronic, discontinuous, and power-mediated. They are critical of simply positing the social construction of technology. Social constructionism, according to Hand and Sandywell, mechanically divides the world into separate categories such as technology, society, and nature.

My understanding of social constructionism, from the European philosophical perspective, is that terminology such as technology, society, and nature are constructs. But, social constructionists do not necessarily support the view that such dualisms exist in a “real” underlying reality. Rather, the nature of existence cannot be known for certain. In a social constructionist view, knowledge is relational, and language is an imperfect medium for discussing ideas, constructs, and perceptions. Critical realists, on the other hand, are more likely to take a position of the world as constituted by “real” objects that are perceived by “real” subjects—though perhaps these subjects view the objects in unique ways. Social constructionism does not necessarily relegate meaning construction to autonomous subjects of “society”, but to a dynamic relational and reflexive interaction between subjects and society that cannot necessarily separated into dualist typologies with essential characteristics.

The authors’ proposed solution would appear to fit nicely within a social-constructionist philosophical perspective quite commensurably. Their acknowledgement of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as promoting their radical, new perspective supports my argument as social constructionists often draw upon ANT as a methodology for research. Notions of agency and socio-cultural appropriation also fit within social constructionist philosophy.

Finally, the authors propose moving towards a “deconstruction of technological essentialism” as an escape from dualism. Yet, then they propose that theorists take up a “detailed phenomenology of specific technologies” (p. 215). My limited understanding of phenomenology based on Husserl and Merleau-Ponty is a philosophical perspective and methodology aimed at discovering the “essence” of a phenomenon(-a). Hence, the authors are proposing an escape from essentialism by employing a methodology and philosophy that relies upon essentialism.

As I write this, I realize that there may be some misunderstanding of terminology. Social constructionism is understood differently in North America than it is in Europe. I take the European view of social constructionism as defined by Berger and Luckmann (1966), Burr (2003), and Hacking (2000). According to Hacking, “social constructionists teach that items we had thought were inevitable are social products” (p. 47).  He defines social constructionism as:

Various sociological, historical, and philosophical projects that aim at displaying or analyzing actual, historically situated, social interactions or causal routes that led to, or were involved in, the coming into being or establishing of some present entity or fact (p. 48). 

According to Berger and Luckmann (1966), reification is a significant process in social construction:

Reification is the apprehension of human phenomena as if they were things, that is, in non-human or possibly supra-human terms. Another way of saying this is that reification is the apprehension of the products of human activity as if they were something else than human products—such as facts of nature, results of cosmic laws, or manifestations of divine will. Reification implies that man is capable of forgetting his own authorship of the human world, and further, that the dialectic between man, the producer, and his products is lost to consciousness. The reified world is, by definition, a dehumanized world. It is experienced by man as a strange facticity, an opus alienum over which he has no control rather than as the opus proprium of his own productive activity . . . The objectivity of the social world means that it confronts man as something outside of himself. The decisive question is whether he still retains the awareness that, however, objectivated, the social world was made by men—and, therefore, can be remade by them.

To conclude, I agree in principle with Hand and Sandyman, but their representation of social constructionism is not in line with the definitions that I draw upon.


Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge (p. 219). Garden City, NY: Anchor Books (Random House, Inc.).

Burr, V. (2003). Social constructionism (Vol. 2nd). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hacking, I. (2000). The Social Construction of What? (p. 272). Boston, MA: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from

The challenges with connectivist learning

mkoole, · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Hi everyone,



I thought I would investigate “connectivism” further in preparation for this week’s topic. I found this paper by Rita Kop. She provides a good description of connectivism (perhaps others can indicate if this is a good definition because I am not an expert).  But, she also outlines some possible issues with connectivist learning.

KOP, R.. The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: Learning experiences during a massive open online course. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, North America, 12, jan. 2011. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 21 Jan. 2013.

If you choose to read this article, consider some of these points:

  1. The need for learners to be self-directed. To what extent you prefer directing your own learning? And, to what extent do you prefer someone coordinating your learning?

    [My reaction: I tend to like both models. I like exploring, but I also like to know if I’m barking up the right tree when I’m checking out a topic. What I mean by the “right tree” is the most efficient way to seek specific information, for example.]

  2. Online presence. To what extent do you try to interact in this MOOC? To what extent do you wish others to interact? To what extent do you prefer your facilitators (such as Alec, for example) to be visible/interactive?

    [My reaction: I do not feel the need to be highly “visible”. I appreciate what others post, and I tend to view what is offered to me when it is convenient. I gain a sense of timing and direction from facilitators, so I appreciate some signposting along the way. But, I do not feel that I need them to comment on everything that I might post.]

  3. Critical literacies. Rita writes, “People need the critical ability to not only use network resources, but also to look at them critically in order to “appropriate them and redesign them,” as one of the learners stressed” (p. 33). To what extent do you feel that you have the literacy to use and mould the resources offered?

    [My reaction: I practically breathe computers, so I’m pretty comfortable in these environments. However, I am finding that this experience gives me new reasons to try tools that I previously hadn’t bothered to examine. I also appreciate seeing how others use these tools. Nonetheless, I am challenged to construct a way to organize all the information that is being posted into a sense-making system that works for me, personally.]

I am super interested hear how others view this article and their reactions to the above three challenges.