Category Archives: Professional Competencies

Including Communication and PR in the IT in Society Class

Communication and PR are an important part of innovation and change. People use social media and Wikipedia to understand reality to a large extent. Through these channels we create the truths.  (Or alternative truths :-o). Hopefully in parallel with other more traditional media channels. Even though communication and PR are very important for success, there are very few courses in the IT related programs at the university level that deal with this.

The students in the IT in society class has always marketed their work with an invitation to their presentation the final week, but this year we have put a more explicit focus on communication and marketing of their work.

They have one group of students who will work with communication and PR. It will be interesting to see what they choose to do! It will also be interesting to see what effects this will have on how known the course is, and how well they manage to communicate the results to media, other students, county councils etc.

We know that the students will submit an abstract to Vitalis and if they are accepted a few of them will go there and present in April. Last year the students did a fabulous job presenting at Vitalis 🙂

The Background to the IT in Society Class

Now we have kicked off this year’s IT in Society Class. There will be a series of blog post about this course this fall.

Some of the things that make this course very special are:

  • Region Uppsala act as a real client to the student project
  • We get a topic for the course from the client very year
  • It is a global distributed project.
  • The students come from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and from Uppsala University.
  • It is based on a pedagigical concept called Open Ended Group Projects

The IT in Society unit was introduced into the IT engineering degree program as a response to industry feedback collected using questionnaires and meetings prior to commencement of the degree program in 1995.  This input emphasized that scaffolding the development of teamwork and communication skills were high priority areas for our industry stakeholders.

Running this course unit has been a challenge every year since 1998, and it has been a quite inspiring challenge.   The open-ended group project idea suited this course unit well. But the (for the students, who had experienced a highly technical preparation in most of their other degree course units) unusual content (e.g. societal aspects) added complexity to setting up a productive learning environment.  Much effort over the years has been put into devising appropriate scaffolding to support the students, without compromising the underlying ideas behind the open-ended group project concept. There will be more info about this concept later on. 

There is a whole series of research publications based on this course. The most prominent one is Mats Daniel’s PhD thesis found here 

Visiting Robert Gordon University and Roger McDermott

Roger McDermott is really an excellent and inspirint researcher. We have done some very interesting papers together, and this week I am visiting Robert Gordon together with Mats Daniels for writing papers in the area of comptuer science education.

A recent paper of ours explores a framework for writing learning agreements. This paper is a recommended read for those who are interested in the development of interdisciplinary teamwork skills. The paper is found here.

We have also written papers about students and how they envision the future of student adminstration, found in this blog post 

Other papers we have written are related to grit and personality, see this  blog post exploring the mind set of yet.

I am very much looking forward to some very productive days in Aberdeen. 🙂

 

Different Roles in Academia

Sometimes I wonder how I should know where I am heading, and what I want to do when I grow up?? And I know that I am a grown up who should know by now…  But too many things seem to be interesting! Do you have the same feeling?

It’s soon been seven years since i defended my PhD. And now I have feeling like there are many different possible futures, much depending on what possibilities that show up but of course also depending on me. I have recently said no to several possible future avenues, and I have understood that this is necessary in Academia from listening to all the pods of this pod cast that I strongly  recommend:  Changing Academic Life.

Some of the things they say in the Changing Academic Life pod are:

  • “There is always another possibility coming up”,
  • “I celebrate saying no to things with champagne” and
  • “You cannot be on every committe that wants you”.

When I was a Phd student I did’t really understand what different possibilities were ahead of me as a reseracher. Instead I was very happy about the current situation and wrote papers in different areas with different people. I think I thought that things would be the same when I had my PhD. I sat in my chair as a Phd student and enjoyed the show in academia, just like the picture in this blog. I was a good co-worker always delivering on time, and with OK quality, but not the one in charge and in some way not a part of the chaos loop at work. Of course it was stressful at times, and problems occured, but mostly I rememer it as a good learning experience and that someone else took care of me.

It turns out I was wrong about the future being the same as the past, and there are indeed many different areas to explore as different kinds of reserachers. Being a reseracher really includes so many different jobs! I have a permanent ten-year-track position at the university, so I am not talking about changing employment, but about the possible things I could do as a part of this permanent position.

Where are you heading in your work life? Do you have a plan? Where do you want to in your carreer in five years, or in ten years? Please let me know!

Success, Having a Fighting Spirit and the Mindset of YET – and one of our research studies

There are researchers such as Angela Duckworth who argue that success is more about effort and a fighting spirit than it is about talent, genius or any other predictor such as health or looks. Her research shows that this particular fighting spirit called “grit” is more important to success than talent. She has done a very interesting Ted talk on the topic that can be found on her home page, here. Recommended! There was also a recent radio program in Swedish on the topic, and Angela Duckworth is interviewed on the show. You find the Swedish show here

One way of helping students, or yourself, attain more grit is to aim for the “Growth mindset” developed by Carol Dweck and others. A key word in this way of thinking is the word YET, and that even though you don’t know everything you have the possibility to learn. Carol Dweck has also done a very insipiring Ted Talk about this found here.

In short the Growth Mindset as presented by Carol Dweck includes the following key elements or ways of thinking:

  • We can all get smarter. Abilities can develop.
  • We know what efforts make us better, and we are aware of what we can do to practice.
  • We put in extra time and effort when we want to achieve things since we know this will pay off.
  • We focus on the learning process, and not the end results. Focus on the “I’m not there YET, but I will reach there”.

The opposite of having the growth mindset is a fixed mindset where you believe that basic qualities or skills such as intelligence or talent, are fixed traits. With this mindset you also believe that talend alone will create success and for those who are gifted success comes without any effort at all.  They’re wrong, and this mind set does not help you much. 

Note! In the context of the fixed mindset it should be noted that there is a gender issue with the fixed mind set. Studies by Ann-Sofie Nyström have investigated why boys have a tendency to believe that “Smart students get perfect scores without studying much” and there is a norm that the best boy should be an effortless achiever.

Our Study on Conscientiousness, Grit and Programming Achievement

In a study that was published at the 2015 ITiCSE conference we tried to find correlations between conscientiousness, grit and programming achievement. The study was driven by Roger McDermott, and Mats Daniels and I collaborted with Roger McDermott on  writing it up.  Our study did find weak but significant correlations between conscientiousness, grit and programming achievement and from the study one can draw the tentative conclusion that having a fighting spirit and not give up is a key success factor in computer science and that we need to provide learning opportunities for our students to practice.

Abstract: 

We investigate the link between concepts of perseverance such as conscientiousness, tenacity, and grit, and the academic attainment of first year computing students. We give a review of the role that perseverance plays in learning models as well as describing the role of conscientiousness in the Five Factor Model of personality. We outline research that links this trait with academic success before focussing on recent, narrower conceptualisations of perseverance such as academic tenacity and grit. We describe one of the questionnaire tools that have been used to assess one such aspect of perseverance. We give details of an investigation that looked for correlations between student responses to Duckworth’s Grit Survey, the Big Five Inventory (BFI) Personality Survey and summative attainment scores in a first year programming course. The results suggest a weak but significant correlation between conscientiousness, grit and programming achievement. We discuss these results as well as the limitations of the method used. Finally, we make some observations about the importance of these concepts in Computer Science education and outline further work in this area.

 

PhD on Physician’s Development of Competence in Antibiotics Prescription

Lats week I was on the examination committee of a PhD defence at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. It was Arash Hadadgar who defended his PhD called “Electronic Continuing Medical Education, approaches to better understand the general practitioners’ intention to use eCME and assess their competence

This time the PhD was in the area of physician’s development of professional competence in prescribing antibiotics. The topic is of urgent interest for society, as antibiotics prescription will result in bacteria that are resistant to treatment with antibiotics. This area was the topic for Uppsala Health Summit in 2015.

Professor David Topps was the opponent at the dissertation, and he first did a presentation of the background to the PhD, and also discussed very thoroughly with Arash Hadadgar.

In the introductory presentation David Topps mentioned some very interesting things from the background to the PhD thesis that I want to share with you:

  • We all have a tendency to learn more in areas that we are already interested in, and when choosing freely we often do not choose to learn more about things we know very little about.
  • We are generally not very good at self assessment. Experts underestimate their own knowledge, and the novices overestimate their skills.
  • In some areas we are really not very good at all at self assessment. For example: We all think that we are better than the average driver 😛
  •  There is very little research that tries to connect the real behavioural changes that are a result from educational activities. (Arash Hadadgar does this, however)
  • There are more cheaters in any kind of education than what we might think.

The discussion was very thorough, and also extremely interesting from a scientific point of view. As always it was a great learning experience for me 🙂

Students Envisioning the Future of University Studies – Paper presented at the Frontiers in Education Conference 2016

This paper that was presented last week at Frontiers in Education reports on a study addressing how students can be included as critical stakeholders in the systems and services provided by a university. We view this as an element of institutional democracy, and investigate how insights from the computing disciplines can inform this discussion.

The paper can be found here. 

I still remember how I had planned quite a wild didactic  idea about making the students act their future scenarios in a role play for each other. I was in charge of the student group, and worked together with my PhD student Thomas Lind on this. I was not sure about how the students would like this approach to presenting their visions, and I had had little time to prepare it. On my way to the vision seminar sessions the very morning of the role play my car broke down completely. I needed to call Thomas Lind,t  and say that unfortunately I would not show up. So I left him with the quite role play idea , and he was completely unprepared. Good thing he is excellent at improvising, and he made the best out of the situation. 🙂

When the paper was presented by Thomas Lind it was especially appreciated that the students were involved in the work, and that they were collaborative partners when the visions of the future were developed. There were other groups of users too, such as study administrators and study administrators.

The paper is written collaboratively by a whole group of people:

  • Thomas Lind, Åsa Cajander, Bengt Sandblad & Mats Daniels from Uppsala University
  • Marta Lárusdóttir from Reykjavik University
  • Roger McDermott from The Robert Gordon University
  • Tony Clear from Auckland University of Technology

In order to address the whole student experience we engaged students and employees at a large Swedish university in a vision seminar process to elicit how these groups envisioned an ideal future version of the university, and the necessary changes to technology and organisational structures required to achieve this ideal version.

The vision seminar process entailed six four-hour workshops with four groups consisting of six participants each. A survey instrument was used to follow up on the participants’ experiences of participating in the vision seminar process and their thoughts on the future of the university.

The results from the survey show that the participating students had a more positive view of the future in comparison to the university employees. The students envisioned systems to be harmonized at an interdepartmental level, as well as a seamless integration of a variety of services into one technical solution provided by the university.

For university employees the future work was viewed as being very flexible, made possible by information systems capable of providing excellent support whilst not hindering pedagogical and organisational development.

Finally we discuss the broader implications of these differing visions on the future of university education, and how such a visioning process may be successfully adopted in other institutions.

A Framework for Writing Learning Agreements – Paper Presented at Frontiers in Education 2016

I work together with colleagues and students on learning agreements in the IT in Society class, and we have developed a framework for writing these agreements that we use. The framework developed to support the students in writing learning agreements in the IT in Society course has been built on past cycles of experience in OEGP courses, theoretical insights from the HCI field and based on discussions with students.

Students often find it very difficult to write learning agreements as they are very unused to setting up goals for their own development, instead of being given these goals by a teacher.

We wrote a paper based on the development of the learning agreements that was presented at the Frontiers in Education conference in Erie last week. The paper is written collaboratively by Tony Clear from Auckland University of Technology, Roger McDermott from Robert Gordon University Aberdeen and the group of facutly and students from Uppsala University: Elin Parsjö, Mats Daniels, Nanna Lagerqvist and me. The paper has the title: “A Framework for Writing Learning Agreements”.

You find the paper here

The idea is to build an IT based system for this framework as an element of a research based development.  We have implemented this as a course Wiki set of pages. These pages contain:

  1. General information about the assignment of writing a learning agreement.
  2. Descriptions of the different professional competencies involved in the learning agreement (the nine graduate attributes from Curtin University).
  3. A template for writing learning agreements.
  4. Resources for developing different aspects of professional competencies.
  5. A reflection section with specific questions related to what has been developed for each of the professional competencies.
  6. A set of personas and scenarios.

We are still working on the implementation of the framework, and one step had been to try the personas in two course instances. So there is more to come in this area of didactic research 🙂

 

Experiences from Assessment of Teaching Skills at the University Level

In Sweden there has been a stronger focus on teaching skills at the university level during the last 10-15 years. One of the changes is the introduction of courses in teaching and learning in PhD education at most universities, and another is a career path including a title connected to salary raise for Excellent teacher. A large majority of the universities have also added “teaching skills” as a part of the requirements when employing university senior lecturers, and it is a part of the promotion to Associate Professor and full Professor.

Since 2010 I work with assessment of teaching skills for employments or promotion at the university level. I have done a few hundred assessments by now, and worked for around eight different universities. When employing a senior lecturer, for example, there is often team of 2-3 external exerts who do assessments for a committee in charge of the employment process. Sometimes they have asked me to do the assessment of teaching skills, and then the other two experts to do an assessment of both teaching skills and research excellence. Often the other experts then write a couple of pages describing and evaluating the research contribution from different perspectives, and then by the end add two sentences on teaching describing the teaching experiences of the applicant. A typical assessment in this context looks something like this:

The applicant has taught four courses at the university level (2010-2016), and supervised 5 bachelor students and 3 master students.

My assessments are usually around 2-3 pages only looking at the teaching skills in relation to the criteria made up by this specific university (there are no universal criteria in Sweden for teaching skills), and the criteria specified text in the advertisement for the position.

Q &A related to Assessment of Teaching skills

Isn’t it very subjective to do these kinds of assessments?

  • Well, not more than the assessment of scientific skills. Often the criteria used for assessment of teaching skills are much more elaborated and transparent than the ones used for scientific skills. So sometimes the assessment of scientific skills is really based on hidden norms and expectations, and that is really subjective.

The assessment is only based on what people claim they do, not reality what they have done.

  • The assessment is based on the text, but claims made need to be supported by the material provided in the portfolio such as course descriptions, development work done and letters of recommendation. Sometimes the assessment is also made through a test lecture and an interview.

Is teaching skills really valued as much as research skills when employing senior lecturers?

  • My experience is that sometimes it is, but often not. 🙁

The Future of Health Care: Student eHealth Project Kick off with the County Council in Uppsala

Now we have had a kick off day for this year’s project course in the IT in Society Class at Uppsala University. This is a collaborative class with students from thee different universities: Uppsala University, Gannon University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.  Their project course is based on a student-centric learning philosophy, and open ended group work. Previous years the students have worked on various topics that are related to eHealth systems. 

We are constantly working on improving the course and the learning experience, and we have published some papers on the collaboration in the area of Computer Science Education.
This year 20 Uppsala University students will collaborate with 12 Americans on the topic:

Health systems in the future and possibilities with digitalization- Integrating systems

During the kick off day, there were a large number of people presenting their perspective of this years’ project. Annemieke Åhlenius who is the head of IT at the hospital was first and presented the Uppsala County Council’s . Some of the challenges that Annemieke and the county council face are in relation to:

  • co-ordination and interoperability
  • usable to whom?
  • integrity
  • prioritisation

This was an interesting presentation with some of the ideas similar as in this YouTube film, ending with “We need your help!” and some topics that the County Council would like the students to work on are:

  • Best in breed or best in sweet? (Standard systems or uniquely designed software)
  • For whom are we documenting in the Electronic Medical Records (EMR)?
  • How to archive one EMR instead of several professional-based ERM:s in one system?

Åke Nilsson who is a senior advisor at the County Council, was the second presenter, and he presented the national services that we have in Sweden. The most striking part of his presentation was the dependency map that he showed that clearly illustrated the complexities of eHealth. He also mentioned “the double work” that is a result of all these dependencies. People add the same information in many different systems.

Gustaf Hedström works with computer based decision support and Birgitta Wallgren who nowadays works with IT,  also did a very motivating presentation for the students. Gustaf presented how the work as a health care professional has changed, and the history of Electronic Medical Records (EMR).

Birgitta Wallgren describes that health care professionals want to work with patients, and they do not want to do the documentation. She presents the problem of documentation during surgery where one person documents what happens. Today they have many systems where they need to document, and there is very little integration between the systems.

Gustaf Hedström continued by describing the complexity of being a health care professional and being up to date, and that 1.244.252 papers were published in the Life Science area. Today it takes about 17 years for research in these papers to be implemented in the health care systems, according to Gustaf Hedström. And this is of course too long!

He also continued describing the health care system in the US, and had a fantastic quote from a physician that he had met:

There is no way I can summarize the health care system in the US, it is chaos

I am really looking forward to this years’ project, and for sure will blog about it some more.