Category Archives: Professional Competencies

Four problems when teaching HCI in IT programmes for computer scientists

I think it is super difficult to teach human computer interaction in core computing programmes. I have tried different approaches and have tried to understand the problems for almost 20 years now. It feels like I fly over a landskapet of problems that i don’t really know how to address. I fly slowly with little possibility to really affect where I am going, like with the parachute in the blog post picture. Here are four of the problems that I have seen.

1) My experience is that students of IT programmes often come with a value system and interest closely connected to technology and the core programming area. With this I mean that they are more interested in the technology in itself, such as the specifics of databases, efficient coding and machine learning. They are less interested in how people use technology, how to introduce technology in organisations, or how technology affects the work environment. In short: Many of them are not particularly interested in the area that I work in and in my teaching. Still they need to take classes of human computer interaction in their programme, and these are really another kind of courses.

2) The problems that they have encountered so far in their education are often of the kind that there are many possible solutions, but there is a definite way of saying what is right and wrong with different solutions. This is also the kind of problems that you address in many Science research projects. In my courses, where I teach about how to deal with the management of numerous IT systems in an organisation, such as in the Complex IT systems in Organisations course, there is no correct answer. The problems I teach about are so called wicked problems and they are not used to these. This results in them not understanding me when I explore and reflect on different approaches to solve the problem. They think that I don’t really know what I talk about since I don’t give a definite answer.

3) The kind of Human Computer Interaction problems that I teach are very closely connected to student’s development of professional competencies. A professional competency can be seen as consisting of three different parts 1) theoretical knowledge about the problem 2) skills to deal with the problem in practice and 3) attitude or disposition to see the problem as important and interesting. The professional competency that I want the students to develop is however not easy to incorporate into traditional teaching.

4) One of the problems connected to all the other problems is that when students meet me in the classroom I am not perceived as a computer scientist. This is due to a combination of all the other problems with the area that I teach. But it is also due to me being one of the very few women they meet as teachers. Sometimes I am the first one they encounter in their university education, and I teach something that they don’t find interesting, don’t have the same kinds of problems and is based in a wider view of what they need to learn (professional competencies).

If you are interested reading more about this I have written a paper about students and unexpected behaviour in teaching. The paper is called Unexpected Student Behaviour and learning opportunites.

The Self-Flipped Classroom Concept: Underlying Ideas and Experiences – paper accepted for Frontiers in Education

Anna Vasilchenko, Mats Daniels and I had a paper accepted for Frontiers in Education very much based on Anna’s excellent work!!

The paper is a conceptual paper on self-flipped classrooms and we will continue working on research in the area in the fall. We will make use of experiences from the new course that I am teaching with Diane Golay.

Anna, Mats and I have also done one application for funding of this research and I really hope that we will get that!!

Here is the abstract:

In the modern fast changing world no formal education is able to provide learners with a complete set of knowledge, skills and competences that they would need to successfully compete on tomorrow’s job market. Therefore, the role of universities is increasingly shifting towards provision of an environment where students have a chance to acquire lifelong learning skills. This paper presents underlying ideas of, and practical experiences with, an innovative pedagogy that addresses the lifelong learning skills acquisition along with additional benefits for science and technology students. The proposed approach is called Self-Flipped Classroom (SFC) and it is built on a synergy of two pedagogies: learning through making (“self” part of the name) and Flipped Classroom (“flip” part of the name). To unveil the construct of the SFC concept, we discuss each of its components individually presenting appropriate theoretical grounding. We also report on our experiences from Self-Flipped Classroom implementations in two countries, CountryA and CountryB, and in three different educational settings. From our work with the SFC concept we have identified four different roles the students can assume in a SFC scenario: creators, collaborators, communicators, and learners. We present our observations regarding challenges and opportunities related to the identified roles that have been found in the studied settings. We also outline future research directions in this space.

Participating in Panel Discussion about Software Engineering @ITiCSE 2018 on Cyprus

I have been invited to be a member of a panel on Software Engineering. The area to discuss is how the field has advanced and whether its education addresses the main problems and industry needs. I have several ideas of what to bring up at the workshop, and I haven’t really decided which one to choose yet. The ideas are:

  • Generellt software engineering at the university has too little focus on addressing wicked problems. There are far too many IT projects that fail.
  • Too little focus on professional competencies and the development of those.
  • Too little focus on user involvement and user needs.
  • We need to prepare students for working in an automateld software engineering profession. And we need to engage in the creation of this profession.
  • We need to see to it that computing becomes an inclusive profession and address the gender equality issue. Now!

I’ll write another blog post when I have decided which direction to go in… This will be fun!

Presented My Work With Student Activating Teaching Strategies at a Faculty Teaching Course

A few weeks ago I was invited to do a lecture at a mandatory faculty course organized for my colleagues, and for me. The course was organsied by TUR. 

At first I thought that I would talk about the IT in Society course which I have been teaching for 15 years. It is a great course, but I have presented our work with it several times, so instead I chose to describe the pedagogic underpinnings of the new course that I am teaching together with Diane Golay.

I started my presentation by describing that working wich complex IT systems in large organizations equals addressing a wicked problem. A wicked problem is defined like this in Wikipedia, and by Rittel and Webber (1973):

A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.

I then continued to present the many course elements that we have designed iteratively since October. The course has many different pedagogicak underpinnings related to student activating pedagogy:

  • Student contributing pedagogy, as defined by John Hamer
  • Roleplay when learning how to do interviews
  • Interview of a practitioner in the field
  • Flipped Classroom looking at instructional videos before lectures.
  • Peer review of another groups’ work
  • Self-flipped classroom producing learning materials for yourself and others.
  • Discussions based on the framework of constructive controversy
  • Informal learning support on Facebook
  • Home exam with a special section for those who aim for a higher grade.

A Framework for Competence Development in Project Courses: A Pedagogic Development Project

Except for cognitive and technical skills, a number of professional competencies are needed to be able who work in a global job market. Some examples of such professional competencies are communication skills, creative thinking, reflection skills and intercultural competence. More work is needed, though, on understanding and spread how such professional competencies can be developed in project courses. The overarching goal of our development project was therefore to develop a framework for scaffolding the development of professional competencies..

The framework is based on working with open problems in project courses where students are given the freedom to define and drive the work themselves, and highlight aspects like progression and measurability, as well as support, including support from other students, in skills development. This by giving examples of different forms of support for students in their learning, but also for teachers to design learning environments suitable for the development of competencies. The idea is that the framework will be able to function in a variety of ways and in different roles and aims at an increased understanding of how active student participation can contribute to better learning environments for students.

The project is based on previous work with a project course, IT in society. In this work, a guiding principle has been that it is essential for the motivation that the development of competencies exists in a context relevant to the students, in this particular case, an international collaboration on IT use in a complex reality-based project in health care. However, the skills as such are often of a general nature and lessons learned from this context are useful for the development of competencies also in other contexts. The focus of this project is the use of learning agreements with reflections and student feedback. In the work we have developed a number of personas for different types of students and a prototype of a Wikipedia-like platform to collect resources intended for student development of professional skills. These resources are developed for the course IT in society, but are useful as inspiration for university teachers and trainers regarding methods of working with skills development through active student participation in project courses.

In addition to inspiring, we also want to consciously raise the resistance we noted to take the development of these skills seriously. The latter is related to the work of Anne Peters as a PhD student in UpCERG (Uppsala Computing Education Research Group). exemplified in her dissertation (Peters, 2017). In this report we first give a brief presentation of the main work carried out in the project, followed by a presentation of the results the work generated. The report ends with an attachment with publications, and a discussion and summary including future work.

On Learning of Supervision Skills

I constantly improve my supervisions skills through experience and reflection, and this blog post will be about how I work with improving in this area. Being a good supervisor is not easy, but I do try to be a supportive and coaching supervisor helping students. In a way it is like playing chess to be a supervisor. You always need to think and learn from the new situations that occur.

Participating in Leadership Courses. One way of improving is also through participating in different leadership courses, as supervision and leadership are closely connected.

Discuss Supervision with a Coach. At Uppsala University, you also have the possibility to meet and discuss with a coach, Rabbe Hedengren, which is such a nice learning opportunity.

Book Circle on Leadership. I also very much enjoy reading about leadership, and I meet and discuss leadership books with a group of leaders around once a year. Recently I read: ”Innan floden tar oss” by Helena Thorfinn and we are going to discuss it in relation to leadership and our view of being leaders.

Listen to Pod Casts. I also listen to pod casts on leadership, academia and positive psychology that motivate me to reflect and improve. Some of the pod casts I really like are:

Mentoring other Other Supervisors. One way of learning and improving supervision skills is to talk to other supervisors about it. Since 2011 I am a member of the network of experienced PhD supervisors at Uppsala University. This means that I have the opportunity to discuss supervision of PhD students with colleagues taking the “supervision of PhD students course” two or three times every semester. The visits have three steps:

1) We meet and discuss the supervision situation before a supervision meeting during approximatively one hour.

2) They auscultate a supervision meeting during 1-2 hours.

3) We discuss what happened during the meeting. Often these visits result in new ideas and reflections on improvements of my supervision skills, and they are as much a learning opportunity for me as for the person visiting me.

Writing about Learning of Supervision Skills. Other ways of learning is of course writing! In 2016, I wrote a journal paper on inclusive supervision skills together with Ulrike Schnaas where we elaborate on collegial learning.

Organizing Workshops on Supervision. We also organized a workshop on inclusive supervision skills at the Network and Development Educational Conference (NU in Swedish) conference. The workshop was a success and included a role play and many good discussions on supervision. Such an interesting learning experience!!

Participating in Conferences on Supervision. I also participated in the conference European University Association (EUA-CDE) on the theme “The Future of Doctoral Education” in Delft, 2015 where I presented work on supervision and discussed it with experienced supervisors from around the globe.

Reflection. Most of all I try to give myself time to reflect on what I am doing at work. I am a dedicated believer in Shöön’s The reflective practitioner, and that reflection is key to learning.

My View of Supervision

My philosophy regarding supervision is to coach depending on background, motivation, and current situation of the person, and to come up with a joint model about how to go forward. This way of thinking is inspired by Vygotsky´s zone of proximal development. I also actively seek to use a situated view of leadership and try to see my students as individuals, and adapt my leadership based on the personal characteristics of the student, knowledge, situation and context. When problems occur, I try to discuss them with the student as soon as possible to collaborately find a good solution.

I often use strategies borrowed from the area of coaching in my supervision (I have been a coach as a part of my research projects, see Cajander et al 2010). As a part of this I avoid coming up with advice such as “you should now do XY & Z”, but rather try to coach the student to come up with their own solutions. I am completely convinced that I cannot know what would be the best solution or approach for them since research is complex, and I never have the full picture like they do. However, there are situations related to the research quality, for example, where the supervisors might indeed know possible ways forward that are unknown to the PhD or master student. Such areas might for example include where to find relevant literature or where to publish. Finally, my supervision is based on the growth mindset which is shortly described as “I/you don’t know this YET”, and I often talk about this mindset in relation to grit with my PhD students.

Master and bachelor students doing their thesis work in connection to my research are invited to participate in research projects, and are included in the conferences arranged etc. if they want to. I think that it is an important learning experience to be a part of the team in the project. Some of the students have indeed done wonderful work that has resulted in publications such as for example:

Other students have also won awards for being the best students, such as Viktor Kjellman and Johan Andersson and their master thesis on “Patient Empowerment and User Experience in eHealth Services: A Design-Oriented Study of eHealth Services in Uppsala” as in the blog post picture!

 

IT in Society Students Presenting Work on Tracking Technologies at the Largest eHealth Meeting in the Nordic Countries?

Vitalis is an important venue for innovators, business and reseracher in eHealth, and brings together 4,500 participants. Next Vitalis takes place 24-26 April 2018 in Gothenburg, and last week the students from the IT in Society class submitted a proposal for a presentation at the conference.

The students will present their research on how health care can improve and become more efficient using tracking technology. I would suspect that it is not as easy as tracking in the snow, as in this blog post’s photo, however.

The students are doing extensive research on the topic this semester, with interviews field studies and literature reviews and studies to industries who have used tracking systems in their organizations to become more efficient.

The students will present their work around Christmas for Region Uppsala, and let’s hope that they are accepted to the conference so that knowledge and insights from their great work has a chance to spread!

 

 

 

 

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 🙂