Experiences from the Retreat related to Writing Applications for Promotion

The writing retreat that we organised for people who want to write applications for promotion was really a success! We finally got time to write our applications, and we also had nice discussions related to what to put in an application and not. I learned quite a lot from the discussions, and the company was really inspirational.

When asked for anonymous comments the participants wrote the following that was good about the retreat:

  • Good food & nice company
  • Raise awareness of what is important, but typically insufficiently emphasized.
  • Good to have some interrupted time-off to work on our applications.
  • To see other people’s applications and hear what others think and say
  • Time to write
  • More time to talk about career choices etc.
  • Great tips such as leadership courses
  • Time! Time! And talk during breaks.

Sigtuna Stadshotell really offered a warm and Christmas like atmosphere, and it is a place i strongly recommend for retreats of any kind.

You can find the plan for the retreat here.

After one day, there was an evaluation of the retreat, and day two of the retreat we added a walk during the lunch break to get some air. Now we are planning to meet and see to it that these great applications are sent in.

 

 

Five Questions for Future PhD students

One could think that doing a PhD at one university would be the same thing as doing it at another university. Well, I can tell you that this is not the situation.

There are many different things that can vary for PhD students, and if you want to do a PhD you need to make sure that you know what you can expect from the department you enroll at.

If you ever consider doing a PhD you have to make sure that the following is clear:

  1. Does the supervisor seem to be a person who you would like to collaborate with?
  2. What is the research project going to be about? Are you going to work in a project with a specification you need to follow?
  3. What kind of PhD courses do they offer at the department?
  4. Who else are you going to work with? Is your supervisor going to be on your project?
  5. What kind of funding is available for conferences, computers etc?

Reflections from an Academic Senate Meeting

The Academic Senate was earlier presented in this blog post, and this week we had a meeting.

This time the meeting was held in the Humanistic Theatre, which is a room made for discussions. The room was indeed impressive, and very nice. It looks a bit like Gustavianum inside.

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The first point on the agenda was a discussion related to the role of the academic senate. There were several invited guests who presented their experiences from the senate, and also gave opinions about the possible new role that the senate might play. One problem earlier has been that few attend the senate’s meetings, and one guess what this was due to the senate having no power in the organisations. Others disagreed, and thought that the senates’ role as a discussion partner for the board of the university is important.

The meeting also included a presentation and discussion of the Quality and Renewal (KOF in Swedish) report that was recently made official. One of the things that were mentioned in the presentation was that the university needs to be more inclusive, and there will be a discussion about the language used. This was interesting to hear, I think, and will probably be something that I will work with in the future. Another thing presented was that the university will be looking at implementing some kind of metrics system. We will also need to develop tools for that kind of metrics.

It will be interesting to be a part of the Academic Senate these coming years, and learn more about the university’s strategic work. The next thing that happens in the Senate is a retreat in March. I’ll be back with some more reflections then.

 

 

Tip of the Day: Putting your Research on Wikipedia

Last week I listened to a very interesting and inspiring talk by Olle Terenius on Wikipedia and outrearch. You can look at something similar online, found here.  The abstract of the talk was:

Wikipedia is at the core of knowledge transfer in contemporary society and one of the most efficient ways to communicate research to others. In order to keep Wikipedia relevant, as accurate and up to date as possible, it is important that researchers contribute in their field of expertise. In a world ripe with alternative facts, it is our job to stand up for transparency and the scientific method. Wikipedia also provides a place for your research and for you as a researcher where literally everyone looks.

I have edited Wikipedia some in the past, and this lecture gave me renewed inspiration to put a few hours adding references to research papers. Now you find 5-6 if my papers and some of my favourite research papers on Wikipedia. Perhaps you should try to make sure that your knowledge is found on Wikipedia too!?

Teaching a New Course: Complex IT Systems in Large Organizations

Next semester Diane Golay and I are teaching a new course called “Complex IT systems in Large Organisations” as a part of the IT, DV and STS programmes at Uppsala University. The majority of the students are from the IT programmes, and around 35 students have signed up to join this new course.

The course description is as follows:

Complexity problems that arise in large organizations where different user groups have different requirements. Development and implementation of IT solutions with multiple interoperable systems and management of the effects of prolonged continuous updates and maintenance of such systems.

The learning outcomes of the course are related to describing challenges and problems that arise in connection with the development and introduction of IT systems in large organizations, and methods to deal with these. Students should also be able to discuss advantages, disadvantages and applicability of a method in a specified problem situation. Moreover, they should be able to propose appropriate IT solution for a given problem situation and motivate and discuss the solution.

Last week we started off the work with the course and had a workshop with a few of our colleagues to get ideas for the set up. We have also booked meetings every other week the coming weeks to plan the course, so that we are prepared when it starts in week 12.

The course is indeed very close to many of the HTO research groups projects, and we will make use of our own research material as course material. We will probably also do interviews with people from industry as a part of the course. It will indeed be great fun to develop this course and the course content!

Students who are reading about this course are welcome to apply to it!

If you work with “Complex IT in Large Organisations” and would be OK with being interviewed about your job (on Skype or IRL) please send me or Diane Golay a mail!

Open Ended Group Projects – The IT in Society Course Setting Preparing Students for Working with the Complexities of IT

Software engineering is about creating IT systems that work well in their context of use. It is however, a well-known fact that the art of designing software is a wicked problem and that the work in the software engineering projects often is complex and multifaceted. Studies have shown that 50-70% of all systems development projects fail! Understanding the problem as such is very much a part of the problem solving, as for example Schön argues in his book about the Reflective Practitioner.

Even though this is the reality that students face when they start working, there is very little in the educational setting that supports them in handling this future situation with complex problems. We have therefore in our course developed the idea of exposing the students to a real problem, one that has no obvious solution and preferably encompassed aspects from many different areas. In short, an open-ended problem. The name of the course is “IT in Society”

The course setting that we developed includes students working in groups and where the problem they address is clearly impossible for one individual to deal with alone. Our involvement as educators is limited to being facilitators and coaches, and being there for discussions about the students’ progress, with an emphasis on scaffolding the quality of how they worked rather than focusing on how good the solution to the problem will be.

Another feature is that we accept that students assume different roles in the projects as long as there was a real collaboration in a group, and that we work to build a good community of practice in the project through the reflections and discussions that we have with the students. We have named this new arena for learning Open-Ended Group Projects (OEGP). For further reading on how the theories of learning are applied in OEGP see the journal paper “On valuing peers: theories of learning and intercultural competence”.

 

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!

 

Why are Ambient Assisted Living Technologies so Difficult to Develop?

I was appointed as one of the external reviewer of Jean Hallewell Haslwanter´s PhD dissertation with the title “User-Centered Development of Sensor-based Systems for Older People”. I must say that this was indeed an interesting thesis to read and I strongly recommend it for anyone who is interested in healthcare technology and user-centered design.

Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) is a technology that has been proposed to help society with problems related to an ageing population, as it could support older people to live at home instead of moving into elderly homes. However, despite the fact that many IT projects and companies have been working with the development of this technology, and large amounts have been invested in AAL, few such technologies has reached the market. In her thesis, Jean Hallewell Haslwanter addresses the issue from a user-centered design perspective and her work aims at understanding why AAL technologies have proven so difficult to develop.

The thesis has a substantial empirical contribution as it studies the development of AAL systems. One interesting finding is that the complex and multifaceted descriptions of the users fade away as the project continues, and is replaced by stereotypes of older people. Other contributions include recommendations for practitioners working with development of AAL technology.

Jean Hallewell Haslwanter’s dissertation is a monograph, but she has 13 research papers that are previously published. Many of the papers are conference papers, of which many appear in highly ranked international conferences. There are also conference papers that have been turned into journal papers. If you are interested you can find these publications online at the link.