Improving interdisciplinarity via your PLN (#dscholar)

“Wow, another post”, I hear you cry. Well I’m currently in my PJs in bed with a throat infection, dosed up on a variety of pills…and bored, Very bored. So thought I’d dive into another week of the wonderful Digital Scholar OpenLearn course.

This week took you through the ways in which social networks can help you to make connections across different disciplines. It was quite a beefy bit of learning so I won’t write out all of it (I actually hope you’ll actually go and take part in it instead). What I will do is share my thoughts as I went through it.

People matter!

Martin Weller argues that having a diverse online network (as opposed to an echo chamber) increases the opportunities for connections to be made across different disciplines. Whilst watching the video he produced I sketched out a diagram (see my basic but tidy version of it below):

making connections

In a traditional setting, research is usually divided into categories and subjects. Libraries, journals etc house all the information very neatly. In an online setting the data is scattered across the web. When utilising your network there’s a chance that someone can identify a connection between different subject areas (symbolised by a blue star in my diagram). The more varied your network, the more connections there could be.

Other ways in which engaging with a community can help is via crowd sourcing information. People like to contribute and feel part of something, if they can. Plus it may not just be text that can be contributed; images, sketches, videos, animations, audio etc. can convey so many different messages, providing a richer source of information.


Having a large and varied twitter network can help you to increase your geographic reach. Being as I’ve presented to delegates in Germany, Ireland and New Zealand, and have been involved in projects and initiatives in Europe, Australia and America, I seem to have a very ‘western-centric’ following. Thinking further about my network I can clearly see the key groups of people I engage with:

  • People who have a similar job role as I do (in Learning Technologies)
  • Those who I have worked with at Solent and Cranfield Uni
  • Software interests such as Moodle and Mahara
  • Hobbies including dance, archery and boardgaming
  • TV shows – especially #strictly and #lastweektonight 😉

Do I need to start following those with different views and politics in order to increase the chance of interdisciplinarity in my results? Probably not. My net is cast far and wide. But with regards to software interests, there is so much knowledge in the areas of proprietary software that can also be applied in Open Source software, so perhaps I need a bigger net 😉

I’m looking forward to week 4!


Photo by José Martín Ramírez C on Unsplash


My name is Sam, and I am a ‘Guerrilla Researcher’ (#dscholar)

Since getting involved with the work of TEL I’ve never really considered myself a ‘researcher’. If I wanted information on a specific topic I googled it or asked my PLN via Twitter or Facebook. I would ask for examples and suggestions of links to follow up on. I read personal accounts via blogs and newsletters in the area that I’m interested in. None of this felt like ‘proper’ researching. So imagine my surprise when I came to week two of the marvelous Digital Scholar course on OpenLearn. In it Martin Weller pretty much describes the way in which I seek out information as ‘Guerrilla Research’. How cool! I now have another thing to go in my Twitter bio 😉

Guerrilla: Referring to actions or activities performed in an impromptu way, often without authorisation.

Oxford English Dictionary


For one of the reflective activities we have been asked to:

Consider an area that you are interested in, either relating to your professional practice, or personal interest. Think about how you could adopt a ‘guerrilla research’ approach to investigating one aspect of it. Make sure it accords to the characteristics set out in the previous extract. It can use open data, invite contributions from others, or perform analysis of other content, but it should not require permission or funding to realise, and should be something you can do largely on your own.

Please see the following as my response to this:

What to research: Tech-enhanced group work approaches

How I’ll collect my ‘data’:

  • Ustilise Twitter/LinkedIn/JISCMAIL/Yammer to ask for case studies of how group work is being facilitated. Hopefully this could lead to forming relationships that could lead to larger research projects such as a focus on designing tool kits.
  • Online Library search for journal articles and conference papers containing case studies and evaluations on when and where TEL has been implemented.
  • Conference websites that have VLE/ePortfolio/TEL interests.
  • Google search for blog posts.

This activity has been great as legitimises what have been doing in the past regarding my research methods. You don’t need a big multi-team project in order to get the groundwork done. From data collected from the above methods I should have some good ideas of how students are using tech to support their group work, and could choose a handful of them to implement at my current university as a project.

I wonder if I’ll be asked to carry out this activity during the next weeks 😉

Image source: via: