Change ProcessesCreative PedagogiesDigital PedagogiesLearner CitizenshipOpenness and InclusionPlayful and GamefulSeamless LearningStatusStudent Led Learning

See more filter options
top audrey-watters-visit-and-7417-dmll-unsymposium

Audrey Watters’ visit and 7/4/17 DMLL unSymposium

Author: Daniel Villar-Onrubia   7th June 2017

During the first week of April it was our pleasure to have Audrey Watters ( as a Visiting Fellow at DMLL. Audrey is a journalist and independent scholar specialising in the political economy of educational technologies. Her work focuses on the interplay between politics, pedagogy, business, culture, technology and educational institutions.

Since 2010 she has been reviewing key trends in the field through a seried of in-depth reports she releases on her website at the end of every year. Just a few days before her visit to the lab she was awarded a Spencer Education Journalism Fellowship at Columbia University, which will allow her to expand her work “looking into the social networks of education technology’s proponents, tracing the relationships among investors, entrepreneurs, politicians, and professors active in education technology companies.”

During her time at the lab she delivered several talks, participated in seminars and met with colleagues from different areas of the university. Some of the highlights of her visit included:

The talk titled The Top Ed-Tech Trends (Aren’t ‘Tech) she delivered on the 3rd of April, a summary of which can be found here:

And you can download here as a PDF file the report on 2016 edtech trends, designed by our student activator Esmeralda Hady.

A meeting with members of the Coventry.Domains community on the 4th of April, where she defended the main arguments for providing students and university staff with the opportunity to build a domain of their own: Why ‘A Domain of One’s Own’ Matters (For the Future of Knowledge). The podcast is available at

On the same day, the panel discussion Technology-Enhanced Students Attainment and Retention?, where she discussed with Prof. Lynn Clouder (Coventry University) and Prof. Daniel Burgos (UNIR) the use of technology – and associated implications – in trying to help students finish and succed in their studies. The pros and cons of trends such as personalisation and learning analytics were considered by the plannelist, who also took questions from member of the audience.

A joint talk she gave with Jim Groom – another of our visiting fellows – on the 7th of April, focusing on the topic of ownership (of data, coursework, identities, etc.) and educational technologies. She built a compelling analogy between some of the implications of digital technologies for both the industry music and the education sector, namely by exploring the case of Prince and his thoughts on the impact of the Internet on his work as a musician. Drawing on Prince’s declarations to the magazine Rolling Stones in 1996, when he said “if you don’t own your masters, your master owns you,” Audrey addressed questions on how technology (and organisations) mediates teaching, learning and scholarship these days and asked:

‘Who owns the equivalent of student’s and scholar’s “masters recordings”?’

Then she defended the value of Domains of One’s Own as an approach that puts some ownership in the hands of students and academics. A summary of the key points she presented is available at her website: Education Technology’s Completely Over.
Apart from Audrey and Jim, on that day we had the pleasure to welcome a larger group of amazing guests at the lab who came to discuss ideas on the future (and present) of Higher Education. Rather than following a predefined agenda, the meeting was driven by the shared interests of participants themselves, in line with the model of unconferences – hence the title 7/4/17 unSymposium. There were no specific goals or predifined outputs other than articulating a discussion on key topics and exploring opportunities for future collaborations.

Apart from Audrey and Jim, the group included other guests (Javiera Atenas, Christian Friedrich, Kate Green, Brian Lamb and Esteban Romero) and Coventry University colleagues (Janneke Adema, Lauren Heywood, Shaun Hides, Helen Keegan, Sarah Merry, Lucan Morini, Jonathan Shaw, Jacqui Speculand, Daniel Villar-Onrubia and Katherine Wimpenny).

We started with four presentations by our guests:

Esteban Romero-Frías presented the work of MediaLab UGR, the centre he directs at the University of Granada (Spain).  Based on the principles of openness and active citizenship and articulated around three main pillars – Digital Society, Digital Humanities and Digital Science –, their MediaLab aims to help build a more creative, innovative, and prosperous University and society. Esteban reviewed an impresive list of projects and initiatives, some of which overlap with strategic areas for DMLL, such as Projecto Facultad Cero (on how to rethink higher education from scratch) or innovative methodologies to help developing open and creative research (drawing on design and visual thinking). More details about the impresive work they are developing can be found in a recent journal article: Social Labs in Universities: Innovation and impact in Medialab UGR.

Brian Lamb, Director of Innovation at Thomson Rivers University (Canada) who also was a visiting fellow at DMLL in 2016, talked about a new co-operative model developed by colleagues across different universities in British Columbia with the aim of addressing common challenges around education and technology. The Co-Op framework 1) adopts multi-stakeholder governance models, 2) contributes to the creation of immaterial and material commons and, 3) is socially and politically organised around pan-institutional concerns, even if they produce locally. For further details see:

Javiera Atenas, Co-Coordinator of the Open Education Working Group of Open Knowledge International, presented on open data and both media literacies and critical pedagogy, with a focus on their potential for fostering social cohesion and educating for democracy.

Christian Friedrich (founding member of the Digital School at Leuphana University, Germany) and Kate Green (PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham) closed the set of presentations with a talk on the methodology of a workshop on Safety in Open Online Learning ( they had delivered just the day before at the OER17 Conference. They shared a video-provocation contributed in advance by Chris Gilliard as well as the outputs created by some of the participants at the workshop in response to that clip and others. It was quite interesting to have in the room Jim and Brian, who had participated in the workshop and created this video with Rob Farrow and Bryan Mathers:

After the four presentations, it was time for the group to pick some specific issues or topics for discussion. The conversation gravitated then towards the growing interest in HE around the idea of enhancing studens’ learning and wellbeing by analysing data captured as a result of their engagament with content and learning activities.

While all the other events taking place during that week were open to the public, this session only gathered a small number of participants by invitation. At DMLL we try to work in the open as the default, but we also recognise the value of working in closed environments in certain circumstances. By working with a relatively small group of guests and deciding not to record the session, we gave participants the freedom to safely approach any critical issues relevant to teaching and learning in a digital age they wanted to suggest, generating the conditions for an open dialogue that couldn’t exist otherwise.

Two of our guests, Christian and Kate, have written a blogpost, for the Open Education Working Group of Open Knowledge International, reflecting upon their experience in this regard.Just like the agenda for the session was open, participants could also pursue their own goals and desired outcomes after their participation. From the lab’s perspective, we hope to find opportunities for collaboration in future projects with many of the guests who joined us on that day.



Print Friendly