Today I spent the entire afternoon at KTH, attending Pernilla Josefsson’s thesis defense and afterwards joining a dinner. Pernilla has focused on the use of social media in higher education, and more specifically students’ use. The thesis, “Higher education meets private use of social media technologies – an explorative study of student’s use” can be found here. As always, it is interesting to attend colleagues’ defenses, but this one was quite special for me since some of the work Pernilla and I have been collaborating on, related to the use of Twitter in higher education courses, was included in the thesis and discussed during the defense session. The main supervisor was professor Stefan Hrastinski from the School of Education and Communication in Engineering Science (KTH) and the co-supervisors were associate professors Olle Bälter and Daniel Pargman from the School of Computer Science and Communication (KTH). The opponent was professor Grainne Conole from University of Leicester.
After a rather short introduction by the opponent, the discussion between Grainne and Pernilla took place. This discussion was really interesting to follow and touched on many different aspects such as the connection between roles and activities on social networks (in this case Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter), the reason for selecting this particular research topic and of course the choice of platforms. One thing that the opponent highlighted was that she could really “feel” Pernilla’s passion for the work when reading the thesis and this was also something that the grading committee brought up. This says a lot about the quality of the work performed and about Pernilla as a researcher. I also particularly liked the discussion about the reasons for choosing this particular research topic – the reasons were grounded in her practice as a teacher and discussions with students as well as teachers.
When it came to answering questions, Pernilla did a very good job during the entire session. She really gave clear and well thought through answers and was calm during the entire session. She was not afraid to take pauses and think things through before responding. At one point the opponent asked a rather tricky question about how the concept of affordances was used (difficult to answer without a clear context). Before answering Pernilla defined an example context, which is of course a very good way of handling the situation. The grading committee also complimented the very “thought through and structured answers”.
When it comes to the study Pernilla and I collaborated on I will write more on this blog when it is published. That will probably happen during this spring. The study on Twitter is not the only thing we have been collaborating on. This week we are e.g. submitting a chapter to a book about the use of social media in educational settings and we also have the ongoing study about the use of teacher administrated Facebook groups introduced here.