My First Monthly PhD Report

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One of the interesting new things that has been introduced to ECS postgraduate life this year is an element of personal development planning and regular reflection. These are techniques and processes recommended in educational literature and also government teaching strategy. Having read about these ideas during my Individual Research Project last year, I felt I had missed out on something as they were not used during the course of undergraduate degree, so it will be interesting to see how they help during my PhD.

The current head of the ECS graduate school (Vladimiro) is spearheading these activities and has requested that we write a report of our progress at least once a month and perform a learning needs assessment at least once a year. To comply, I plan to blog at least once a month about my progress and also submit this as my monthly report. Killing two birds with one stone, so to speak…

October 2007 has been the first month of my PhD, and has primarily been filled with administration, meetings, inductions, seminars, training, demonstrating and lectures. In the spare few hours that I haven’t been doing these things, I managed to begin reading about some learning theories as a basis for my research into education in virtual worlds and video games.

Administration has involved lots of forms to be filled in, and I’ve returned all of these. I have also ordered a PC from the budget allocated to me for a machine to research on.

The meetings have mostly been with my supervisor (Hugh) and the seminars have been given by my group, LSL (Learning Societies Lab). These seminars are compulsory for members of the group, but have thus far been extremely interesting covering topics such as collaborative authoring of documents (CAWS), live speech recognition for lectures (here) and the concept of web literacy and illiteracy.

I also did some demonstrating this month. Demonstrating is the University of Southampton term for ‘teaching’, although what I did was not entirely teaching in the lecturing sense, and was more in the vein of ‘assisting and marking’. I demonstrated for the lab sessions of COMP1004 Programming Principles, covering for a couple of other post grads who were ill (“Freshers’ Flu” hits post grads too!).

Training and lectures have helped supplement my knowledge and skills to improve my ability to complete a PhD. Attending lectures is at the discretion of your supervisor and I’ve been advised to attend Hypertext and Web Technologies and Research Methods in Computing. Fortunately these are not assessed (meaning I do not have to do the coursework and exams) otherwise I’d have no time for anything else! The training courses I have been on this month were the first part of the ECS-run induction event, the media training event I blogged about a while ago, 2 LASS sessions (“Starting out your PhD” and “How to Manage Your Supervisor”) and the FESM-run Introduction to Demonstrator Training.

That leaves a small paragraph of what I have researched! I have read the important parts of a book by Diana Laurillard, concentrating on the Conversational Model of teaching that she describes. I have also investigated Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, primarily in the cognitive domain, but with a brief glance at the affective domain.

To wrap up, the first month has flown by, with lots of distractions from my research. Hopefully, as the required training becomes completed, and the administration dies down, I will be able to concentrate more fully on the task at hand.

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