Are we Tuko Pamoja (together) in the need for better ideas synthesis tools?

What an incredibly productive time I had in Cape Town recently. Thanks so much to organisers and colleagues. It was great to be in such supportive and inspirational company working to improve the quality of ideas in my PhD at both the GO-GN workshops and OEGlobal conference. Tuko Pamoja indeed, I feel refreshed by the collegiality and the new friendships made.

Workshopping ideas in action. Image CC-BY Natalie Eggleston for GO-GN.

For me this experience came on the back of an intensive 2 days of HDR (Higher Degree Research) Summer School with 200 fellow HDR students at Deakin University. Prior to that I had been pushing hard through January to complete the first batch of 17 papers on my systematic review of literature for Phase 1 of my PhD. This is looking at current experiences of open technologies used to benefit non-privileged learners.

So as you can imagine, I’m swimming in ideas. I came away from GO-GN and OEGlobal with an impression of an important shift in focus towards Open Educational Practices, and getting away from the narrower focus on definitions and use of OER as digital media. Often when we ask about teachers’ use and uptake of OER (5 Rs definition), the awareness is low but there is a strong interest in sharing materials and practices, and plenty of use of free/open/social tools – I’m thinking about Judith’s study in Kenya and Tabisa’s study in South Africa.

Currently there seems to be more research interest in our pedagogies, our practices, academic development, our learning design and the idea of openness and open knowledge as an emerging quality to aim for and so important as Anne reminded us in the age of “fake news and knowledge resistance”. I saw some positive tensions between the focus of OER vs OEP in different contexts, in terms of what drives change and innovation. The field seems to be broadening, with overlaps in concerns around digital literacies, networked and personal learning environments and collaboration such as the work of Catherine and Caroline (and also touched on by others).

I found others, who like me are also pushing to keep the focus of our OER/OEP on driving social justice or “social upliftment” – a term we don’t use in Australia but I might just take it up anyway. Great to hear from Janesh about what Indian learners get out of MOOCs – I loved hearing that some of them take sneaky liberal arts MOOCs, using it as private resistance to the social norms pushing them to study for high-status technical professions.

How to track all these ideas???

Sarah drowns in a sea of papers, notes, flyers...
CC-BY Sarah Lambert

How do I bring together the ideas and actions I’ve thought of via tweets, papers, emails, notes on handouts and flyers, sticky-notes, and backs of business cards? What about the 50 tabs open on my laptop browser with links to various presentations, videos of presentations I missed, new publications and websites/projects discovered and in need of review, and their reference links to other papers?

Image CC-BY Sarah LambertI really would like some kind of whizz-bang technology to help me see all the little scraps of paper and ideas side by side, so I can move them around, open/enlarge them and read them, and make new notes. My desk is just not cutting it. What I need, I think, is a Stark Industries style hologram multiple file display unit. You know, what Tony Stark (fictional genius millionaire scientist) uses in the Iron Man movie franchise. No dinky mouse and neck crick from computer, you use your whole body to gesture and control the computers and you use it all and interact with it on a humongous standing-up human sized hologram display.


The character Tony Stark from the Avengers movie holds a 3d hologram cube surrounded by other holographic displays
Still image from The Avengers (2012) c Marvel Studios.

And you know, those cool people on CSI have something similar don’t they? Where are the research grants for 21 century research tools for data synthesis? I want the Pokemon Go augmented technology for my research life, so I can see, grab and think about stuff on the run, wherever I am.

Anybody else with me on this?

What tools or tips do you have for getting the most out of multiple conference/seminar ideas and contacts?

Sarah Lambert

PhD thesis "Open Education as Social Justice" (2019). Interested in interdisciplinary theory, methods, mentoring, systematic reviews. Widening HE participation practitioner.


  • Chrissi Nerantzi

    Chrissi Nerantzi

    Hi Sarah,

    Thank you so much for sharing your reflections with us all. I just LOVE the phrase you are using “swimming in ideas”!!! This is a good think this suggests you can manage it and are ok with it 😉 It was lovely meeting you in Cape Town and hear about your study. Really looking forward to finding out how it develops and evolves and where it will take you and us all.

    You are asking us all for tips on conferences. Some people and their ideas will have stood out for you. Hang on to these and keep in touch. My motto is, if I can extend the life of ONE discussion that started at a conference beyond the conference itself and this leads somewhere or to something, I feel that I am helping ideas spread.

    Tuko pamoja
    ps. Let me know if you need any help, ok?

  • Sarah Lambert

    Sarah Lambert

    For the record, my colleague introduced me to “Pocket” today – a hugely helpful app for bookmarking and organising conference tweets and linked publications/presentations/websites for later reading. I now have it on my desktop computer and my mobile phone. And it syncs between the 2 beautifully. It also sucks the text out of Presentations and converts it to a regular text read inside the tool itself, ie so you don’t need to link out to Presi to get the gist of the presentation. Really helpful!

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