I am originally from Venezuela, where I worked for more than 20 years, teaching Mathematics at different levels of secondary school. My initial interest in educational technology coincided with my move to teaching Mathematics at the University Simón Bolívar. Here, alongside teaching a bridging course and undergraduates, I was part of the development team contributing to support teacher’s development. This interest in educational technology became the theme of my master thesis for which I designed a website with cognitive tools to support disadvantaged students in their mathematical learning as a complement of their bridging course.
My PhD brought me to Europe in 2011. After a short stay in the mathematics faculty, at the University Complutense in Madrid, I attended a summer school at the Freudenthal Institute for Science and Mathematics Education part of Utrecht University, in the Netherlands. There I spent a year as a guest researcher. It was during this period that the core ideas of my PhD began to mature into what is now the thesis of my dissertation.
In my research, I am exploring using Critical Realism/Realist Social Theory, the complex and nuanced reality of student’s digital practice, how and why they engage with digital tools in formal and informal setting. While exploring their digital practices I am looking at how their digital literacies/capabilities in academic settings are quite different than some of the skills Jenkins (2006) has thought about, e.g. play (as the capacity to experiment with ones’s surroundings -I am thinking of digital surroundings- as a form of problem solving) and networking. Jenkins thinks of these skills as the ones needed for a full involvement in the new participatory culture. A culture that is shifting the focus of new media literacies from individual expression to community involvement. Or as the Mozilla Foundation would say, from reading and writing on paper to reading and writing the web as well as participating on the open web. How can students improve those literacies/capabilities in their academic space and strengthen their digital agency is something that puzzles me. It is the nature of this agency I am interested.
As a product of my research I want, in the near future, to explore ways in which undergraduates can reflexively engage with digital practices in a research-rich context enhancing their digital literacies in the process. My idea is that students will, through designing and developing their own open digital learning space (through initiatives like Domain of one’s own, listen to this podcast if you want to know more) improve their digital capabilities (inspired by the human capability approach) in academic settings. Enabling student-generated content as well as student-generated learning contexts can be a means to bridge formal and informal learning environments.