Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Chair of the Association for Education and Ageing was live tweeting from an EU conference about lifelong learning and ageing. This topic is of interest to me as my PhD is about learning across the lifecourse. The AEA chair, Jonathan Hughes ( @JonEmHughes ) was tweeting away, summarising interesting points about ageing and education from a European perspective.

However, it sees that Jonathan doesn’t have a massive following, the conference did not have a hashtag and the project does not have a Twitter handle. Therefore, unfortunately, his Tweets are likely to never be read, Jonathan may not get new followers and people may not get to hear about the Association he chairs.

So I decided to create a Storify of Jonathan’s Tweets because he was providing very good commentary and it would be a shame if no one were to ever read them. I can’t embed the Storify as I think you need a plugin and I am just learning, so here is the link instead:

ForAge annual conference. ‘Forage for later-life learning: Building on European experience’.

To curate the storify of the learning and ageing conference today very easy as only one person who I could find was Tweeting about it. There may have been many others but it would be impossible for me or anyone to find. That’s why it would have been helpful if there was a conference hashtag. Conference organisers, make sure you have a hashtag!

Although there are many ways to disseminate research and I am sure that papers from this conference will be published widely as the conference seems to have come out of a large EU bid, I think Twitter is a way for people to get to know about your project and activities at the time they are happening rather than just afterwards. It is also a way for people who are not directly involved in your project to hear about it and ask questions about it.

One day Twitter will probably be replaced by something else but for the moment, I feel like it is has become a standard and even expected way to promote and share information about your conference before it happens, during and after, through archive/curation tools like Storify.

You should have 10 reasons for why you want to do a PhD advises Tara Brabazon, professor of education at Charles Sturt University, Australia. The reason for ten is that one or two reasons for commencing a PhD may fade over time, but to have ten means there is more chance that they won’t all fade away. You can look at your 10 reasons when the going gets tough to give you motivation and remind yourself on why you started in the first place.

My reasons have been quite clear from the beginning and here I share a few of the top ones which have a deeper lasting meaning than some others such as “it would be cool to have the title of Dr.”

1. To become a well-rounded researcher: As a research assistant without a PhD, and in a department that was quite research inactive, I felt my skill levels as a researcher were stagnating. It was always an ambition of mine to work somewhere where I would constantly learn and move up the senior ranks to be a senior researcher and perhaps try for a PhD for publication, if at all, as I do believe that the PhD is not the only way to become a researcher. This did not really turn out to be an option, so the traditional PhD route became the more realistic route. At the Institute of Education where I am a student, we have a large number of research methods classes and in my department I am getting a lot of support in learning how to handle longitudinal data. I really feel I am learning new methods and techniques which was exactly what I wanted.

2. To become a more knowledgeable, analytical and critical thinker: When listening and speaking with colleagues and friends with PhDs, I was always impressed by the way they spoke and they way they thought. I don’t mean fancy language and jargon, but rather their criticality, the way their minds operated, the way they knew about things such as ‘concepts’ and theory. I wanted to develop this way of thinking deeply, analytically and critically which I can see happening to me now that I am one year in, so feel good about that.

3. To feel more legitimate as a sociologist: I used to be co-convenor of the British Sociological Association group Sociologists Outside Academia. The group was for anyone who considered themselves to be a sociologist, no matter where they worked or their qualification level. We felt that sociology is something that goes beyond an academic discipline and viewed it as a distinct way of thinking about the world. I did feel slightly uncomfortable though when I mingled with established sociologists who worked in universities partly because at the time, my sociology was quite outdated, I had no particular area of deep knowledge on any topic and although I worked in a university, this was more in an administrative role. I felt neither inside nor properly outside academia because of my limited knowledge. Unless you are motivated to self-study or have access to excellent adult education classes in sociology, it is really quite hard to get the motivation to learn a topic deeply outside of academia.

5: As a stepping stone to making a difference: When I was growing up I wanted to be an environmental activist like Swampy. However, I think that everyone has different skills that they can bring to social change and mine may be more the research and writing side rather than the physical activism. However, although my current PhD topic is not going to have a profound effect on the world directly like some theses which are more activist in in tone,  I think that by learning how to properly research, be robust, write well and know how to analyse a variety of data is necessarily to work for social change.

6: I want to wear my gown whilst playing my steelpan: This is a slightly more frivolous reason but actually, the visual image of playing my lovely pan whilst wearing the jaunty PhD beret really spurs me on!

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