Some welcomed advice for all those who have or plan to start an academic blog.
By Yvonne Siemann
Francesco Martino is a web communications manager at EUI.
At this year’s Neuchâtel Graduate Conference on Migration Studies and Mobility of the NCCR Research Center in Neuchâtel/Switzerland, he gave a workshop with the topic “Communicating your research”. During the workshop he presented several tools for academic blogging, but did also give some advice for the publication process. For more information, you can also have a look at Francesco Martino’s personal website.
What is the advice you would give to a PhD student who wants to start a research blog?
Before you start you should define your audience very well. Then you need to define goals that you want to achieve and tools to measure it. You should not aim just at page views, or likes but you should set concrete goals, like for example more people attending your conference, more people reading your books or more…
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The motivations of getting engaged in a leading position within a PhD network at university or in an international research network could differ from one person to another. For me, taking the active role of the PhD Representative within the IMISCOE PhD Network was about having the opportunity to benefit from an informal training in a professional environment at an international level. Therefore, besides the implicit benefits of such experience, as networking with colleagues and professors from all over Europe and more, and adding « a title » to my CV, being the PhD Representative for 2016-2017 allowed me to develop or acquire valuable skills, very useful for an academic career.
In this post, I will list the roles and responsibilities of a PhD Representative. Even though these are directly related to my own experience inside the largest European Network of scholars on migration studies – IMISCOE (International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion) – most of these tasks are expected to be undertaken by PhD Representatives in general.
- Public Relations role
The PhD Representative is the first contact internal and external for IMISCOE towards its PhD students. He or she has to combine good binding and communication skills to connect with all initiatives and ambitions within the network and Soundboard, outside the network and within IMISCOE.
- Board of Directors, Training Committee and PhD Network Liaising
The PhD Representative has the primary role of liaising with the Board of Directors, the Training Committee and the PhD Network in order to enhance communication and collaboration in decision-making within IMISCOE.
a. Emailing with the representatives of the Board of Directors, the members of the Training Committee and the PhD Network members about the planned activities, pilot projects, logistics and financial aspects.
b. Preparing the PhD Network Newsletter several times per year to inform all PhD students inside IMISCOE (total of 844) about the PhD Network activity
c. Checking with the central office about the use of the PhD Network funding
- Board of Directors Meetings Participation
The IMISCOE Board of Directors represents the highest authority of the network and decides on the network structuring activities. This board meets at least two times during the academic year. The PhD Representative attends these meetings and presents the Mid-term Report and the Annual Report of the PhD Network.
The PhD Representative is required to execute and report the use of the PhD Network budget. An annual report of the expenses of the year has to be presented at the winter meeting of the Board of Directors. During the summer meeting of the Board of Directors, the PhD Representative asks for the budget for the upcoming year.
- Attending and coordinating Soundboard meetings
PhD Representative is part of many decision-making processes inside the PhD Network including Soundboard meetings. The PhD Soundboard is a council of active members of the PhD Network, having regular meetings (usually via Skype) to discuss ideas to be developed, the following steps, to approve what other groups want to accomplish and to support the PhD Representative.
- Active participation to PhD Workshop and PhD Assembly during Annual Conference
As an active member of the PhD Network, the representative contributes to the organisation of the PhD Assembly and the PhD Workshop during the IMISCOE Annual conference.
a. Logistics : the PhD representative in collaboration with the Workshop Committee and the local organisers arranges the logistics related to the PhD workshops
b. Soundboard dinner: the PhD representative organises and attends a final face-to-face meeting with the active members before the PhD Workshop
c. Organising and attending the PhD Assembly and other PhD sessions during the Annual Conference
- Selection process of new members and new PhD Representative
In collaboration with the current members of the PhD Network, the PhD Representative leads the selection process of the new members and the new PhD Representative.
a. Sending the call for application
b. Listing the applicants in the different Working Groups (Workshop Committee, Insights – PhD Blog Team, Nexus-Networking inside IMISCOE, Teaching Reflections)
c. Organising Skype meetings with candidates in order to explain the Representative roles and responsibilities
d. Receiving the applications of PhD Representatives (motivation letter and Representative related skills document) and circulating the applications with the Soundboard members
e. Reorganising the new and former members in the respective Working Groups for the upcoming academic year
- Commitment kind agreement
The PhD Representative is responsible for consulting with previous year’s representatives and informing new representative towards creating the most effective representation for PhD students inside IMISCOE.
Good ways of approaching preschool education exist and I am so happy I just observed one of these! It’s good to have nice colleagues at university who are young mothers: they can get you in theirs son or daughter’s classroom 🙂
In Ghent, (BE), preschools are mostly public settings, free of charge. Besides the traditional preschools (eg: catholic preschools), alternative education is proposed in the neighborhood or close to families with young children. I had the chance to spend one morning in a Freinet’s pedagogy preschool and to observe children and teachers during their daily activities.
I must say it was a pleasant surprise for me to discover several aspects related to a pedagogical approach that takes into account children’s point of view. I will name a few:
- children get to choose what workshop to participate to (arts, linguistic etc);
- children propose and participate to their own projects;
- children give feedback on the work their classmates did in order to identify challenges and the way to overcome them (e. g. : a girl drew a panda today, and her classmates noticed it didn’t have the right number of legs; together with the teacher, and based on a concrete example – a panda bear toy – they arrived at the right answer)
- children learn in spontaneous ways and by discussing elements that happen in the daily life (e.g. : hearing a sound of an ambulance from outside, one boy wants to know what it is; children give answers and teacher completes them )
- children’s mess is not an issue! (e. g. : doing arts with liquid paint can be very messy, especially for 3 years old children; but the teacher doesn’t seem to be bothered – she helps them cleaning up)
There are many other examples. These practices are based on Célestin Freinet’s approach. The principles he proposed as an alternative education for children are the following:
– Pedagogy of Work (Pédagogie du travail) – meaning that pupils learned by making useful products or providing useful services.
– Co-operative Learning (Travail coopératif) – based on co-operation in the productive process.
– Enquiry-based Learning (Tâtonnement expérimental) – trial and error method involving group work.
– The Natural Method (Méthode naturelle) – based on an inductive, global approach.
– Centres of Interest (Complexe d’intérêt) – based on children’s learning interests and curiosity. (History of Freinet Pedagogy, Gerald SCHLEMMINGER, University of Paris XI)
For more info about the Belgium (Flemish Community) education: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/fpfis/mwikis/eurydice/index.php/Belgium-Flemish-Community:Overview
In France, and other countries, PhD candidates have the possibility to apply for scholarship for an international mobility in a country they choose. In my case it’s Belgium, and I had the opportunity to integrate Prof. Michel Vandembroeck’s team at the Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy, at Ghent University. Besides the nice people and the good working environment in this Faculty, the great part is that here I have enriching exchanges with professors and colleagues related to the subject of my thesis – early childhood education and cultural diversity.
Photo by Carmen C. Draghici, Library of Ghent University
If the main objective of this mobility is to have insights on my research topic from an international point of view and a comparative one, there are also other tasks and activities I have to complete. These are part of the « socialization » inside the host university and they can consist in formal or informal activities such as:
- group meeting on publication
- migration group discussion
- exchanges with colleagues on similar topics or methods
- meeting with the promoter on issues related to your project
- borrowing books from the Faculty’s library
- reading papers written by your colleagues
- learning how to recharge the coffee machine of the department’s kitchen (still not able to!) and other practicalities in the daily life of a PhD candidate in Ghent
What a great opportunity to do an internship in a successful organization like vbjk Center for Innovation in the Early Years! Besides working on early childhood, this organization has several projects on education and migration issues, topics that are central in my PhD thesis. Project management training and being involved in one project are my two aims as an intern at VBJK.
Action research on how to work with children and their parents from ethnic minority background is one of the main themes of VBJK, which is a research center certified by the Federal Government. It started in 1986 with action research projects.
An action research project on accessibility of early childhood education and care is implemented by VBJK in Brussels (2004- today) in order to improve accessibility of child care centers for newcomers (refugees and newly arriving immigrants) who were taking languages courses, integration courses or and other training. Besides this project funded by the Brussels Regional government, VBJK also coordinates 2 intervision trajectories, commissioned by Kind en Gezin, for the pedagogical co-ordinators of umbrella organisations in daycare, with the focus on diversity and inclusion.
VBJK collaborated on a report, published by Eurofound, on accessibility and quality of services. The report describes good practices gathered in the form of case studies that have been evaluated and that describe additional resources for the inclusion in mainstream ECEC services of children with disabilities or learning difficulties, those in a vulnerable social situation and those who belong to disadvantaged groups. You can read the report here.
During my first days of my international mobility as a PhD candidate in Ghent, Belgium, I had the possibility to visit The Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre (KeKi). This non-profit organization, financed by the Flemish government, aims to gather, make available, disseminate and stimulate knowledge about children’s rights.
Photo by C. Carmen Draghici
With the help of a young and enthusiastic team (see photo), Kathy Vlieghe, the coordinator of KeKi developed a vision based on 4 principles: scientific research based activities, interdisciplinary approach and critical-emancipatory of children’s rights and balance between involvement and distance.
Photo by C. Carmen Draghici
This organization aims to embrace a broad vision on children’s rights, which, among other things, takes into account the children’s voice.
For more info see http://www.keki.be/en. They have a large data base available on-line, don’t hesitate to check it!