Doctorial Consortium Editing – April 3rd


There has been considerable interest in advancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education for some time now. All current thinking, international best practice and many commissioned reports highlight the importance of these subjects to facilitate the development of a knowledge-based society. The aim of the research is stimulate learning of STEM, targeting, in particular, transition year students (14-16 years old) and to explore and establish a community of practice (CoP) and other such communities to investigate the potential of UMI technologies (Ubiquitous computing, Mobile technology and the Internet-of-things) to enhance STEM learning.  The central objective here is to explore the use of UMI technology, alongside the current STEM curricula to enhance STEM learning in the classroom. The research proposed here will incorporate a participatory design process and group evaluations, for this we will collaborate closely with a number of local primary and secondary schools, where design and user studies will be conducted continuously over the course of this research project. The proposed program of study is situated in the field of Information & Communications Technology but at the intersection of Human-Computer Interaction, Interactive Design, Information Visualization and Tangible Computing.


Communities of Practice, CoP, Ubiquitous Computing, Mobile Computing, Internet of Things, UMI Technologies


I am a H2020 funded PhD student at Cork Institute of Technology and I am currently just over half-way through my first year of a 3 year full-time PhD program. My work is situated within the areas of ubiquitous computing, mobile computing, and the internet of things and communities of practice. I am using a research through design approach.


From attending the Doctorial Consortium, I hope to get senior advice on how to strengthen and perhaps improve my case study to develop a broad definition of communities of practice and to create a matrix by which any community can use to determine whether or not they meet the criteria for a community of practice. Recommendations and feedback on my methodological approach of my further study designs are highly appreciated.


I am currently working on the first main study of my PhD, a case study which aims to answer the research question: what is a Community of Practice? I have the study broken down into five phases extending over an eight month period (January – August 2017). The phases are outlined in more detail below:

Phase 1: A Literature Review

Conduct an extensive literature review of communities of practice, extracting all definitions, characteristics, KPIs, structures, membership criteria etc. from each paper and keep a detailed record of each. Develop a broad definition of Communities of Practice – either use (i) a definition which is used a lot in the literature and is seen as the standard definition of Communities of Practice, or (ii) create my own definition based on the keywords or phrases which emerge from the definitions in the literature using content analysis.

Phase 2: Community of Practice Characteristic Matrix

Develop a CoP Characteristic Matrix containing a defined number of characteristics associated with all CoPs. Any community will be able to use this Matrix to investigate whether or not they meet the criteria of a community of practice. If someone is looking to characterise their community, this Matrix will be designed to help them determine whether it is a CoP or not.

Phase 3: Evaluate the CoderDojo Movement against the CoP Matrix

Determine whether the CoderDojo is a Community of Practice or not by mapping it against the broad definition and the characteristic matrix. I will do this through online research of the CoderDojo (completed in Phase 1) and through qualitative research methods – observational studies, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and possibly the use of surveys (quantitative research).

Phase 4: Applying the Evaluation Process to ten communities/groups

Select ten international communities and determine whether the ten communities/groups selected are communities of practice by comparing them against the characteristic matrix, definition and description.

Phase 5: Write up and Dissemination

Write up my case study paper with the methodology I used, the process, results, findings and conclusions and decide where to disseminate (i.e. what conference).

Over the past six months I have been working on phase one and towards developing a broad definition of communities of practice which can be applied to any community of practice across any domain. I am currently carrying out an extensive review of the communities of practice literature, reviewing papers from each year starting with 1991 when the phenomenon was first introduced by Lave and Wenger as they studied apprenticeship as a model for learning and working towards the current day research. From the literature I have extracted every community of practice definition I read and through a process of content analysis, I have identified the key words and phrases which emerged in the literature. I am now in the process of categorizing these words and phrases so that I can finalize a one-line community of practice definition which can be applied to any community of practice across any domain in which it is situated. In conjunction with the broad definition, I will develop a broad description.

Phase two of my case study will involve the creation of a community of practice characteristic matrix which any community of practice will be able to fit into no matter its’ size, location, means of communication etc. I will then use the community of practice definition, description and matrix to complete phase three and investigate whether the CoderDojo community which looks like communities of practice on the outside is actually a community of practice on the inside when it is compared to my definition, description and matrix. Phase four will involve applying the CoP matrix and investigating whether ten other communities/groups are communities of practice. The final phase will see me disseminate my results to an appropriate conference.


My name is Michelle O’ Keeffe, a First Class Honours Graduate (2015) of BA Honours in Multimedia at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). My final year project was to design and develop an artefact that could be used to enhance a child’s experience of a heritage centre or museum. I worked in a group with two others to create “Puzzlebeo”, an interactive, multimodal jigsaw puzzle and interactive wall nodes which were designed for use in the Titanic Heritage Centre in Cobh, Co. Cork. I was responsible for the user testing and the user evaluation as part of the project. This was when I developed a key interest to research this area of evaluation and pedagogy further. I have recently began my PhD by Research at the NIMBUS Research Centre in CIT. My PhD will be completed as part of the Horizon 2020 UMI-SCI-ED Project which looks at exploiting UmI Technologies to promote STEM Education and make scientific careers attractive to young people. My contribution to the project is to research what these UmI technologies may be; how to stimulate a students learning of STEM subjects and to explore whether encoding data in shape-changing physical metaphors contributes to their learning and attitudes towards STEM subjects.

Research Interests include: Pedagogy; evaluation methods; communities of practice; UMI technologies;

Current Research projects: Exploring the potential of UMI technology to enhance students’ learning of and attitudes towards STEM subjects.


I would like to thank Cork Institute of Technology for their support and funding of my PhD, and also my supervisors Trevor Hogan and Kieran Delaney for their continuing support, motivation and valued input.


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