use KBDex in online collaborative learning research

A Japanese research & software team developed an analytical software called KBDeX, to visualize network structures of discourse based on two-mode words*discourse units. This software is basically a discourse analysis tool, based on the relation between words and discourse units. For a researcher in the collaborative online learning research field, you can select words and demonstrate the relations of words, based on your interest. This can help demonstrate students’ knowledge construction/creation. It demonstrates words/discourses relations in the network format; in addition, it can demonstrate the temporal development process of networks. This is a big strength of this discourse analysis tool. Yet it should be noted that it is not primarily based on the relations between students; rather, it is based on the co-occurence of words in discourse units. Although, student interaction network can be demonstrated, in terms of the common words they have used in the discourse.
Here I want to demonstrate a demo from a part of my dissertation data. I would probably consider to use this tool in my dissertation.
  • First, I dragged a portion of online discussion data from the data I collected for my dissertation and transferred them to the format as shown by KBDex dataset. In my data, each discourse unit represents a comment.
  • I added one feature to assign students to two different groups (see figure 1); a group of students got involved within a discussion in the thread.
  • Then I ran the data of group 2 in the main windows (see figure 2).
Figure 1. Groups
KBDex platform has four windows: (1) The discourse viewer which shows an overview of the discourse and selected word (top left window), (2) the network structure of students (top right window), (3) the network structure of discourse units (bottom left window), and (4) the network structure of selected words (bottom right window).

Figure 2. Main windows

An important note I have gained from this trail is that it is very important to consider what words you choose from the student discussion content. Words can represent students’ inquiry process; but it cannot represent the whole inquiry process. We, as researchers, might carry our understanding of the inquiry process based on the choice of words; yet, it cannot fully represent students’ cognitive inquiry process. For example, from the bottom left window of figure 2, we can see that some comments are isolated with the core cluster, which means that there are no common words within these comments. But, of course, students made inquiry in these comments, they just did not use the words we have chosen. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to the word choosing process, and to describe why you choose some words other than other words. And it’s important to acknowledge the inquiry process within isolated discourse units.

Something to consider before you start KBDex analysis:

  • clean your data, make sure the words you chose are consistent throughout the dataset
  • consider how to use the group function, it does not necessarily need to be a traditional group as we talk in education. Like in my study, a group is assigned to students who got involved in interacting with each other in a discussion thread. The discussion thread is divided into several groups depending on the interaction
  • time in your data, since KBDex can demonstrate temporality of networks, namely the evolution of networks

Finally, like Meerkat-ED, the function of network of selected words provided by KBDex can be used to demonstrate content/discourse analysis result.

If you are interested in using KBDex in your online collaborative learning research, here are some seminal work done by the research and software develop team:

Matsuzaw, Y., Oshima, J., Oshima, R., Niihara, Y., & Sakai, S. (2011). KBDeX: A platform for exploring discourse in collaborative learning. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 26, 198-207.

Matsuzawa, Y., Oshima, J., Oshima, R., & Sakai, S. (2012). Learners’ use of SNA-based discourse analysis as a self-assessment tool for collaboration.International Journal of Organisational Design and Engineering2(4), 362-379.

Oshima, J., Oshima, R., & Matsuzawa, Y. (2012). Knowledge Building Discourse Explorer: a social network analysis application for knowledge building discourse. Educational technology research and development60(5), 903-921.


what I have learned from one-year leadership experience

This year, one thing that I have taken to push myself out of my comfort zone, is, taking some leadership roles. I have taken the student leadership role in both the university level and the departmental level. There has been many tough moments, yet making the long story short, here are something I have learned from my peers and myself.

  1. always give people credits first, particularly when you are going to propose some critical suggestions.
  2. give people some time to better functioning. Do not just follow your first impression. For example I am a very hardworking and fast-working person; yet I’d better not to expect others do things in the similar way as I do, they have their own pace and style.
  3. understand your role and responsibility at the first place, and always do your job. do not make random commitment to other people in the group.
  4. do not take criticism personally; it is for the work you have done, not for you as a person.
  5. talk to people if you feel hurt or ignored, but do not struggle with nonsense. do what you can do and move forward.
  6. only apologize for what you have done that might hurt others. do not expect other people behaves in the same way as I do.
  7. in addition to achieving goals, pay attention to the group development as a whole.


I am a poet

Advanced speech manual- humorous speech

01 I am a poet. delivered in May 2 2016

I have dreamed of becoming a poet for a long time. it is not easy. I know that. So, before giving a little insight of the poetic side of me, you first have to understand my father.

he did electricity maintenance of our old apartment, he made wood fans himself, he went against my grandfather. He is always being harsh and tough all the time. I refer my childhood as my military service. In the late summer of my 3 year old day, it was a hot and humid day in south of China, as everyday in my hometown is. And my father said, you get go to school, little girl, (point to myself). Kindergarten? How fun it is! that is where the little and big boys were, that is where all toys were, you can get whatever stuffs you wanna get there, if you are good at crying and screaming. Yes, girl, you are gonna go to your dreaming Kindergarten, excited?  Yes, yes, of course!! I immediately dressed myself up with my favorite pink tutu, I was prepared hardly to go to meet my first boyfriend in my life. You can imagine how joyful I was.

“Get out there, girl, you are gonna go to school by yourself. Mom, you cannot bring her to her school, she has to go there by herself. “we lived four blocks away from the Kindergarten. “no, no , I am not gonna go there by myself, dad, that’s crazy, I have never walk on the street by myself”, but actually I said that in my head. what I really said was “yes, sir.” Because it’s not easy, that why I should do that, and do that hardly.

My mom did follow me to the Kindergarten during my first year. But I did not know that she hided and followed me for a whole year to protect me without my father’s agreement, but she did. That is what I have learned when I was three years old, do everything scares you, you will survive and thrive.

My father did read and wrote novels a lot, as he told me. Who knows it is true or not. But I do have the impression that writers and poets are cool and independent, like the way my father raised me. So, two weeks ago I did a brave thing, writing my first poet in a late night with an intense anger after I got a discriminative criticism from a friend of mine, as well as a rejection from a journal editor. Now I will do a more brave thing, that is to read out my first poem to you, as I did when I was three years old, going to the school by myself.

In the old days

In the old days, I was able to capture trivial things like scrapped paper with my camera

In the old days, I joked with strangers’ new hair style and short skirt

In the old days, nothing needs to be done at the end of the day

Now I am grown up to a busy and tired man

I have no time noticing sprouts outside of my window

I have no time listening to people’s small stories

I have no time taking care of things without a deadline

Everything fleets into a path without an end

I even have no time for worries, anxieties and depressions

One of the greatest things about writing poetry is that you are never too young or too old to express your feelings and emotions, if you are brave enough. Whether you are experiencing the wild highs first dating in high school, whether you are a child with intense fear to go to school by yourself, or whether you are experiencing your lowest moment in your life, through poetry you can capture what it means to love, feel fully alive, and be human.


rules for critical conversation

Notes from book becoming a critically reflective teacher, S. D. Brookfield

we tend to be trapped in the framework that determine what we have experienced and how we view them. we tend to be trapped in a self-confirming cycle. we tend to use our uncritically-accepted assumptions to shape our actions, and then serve to confirm the truth of those assumptions. we find it difficult to stand outside ourselves and see how some of our most deeply held values and beliefs lead us into distorted and constrained ways of being.

group peer conversation can be a new possibility for analyzing and responding to problems. but conversation is not necessarily critical. it is truly critical and self-aware only when participants have tolerance, patience, respect for differences, a willingness to listen, the inclination to admit that one may be mistaken, the ability to reinterpret or translate one’s own concerns in a way that makes them comprehensible to others, the disposition to express oneself honestly and sincerely.

the first step in setting up this critical conversation group is to create group rules for our participation.

  1. thinking of the best group conversation you have ever been involved in. what things happened that made it satisfying?
  2. thinking of the worst group conversation you have ever been involved. what things happened that made it unsatisfying?
  3. take turns in talking about what made conversation groups work so well for you. listen for common themes, shared experiences, and features of conversation that a majority of you would like to see present in this group.
  4. take turns in talking about what made conversation groups work so badly for you. listen for common themes, shared experiences, and features of conversation that a majority of you would like to see avoided in this group.
  5. for each the characteristics of good conversation you agree on, try to suggest three things the group could do to ensure, as far as possible, that these characteristics are present.
  6. for each the characteristics of bad conversation you agree on, try to suggest three things the group could do to ensure, as far as possible, that these characteristics are avoided.
  7. try to draft a charter for critical conversation incorporating the specific ground rules that you agree on

Reflection on Teaching


Writing critical teaching reflection is an ongoing process. This piece is updated in May 31, 2016

My teaching philosophy is to help my students become self-directed, reflective, and life-long learners, and further make learning more powerful to others in their communities (i.e., the class groups, their family, friend circles, outside communities). I believe transforms can happen in the individual’s cognitive level, or in the individual’s intuitive, emotional, spiritual level, as well as the community and society level.  I hope what happen in my online course can transform, liberate, and empower my student, as an individual, then help them apply these transforms to influence the community he or she belongs to, finally, change the world (Brookfield, 1995).

The first important question for me as an educator is what is knowledge? who decide what knowledge should be included in a course curriculum? I agree that knowledge is uniquely constructed by the learner, rather than transmitted by the instructor. I believe that the experiences learners bring into the class is important and learners’ voice and opinion should be heard here. I am more concerned with students’ need and intention to fulfill themselves to a higher development rather than my personal judgment of “important” knowledge as an authority. Educators should engage and work with students during the curriculum development rather than imposing a dominatory curriculum to them (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2013). Therefore, recently, I have made efforts to improve my course equality, democracy and freedom by engaging students in the curriculum development particularly the group collaborative work design and facilitation process.

The second important question is how learners acquire knowledge? As constructivists argue learning includes both the learner’s knowledge acquisition and meaning making in the individual cognition process as well as the construction of collective knowledge during the social interaction and participation process (Cobb, 1994; Liu & Matthews, 2005; Sfard, 1998). The social-cognitive aspect of constructivism implies that interaction and participation are important sources of learner’s cognitive and social development (Durairaj & Umar, 2015). We can definitely question “whether sharing experiences is important to all individuals and whether all types of learning are enhanced by the collaborative process” (Cranton, 2006). The knowledge construction and meaning-making process may occur without interaction and collaboration. However, I do agree that collaborative learning is a great way for learners to learn, particularly, an important way for online learning. I respect an instructor’s facilitation of a true supportive online learning community; and I try to integrate community-building pedagogical strategies in my online course. Underpinned with constructivism theory, an online learning community is generally considered as an interactive, collaborative, and cohesive online environment that provide participants opportunities to communicate, collaborate, and reflect with peers who share the same interests and experiences, or academic and professional development goals (Palloff & Pratt, 2007); the online community goal is to continually support participants’ academic work and professional development with a sense of openness, support, belonging, and trust built among participants (Palloff & Pratt, 2007; Rovai, 2002). Here comes another more important question: does simply putting students together in an online learning community result in active interaction and collaboration? The answer is no (Kreijns, Kirschner, & Jochems, 2003; Wang, 2013).

In order to help students achieve meaningful and deep learning in both the individual level and the community level, I have made several efforts in my online course. In my online course design and facilitation, first, I make efforts to design individual work in a flexible, practical, and creative way, thus help students apply them directly into their own study and work. Moreover, I strive to build my online course a healthier community, with inclusivity, diversity, and openness. I make efforts to make the group collaborative work more flexible, fluid, and diverse for learners with different learning preference to work together on. I try not to restrict online group work into the traditional format of “fixed” group; instead, I make efforts to provide students with the freedom and responsibility to “move between small-group and whole-class structures and redefine their inquiries and participatory roles to address idea diversity and build community coherence” (Zhang et al., 2009, p. 35). This flexibility can foster students’ interaction beyond the “fixed” small group discussions and encourage autonomous and class-wide interactions. For example, I have employed class-level collaborative work, such as collaborative online work charter, critical online learning moments, negotiated curriculum, etc. to make my teaching more democratic, participatory, and interactive (Brookfield, 1995).

These education initiatives may result in different learning and teaching experiences for my students and myself. As Cranton (2006) proposed, when people encounter an experience or perspective that is discrepant with their beliefs and values, that encounter has the potential to call those beliefs and values into question and to lead to a deep shift in the way people see themselves and/or the world. In order to help students become more critical and reflective, I would like students to challenge their habits of mind. I consistently ask students to reflect on their own learning process: What they have learned from themselves, peers and the instructor? How are you as a learner before you came into this course? How have you changed? What can they do to make it different? How do you anticipate this will affect your learning in the future? As an instructor, I strive to be a more critically reflective instructor during the course of course design and instruction. I also ask myself similar questions: what can I do differently to make students being more critical and reflective, and to motivate students to continue their learning after taking my courses?

Some questions we may ask to nurture students’ transformative learning:

How are you growing and changing as a learner and as a person through all of these interactions and collaborations?

Discuss the impact, issues, problems, and concerns or any other idea relevant to how this type of class is affecting you in any way.

What are we learning about technology and online tools by using it?

What are we learning about learning by using technology?

How are you different as a learner online? How are you experiencing this online learning process?

Has that perception of myself changed as I have participated in an online course?

Have I revealed a part of myself that has not been revealed in other settings?

How were you as a learner before you came into this course? How have you changed? How do you anticipate this will affect your learning in the future?

How does learning and knowledge generation differ when we learn online?

How does technology contribute to that difference?

What do we learn about technology when we engage in learning in this way?

How does the use of online learning affect the learning process?


Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Iossey-Bass.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2013). Research methods in education. Routledge.

Cranton, P. (2006). Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning: A Guide for Educators of Adults.


Building up writing routine – Checked

I have tried to build up my writing routine since last summer. Here is a summary of my reading/writing hours from 06012015-04172016: 46 weeks in total, about 320 days, I have worked on my writing projects (coursework hours are not included) for around 650 hours. Average hours is 2 hrs/day. This is my goal for building up my writing routine after reading the book How to Write a Lot by Paul J. Silvia.

A visualization can show my ups and downs, struggles and uplifts :

(In this viz, I include all working hours on reading/writing/planning for coursework and writing projects.)


As I read this viz, I have learned two things:

First, in last year, during the routine building up process, after a peak working week, it always followed with a couple inefficient weeks. Then I took a couple other weeks to build it up again.

Second, I have built a more steady writing routine in this year, although I have never hit the peak as I did in 2015. But the steady hours is the evidence of the formation of routine. I have more time for myself, like reading for pleasure, playing harp, going to gym, socializing.

The next step is simply to keep going, going, and going.

I am updating my writing routine track now, on Sep 11 2016. It has been over one year since I started my writing routine. Here is a graph from the very beginning, which shows that my routine is more stable in the second year, and the hour I spent on writing gradually increased. Regardless of the writing outcome, I am pretty happy with this progress. I just enjoy it. I will keep going for sure 🙂