Introducing QUINT PhD Fellow Jenny Högström

Digitalisation of education raises a lot of intriguing questions. QUINT PhD fellow Jenny Högström aims to find out what it means for the quality of Nordic teaching. 

Jenny Högström writing on a whiteboard: digitalisation of education, pros and cons?

An interest in the interplay between individuals and society led Jenny Högström to study the digitalisation of education. Photo: Larissa Lily, QUINT/ UiO

Jenny Högström is part of QUINT's Nordic PhD network and is based at the University of Helsinki.

What's your background?

I have my background in the social sciences and got my Master’s degree majoring in social psychology. Throughout my studies, I have been interested in questions regarding the interplay between individuals and society more broadly.

Digitalisation of education raises a lot of intriguing questions, and it is undoubtedly part of a bigger picture and development towards a digitalised society and a future where the interaction between humans, artefacts and societal institutions and structures becomes more complex.

Therefore, I became interested in researching the associations between digitalisation of education and interactive and discursive classroom practices, and what it may mean for Nordic teaching quality. Honestly, I also think that I simply had a little bit of luck when I got into this path. 

Can you tell us about your PhD project? 

Connected Classrooms Nordic study investigates the changes brought by digitalisation policies. The aim is to explore what constitutes quality in teaching in relation to digitalisation of education, through bringing together researchers, professional teachers and students in collaborative video based, longitudinal investigations of contemporary teaching in digitally rich classrooms in the Nordic countries.

The main focus of my PhD project is to examine student agency in digitally rich lower secondary classrooms. I will have a look at what opportunities and limitations arise for student initiatives and participation in connected classroom teaching at lower secondary school level.

My PhD project is part of the CCN – Connected Classrooms Nordic –research project within QUINT. It is a three-year longitudinal study aiming to follow teachers and students in connected classrooms through video-recordings, questionnaires, interviews and focus-group discussions.

Can you say a little more on why the main topics of your PhD study are interesting and relevant? 

I will approach my research topic from different perspectives. Firstly, one central aim is to look at how the students express initiatives and participate in the classroom activities during digitally rich teaching. This is an interesting and relevant question to study, as it captures how the students navigate and position themselves as actors in digitalised learning environments. It provides knowledge on how, and what kind of, connected classroom teaching encourage students to participate in the discursive and interactive classroom practices. It can also reveal if the use of digital devices causes any limitations for the students’ opportunities to participate in the classroom activities.

Secondly, I will examine how students experience and construct their agency in relation to connected classroom teaching. This, in turn, is important because it provides further knowledge on how the students themselves describe their experiences and thoughts about today’s digitally rich classroom teaching. It contributes to a better understanding of why the students are acting as they do in connected classrooms.

Finally, and this is important, CCN provides a unique opportunity for me to study student agency in digitally rich classrooms over a three-year period. The project will follow the same teachers and students for three years, which gives a fruitful starting point to examine what kind of changes happen in the students’ agency over time. 

What are you hoping to find out?

Overall, I hope to gain a better understanding of how student agency is constructed in connected classrooms.

In line with previous research, it is expected that technology can create opportunities for student initiatives and participation in the classroom activities, but more specifically how and when it happens is still an ambiguous question in the research field.

In order to understand the various ways in which new digital devices are used in the classrooms, and what it may mean for students’ agency and Nordic teaching quality, it is of great importance to start having a deeper look into this topic. 

How is being part of a Nordic PhD network supporting your project?

Being part of a Nordic PhD network supports my PhD research in many ways. It is a great opportunity to make new contacts and to build networks, but also to get some peer support from other PhD students. I think it will be advantageous to be able to connect with Nordic PhD students in different phases during the process, in order to help, encourage and learn from each other. In addition, since QUINT is an international, Nordic collaboration, it is important to connect with researchers from different countries. Interacting with people from different backgrounds certainly gives many new insights into my own research topic and into others’ as well. 

What do you like to do to relax?

One of my favorite things to do is to spend a whole day outside in the nature, hiking in the forest in any of the beautiful national parks we have here in Finland. It is a way for me to relax and to disconnect from work-related issues. It feels good to switch offline every now and then. Another happy place to be is at home, on the balcony, with a cup of good tea. 

By Larissa Lily, QUINT / UiO
Published Dec. 10, 2019 11:36 AM - Last modified Dec. 10, 2019 2:45 PM