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Funding, Methods, Collaboration: PP U1 Webinar 1

Getting Started: How to Fund, Launch, and Collaborate on a research Project [Webinar]

Tuesday, April 7, 12:00 PM PDT (2PM CDT/3PM EDT)

Facilitators: Cassidy Puckett, Matt Rafalow, Adar Ben-Eliyahu


  • Rena Dorph, Director of the Research, Evaluation and Assessment Group at the Lawrence Hall of Science at University of California at Berkeley.
  • Christo Sims, Assistant Professor at the Department of Communication of the University of California at San Diego.

The inaugural session of the Professional Pathways strand focused on the ins and out of getting started with research. The webinar encompassed discussion on three broad topics:

Funding, Methods, and Collaboration. Here a summary of them main points raised per topic.


“Funding is part planning, part luck, part keeping eyes open for connecting to people that may provide an avenue for funding.” – Rena Dorph

Planning for funding includes consideration of short term and long term funding cycles, and research trajectories. An opportunistic practice, funding can be sought in various places, including private and public foundations. In weaving together funding tapestry that spans across various research projects and interests, it is important to have a clear research agenda. This can help to keep an open mind towards non-traditional funding sources, such as contracting grants. Being prepared is another important aspect of funding. This may include having a robust set of written work to pull language from, or a set of literature references to draw on. An invaluable tool for this can be an organized and growing document structure or database that includes prior proposals, concept papers or needs statements that are written for various audiences. Further, institutional history and knowledge about past funding efforts and where to find traces of these can be another indispensable resource. Weaving all of this together, part of being prepared also includes relationships. One way to make networking more targeted is by connecting to people who have access to networks one might not have access to. There can be tensions between academic, political, ethical interests of researchers and funding agencies. These tensions can also be considered a reflexive approach, in which researchers choose to work on projects that reflect interests of funding agencies and provide space for researchers to pursue their own interests. However, funding is not the only way for researchers to make a living. It depends on the institutional position, set-up, and even the departmental structures on how important funding is: “Finding is not integral to all situations” (Christo Sims).

What to do right now while in graduate school

  • Practice grant writing in graduate schools through opportunities including the NSF dissertation improvement grants. Applying and reapplying is a good way to learn to think about longer timelines of research.
  • Apprenticeship model: involve yourself with people who are involved with grant writing, watching them and listening in.


“A lot of people may think of methods as toolkit for generating data and building theory from that. … But you can’t really separate theory from methods.” – Christo Sims

The professional pathways of researchers of getting to the established set of methods they apply most frequently and feel most comfortable with are diverse. Inspiration and past experiences are the building blocks for getting started on this journey. Here, an apprenticeship model can be useful as well. Having the opportunity to watch and work with more experienced peers, can help surface and clarify questions. While there are many different methods that can surface aspects about a phenomena, developing an understanding of the relation between theory and methods is perhaps more important than developing a methodological tool box and skill set. There are different theoretical stances people can take, and the theoretical stance shapes research methods and questions. Overall, an agility in relation to qualitative and quantitative work can help with funding and networking for funding.

What to do right now while in graduate school:

  • To refine ethnographic skills: Collaborate on taking observational notes during the same event, then compare notes to see how people can look at the same event and recognize different aspects of it. Follow up on this by writing a paper together and then one individually on how to approach and frame the work to see how different perspectives and different theoretical lenses may be applied.


“Not all of the expertise needs to sit inside myself” – Rena Dorph

Collaboration can start by being part of a research team and offering one’s help to others with more experience. This can have build and accelerate experiences also in relation to methods and funding. However, at times different stances of collaborators can lead to conflicting approaches. While it can be difficult to bring different research identities together, acknowledging different ways of working and making room for diverse perspectives can be a productive way to move forward. When a single result is aimed for with a project (e.g., a book) it is more difficult to bring an multi-theoretical stance out as compared to talking. Taking a moment to articulate what everyone would like to get out of the collaborative effort is important to approach hierarchies of power within the collaborative experiences. One way to make the collaboration more dialogical is to ask particularly unpaid collaborators how their involvement could truly support their personal interests and goals. In efforts to make collaboration work, it is important to carefully consider whom to collaborate with and how. To have ongoing and fruitful collaboration, it is important to have some form of mutual understanding and appreciation of each other also in relation to the channels of communication. While some people prefer face-to-face work, other collaborative efforts can strive through online collaborative practices.

What to do right now while in graduate school:

  • Write about the theoretical stances of particular authors and how these may be productive for your work.
  • One good way to facilitate sharing and an ongoing conversation before writing, is to share tasks among people and to facilitate periodical round table discussions that make room for sharing, exploring and commenting on stances.

Blog Talk Garage: OMG I’m on the Front Page!

The Blog Talk Garage series was an inspiring way to get started with DML Commons. Here some things I learned from the webinar hosts Lee Bessette, Maha Bali, Laura Hilliger, Jim Groom, Alan Levine, and Howard Rheingold

As a Junior Scholar, I hear mixed messages about sharing ideas, work in progress and status reports online. On the one hand, senior scholar suggest to be considerate about what to share in the open before having established oneself in the field. Someone may come across an interesting idea, pick it up and further develop it without remembering the source. On the other hand, senior scholars advice to share ideas and work early and often. Blogs can be an opportunity to connect to people across the world in ways that is not usually possible through conventional publishing. DML Commons seems like a safe space to practice publishing in the open. Figuring out how to strike a balance is one of the things I hope to explore during the course.

Here is an overview of what else I learned about blogging from the Blog Talk Garage webinar series: 

It is super easy to connect a blog to DML Commons

  • Pick a good name and blog platform (e.g., Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr)
  • Set up the blog and worry about looks later
  • Set up a Twitter account
  • Write and publish a blog post (e.g., introduce yourself and play with hashtags)
  • Connect the DML Commons site via form: 
  • Info you’ll need: Twitter name, blog URL, blog RSS feed (I googled “How to find RSS feed Tumblr?”)
  • Go to and refresh, refresh, refresh, refresh, refresh until your post shows up

Reasons to blog

  • Blogging can help to learn how to write great titles and to use hashtags as categorization tools. 
  • Blogging is for sharing, for attracting collaborators, for commenting on other people’s posts, for remixing work through cross referencing and linking across several posts by different people.
  • Document the history of a project for people to get involved.
  • Open writing can be a reflective thinking process and for getting feedback as early as possible.
  • For additional reasons for why to blog, go to #DMLCommons on Twitter.
  • Use writing for taking a stand.
  • Your blog can be a way to keep track of ideas.
  • As a way to distribute your ideas, through open publishing on blogs, more people can benefit from your work.
  • Future of Education: In the future you will be at risk if you are not participating in the connected publishing alongside sanctioned peer-reviewed publishing. – Howard Rheingold


  • Explore: Find your own commenting style
  • Enrich: Add to the post your commenting on
  • Distribute: There is no sharp distinction between online spaces, comment where you are (shared URL on Twitter, Facebook etc. or the blog itself).
  • Encourage others to comment by adding questions at the end of your post.
  • Converse: link to other posts and resources

Choosing what to blog about

  • Talk about what you are thinking about right now 
  • Let day-to-day interactions inspire you to find connections to your academic work
  • Mix personal and professional items, there is no need for a sharp distinction. Blogging gives the opportunity to Interject something on who you are.
  • Blog posts do not need to be about new topics, they can be a place for ongoing reflection about a topic that interests you. It can be an incentive for others to return to a topic.
  • For some people, the point emerges in writing.

Blogs and moving forward in DML Commons

  • Blogs will grow throughout the course.
  • Posts can be woven together to create connective posts that lead people back to original blog posts to add to the emerging of a conversation that is bigger than the sum of each parts.
  • Practice with other participants how to encourage openness (e.g., sharing drafts, commenting etc.)
  • Looking back later, the DML Commons blog can be a way of seeing how public writing improved, perhaps through valuable feedback from other participants.
  • Use your posts to point to ideas you want to share about. 


  • Take control over how to present yourself, e.g., by making trolls invisible. 
  • Write regularly to make sure that there is not only one post out there.
  • Find relevant images to augment your text in meaningful ways.

Making and Learning together

I am a doctoral student at the IU School of Education, and I am working as part of Dr. Kylie Peppler’s Creativity Labs on interesting projects that bridge my personal and educational interests in participatory design and making. 

Besides making fun things like DIY documentation stations for makers to capture, explore and share their work, facilitating design workshops in makerspaces across the US (see Maker Ed Open Portfolio Project), and crafting squishy circuits with pre-schoolers, I like to think about participatory design and how engaging in this dialogical design practice may support learning.

I have had the pleasure to be part of the DML Commons steering committee, co-designing two units for the Open Course: one for design-based research and one for Professional Pathways.

I am excited to see the courses take off and am looking forward to making new connections and learning, sharing and collaborating with the DML Commons community in the weeks to come!