Recently completed a doctoral thesis within the English & Creative Writing Department at Aberystwyth University working with MS Peniarth 392D (the Hengwrt Chaucer, the oldest known manuscript version of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales), investigating the impact digitisation has on the concept of cultural capital.
Working collaboratively with research partners and external organisations is extremely important, and a major part of my recent PhD studies, together with developing existing links between Aberystwyth University and the National Library of Wales, and acting as a representative of both organisations at professional events, training activities and academic conferences. Fostering professional links with a wide range of academics and educators, particularly through the use of social media and blogging.
As a KESS (Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship) funded PhD student there was a keen awareness of the need for establishing funding priorities and keeping up to date with funding streams to support academic endeavour. The KESS project was a major European Convergence programme led by Bangor University, and the programme was based on collaboration. Participants were expected to contribute something not just to their chosen field of academia but also to any areas of interest for the company partner (in this case, the National Library of Wales).
During the research period, was engaged in a postgraduate skills development award where students were expected to involve themselves in continual professional development: this was done through course attendance and one’s own work. The key was knowledge exchange, and ensuring that the work overall was publicised and made available to whoever required it, together with a commitment to professional and postgraduate training.
The doctoral research was part-English Literature, part digital humanities: a juxtaposition between the traditional humanities, and the sciences. This has allowed the development of a greater level of creativity than if it was focused specifically in the field of medieval literature. It has also allowed the development of skills in assessing and evaluating literature across a range of subjects, and to delve into the fields of qualitative and quantitative research.
The particular research topic was that of cultural capital: whilst there has been an enthusiastic take-up of digitisation projects, with a great deal of time, expertise and funding expended on such projects, often the subsequent used of digitised artefacts is limited. Whilst one of the aims of digitisation of the cultural canon is the democratisation of knowledge, the research examined whether or not this is in fact the case, or whether Bourdieu’s theories of social stratification still exist and contribute to the lack of take-up of digital artefacts, leading to the creation of data silos.
One of the most interesting aspects of the research has been the interdisciplinary nature of the research: encompassing the fields of medieval literature, palaeography, the digital humanities and the social sciences. It also allowed for the development of collaborative skills.
Possess excellent written skills and first-rate interpersonal skills, together with an understanding of the necessity for knowledge exchange not just within the academic community, but also beyond. In the current academic environment it is integral that links be fostered with businesses and other non-traditional partners in order to ensure continued success within the humanities. In particular, the research has shown the necessity for achieving impact in one’s work, and the importance impact has on research development and funding.
As part of a career history in the private sector I was expected to provide support to departmental heads and to develop and maintain a level of knowledge within relevant areas of the law, in order to fully support my superiors and to enable a greater level of autonomy in my own work. I was also responsible for diary management, organising departmental events, Court appointments and client care. Those transferable skills were integral in my public sector life.
I am interested in the significant use of social media to enhance the learning experience, and to publicise and augment research, and currently publish a blog via WordPress: kerilthomas.wordpress.com, which has received nearly 10,000 views since it began in 2011 and covers a range of topics in the fields of digital humanities, English Literature, archival studies, history and education. Accompanied by a Twitter profile, https://twitter.com/keri_thomas, which currently has 290 followers and has allowed for collaboration and discussion with colleagues and peers, and for the publication of my own work.
- Aberystwyth University: 2011-2015
Completed doctoral research examining the impact digitisation has on user perceptions of cultural worth for important artefacts from our literary heritage, and whether this in turn has consequences for the use of those digital artefacts. Control is at the heart of issues surrounding the use of a digital artefact. In one sense, digitisation democratises knowledge; it makes that knowledge freely available to a large audience irrespective of who the audience member is, their education or place in the social hierarchy. In spite of this perceived egalitarianism, there are still limits in place; the material contained within those digital artefacts is still, for the large part, unintelligible to the layman, and the information imparted still chosen by an elite.
The thesis attempted to explore several different concepts: the idea of cultural capital as suggested by Bourdieu, and whether the digitisation of cultural artefacts reinforces the cultural divide or emancipates knowledge; the Derridean notion of the archivist as both prison warden and creator of cultural value, with the manuscript captured in a form of house arrest: and considers Baudrillard’s concept of the simulacrum and applies it to the digital artefact, questioning whether digitisation erodes our understanding of the “real” to such an extent that we destroy it.
All this was done through the framework of digitisation of the Hengwrt Chaucer, MS Peniarth 392D, possibly the oldest extant version of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, held at Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru, the National Library of Wales, in Aberystwyth, and discussions surrounding the use of social media to enhance the Library’s exhibition of their cultural artefacts. Ultimately it will be established whether the digital has the potential to undermine the system, to emancipate knowledge from its theoretical and cultural restraints.
Funded by KESS (the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship) the three-year research period has included working within the Department of English & Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University and conducting qualitative and quantitative research at the National Library of Wales, specifically within the Exhibitions Department. PhD research and the subsequent thesis will be completed in November 2014.
Research supervisors were Professor Lorna Hughes, the University of Wales Chair in Digital Collections at the National Library of Wales and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Welsh & Celtic Studies, Dr Elisabeth Salter, former Head of the Department of English & Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University and lecturer in Medieval & Renaissance literatures, and Dr Louise Marshall, current Head of the Department of English & Creative Writing and a lecturer in Restoration & 18th Century drama.
- Cardiff University: 2009-2010
Completed a PGCE (PCET) course at Cardiff University in 2009, within the prestigious School of Social Sciences. The course consisted of modules in Psychology, Sociology, e-Learning and Planning, and developed professional knowledge and understanding as well as competence in key areas of teaching. The centrality of the learner and learner autonomy was of paramount concern. Graduated from Cardiff University in July 2010 with a distinction and a qualification at Masters Level 7. Personal tutor at Cardiff, Dr Jayne Salisbury, was Vice Chair of the ESRC/HEFCW funded Welsh Education Research Network (WERN) and was recently appointed to the Welsh Government’s Advisory Board for Qualifications Wales.
- Aberystwyth University: 1998-2001
Completed first degree with the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, graduating in 2001 with a 2:2 BA Honours Degree in English Literature.
- Worked within the private sector in a variety of senior administration roles between 2002 and 2008.
- Cardiff & Vale College (formerly Coleg Glan Hafren): January 2010-May 2010
As a trainee teacher, duties included teaching various subjects within the Advanced Studies Department. These included GCSE English (preparing students for Section B of the WJEC English GCSE paper; specifically the AO3 aspect, developing transactional and discursive writing skills) and AS English Literature, discussing contextual analysis of David Mamet’s Oleanna. Also responsible for assisting with the A2 Religious Studies group, supporting students in researching new religious movements. The intent was for the student to adopt an enquiring, critical and reflective approach to the study of religion. Also engaged within the Welsh Baccalaureate Foundation Diploma Core Certificate, and the PSE (Personal & Social Education) aspect of the course, reviewing the students understanding of their basic human rights.
- Cardiff & Vale College (formerly Coleg Glan Hafren): August 2010-July 2011
After qualifying as an FE lecturer, taking up a permanent position as a lecturer within the Advanced Studies Department at Cardiff & Vale College, teaching GCSE English and AS Religious Studies. This role expanded the work conducted during the professional placement.
- Coleg Ceredigion, Aberystwyth: August 2014-present
Working as an FE lecturer within the General Education department, I am responsible for the provision of a range of different subjects to students from all parts of the academic spectrum. During my first year of teaching I undertook the AS Level English Literature curriculum, covering poetry post-1900 and drama post-1990 and concluding with an internal assessment that encompassed a prose study and creative reading task. The aim was to encourage students to engage creatively with a range of texts, and the ways to respond to them.
From 2014 to the present I have been responsible for the delivery of the AS and A2 level World Development curriculum. An understanding of World Development involves examination of the forces at work in the process of globalisation and interdependence; the processes which lead to the development of a more just and equitable global society, and the role of global citizens to achieve that end. At AS level students were expected to engage with two themes: Development, Resources & Global Citizenship, and Poverty & Inequality, with students expected to submit a portfolio analysis of World Development issues. At A2 Level, students further analyse the social, political, environmental and economic perspectives of development, and discuss the roles of women, education and health in development, culminating with the creation of a 3000-word report allowing candidates the opportunity to follow an area of personal interest within the World Development specification.
In September 2015 I also took over the supervision of the A2 Sociology course for the students’ final year of the A-Level course: this involves the teaching of Unit 3 – Understanding Power & Control and Unit 4 – Understanding Social Divisions. Candidates are expected to demonstrate evidence of synoptic understanding, and gain an understanding of social control and significant sociological debates.
I am also currently teaching Essential Skills Communication at Levels 1 and 2, having taught the Level 3 in 2014/2015. The aim of the Communication qualification is to encourage candidates to develop and demonstrate their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills for different purposes. The qualification is essentially concerned with developing and recognising candidates’ ability to select and apply communication skills in ways that are appropriate to their particular context.
I am also responsible for the pastoral care of my A2 General Education group in my role as their course tutor.
- Worked collaboratively with IMEMS (Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies) for two years on the recent From Glass Case to Cyberspace exhibition and conference at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. Assisting with the development of an exhibitions strategy and personally creating three reports to ascertain the best methods for incorporating social media in the Library’s exhibition policy, with particular reference to the Hengwrt Chaucer exhibition currently running at the National Library. Played an active role in developing and supporting the exhibition strategy and developed analytical skills in determining what policy documentation was relevant and important to the exhibition strategy overall.
These reports took into account the Library’s own policy documentation and considered data from the Office of National Statistics and the Government’s Digital Britain report created in 2009, together with a range of articles discussing the nature of modern exhibition environments and the development of QR codes. They also drew on Welsh Government policy documentation, such as the Digital Wales Framework and on the Horizon Reports, which identify emergent technologies and their potential impact on, and in use within a museum environment.
- Masters Level 7 PGCE (PCET) from Cardiff University School of Social Sciences.
- PhD in English Literature with a focus on the Digital Humanities.
- Able to achieve Fellow status within the Higher Education Academy based on PGCE (PCET) qualification, year in FE and the pedagogic research associated with teaching, and the three-year research period associated with PhD study, together with any subsequent teaching experience acquired within the next three years.
- Experienced user of MS Office packages, including Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.
- PGCE (PCET) training encompassing professional knowledge and understanding, personal skills and attributes, competence in key areas of teaching and training; reflective practice and scholarship, collegiality and collaboration, the centrality of the learner and learner autonomy, and entitlement, equality and inclusiveness.
- Placement and subsequent period of employment encompassed designing a range of teaching and learning material, with an emphasis on e-Learning.
- Enhanced administrative skills developed in positions within the private and public sector.
- Able to project manage and manage resources developed within roles as a lecturer, private sector worker and PhD student.
- Responsibility for a tutorial group and engaged in research supervision within FE.
- Able to communicate a range of complex and conceptual ideas in roles as FE lecturer and PhD student.
- Adept at creating productive working relationship within private and public sector roles.
- Worked collaboratively with the English Departments at Aberystwyth and Bangor University, developing working relationships and opportunities for further research with the National Library of Wales, and was a member of the IMEMS group developing working procedures for the recent Chaucer conference at Aberystwyth University.
- KESS funded student working within the financing structure to provide opportunities for knowledge exchange.
- Developed a range of e-Learning resources for use within FE sector.
- Use of social media to enhance learning.
- Some experience of pedagogic research in relation to technology-enhanced learning.
- Experience of qualitative and quantitative research methods.
PUBLICATIONS and PRESENTATIONS
- The Hengwrt Chaucer: Cultural Capital in the Digital Domain (2015), unpublished.
- Presented paper at “Archives, Artefacts & Literary Culture” entitled Digital or Material: Exploring Issues of Cultural Value (2014), unpublished.
CONFERENCES and COURSES ATTENDED
- Completed PGM0120 Research Skills & Personal Development module, 2011-2014
- Completing PGM1420 Using Manuscript Sources for Medieval Studies: Palaeography, Diplomatic & Context.
- Attended “New Directions in Digitisation” lecture at Aberystwyth University, 2011.
- Attended Welsh Wills Online Experts Seminar at Aberystwyth University, 2011.
- Attended “Minding the Gap: Big Digital Humanities” presented by Professor Michael Moss of Glasgow University, at Aberystwyth University, 2012. http://kerithomasaber.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/big-digital-humanities-minding-the-gap-by-michael/
- Attended DHOXSS, a week long at Oxford University, 2012: http://digital.humanities.ox.ac.uk/dhoxss/2012/
- Attended the Digital Humanities Congress at Sheffield University, 2012: http://www.shef.ac.uk/hri/dhc/dhc2012
- Attended “The Welsh Experience of WW1” Participatory Design Workshop, National Library of Wales, 2013: http://cymru1914.org
- Three-month professional placement within the Exhibitions Department at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.
- Attended “From Glass Case to Cyberspace: Chaucerian manuscripts across time” at National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, 2014: http://www.bangor.ac.uk/english/events/from-glass-case-to-cyber-space-chaucerian-manuscripts-across-time-15999
- Attending “Archives, Artefacts & Literary Culture”, Aberystwyth & Bangor Universities Workshop in Medieval Studies, National Library of Wales, 2014: http://fmrsi.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/event-aberystwyth-and-bangor-universities-workshop-in-medieval-studies-archives-artefacts-and-literary-culture/
- Completed various CPD courses through the EduCare service provider, including The Prevent Duty and Child Protection in Education, 2015-2016.
FUNDING and ACADEMIC AWARDS
- Awarded a scholarship by KESS (Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship) to complete research into the digitisation of the Hengwrt Chaucer, MS Peniarth 392D. The award was in the region of £13,500 per annum, with a £5,000 stipendiary grant over the three-year research period.