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Invited Keynote at ICTE 2019

October 21, 2019

George Magoulas was keynote speaker at the 6th Conference on Information and Communication Technologies in Education, organised by the Hellenic Scientific Association for Information and Communication Technologies in Education (ΕΤPΕ), Greece (, 18-20 October 2019.

The talk focused on the capabilities and challenges of AI-supported educational systems. Using examples from research projects developed at the Birkbeck Knowledge Lab he presented a synergistic approach combining software engineering, artificial intelligence methods, and pedagogical strategies to enhance the interaction between students, teachers and educational software and design personalised user experiences for technology-enhanced learning.


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Research visit at Hong Kong University on Learning Technologies

August 12, 2019

George Magoulas visited the Faculty of Education at the University of Hong Kong hosted by Professor Maggie Minhong Wang. During his visit, he talked to research students and faculty members about research conducted at the Birkbeck Knowledge Lab. The first talk on 2nd August was on intelligent components for interactive learning environments that adopt constructionist learning, and covered requirements analysis, architectural aspects, modelling techniques, and applications development using examples from Birkbeck Knowledge Lab projects. The second talk on 9th August was on the design of digital tools for learning design, and focused on ongoing work that aims to explore learning design software tools and how learning design challenges are shaped through the interplay between the intentions of the learning designers and the digital technologies used for learning design and creation.

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Presentations on interdisciplinary research at Digital Scholarship Symposium

June 06, 2019

George Magoulas and Alex Poulovassilis participated in several talks at the International Symposium on Digital Scholarship held 3-5 June at the Fordham University London Centre. The talks covered work at the Birkbeck Knowledge Lab on developing intelligent tools for instructional design, designing awareness tools for teachers in exploratory learning settings, and designing knowledge bases to support the research of Humanities scholars. We also co-presented collaborative research being undertaken with Fordham University and other partners on using digital learning platforms to enhance wellbeing education and to increase levels of evidence-based practices in teacher education programs.

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BKL takes part in 24-hour Virtual World Tour on the Future of Work

December 05 , 2018

BKL researchers participated on 4th December in a Virtual World Tour on the Future of Work, as one of twelve globally distributed research institutions presenting their work via livestreaming. The topic of our 2-hour session was Artificial Intelligence in Education and Work.

The presenters were George Magoulas, Co-Director of the Birkbeck Knowledge Lab; Kontantinos Karoudis, BKL researcher; Mark Levene, Head of Birkbeck’s Department of Computer Science & Information Systems; and Martyn Harris, Manager of the Institute of Coding at Birkbeck.  After a brief Introduction to Birkbeck and the Birkbeck Knowledge Lab by BKL Director, Alex Poulovassilis, there followed two video presentations:

The first presentation was on AI in Learning and Teaching. George Magoulas began by introducing the challenges involved in providing personalised intelligent support to learners during online learning tasks and possible technology approaches.  He then talked about the challenges of supporting teachers in creating and sharing learning designs and the role of ontological modelling in capturing the learning designs being created by a community of teachers. Konstantinos Karoudis concluded this first presentation by proposing a new pedagogy-driven framework for supporting personalised lifelong learning, spanning formal and informal learning, both online and offline. Learner modelling is at core of the framework, and he proposed the use of the Experience API and distributed ledger technology to implement the framework.

The second presentation was on Putting AI to Work. Mark Levene began by introducing research in the department in AI, focussing particularly on work in data science and knowledge representation. He moved on to introduce the new courses in Data Science available at Birkbeck, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.  Martyn Harris continued with a discussion of the aims of the new Institute of Coding and Birkbeck's role in delivering blended learning courses to meet the evolving digital skills needs of workers and more broadly the general public. He moved on to showcase research in two BKL projects aiming to support the work of Digital Humanities scholars: the SAMTLA API which can be used for tagging and searching digital archives; and the SAMTLA holographic user interface which allows access to digital archives through speech and gestures.

Both presentations were followed by a lively discussion session taking questions from the audience and covering the curricular, technical, ethical and diversity concerns of AI’s role in education and work.



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Talk at the Alan Turing Institute on Designing Knowledge Bases for the Humanities

Nov 19, 2018


Alex Poulovassilis gave a talk on 8th November at the Alan Turing Institute on the challenges of designing specialist knowledge bases to support the work of Humanities scholars. These challenges arise from issues such as: the lack of existing ontologies or datasets upon which to base the design of the new knowledge base; the evolution of the humanities experts' conceptual models as new data is incrementally identified, gathered and integrated; and the evolution of their requirements for the search and analysis tools to be supported by the new knowledge base. The talk focussed particularly on our experiences at the Birkbeck Knowledge Lab in collaborating on two AHRC-funded research projects: Weaving Communities of Practice and Mapping Museums.

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Live recreation of WW2 message decryption

Oct 02, 2018


Roger Johnson, Emeritus Reader in Computer Science at Birkbeck and Secretary of the UK Computer Conservation Society organised the Enigma Roadshow at the 2018 IFIP World Computer Congress in Poznan, Poland. A message encrypted using an Enigma simulator was sent from Poznan to the Bombe Gallery at The National Museum of Computing, Bletchley Park, and was decrypted live using the Bombe Rebuild. Sir Dermot Turing, nephew of Alan Turing, and several other experts gave a series of lectures, including on an exciting new Enigma Centre being opened in 2020 in Poznan aimed at encouraging young people to get involved in IT, cryptography and cybersecurity. There was much media coverage on Polish TV and Roger Johnson also gave a radio interview to the BBC.

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Web Developer/Researcher Post on the Mapping Museums project

Jun 04, 2018


A vacancy is available for a Web Developer/Researcher to join the AHRC-funded Mapping Museums project on 1st October 2018. The post is full-time for 12 months and will involve designing and developing a high-quality website to showcase the project and its outputs, working with other members of the interdisciplinary research team, which combines expertise from the arts and humanities, computer science, and social sciences.

The application deadline is 24th June. Full details of the post and how to apply.

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Research Workshop on Humanities, Social Sciences and Computing, March 2017

Alex Poulovassilis co-chaired with Filippo De Vivo a workshop exploring research intersections between the Humanities, Social Sciences and Computing. Speakers from the Birkbeck Knowledge Lab and Birkbeck’s School of Arts and School of Social Sciences, History & Philosophy presented interdisciplinary research in three sessions:

  • GIS and digital mapping
  • Digital archives and Cultural heritage
  • Text mining, social media and analytics

In the first session Matthew Davies talked about digital mapping of London’s history, Jennifer Baird and Rebecca Darley discussed the curation of archaeological digital images, and Andrea Ballatore presented spatio-temporal modelling and analysis of Futurist cultural activity in Italy.

In the second session, Filippo de Vivo discussed the challenges of digitising historical archives, utilising the indexes and inventories created by the archivists at the time, Luciana Martins presented the Digital Amazon Research programme and Brodie Waddell described the challenges of digitising and cataloguing tens of thousands of documents comprising several hundred years of petitions and supplications, and the potential of crowd-sourced transcription and text mining.

In the third session, Martyn Harris described the SAMTLA digital infrastructure that provides domain-independent tools for search and textual analysis of digital text data, Scott Rodgers discussed mixing big data analytics and “small data” qualitative analysis for topic and sentiment modelling, and Alessandro Provetti discussed techniques for automated analysis of online readers’ reading, sharing and reviewing patterns.

After each session a plenary discussion was co-chaired by Alex Poulovassilis and Filippo De Vivo, at which common threads between our disciplines were identified and discussed, focussing particularly on the challenges of digitising information in ways that allow it to be effectively searched, analysed and visualised so as to extract value and insights.

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Birkbeck a member of the new Institute of Coding - Academic Staff Vacancies

Mar 16, 2018


Birkbeck is a member of the newly announced Institute of Coding, where we will be contributing our expertise in computing and interdisciplinary research, and our experiences of widening participation in higher education, with the aim of equipping people of all backgrounds with the skills needed to succeed in the global digital economy.

BKL's Martyn Harris, lead researcher on the Samtla project, has been appointed as IoC manager at Birkbeck. There are currently two additional academic staff vacancies to support the IoC's work: a Lecturer A/B, and a Senior Lecturer post.

Martyn states, "The UK currently has a skills gap that is preventing us from fully utilising the digital economy through data analytics, but also addressing the increasing need for expertise in cyber security, and artificial intelligence. This may be the first time we see such a large coordinated effort made by a consortium of universities and industry leaders to bring innovative part time and full time degrees, short courses, and online training to anyone, and everyone. I am excited to be a part of this, and look forward to working with everyone at Birkbeck and beyond to deliver a substantial contribution to the IoC".

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First results from the Mapping Museums project: UK museum openings & closures 1960-2017

Mar 12, 2018

Dr Jamie Larkin reports on the first research findings from the AHRC-funded Mapping Museums project. Following a year-long data collection effort covering some 4000 museums, the first analysis has been undertaken of the patterns of museum openings and closures since 1960, finding that museum closures are rising more steeply now than at any point since 1960, and that this is mainly due to a decline in the number of state run museums whereas the number of independent museums is growing.


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Runner Up Prize for SAMTLA at British Library Labs Competition

Mar 07, 2018

Mark Levene, Dell Zhang and Martyn Harris were awarded the research runner-up prize at the 2017 British Library Labs Competition for their work on Samtla. This annual competition looks at transformative project ideas that utilise the British Library’s digital collections in original and creative ways.  Samtla (Search and Mining Tools for Labelling Archives) “is a web-based domain-specific research environment for digital humanities, which we created in response to a lack of flexible tools for in-depth research of historic texts” says Martyn Harris.  Samtla models the morphology of a language by using a character-based model, which describes the syntax of the language.  This opens up new possibilities for exploring previously unsearchable specialist sources, in many different languages.  Samtla can provide search over the full spectrum of human culture recorded in written form, without the need to develop specialised software for each specific archive or language.

Samtla includes text mining tools that help researchers to discover historic documents through keyword and phrase search, and corpus browsing through metadata and named entity data extracted from the text.  The difference, states Martyn, is that unlike “the most popular general-purpose web search engines like Google and Bing, Samtla is a language-independent framework that features approximate phrase search and document comparison, which makes it flexible to how people search, as well as how authors express themselves through linguistic devices”.  

The Samtla research team is composed of computer scientists, historians, and linguists who have collaborated to provide a universal platform for mining and analysing text corpora that have remained largely inaccessible to date due to a lack of flexiblity in current large-scale search and labelling approaches. Having successfully deployed Samtla over a number of modern and historic collections, including the Aramaic Magic Bowls from Late Antiquity (Southampton University), the Finacial Times Historic Archive (British Library), and the UK Medical Heritage Library (Wellcome Trust), they plan to continue to work closely with researchers to develop further tools that complement existing research methods, whilst helping researchers to access and analyse original sources.



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Research on Exploratory Learning Visualisation

Nov 7, 2017


Birkbeck Knowledge Lab research on visualising students' progress and changing affective states during exploratory learning tasks was presented at the 18th  International Conference on Artificial Intelligece in Education (AIED 2017) and the 10th International Conference on Educational Data Mining (EDM 2017), in two articles:

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Two Conference Keynote talks on Knowledge Graph querying

Jun 27, 2017

Alex Poulovassilis gave invited Keynotes at ICFCA 2017 and FQAS 2017 on supporting users' querying of Knowledge Graphs. Semantic web and information extraction technologies are enabling the creation of vast knowledge repositories that store information about entities and the relationships between them. However, users are unlikely to be familiar with the full structure and content of such datasets and may need to be assisted by tools that support interactive exploration and flexible querying. 

Research at the Birkbeck Knowledge Lab is investigating techniques for automatic approximation and relaxation of users' queries over knowledge graphs, with the aim of correcting users' erroneous queries, finding additional relevant answers, and generating new queries which may return unexpected results and bring new insights.  We are also researching techniques for facilitating users' meaning-making from query results, with the aim of allowing users to incrementally query, explore, and learn from large complex knowledge graphs. 

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New Wellcome Trust project in Medical Digital Humanities

Jun 15, 2017

Funding has been awarded by the Wellcome Trust for a six month-project to extend the Samtla system to medical archives, specifically the UK Medical Heritage archive, which represents a highly variable collection of primary source material in different media, time periods, and languages.  The project represents a new form of interdisciplinary collaboration, involving medical humanities researchers interested in adopting digital tools for exploring medical archives, to enable them to acquire a broader understanding of the depth and breadth of information stored in medical archives held by the Wellcome Trust.

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Birkbeck Excellence in Teaching Award for Sergio Gutierrez-Santos

Jun 8, 2017

Sergio Gutierrez-Santos, Senior Lecturer at the Birkbeck Knowledge Lab, has won the Birkbeck Excellence in Teaching Award for his innovations aimed at empowering and developing the autonomy of students' programming. Dr. Gutierrez-Santos says: 'My students do not spend much time in the class listening to me talking, they do that online at home. When they come to the class, they come to work like software engineers do; and I am there to support them as they evolve from programming novices solving easy tasks to competent programmers who can tackle problems taken directly from the real world'.

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Highly Commended Paper on Teachers' Attitudes to Use of Evidence in Teaching and Learning

Jun 7, 2017

An article on “Un-rational behaviour? What causes discrepancies between teachers' attitudes towards evidence use and actual instances of evidence use in schools?” by Dell Zhang and Chris Brown (UCL IOE) published in Journal of Educational Administration has been selected as a Highly Commended paper in the 2017 Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence. See

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New MRC-funded PhD studentship on Deep Neural Network Architectures for Clinical Data Analysis

Jun 6, 2017

Professor George Magoulas has been awarded an MRC-funded PhD studentship with Professors Michael Thomas and Mark Johnson (Department of Psychological Sciences) to investigate the use of deep neural network architectures for predicting clinical outcomes from EEG data collected from infants at risk of familial neurodevelopmental disorders. Applications to this studentship are being  coordinated by the UCL-Birkbeck MRC Doctoral Training Programme

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18-month Postdoctoral Researcher post on the Mapping Museums project

Nov 3, 2016

A vacancy is available for a Postdoctoral Researcher post on the AHRC-funded "Mapping Museums" project. We are seeking to appoint a computer scientist with a PhD in data management to work on this exciting interdisciplinary project starting 1st March 2017. The postholder will be a member of a broader interdisciplinary team and will be collaborating with domain experts in museum studies to research, design and implement a knowledge base relating to independent museums in the UK, as well as a range of visualisations enabling exploration of the data from the domain experts' different perspectives.

The application deadline is 27th November 2016. Full details of the post and how to apply.

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Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

Oct 25, 2016

BKL’s George Roussos led a session on 11th October on editing Wikipedia where participants learned how to create and update Wikipedia entries, focussing particularly on the coverage of women scientists in this encyclopaedia.  The event was part of the Ada Lovelace Day celebrations at Birkbeck organised by our Athena Swan committee. Ada Lovelace Day aims to encourage more girls to consider STEM careers and to support women already working in STEM subjects. 

Wikipedia Edit-a-thon 1    Wikipedia Edit-a-thon 2

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Presentations on Learning Design at ICSLE 2016 and ICWL 2016

Oct 12, 2016


Birkbeck Knowledge Lab research on Learning Design was presented at the 3rd International Conference on Smart Learning Environments in Tunis, September 2016, and the 15th International Conference on Web-based Learning in Rome, October 2016, in three articles:

A new paper has also been accepted to the Informatics journal:

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R-Ladies London

Oct 5, 2016

The Department of Computer Science at Birkbeck hosted an R-Ladies London meet-up on 2nd August.
R-Ladies London aims to encourage women's careers in STEM, with a focus on software development and R coding in particular. More information.

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New project in Learning Analytics

Oct 1, 2016

A new PhD studentship funded by the Bloomsbury Colleges will be investigating data analysis and visualisation techniques to expose the learning processes in project-based learning scenarios.  More information.

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Award for MSc Learning Technologies student

Sep 11, 2016

Veronica Cucuiat, who is completing her Masters in Learning Technologies, received the People’s Choice award at the London Hopper Colloquium 2016. More information.

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£1million research grant from AHRC to map UK's museums

Jun 14, 2016

Dr Fiona Candlin
, Reader in Museum Studies, and Prof Alex Poulovassilis, Director of the Birkbeck Knowledge Lab, have been awarded £1,012,460 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a new project to map and analyse the emergence, character and development of the UK independent museums sector from 1960-2020. More information.

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Research presentations at LAK 2016

Apr 29, 2016

Birkbeck Knowledge Lab research had a strong presence at the 6th International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge in Edinburgh, April 2016, with three papers being presented reporting on ongoing collaborative research into providing intelligent support for students and teachers on online learning environments: