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H809 Activity 3.6

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013, 11:49

Read the Oliver et al. chapter, but in particular concentrate on the section headed ‘Methodology’ (pp. 30–7). Consider the following questions:

Theories Methods Approaches

To put it simply, what I see is a quest to answer a simple question ‘what is going on here?’ On the basis of observation, dissection, interview, quantification, benchmarking and other methods we hope to come to a view that can be agreed upon. We might say, we don’t know, we might say we have an idea, but these are the problems regarding our stance, or that we have a good idea what is going on and here it is .

Q1 What do each of the various approaches listed highlight?

I only felt that action research and activity theory were covered in enough detail, with the example, outcomes and likely findings to be able to apply them. A list of some nine other approaches were given … as a list. For me they imply, to use a metaphor, that if you head out into the dark you are going to see or uncover different things if you go armed with a torch, a guidebook or a trenching tool, and whether you go alone, with fellow students and/or with experts … ie. whether you are an observer, whether you situate your learning as acquired new insights on the ground, whether you literally get stuck in and/or do any of this with others to converse with - fellow students, those less knowledgeable than yourself or experts of varying degrees.

‘These different epistemological positions have profound implications for how e-learning should be studied’. (Landow, 1997)

Q2. How, if at all, are specific methods (interviews, surveys, focus groups, observation, etc.) and methodological approaches related?

The few methods that the authors elaborate are related through broad categories of social sciences.

They are also related in the sense that the same question is in essence being asked every time, ‘what is going on?’ though the angle of approach can clearly be very different because of the motivations and experience of the person(s) doing the research - and/or potential the politics and criteria of any awarding/funding body of the institution for whom, or where, the research is being carried out.  

They are related because they are all part of something complex, part of the same ‘universe’ of social activity.

I felt as if the chapter would have benefitted enormously from a Venn Diagram as the authors introduced these broad, encompasing theories, then offered a number of subsets and finally as list of some 11 specific methods but they only developed three of these: action research, activity systems and what might be called ‘power theory’. From the list given earlier in the piece I couldn’t find anything more on:

  1. actor network theory
  2. cognitive science
  3. discourse analysis
  4. grounded theory
  5. knowledge engineering
  6. artificial intelligence
  7. literacy
  8. management studies

Traditionally, changes in society and institutions are studied from the perspective of specific social sciences:

  • sociology,
  • social psychology
  • business studies, etc.

Changes in personal knowledge, understanding and skill are studied using

  • the tools of psychology,
  • personal development
  • and educational theory.

Changes in the nature of knowledge itself are studied using

  • the tools of philosophy
  • linguistics
  • media studies
  • critical theory
  • and theories of representation that may
  • include cultural theory and criticism.

Studying the intersection of these – the relationship between people, technology and knowledge – consequently draws in all of these perspectives, as well as new disciplines such as systems theory, instructional design and a field of applied research into the use of technology in education.

Given the complexity of the phenomena under study, there is certainly a need for a wide repertoire of investigative techniques. (Oliver et al . 2007. p 22)

Once represented in a digital form, knowledge can be almost limitlessly disseminated and analysed, re-inscribed, re-applied and re-appropriated. The authority associated with computer-based representations is often hidden and – because of this re-writable quality – may become complicated, referring to multiple ‘designers’, including (in interactive systems, at least in some sense) a system’s user. (Oliver et al. 2007. p 23)

These different epistemological positions have profound implications for how e-learning should be studied. Landow, 1997

Action research Technical, Practical, Emancipatory - and shared. Involves practitioners researching their own educational situations and practices, as a means of improving these. Technical - get in a specialist Practical - observation and focus-group feedback, systematic personal reflection, a couple or more iterations required. Emancipatory - identifying the systemic changes, as well as the changes to individual practice, that need to be made in order to improve specific educational situations. e.g. A quasi-experimental design, comparing the performance of cohorts over time Activity Theory Builds on the work of Vygotsky.  Learning is a social activity mediated through the use of tolls and developed into activity theory. Used like this, activity theory allows researchers to analyse systems and to focus on particular problems within them; this may allow solutions to be proposed. (Oliver et al. 2007. p. 35)

These different epistemological positions have profound implications for how e-learning should be studied.

Uses Positivism The ‘traditional’ hypothetico-deductivist view of reality as being objectively ‘out there’, something that can be posited and then investigated through our senses. Human beings are postulated as rational individuals whose behaviour can be predicted. Constructivism#
A cluster of related positions: -active experimentation (e.g. Papert, 1980),
-social interaction (e.g. Vygotsky, 1986; Wenger, 1998)
-constructed knowledge (e.g. von Glaserfeld, 1993). Ethnomethodological Looking for evidence of human motivation in the narratives and traces left behind in documentary evidence. Involves the researcher inhabiting the lives of those being studied so as to develop an understanding of those lives. Associative People learn through basic stimulus-response conditioning, then later through the capacity to associate concepts in a chain of reasoning, or to associate steps in a chain of activity to build a composite skill. This leads to accuracy of reproduction or recall. Cognitive constructivist People learn by active construction of ideas and building of skills, through exploration, experimentation, receiving feedback, and adapting themselves accordingly. This leads to integration of concepts and skills into the learner’s existing conceptual or competency structures.
Social constructivist People and groups learn with the support of dialogue and in the process of collaborative activity. Situativist

People learn through participation in communities of practice, progressing from novice to expert through observation, reflection, mentorship and legitimate peripheral participation in community activities.
This leads to the development of habits, values, identities and skills that are relevant to and supported by that community. Tacit communitarianism This is the dominant orientation of the corporate management training sectors. Leads to ‘people like us’. A commonsense pedagogy of normalisation that adopts forms from both the social perspective and positivism in order to reproduce a culture through its many tacit codes This leads to knowledge engineering and closed-systems computational approaches such as organisational learning and expert and intelligent systems. The post-theoretical or new critical approach The new critical approach acknowledges conflicts, be they epistemological, virtual or real: social class, gender, theoretical orientation, global economic/energy flows and balances. The approach might be characterised by project- and problem-based learning, applied and action research, and grounded and emergent theoretical approaches situated in communities of practice.


 

 

FURTHER READING

Beetham, H. (2005) ‘What is learning and how do we learn? Introduction to three
types of learning theory’. In Beetham, H. and Roberts, G. (eds.) Introduction to Learning Theory and Design for Learning,Oxford: ALT.

McLuhan, M. (1989) The Medium is the Message, New York, Simon and Schuster.

REFERENCE

Cohen, L., Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2000) Research Methods in Education, 5th edn, London: Routledge Falmer.

Conole, G, & Oliver, M 2006, Contemporary Perspectives In E-Learning Research : Themes, Methods, And Impact On Practice, n.p.: Routledge, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost, viewed 23 February 2013.

De Laat, M., Lally, V. and Lipponen, L. (2005) ‘Teaching online in networked learning communities: a multi-method approach’, Researching dialogue and communities of enquiry in elearning in HE. ESRC E-learning seminar series, Southampton: University of Southampton. Available online at: http://www.wun.ac.uk/elearning/seminars/seminars/seminar_two/seminartwo.html last accessed 30 March 2006.

Kuuti, K (1996) Activity Theory as a framework for potential human-computer interaction research. In Nardi, B. A. (ed) Context and consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-computer interaction.

Landow, G. (1997) Hypertext 2.0: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology, London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Oliver, M. (2001) ‘Evaluating online teaching and learning’, Information Services and Use, 20(2/3), p. 83–94.

 



 

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Design Museum

H800 Wk13 Activity 4b Frankly, Prensky and his lot deserve to be lampooned and satirised

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Oct 2012, 11:41

W 13+14: Activity 4b: Making sense of the student experience

Read Bennett et al. (2008) ‘The “digital natives” debate: a critical review of the evidence’.

As you read consider the following questions:

____________________________________________________________________

What do you understand by the use of the term ‘moral panic’?

Or the ‘immoral panic’, or the lunacy that has academics and politicians jumping on catch-phrases like ‘the Net Generation’ that are totally sensationalist, eye-catching, worthless, unfounded, claptrap.

In fact they are pandering to our base desires, the belief or wish that there is a narrative to our existence that says it is always rubbish now and can be fixed by reading their book, with its oh too neat title.

Here's another soap-box wonder who believed she had the answer to everything:

Mary%20Whitehouse.jpg

Moral panic (Cohen, 1976) … Mary Whitehouse caused many in relation to smut on TV.

There is a pressing need for theoretically informed research – the concept of ‘Digital Natives; is popularist and designed to sell a book(s) and the lecture/consultancy services of the person who coined the phrase, ‘Marc Prensky.’

So what is a ‘moral panic’?

Anything that gets JPF (just plain folk, a John Seely Brown expression I love) feeling anxious, that things on right in their world and the false prophet spouting doom and gloom is also the one with the answers - just follow them! Converts then to rant about this High Priest of the quick fix - Prensky is of course right about everything (just read the pages of gushing enthusiasm that he puts in his books. Try reading them; for a different product much of this would be professionally written to go on the back of a Cornflakes packet). The educational world will be saved from the horrors of the natives gone digital, if we only listen to him (then praise him to the hilt).

The research from Bennett says this about Prensky's thesis:

- Little critical scrutiny

- Undertheorised

- Lack of sound empirical basis

Dangerously Bennett reportsto address this proclaimed challenge, some high-profile commentators are arguing for radical changes in curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and professional in education.’

Marc%20Prensky%20Teaching%20Digital%20Natives%20GRAB.JPG

Prensky and his lot deserve to be lampooned and satirised

Worse, they are given genuine educators working with technology a bad name. Professional educators are on the side of teachers and lecturers creating tools that are convenient, easy, transportable, and hopefully engaging, best of all permitting a large class, or cohort to have some sense of ‘student-centred’ learning through tools that enable a taste of the that priviledged Oxbridge one-to-one tutorial that 800 years on is far from threatened by e-learning and digital everything, indeed it thrives and has become even more precious and valued.

I was suckered into believing Marc Prensky as a naive MAODE student in my first module, H807.

I wanted to believe that Prensky had the answers to everything because I was working in a business in 2000/2001 that wanted clients to believe that if we created immersive, game-like learning online for them their students would teach themselves. Prensky pushed the problem, we offered a response.

This 'Digital Natives' thing is as vacuous as airfreshening devices in the home; it is a marketing gimmic designed to sell a product.

Prensky has no answers, and befuddles it all for us, worse academics have initially picked up his thread and have been terribly slow to get the research done that quite frankly demonstrates the nonsense that has been used to sell Prensky’s books and lecture series.

'Claims are put forward with limited empirical evidence' ( e.g. Tapscott, 1998) or 'supported by anecdotes and appeals to common-sense beliefs' (e.g. Prensky, 2001), who also cites Captain James T Kirk form Star Trek (sic) … as if a fictional character, or the show (rather than its author) should be the one to cite at all.

Were 'Digital Natives' presented as an ECA it might pass, but the feedback would call it 'light' and poorly referenced.

'The reality is complex and diverse', says Bennett not just across a nation, but probably in many classes themselves. It’s as if Prensky and his crew are suggesting that this generation were born with a third eye or six fingers.

(Actually, they are ‘The Simpson’ Generation and we need to worry that they’ll all turn yellow and chop of a finger from each hand).

Can we take seriously an academic writer who cites Star Trek? And references quotes like this? Prenksy says he studied at Princeton and Harvard? What did he study?

Prensky could be, making it up.There is no means to check most of the references, if you can call them that.

I bought 'Educating Digital Natives' it is unacademic twaddle from beginning to end.

It's no better than one of those self-help books you can pick up in an airport.

 

So what is a ‘moral panic’

Anything that gets JPF (just plain folk, a John Seely Brown expression I love) to have a rant … ideally to rant about how this prophet Prensky is right about everything and the educational world will be saved if we only listen to him (then praise him to the hilt).

What does this article suggest to you about the technological determinist thrust of the Net Generation argument?

Academic writers and current research, writing in calm, objective tones (Kennedy, Conole and others) knock flat every piece of ‘hear say’ from these authors for what it is – journalistic, sensationalist nonsense.

I have to question Marc Prensky’s credentials; I simply cannot believe an academic with a Harvard MA could possibly write like this, indeed I want to ask Harvard to confirm that this is the case.

‘The researchers found that only a minority of the students (around 21%) were engaged in creating their own content and multimedia for the Web, and that a significant proportion of students had lower level skills than might be expected of digital natives.’ (Bennett 2008:02)

Kennedy’s research in Australia says it all.

Emerging technologies are NOT the lifeblood of a generation, far from it. Research amongst students in three Australian universities showed that:

  • 21% blog
  • 24% used social networking
  • 21.5% used podcasts

i.e. far from universal in this generation as the self-publicists of ‘Net Generation’, ‘Digital Natives’ or ‘Millennials’ would have us think.

Is there a theoretical or empirical basis to the arguments that are presented using the terms, Net Generation, Digital Natives or Millennials?

None whatsoever.

As Bennett said, we had a go at kids watching too much TV in the past. This is their lives and ours; it is the world as it is today. Nothing whatsoever has changed physiologically or psychologically about us humans, how we develop and grow.

The concept of any generation been universally similar fails to recognise differences related to:

  • Socio-economic status
  • Cultural/ethnic background
  • Gender
  • Discipline specialisation

Internet use by teenagers is far from uniform

  • Widely varying experiences according to children’s school and home backgrounds (Lee, 2005)
  • Family dynamics
  • Level of domestic affluence

Multiskilling claims … are facts that equate to young people at this stage in their developmental processes and is the same today as it was a thousand or ten thousand years ago – ability to work in fine detail, to work on several tasks at the same time.

‘A significant proportion of young people do not have the levels of access or technology skills predicted by proponents of the digital native idea. Such generalisation about a whole generation of young people thereby focuses attention on technically adept students. With this comes the danger that those less ale will be neglected and that the potential impact of socio-economic and cultural factors will be overlooked’. (Bennett, 2008:02)

Although such claims may appeal to our common-sense perceptions of a rapidly changing world, there is no evidence that multi-tasking is a new phenomenon exclusive to digital natives’, (Bennett, 2008:02)

Just because something resonates with our personal observations doesn’t make it so. Frankly, Prensky et al should be stand-up comics – you have to laugh, at their nonsense and how gullible we are to want to believe them.

‘Generalisations about the ways in which digital natives learn also fail to recognise cognitive differences in young people of different ages and variation within age groups.’ (Bennett, 2008:02)

People change their approach according to their perceptions of the task.

  • ‘It is apparent that there is scant evidence to support this idea, and that emerging research challenges notions of a homogenous generation with technical expertise and a distinctive learning style’. (Bennett, 2008:03)
  • ‘Our analysis of the digital native literature demonstrates a clear mismatch between the confidence with which claims are made and the evidence for such claims.’
  • ‘Arguments are often couched in dramatic language, proclaim a profound change in the world, and pronounce stark generational differences’ (Bennett, 2008:03)
  • ‘Such claims with appeals to sense and recognisable anecdotes are used to declare an emergency situation, and call for urgent and fundamental change.’ (Bennett, 2008:04)

The problem is that Prensky is an easy read.

Too many people prefer this than wading through dry, hard-nosed analysis of the truth. The truth? Business as usual. E-learning to education is what a whole raft of tools were to the housewife in the 1950s and 1960s … they make it easier to get the job done. They make life more convenient.

In the case of education it makes realisation, for some, the dream of more student-centred learning, possible.

If there is a generational shift it ought to be that more people are gaining access to an education on their terms. We have moved from a teacher-centred model of teaching (Kember, 1997) … which only existed/exists of necessity (not everyone has ever been wealthy to give their children a personal governess then tutor) … to supporting students’ active learning, the student-centred model (Gibbs, 1995).

If there is, what do you think are the key features of this change in generations?

How might these changes affect education?

Did serendipity bring me to this?

'An evaluation of students' perceptions and engagement with e-learning components in a campus based university'. (2011) Afam Ituma

All your answers to the MAODE in eight pages.

 

 

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