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Teenagers doing physics with the intervention of a computer to prompt discussion: a paper reviewed

In the abstract we are told that ‘Although ICT resources are commonly expected to produce uniform benefits’ Tolmie (2001) Are they? And that, ‘they are necessarily employed within pre-existing contexts of educational and social activity’. Tolmie (2001)

When and where could a context NOT be pre-existing?? Something is, or is not. Context is an absolute.

Rather, what is that specific context. Otherwise this is tautology. It is like saying that electricity pylons go into an existing landscape. Isn’t this stating the obvious so that a gullible audience nod in agreement?

Tolmie (2001) talks of ‘unexpectedly diverse effects’. Unexpectedly or diverse? Surely not both.

Is this not something of an exaggeration? And in any case, such diverse responses should be either expected, or not presumed either way to be likely or unlikely to happen. It is very dangerous to pre-empt findings.

I visualise the introduction of new technology such as this as drops of ink in a pool of water in a stream  – it has to compete with the mix that is already there, as well as its natural flow and other behaviours – leaking away into the land and evaporation for a start.

My conclusion based on reading the abstract is to: Think people above all else. Internal and external contexts are fluid and based on responses too and feelings.

It is all complex, and more to do with the brains of the individuals than simply their context . Everything can and should be measured in some way, from an agreed benchmark, to monitor, track then analyse. It is far more complex.

Take any class, habituated by the classroom, the people around us and the pattern and behaviour of the teacher … especially on a warm Friday afternoon, no wonder the mind wanders. Just because a person is physically in a classroom, even participating in a task, does not mean that much is going in if they are dreaming of the weekend or Fiona Henderson from the girl’s school down the road …

The expression ‘oversimplified’ used by Tolmie (2001)  is a) hyperbole b) a value judgment.

Better ‘simplified’, preferably qualification of the term – simplified as in ‘clipped or contained’ that parameters are created because of the remit of the funding process. You are not able to ‘look outside the box’ as only that which takes place in the box is funded. There needs to be some of one and some of the other – research based on ‘tackling circumscribed needs’ while at the same time research that has an open brief and is open ended – that stands back to see the wood for the trees, rather than, to continue the metaphor, to examine only one kind of tree in the woods in order to avert the ‘mentality of one-stop resources’ mentioned by Oliver & Conole (1998)

How else do you address improving a situation other than by identifying the problems?

Anything else is misguided (literally), or indulgent. Far worse, in the NHS, and Post Office and Banking System have been wholesale computing systems that really were alien and universal.

Change management. Everyone has a point. Time to listen and involves matters most. The psychology of innovation. Resistance is despised. (Robinson et al., 1998)

Making the wrong assumptions that blame the teachers rather than the technology – which is a catalyst for complexity, rather than a tool for conformity.

Evaluation work also rarely does more than examine the explicitly intended effects of ICT, and so fails to identify unintended or serendipitous repercussions that may actually be a critical aspect of its impact (Jones, 1998).

But the entire point and context of an exam is to remove such context in the surroundings by placing the student in ‘exam conditions’ in a neutral space, where parameters of time and context are controlled and aim to be common to other students and impartial.

Surroundings mean different things to different people. It is naive and deterministic to think that people are so easily governed by their context. The individual over the surroundings. Unless we think students are like a uniform tribal grouping.

I’m through the reading and taking it further – reading the original paper to see if my concerns and amusement are justified.

I find the gender difference uninsightful and unhelpful – we know this anyway. Men and woman are different physiologically – which includes the brain where there are various documented differences especially between the differing amount of grey and white matter and the concentration of neurones and close connections in women compared to men. But the differences between men and women are not black and white (and their are not racial differences whatsoever) … within these differences there is considerable variety.

Now add each person’s context – which for me starts a few months after conception and every possible influence since – the same chaos theory that says that when a butterfly beats its wings in the Brazilian Jungle there is a typhoon in Malaysia will suggest that that marshmallow your grandmother gave you on Christmas day when you were six while watching Jimmy Saville introduce the Chart Show will influence how you respond to the 14 year old boy you have been paired up with in a physics class who offers you a handful of mini-marshmallows by way of ‘making friends’ who in turn is nervous about this strange but beautiful creature who he hasn’t noticed all year but rather fancies even though his older brother has his eye on her – what was that the teacher said checking the trajectory of your balls on the computer ?????

The wrong approach was taken, though the theory throws up some interesting questions

I will change my opinion as I go through my notes but my current stance is that a quantitative before and after study requires many hundreds of participants in a randomised controlled trial and the gender differences are a distraction – far better to have administered questionnaires before and after and drawn upon each students SATS results or some such to get some sense of where they were coming from in relation to physics.

More interesting pairings would be like-minds and enemies – really. A couple of buddies having a laugh might learn less than a pair who can’t stand each other, or another pair who are rivals.

Have I been watching too many teen movies? Probably.

Already I have a script in my head based on Tolmie in which far from being the less talkative, the FM pairs are chatting away to themselves (in their heads, written and delivered as stream of consciousness voice over), communicating in subtle ways through body language and as a result actually communicating more, not less than the ones who won’t shut up – and who may be playing up to the research conditions.

This is the other fundamental humdinger of a problem – these students are being tested under ‘lab conditions’.

My memories of teenager physics classes are more akin to St.Trinian’s with boys. I even have a diary to call upon which I may look at just to get me into the role. I have a household of teenagers and another five nephews and nieces in this age bracket if I need to be reminded of what it is (and was) like.

Oddly enough, work is often the last thing on their minds. Which is why homework is so important – fewer potential distractions.

This will be less than hearsay in due course – I am also refreshing what it was and is like to be a teenager through some additional reading. Problem is my daughter senses that I am observing her from time to time.

I’m just asking myself the same question I asked when she was born, ‘what is going on in there?’ – but in a quasi-academic rather than father-daughter way.

Researchers make the mistake of believing that their intervention – in this case using a computer to support a physics class by trying to prompt discussion – is going to make some measurable difference.

Can they not see the bigger picture, and how vast it is?

If each human brain has as many neurons in it as the visible galaxy – 98 billion, and each brain though similar, is connected in different ways, by gender but essentially by genetics, with every remembered moment of waking and sleeping life in between. This is why, to have something measurable, researchers taken to the lab and until recently would have stuck with sea-snails, rats and in the past cats and primates … while gradually observation and measurement of electro-chemical activity in the human brain has become possible.

When it comes to exams surely examiners know that the response to a unique set of questions in an exam, certainly at undergraduate level, if not at post compulsory level, will test the student’s ability to construct a response both from what they know, and what they have to surmise.

REFERENCE

Jones, C. 1998 Evaluating a collaborative online learning environment Active Learning

Oliver, M. & Conole, G. (1998) Evaluating communication and information technologies: a toolkit for practitioners. Active Learning, 8,3–8.

Robinson, H., Smith, M., Galpin, F., Birchall, D., Turner, I. (1998) As good as IT gets: have we reached the limits of what technology can do for us? Active Learning, 9, 50–53.

Tolmie, A. (2001), Examining learning in relation to the contexts of use of ICT. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17: 235–241. doi: 10.1046/j.0266-4909.2001.00178.

Dreams in the digital ocean

Breaking Waves and Pelican

Breaking Waves and Pelican (Photo credit: Bill Gracey)

I’ve described it as a digital ocean often enough so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found myself in it. That was a couple of nights ago.

Writing to a colleague with a mixture of excitement and concern I told them why they had to take an interest in Web 2.0. I explained that there would be an impact on the Pharmaceutical industry – she works in medical market research interviewing then analysing qualitative data and writing reports. I had written the sentence, ‘do you want to get on your surf board or get washed out in the ripe tide?’ when I visualised myself back in this dream.

I can use lucid dreams deliberately to help me dwell on matters, or just for the fun of it.

I remember being able to go back into dreams having woken up age 11 or so at boarding school: Beamish Dormitory, Mowden Hall School. I may have only been 10. I was in a three musketeers sword fight, three against one. I was killed. I woke and returned in the dream behind the three attackers. In my teens I found a book on it and learnt a few tricks to ‘find’ a dream or two from the night before and then some decades later I found a list of some 27 questions I could subject myself too if I really wished to get a sense of what was going on.

Today it is usually swift and automatic; I know that the dream, its location and events, are a projection of how I feel about an issue. After a couple of months of total immersion in Web 2.0 (Open University Masters in Open & Distance Education, OLDs MOOC) reading and coursework and trying to plan a long term future in this environment I started to find myself in the water.

The beach at Mawgan Porth, Cornwall seems to the spot, probably because for the first time ever in my life I got caught in the rip last summer. Had I not taken a pull-buoy out as a precaution I would have certainly been in trouble as my stomach and back cramped. (I’m a former competitive swimmer gone to seed – its ten years since I did a triathlon). It was a shock to find myself heading down the coast and looking inland for all intense and purposes as if from a bus window that was on its way.

In the dream though, I had a sense of both nerves and excitement at being in the waves just before they broke – my preference however was to get out beyond them.

What I take from this is the need to be adequately prepared – fit for the water and armed with a surf-board (if only to sit on it), even to have something to wave to get the lifeguards’ attention. An observer, and player, beyond the waves, suggests to me research.

This is my digital landscape visualised.

The flotsam and jetsam of old practices get washed away or left on the shore. The ‘players’ creating content in e-learning agencies and departments are on this breaking edge, where the oceans makes landfall.

 

The Digital Brain – envisaged at the Design Museum

Fig. 1. A mash-up in Picasa of a 3D laser generated image generated at the Design Museum during their ‘Digital Crystal’ exhibition.

The image exists and is transformed by the presence of the observer in front of a Kinex device making this a one-off and an expression or interpretation of that exact moment.

‘Working with dreams’ and ‘Keeping a dream journal’ are taught creative problem solving techniques at the Open University Business School. I did B822 ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’ in 2012 (Henry et al 2010). I have the problem solving toolkit. I even got a hardback copy of VanGundy’s book on creative problem solving.

Using your unconscious isn’t difficult. Just go to bed early with a ‘work’ related book and be prepared to write it down when you stir.

I woke soon after 4.00am.

I’d nodded off between 9.30 and 11.30 so feel I’ve had my sleep.

Virtual bodies for first year medical students to work on, an automated mash-up of your ‘lifelog’ to stimulate new thinking and the traditional class, lecture and university as a hub for millions – for every student you have in a lecture hall you have 1000 online.

Making it happen is another matter.

I’m writing letters and with far greater consideration working on a topic or too for research.

“Nights through dreams tell the myths forgotten by the day.” — C.G. Jung (Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

How to work with a dream or metaphorical image:

  • Enter the dream
  • Study the dream
  • Become the images
  • Integrate the viewpoints
  • Rework the dream

Appreciating, reflecting, looking forward and emerging

REFERENCE

Glouberman, D. (1989) Life Choices and Life Changes Through Imagework, London, Unwin, pp. 232-6

Henry, J., Mayle, D., Bell, R., Carlisle, Y. Managing Problems Creatively (3rd edn) 2010. The Open University.

Isaacson, W. (2011) Steve Jobs. Little Brown.

VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of structured problem solving (2nd edn), New York: Van Nostran Reinhold.

 

 

 

Why blog – 21 good reasons, 1 bad … Lilia Efimova from her PhD thesis on the subject

Reboot9 First Day 36: Lilia Efimova

 

Fig.1. Dr. Lilia Efimova 

‘As with writing, blogging is not simply formulating in words an idea already developed in one’s mind. It is also about connecting, developing and redefining half-baked ideas. When writing, I often go through the weblog archives to explore connections with what is already there. Reading and rereading what I wrote before shapes and changes what I’m about to write: I often find something unexpected or see patterns only in retrospect’. Efimova (2009. p 70)

  1. Somewhere to “park” emerging insights until the moment they are needed. Efimova (2009. p 75)
  2. Doesn’t require much effort
  3. Somewhere to park ideas
  4. Reading and engaging with others to become aware of issues and themes
  5. Topics accumulate and connections grew and things become clearer.
  6. A set of sense-making practices
  7. “Everyday grounded theory” Efimova (2009. p. 75)
  8. Connecting multiple fragments
  9. Getting into the writing flow
  10. Strengthened by readers’ feedback
  11. A channel for distribution
  12. Publication additional motivation to document emergent ideas
  13. A legitimate place to share thinking in progress
  14. -ve when the need is to be extremely selective and focused. Efimova (2009. p. 80)
  15. To collect in one place the fragmented bits relevant to my thinking Efimova (2009. 3.5.4)
  16. Clusters of conversations
  17. Conversations unfolding
  18. A personal space and a community space simultaneously.
  19. A personal narrative used to articulate and to organise one’s own thinking. (conversation with self. p 90?) around 4.3
  20. An example of hypertext conversation. Efimova (2009. p. 129)
  21. Weblogs provide a space that helps both to develop one’s own point of view and discuss it with others.
  22. Bloggers present their ideas to the world, readers learn from them. Efimova (2009. p. getting things done. staying in touch)

REFERENCE

Efimova, L. (2009) Passion at work: blogging practices of knowledge workers. Novay PhD Research Series 2009 (www.novay.nl.dissertations)

 

Reading – nothing quite beats it, does it?

Fig. 1. This week’s reading – almost. I’ve got the stack by the bed too, which includes ‘The Gutenberg Galaxy Marshall McLuhan (half way through) and ‘The Shallows’ Nicholas Carr – which I read wearing boxing gloves to resist removing the pages.

Here we see:

Passion at work: blogging practices of knowledge workers. The 2009 doctoral thesis of Lilia Efimova – who, naturally, has a wonderful blog.

Spaced education improves the retention of clinical knowledge by medical students: a randomised controlled trial. (2009) B Price Kerfoot, William deWolf, Barbara Masser, Paul Church and Daniel Federman – try QStream to get a flavour of this, then read a dozen papers from Dr Kerfoot.

The Music of Business (2013) – Peter Cook. Business with rock playing. He’s an Open University Business School MBA Alumnus, former Tutor on ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’ a module I did early in 2012.  Should be fun.

In Search of Memory : the emergence of a New Science of Mind (2006) Eric Kandel. I may not be about to study neuroscience of psychology but this may help get my head in the right intellectual space.

Delete : The virtue of forgetting in the digital age (2009) Viktor Mayer-Schonberger. Of the Oxford Internet Institute. On my second read as my interest is in memory and what I consider to be an infinite capacity to learn and gain more knowledge. I know it’s just a film but I do rather think that if we could live forever our minds wouldn’t let us down (Groundhog Day).

Using Computer-based Text Analysis to Integrate Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Research on Collaborative Learning. (2010) Wegerif and Mercer.  As part of the module H809. Already read, reviewed, dissected and taken notes.

A map to get to the University of Southampton Highfield campus from Southampton Central Station.

Your Research PhD (2005) Nicholas Walliman – I’m sure I’ve read more of this than the Kindle suggests, though it must just be very long.

Authoring a PhD: how to plan draft, write and finish a doctoral thesis or dissertation. (2003) Patrick Dunleavy. I’m following the instructions to the letter.  From these two books I’ve drawn up a ‘plan’ on a sheet of A1 paper. I need a bigger sheet, so I’ll double these up or use wallpaper backing paper to plot the detail. I’ve got my head around RefWorks and have a healthy collection of papers to read, usually picking of a couple each day.

H809 Practice-based Research in Educational Technology. Only week 2. This is making me approach anything I read with enormous care. Courtesy of Google it doesn’t take long to track down the authors – I like to know what they have written since simply to get a perspective on where their career has gone or is going. Not the guide that is recommended to judge a paper but when faced with a list of potential papers on the same topic I hope I pick out the authority based on institution and their CV.

Just read:

Evidence for Delayed Parafoveal-on-Foveal Effects From Word n2 in Reading (2012) Sarah Risse and Reinhold Kliegl – A remarkable read, even if it takes a microscope to a piece of text and how we read. Fascinating. 

While still reading:

The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) Marshall McLuhan

The Timeless Way of Building (1972) Christopher Alexander

and about to attack

The Shallows (2009) Nicholas Carr

 

Just what is qualitative research?

I stumbled upon this paper which looked rather handy in relation to qualitative and quantitative research.

Qualitative Research

Research begins at the other end, pursues patterns of cause and effect by replicating possible experiments in controlled settings …

Quantitative Research

Investigates a priori hypotheses, examines what people are doing and how they interpret what is occurring …

The understanding and use of the information is a social phenomenon defined by time, place, persons, and events. These understandings were unearthed through the ethnographic, qualitative process. (Morse, 1984)

Interviews, generally open ended, usually included (Morse, 1994):

  1. experience-behavior questions,
  2. opinion-value questions,
  3.  probes of the interviewee’s feelings,
  4. requests for factual information,
  5.  sensory types of questions, such as what the interviewee saw or heard, 6) background-demographic queries,
  6. time-frame questions. I wanted the interview to help me understand the situation from the perspective of the interviewee.

(Biklen & Moseley, 1988; Goetz & LeCompte, 1984; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Patton, 1983; Spradley, 1980; Stainback & Stainback, 1988).

“The fundamental principle of qualitative interviewing is to provide a framework within which respondents can express their understandings in their own terms” . (Patton, 1983, p. 205).

Naturalistic Research Paradigm

To ensure that I did not impose my bias on the information, I corroborated my findings by triangulation–the convergence and analysis of multiple data sources. (Morse 1994)

My awareness of myself as an influence is a basic principle in qualitative research (Blumer, 1969; Bogdan & Biklen, 1982; Goffman, 1959; Guba, 1985; Miller, 1982; Perinbanayagam, 1985a, 1985b; Spradley, 1980; Stainback & Stainback, 1988; Strauss, 1987). (Morse 1994)

Qualitative research tools as triangulations, notes, and transcripts are empty exercises until and unless the people–the focus of the research–trust the researcher. (Morse 1994)

Therefore, conducting qualitative research is like walking into the wilderness: Some trails are well trodden, whereas others not visible at first sight. The map, which helps a group to decide which forks to take, becomes clearer as each person interviewed and observed along the path suggests turns to take. In keeping with the principles of qualitative research, I saw myself as a catalyst to help people put their thoughts into words. As a consequence, I felt an obligation to go with the paths they suggested, even when these differed from ones I wished to explore. The choice was always dictated by my interactions with the participants in the study and by their perceptions and their concerns.

Truth “comes not from the thing itself but rather from the interpretation given to it by a person” (Stainback & Stainback, 1988).

FURTHER READING

International Journal of Qualitative Methods

REFERENCE

Agostinho, S. (2004). Naturalistic inquiry in e-learning research. International Journal of Qualitative methods, 4(1), Article 2. Retrieved [insert date] from http://www.ualberta.ca/~iiqm/backissues/ 4_1/pdf/agostinho.pdf

Lincoln, Y. & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

(From Amazon on this frequently cited ‘bible’ Naturalistic Inquiry provides social scientists with a basic but comprehensive rationale for non-positivistic approaches to research. It confronts the basic premise underlying the scientific tradition that all questions can be answered by employing empirical, testable, replicable research techniques. The authors maintain that there are scientific `facts’ that existing paradigms cannot explain, and argue against traditional positivistic inquiry. They suggest an alternative approach supporting the use of the `naturalistic’ paradigm.)

Morse, MT 1994, ‘Just what is qualitative research? One practitioner’s experience’, Journal Of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 88, 1, p. 43, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 February 2013

Stainback, S. & Stainback, W. (1988). Understanding and conducting qualitative research. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Wiggins, BJ 2011, ‘Confronting the dilemma of mixed methods’, Journal Of Theoretical And Philosophical Psychology, 31, 1, pp. 44-60, PsycARTICLES, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 February 2013.

 

OLD MOOC 2013 – ‘Multimedia is part of being digitally literate’

A very important point I picked up in the OLD MOOC 2013 – and for a number of reasons.

Students, to some degree, come to higher education with some, reasonable or even a good deal of exposure to and use of multimedia online – they shoot video on webcams or digital SLRs, the edit content they find online, they post, cut and mashup images constantly to such a degree that you wonder if their language is non-verbal, like hieroglyphs for the 21st century if you follow the streams of images they collect and share in the likes of Tumblr. But, some will have this has a digital literacy and form of entertainment, some will have done things in class, others might make short films or animations, while others have had little or no exposure at all.

Perhaps therefore a cohort of students have to be treated as a group from all over the world for whom ‘multimedia’ is a second or foreign language.

I’m trying to talk myself into context here, to take on board the reading I have done as well as my own experience. For sure, even for those who ‘speak this multimedia language’ it is unlikely that they have applied it in a systematic or semi-professional way – as the end result of a careful planning, researching, writing, sharing and ‘construction’ process.

To be digitally literate requires an ability to speak and write this language using everyday tools – the end results matters more than how they got there. We know there are a plethora of tools.

Lucky them if they have access to an Apple Computer and free software such as iMovies.

Many won’t.

Might fretting over the software be like having a wide choice of cars to pick from in a car pool but not know how to drive? That either they learn to drive, or find a chauffeur? Or a buddy who can drive?

Multimedia creation has a logic to it like putting up flat-pack furniture with thousands of websites or YouTube ‘How to … ‘ clips to show you the way.

Preparation, logic … In this context, the multimedia options are a selection of what Gilly Salmon calls ‘e-tivities’ – so there is variety – a piece of video to watch and review, a piece of text to read and answer questions, a set of multichoice q&a … a series of ‘hot spots’ in an image to roll-over and read/listen to before writing in a correct answer and so on.

 

We remember ugly fonts much more easily. Does this make them better for learning?

Handwriting

Handwriting (Photo credit: chrischapman)

 

New scientific research revealed (January 2011)  that students learn better when learning is made harder, specifically when using a font that is more challenging to read. Neuroscience blogger Jonah Lehrer discusses his own gut feeling that we remember ugly fonts much more easily.

 

Comically ugly fonts are the best.

 

So perhaps I should blog like this?

 

 

Try these:

 

 

And what about handwriting?

 

 

‘It’s a really interesting way to convey information’, says Jonah Lehrer, ‘as it can take a lot of work to decipher handwriting’.

 

How about these for examples if you’ve forgotten what handwriting looks like?

 

 

or this?

 

 

Let’s get back to handwriting.

 

Or find a way to handwrite here. With a stylus and tablet?

 

The handwritten note, letter, or journal entry tells you something about the writer’ mood, gender, age, level of education (or intoxication), even their occupation.

 

I’ve collected hand-written letters between 1969 and 1993 from family members and friends, including my grandfather whose 1918 RAF Log Book I feature above. If ever published, these artefacts will be best read in their original form rather than transcribed.

 

 

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