#PLENK2010 Research, technology and networks

The guest speaker for the second week of the PLENK course has been Martin Weller – what a treat!  The link to the recording of his Elluminate presentation is here

Basically – his talk was about how depressed he is that research is not ‘keeping up with the times’ in terms of advances in technology and networked learning. I am a new researcher – but I can so completely relate to this.

So what did he say? These are the key points as I interpreted him –

  • researchers are not making full use of the new technologies available to them
  • they are risk averse and work in ‘traditional’ mode
  • they work in small personal contexts, often with the same groups of people and do not make use of network possibilities
  • they don’t like the spontaneity of blogs
  • they are conservative and cautious

Why are they like this? Because they may not have tenure and therefore have to ‘fit in’ with University requirements. If you want tenure you are encouraged to be traditional and are therefore less likely to be innovative or take risks. Research is about ‘control’ – particularly for scientists seeking predictive models, whereas the very nature of working in Web 2 is the exact opposite. We don’t know what will happen in Web 2.0. It is unpredictable.

Martin then went on to discuss the changing nature of research as evidenced by the number of people who are publishing in blogs , experimenting as they go along, turning to people in the network for peer review.  However, there are difficulties with this as I have already posted here following a discussion with Matthias.

What I found particularly interesting in Martin’s presentation is that it was directly relevant to how I have recently been working. I am a new researcher. My first two papers were both published following the traditional pattern.

1. K. Guldberg, J. Mackness (2009) Foundations of communities of practice: enablers and barriers to participation. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning

2. Rhona Sharpe, Jenny Mackness (2010)Evaluating the development of a community of e-learning researchers: from short-term funding to sustainability International Journal of Web Based Communities 6 (2) p. 148

These two papers are in closed journals. The second has received one expression of interest via email. The first has received about 15 expressions of interest via email.

Following participation in CCK08 John Mak, Roy Williams and I published two papers in the open environment of the Networked Learning Conference. We had also published drafts of the papers in the CCK09 Moodle site before submitting them to the Networked Learning Conference. This felt much more like an ‘open’ process.

Blogs and Forums as Communication and Learning Tools in a MOOC John Mak, Sui, Fai, Roy Williams, Jenny Mackness (2010) Networked Learning Conference, Aarlborg p. 275

The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC Jenny Mackness, John Mak, Sui, Fai, Roy Williams (2010)Networked Learning Conference, Aarlborg p. 266-274

Presenting these papers at the Networked Learning conference was disappointing from my perspective, but George and Stephen invited us to present the Ideals and Reality paper again in an Elluminate session and that was much more rewarding. We were able to ‘talk’ to more people and this made the research seem more worthwhile.

Recently, I have gone one step further with Matthias Melcher, in working for many weeks/months on a paper on e-resonance and simply publishing it here on this blog – but the process we worked through was not open to all.

The points that have arisen for me in all this are:

1. If we want research to be open there are two stages to consider – the actual researching and then the publishing.
2. Being ‘open’ at the researching stage might invalidate the research. There are difficulties associated with confidentiality and ‘ownership’ of ideas and writing.
3. Open publishing also brings its difficulties. How can the work be measured/peer reviewed?

I suppose all this brings in to question what we understand by research. There was discussion in the Elluminate ‘chat’ about the boundaries between learning and research becoming blurred and Stephen posted that ‘Learning = Research’. I thought at the time that this depends on how you define research. Who is it for? What is it for? How will the ‘network’ influence research and will research be able to influence the network?

I really enjoyed Martin’s talk, but I was left wondering whether we had really got to grips with how research will be influenced by networked learning and Web 2.0.  My experience is that there are still an awful lot of people in HE (where a lot of research currently happens) who are working in institutions with high research ratings, with outstanding publications records, but who are not connected on the Web in the sense that we have been talking about. This indicates that good research has been and continues to be published without the Web or being networked. I think we need to think more/be more explicit about what might be lost by giving up this ‘traditional’ system and more explicit about what we can gain by being more ‘innovative’.

I thought Martin could perhaps have been more explicit about why his really good presentation was relevant to a PLENK course.

11 thoughts on “#PLENK2010 Research, technology and networks

  1. Chris Jobling September 23, 2010 / 11:50 pm


    Another thing that was hinted at by Martin was that he’s at a stage in his career where he can afford to take more risks with what he publishes and how he publishes.

    I hope that you will find working in the open and publishing under the new models does become easier and more accepted. And I’m sure that you’ll make much more real impact that way.

    My fear is that the ‘traditional models’ are so ingrained in the system that you’ll be swimming against the tide.

    Good luck!


  2. Heli Nurmi September 24, 2010 / 6:00 pm

    Thanks again, Jenny

    you always help me to follow our Ellumination sessions.
    I was interested in the topic (research) because my history is in University and I know what it is. Now, being retired and free, it is easy to participate openly. Nothing to lose any more, only plus (+++) to me.

    Research is hard work and some parts of it happen only in the researcher’s brain, everything need not be transparent and open. But results should be open – and this is one of the oldest principles in universities. It is not always working I know. Competition, envy, stealing of ideas and so on, these are true. We are people, aren’t we? Show must go on…

  3. Mary September 24, 2010 / 9:09 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    I really appreciate your sharing your reaction to Martin Weller’s presentation here. As importantly, I enjoyed reading about your own experiences writing for publication in peer-reviewed paper journals and online. I will see if I can get that through interlibrary loan. Sorry, I have not read your articles in the paper journal, but I did enjoy reading the article you, John, and Roy wrote regarding “The Ideals and Realities of Participating in a MOOC.” “The Riddle of Online Resonance.” Sui Fai John Mac and I were discussing the “Riddle” just the other day.

    If “Learning is Research”, as Stephen Downes wrote in the chat at the Elluminate session, then we are searching for and revising ideas that exist in the world anyway? Couldn’t this be something like the “knowing knowledge” that George Siemens talks about in his book by the same name?

  4. suifaijohnmak September 27, 2010 / 1:44 am

    Hi Jenny,
    Wonderful reflection.
    “This indicates that good research has been and continues to be published without the Web or being networked. I think we need to think more/be more explicit about what might be lost by giving up this ‘traditional’ system and more explicit about what we can gain by being more ‘innovative’.”
    What would be the criteria of “good research”?
    What would be lost? Would they be
    (a) grants – one needs to go through the Research Council, which may or may not approach research to be open (loss of control)
    (b) validation – lack of a governing bodies other than the community and researchers.
    (c) privacy and privy of research
    (d) academic rigor (too many voices & diversity of views, too few consensus)
    (e) autonomy of researchers in the research planning & process
    (f) standards – lack of rigorous standard of measures
    (g) traceability – unless the research is open to the public and community, it could be difficult to trace the source of information, and thus lacking in credibility in resources employed
    (i) publication support – due to the publication on blogs or media, the researcher may not be given enough support for publication in the publisher
    (j) incentive – the monetary reward that may derive from the the publication in books or research journal (as a patent or artifact).
    I will respond with a more detailed post.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Howard September 28, 2010 / 9:47 pm

    Hey Jenny;
    2 things:
    1. I think the Academy must change at some point (hopefully in a good way for all), maybe it is just the darkness before the dawn.
    2. You said; “Being ‘open’ at the researching stage might invalidate the research.” I think this is a validity issue. I worked on the construct of validity for my dissertation and the 2 biggest takeaways were
    a. Considering validity (whether it is a test, a practice, research) requires a broad view of the relationships between theory, rational, and consequential aspects. See a summary of Samuel Messick’s work here http://www.ericdigests.org/2000-3/validity.htm
    b. Validity is always a trade off. Traditional predictive models may have good internal validity, but this is sometimes a trade off with poor external validity and may ignore consequential validity altogether.

  6. jennymackness October 1, 2010 / 7:27 pm

    Hi Mary – sorry about the delay in replying. Many thanks for your comment and interest. I would be happy to email you copies of papers you are interested in – not that there are many – I am definitely a very new researcher 🙂

    I haven’t read George’s book – thanks for the pointer.


  7. jennymackness October 1, 2010 / 7:35 pm

    Hi John – thanks for your comment. I have been slow in replying – sorry – too many balls in the air. There’s loads to think about in your response – so many thanks for that – I will think some more 🙂


  8. jennymackness October 1, 2010 / 7:37 pm

    Hi Howard – Just to say many thanks for your comment and for the link to Samuel Messick’s work. I clearly need to think further about the validity of research in open networks.


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