#SOCRMx: Week 4 – Discourse Analysis

 (Click on image for source)

In Week 4 the Introduction to Social Research Methods course requires participants to move on and 1) reflect on a chosen method, and 2) test our ability to identify specific information about methods in a given research paper. I hope to get round to this but I am behind and am not ready to do it yet. I still want to explore some of the methods that I haven’t had time to engage with yet and take advantage of the resources provided.

In this post I will share my notes from watching Sally Wiggins’ video introducing Discourse Analysis. I have not attempted to complete the associated task, or to synthesise the other resources and information provided by the course.There are many more resources in the Week 2/3 materials of the course site. And some participants have tackled this as a course task. See for example these blog posts:

http://lizhudson.coventry.domains/general-blog-posts/research-method-option-1-discourse-analysis/

https://screenface.net/week-3-socrmx-discourse-analysis/

http://www.brainytrainingsolutions.com/discourse-analysis-facebook-conversation/#.WfL87hNSxTY

http://focusabc.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/discourse-analysis-in-focus-example.html

Discourse analysis is not a method I have used, but it seems to be relevant to the research I have done and my interests.

My notes

Discourse analysis is a method for collecting qualitative data through the analysis of talk and text. It constructs rather than reflects reality from the premise that talk is a social, and talk and writing are never neutral.

Sally Wiggins in her video introducing discourse analysis tells us there are 5 types:

  1. Conversation analysis
  2. Discursive psychology
  3. Critical discursive psychology
  4. Foucauldian discourse analysis
  5. Critical discourse analysis

She explained that conversation analysis and discursive psychology approaches look at the detail of discourse (with a zoom lens), whilst critical discursive psychology and Foucauldian discourse analysis are interested in a broader perspective (wide angle lens). Critical discourse analysis is between these two. Before using discourse analysis as a method, we must decide which lens to use.

Conversation analysis (CA): uses tape recorders and other technologies to capture the detail of conversation. All aspects are captured, including body language, to explore how social interactions work. CA is all about illuminating the things we take for granted, all those intricate everyday social actions, and exploring them in great detail.

Discursive psychology (DP): examines the detail of interaction but also explores issues such as identities, emotions and accountabilities. Like CA it also uses technologies, such as video, to record interactions, but is used to explore how psychological states are invoked.

Critical discursive psychology (CDP): seeks a perspective which is somewhere between the zoom and wide angle lenses, blending the detail of interaction with broader social issues. It can’t be reduced to a line by line analysis, but instead examines patterns in the data in terms of culturally available ways of talking (interpretative repertoires). It explores familiar ways of talking about issues that shape and structure how we understand concept in a particular culture. It uses interviews and focus groups to explore everyday, common sense ways of understanding and issues produced in everyday talk.

Foucauldian discourse analysis (FDA): emerged from post structuralism. It takes a wide angle perspective on how discourses are connected to knowledge and power. It draws on textual and visual images, such as advertisements, as well as conversations, interviews and focus groups. FDA is interested in the implications of discourse for our subjective experience, how discourse and knowledge changes over time and how this effects people’s understanding of themselves.

Critical discourse analysis (CDA): takes a wide angle perspective and is the most critical form of discourse analysis. Its foundations lie in critical linguistics, semiotics and sociolinguistics. CDA seeks to reveal hidden ideologies underlying particular discourses, and how discourses are used to exert power over individuals and groups. CDA is used when we want to focus on a social problem of some kind. It draws heavily on semiotics and how words and images create to convey meaning in particular ways. It tries to unpack layers of meaning. CDA has a political vision, e.g. it is used to explore how individuals or groups are marginalized or dominated by other groups in society. It uses broad texts and images and seeks to expose ideologies that underpin a particular discourse. CDA shed light on social inequalities and how these are produced through certain discourses, but it also illuminates ways to challenge these discourses.

Just a minimal amount of wider reading around discourse analysis reveals there to be a wealth of literature related to this research method. I suspect it is not a method to be taken up lightly. I would have liked further examples of research questions that have been addressed using each of the five types of discourse analysis. Of the five types, I am most drawn to critical discourse analysis and critical discursive psychology.

#openedMOOC Week 4: Open Teaching

The topic for this week is ‘Creating, Finding and Using OERs and a lot of resources have been provided to follow up on this.  More interesting for me, was the initial discussion in the Week 4 videos about open pedagogy and how networks can enable learning. This left me with one or two questions to reflect on.

Those who advocate open education make a strong case for the advantages of learning in a distributed network rather than from one source, such as a teacher or a book. George Siemens tells us that his network is his brain and that learning is less about what we know and more about how we are connected. I found myself wondering whether it is as simple as this. Whilst of course it is possible that knowledge can be found in the connections in your network, it’s also quite possible that this knowledge doesn’t amount to much. As George says later on in the video:

“…. you get a lot of garbage in there, and you get a lot of stuff that’s not relevant. So then you need that feedback system that helps to push things to the surface.”

George explained that when he and Stephen Downes first began to discuss the meaning of ‘open’ in relation to education, they wondered whether it was possible to do for teaching what MIT had done for content. The story of how MIT opened its courseware to the world can be found on their website, but I remember MIT explaining at the time (in 2001) that what they weren’t offering for free to the world was their teaching, and it was their teaching that would make a difference.

In 2008, George and Stephen wanted to make not just content, but also pedagogical practices open and hence the first MOOC was born in the form of the open course ‘Connectivism and Connective Knowledge’, better known as CCK08. They wanted to demonstrate that their practice was different because it did not rely on the conventional method of the teacher being the exclusive or primary node in the online network. At the time, this was how many people understood education – small groups of students attending to one teacher/expert, i.e. the teacher was the hub of the learning experience, which was based on a hierarchical relationship between the students and their teacher. (Image A in the Figure below)

Image from – https://visualisingadvocacy.org/blog/if-everything-network-nothing-network

Instead, George and Stephen envisaged the learning environment as a network in which there is no primary node and everyone teaches each other. (Image C in the Figure above). The argument George makes is that given that everyone has a different knowledge profile then we can teach one another almost everything. Quoting from the video, George says:

“If I have an idea to express myself, if I have an infrastructure to share what I know, and if there are corrective mechanisms within that infrastructure that provide feedback to the users of that infrastructure, that’s all you need for global knowledge generation. It’s the ability to solve complex problems that are novel in our era and we simply cannot solve them with a hub and spoke model of the expert.”

George uses the example of finding a solution to the problem of the SARS virus to illustrate how networks can solve problems.

These ideas are often discussed in relation to open learning, but despite hearing this for the first time in 2008, and despite recognising the value of networks for open learning and collaborative problem solving, another question I have is: Does declaring what we know or sharing your ideas, equate to teaching?

For some time now I have been interested in Gert Biesta’s concerns about the shift from teaching to learning. Biesta (2013) describes the focus on learners and learning as ‘learnification’, writing:

“The quickest way to express what is at stake here is to say that the point of education is never that children or students learn, but that they learn something, that they learn this for particular purposes, and that they learn this from someone. The problem with the language of learning and with the wider ‘learnification’ of educational discourse is that it makes it far more difficult, if not impossible, to ask the crucial educational questions about content, purpose and relationships”. p.36

Biesta describes teaching as a gift, in which the teacher can bring something radically new to the situation. He says that being ‘taught by’ is radically different to ‘learning from’ and writes:

“… for teachers to be able to teach they need to be able to make judgements about what is educationally desirable, and the fact that what is at stake in such judgements is the question of desirability, highlights that such judgements are not merely technical judgements—not merely judgements about the ‘how’ of teaching—but ultimately always normative judgements, that is judgements about the ‘why’ of teaching”. p.45

For Biesta,

” …. teaching matters and [..] teachers should teach and should be allowed to teach.” p.36

Biesta’s work raises the question of whether large scale open teaching is possible and whether it is true that we can teach each other almost anything. If teaching is a gift, do we all have that gift in equal measure?

My final question relates to George’s comment, which he made more than once, that the network structure should incorporate corrective mechanisms. How does this happen?

In research that Roy Williams, Regina Karousou and I published in 2011, we argued that

“…. considerable effort is required to ensure an effective balance between openness and constraint’ and that in open learning environments ‘a system of negative constraints [is needed] which determine what is not allowed to happen, rather than specifying what does have to happen”.

George suggested that corrective actions might include the possibility of upvoting or downvoting posts and contributions to the network. The problem with this is that it could lead to homogeneous groups with only the people who agree with each other upvoted.

The issue with negative constraints or corrective mechanisms is that they leave us with the question ‘Who is responsible?’ and if we start thinking like this, then we are beginning to get back to hierarchies.

For me it’s not clear what we mean by open teaching. If it means do your teaching in the open, as in a MOOC, then that’s fine – but if it means that teaching is reduced to Biesta’s learnification, then I think there remain many unanswered questions as to how teaching works in open networks.

References

Biesta, G. (2013). Giving teaching back to education: Responding to the disappearance of the teacher. Phenomenology & Practice, 6 (2), 35–49. Retrieved from https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/pandpr/article/download/19860/15386

Williams, R., Karousou, R. &  Mackness, J. (2011) Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Retrieved from  http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/883

#SOCRMx: Week 3 – Working with images

I have found the working with images resources in the Introduction to Social Research Methods MOOC very stimulating. According to the information provided in this course, visual methods are becoming increasingly popular.  I have always been interested in images, knowing that they can elicit ideas and feelings that words cannot. John Berger in his series of programmes on “Ways of Seeing” showed that the relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.

There are three kinds of visual data

  • researcher created, e.g. diagrams, maps, videos, photos
  • participant created, e.g. video diaries
  • researcher curated, e.g. a photo essay, cultural anthropology

Digital technologies have greatly increased the possibilities for working with each of these kinds of data. Images can also be used to elicit information in interviews.

Key considerations when working with visual images for research are: Why use this method? How can it address the research question? What are the best images for the given question? How can the image/s be accessed? What are the ethical implications of using images, e.g. research participant anonymity and right to privacy?

With respect to photos, further considerations relate to how a photo is conceptualised. Is it a copy or is it a more complex construction? Does the camera never lie or do the eye and brain perceive differently to the camera? Do we accept that the photo is evidence or do we consider how the photo was produced, what choices were made, what is included/excluded, what was around the photo that cannot be seen?

The strengths of visual research methods are thought to be that they can:

  • Generate more talk
  • Evoke sensory, affective and emotional responses
  • Encourage reflection on what is taken for granted, what is hidden, what is visible, what is not visible
  • Engage with people who find talk challenging
  • Reduce power differentials
  • Are inherently collaborative and interpreted through communication

This week’s task

The task for this method is to spend an hour or two engaging in a small-scale image-creation research activity. I have not taken a photo specifically for this task, but have trawled back through my own photos to find one that might fit the task and raise some of the issues that need to be addressed.

I have selected this photo that was taken in 2012. I could envisage this photo being used for example with Indian tourism students to explore perceptions of inequality.

Source of photo – here

We have been asked to consider six questions.

  • What is depicted in the image(s)?

I think this would be an interesting question to ask the tourism students. For me the image shows an Indian woman carrying a small child apparently unaffected by a white woman sunbathing. This appears to be a normal situation and each appears oblivious of the other, maybe indicating that they live in separate worlds even though they are inhabiting the same space.

  • What were you trying to discover by creating your image(s)

At the time I was on holiday in Mamallapuram, South of Chennai in India. This photo was not planned, but I noticed the incongruity suggested by the scene, probably because I am a white woman and was a tourist. Neither subject was aware of me taking the photo. I don’t think there were any ethics concerned with taking the photo – lots of unknown people appear in my holiday photos. I’m not sure what the ethics would be of using this photo for a real research project, given that there is no way that I could identify or contact either of the subjects.

  • What did the process of image creation involve?

I was in the right place at the right time with my camera ready. This photo was not staged. It was a snapshot in time, but nevertheless I was aware at the time that it conveys a message beyond a beach scene.

  • What is not seen, and why?

The photo is as it was taken. It might have been cropped and sharpened – I don’t remember, but just looking at it through this frame makes it appear that there are just two people on the beach. In fact I was sitting in a restaurant on the edge of the beach, full of tourists, and the beach was full of people, both Indians and tourists from around the world. There were also fishermen with their boats on the beach. It was a lively location and was situated within walking distance of the exquisite Mahabalipuram stone carvings. Does knowing this change how the photo is perceived?

  • How is meaning being conveyed?

Through the proximity of the two subjects who are so near but so far from each other. They are back to back, facing in opposite directions, but don’t appear concerned, or even to have noticed this ambiguity. Further opposites are conveyed through their clothing and through their posture – one is walking and the other lying.

  • With respect to the photograph, how might the image convey something different to your experience of ‘being there’.

The image appears still and quiet without sound, or the sound of the sea, but it was busy and there was plenty of sound, chatter, laughter, shouting, music, the sound of the sea and so on. Indian tourism students may have seen this type of scene so often that they do not notice it or if they do it may not concern them. Alternatively it may concern them greatly. As tourism students are the contradictions evident in this photo something they should be concerned about? What issues are raised?

#SOCRMx End of Week 3 Reflections

This is the third week of the Introduction to Social Research Methods MOOC, which I am finding both very useful and frustrating at the same time. It is very useful, because the resources provided (as mentioned in a previous post) are really excellent, but unfortunately some of them are locked down in closed systems so only accessible to course participants. I wish there was more time to engage with them all properly. Their high quality has left me wondering whether I should spend time making sure I have seen them all or whether I should focus on the weekly tasks and trying to follow other participants.

The course is frustrating because there is little social interaction, or have I missed it? The majority of participants seem to be doing a Masters or a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, so completing the tasks and getting feedback from a tutor on those tasks must be a high priority for them and the tasks take quite a bit of time, not leaving much time for discussion. In addition, it’s difficult to respond to the task requirements in short posts, leading to long pages of text which are demotivating in terms of discussion. I find the design of the edX discussion forums terrible – very time consuming and difficult. I feel as though I have wasted time trying to follow what little discussion there is in these forums.

I wondered whether there was more discussion on participants’ blogs than in the forums, so I have spent some time collating all the blogs I could find. If blogs are going to be used in MOOCs, then my view is that it’s essential that these are centrally aggregated. This was realized as long ago as 2008 in the first MOOC – CCK08. This is the list of bloggers I have found.

There are probably more than this. I am finding it very difficult to get a sense of who is doing this MOOC, from where and why. The map that we were all asked to add our names to in the first week, no longer seems to be on the site (or if it is, I can no longer find it), so I have no sense of how many people are on the course. From the forum posts that I have read, there seem to be people from the States, Latin America, Australia and Europe, but I’m not clear about whether they are students of Edinburgh University or not.

I am going to persevere with the MOOC because of the high quality of the resources and I will also try and follow the blogs I have found, although I suspect that not all participants are blogging that much.

However, on reflection I have decided that I probably won’t engage fully with the tasks. My response to last week’s task on Surveys was, I acknowledge, quite half-hearted, whereas I can see that some participants made a really good job of it. One participant has commented that it is difficult to engage in tasks for which there doesn’t seem a real purpose. I agree. I find it difficult to get motivated to write survey questions or complete some of the other tasks with no intention of doing this for an actual research project. This is not helped by the fact that I am actually, at this very time, completing writing a research paper, so my ‘head’ is in another zone.

Nevertheless this process and reflection have been helpful – because I have realized, even more clearly than before, that in all my research I have worked backwards rather than forwards. This means that I haven’t decided ‘I am going to go out and research that’, these are my questions, this is the methodology I will adopt, and these are the methods I will use. All my research has emerged, almost serendipitously, from my experience – mostly experience of participating in MOOCs. At the end of the MOOC (or equivalent experience) I find I have met people who, like me, have unanswered questions and want to probe further and then it goes from there. It is messy. The questions keep changing, the data is difficult and messy to gather and it takes months and months to make sense of. The survey we designed to research the use of blogs and forums in the CCK08 MOOC, took months and months of convoluted discussion. We didn’t concoct these questions from thin air, we drew them from our data, endless hours of trawling blogs and forums for what participants had said. We then spent further endless hours debating these statements, their language, whether they made sense and yet we have been asked in this MOOC to write a set of hypothetical survey questions in one week. In addition, all my research has been collaborative, so it feels strange to be working on the methods tasks in isolation, however half-heartedly.

To end on a more positive note, I have thoroughly enjoyed going through all the Visual Methods and Ethnography resources this week, which have been very informative.

And to end on a fun note, one of the participants, Helen Walker (@helenwalker7) has just posted an infrographics quiz on her blog –  The ‘who old are you? quiz shows me to be at the limits of my creative zenith, career and worldly success. Maybe that accounts for this post 🙂

#openedMOOC Week 3: The 5Rs, CC, and open Licensing

 This image is a screenshot taken from a YouTube video – https://youtu.be/x3CY6RR4uns

I have been working independently, i.e. not in an educational institution, for the past 12 years, so my take on this week’s content of Week 3 of the openedMOOC is probably not typical.

Much of the discussion is about the re-use capabilities of open educational resources (OER). Stephen Downes has pointed out that this discussion pre-supposes that you have access to the OER in the first place, and we know that quite often the resource is only accessible if you pay for it. On a personal note, I am currently trying to decide whether to pay for a  research paper a colleague and I are working on to be openly accessible in the journal we think is the best fit for the work! That could be a whole discussion in its own right.

But I have worked in a Higher Education institution and in schools in the past, so the issues being discussed this week feel familiar and, for those currently working in these environments, the course provides helpful resources to make sense of the difficulties associated with ownership of the materials produced when working for an institution. (See Week 3 in http://linkresearchlab.org/openedmooc/ ).

David Wiley has pointed out that the cost of textbooks in the US prohibits access for many students or causes them to drop out. Ideally students would not be required to invest in expensive textbooks, but instead use OER, which they can download, own and to which they can apply his 5R set of activities, which are:

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

Source of information: David Wiley – http://opencontent.org/definition/

However, he points out that it is not possible to apply these 5Rs to resources you do not own, such as a textbook. So what is the incentive for University lecturers and teachers to create their own OER? What would be the incentive to write a textbook and then make it openly accessible, free and re-usable in terms of the 5Rs? At many institutions, this would require a cultural change and depend on the roles that lecturers play and the type of students that the institution attracts. If a lecturer’s role is to teach adequately, bring in funding and raise the prestige of the institution through high quality research publications, and if the institution serves upper middle class students, then there is little incentive to spend large amounts of your own time creating OER. There is much more incentive for lecturers in institutions where the students will struggle to pay for their education.

On top of this ownership of OER can be complicated and may not be worth the hassle for lecturers. Norman Bier acknowledges that it’s difficult to know who owns the work if a large team has worked on it (See https://youtu.be/o6FWfFPpPeY ). He advises that if you work in an institution and are keen to promote the use of OER, then you should look up your institution’s IP policies and ask yourself (and others) the following questions:

  • Are traditional rights still being protected at your institution?
  • How do online materials factor in?
  • Is your institution making investments in building better course materials?
  • How are faculty being ensured the right to continue to use the materials they have authored?
  • How is your institution ensuring that educators and learners can make continued use of resources?
  • What happens at your institution if multiple educators and development teams want to expand on and improve materials especially over and expanded time period, e.g. years?
  • How can an open approach simplify these concerns while also making a larger contribution to the commons?

David Wiley suggests that we need to pull together pockets of individual practice and collaborate on the creation of OER which could then be further developed by future teams of collaborators. This would reduce the workload for individual lecturers and also mean that lecturers don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. Of course, collaboration in itself is a sophisticated skill that doesn’t come easily to everyone.

I did wonder, whilst going through all the materials for this week, how much time David and George spent on creating these resources and how they managed to persuade edX to allow them to host them on an independent site. What’s in it for edX? And indeed what’s in it for them?

SOCRMx Week 2 Surveys

I have divided this post into two parts. The first part reports on information from the course site. The second part is an attempt to complete one of the suggested activities.

Surveys: Part 1
Source of image here

The Social Research Methods MOOC (SOCRMx) being run by Edinburgh University on edX is a treasure trove of content and resources. For Weeks 2/3 of the course we have been asked to ‘choose our own adventure’ and an adventure it is certainly proving to be. We have been given a list of methods with extensive associated resources for each (videos, reading, examples of research) and it has been suggested that we choose two and write a blog post about our understanding of that approach. There are also specific activities suggested for each method. This is the list of methods:

  • Surveys
  • Discourse analysis
  • Learning analytics
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Ethnography – Participant observation
  • Social Network Analysis (SNA)
  • Experimental intervention
  • Working with images

The videos associated with these resources are really excellent especially the SAGE videos, but these videos are only available to course participants or people who subscribe to SAGE and come with clearly and strongly stated restrictions:

You shall not:

  • print, email, publicly post, display, sell, distribute or otherwise share the content with non-registered users without further permission from SAGE.
  • transfer, sell or share login details for the express purpose of providing access to content for non-registered users.
  • translate, adapt, delete, alter or apply any other treatment to the content without further permission from SAGE.
  • be guaranteed access to the content after completion of the course.

This doesn’t at all fit with my aspirations for open education, but they are really good videos, so I am going to watch as many as I can, while I have the chance.

I started at the top of the list with ‘Surveys’ simply out of curiosity, with no real initial intention of choosing this as a method to follow up on, but quickly found myself drawn in by the excellent videos. As one of the presenters said there is now 30-40 years of research into questionnaire design to draw on, and plenty of information out there about using surveys for research. I first used a survey in my MA research which was 20 years ago. At that time we were encouraged to use Judith Bell’s book ‘Doing your research project’ and looking at it now I can see that the information it provides is very similar to the information provided by this course. There are a couple of topics that Judith Bell doesn’t discuss:

  1. The difficulties associated with Agree/Disagree questions, which can be problematic as they require respondents to go through extra cognitive steps and can lead to acquiescence response bias. This link from the Survey Monkey blog explains this well – https://www.surveymonkey.com/blog/2016/12/21/lets-agree-not-use-agreedisagree-questions/

This link also mentions recent developments in questionnaire designs which are using technology to collect para data, e.g. measuring how long it takes a respondent to answer a question or using eye- tracking technology ‘to track respondents’ attention to each type of question’.

  1. The difficulty of getting honest responses when dealing with sensitive topics. Two techniques are used with varying degrees of success to achieve this: Item count technique and Randomised response

I have found all this fascinating but the truth of the matter is that I prefer collecting qualitative data to quantitative data. Whilst surveys are usually used to generate quantitative data, large amounts of data in a standardized format from which generalizable statements about the entire population can be made, it is possible to use surveys to generate qualitative data, through the use of open-ended questions.

Surveys: Part 2

In the few surveys I have conducted, I have always ended up being more interested in the responses to the open-ended questions that provide a text box for the answer, but what is the point of asking open-ended questions in a survey? I found some answers to this question in this blog post. What the blog post doesn’t say is that asking open-ended questions in a big survey, e.g. a survey sent out to hundreds of MOOC participants, is going to lead to an equally massive amount of work!

Reflecting on the resources provided about surveys has made me think about the number of times we ask survey type questions when not actually having formal research intentions, e.g. student course evaluations. The same guidelines about good questions apply. I have also been reminded of how we used to agonise over how to ask our primary trainee teachers questions about their knowledge of science concepts which would reveal their misconceptions.

For this social research methods course, we have been asked to design a simple survey which will explore some aspect of the use of Web 2.0 tools by a certain group of people, but I’m going to do my own thing and instead I’m going to revisit the problems we had in eliciting students’ science misconceptions. (I already know this will probably not lead to a satisfactory conclusion!).

Some of the issues already identified in Part 1 of this post relating to honesty and sensitivity of the subject are relevant here. It is important not to make students feel stupid – on the other hand it is extremely important to make them aware of their own misconceptions, so that they do not pass these on to the children they teach.  It will also be important to try and avoid receiving responses which are guesses.

By asking the questions below I want to elicit students’ misconceptions. I am imagining that I am asking a cohort of approx. 200 students to respond to these questions. For this task I have simply focused on the questions and at this stage have not thought about presentation, introductory information etc. Questions could be asked about each scientific concept in the primary school curriculum. I have settled for just two here.

Questions:

Which of the following three statements is correct?  Put a tick in the box beside the correct statement.

1.   Putting a coat on a snowman will keep it cold and stop it melting so fast.
2.   Putting a coat on a snowman will warm it up and make it melt faster.
3.   Putting a coat on a snowman will make no difference to how fast it melts.
Using your knowledge of materials and their properties, explain your choice of correct answer.

 

 

 

Which of the following three statements is correct?  Put a tick in the box beside the correct statement.

1.   A book standing on a table does not move because there are no forces acting on it.
2.   A book standing on a table does not move because the forces acting on it are balanced.
3.   A book standing on a table does not move because of the friction between the book and the table.
Using your knowledge of forces and motion, explain your choice of correct answer.

 

 

 

Practical issues

The objective of this questionnaire is to find out:

  • How many students still have science misconceptions at the end of the course (I could do this for any scientific concept).
  • Which misconceptions students still hold at the end of the course.
  • Whether there are any patterns to these misconceptions.
  • Whether students can use their knowledge and understanding to explain their responses.

The main issue with this survey is that if the student doesn’t explain their response in the text box provided then they could simply have guessed the answer and there would be no way of knowing this.

The epistemological assumption here is that there is a correct answer which the student should know if the course has been effectively taught and if the student has engaged with the course. I don’t think there would be any ethical issues associated with these questions. They could be answered anonymously, although a possible ethical issue might be whether the students find them threatening to their self-esteem, but this is unlikely if the taught course has focused on misconceptions.

Perhaps of more concern is validity. Will the questions really give me the information I need? Perhaps there needs to be a statement up front explaining why an explanation for a response is so important.

Finally, if this questionnaire depends on the open-ended question where students are asked to give an explanation for their choice of statement, then there is clearly the practical issue of the work-load of reading and analyzing all those explanations once collected.

If this type of questionnaire would scale up, then there is the potential of finding out a lot about primary school trainee teachers’ scientific misconceptions, but I’m not sure that it would scale up – and I suspect it might need a follow-up questionnaire.

I have not done what was asked this week, but I have learned more about how not to design a survey 🙂

Update 131017

Of course I should have mentioned that this type of survey may need to be run face-to-face. Otherwise, students could simply look up their responses on the internet or from books.  This was a problem we always had when trying to gather information about the knowledge of our distance learning students. As mentioned above, one way round this these days, would be to measure the student response time to each question, but presumably that needs specialist knowledge and technology.

Acknowledgement

The snowman statements come from the following sources:

Concept Cartoons

Image from: http://slideplayer.com/slide/4332605/ (Slide 18)

For the original cartoon, see also Keogh, B. & Naylor, S. (1996). Teaching and learning in science: a new perspective. Retrieved from: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/000000115.htm

#openedMOOC Week 2: Copyright, the Public Domain, and the Commons

An infographic created by Shihaam Donnelly from http://www.jlsu.se/ict-in-school/ict-in-school-part-12-create-infographics/ 

This week’s videos and readings are a lot more interesting than I anticipated.

David Wiley and George Siemens introduce the topic in an informative three part video in which they point out (as does Stephen Downes in his video) that whereas in the past a resource creator had to register for a copyright/patent, these days anything that can be fixed in tangible form is automatically copyrighted at the point of creation and anything created is owned. As Stephen Downes points out, this begs the question of what is not owned – Ideas? Software? Algorithms? How does something come to be in the public domain?

This question led to a discussion of the meaning of the Commons and the idea that a resource can be shared in common, i.e. a resource is managed collectively by the community. For example, a village green could be used by any member of the community for the grazing of stock and collectively cared for by the community. The ‘tragedy of the commons’ is that they tend to become abused, closed and controlled by people whose self-interest works against the common good. This is not only seen on village greens and the like, but also in education settings even in those environments which claim to be open. For example people in networks tend to gather in groups/cliques which, whether intending to or not, can exclude. Elinor Ostrom points out that exclusion of beneficiaries is costly and that ultimately the short-term interests of a few are not in anyone’s long-term interest. It seems then that it’s likely that if we hold a resource in common, someone will abuse it and the question of ownership will never be very far away.

So the question, why should you share, remains an important one.  Why shouldn’t the original creator of a resource retain ownership of his/her creation? These questions stir up a lot of emotion and controversy as seen in some of the readings suggested for this week.

Karl Fogel has suggested that we should now be living in a post-copyright world. He writes:

But now that the Internet has given us a world without distribution costs, it no longer makes any sense to restrict sharing in order to pay for centralized distribution. Abandoning copyright is now not only possible, but desirable. Both artists and audiences would benefit, financially and aesthetically. In place of corporate gatekeepers determining what can and can’t be distributed, a much finer-grained filtering process would allow works to spread based on their merit alone. We would see a return to an older and richer cosmology of creativity, one in which copying and borrowing openly from others’ works is simply a normal part of the creative process, a way of acknowledging one’s sources and of improving on what has come before. And the old canard that artists need copyright to earn a living would be revealed as the pretense it has always been.

This stirred up a hornet’s nest with some angry responses in the many comments that his article generated e.g.

Sorry, I am a creative professional. I would, and will copyright my work. Yes I want to get paid for it. It’s my job why shouldn’t I? I think it’s dumb to just give away everything you work hard for. That is what you are doing when you choose to not protect your work. You leave it open for everyone including pirates.

I have cherry-picked from the comment here, but I think it illustrates that ‘open, free, sharing’ is not desired by all.

Richard Coyne in a recent post which I came across via my colleague Mariana Funes, discusses the criticism that the sharing economy has come under lately  He writes:

The darkest side of this sharing narrative is that consumers and the short-term contracted labour force are fed the idea that they are participating in a new democratised economic order. The sharing economy is just part of a sales pitch, and a way of dressing up inequities and dodgy business practices.

The first line of a Guardian article written by Stephen Poole in April 2016 is:

 ‘Sharing’ is one of the most rhetorically abused virtues of the age.

But Coyne in his post continues:

At best, it [the sharing economy] entails a raft of technologies and business practices that disrupt some of the usual ways of thinking about work, service, and the economy. That can’t be all bad.

He thinks that maybe the idea of a sharing economy is not served by naming it as such. I have also often thought that the idea of sharing is not well served by the language that is sometimes used to discuss it, e.g. sharing = caring etc. There needs to be more balance between the rhetoric and the reality of what ‘sharing’ means.

A way of retaining ownership and control over how, and under what terms your ‘creation’ is shared is through the use of Creative Commons copyright Licenses.  In a video created by Henry Trotter from the University of Cape Town (see Week 2 content), he points out that copyright can be different and mean different things according to where you live. David Wiley and George Siemens see Creative Commons licenses as a means of overcoming these differences and making the whole process of sharing resources a lot easier, since you then don’t have to seek permission from the original creators. I have a copyright license on this blog and also on my Flickr site, but I don’t monitor this and I’m not convinced that people coming to these sites adhere to the copyright license. I am sometimes contacted about use of my photos and I always say yes, even if the required use doesn’t match my license. And I know from the blog stats that some posts are used in closed courses, i.e. I can’t actually see how they are being used as I don’t have a password for the course.

But there are things that I don’t share. I am very selective about what personal information I share and I am very careful about sharing information in the open about my family. I find the common habit of openly sharing information about young children, presumably without their knowledge, concerning.  I also don’t often share research in progress, unless I am doing a public presentation about it and then I will put a Creative Commons License on it, but I always try to publish in open journals. I agreed with pretty much everything David and George said in their video about the nonsense of publishing in closed journals with no payment, only to be charged to distribute your own work.

For academics and educators probably the most difficult area of all this is ownership of ideas. Thomas Jefferson’s writing captures the issue so well (from one of this week’s reading). James Boyle quotes him as saying:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possess the less, because every other possess the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

This makes perfect sense to me, but it also means that I need to be circumspect about the ideas I openly share. As my parents used to say to me – ‘If in doubt – don’t!’ Sharing is a choice – hopefully an informed choice.