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EdD Progression Board paper – November 2011
David Noble, EdD student, University of Edinburgh
How might we understand the online habitus of educationists?
a) How are presence, actions and interactions described? b) Which artefacts exist and are formed? c) What is necessary to enter the field and what is brought to the field? d) How does learning happen? e) Which capitals are created and how are these maintained and used? f) How are established forms of CPD related to the field? g) What is being dealt with?
In this paper, I establish the basis of my empirical, Grounded approach to constructing a framework for understanding the online habitus of educationists. My research question incorporates concepts from the overview literature that move beyond ‘the online’ and dominant computer network metaphors. In constructing a framework for understanding the online habitus of educationists, I am, despite interview data being abstracted, conceiving of interviewees as complex social actors who have capacities to make personal choices. Constructing habitus allows us to conceive of intrinsic elements, in addition to extrinsic ones such as tools, data sources, spaces and relationships, developed in my earlier Grounded analysis (Noble, 2009).
I begin by outlining the educational and technological milieu in which I have worked and studied since commencing the EdD, establishing that there is, prima facie, a
new field to be studied, as certain contemporary notions of learning networks and professional development appear to be converging.
In reviewing literature on theories of learning, including connectivism and ‘personal learning networks’ (PLNs), I find that there is an absence of empirical research with which to ground this new field. I conclude that persisting with computer network metaphors would lead me to construct a definition of ‘personal learning network’ in which the original interview talk of research participants would be disregarded in favour of a term already common in the social world.
By incorporating concepts such as habitus, identity, capital and social artefacts into the research questions, I can ensure that my Grounded analysis of data from the sample of edonis project interviews (note 1) will lead to a humanised framework; intrinsic and familiar to those actors in and around the field.
I go on to detail how I have ensured that I have operated, and will continue to operate, within the College of Humanities and Social Science Research Ethics Framework. I outline the principles of Grounded Theory and discuss how I have, and will deal with applying these to data collected during two distinct ‘windows’ or time periods. I show how the thesis will make a contribution to knowledge, recognising limitations in terms of applicability and portability, nonetheless illustrating the pursuit of objectivity, validity and reliability. The intention is to construct an iterative framework, attractive to, for example, researchers in the future.
The framework should also assist educationists and those within and around policy circles concerned with the independent reports, ‘Teaching Scotland’s Future’ (Scottish Government, 2011a) and ‘Advancing Professionalism in Scottish Teaching’ (Scottish Government, 2011b), in imagining possible futures. It may also assist convergence between management, teachers, other educationists, and technologies (Holmes et al, 2007). Readers of the thesis will be able to consider how an online habitus may be adopted or learnt by those living through formal and other educational sites, systems and structures.
The thesis conclusion will include a visualisation of the online habitus of educationists, including categories and concepts, and properties and dimensions. This will be supported by an exemplification written in the style of a Grounded memo (see Appendix A).
In deciding to construct a framework for the online habitus of educationists, I will refer to the substantive focus of my research as a ‘field’ of activity, with perimeter and barriers to entry. Unlike one’s presence within institutions or organisations of employment, few restrictions appear to exist once one is ‘in’ the field.
Adding the notion of agency at this stage implies that social actors in the field will construct their own common activities, etiquette, language and other codes. In this field, agency (or autonomy) appears to equate with freedom of individuals, rather than elsewhere and in the past where, for example, teacher autonomy was defined in terms of interaction with, and focus on, students (Banathy and Jenlick, 2004).
The field metaphor implies that its periphery may be an interesting site of study, where for example, those who ‘get it’ meet those ‘looking in’.
Research context: ICT supporting career-long learning of Scottish teachers
In the past ten years, I have developed roles across fields of education which enable me to co-operate with educationists in Scotland, the rest of the UK, and other countries (Appendix B). This involves: teaching, discussing policies, exchanging articles and papers, creating educational audio, and engaging with discourses on teacher development.
A recent, widely-regarded (note 2) independent report on the career-long professional learning of Scotland’s teachers, ‘Teaching Scotland’s Future’, states that information and communications technologies (ICT) ought to be introduced or harnessed to improve continuous professional development (CPD) (note 3) and associated processes such as professional review and development (PRD), and ‘professional update’ or re-registration of the teaching profession (see Appendix C).
An earlier industrial agreement, ‘A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century’ (Scottish Executive, 2001) stated that all teachers be entitled to a minimum of 35 hours CPD per year. This arrangement has also been re-stated in the most recent report, ‘Advancing Professionalism in Scottish Teaching’. As before, arrangements for ongoing CPD are to be formally made through workplace-based PRD processes or meetings. These have been criticised by many teachers as superficial and unhelpful. Since publication of ‘A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century’, several other publications have exemplified the many activities which can ‘count’ as CPD (Conlon, 2004), within the context of PRD. Presently, subject to the permission of their head teacher, teachers are able to work and develop at a ‘time and place of one’s choosing’. With widespread availability and reduced costs of broadband and mobile web technologies, it is possible to engage in many continuous professional development opportunities ‘anytime, anywhere’.
What else is ‘going on’? Changing professionalism, educational and web technologies, and ‘personal learning networks’
I have come to understand that around the advent of ‘web 2.0 technologies’ (note 4), my mindset as a teacher was influenced, added to, or shifted by educationists such as Ewan McIntosh. McIntosh (2007) writes of the world being changed forever by new technologies; where young people are able to thrive as learners and entrepreneurs. Educationists are able to break down traditional barriers, and discover and work with new colleagues via educational and web technologies.
We appear to be living through an ‘age of participation’ (Dutton and Peltu, 2007), where all can have a presence online, communicate swiftly around the world at no marginal cost, and create, ‘mashup’ (note 5) or consume content at will. Thousands of UK teachers use blogs and microblogs (note 6), and other supportive technologies. Many of these educationists sense that they can construct, manage and thrive within what some educational and web technologists have termed a personal learning environment (PLE), comprising in part a PLN (Haskins, 2007; Wilson, 2008). 4
These emerging practices can be examined in the context of established, new, and changing theories of learning and professional learning (see Appendix D). I have found that reviewing literature on PLNs and online learning over the past four years has enabled me to: be aware of rhetoric on ICT, contribute to discourses around new iterations of learning theories, and place myself onto what I see as one of the symbolic battlegrounds for the ‘future’ of education.
Early conceptualisation of online PLNs has primarily taken place alongside that of connectivism (Siemens, 2005; Downes, 2008) (note 7). Common discursive spaces include e-learning journals and conferences, and the blogs and microblogs of educational and web technologists.
The term ‘PLN’ has been loosely applied to a new, technology-driven milieu of personalised learning. The 2009 Horizon Report (in Johnson et al 2009:19) defines PLNs as “customized, personal Web-based environments … that explicitly support one’s social, professional, (and) learning … activities via highly personalized windows to the networked world.” Learning through social and work oriented tasks (Haythornthwaite, 2000) takes place in a PLN where relationships, spaces and sources of data are personally maintained (Warlick, 2009). PLNs may enable teachers to work convivially, exemplifying Illich’s (1973) concept of personal interdependence (note 8).
Literature on PLNs often states that they are designed, managed and owned by individuals. A range of supportive technologies are used to move beyond creating and consuming web content; to navigating, positioning, communicating, cooperating and collaborating online. Often building on long histories of engagement with ICT and established social networks and connections, PLNs are said to feature trustful relationships at the core, with many loose, fluid connections at the periphery (Preston et al, 2009).
There may be constellations of PLNs through which artefacts such as: contact details, groups, practices, messages and links, exist and can be shared. Artefacts can be thought of as nodes within networks, around which people position themselves and their PLN. As data, relationships and spaces can be filtered by interest, and as interests are not fixed, there may be constant movement and 5
change in intensity across and between networks. However, Tobin (1998) recognises that PLNs can be tangible and exist in the physical world; embodied in artefacts such as people and items.
Knowledge appears to be socially constructed within and between nodes. Activity through public-facing, online-mediated networks and other websites generate, deliberately or as a by-product, artefacts which can be discovered, shared, traded or incorporated. It appears that the experience of collaborating or co-operating with one’s PLN may lead to ‘learner satisfaction’, that is, a ‘win/win situation’ or ‘nonzero sumness’ (Wright, 2000).
The above closely relates to an existing theory of learning, constructionism, which is similar to constructivism (Papert, 1980; Kafai and Resnick, 1996).
Constructionism moves beyond youthful learning; from pedagogy to andragogy, and self-expression and exchange between knowledgeable, mature individuals. This theory recognises the influence and roles of media, and that self-directed learners reside at the centre of their own network, with a collection of artefacts to ‘think with’ (Ackermann, 2004).
EdD progression and finding a focus among emerging criticisms of educational and web technologies
As I commenced the EdD, I held a strong belief that sharing practice, ideas and resources was ‘good’, and that feeling in possession of a personalised online network or learning environment was a modern trait of enhanced professionalism. With significant numbers of Scottish educationists becoming involved in these emerging practices over recent years (ScotEduBlogs, 2011), I developed an interest in educational talk and conversation, through creating and consuming podcasts.
However, I sensed a low level of engagement among educationists, beyond those teachers visible online. This included an absence of public responses to text and audio being published online, which led me to begin to question the general, positive claims made by many who communicate through educational and web 6
technologies. I also began to consider which assumptions were being made by the ‘early adopters’.
Some argue that, where there is free choice and a disconnection from paid work, the web is mostly used for safe, familiar interaction with those who are already known. Also, that it acts as a buffer from wider social interaction (Turkle, 2011), or exists as a ‘filter bubble’ (Pariser, 2011) similar to that which might be encountered in an unfamiliar, physical space. Others refer to the anxiety experienced by those who use services that ‘push’ data at them. There have been calls for (e)learning experiences to become more ‘humanised’ (Tan et al, 2009).
I recently re-wrote an EdD paper, ‘An analysis of teacher professionalism, in light of personal learning networks and an online habitus’ (Noble, 2011c), where I considered identity, restrictedness and new performative action. I showed how performativity (Ball, 2004) may exist online, as individuals and organisations seek to grow and maintain capitals by engaging in, for example, those online activities most likely to lead to an increase in subscribers and readers. I argued that as those with a presence online are only able to show part or parts of themselves to others, one might wonder whether the construction and maintenance of online identities is premeditated, in other words a deliberate performance.
I further argued that an additional teacher habitus may exist or be emerging, where the focus of autonomous teacher actions, online, may be on enhancing perceived networks or capitals, and not directly the lives of those at sites of schooling within their paid employment.
During the first two years of the EdD (and the edonis project), I was able to: practise and experiment with data collection, play with early iterations of a research question, and consider epistemologies and my ontology. I discovered Grounded Theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) towards the end of this period. I also studied literature which dealt with, on reflection, assumptions that I had made at the outset of the edonis project around: hegemony and discourse, the neutrality or otherwise of network theory and my role in the edonis project, and dichotomies such as between virtual and physical worlds. At the same time, I rediscovered writings on capitals and Bourdieu’s habitus. 7
Also, through my ongoing reading I recognised a methodological gap in research into connectivism, PLNs, and educational and web technologies. Theories had developed without being exposed to empirical data from the social world. One consequence has been that the first two notions above are presently inextricably associated with online-mediated communication.
Sketching the field and replacing dominant metaphors
Notions and characteristics of ‘personal learning networks’, as stated in recent literature, appear wedded to computer network metaphors. This enables simple diagramming; illustrating nodes, connections and knowledge transfer, while appearing transparent, open, and free from bias and resistance.
Associated processes appear rational, almost mechanistic, therefore the ways in which networks are constructed become clear and possible. This has previously been seen elsewhere in, for example, the ‘ladder of participation’ (Arnstein, 1969) and ‘reader-to-leader’ (Preece and Shneiderman, 2009) frameworks. Here, human beings are neither visible, nor regarded as complex.
However, learning networks can be traced to Socrates and the age of the ‘agora’, the Ancient Greek marketplace. We could consider this as an alternative metaphor for the field of study.
A key activity within PLNs, such as ‘sharing’, might instead be conceived of as ‘trading’. Therefore, nodes might be ascribed market values that change according to supply and demand. Within a marketplace, convergence of artefacts must occur before transactions take place. Buyers must know of, and understand, the ways of interacting with sellers. There will be hidden artefacts, power, values and identities which will affect the ability of the marketplace to operate efficiently.
Dominant ideologies, class and power may be present in PLNs. Access to this field may be restricted due to technical requirements and language, and the high costs of understanding or acquiring cultural and other codes. Unless we move away from
the seemingly neutral metaphors of the computer network, we will be unable to recognise complex human actions and interactions in the field.
Establishing a theoretical framework prior to Grounded analysis of research data
I have argued before that educationists who consider themselves as working or in dialogue with others within online PLNs are challenging notions of autonomy, service and collegiality (Noble, 2011c), and that an additional habitus appears to exist but has not yet been framed by empirical research. By habitus, I mean the structure of educationists’ minds; incorporating schema, dispositions and modes of work (Bourdieu, 1985a). Habitus can be learnt or adopted by social actors. The additional habitus in the field may be being created presently through actors’ engagement in constructivist or constructionist activities, using supportive technologies (Noble, 2011c).
Warlick (2009) wrote of the ‘online collegiality’ of teachers-without-a-home. Educationists may work across many sites, with roles spread across physical, online and blended environments. The idea of a single habitus, focused on classrooms and sites of schooling, has been challenged previously when educationists’ complex lives and community roles have been considered (Noble, 2011c) (note 9).
The opportunity to participate in the construction of identities in a PLN (and more widely the iterative construction of an online habitus) depends on the presence of social capital (Wasko and Faraj, 2005). Bourdieu (1985b:248) defines social capital as, “the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance or recognition.”
Walton (2007:381) states: “The experience of dialogue builds trust and social capital while providing space for exploring assumptions and creating new meanings.” Siemens (2006) identifies the creation of currency, that is, accurate, upto-date knowledge, as the intent of connectivist learning activities within PLNs.
Social capital is an important social construction that allows us to examine actions, power, influence, and motivation around artefacts. My interpreted, iterative framework should utilise this notion within the research questions to reflect the complexity of human action and interaction within the field.
Epistemology and ontology
I will be approaching data from a relativist, as opposed to a positivist, stance. In the social world I regard knowledge as tentative and socially-constructed. In the absence of certainty, knowledge is context-specific and inconsistent across time.
All resources from the thesis, including the tentative version of the framework will remain online for researchers and others to freely interpret, construct the next iteration of, or use otherwise.
The term ‘educationist’ is used to encompass the variety of paid and other roles of participants in the edonis project. Initial communications clearly stated that I was a teacher studying a Doctorate in Education, seeking to attract people involved in education, from wherever, to take part. Despite not having access to the register of teachers in each country, I am confident that all or nearly all participants, other than several ‘knowing agents’ (Reeves, 2007), are registered teachers.
The term ‘educationist’ is necessary, as teacher educators, ‘home school-ers’, further and higher education lecturers, and private and public education organisation staff were interviewed. This arrangement emphasises the
tentativeness of the framework when constructed and that I will be unable to refer to teachers or the Scottish context in the thesis conclusion. The framework will only be valid with respect to those participants whose interviews were included in the sample.
Methods and Methodology: using data from edonis project interviews to answer the research question
I am an emerging researcher who could be considered to ‘know the field’, having observed and participated in it for several years (Noble, 2011b) (note 10). Research data comes from segments of interview audio and operational notes from a sample of the research corpus; the edonis project interviews (note 11). Potential data was collected through semi-structured (mostly telephone) interviews with seventy participants in the edonis project, conducted between October 2008 and April 2011 (note 12).
I initially attempted to attract three distinct categories of participant to the study: educationists in the residential special school sector, who appeared to have little experience of educational and web technologies in their professional lives (these people were known to me on email lists and were approached via personalised email); educationists with a stake in the Chartered Teacher policy in Scotland, most of whom appeared to have a brief but successful history of using educational and web technologies, having studied for Chartered Teacher status online (these people were known to me through my position as Vice Chair of a chartered teacher association and were also approached via personalised email); and educationists who had a visible presence and apparently lengthy history online, and would likely talk freely about their engagement with educational and web technologies. These three categories of participant have been shortened to: knowing agents (innovators, early adopters), aware agents (early and late majority), and ignorant agents (laggards), based on Rogers’ (1962) ‘diffusion of innovations’.
My ‘call for participation’ in the study briefly ‘went viral’, as it was ‘retweeted’ and ‘blogged’ about by several people who had been directly invited by email. In addition, the invitation was forwarded to others by email. I had hoped that each category of participant would contain 1/3 of all participants, however control over this was lost almost immediately. Participants signed-up directly or were registered by me via the edonis Ning website (note 13).
I divided those who signed-up into the three categories based on Rogers’ classification. Final assignment to a category was determined by their responses to 11
questions posed upon signing-up, relating to actual use of educational and web technologies (see Appendix E). This act ignored my earlier assumptions when issuing invitations and ‘calls’.
The conversational nature of many of the interviews was essential, as there were no body language clues from the video-less internet telephone calls. The approach was also deliberate because I was considering what the needs might be of those listening to the live stream or recording (note 14). I wanted the audience to have an enjoyable experience, to learn from others’ talk on education, and to interpret their own themes in advance of possible future involvement, either as interviewee, ‘lurker’ or interrogator of concepts and categories.
Since conducting the early interviews, my writing has moved away from description, towards critical analysis of educational and web technologies. In interviews, I have consciously played less of a role as ‘participant observer’ or fellow ‘knowing agent’, and more as conversation coach, encouraging participants to talk originally about what they do.
I reflected on the recordings and operational notes from each of the edonis project interviews. I recognised that interviewees often engaged in original talk, that is, prompted or otherwise, they talked about the field in a way that I interpreted, or they stated, as being the first time they had done so. During these segments, established learning theories and ‘in vivo’ codes were not referred to.
Resolving issues prior to sampling and finalising the research question
My paper, ‘Grounded Theory analysis of data from three edonis interviews’ (Noble, 2009), constructed early concepts and categories, and properties and dimensions around new online data sources, spaces and relationships (see Appendix F). These led to an alteration in the pre-interview text sent to interviewees during the second ‘window’ of data collection (see Appendix G) and provided an insight into some of the actions and interactions in the field. Along with key concepts emerging from literature, this paper somewhat informed the research questions, although I have been mindful of the very small sample. 12
I am not able to utilise Grounded Theory analysis in its purest form, as I bounded research interviews through firstly sharing a set of pre-determined questions, and latterly sharing broad areas as prompts for segments of conversation (also see Appendix G).
I should have considered reducing significantly the bounding or structuring of interviews. I could have done this by speaking with participants, ad hoc or at an agreed time and place, around for example, the Scottish Learning Festival, TeachMeets, and online events. Engagement in the field is implicit in being at these locations and my podcasting, webcasting and audio recording expertise would have assisted this less designed approach to collecting potential research data. Interviews published before 1st March 2010 (these having been recorded at least six month earlier) may have been considered for Grounded analysis for my 2009 paper. Data from only three of these interviews were coded, with the others now excluded, temporally, from the Grounded analysis for the thesis. I now consider the first of my two windows of data collection and analysis (the second being between 2010 and 2013) to have been generative in nature, in that I was able to write several iterations of the research question, play with Grounded Theory, and develop early concepts and categories which could be utilised or not during the second window.
A small number of educationists signed-up for the study during the second window. These people will have had a materially different experience from those who signed-up during the first window, partly in terms of the nature and extent of communication via email and the website. Although it is not possible to determine their consumption and consideration of artefacts such as my EdD papers and published edonis interviews, I will exclude these participants from the sample in order to, post hoc, reduce the potential variation in the stimuli that participants accessed prior to being interviewed. Of course some participants, most likely ‘knowing agents’, may have previously considered or conceptualised the focus of their edonis interview, either in the ‘lead-up’ to the interview or through their own professional or personal histories.
Sampling edonis interviews and selecting segments of data to code
I am sampling temporally, by including only the twenty-five interviews published after 1st March 2010. Furthermore, I will sample by participants’ ICT histories. Literature on ‘technologies for learning’ show how individuals’ histories of ICT use affect mindset, motivation and how the field is made sense of (Noble, 2011a). I wish to recognise the wide variation in participants’ ICT histories by sampling from the three groups of participants I established during the first ‘window’ of research activity.
It is important to consider that I interviewed all willing participants, and did so at a time and place of their choosing across the three year period of data collection (note 15). Therefore, I did not sample participants before or during the data collection phase.
Prior to coding segments of data from the sampled interviews, I will ensure that there are at least five interviews from participants in each of the three categories. Where there are less than five interviews in a category, I will reduce the number of interviews from those in other categories. This may reduce the overall sample to slightly less than twenty-five.
I will include segments of sampled interviewee talk relating to any one of the research questions, (a) to (g), listed at the beginning of this paper. Each selected segment of data will be matched with one of the research questions where it relates to one or more of the three foci of talk, below, within that question. All data from sampled interviews are eligible to be coded for one of the research questions.
Research question (a) embodiments (a) actions (a) interactions
(b) objects (b) technologies (b) peoples
(c) dispositions (c) histories (c) possessions
(d) learning (d) development (d) change
(e) motivations (e) accumulations (e) expenditures
(f) elsewheres (f) assimilations (f) contrasts
(g) worry (g) loss (g) challenge
However, sampled interview data from the following segments will be excluded from analysis, even if they meet the inclusion criteria, above. These are, segments:
containing ‘in vivo’ codes, other than those theories identified as relevant to the field in the theoretical framework and overview literature where I am talking about my experiences, or interviewees are responding to them initiated by interviewees and unrelated to the research questions or field where ‘good practice’ is being spoken of.
Where interviewees’ talk appears to relate to areas of the social world not regarded as online, it may be included for analysis under any one of the research questions, providing talk is not for the purpose of comparison within the research field. If this is the case, it should only be considered for inclusion for question (f).
I recognise that it is difficult to isolate ‘the online’ from the rest of the social world. In considering that there may be a false dichotomy between online and offline, it becomes possible to envisage many instances in the social world where agents can simultaneously be online and offline. Therefore, it is not necessary to construct the online habitus of educationists only from segments of data that some might consider relate only to ‘the online’.
Research data will come from those unedited edonis project interviews (Noble, 2011b) included in the research sample (note 17). Each interview will be transcribed in full by someone other than myself, and all talk from me as interviewer will be omitted from the transcription. I will then review all data as one file, including operational notes, and segments relating to the research questions will be coded. I will begin by coding data line-by-line; preserving actions, discounting my knowledge of the individual, avoiding preconceptions, and working in an abstract and disinterested manner (Charmaz, 2006).
Applying a Grounded approach to analysing research data
Through Grounded Theory analysis, I aim to understand a field of the social world through coding particular actions and interactions. Concurrently, I will attempt to recognise the potential for bias in my stance towards interviewees and data; negating this through being reflexive (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). For example, by recognising the dominance of computer network metaphors within field discourses, I will be aware of ‘in vivo’ codes based on such metaphors during coding of data.
There are different ways of knowing, and a danger that certain knowledge will be privileged by me, as researcher. To ensure reflexivity, I will code only data ‘in front of me’. The process will be systematic and scientific, ensuring that knowledge is based on justification, refutation and verification, while recognising the existence of multiple statuses, identities, realities, discourses, actors, modes, locations and audiences (Charmaz, 2006).
There is no formula for constructing knowledge through a Grounded approach. However, I must be systematic and maintain an intact audit trail as I work in 16
proximity to data (Charmaz, 2006). In constructing a valid and reliable analytical framework from abstract data, I will require creativity when naming my interpretations and a mindset that allows me to work in a conceptual mode (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). Such conditions will lead to the development of concepts and categories, with properties and dimensions, which recognise choices and possible directions pertaining to the actions of educationists in this field.
When coding data, I will create terms which appear to me to be applicable to the social world, beyond just ‘the online’. As educationists and education are part of the social world, participants whom I ask to meet (see page 12) to interrogate concepts and categories should still be able to recognise, for example, their actions and interactions in my constructions.
In addition, I will name concepts and categories such that they are valid and relevant not only to habitus where digital devices mediate, but may also apply to those of actors across the social world. This will prevent the use of technical terms that may bewilder, for example, readers from certain categories of participants.
Having first reduced data to codes, I will analyse the initial codes, making them measurable. I will then look for similarities and differences, and begin to name commonalities. At this point, it will be important to remain ‘in the abstract’ and close to data; otherwise there is a risk of interpretation.
Through moving forwards and backwards between data, the act of coding, and the naming of emerging concepts and categories, sub-categories may also emerge. This process continues until the concepts and categories, and properties and dimensions, appear ‘saturated’ (Strauss and Corbin, 1998).
Based on successful co-operation from research participants during my initial Grounded analysis (Noble, 2009), and the primacy of valid and reliable construction of knowledge, I will again work with some participants to ensure that my analysis ‘fits’ data. Participants will be asked if they ‘see themselves’ in my interpretation, and I will discover if I have accurately and collectively represented their social worlds. During these additional sessions, I will encourage participants to identify where I may have ‘forced’ explanations and preconceptions onto data. 17
However, there are dangers here. Participants are unlikely to have experience of Grounded Theory methodology. They may bring their own misunderstandings and preconceptions. Nonetheless, as the expert and owner of the work-in-progress presented to these individuals, I will be highly sensitive to data, therefore any alterations will be my prerogative. Valuing participants in the process of analysis, and enabling some to co-operate with me further, could assist with future dissemination of the framework.
I wish to reach a stage where concepts and categories: are useful, closely fit data, have conceptual density, have been modified, and are durable in the face of change. Although interpretivist research must involve judgements by the researcher at certain stages, my reading of positivism, reflexivity and Grounded Theory has led me to construct a methodology for this thesis which pursues objectivity.
Ensuring that research is conducted ethically
In all research activities, I have adhered to the relevant guidelines ((SERA (2005), BERA (2004), and ESRC (2005)). My intention is to make “a worthwhile contribution to the quality of education in our society” (SERA, 2005:i).
I stated to interviewees that their audio file would be available online at least in the medium term, although it could be taken offline at any time, at their request. Presently, this offer has only been ‘taken up’ by one interviewee. Many spoke of the interview being a cathartic or learning experience that they would re-consider in ‘days to come’. For most, this was the first time they had spoken about their online activities.
Interviewees’ full names, main job titles, and locations are embedded in the podcast meta-data alongside mine as producer, indicating that each is a co-creator of their interview audio file or podcast. Interviewees were also entitled to add details of their main website to the edonis Ning website and to a Yahoo Pipe which provides a regularly updated ‘feed’ of participants’ online postings.
Where I have carried out an interview and then published the recording online, every action within my relationship with the interviewee must be deliberate and open to scrutiny, and the participant must directly benefit or not suffer from their involvement. I encouraged each interviewee to share an element of their practice or that of their organisation. This was retained in the final, broadcast version and would be listened to by hundreds of educators throughout the world when published to the research websites (note 16).
Confidentiality is maintained within Grounded analysis as all data are treated in the abstract and no participants or places are identifiable. Several interviewees requested that their interview recording remain private. This has been ensured by storing each on a password-protected drive (note 17). These interviews remain part of the research corpus.
I have considered the extent to which my research may exploit or objectify participants. However, there is the potential that others might exploit the talk of interviewees. It would be difficult to recognise or deal with such behaviour, however each interviewee was explicitly informed of the terms under which the recording would be made and hosted, prior to permission being sought for publication online.
MP3 files are hosted on my professional and research websites, where permissions have been given. These sites are owned by me and recognised by others as such. Each file has an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 UK: Scotland (CC BYNC-SA 2.5) license (Creative Commons, 2011) (note 18).
Some interviewees appear to have circumvented the risk of being objectified through their participation in the study by asserting their right to receive a copy of the MP3 file of their interview. Often the files were then posted on the individual’s own blog or website. I believe that in conducting semi-structured interviews, it is likely that participants retained sufficient agency that other participants and the audience would see them as a whole person and not only as, for example, a blogger or research participant.
Despite concerns during the data collection period regarding future coding workload during Grounded analysis, I did not actively restrict the length of any interview. 19
Therefore, as long as interviewees wished to continue talking, I continued to give verbal prompts and feedback, closing by asking if they had anything else to add.
In conclusion, below is the thesis chapter timeline.
Introduction Theoretical framework Methodology and methods Overview literature and key themes Interviews participants Research question Conclusion with sample of edonis
April – May 2013 May – August 2012 January – April 2012 September – November 2012 December 2012 – March 2013 June – September 2013 October – December 2013
1. Early in the EdD, I set-up the edonis project to attract educationists from around the world to the early iteration of my study. edonis stood for Educators Online Impact Study, though only the acronym is used. 2. ‘Teaching Scotland’s Future’ (Scottish Government, 2011a), on
educationists’ continuous professional development, and lifelong and intentional learning, has been broadly welcomed across Scottish civic society, including all major Scottish political parties. The report attempts to set a common agenda for teacher education across local and central government, educationists’ organisations and professional bodies, and higher education. 3. Continuous professional development (CPD) is a term used in many education systems. Commitment to practices and actions around notions of CPD, by teachers, government and employers, is a feature of the terms of employment for all teachers in Scotland. 4. Commonly found in e-learning and web technology discourses in the previous decade, this term illustrates how the web has developed into a collection of platforms, allowing people to work and socialise, and consume and publish data. 5. The term is used in music and web development industries, indicating that an artefact, for example, a song or application is materially based on the previous work of others who have given permission for their digital code to be utilised. I use the term here in relation to the act of using online data for professional purposes, then incorporating it into online activity that is visible online. 6. Blogs are websites which provide customisable space for individuals or groups to post data, via any digital media. The central frame on the site is chronologically ordered. Microblogs focus on enabling the publication of short headline statements which may link to longer text or larger media. 7. Some writers on connectivism claim that it is a new theory of learning which relates to a recent exponential growth in online activities of citizens around the world with access to the internet. Learning is seen as a social activity, managed by the individual.
8. Illich (1973) wrote of ‘learning webs’, envisioning a central role for networks of computers. 9. Recent developments in Standards and career frameworks have begun to challenge the singular teacher habitus. Discourses on enhanced, chartered or accomplished teaching have begun to develop the idea of a sub-group of the teaching profession, where there is an emphasis on one’s own professionalism, development and competence. 10. I could be regarded as part of the social world that I am studying. I have over one thousand, three hundred ‘followers’ on Twitter and use the service for me-to-many, one-to-one and many-to-me communication. Having been visible on Twitter for four and a half years and having podcast for six years, many participants in the edonis project will have known of me and my work prior to engaging around, for example, the research interviews. 11. Online dialogue was entered into with those who agreed to take part in an interview. We negotiated to converse face-to-face or via Skype, and agreed a time and date that was suitable. Final details, such the acceptability of the broad topics, were checked with interviewees on two occasions as the interview date approached. At this stage, I invited interviewees to suggest an aspect of their practice that they would like to share and was relevant to the broad focus of my research. This was designed to fit with a milieu of practitioner-sharing, evident across Scottish education. It also allowed interviewees to talk about themselves instead of in the abstract, as I would often be asking them to do during the interview. 12. Several early decisions were made which illustrate my interest in using web and new audio technologies to collect research data. I resolved to: record interviews using internet telephony, namely Skype and Pamela Call Recorder; on a fortnightly basis, and with permission release edited interviews online at my established podcast website, Booruch and the edonis project Ning website; and schedule a series of edonis interviews for live broadcast online. 13. The website used by the majority of the one hundred and twenty participants who signed-up to the edonis project contained statements from me similar to those in my initial communication to those who signed-up via email. The key messages were: the project related to doctoral research into educationists, ‘personal learning networks’, and the social web (subsequent iterations of my 22
research question were always prominently stated on the Ning website); that participants would be sent ten e-questionnaires over a one-year period and would be invited to schedule an interview with me (note 19); and that participants would be encouraged to answer entry questions upon signing in to the project’s Ning website, with the aim of participants introducing themselves to each other (see Appendix E). 14. I played with generating an audience, one which could live through aspects of the research process and be able to choose depth of immersion in the journey of the creation of new knowledge. The audience, including research participants, were able to email or ‘tweet’ during those interviews which were broadcast live online. Some intimated that they listened to live or recorded interviews prior to their own interview. 15. It is vital that disruption to participants is kept to a minimum during interview processes. I invited each to suggest suitable time slots and I ‘worked around’ these. I travelled to the workplace of several interviewees based in central and southern Scotland. Some problems arose with a small number of participants based outside of the UK. Due to difficulties with time zones and non-UK telephone codes, I was up to five minutes late in placing some calls. Where I did not have an established relationship with the participant, I invariably was unable to ‘get through’, my assumption being that they were too busy to wait on my call and were not sufficiently interested in the study to contact me to re-arrange a new time. For this inconvenience and loss of data, I take full responsibility. 16. I consider the edonis Ning website to be a CPD resource, as I, interviewees, project ‘lurkers’ and anyone else can read online posts by many of those who have participated in the project. All can listen to edited versions of most of the edonis interviews. 17. Recordings which were due to be released online were edited so that conversation prior to my introduction, and following my thanks, was not included in the final MP3 file. Unedited recordings remain on file and are available for coding. Each edited MP3 file was uploaded to online servers such as SkyDrive, Box.net or Dropbox for each interviewee to listen to prior to them granting permission for full publication online.
18. Creative Commons licenses allow others to: copy, distribute, display, perform the work and make derivative works, under the following conditions: Attribution — one must give the original author credit non-commercial — one may not use work for commercial purposes share alike — if altered, transformed, or built upon, one may distribute the resulting work only under a licence identical to this one. 19. At monthly intervals during the first two years of the project, I sent an email to all notional and active participants. Here, I communicated some of the quantitative data from the previous month’s questionnaire, collated by Survey Monkey, and provided links to the next questionnaire and the latest published interviews. Each email detailed how participants could withdraw from the study. 20. Glow is an intranet (a private portal on the web) that enables many within the Scottish education system to communicate and access data. Originally, it had seven components: a national directory of users, Glow Groups, Glow Meet (web conference), Glow Mail, Glow Learn (‘virtual learning
environment’), Glow Chat, and Glow Messenger. Further information is at http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/usingglowandict.
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Appendix A – Memo to support poster presentation derived from ‘Grounded Theory analysis of data from three edonis interviews’ (Noble, 2009)
The edonis participants spoke freely of networking and of feeling networked in a communication landscape which has moved towards using more web-based information and communication technology (ICT). Each has a long history of playing with ICT and of utilising it within education; learning about new possibilities in a selfdirected manner, which appears to have moved from the reading of textbooks to learning through their ‘personal learning network’ (PLN). This move to valuing communication mediated by web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, web conferences and Twitter, has occurred during a period of time in which the financial costs of having close-at-hand access to the internet 24-hours-a-day have reduced significantly. The participants stated that they are conversing with, reading, listening to, watching, and being influenced by educators who are unconnected to their workplace or previous episodes of professional development. They have enough knowledge of online spaces and the paths of useful data, to enable them to purposefully structure their time to consume or publish online educational content.
Many educationists now talk of having a ‘personal learning network’; particularly those who actively use Twitter and associated ‘social web’ technologies. The building of one’s PLN is regularly advocated in social, educational spaces; particularly by those educationists who state that possessing such a network is good for them, and by implication those colleagues and organisations who are part of their network. However, each interviewee deeply reflected on their actions and thoughts around their PLN; a term which, of interest, was never grounded by them in any literature, for example ‘connectivism’ (Siemens) or ‘communities of practice’ (Wenger). The term PLN was used loosely to describe having great control over what information was ‘pushed’ in their direction and from whom data comes. As such, I find several properties and dimensions emerging which provide a framework for analysing what is occurring (see poster presentation). The interviewees provide 32
a range of possible ways that one could be positioned in their PLN. As much of the control over the composition of the PLN is theirs, it does appear to be educatorcentred and not child-centred. They may speak of themselves firmly at the centre of the relationships and data flow, or within it; possibly recognising the multiplicity of connections which may mean that they are unrecognisable and not acknowledged by the owner of the PLN. It appears that the much-used term, ‘network’ may now be inappropriate as educational data moves along established paths but also travels to those who were previously unknown to the person making their text or other media visible; or who remain invisible but are, nonetheless, affected by the published artefact. It also involves accumulating connections as a potential audience for, or collaboration around, self-published online educational content. It appears that people fall in and out of someone else’s PLN according to whether they are presently noticed by the owner, or are involved in the ‘pushing’ and ‘pulling’ of valued educational data.
The interviewees were aware that relationships, data and spaces are delineated differently now, and despite giving examples of powerful communication and collaboration, anxieties surfaced around one’s standing in a network and in education groupings such as the classroom or staffroom, populated by people who, although often referred to as part of their PLN, are deficient in terms of not having access to the knowledge, expertise, and service (commitment to support) in place for the owner of the PLN. Opportunity costs of engaging with one’s PLN are becoming noticeable, such as: relaxing away from work; family life; and meeting in existing non-online spaces with old contacts. On occasion, moving from engaging with online data sources, relationships and spaces to only ‘keeping an eye-on’, meant having to cope with: missing constant new data; switching off from performative learning-for-work; and the possibility of the number of valuable connections shrinking.
Appendix B – Personal statement by David Noble
I regard myself as uniquely positioned within Scottish education as a direct result of my recent history as an educationist. In playing several distinct and visible roles, I inhabit several spaces, create and consume a variety of data, and sustain diverse relationships. Active across several educational sites and discourses, I am continually challenged as to my politics, assumptions, stances and values.
As Vice Chair and now Chair of the Association of Chartered Teachers Scotland (ACTS), I have worked with my committee to position chartered teachers as active, autonomous, enhanced professionals who collectively have a vision regarding future professional learning; one that will see co-operation between the association and other ‘players’ around the ‘Teaching Scotland’s Future’ agenda (Scottish Government, 2011a).
As a classroom-based teacher of general subjects in a residential special school in Fife, I have striven over the last ten years to fashion my pedagogies and curriculum such that learning experiences, processes and outcomes are satisfactory to the young people, purchasers of places at the school, ‘loco parentis’, and inspectorates.
As a ‘street-level bureaucrat’ (Lipsky, 1980), I face daily frustrations due to the imposition of managerialism and performativity (Ball, 2004), and the limitations of technology. I am required to reconcile macro-level and systems-level thinking deriving from my work for ACTS (a national body), with my intimate work with troubled teenage boys who are ‘looked after and accommodated’, for whom the quality of the ‘in between, between us’ (that is, the child and the worker) (Garfat, 2007) is paramount.
Appendix C – Main recommendations in ‘Teaching Scotland’s Future’ (Scottish Government, 2011a) relating to ICT
Professional learning communities (PLCs) could have a broader membership than only teachers, and they could focus on “knowledge exchange” (Scottish Government, 2011a:70)
CPD should be facilitated through blended, personalised models of delivery (Recommendation 40)
There should be more extensive provision of online CPD which will be accessed through a ‘one stop shop’ (Recommendations 40 and 41)
“Very high quality (online) resources and easy access” (Scottish Government, 2011a:98) would overcome resistance from some teachers
Supporting online resources should be created, covering the fundamentals of theories of pedagogy (Recommendation 12)
“Online mechanisms” other than Glow (note 20) could be utilised (Scottish Government, 2011a:96)
Extra supported study online (Recommendations 2, 11 and 21).
Appendix D – Theories of learning providing an insight into emerging online practices
Networked learning “promotes connections between one learner and other learners … learners and tutors … (and) a learning community and its learning resources” (Goodyear et al, 2004:1).
Learners engage in “legitimate peripheral participation” (Lave and Wenger, 1991) around ‘communities of practice’. These are weak ties (Granovetter, 1973), which, it is claimed, are sufficient for learners’ needs to be met. There is no need to become immersed or familiar in a community and learners move on to other communities or operate on the periphery of many simultaneously.
Dialogic pedagogy sees education as essentially dialogic (Matusov, 2009) and can be traced back to Socrates, Plato and Freire. This theory appears to fundamentally challenge connectivism, which stresses learning through dialogue, mediated online. With its long history and traceable development, dialogic pedagogy is well-placed to assimilate ‘the online’, without the need for new theories of learning.
Social constructionism suggests that artefacts are created as by-products of human agency and interaction. These artefacts can include imagined worlds and perceived social realities, meaning that knowledge and reality are always tentative and shifting, as the maintenance of reality is based on its continual social renewal. Where new people are interpreting the social world, there is, inevitably, change.
Social constructivism is rooted in educational psychology. It holds that group activity creates shared artefacts and meaning-making, often through discussion and negotiation. A learning community is a “social process for turning information into knowledge” (Hargreaves, 2003:170), where problems can be examined from multiple contexts and viewpoints (Murphy and Laferrière, 2003).
Each individual within a community can be conceived of as a knowledge worker (Drucker, 1999) and knowledge creator. They may be involved in: auditing professional working knowledge from practice, managing the process of creating 36
new professional knowledge, and validating and disseminating the professional knowledge created (Hargreaves, 1999).
Distributed cognition (Cole and Engeström, 1997) asserts that knowledge is scattered over any number of artefacts and that when embarking on a challenge or trying to solve a problem, an initial task is to identify where cognition lies or may lie, and how social interaction could create or reveal knowledge, subsequently leading to its distribution. The theory implies an ecosystem of cognition, embodied by artefacts throughout the social and natural world. Cognition is said to reside in mental spaces or in external representations.
Cuthell (2008) describes a model of voluntary collaborative online professional learning which takes place via platforms spanning international contexts. Teachers may participate in online sharing of project-based self-directed learning (see also Day, 1999 and the notion of ‘responsibilisation’ (Peters, 2001)). Cuthell’s model is “based on the importance of ‘learning by doing’” (in Daly et al, 2009:35). It has been termed ‘braided learning’ (Haythornthwaite, 2007), embodied in Daly et al’s (2009:54) call for “a shift to a model of bottom-up … innovation coming from practitioners themselves to ensure a sustainable culture of change and development.”
Appendix E – Questions posed to edonis project participants upon registering with the edonis Ning website.
1. Please tell the group about your work in education.
2. Briefly, in what ways do you presently use the internet in an education context?
3. What do you wish to get out of participating in edonis over the next 3 years?
4. Finally, if applicable, please give the address of your own website. The link will be listed on the main edonis page.
Appendix F - Early concepts and categories, properties and dimensions around new online data sources, spaces and relationships, from ‘Grounded Theory Analysis of Data from Three edonis Interviews’ (Noble, 2009)
Appendix G – Copies of emails send to edonis participants who agreed to be interviewed either during data collection ‘window 1’ or ‘window 2’.
‘window 1’ email
Dear xx I would like to confirm details of the telephone interview which you will hopefully be free to take part in on xx, from xx. Can you confirm a telephone number for me to call? I will record our conversation using Pamela call recorder. The following are areas I would like cover during the interview: Brief background about you and your career your experiences of ICT-related training and professional development whether you regard yourself as having a 'learning network' uses of the web which you have been attracted to the extent to which you see your use of ICT changing over the next 3 years.
Please let me know if there is anything you would like to be added to the list, or have removed. I look forward to speaking with you on xx. Regards David
‘window 2’ email
Dear xx Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the edonis project. I will phone on xx at xx, for around xx minutes. I will call you via Skype. Can you confirm a Skype name or telephone number for me to call? The interview will be recorded using Pamela call recorder installed on my laptop. The interview will concern professional work which you conduct, have conducted, or intend to conduct, online. My questions and prompts will focus on how you are dealing with: * Learning online * online relationships * talking online * online roles * being visible online * online experiences * data management. The interview will be semi-structured, and my questions and prompts will be sensitive to your previous survey responses, so don’t worry about being ‘cornered’! In saying that, please let me know if there is anything you would like added to the list, or have removed. Kind regards David