Monday, October 08, 2018

Research methods for education in the digital age – book overview

Here is an overview of a timely addition to the research methodology literature.

Research Methods for Education in the Digital Age arrived at the Ara library last week. 

Written by Maggi Savin-Baden and Gemma Tombs 2017 and published by Bloomsbury

After the introduction, 10 chapters. Includes useful glossary differentiating the various methods and approaches referred to in the book and 25 pages of references.

The introduction provides the rationale for the book. Being to fill a gap in understanding about how research is now conducted in the digital age. Has a table providing descriptions and salient literature sources for key digital technologies used in education. Also includes brief overviews of each of the following chapters.

First chapter, introduces ‘issues in researching education in the digital age’. Begins with summarising the change to data types now possible through the advent of digital technologies – the new typology of data. Apart from orthodox data, there is now the possibility of collecting participative intentional data, consequential data (i.e. health records), self-published data (i.e. blogs etc.), social media data, data traces (from search histories for example) and found data (available in the public domain). Introduces the concepts of the internet of things, digital tethering and digital immortality. Switches tack briefly to preview the traditional philosophies that inform research practice, conceptual frameworks and then discusses the challenges wrought be digital data.

Chapter 2 – new methodologies? – introduces potential methods including liquid methodologies (which morph across philosophical approaches); digital and visual methods – visual ethnography, arts-informed inquiry, grounded theory, evaluation, narrative inquiry,

Continues with chapter on ‘ethnographies for the digital age. Summarises the history of ethnography and then describes and discusses a range of possibilities. Ethnography for the internet, netography, sensory ethnography, connective ethnography, visual ethnography and critical ethnography.
Fourth chapter on adapting research approaches for educational research in a digital age focuses on design-based research, design patterns, future technology workshop, actor-network theory and activity theory. These are defined and critiqued.

Chapter 5 on quantitative data in digital context introduces the three main categories of data. Individual, engagement and learning. Engagement data is further sub-categorised as action or activity orientated, network-orientated or content- orientated. Big data, learning analytics and educational data mining are also introduced and discussed. Various modes for data gathering enabled by digital technologies are also presented and pros and cons discussed. These include web delivered surveys, mobile delivered surveys, social media polls, avatar delivered and chat bot delivered surveys. Other types of data including mobile application data,  social media data, geo-location data and the data associated with participation in virtual applications also detailed.

Digital ethics is covered in the next chapter. The chapter begins with an overview of the purposes of ethics in research. Then a discussion on how the advent of digital research methods and data, pose challenges. Solutions are proposed and discussed. In particular, the issues of privacy, consent and analytics in digital spaces, ‘found data’ in education – e.g. data available from participants in the public sphere, consent and learning analytics – who owns the data and issues of transparency.

Then a chapter on digital data creation and collection. Begins with discussion on what is the researchers’ role. Then discusses cooperative research opportunities afforded by digital technologies. Uses observations as an example of how research methodologies have shifted. Observation may now be carried out without research presence, using avatars or concentrate on textual and visual observations.

Chapter 8 covers data management covers the types of digital data – refashioned, re-created, digitally connected and digitally created. Then goes through the various ways for digital data analysis including social network analysis, analytical induction, critical discourse analysis, interpretative phenomenological analysis, narrative analysis, content, keyword and thematic analysis. Most of these achieved through the use of digital tools. Theories for interpreting educational research data in the digital age include cyborg theory, rhizome theory, network society, supercomplexity and digital tethering. Each is defined, discussed and critique.

Then chapter 9 on representation and portrayal in qualitative research. Interesting chapter on how research can now be represented or portrayed through use of digital research methods and tools. Defines each and provides examples, critiques.

Last chapter is on digital impact which is about how research impact can now be measured through mechanisms like h-index and altmetrics. Also introduces the new ways research findings can now be presented including institutional or personal websites, blogs etc. the advent of video abstracts and articles; data visualisations and the role of open access / open data.

All in, a good update for researchers on the potentialities and details for moving from traditional means for conducting and disseminating research, to the methods possible with digital technologies. The book is more of a 'how to' rather than an academic book, so it is accessible and well laid out.

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