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research ethics for e-learning with popular technologies
the ethics of researching or evaluating the educational uses of popular digital technologies
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11 September 2009
I'm interested in finding out whether members of the group are using popular digital technologies such as Second Life, SMS, Mxit, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter (in fact any digital technologies, hardware or software, that have a widespread appeal) in teaching and learning. I don't mean those technologies that are just purely educational or institutional such as e-portfolios, PRS or VLEs.
I'm interested because if people are using them for teaching and learning then there must also be people researching or evaluating this education activity.
It strikes me that such research or evaluation is interesting from an ethical point of view.
These digital technologies and digital networks are creating more and more places and modes that people can inhabit, where communities can form, where ideas, images and information can be produced, stored, shared, transmitted and consumed: these include social networking technologies such as Facebook, gaming technologies such as World of Warcraft; multi-user virtual environments such as Second Life, augmented reality tools such as Second Sight, context-aware systems using CreatorScape and mobile communities using Twitter.
I think these technologies, each in their different ways, transform rather than merely reproduce the nature of learning and I suspect educationalists in many subjects and sectors already have several years' experience of using them. Educational research already explores some of their initiatives and opportunities and accounts are entering the literature.
As I say, I think however there are ethical dimensions to researching these various pedagogies and technologies and these are perhaps lagging behind other aspects of this exciting but emergent and fragmented research area.
In my view, ethics embraces everything from laws and regulations at one extreme to standards to expectations about language, taste, fashion, etiquette and behaviour at the other extreme.
Ethics in the first sense is significant and problematic in this field because of the potential gulf or lag between formal institutional and legal expectations and procedures on the one hand and evolving research practice on the other.
Ethics in the second sense, a more interesting sense I reckon, is important to researchers in this field because of the need to align their methods to the ethical expectations of the communities with whom they work; these expectations are however volatile, tacit, transient, chaotic and local to each community. And of course, the learner's experiences and expectations, their ethical expectations, of these educational experiences is obviously informed by the experiences and expectations they bring within from the 'outside' world where they already use Facebook, Twitter and Second Life.
I'm interested in hearing whether the ethics, in the sense I've used the word, of researching the educational use of these kinds of environments interests other people in the group.
Contact details: john traxler, firstname.lastname@example.org, johntraxler
danah boyd has a detailed bibliography of research relating to social networking
and of research relating to microblogging and Twitter
10:22 on 13 September 2009