How important is research for teachers in general, and ICT teachers in particular? One might be tempted to say that people learn in the same way now as they did thousands of years ago, so research, apart from keeping abreast of the latest developments in technology, is pretty redundant.
I think there are problems with that attitude.
First, we don’t know what we don’t know. Research can shed light on issues we didn’t even know existed, and can raise questions we hadn’t realised even needed asking. Second, I’m not convinced that people do learn in the same way as they did thousands of years ago. Technology has meant that we can make mistakes that would have been fatal in the past, through the use of simulations and modelling. Social media has meant that we can canvass, or be exposed to, views from a much wider range of people than would have been possible hitherto. This happens by accident almost. For example, I recently wrote an article about how school districts in the USA are spending their money on computer hardware. This led to comments by John McLear, Michael Pickett and someone called Hamish. All their views are interesting, especially as two of them (John and Michael) seem to feel the same way as I do about tablets vs netbooks (article on that subject is already in the works). Moreover, Michael has provided a couple of links to articles on his website which I am looking forward to reading, and provided a further reference in Twitter this morning. Perhaps in a sense the actual mechanisms by which stuff enters our brains, stays there and then becomes useful in a practical way really hasn’t changed for millennia – which may or may not be true, but in a sense that is irrelevant.
I’d also say that, if you discovered that your doctor hasn’t read a medical journal article since he or she qualified, you might consider changing your doctor! Hopefully, research is not a life or death issue in education, but I do believe that what makes a professional a professional is keeping up-to-date with the issues and thinking that are pertinent to that subject. That’s why it’s quite right that the powers-that-be believe teachers should continue to do research, although I agree with Christina Preston (see below) that such research doesn’t have to be at Masters level.
What is research? On the one hand you have the highly academic stuff that universities and other institutions engage in. On the other hand you have Freda Bloggs keeping a note of what happens in her classroom when she introduces a new application into her teaching. And somewhere in the middle are people like myself, who carry out research via online surveys or in Twitter. The methodology may not be scientific in the true sense of the term, but I like to think that at the very least it can act as a catalyst for discussion and flag up issues for further exploration.
But enough of this persiflage! Take part in a free online discussion, which takes place at 7pm UK time on Tuesday 8th February, under the auspices of Vital. Christina Preston, founder of the teacher-centred research organisation Mirandanet, and its seminar programme of Mirandamods, discusses the importance of research for ICT co-ordinators. This is important because we don’t have to rely on anecdotes to show people how important technology can be in the learning process. Join Drew Buddie and me for an online discussion here. Please note that the discussion and chat will be recorded.
The Future of Teaching is Online by Doug Woods