Thursday, September 13, 2018

Methodological aspects in practice based research: Case Somejam #ReDMIL2018

Today I aim to liveblog again from the ReDMIL2018 doctoral summer school at UCL Belgium, and the first keynote of the day is from Sirkuu Kotilainen (University of Tampere), who talks on Methodological aspects in practice based research: Case Somejam. As a liveblog, these are just my immediate impressions of her talk.
The project she was using was involved young people learning coding, a two-day hackathon called Somejam. Kotilainen said that she felt that both approaches to teaching and learning, and research methods, needed to change with changing technologies and literacies.
She identified that they took a "pragmatist critical perspective in learning and literacies in digital cultures", both for the research and the hackathon. There was a political objective, to help education students develop their pedagogy, to be more collaborative in involving learners. There were 45 participants in the hackathon, 15 students from high schools, and the others Masters level students. The participants formed teams and had to develop a digital product (concerned with improving the lives of young people) during the course of the hackathon, with mentoring from IT students.
Kotilainen identified this project as being pragmatist, and one way of categorising it is as Educational Design Research (van Akker et al, 2006), which has been used (for example) in educational technology research. However, for Kotilainen a more familiar way of categorising it was as action research, with its cycles of planning, action and reflection. The planning included all the practical and marketing issues, on a fairly tight budget. Somejam was organised by project leaders and small teams of graduate students. The reflection included an after party in a pub, personal learning diaries of those involved, and a 2-hour reflective discussion. The reflection included the issues that emerged within the organising teams during the event. There were also interviews with 6 organisers and participants, organisers' logbooks, the documents created in the event, the 9 designs of the apps or digital objects created in the event, and the teams' video presentations of their products.
This means there was a lot of data, and Kotilainen stressed the need to make decisions about which data you were going to select to concentrate on, in order to focus on the aims of your project. She also stressed the need to explain, and critically reflect on, the process of research, to use the data for thick description, and to enfold the reflective aspect, with the narrative of the findings presented clearly.
So, in this project was hands-on, with the researcher as an active participant, aiming for transformation and development. A key challenge was making the research methodologically robust. In this case Participatory Action Research and Educational Design Research were linked together, possibly to form a new method. Also Kotilainen forecast a new online hackathon, which will take place in conjunction with the Global MIL conference 24-26 October 2018. It will start online in advance of the conference and registration is already open (when I manage to find the link I will add it!).

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