Last week I commented a research about Rhizo14 in this blog in three posts. I have followed research about MOOCs all the time (since the year 2009), so it was something I would normally do. I didn’t know how other people had commented this one and I was very astonished about what I have seen. It is The Thing I learned last week. There are different orientations toward research.
First some facts about my background and orientation. I have been interested in action research since the 1970’s when I acted as a researcher for the first time. The idea of participatory action research, where the doers are the subjects, not objects, it has been close to my heart for forty years. Another dream was to do practically oriented research and avoid narrow academic traditions. I still remember when a famous professor Martti Takala smiled at me and my colleague and said that he agreed with our motto more than the research itself. Now I can comprehend his feelings. Since then I have learned how challenging it is to act as a ‘practitioner researcher’ and I understand that it is necessary to focus every research, to find the question which can be answered. I have done action research and every time got negative feedback. If you follow development in an institution, they want to hear that they are excellent, not anything else. This is my background shortly and too simply, but I’ll handle the basic concepts in another blog post next week. Now I’ll concentrate on my learning last week.
I could not imagine the amount and content of some attacks on the research which was handled. It was impossible to follow or understand for me. I felt astonished and embarrassed every time I visited the Rhizo14 group in Facebook. Yesterday I decided to sit down and learn more. So I read again two long threads which began as follows:
- another from the negative results of the research I am speaking about and
- another about a blog post of a Rhizo14 participant which had not an account in FB. So they spoke intentionally behind her back. They named her an attacker and I don’t know why. It was a normal or good post for me.
The discussions varied a lot and I could follow many constructive paths, not only of inferior quality as I had earlier seen. The keys of solutions were included in some comments; they used the concepts defense mechanism and ego. Many people said that in every research of students’ opinions, there are some that won’t like it. It is normal. But why it was not acceptable in this rhizo14 case? I draw a simple image:
There was much “we-speech” and that orientation excluded the others. I used the concepts Resident and Visitor here instead of Insider and Outsider. David White developed those concepts for participation in the internet in online studies. I think they are the appropriate concepts here. I feel myself a visitor even if I have written there sometimes, I have had long breaks as well.
After drawing that image I noticed that it is like the old social psychological description of groupthinking. The residents belong to the group and this frame influences all their interpretations. For instance the line around the box, the border, changes what is bullying and what is not. Those inside are free to name others but they are very sensitive about “others'” sayings.
The discussions in the two threads consisted of different parts. Many people behaved well and then it turned to low level again. This is ridiculous, said Simon Ensor many times and I agreed in my mind. Simon said earlier that he participates in Rhizo14 in an affinity space. Perhaps I should understand what it means.
The rhizo14 course supported creativity and the use of artistic ways to describe one’s experiences. I appreciated that and enjoyed as long as I could follow without being a native in English. Poetry was difficult to follow but the videos easy. This all helped me to realise that some participants accepted only artistic ways. Every presentation should be dynamic and include whole and complex life in it.
So this way may lead to a point where research is not possible or not acceptable. I wonder whether it is possible at all to conceive a research for these people? There are other ways. For instance participants’ experiences may be collected on a platform Padlet where videos can be included as such. Here is an example of the last Padlet of EDCMOOC.
I could recognise huge differences in attitudes toward research in the rhizo14 group. Many rhizo14 participants are doing research and want to learn about doing it better while some people deny its value totally. There seems to be a gap between these lines. Building a bridge between these is perhaps too challenging. Anyway it should be understood what research is and why it is necessary to focus on appropriate questions which can be handled.
In both groups of the image (interested in research and artistic line) I have recognised negative attitudes toward so called academics or even universities. Sometimes those who make fun of universities know what they are saying and sometimes their criticism comes across as children’s crying or mere envy.
I have an intention to handle this issue, I mean research of online learning, during this Spring many times. This is my farewell to the Rhizo14.