Research directions

I’m lining up some serious research time in the new year.  It should give me space to pull together a lot of interesting strands.  But I do need to focus on what I’m ‘interested’ in, in that funny academic sense of ‘interested’.  I’m actually interested in all sorts of things – I find pretty much all human endeavour endlessly fascinating.  But that’s not going to get papers out and bids in so I need to narrow down.

Fundamentally, as I mention on my ‘about’ page, I’m interested in new technology in teaching in Higher Education, although I’m increasingly minded to widen ‘Higher Education’ to ‘post-compulsory education’.

Within that, the two main areas I’m most interested in are the ongoing transformation of the online world (with a strong link to OpenLearn) and the ongoing transformation of the physical world (with a strong link to the new labs).  The U3A stuff I blogged about before definitely fits in here.

For various reasons, I want a reasonably strong theoretical take.  The theory du jour when I did my PhD was constructivism, but that has various shortcomings, rehearsed over the intervening decade, and has been eclipsed in the area by Activity Theory.  Only trouble with AT is that I’m not mad keen on it.  Either I don’t fully understand it, or I don’t agree with it, or quite possibly both.  (Exploring that is something else I’d like to do with a bit of research time.)

What’s more promising to my mind is Theory, as in the literary-criticism/media studies idea of Theory, expounded on David Gauntlett’s Theory.org.uk.  (I knew Dave quite well as an undergraduate but lost touch since, although I’ve long been a fan of his web presence.)  I see that he’s recently published a book called Media Studies 2.0, which sounds just the job as a starting point.  I’ve no taste at all for the obscurantist tradition that often comes with the lit-crit po-mo world, but there are some extremely valuable and interesting ideas there, and I’ve always found David’s writing extremely lucid.

This feels like a great idea since I already have a grounding in that area from personal interest, so pulling that in to the day job should pay off well.  (Although it’s a different matter to decide to give up struggling with unmediated Judith Butler when you need it for urgent revisions to a paper, rather than because it seemed interesting when you started.)  Pulling my personal interest in computers and new technology in to the day job worked out well in the past, so I have a happy precedent.

Not sure where this will end up – working this all out is a project for the research time itself – but I am getting quite excited about it.

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Author: dougclow

Academic in the Institute of Educational Technology, the Open University, UK. Interested in technology-enhanced learning and learning analytics.

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