April Digest

Each month, I’ll collect the stuff I’ve read (papers, tweets, blogs, articles) over the last 30 days and post it here with a few comments of mine. This means that not everything I write about is actually new, it’s just that it was new *for me*. Here goes:

Houlden & Veletsianos, 2019: A posthumanist critique of flexible online learning and its “anytime anyplace” claims
A thoughtful critical discussion of the often wielded claim of flexibility in online learning. The authors challenge the assumption that every student is able to to make use of this flexibility. Instead, this can bring a whole new set of challenges and barriers for students. These are, however, often absent from the literature.

Willingham, 2019: The Digital Expansion of the Mind Gone Wrong in Education
Another critical paper. Here, Daniel Willingham is critical of the so-called “digital expansion of the mind” and challenges the widespread notion that technology innovation goes along with changes how people acquire knowledge. He discredits the idea that memorization and factual knowledge should be de-emphasized to make room for more general skills. He also talks about the Flipped Classroom and personalized learning but I find his arguments less convincing when it comes to these approaches to learning.

Wasserstein, Schirm, & Lazar, 2019: Moving to a World Beyond “p < 0.05”
This was a big one! The new special issue of The American Statistician is all about p-values, their problems and possible solutions. With a whopping 40+ papers, there’s a lot to read. The editorial bei Wasserstein et al. gives us a good glimpse of what’s to come in these papers and also does a nice job of summarizing the main arguments.

Frontiers in Psychology, How Desirable Are “Desirable Difficulties“ for Learning in Educational Contexts?
This special section of Frontiers in Psychology is all about desirable difficulties in education. There’s a lot of great stuff, interleaving, testing effect, self-explanation, distributed practice; all the stuff that makes learning so hard and often unpleasant, but, ultimately, effective.

Ellis, 2019: Are smartphones really that bad? Improving the psychological measurement of technology-related behaviors
Another critical paper! This time about the purported bad effects of smartphones. The author makes the case that although we often have strong intuitions about the effects of these devices, scientifically there is still not much evidence to back up our intuitions. In sum, it seems that there is a measurement problem, meaning that the field is not yet equipped to validly assess technology related experiences and behaviors.

Hew, Lan, Tang, Yia, & Lo, 2019: Where is the “theory” within the field of educational technology research?
In my experience, educational technology research is often a-theoretical. Yet, without advancing theory through our investigation, we do not learn. The authors of this mountain of a study collected evidence to see, in fact, if and how a-theoretical our field is. By analyzing 503 articles from CAE, LMT, and BJET, they find that not only is theory not being developed by studies but that many studies are either wholly a-theoretical or very vague about their theoretical underpinnings. Interestingly, it seems that there is a general dearth of theories specific to our field and instead many studies are borrowed from neighboring disciplines like sociology and psychology.

Klahr, 2019: Learning Sciences Research and Pasteur’s Quadrant
This paper introduced me to Pasteur’s Quadrant, a way of thinking about basic vs applied research. The author argues that although many disciplines see it as an imperative to be in Pasteur’s Quadrant (combining basic and applied research), the original author, Donald Stokes, never intended this interpretation. I, for my part, think that Educational Technology is mainly operating in the applied area with too little information flowing back.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s