One of the chapters in my upcoming book, Networked Scholars, and one of the modules in my open online course on Networked Scholars, focuses on describing social media as networks of tension and conflict. In participating online, academics face and experience a wide range of tensions and conflicts that have to do with values, beliefs, academic freedom, institutional oversight, and societal expectations. These tensions aren’t just experienced by academics. Teachers face similar tensions as well.
The developing story regarding Dr. Salaita’s revoked job offer is an example of this, and, as numerous others have pointed out, of so much more. The area around academic freedom, social media, and public intellectuals is one that educational institutions need to seriously address. It’s also an area that we need to introduce to our PhD students… not just to show them examples of messy situations, but to help them investigate and understand the role and significance of digital and networked technologies in academics’ day to day lives (hence the reason for the free online class linked above!).
Thank you to everyone who joined the Building a Research Agenda using Design-Based Research (DBR) webinar with Dr. Susan McKenney and Dr. Tom Reeves. We had a wonderful session filled with insightful suggestions and examples. The recording of the session is now available.
The more we study social media and online networks, the more evidence we find that these spaces are replete with tensions.
In our latest published study (citation below) with my colleague Royce Kimmons, we found that expectations of professionalization in online social networks cut deeply into pre-service teachers self-concept. We found that participants generally had difficulty articulating what professionalism in online social networks actually looks like and what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate action online. As participants were exposed to a better understanding of what professionalism means online, participants recognized that they were not completely aware that their behavior might be watched and scrutinized by others, and this realization surprised them. Many pre-service teachers were also surprised at the severity of professional requirements and how the public might scrutinize seemingly innocuous behaviors on social media.
Numerous participants explained that as teachers they will need to be careful to not offend any community members, and the topics of politics and religion featured significantly in these conversations.
Though participants seemed to feel that a plurality of political opinion was a good thing and that they should have a right to political opinions, they nonetheless seemed to feel that teachers should take care in voicing those opinions.
Religion, on the other hand, seemed to be a different issue altogether, as participants seemed to feel that it was appropriate for them to express religious beliefs online even if others might happen to take offense or to disagree with them.
It’s important here to pause and consider the following: Participants’ preference of religion over politics likely reflects sociocultural values of the geographic region where the study took place (i.e. at a University in the South), and may not be generalizable.
These findings suggest that teacher education students might be willing to adjust the way that they participate in some ways to fit in with professional expectations (e.g., political opinions), but that there are some cases where what they feel might be expected of them cuts so acutely into their self-concept that they are afraid of losing their sense of identity (e.g., religious beliefs).
The implications of this study are the following:
First, teachers must consider how participating in SNS or altering their participation in them (e.g., content, connections, etc.) may impact their identity and sense of who they are.
Second, if teachers do not clearly understand how moral turpitude is defined in a given community, then how can they be sure that their behavior (online or offline) is beyond reproach?
The dilemma facing teachers in SNS is the following: As teachers present themselves in SNS in a way that is reflective of their complex and ever-developing identities, they may find it difficult to maintain meaningful social connections in online spaces as they pass through new phases of life and are simultaneously judged in an historical manner.
Kimmons, R., & Veletsianos, G. (in press). Teacher Professionalization in the Age of Social Networking Sites: Identifying Major Tensions and Dilemmas. Learning, Media, and Technology.
Date/Time: July 24 at 12:00 pm (EST)
Topic: Building a Research Agenda using Design-Based Research (DBR)
Panelist: Dr. Susan McKenney and Dr. Thomas Reeves
Design-Based Research (DBR), Educational Design Research (EDR) and DBIR (Design-Based Implementation Research) share the dual aims of (1) deriving new knowledge through (2) the design and implementation of solutions to problems in educational practice. This family of research approaches involves intensive, long-term collaboration between researchers and practitioners during the development of viable solutions to practical problems while also conducting empirical investigation on or through the solutions created. While collaboration with practitioners stands to increase the relevance and practicality of work; it also poses challenges to researchers, whose mission requires them to: seek out research-worthy problems; employ rigorous methods; and generate new knowledge that is of value to others (outside the immediate context of investigation). This presentation discusses challenges, pitfalls and recommendations for establishing a research agenda using the DBR, EDR, and DBIR family of approaches.
Dr. Susan McKenney is Associate Professor in the Welten Institute at the Open University in the Netherlands and at Twente University. Her research focuses on understanding and supporting the interplay between curriculum development and teacher professional development, and often emphasizes the supportive role of technology in these processes. Dr. McKenney is committed to exploring how educational research can serve the development of scientific understanding while also developing sustainable solutions to real problems in educational practice. Since educational design research lends itself to these dual aims, she also works on developing and explicating ways to conduct design research. In addition to authoring numerous articles, she co-edited the book, Educational Design Research and, together with Tom Reeves, wrote the book, Conducting Educational Design Research. Dr. McKenney is also current editor of Educational Designer, the journal of the International Society for Design and Development in Education.
Dr. Thomas C. Reeves is Professor Emeritus of Learning, Design, and Technology at The University of Georgia. A former Fulbright Lecturer in Peru, he has been an invited speaker in the USA and more than 30 other countries. His research interests include evaluation of educational technology, socially responsible educational research, public health and medical education, authentic learning tasks, and educational technology applications in developing countries. From 1997-2000, he was the editor of the Journal of Interactive Learning Research. In 2003, he received the AACE Fellowship Award from the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, in 2010 he was made a Fellow of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE), and in 2013 he was awarded the David H. Jonassen Excellence in Research Award by the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. His books include Interactive Learning Systems Evaluation with John Hedberg, A Guide to Authentic E-Learning with Jan Herrington and Ron Oliver (2010 Outstanding Book Award, Division of Design & Development, AECT), and Conducting Educational Design Research with Susan McKenney (2013 Outstanding Book Award, Research and Theory Division, AECT).
Resources about Educational Design Research (also known as Design-Based Research)
Conducting Educational Design Research book site