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The Ethics of Researching Educational Uses of Stuff Like Twitter, Facebook, Second Life

Posted Sunday, 6 September 2009, 12:08

I'm interested in meeting up anyone using popular digital technologies such as Second Life, Facebook or Twitter (in fact any digital technologies, hardware or software, that have a widespread appeal) in teaching and learning - as opposed to those technologies that are just purely educational or institutional such as e-portfolios or VLEs. I'm interested because if people are using them for teaching and learning then there must also be people researching or evaluating this education activity.

It strikes me that such research or evaluation is interesting from an ethical point of view.

The reasons being:

These digital technologies and digital networks are creating more and more places and modes that people can inhabit, where communities can form, where ideas, images and information can be produced, stored, shared, transmitted and consumed: these include social networking technologies such as Facebook, gaming technologies such as World of Warcraft; multi-user virtual environments such as Second Life, augmented reality tools such as Second Sight, context-aware systems using CreatorScape and mobile communities using Twitter.

I think these technologies, each in their different ways, transform rather than merely reproduce the nature of learning and I suspect educationalists in many subjects and sectors already have several years' experience of using them. Educational research already explores some of their initiatives and opportunities and accounts are entering the literature.

As I say, I think however there are ethical dimensions to researching these various pedagogies and technologies and these are perhaps lagging behind other aspects of this exciting but emergent and fragmented research area.

In my view, ethics embraces everything from laws and regulations at one extreme to standards and expectations about language, taste, fashion, aesthetics,etiquette and behaviour.

Ethics in the first sense is significant and problematic in this field because of the potential gulf or lag between formal institutional and legal expectations and procedures on the one hand and evolving research practice on the other.

Ethics in the second sense, a more interesting sense I reckon, is important to researchers in this field because of the need to align their methods to the ethical expectations of the communities with whom they work; these expectations are however volatile, tacit, transient, chaotic and local to each community. And of course, the learner's experiences and expectations, their ethical expectations, of these educational experiences is obviously informed by the experiences and expectations they bring within from the 'outside' world where they already use Facebook, Twitter and Second Life.

I'm interested in hearing whether the ethics, in the sense I've used the word, of researching the educational use of these kinds of environments interests anyone at ALT-C.

away from ALT-C you should have a chat with these guys John: they do lots of work on ethics and CSR in computing, including social media, and have more research students looking at this area.

Sunday, 6 September 2009, 13:10

Thanks Richard, yes looks like they come at it from another angle. Will follow up after ALT-C.

Sunday, 6 September 2009, 13:15

I do some work with them so if you want a chat grab me at ALT-C or F-ALT.

Sunday, 6 September 2009, 13:20

OK. Thanks

I could also have made a connection also between the topics I mentioned and ideas of post modernity (or liquid or high modernity). Happy to explore those too.

Sunday, 6 September 2009, 14:00

A Bauman fan huh. Ok - worth a chat over a beer for sure.

Sunday, 6 September 2009, 14:55

and the rest of the guys in the band (mostly french and dead)

Sunday, 6 September 2009, 16:39

Yes, interested.

Will try to look out for you.

Monday, 7 September 2009, 09:13

yes, lets meet, don't know how but I've got mobile email, twitter running etc and staying for the duration

Monday, 7 September 2009, 09:58

Hi, I have to "manage" by which I mean negotiate an acceptable pathway for researchers, looking at a number of research ethics issues around research in these new developing contexts for my faculty and indeed input beyond that into other I WLT meet up and join in a discussion during ALT=C.

Carmel (who does not have mobile email sadly)

Monday, 7 September 2009, 16:42