On Monday, in my EDTECH597 – Week 4 entry, I indicated that today I would post a discussion entry to model for my Boise State students. I described a discussion entry as an entry that is ” exactly as it sounds, entries designed to generate discussion. Typically they are self-contained and have a short introduction to give the reader some context and then attempt to pose an open-ended question. Some bloggers will base their discussion question on something they have read or a current event. The main thing to remember about a discussion question entry is that it is designed to generate conversation among the readers of your blog.”
For my entry of this nature last year, I asked “Do Practitioners Care About Research?” – and even though I have thousands of practitioner readers each month, along with 8 or 9 students in the course last year, only a single student participated in the discussion (and no one from outside of the course responded). Which I supposed tells me everything I need to know about the answer to my question!
This year I wanted to focus on a more recent topic that I’ve written about… Late last week I posted an entry entitled Article Notice – Public Online Charter School Students: Choices, Perceptions, And Traits. In it, I announced the publication of a research article about online charter schooling and then proceeded to criticize the authors for their lack of critique or context in their discussion of the literature. The example I used pointed to three articles, all presented with the same level of credibility by the authors. Yet one of these articles was based upon systematic research, one was based on a teacher’s own experiences, and one was simply the informed opinion of the author. As an academic who regular reviews manuscripts submitted to journals and pieces of writing from my own graduate students (including doctoral students), I see this happening more and more.
Have we as a society become so interested in the mcnuggets of information – both practitioners and researchers – that we have become too lazy to examine what a piece of literature is based on? Does it even matter to us any more? Or have we become a society that simply consumes information without being critical of where that information has come from? Last summer for the sample of a “Commentary Entry” for my EDTech597 students, I penned an entry entitled “HMH Fuse Pilot Study Will Fissle” – essentially a discussed about the methodological problems about the research being conducted by HMH on their Fuse apps. Less than six months later, they posted an news item to their website entitled “Study Shows Algebra iPad App Improves Scores in One School.” It appears the reliability and validity of the research meant little to this one journalist.
But we see this all of the time, companies that conduct studies that invariably show their product as being superior than the competition – and the media and the public buy into the press releases that these companies issue. To take an example closer to the field of K-12 online learning, compare the study sponsored by the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center with the study sponsored by K12, Inc. when it comes to cyber charter school performance. Compare the coverage – both news and blogs – of both studies!
Do those involved in the field of education want to know the details behind the research or would they prefer someone just tell them what was found in the end? Do those in the field of education really care about the difference between research and other forms of literature?