Monday, August 30, 2010

(Re)Searching For Answers Part 2: Future Research Ideas

I think that the future of education lies in technology. A pretty heavy sentiment, but it seems reasonable to suppose that any medium that combines (relatively) cheap multimedia communication with global access is particularly suited to the dispersion of knowledge. The trick is to make technology work for us, and not mold our learners to work for technology.

There are two experiences in particular that have shaped my interest in this topic.
Living with a non-sighted father has given me insight into the needs and demands of those who do not experience the world (and technology) as I do. I have learned how the current online environment marginalizes people that have difficulty using a computer mouse. I also see other disadvantages of online learning practices, such as the use of video that does not contain written translations for those who have difficulty hearing. It amazes me to think of the untapped potential audience waiting for accessible technology.

Another accessibility roadblock can be seen across economic divides. After spending a year teaching in a government-run housing project, it seems clear to me that the (relatively) cheap possibility of visiting a website for information is a much more real possibility than taking a municipal bus to a local museum. This is not to say virtual manifestations eliminate the need for brick-and-mortar institutions. Far from it! Rather, these institutions should embrace the wider audience they will certainly receive with a well-created and marketed presence.

It is also clear to me that money, not the wellbeing of others, seems to be the major focus of most institutions and corporations. While I personally believe the bottom line should always be focused on human welfare, it seems possible that a creative, engaging and rich environment can be created on a profit-based system.

The question then becomes:
How can we create an accessible (in terms of cost and ADA standards) online learning environment that engages and empowers learners?

The major disconnect I see in current online learning stems from two facts I've noticed:
1. I have yet to encounter a student who has taken an online class that they have enjoyed.
2. I know many people who spend most of their lives connected to a rich internet-based community.

This leads me to believe that engaging and empowering online classes are both possible and necessary for the continued dissemination of knowledge from the elite to the masses.

Note: The picture above is of the cubical I worked in for 3 years. Feather boa was not included.

(Re)Searching For Answers Part 1: Definitions and Identity

Merriam-Webster Online defines research as:

1: careful or diligent search
2: studious inquiry or examination; especially : investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws
3: the collecting of information about a particular subject

In my humble opinion, research aims to describe current, historical, and/or potential future data via the scientific method.

Tap Dance Picture
My identity as a researcher is shaped by all the facets that make up my personality. Below, please find a (by no means exclusive) list of personal factors that influence my research. By recognizing these attributes, I hope that I take the first step to mitigating potentially harm the impartiality of my future work.

  • I am a well-educated, twentysomething white female
  • I come from a middle/upper-middle class Jewish background
  • My father is blind and has other disabilities stemming from illnesses experienced in the past 15 years
  • I went to 4 undergraduate schools (and still managed to graduate in 4 years--perhaps my biggest accomplishment!), and studied Studio and New Media art at all of them
  • I am particularly sensitive to gender, LGBTQ, racial, ethnic and other rights movements
  • I worked in web design and production at a large corporation in New York for the 3 years in between undergraduate and graduate study
  • I am currently working at the Palmer Museum while taking graduate classes

Refworks Link

I've begun posting articles about online learning, online communities and using multimedia methods in the classroom in Refworks, view my research folder here:

I hope to learn more about online classrooms and best practices--particularly concerning arts education and appreciation, accessibility issues and the fostering of supportive knowledge-based social networks.

First week of class...

Brings this quote to mind, from Calvin and Hobbes, a comic strip written by another Kenyon Alum, Bill Watterson:
Calvin: I used to hate writing assignments, but now I enjoy them. I realized that the purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog! Want to see my book report?
Hobbes: (Reading Calvin's paper) "The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender modes."
Calvin: Academia, here I come!
I'll start posting my responses to class tonight!