The H809 blogosphere has all but vanished! (Head over to James Aczel’s course blog for a round up of the latest entries) The postings have slowed to a crawl since we got over the last TMA with its somewhat complex part 1. Maybe we’re sulking! 😉
Anyway, in week 11 we were to look at three readings, each a published piece of research broadly examining educational technology. We were to read them and think about how ‘new’ the research might be.
Reading 14 is a 2002 paper by Bos et al and it presented a quite interesting examination of how trust is influenced by the the medium of communication. Participants in the study were divided into teams and had to play a ‘social dilemma’ game where the best result emerges when people sacrifice personal gain for the good of the team. They compared trust between team members who played face-to-face, using videoconferencing, phone conferencing and using text. They found that (unsurprisingly) the face-to-face teams established trust best, but video and phone were not far behind.
I found this study fascinating and well-executed. Having four distinct methods of communication with a broadly similar group of participants should tell us something valuable about the effect of the medium on communication. This of course has implications for instructional designers and online educators. (Applying it to H809, which is entirely text-based, might explain the relative lack of participation?) I’m unsure if the research is ‘new’ as such. The technology is certainly not new and there appear to have been similar studies particularly in the field of business and psychology (Valley, Moag & Bazerman 1996; C Jensen, SD Farnham, SM Drucker, P Kolloc 2000; Fletcher & Major 2006)
Reading 15 from Joinson & Reips (2005) considers the effect of personalised salutations and the seniority of the sender on the response rates to web-based surveys. Ever the eager-beaver guinea pigs (!) OU students received invitations to participate in surveys. Some individuals received generic salutations “Dear Student’ or ‘Dear Open University Student’ and others were more personal ‘Dear John Doe’ and ‘Dear John’. Three studies were carried out to refine the overall study and lots of I’m sure very meaningful things were done with chi-squares and logistic regressions (whatever they are).
Again, what is being tested here is not so new. The medium (email) is at least ten years old and personalised surveys are not new either. What is new perhaps is the ubiquity of email as a communication tool. Getting an email in 1997 was novel: after ten years years of spam, less so. Therefore their study has relevance and purpose. The sophistication of the technology has increased also, but has this just allowed data to be collected faster rather than offering a new research method? All in all, this was a convincing study given the way it was refined in three phases. I wonder if the participants are truly representative of the general population though (if that is important). OU students are perhaps aspirational, possess goodwill towards the (academic) institution and may be more inclined towards helping. It would be interesting to repeat the process with a more commercial agenda.
Reading 16, Ryokai, Vaucelle and Cassell (2003), concerns the effect of a virtual peer on literacy and storytelling in children. They created a (slightly creepy) virtual character called Sam who appeared to engage young children in modelling storytelling and linguistic devices. They found that the children learned linguistic structures from Sam and they posit that there are potential benefits in employing such tools in developing children’s literacy.
Initially, I thought this a little gimmicky. My superficial reading of the study led me to think that the paper was less about the research than it was about how novel Sam was. Could they not have used a puppet or a disguised adult? What was the benefit of using a simulated peer? But then I realised that the whole point was to suggest that software such as Sam could be an easily distributed and employed tool in classrooms, giving learners opportunities to learn without the need for close interaction with a teacher. The paper advocates more ICT in the classroom and their study gave them evidence to support that assertion. The main drawback in my mind (and they do acknowledge this) is the very small scale of the study. It was limited to a relatively small group of 5-year-old girls who played with Sam for only 15 minutes. The paper seems a little premature.
Overall, these readings were much easier to get a handle on than previous ones. All three had very tangible aims and outcomes. The work we have done on theoretical frameworks has made it easier to contextualise the papers (even if it is still rather difficult to spell Vygotsky).