H809: Week 11 round up

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. //battellemedia.com/images/halo%201-tm.jpg

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). Advertisement for toilet seats from a company called Dear John (me neither...)

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.Image of Lev Vygotsky.

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).


6 responses to “H809: Week 11 round up

  1. The Russian wikipedia entry provides some help on pronunciation:
    stress on the GOT in viGOTskiy. The spelling is Выготский

  2. The Ryokai piece is part of a broad effort to look at two possible uses of technology to solve major social issues in literacy. Creating “read to” time (a) in homes where this is unlikely for young children (a bigger problem in the US than in Ireland, but I’ve wondered about the effect this might have on Irish-language-learning among other things) – “Sam” seems unnecessary in most cases but text-to-speech and audiotext are available, and (b) acting as “teacher-multipliers” – allowing students access to texts in the classroom that are beyond their present decoding ability – without having an extra teacher for every student who needs help. Again, whether the gimmick of “Sam” creates a significantly better environment than Read-and-Write or even Click-Speak does, I’m not convinced, but there’s lots of research to do.

  3. The Russian entry gives help on pronunciation – stress on the GOT in VyGOTsky.

    The spelling obviously is Выготский. There is an official British standard for how to transliterate Cyrillic but I don’t think anybody bothers following it.

  4. @ John: thank you. I shall no longer fear the embarrassment of mispronouncing his name at dinner parties!

    @ Ira: intriguing possible application there on second language acquisition. It also brings to mind work being done on the use of artificial intelligence in therapy. I can’t remember where I read it recently, but the suggestion was that even when adults were aware that the ‘person’ they were ‘talking’ to online was a bot, they didn’t really care and found it valuable anyway. Might language learners not be bothered by an ‘artificial’ teacher as long as they were learning?

  5. Enda:

    In all my work with people, literacy, and computers, the only people bothered by either the “bot” idea or the “bot” voice have been the teachers – or people who were great readers to begin with (a category which does not include me). – OK, yes, some with Aspergers and CAPD might struggle with the lack of tonal variety, but that’s the only other group.

    So, I constantly say, that kid, you know, the one you say “no one reads to him at home”? His parents can not, this is the US, half the students are functionally illiterate (from a book reading sense) – which likely means that half the parents are functionally illiterate as well. So, the computer can read to him/her, lighting up each word as it is said, building that sight-word recognition, or it isn’t going to happen.

    Now think about Ireland. How many kids have I met struggling with Irish, or foreign-born kids struggling with English, where there is no possible reading support at home? Lots. As I’ve said in posts below, this isn’t a disability issue, it is an equity issue. Kids whose parents read better, or can support their language learning, do better in school because they have a built in “assistive technology” at home. I’m just trying to offer the same support to every student.

  6. And I’m with you there. My question was rhetorical in the sense of ‘learners won’t care who/what teaches them as long as they are learning’.

    No doubt the same threat to language teachers was felt when audio became easily captured and distributed: “It’ll never replace a teacher!”

    Sure, it’s great to have a teacher, but as you say, lots of people don’t have that luxury – or even choose not to use that method of learning – and technology can go some or a long way towards meeting their needs.

    Give me a well put together audio/video/online course in learning Spanish any day over a well-meaning but poor instructor that I have to travel to, smile at and indulge!

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