Research in education: Open and networked practices

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Partial view of the Mandelbrot set. Step 2 of a zoom sequence: On the left double-spirals, on the right "seahorses". Created by Wolfgang Beyer with the program Ultra Fractal 3
Partial view of the Mandelbrot set. Step 9 of a zoom sequence: The "seahorse valley" of the satellite. All the structures from the image of zoom step 1 reappear.Created by Wolfgang Beyer with the program Ultra Fractal 3

Robert Fitzgerald, Leigh Blackall, Keith Lyons and James Neill, University of Canberra

Hobart HGC Grand Ballroom 1, 11:30am Thursday, 1 December 2011

Presentation to an Australian Association for Research in Education 2011 symposium on
eResearch for education: What it offers and how educational researchers should address this question?

More info: Presentation slides | Visible tweets Storified tweets


Networked technologies combined with the ethics of openness offer unprecedented opportunities for improving access to digital information, facilitating involvement, and helping researchers to address questions in new and resourceful ways[1]. For many universities, however, 'eResearch' is focused on establishing digital repositories for storing and delivering finished scholarly articles and some other research outputs, but with limited consideration of how research processes might become more accessible. One of the barriers to opening up academic research is that it is often constructed as a specialised activity undertaken by experts pursuing "higher goals of truth and truthfulness"[2]. Gough argues that the focus on truth distracts us from what we don’t know and that the reduction of ignorance may be a more useful approach to research than the search for truth. Open data is critical to open, networked research and open management practices are arguably desirable as well[citation needed], particularly if volunteers are to be attracted to work on large data sets and to trust lead researchers enough to help organise, gather and interpret information. Complimenting such participatory research projects are web services that can assist people and organisations build investment and social capital around their proposals, such as Wikiversity. Key elements of the emergent open, networked research culture are openness, transparency, digital formats, asynchronicity, and a tolerance for anonymity and open participation[citation needed]. But as in any culture, there is also a darker side, such as the presence of bullying, trolling, fickleness, new and opache hierarchies, prejudices, group think and cultish behaviours[3][4]. In an increasingly complex and commodified world, the application of large-scale, collaborative networks to identify knowledge ‘blind spots’ may be vital to help reduce our collective ignorance. The affordances of network technologies to support new forms of collaborative knowledge construction[5] may engage people in practices traditionally the preserve of the expert, particularly when based on an ethic of openness. Such a scholarly research/learning should encourage and allow for the rise of the enfranchised researcher who will want to ask their own questions and generate their own data. These researchers will build their own smart tools for sense-making and theory building that help ensure the most productive partnerships between expert and other researchers. We will need such a new generation of social research tools and deeper adoption of new practices in order to support large-scale participation in research practices.

Full paper (Work in progress)

Footnoted references[edit]

  1. National Science Foundation. (2008). Fostering learning in the networked world: The Cyberlearning opportunity and challenge. A 21st century agenda for the National Science Foundation. Arlington: NSF Task Force on Cyberlearning. Retrieved from, 24.
  2. Gough, N. (2002). Ignorance in environmental education research. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 18, 19-26.
  3. Keen, A. (2007). The cult of the amateur: How the democratization of the digital world is assaulting our economy, our culture, and our values. New York: Doubleday.
  4. Sunstein, Cass. 2006. Infotopia: how many minds produce knowledge. Oxford University Press
  5. Fitzgerald, R.N & Findlay, J. (2011). Collaborative research tools: Using wikis and team learning systems to collectively create new knowledge. In S. Hesse-Biber (Ed.), Handbook of emergent technologies and social research. Oxford University Press, Boston.

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