@AERA 2012: Research as a Mona Lisa in HD?

Pixelated image of the Mona Lisa

Pixelated Mona Lisa as metaphor for research.

A s I worked diligently with @rfmoll, my colleague–Rachel Moll–to finish our paper and presentation for AERA 2012 in Vancouver (Educating with Social Media: Policy & Practice in British Columbia), I have been struggling with the challenges of researching and the ability to see a complex, holistic vision within which the object of the research is situated–as well as what might be influencing what you’re observing. As I attend more and more sessions here, @rfmoll has reminded me that in order to research–the focus must be narrowed. I guess that’s what the ‘limitations’ section is for. One session I went to focused on ‘big data’ sets that yielded interesting information on wiki development by students–while that sounds all encompassing, the breadth meant the research left me yearning for depth of focus like recommendations for best practices, etc. So a narrow focus can also be broad.

While I accept that for one person–or even a few people–to research something with any depth, the field of vision must be narrowed, I find it troubling–maybe because I’m a global learner, a systems thinker–I don’t know. Many of the presenters/speakers I have seen are discovering very interesting things that can inform our teaching and learning, but they can only encompass so much in the scope of a study; they are taking it in one direction where multiple directions are possible & likely equally valid. They have considered specific aspects while others might be in play. I guess I want research to be more like an HD picture of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. In the virtual copy, you can get much closer than in person, zoom in/out and around the image in high definition. I’m wondering is there anyway to network our research around technology, educating, and learning in some way that would allow us to move from randomized microscopic visions, to orchestrating those narrow visions to recreate a more complex wholistic picture–much like pixels populate a screen to render HD images. Right now, I feel like I’m looking at some pointillist version of reality.

Maybe I’m naive? Admittedly, the higher the resolution, the more pixels you need. That’s an awful lot of microscopic visions that need to be coordinated to make an HD picture, but imagine if you could take a research item in technology, teaching and learning and look at it from multiple lenses at the same time at varying depths–almost like one of those 360 photos you can pan around. That’s how I wish I could pursue my technology-based educational research–find a group of researchers interested in different views of the same system–students, teachers, administrators, institutions, etc. then coordinate & collate the results. Not too long ago, HD images were a dream for most people. @rfmoll told me I’m looking for the Holy Grail of research. In truth, I’d take the Mona Lisa. Anyone else want to recreate the Mona Lisa with me?

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