Research-Based Learning Blogs

Since there seems to be little activity or recognition of learning research (such as the learning sciences, educational psychology, science education, etc.) in the blogosphere, here are a few blogs I thought I’d pass along.

There are some others, but the ones I have seen have very little activity.

I’m sure there are many reasons for the low level of attention and discussion about educational research in the blogosphere and in practice. Education departments are not yet embracing blogging or wikis or videocasting very much, so graduate students and professors are not sharing their research or ideas via these tools. When a prominent researcher does show up in the blogosphere or social software sphere, it does make an impact, however. People are listening to Roger Schank’s ideas more because of his blog posts (his posts do not allow the general public to comment, however, and so far other bloggers seem to be only nodding their heads about his ideas). People noticed when John Bransford gave a talk in Second Life a few months ago.

The typical ways of communicating research are conferences, books, and journal articles, which are prohibitively expensive and closed off from the general public, including teachers and instructional designers. It would be nice if graduate students could blog some summaries or reviews of recent research findings from these journals that they are already poring over anyway. That would make a better class assignment than the typical class paper that only the teacher reads. See for example the edgames class blog, although they are mainly blogging about items in the news, not research.

However even if researchers were blogging more, most school districts block access to blog sites such as Blogger, video sites such as Youtube, and wikis. So it’s two walled-gardens (academia and k-12), separate from one another, not even a one-way communication channel open (researchers speaking out to educators, for example), let alone two-way. A partial solution for that would be to use a blog/video/wiki site that is just targeted to educators, such as James Farmer’s edublogs site. And bloggers like Will Richardson are leading the charge on the K-12 side of the fence.

Educational software created by researchers is a problem as well. Most of the time professors do not publicly share or make freely available their educational software. When they do, often it is not open sourced (such as Netlogo). There was a nice article about David Shaffer’s work researching and developing educational games, but he hasn’t released any of the games to the public yet, and it will be at least two years before they are released, after the games are made commercial-grade. I can understand that, but so often you see researchers test their software on hundreds of students across several different schools and publish articles about it in numerous journals, and yet they do not feel comfortable sharing it with the public at large. Again, one solution to this is for researchers to embrace the “release early, release often” philosophy of open source, and utilize educational software development sites such as EduForge.

Researchers are also very tied to funding. Blogging has no impact on funding, or tenure or anything like that. Perhaps funders could themselves publicize the work of their grantees more, rather than only pushing for the usual journal articles or book chapters. Once a project’s funding has died out, often a project is simply abandoned, and none of its software or other products released or open sourced. Again, being as open as possible can help, using EduForge for sharing software, sites like OpenLearn for sharing curricula or classes that have been developed, etc.

Posted in education, research

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