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Running Head: Telfer Final Reflection Essay

EDCI 380 OL1: Research in the Digital Age


Final Reflection Essay
Eric Telfer
The University of Vermont
April 27, 2015

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EDCI 380 OL1: Telfer Final Reflection Essay
Research in the Digital Age has included the most challenging coursework within my
degree program to date, but the learning experience Ive gained from working through the rigors
of the research process has been very rewarding. I have been able to gain a tremendous
appreciation for the time and commitment that goes into the research study process. As this
course draws to a close, I feel like at the very least, Ive developed the cursory knowledge and
skills required to successfully conduct purposeful investigative research in the digital arena. This
course has laid the foundation for future endeavors that can hopefully elicit more influential
findings that the ones my study uncovered about the overall efficiency and effectiveness of
educational technology in the classroom, and educational data mining outside of the classroom.
I really enjoyed reading about the ethical implications of conducting online research. The
Ethics of Internet Research dedicated a significant focus on the burgeoning legal and ethical
chasm that exists in current research practices. The authors rightfully point out that in terms of
the current auspices governing internet research, the law is a messy moving target... and
typically not up to date in regard to emerging technologies (McKee & Porter, 2009, p. 73). For
our class, I think that the primary focus was geared toward the prevention of any potential
privacy rights violations or breaches in confidentiality involving our human subjects. One of the
course readings (Hines, Douglas, & Mahmood, 2010) put forth important cautionary tales
surrounding subject sensitivity issues in research studies, but this did not materialize as a
significant concern for my research study. With respect to further addressing privacy issues, I
thought that Harvards Privacy Meltdown offered some sage advice about how [t]he daily
minutiae of our digital lives [has become] so culturally valuable (Parry, 2011), and that the
content and data posted on online social networks (OSN) are readily accessible to social network
researchers without requiring informed consent from OSN users. Some online social network

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EDCI 380 OL1: Telfer Final Reflection Essay
researchers will inevitably find ways to parry or circumvent at least the legal constraints
surrounding what is ethically considered privileged access to peoples OSN posts. Ethical and
legal authorization to harvest this data remains healthy fodder for discussion, but as one observer
quipped, its almost impossible to anonymize social network data. (Parry, 2011, p. 6), and it is
essentially an undeniable truth that the Net is a publicly accessible environment and, therefore,
consent to data mine on the Internet or Web is not needed (Kanuka & Anderson, 2007, p.
25).With this in mind, it seems more important than ever for internet researchers to effectively
honor the principle of phronesis: the art of practical judgment (McKee & Porter, 2009, p. 26)
when either collecting data from online social networks for research purposes or simply posting
information on the internet.
The narrative about Edward Tufte was really interesting and offered some practical
advice about being effectively able to make visual representations of data purposeful and
aesthetically pleasing. For my survey report and results, I ended up using minimal specialized
software (Henderson & Segal, 2013, p. 54), which was not unhelpful, but the visualization of
my data was definitely worthy of what Edward Tufte would consider intellectually
impoverished (Yaffa, 2011, p. 16). Also in The Information Sage, author Joshua Yaffa states
that, the spread of technology over recent decades has fostered a comfort with data, and an
appetite for more of it in an ever-increasing portion of the general public (Yaffa, 2011, p. 20).
We began reading more about data mining and data sharing in the latter stages of the course, and
I was a little disappointed that we did not study and learn more about data sharing and the data
visualization process earlier on in the course, as I believe that having more time to experiment
with data visualization tools would have likely enhanced the quality of both my qualitative and
quantitative research findings.

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EDCI 380 OL1: Telfer Final Reflection Essay
Part of my research study examined the increasingly influential role that Educational
Data Mining (EDM) plays in the field of education, since education is the next big
undercapitalized sector of the economy (Fang, 2011) and furthermore, venture capital
injections into the K-12 marketplace more than tripled between 2010 and 2012 alone (Ash,
2012). The conduit through which EDM is able to better serve its stakeholders is the application
programming interface, or API, that blends and processes data for those wishing to improve
educational practices, in part, through the monetization of student data. Vermonts state and
district policy makers can benefit from the fact that educational evaluators can now... make
large complex data sets clutter free and approachable for lay audiences (Lysy, C., 2013, p. 34).
Furthermore, Evaluators... visually representing their data should think carefully about whether
it improves the clarity and utility of the analysis and findings (Henderson & Segal, 2013, p. 68).
As part of my literature review, I learned more about statewide data collection via the Statewide
Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) which is a grant-funded program (Statewide Longitudinal
Data System (SLDS) | Vermont Agency of Education, 2009) that, in part, generates data sets for
all of Vermonts students and makes them available to local districts and for-profit third parties
that seek to capitalize on the educational needs of Vermonts students and educators with digital
prescriptions to diagnose human challenges. My contention is that there are many evaluators
who are thinking more about profit motives tied to sales of educational software than about best
serving the more human needs of our students. The subjects I interviewed concurred. To be sure,
the data visualization tools that enable huge swaths of data to be simplified for lay audiences
doesnt necessarily mean that data-driven decisions should be the first (or only) resort to
improving teaching and learning just because the data is easier to see.

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EDCI 380 OL1: Telfer Final Reflection Essay
Some other observations regarding my research study include some results that appear to
contradict the assertion that [a]synchronous forms of communication, such as e-mail, allow
considered responses that are usually lengthier and more measured than those in a synchronous
communication medium (Stewart & Williams, 2005, p. 402). I found that the interviewees
elicited lengthier responses than the qualitative responses to identical questions I deployed in my
online survey. Conversely, other research findings supported my positive experiences with
recording interviews, specifically with respect to expense (free), time, availability, practicality
and acceptability (Hay-Gibson, 2009, p. 46) and I was able to bypass elements of Voice over
Internet Protocol (VoIP) by using Photo Booth Movie Recorder because it was not web-based
and also more secure in terms of preserving subjects confidentiality because the recordings were
housed on my password-protected MacBook.
I was particularly impressed with the skill development lessons in this class. It is a rich
repository of technology tools that I simply did not have the time to master within the temporal
constraints of this class. However, most of the tools in the skill development lessons have been
bookmarked in my Diigo library, and I am most interested in using data visualization tools with
my students when discussing topics that warrant making statistical thinking more visible with
open-source visualization software. I have used www.gapminder.org in the past, but I have not
ever used www.aea365.org, www.google.com/publicdata, www.ndedataviz.com, https://bubbl.us,
http://www-01.ibm.com/software/analytics/many-eyes/ and I am really motivated to use theminitially in my classroom- and perhaps in time, during faculty in-service days or as a part of a
conference workshop. I was also interested in learning more about NODE XL as a social
network map creator (Lysy, C., 2013), as well as the www.hedonometer.org (Danforth, 2014) for
future classroom use. Using Zotero was an extremely effective and efficient use of educational

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EDCI 380 OL1: Telfer Final Reflection Essay
technology, and I shared this bibliographic software citation management system with my
seniors this semester in order to save them time conducting research and to prepare them in one
more way for college. Dan DeSanto was also very helpful assisting us with different search tips
and tools to locate relevant journal articles in the Bailey Howe Library database for the literature
review.
Finally, my investigation into the efficiency and effectiveness of educational technology
received more affirmation from my subjects that students are accomplishing more tasks with
greater efficiency by virtue of having more digital devices in the classroom. However, subjects
expressed an abiding consensus that more educational technology isnt creating more effective
learners in their classrooms. I think that the use of educational technology, regardless of its
promise and peril, is going to trump any future groundswells of opposition to its shortcomings.
The SBAC test, which requires students to take it on a computer (pencil and paper is not an
option), will be used as the sole measure of assessing the quality of instruction for college and
career readiness, and school districts are going to end up in a competitive game to see where they
stack up. Spending grant money on more technology will likely be the perceived solution. This is
not unlike the Obama administrations $4.3 billion dollar Race to the Top initiative where states,
especially cash-strapped states, aggressively competed for money to invest primarily in
educational technology. Act 77s Personalized Learning Plans and Multiple Pathways to
graduation will all carry a technological imperative to which districts will have to capitulate. I
dont foresee a futuristic Luddite Movement emerging, and so the paradigm shift to any time
learning, better suited over the internet and not in a bricks-and-mortar classroom, will gain more
traction than authentic, valid reasons to reject more investments into educational technology.
Everyone wants to play a part ushering in a progressive school movement, except perhaps some

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EDCI 380 OL1: Telfer Final Reflection Essay
Silicon Valley technocrats who send their kids to Waldorf schools that prohibit the use of
technology during the academic day. It leaves one wondering if the technology experts and
industry pioneers know something about the frequent use of technology in the countrys
classrooms that we dont.

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EDCI 380 OL1: Telfer Final Reflection Essay
References
Ash, K. (2012). K-12 Marketplace Sees Major Flow of Venture Capital. Education Week, 31(19),
1, 10, 11.
Danforth, C. (2014, November). Measuring Emotional States in Real- Time. Universite de
Montreal Pavillion Jean Coutu. Retrieved from
http://www.crm.umontreal.ca/Danforth/index.php
Denise Hines, Emily Douglas, & Mahmood, S. (2010). The effects of survey administration on
disclosure rates to sensitive items among men" A comparison of an internet panel sample
with RDD telephone sample. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 13271335.
Fang, L. (2011, November 16). How Online Learning Companies Bought Americas Schools.
The Nation. Retrieved from http://www.thenation.com/article/164651/how-onlinelearning-companies-bought-americas-schools
Hay-Gibson, N. V. (2009). Interviews via VoIP: Benefits and Disadvantages within a PhD study
of SMEs. Library and Information Research, 33(105), 3948.
Heidi A. McKee, & Porter, James E. (2009). The ethics of Internet research: a rhetorical, casebased process. Peter Lang.
Henderson, S., & Segal, E. H. (2013). Visualizing Qualitative Data in Evaluation Research. New
Directions for Evaluation, 139(3), 5371.
Kanuka, H., & Anderson, T. (2007). Ethical Issues in Qualitative E-Learning Research.
International Institute for Qualitative Methodology, 6(2), 2033.
Lysy, C. (2013). Developments in Qualitative Data Display and Their Implications for
Evaluation. New Directions for Evaluation, 139(3), 3351.

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EDCI 380 OL1: Telfer Final Reflection Essay
McKee, H. A., & Porter, J. E. (2009). The ethics of internet research: a rhetorical, case-based
process. New York, NY: Lang.
Parry, M. (2011). Harvards Privacy Meltdown. Retrieved from
http://marcparry.org/2011/07/10/harvards-privacy-meltdown/
Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) | Vermont Agency of Education. (2009). Retrieved
February 6, 2015, from http://education.vermont.gov/slds
Stewart, K., & Williams, M. (2005). Researching online populations: the use of online focus
groups for social research. Qualitative Research, 5(4), 395413.
Yaffa, J. (2011). The Information Sage. Washington Monthly, 43(5/6), 1522.