Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Why #edtech Needs More Autoethnography


I remember during my PhD viva the external examiner told me that for research to be considered “good”, it needed to be saying something significant about something important.

Those are pretty loose criteria for rigor in research, but they’re pretty good rules of thumb for what I personally value reading about. I don’t want to read research that answers an unimportant question, or says something insignificant about an important topic. Of course, these are all subjective, value-laden, and quite personal responses, would vary from one person to another. Quite a bit problem when you consider how it impacts peer review on journals (if peer reviewers actually bother to give proper feedback at all; I once saw a second reviewer tick all the “good” boxes for a paper that was borderline reject/resubmit with major changes – and I am not a harsh reviewer by any standard).

Oh but I digress. I’m writing this post in response to a question Len let me know George Velestianos was asking recently on Twitter.

I love Audrey’s first response: “because #notallmen” which she later explained in more detail. I noticed Rebecca Hogue mention skipping ethics board approvals, but it’s not my reasoning, and I got IRB approval for the #rhizo14 collaborative autoethnography.

At first, I was going to re-read all my blogposts about CAE (here’s a link if you search it), then I was gonna get some stuff from my PhD thesis about participatory research and critical/interpretive versus positivist research, but then i thought i’d be getting too academic for the purposes here.

So let’s just say the following:
1. I personally find a lot of #edtech research tells very insignificant things about very unimportant things to me. When what is really important to me requires depth and richness and narrative of what’s really happening in a learning experience

2. That narrative-based or autoethnographic research is a big leap from simple qualitative or ethnographic research in its ethical premise. In its belief in humans as subjects not objects, and in its respect for individual and social construction of meaning, in all its … Subjectivity. It is about voice and empowerment.

3. That lots of other supposedly neutral objective research is actually hiding all manner of political decisions behind the technical façade

4. That some stories of what is happening in ed tech are better researched by participants, not outsiders. It’s not necessarily better of worse for its internal perspective, but it is different in its richness. Every researcher brings herself into her research. Autoethnographic research just does so more explicitly and makes use of it for analysis.

5. I cannot stand (though I sometimes am guilty of) critical research done in ivory towers recommending and analyzing from a distance.

I gotta go!vx


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