Developing a research agenda

Dede, C. (2011).  Developing a research agenda for educational games and simulations.

https://gamesandimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/dede-developing_

research_agenda.pdf

In his 2011 blog entry listed above, Dede outlined the five fundamental assumptions that he felt were important in the field of research about technology, especially regarding educational games and simulations.  1)  Research should focus on usable knowledge; 2) it should be collectively done; 3) it should reveal “what works, when, and for whom”; 4) it should do more than compare digital pedagogies with traditional ones; and 5) it should hopefully “focus on innovations that can be implemented at scale.”   Dede felt that research questions began incorrectly unless they focused on a “persistent problem in practice and policy, rather than with intellectual curiosity.”  For example, he felt that “too often, educational games and simulations are developed because they are ‘cool’ or ‘fun’ —  they are solutions looking for problems.”  This type of research activity causes other scholars to disrespect the inquiries in educational technology.

Every paragraph and every piece of advice offered in the blog had clarity and, if followed, would guide educational researchers well.  First, we all need to know “how games and simulations can aid in resolving perennial educational problems and issues.”  Then he said that everyone should study in areas of their expertise.  But then “a single large study with complex treatment [would be] of greater value [next because it would have ] the statistical power to determine the nuanced interaction effects” that large studies can offer (Dede, 2011).  He complained that “theories of learning and philosophies about how to use interactive media for education tend to treat learning” as simple activities, but they are not.  There is no “silver bullet,” as Dede said, to apply one pedagogy for all technology to all teaching.  Technologies do not exude knowledge in the way a fire gives off warmth.  People learn differently, so different methods using different technology must be the solution.  And because it is difficult to “prove” that using a particular technology will produce educational advancement to all people in all situations, researchers must guide practitioners to rethink their ideologies and options.

The strongest message I gleaned from this article that will guide my own research is the idea that research should focus on usable knowledge that speaks to a problem at hand.  Every teacher could list multiple problems in education with little thought.  To start there, and then seek technology to solve the problem, is what Dede (2011) suggested, and where I would like to start for my own research.  I see a problem with the juniors in our teacher education program who are heading into short bursts of practicum teaching and all they have is theory, textbook knowledge, much observation time, but no classroom to call their own.  They have read about techniques, but may or may not have ever seen them in practice.  To see is to understand.  I believe my teacher candidates need to see a host of teaching techniques, performed by master teachers, and then reflect on those video viewings in writing and aloud.  I would be very interested to see if their cooperating teachers have even better things to report about the junior year practicum experiences.  Technology, in the form of video clips, just might enhance the experience of my students and help to solve a problem.