Critiques of the 2014 HRECT handbook

This is an ongoing critiques and reflections of the Handbook of Research For Educational Communications and Technology (2014 version) . This handbook has greatly helped me reflect on my educational research and practices; yet, as the education is a system of complexity, and the field of educational technology is ever-changing, I believe it is critical to consistently think about, critique, and reflect on ideas and perspectives proposed by predecessors. Therefore, as I read this handbook, there are some critiques and reflections in this handbook I want to point out to reflect the changing attribute of our field. Right now, this critique/reflection is organized in this way – I first present the original statement from the Handbook, then propose my critiques and reflections on the statement. [I may write a journal paper in terms of this critique write-up, trying to find a way to thread these scattered ideas together] 


Orig. statement: Intensive electronic networking, and social media reflect more recent changes in society that are expected to add value through a common purpose and deliberate collaborative action in a community of learners and practitioners … This is why socio-constructivist theories and technology-supported communities of learning and practice have become dominant, at least as a frame of reference within the community of educational technologists (p. 5, Chapter 1 Bridging learning theories and technology-enhanced environments: A critical appraisal of its history).

My critique: From the philosophical perspective, human learn both through their cognitive thinking (supported by cognitive constructivism) and through interaction with others and external world (supported by sociocultural constructivism). I believe no matter how technologies change and develop, people always learn in these two ways. In the past time without social media, people finds ways to interact with and learn from each other in the face-to-face community context; nowadays, with advancement of communication technology,  people just are equipped with more network channels to communicate with each other. So I don’t think it is the development of technology (e.g., social media) that fosters relevant community theories (e.g., community of inquiry, community of practice, community of knowledge building), but it is the reverse direction that make the relationship – community learning is always one of the important ways through which people learn. It is also important to be aware that cognitive/radical constructivism and social or realist constructivism are not contradictory, they should be viewed as a dialectical interaction and functional unification (Liu & Matthews, 2005); that is, community learning and individual cognition are two ways people learn.

ref: Liu, C. H., & Matthews, R. (2005). Vygotsky’s Philosophy: Constructivism and Its Criticisms Examined. International Education Journal6(3), 386-399.

Orig. statement: Results may also be different depending on the period in which the research has been done. For example, in the 1960s sound research was done on differences in achievement motivation between boys and girls. Nowadays, these results are worthless because the feminist revolution has worked its way through society— changes in context have changed the results of the interaction under study (p. 27, Chapter 2 Research paradigms and perspectives on learning).

My critique:  I believe different paradigms/theories/methodologies can be used in an integrative, complementary way. I don’t see them as completely incompatible neither do I see prior knowledge as worthless. I would like to see every researcher as an important contributors of knowledge production in educational research. Each way of knowing (and their ways of researching) offers important but different and thus partial truths about the world, and all ways of knowing are equally legitimate and important (Taylor, Taylor, & Luitel, 2012). To capture the complexity of a phenomenon under study, it is important to understand research conducted from different research paradigms and perspectives. I also believe it is very important to help graduate student researchers (novice researchers) build up their professional identity by helping them engagement with the diversity of educational research, build open-minded thinking toward their own research and others’ research and practice, and allow new research questions, new methods and new theories emerge. However, the authors further stated at the end of this chapter that “researchers should always have an open mind for research based on competing theories and paradigms, because radically new ideas and perspectives will most likely develop at the interface between paradigms” (p. 28), which is consistent with my reflection .

ref: Taylor P.C., Taylor E., Luitel B.C. (2012) Multi-paradigmatic Transformative Research as/for Teacher Education: An Integral Perspective. In: Fraser B., Tobin K., McRobbie C. (eds) Second International Handbook of Science Education. Springer International Handbooks of Education, vol 24. Springer, Dordrecht

A film analysis of a phenomenological encounter on happiness

About 4 or 5 years ago, I was struggling with my job and life and I happened to watch a movie, the pursuit of happyness, which had some important influences in my life. The movie was based on a true story of a San Francisco salesman, Chris Gardner’s life. The movie demonstrates how Chris copes with obstacles in his life, how he holds faith, love and independence, and finally becomes a Wall Street legend.

Recently, I watched the movie again. The movie starts with a scene of the crowded Wall Street, with people walking by. There are people with happy faces, people with indifferent faces, people with sad faces, and people with calm faces. Then, the shot quickly flashes on a hobo, laying on the street, who seems dead. This is a world full of people who has different life situation, bad or good, or seems bad or seems good. The movie then shows some scenes in the China town with the crowed and dirty environment, and the laboring people live at the foot of the social ladder. Chris is one of them.

Chris is a salesman, who invests his entire life savings in portable bone-density scanners and tries very hard to raise his family by selling the machines. But they haven’t been sold out for several months. One day, after several consecutive rough rejections, Chris walks by a big building at Wall Street, and notices a nicely suited guy parking his fancy red sport sedan. Chris walks to the guy with a big smile and asks him what do you do, and how can you have such a nice life? The suited guy tells him that he works as a stockbroker in the building. In Chris’s eyes, all the people coming out from the building have a happy smile on their faces. But are they really happy, like Chris sees? This scene reminds me of my tough period during my mid 20s. I was in depression with three months of insomnia and isolation. During that time, everyone except me seems so happy and fulfilled. I am the only person who feels depressed and isolated. But is it true? Do those people really feels happy? Or they just look happy in a sad person’s eyes, because the sad one is so eager to have the happy and fulfilled feeling, which is absent in his/her life for a long time. Chris, with a sweet smile on his face talking to the suited guy, might also seem very happy to another person who is trapped in a bad situation. Everyone might look very different from another people’s eyes and from the perspective of themselves.

Then Chris makes a decision to become a stockbroker, like those people coming out of the building with big smiles. He takes an unpaid internship in a brutally competitive stockbroker-training program, where only one in twenty interns will make the cut. Without a salary, Chris and his son are evicted from their apartment and are forced to sleep on the streets, in homeless shelters and even behind the locked doors of a metro station bathroom. However, with self-confidence, optimism, and the love of his son, Chris finally overcomes his obstacles and becomes a successful stockbroker.

The most impressive scene in the movie, which lies in my memory for years, is at the end of the movie, Chris claps his hands for himself in uncontrollable tears of happiness surrounded by a crowded people in Wall Street, just as the scene at the beginning of the movie. The difference is there is a happy man standing there with tears, clapping for himself this time. This true happiness (or just happiness from my perspective) touches my heart and every time when I think of the scene, my nose twitches. We are all pursuing true happiness and ultimate fulfillment, right? But, what is true happiness? Can it always be only a pursuit? Can we ever actually have it? Are there true happy people? Or there are just people who is happier than us? What is it like to experience happiness and fulfillment? How it manifests differently to different people? How it feels different to the same person, under different circumstances?

Note: This is a phenomenological assignment – phenomenological encounter manifestations and appearances via film from Dr. Mark Vagle’s phenomenology course