"Where Have All the Ideas Gone?"

This e-mail message, copied from the acw-l archives, was posted by Dickie Selfe on June 6, 1998.

Fred said,
"1. Whether computers help or hinder writing instruction isn't of interest to anybody with the resources to pull off such a study;"

I would add to the following, "Whether computers help or hinder writing instruction isn't of interest to anybody." Agreed, I'm not concerned directly with this question either. I don't remember anyone suggesting it as a research interest in the recent batch of messages (though could easily have missed something). If you are suggesting Fred, that all long-term or large-scale research is a waste of time, then I guess I have to disagree. Do I have something to learn from systematic studies of the cyber learning, working, reading habits of young people and highly adept cyberworkers? (One of my research interests) Well, YES. Can I apply what I learn to my own teaching and curriculum efforts? Sure. Can others do the same at institutions unlike MTU, I suspect so. I've seen many of the discussions from our summer workshops (with little empirical "proof") implemented successfully at other institutions.

Fred also said,
"All you're going to come up with are conclusions that pertain to that place, those classes, that technology, and those teachers...."

So what's wrong with that? Most of us have learned our teaching trade by observing directly or thru published work the highly contextualized conclusions of excellent teacher/researchers. We then take the "exploratory energy" generated by those direct or indirect learning experiences and try to employ them locally. I have no problem with your critique of an entirely empirical, controlled study of "writing" instruction. I made my abreviated attempt at a similar critique in my diss. methodology chapter. What does that have to do with cross-institutional research on pedagogy, technologies, and cyberlife? Not much. Several people seem to be interested in getting together and coordinating research projects. That in itself does not mean that anyone will or should define ONE "computer-based pedagogy" or a methodology that will lead us to ONE.

Why would anyone want such a thing?

I would be very interested in hearing you debate a person willing to propose "a research design that would satisfy the calls for methodological rigor I've been hearing for 12 years." I could record the session and use it as a prompt for a graduate research methodology seminar here at another 'tech' university. But I have trouble imagining anyone stepping into the role you imagine for them.

In the meantime, I'm still collecting names of folks interested in collaborative, inter-institutional research forums at CW99. After Fred's protestations about empirical research as chimera, I hope we can come up with some functional combinations of "[UN]usual social science naval-gazing" and quantitative reasoning.