torsdag 17 oktober 2013

Open letter to Dr. Ruben Puentedura

Dear Dr. Puentedura, 

My name is Jonas Linderoth and I am an associate professor at the department of Education, Communication and Learning at the University of Gothenburg. I am also part of the LinCS national center of excellence where we study “issues of the relationship between learning and media, in particular how digital technologies and media transform how knowledge and information circulate in society”. My research and teaching mainly concerns issues surrounding perception and learning in relation to games and game culture but sometimes I also teach educational psychology on a masters program on learning, communication and information technology.

When meeting with these students I have come to understand that your ideas, and your so-called SAMR-model, is extremely influential for Swedish schools in their work on implementing technology in classrooms. I congratulate you on this success, it is not easy to get research acknowledged in a field with hundreds of academic journals publishing thousands of studies every year. In this enormous academic field, with roots that go back to the use of instructional films in the early 1900s some Swedish teachers and school leaders consider you to be one of the worlds greatest researchers. This is quite an achievement and of course it must be an honour that not all researchers in the field of education get to experience. However, as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility and that is why I write you this open letter.

Questions from my students and their reoccurring references to you led me to have a closer look at your work. I watched a couple of your lectures given in different contexts in Sweden. Quite frankly I found the SAMR-model, as it was presented, to be over simplistic and even trivial. The idea that technology not only affects the quality and efficiency of tasks but also changes the conditions for communication, interaction and learning, is the very fundament for socio-cultural theories on cognition. I really could not see what the model added beyond this very obvious point. I also found the way that research was used in order to sustain some claims as questionable, especially in the case of your reading of Seymour Papert's work on Logo. I found that you refrain from mentioning that the philosophy behind Logo was very much about claiming strong transfer effects in other areas and that this idea was heavily criticized, for example in the works of Roy Pea. I also found that your message to teachers about the changes that technology brings about was essentially one-sided and uncritical. There are, for instance, studies showing the decreased reading abilities among Swedish children can be tied to an increase in computer use. A very troubling fact for anyone who advocates the use of technology in classrooms and yet something that we cannot close our eyes to.

Now, it is not fair to judge work solely on presentations, I know that when presenting something for an audience simplifications can be necessary. So, as a fellow researcher in the field I found the urge to engage with your work, look at your publications and if my impression sustained write a critical piece and publish in a journal where you present your work. This is all very well, researchers scrutinizing each others works and debating are key factors in a sound and open academic community.

However, I could not find a single publication about the SAMR-model and not a single peer-reviewed article (or any other popular-scientific publication either) written by you. Instead all searches lead to slides, podcasts and videos. I also found some teachers' critical blogs about you that claimed that there was no publications about the model?  Surely this cannot be true? After all you say in one presentation and I quote,  “I spent about a decade on the research, and fast forward to past the nineties to about the year 2000 and what came out was the SAMR-model”  and later in the same presentation you say “in fact a lot of my research was spent trying to track down data so I could quantify this”.

Another claim was that your PhD was not in the educational sciences but in chemistry? First I thought this was a false rumor, the mere idea that a fellow researcher would use a title gained in one field when making claims in another seemed to me completely impossible. Yet I could not find any traces of a dissertation in the field of education with your name anywhere online?! Neither did I find any institutional affiliation at any university tied to your name.

Finally I also found a claim that your background is held in mystery and that your reoccurring lectures in Sweden are tied to two consultant firms, RAU and TänkOM.

Taken together, the image that emerges is more of an independent consultant serving companies with commercial interests in the one-to-one reform. This is of course a completely legitimate position to have. However, it is not okay to use the discursive power that comes with a PhD title (withholding that it is from another field) and referring to 10 years of research one claims to have made (that is not published) in order to gain a rhetorical power position.

The implementation of IT in schools is an extremely important issue, how it is done affects the educational quality of a whole generation of Swedish children. This implementation cannot be left in the hands of actors with commercial interests who furnish their arguments to benefit their own interests in selling technology and consultant services. If you are a researcher in educational technology please forgive this suspicion, but the argument is out there and I think, given your impact on the implementation it would be really helpful if you posted a link to your thesis, your published work and your institutional affiliation.  

Kind regards,
Jonas Linderoth
Department of Education, Communication and Learning
University of Gothenburg

lördag 12 oktober 2013

Spelvärldens IKEA-katalog

Jag hör inte målgruppen som suktar efter rikare valmöjligheter i militära first person shooters  eftersom jag inte spelar spel med modern militär tematik (undantaget SpecOps: The Line). Ändå tyckte jag det var bra att Cryteks nya spel Warface gör det möjligt att välja att spela kvinnliga soldater. Tills jag såg resultatet.

Tydligen har Crytek regionsanpassat sitt spel så att marknader som efterfrågar porrigare kvinnliga soldater skall få det.  Det är en slags omvänd version av Saudiarabiens IKEA-katalog där man helt retuscherade bort kvinnor.  Nu kan den ryska marknaden få ordentligt bystiga snipers.

På konferensen Future and Reality of Gaming för två veckor sedan höll jag ett anförande där jag stod upp för spelutvecklare och sa att jag vägrade att tro att alla var ”Premature frat-boys with gun fetischism”, snälla spelindustrin låt mig inte ha fel i detta.

fredag 11 oktober 2013

Kortsluten kunskapsbildning i Kalmar.

I går var jag inbjuden att tala för studentföreningen för lärarstudenter i Kalmar. Studenterna hade själva tagit initiativ till en kvällsföreläsning, helt utanför deras ordinarie utbildning. Det är inte ofta man som forskare kan ta sig tid att göra denna typen gästföreläsningar och det är synd. Riktigt synd.

En del av forskarens uppgifter handlar om att nyttogöra sin forskning genom den så kallade tredje uppgiften. Ett uppdrag som tyvärr oftast ses som entydigt med att få media att uppmärksamma forskningsresultat. Tanken är förstås att medierna skall vara en kanal för att föra ut forskningen till medborgarna.

I går, i Kalmar ställde några av studenterna bland de bästa frågor jag fått, de frågade om kön i spelkulturen, de frågade varför moralpaniken aldrig tycks dö ut och de frågade om vilka förändringar spelkulturen kunde tänkas genomgå i framtiden när nu spel inte längre är en subkultur. Under en dryg timme kortslöt lärarstudenterna och jag den tredje uppgiften, tankar utbyttes direkt, utan inblandning av media. Det fungerade alldeles utmärkt och det är svårt att se vad ett mellanled skulle bidra med? Vilken kompetens har en reporter som skulle kunna förbättra mötet?

Tidigare i höst var jag inbjuden till ett seminarium om mötet mellan forskare och journalister.  Under en halvdag talade företrädare från såväl media som olika lärosäten om hur viktigt det var att forskare skall synas i media, att vi lär oss anpassa vårt sätt att tala till mediernas format och hur viktigt det är att ta tredje uppgiften på allvar. Hur media skulle kunna bidra till att förbättra mötet med forskare problematiserades inte överhuvudtaget. Det var upp till oss att se till att vi var behövda av media, att vi kunde spetsa till det och göra det lite fängslande.

I går, i Kalmar ställde jag mig frågan vad media skulle behöva göra för att vara behövda där, i mötet mellan en forskare och några intresserade studenter. Nu har jag sovit på saken. Jag har fortfarande inget svar.