Monday, June 7, 2010

Another Close to Another Term

Once again we are moving toward the end of a term, and as a result, this will be the now-legendary end-of-term posting. I’ll return again in a couple of weeks or so, but please enjoy this last post for the Spring 2010 term.

1. Via Ferrata: The idea of Via Ferrata grew out of World War I and II; soldiers developed means to cross mountain passes using a series of bolts and iron wiring that allowed mountain soldiers to climb areas that otherwise were impassable. Today, these same routes are used for technical hikers, mainly in Austria, Italy and other European places, and they are not for the faint of heart. Here is just one clip of a young woman walking the Martinswand:

2. The Dangerous Road: And again, well, you can do something similar on a mountain bike. Here are riders heading down the world’s most dangerous road, in Bolivia. There is no way I would even walk this, let alone ride at speed:

3. Ping pong! Hey, who doesn’t love seeing a phenomenal table tennis point:

4. Blue Cheer: well, bassist Dickie Peterson recently passed away, sad to say. I saw these guys back in 1969, with the MC5 and the Psychedelic Stooges, and it was by far the loudest concert I’ve ever attended. But you had to be there:

5. Up: This is the trailer for a movie that is so good it hurts. It has one of the most poignant
beginnings you will ever see, and this is despite the fact it is a cartoon. There are no words at all in the first 10 minutes, but what happens is incredibly moving. I highly recommend this film:

6. Ponyo: Of course, the true master of animation is Hayao Miyazake, whose past films include the astonishing Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, among others. His latest film is just as good, Ponyo:

7. Knowing: Let’s face it; I’m a science nerd, and I loved this sleeper of a movie, which was far better than it had to be. Here is the trailer for Knowing:

8. Dr. Horrible: During the writers’ strike last year, Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse, used the time to fashion a new approach to marketing a program. He created Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillian and Felicia Day (who herself had created The Guild, from which Whedon got the idea for his program). It’s, to be sure, a real hoot, and here is the first act:

9. Happy Trails for now, again:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Guiding Principles for Scientific Research

The National Research Council offers a set of six guiding principles for scientific research (1), and it bears reiterating them as an aid to those of you considering conducting educational research here at Palmer College.

Principle 1: Post significant questions that can be investigated empirically. That is, develop a question in which your observations guide your conclusions. This is actually quite hard to do; developing a research question is difficult, and often when a well-meaning faculty member discusses his or her idea for a project, and I ask them what the research question is, they get a bit confused. They think the question is what it is they wish to find out- “what my students’ perceptions of “X” are,” for example. Well, that is a question, just not the question, which is much more detailed. What we wish to do is expand on scientific knowledge from prior theory and research.

Principle 2: Link research to relevant theory. Theories are conceptual frameworks that guide research studies. They help provide the reason for a research design and provide context for interpreting findings.

Principle 3: Use methods that permit direct investigation of the question. That is, your research methods should be appropriate for the research question. You will need to provide a detailed description of your research method- and this can lead to some confusion. It is not enough to say, I am conducing a survey. Is it paper based, or is it online? If it is online, how do you recruit participants, and how to gain their consent? How to you collect data, and import to a program where you can analyze that data? A lot of thought has to go into this question. You need to consider the reliability and validity of your measurement instruments, and the proper statistical methods as well.

Principle 4: Provide a coherent and explicit chain of reasoning. Your conclusions are usually going to be based upon inferential reasoning. That is, you are making logical judgments based on the results you obtain, in the context in which you obtained them. You will also need to rule out rival explanations and other threats to the validity of your findings.

Principle 5: Replicate and generalize across studies. You need to provide sufficient detail in your methods so that an interested researcher could replicate what you did, and potentially obtain the same results you did. We need to examine whether your results can be found in other populations and contexts as well, in terms of generalizability.

Principle 6: Disclose research to encourage professional scrutiny and critique. Publish or present your work at conferences or in journals. Share your findings so that we all learn from what you did, and we all can find means to use your data in our specific settings. This is how science grows.

A few good rules here, but worth remembering.

I am pleased to note that this is the 100th entry into this blog- I hope you continue to find it useful and I look forward to posting many more entries.

1. National Research Council. Scientific research in education. Washington, DC, National Academy Press, 2002