My research interest really began when I did my Educational Computing – The View From A College MA dissertation in 1981. My first ever exposure to using a computer had been in 1980 when I discovered how useful the Schools Council “Home Heating” software could be for my “O-Level Environmental Science” students. I soon learned that the best way to get more computers for my students was to use them for admin purposes when the students weren’t using them, and that realisation triggered an interest in integration that led to “the MLE” twenty years later.
After the dissertation action took precedence over research for 25 years or so. The research interest was revived when, as I came up to retirement, I started a PhD programme at the University of Lincoln in 2006. I set out to explore the evolving use English FE colleges make of information & learning technology (ILT) to support their work, exploring issues related to the following broad areas of enquiry:-
- What characteristics does an e-mature college have? When is it e-ready?
- What happens to the people and processes in a college as it becomes e-ready?
- How can college stakeholders organise for, and contribute to, the e-readiness of their institution?
A summary of the thinking behind ReMIT as I transferred to IoE in September 2007 can be seen in my initial research proposal – written before I’d read much of the background literature or done any fieldwork. My MPhil/PhD upgrade submission will cover the same territory but in a less deterministic way than is evident in these original questions.
During the period December 2007 – March 2008 a series of exploratory ‘prepilot’ visits to colleges aimed to scope out the subsequent main empirical research phase – expected to use mailed and online questionnaires, as well as an extensive series of face-to-face interviews and a number of in-depth case studies.
The exploratory research changed the emphasis of my research approach as it became clear how important it is to raise ILT issues with college managers through tools that have immediate significance for them – rather than through elegant (but, for busy managers, perhaps less resonant) theoretical models, in order to get a full understanding “grounded” in FE realities.
Early results from these visits led to a focus on developing an e-Readiness approach as the vehicle for discussions with college managers, carrying out a number of case studies during 2008/9. The different perspectives offered by organisation theory, change theory and information systems theory (reviewed in an OCI paper 1Mb pdf) have emerged as the theoretical foundations for the ReMIT work, and the emergence of Becta’s Generator initiative offered a new opportunity to observe theory meeting practice.
The main phase of the research data gathering is now planned to take place 2011/12, structured around the Generator framework. Although, with Becta’s demise, it’s not yet clear where the initiative itself will lead, as a national agency’s instrument designed to support “Next Generation” learning across the sector, Generator’s very existence and fate represent an important element in the research area. Data will be collected and analysed – within appropriate ethical constraints – from FE practitioners across England.
The MPhil/PhD upgrade submission is close to completion and the research should be complete by the end of 2012.