12 SES 09 JS, Workshop: Educational Research in the Digital Era: Possibilities and challenges
Joint Research Workshop NW 12 and NW 17
This research workshop tries to give possible answers to the following questions, by cooperating scholars from different fields of knowledge:
1. What is the impact of the ideas of Digital Era and Big Data on research questions in educational research, from a historical perspective?
2. What competencies do educational researchers need in the digital era?
3. What tasks and requirements does educational research assign to infrastructures?
Archivists, librarians and historians together, a joint session from members of Network 12 and 17 introduce their research to highlight the emerging importance of digitised sources and methods, which affect both viewpoints and practice of scholarly works. One of our main scopes is to connect theory and methodology, showing both possibilities and challenges, in four proposals.
The first presentation deals with problems and solutions in the case of a historical study of the creation of a new educational ideology (the New Math reform) in the United States and its travel to Europe with a focus on Luxembourg. The project had a massive amount of records from several countries and in different formats such as already digitised documents, categorised analogue materials and uncategorised documents found in abandoned archives. As the goal was to give a sense of the creation and the reformation of the idea, it was necessary to historicise and contextualise the data, which means to consider where, when and for what purposes each document was produced, how and where it was stored. Thus, a digitisation process was chosen to bring all data into a single platform to facilitate the process of analysing and the understanding of the whole.
Two case studies follow, demonstrate the working and functions of different datasets, in historical time. One is the “Bilderbuch für Kinder”: In 1790 the publisher Friedrich Justin Bertuch announced a very ambitious project: a picture book describing the world in high-quality prints, specially made for - and intended to be directly handled by – children. This publication was a success for Bertuch’s publishing house: issued in small instalments of five plates each the “Bilderbuch für Kinder” lasted for 40 years, building up to an edition of almost 1200 plates. The homepage, Interlinking Pictura presents these images in the context of their origins and in connection with other digital sources on an open working platform, a new approach in making images accessible.
The second one is a prototype of a data exploration tool, which makes the networks in higher education in Prussia searchable. In Prussia, every school was bound to publish annual school reports. They contain information about the curricula, teachers and pupils. In combination with school teachers’ personal records from Prussian administration, these are outstanding serial and statistical sources for the history of education. Despite digitisation efforts, the sources so far could only be accessed by close reading. The Research Library for the History of Education at DIPF (BBF) now aims to make these data in higher granularity accessible for machine reading approaches.
Closing the research workshop, the political dimension comes to the foreground: with close reading of a CIA report, we can learn a lot from the legal and technological aspects of the online access, outside characteristics of a file and the possible meanings of a text, a brief methodology to begin the research with the archives. The case of intelligence and state security documents warns us the intentionality of the sources: these reports create a unique viewpoint, in the context of the Cold War. In a broader framework, the political, ethical questions arise: Who made these files? How this information was used in the decision-making? How can we make them accessible online?
All presentations linked with creating, using and analysing digital sources to develop appropriate methodologies for future researches in the history of education. We can distinguish two main aspects (the digitising process, then working with the products), and different narratives here, which offer more future researching directions. By historicising and contextualising the historical data of the new math education, an enormous amount of data is available. After a few trial and error attempts, a categorising scheme was built, connecting and interpreting the big dataset, which led to uncovering the missing points and ways of finding them or at least acknowledging them. The first paper describes the method used in analysing a large amount of historical data with a heterogeneous nature. The second proposal introduces Interlinking Pictura, a project of Pictura Paedagogica Online, the picture archive for educational history and presents the first step in the current process of remodelling and updating the picture archive. With digitising, the annual school reports a set of research data is being generated out of the mentioned sources by metadata transformation, data extraction, and information enrichment. Wikidata provides sophisticated modelled data which are used to add data such as geo-coordinates or time-dependent administrative territorial belongings. Visualization tools or statistical analysis can be applied to these data. The third talk will present the prototyping efforts and discuss the chances and limitation of these digital humanities approaches. The last lecture shows a decoding process: unfolding data from the released content of an intelligence service. First, the idea and practice of the freedom of information and a concrete access-policy will be introduced, then the content analysis followed, with possible taxonomies, limitations of the CIA documents. The ethical and political dimension always needed to be taken into consideration, related to our main topic, just as the researching and teaching aspect of the online information. Although we use a lot of digital sources in our work, the reflective, meta-knowledge has been still missing in these procedures – this contemporary requirement points out the necessity to talk about it.
This workshop sets out to review some of the methodological challenges and possibilities and their connection with the theory in doing educational and historical research in the digital era. Each of the four presentations looks at the matter from a different point of view and different research nature. Thus, the most important outcome of this workshop is to exchange our ideas and experiences from our research, the possibilities we found, the challenges we met, and how we could or could not overcome those challenges. We aim to share these experiences to open relevant discussions that can be insightful both for the audiences and our future works.
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