New Technologies and Ethics in educational research

Filed Under (Events, General, Research) by ronan on 04-04-2014

Professor Luciano Floridi at the BERA seminar March 2014

Prof. Luciano Floridi at the BERA seminar 13/03/2014



I attended a recent BERA (British Educational Research Association) event which looked in the main at new technologies and ethics. The outline for the day noted: “For those who engage in research in learning technology there are codes and guidelines for best practice in research ethics from professional bodies such as the British Educational Research Association and the American Educational Research Association.  These cover the researchers’ responsibilities to the participants in their research, to their sponsors and the wider community and to those who publish and disseminate their work.”

The keynote presentation – and it really was keynote – was from Professor Luciano Floridi Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford, Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, and Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford.  Floridi’s books include: The Fourth Revolution – How the infosphere is reshaping human reality (OUP, 2014), The Ethics of Information (OUP, 2013), The Philosophy of Information (OUP, 2011), The Cambridge Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics (editor, CUP, 2010), which I recall reviewing some time ago and Information: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2010). I was interested to hear Prof. Floridi explain the challenges associated with data protection as an ethical issue and particularly pleased to get his view on the emerging challenges around big data in the education context.
One of the areas for discussion was the identity of groups (of people) and how we might treat such groups in relation to how the individual is treated vis-a-vis privacy laws and information disclosure. The problem is that groups are transient in nature, may come together for a brief period of time or may have a long history. Also groups can be self-selecting or one may find oneself included in a group against one’s will.  Of course technology enables data to be manipulated in many ways and can be seen both as empowering the individual and as a threat, this compounds significantly the ethical challenges.

The abstract of Prof. Floridi’s talk is outlined below.

In education research, the analysis of large datasets (Big Data) has become a major driver of innovation and success. However, the use of Educational Big Data (EBD) raises serious ethical problems, which may threaten the significant opportunities it offers. The risk is that of a double bottleneck: ethical mistakes or misunderstandings may lead to distorted legislation, which may cripple the usability of Big Data in educational research and practice. In this talk, I clarify what the nature of Big Data is and how it leads to a group of ethical problems that are either unprecedented, or at least utterly renewed. In the end, I shall argue that we should invest in the development of a national framework for the ethical use of EBD.”


Mick Manning and Brita Granström exhibition opens at Bradford College

Filed Under (Events, General, Printing, Research) by ronan on 20-09-2013

manning_invite_f1I am pleased to be opening the first exhibition of the academic year, in the Bradford Gallery at the Yorkshire Craft Centre. Featuring the work of Mick Manning and Brita Granström.

Multi-award winning children’s author and illustrator Mick Manning began his career at Bradford College’s School of Art in 1978. Over the last twenty years he, and his partner, Brita Granström, have written and illustrated over seventy children’s books. In 2012 Bradford College nominated Mick for a AoC Gold Award and as a result he was honoured on the AoC Roll of Honour. Last year Mick and Brita were jointly shortlisted for the ALMA – the largest children’s book award in the  world.

This unique exhibition, the first time Mick’s work has returned to be exhibited in his native West Yorkshire, will not only display the original book illustrations from Mick and Brita’s highly acclaimed books: Charles Dickens: Scenes from an extraordinary life, Taff in the WAAF and Tail-End Charlie but will also feature canvases, paintings and prints, many  available for sale. Brita Granström was educated in Sweden and is an exhibiting and collectable fine artist in her own right.

The exhibition runs from 30th September until 11th October 2013. The Gallery is open from Monday to Friday, 10.30am until 4pm.

Please come along, on Thursday 3rd October from 5-7pm  I look forward to seeing you there.


Research in the early years – a step-by-step guide.

Filed Under (General, Information Literacy, Professional practice, Research) by ronan on 19-01-2013

“Research in the early years – a step-by-step guide / Pam Jarvis…[et al.] (2012) contains a chapter I co-authored with Pam Jarvis entitled “Reading for research: efficient use of your access to an academic library”. It was a fairly tricky challenge for me as I am less well experienced at writing for a narrow audience particularly at undergraduate level. It seems to be fine. The other obvious challenge was ensuring sources were up-to-date generally I steered clear of specifics but came down fairly stongly on suggesting a diverse range of finding aids. I also did a little rant about the importance of understanding precision and recall – and of course tackled social media. This is how the publishers describe the book:
This new text is the only resource out there to address the needs of today’s early years students/trainees and support them through every stage of the early years research process.  Research in the Early Years contains case study material in the form of four fictional students’ experiences, which run through the book. Readers follow these example students through their dissertation module as they address common problems, issues and pitfalls. Clear explanations and a step-by-step approach are balanced with sufficient depth and rigour to challenge those on undergraduate courses or following graduate programmes such as EYPS.

Winter wanderings

Filed Under (Built Learning Environments, General, Research) by ronan on 19-01-2013


View from MacMillan building carpark Bradford College 08:45 17 Jan 2013

As summer temperatures soar in Melbourne I’m back here in a snow covered Yorkshire looking at the short days of winter. Incredibly busy on my return from Australia with much to do on the £50m new build at Bradford College – specifically for me the library facilities more about that in a later post. Also organised a call for research and received 18 successful projects which are all up and running. The Bradford College application for Taught Degree Awarding Powers enters into its next phase with a resubmission being put together for June.

I have also been directing the XCRI (eXchange of Course Related Information) JISC-funded project which ends its 18 months in March 2013. Spending a short time on a project to evaluate the successor to BeCTA’s Generator which is being piloted by LSIS.

On a more personal note I am applying for the Higher Education Academy’s National Teaching Fellowship Scheme which is due at the end of March. My doctorate studies at the University of Sheffield enter into their second stage with the commencement of my thesis – more about this is a later post.

DREaM Conference another great success

Filed Under (Events, General, Professional practice, Research) by ronan on 12-07-2012

Tagged Under :

Image of Ben speaking

Ben Goldacre in full flow

Getting the speakers, the venue, the content, the tone, the audience and even the food perfect for any event is a difficult trick to pull off. But this is just what the DREaM Conference which I attended Monday at the British Library in London achieved. And they achieved it with some considerable style.

Contributions from Professor Carol Tenopir, University of Tennessee; Dr Louise Cooke, Department of Information Science, Loughborough University were excellent and very well received. Star attraction who lived up to his reputation and gave a frank and fairly hard-hitting talk was Ben Goldacre who according to his blog:
“is a best-selling author, broadcaster, medical doctor and academic who specialises in unpicking dodgy scientific claims from drug companies, newspapers, government reports, PR people and quacks. Unpicking bad science is the best way to explain good science.”

The “One Minute Madness” was good fun with some deliveries timed to perfection – very impressive.

For futher details of the conference and the Coalition go to the Library and Information Science Research Coalition

P.S. —  I won a book in the raffle!  “Dale, P., Beard, J. and Holland, M., Eds.  (2011) University Libraries and Digital Learning Environments. Ashgate,  England.

Re-engaging with research: some thoughts from the Library and Information Research Group

Filed Under (Events, Research) by ronan on 26-06-2012

Find my blog post on the LIS Research Coalition Website by clicking  here

Structuring Knowledge: New visions for higher education

Filed Under (Events, General, OpenSource, Research, Technology Reviews) by ronan on 26-06-2012

Yesterday I attended the Society for Research into Higher Education conference at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford. The three main speakers were excellent and the debates which followed each presentation were engaging and thought-provoking.

Ron Barnett who talked about structuring knowledge in an Age of Non-Structure made some enlightening assertions about the use (or lack of use) of the imagination as a key aspect of student life and more importantly a key aspect of critical thinking.

Tina Besley all the way from the University of Waikato, tackled the fairly controversial area of academic entrepreneurship – but not as I had expected from the “academic capitalism” position of Slaughter but from a new perspective of social and networked creativity that encourages new imaginative and innovative approaches to teaching and learning. She also teased the audience with some exciting images of Bangkok university’s new and slightly off-the-wall building programme – more of which I will post later.

Michael A Peters – of Open Science Economy fame treated us to an entertaining and wide-ranging overview of “openness” as a political economic and social concept. He was of particular interest to me because he had an inherent appreciation of the “library” and “librarianship” in all that is currently happening. He mentioned of course open access publishing and scholarly activity – but also noted the importance of metadata and nodded enthusiastically towards the future with references to the semantic web and quantum information theory.  I found his “informaticisation of biology” and his “biologisisation of information” to be an intriguing juxtaposition.

A very good day spent debating theories of knowledge in nice surroundings – well done SRHE for organising this pity I could only stay for the first day.

LIRG – Marketing meeting

Filed Under (General, Professional practice, Research) by ronan on 20-01-2012

Tagged Under : ,

Gordon Square, Bloomsbury

On Monday I attended the Library and Information Research Group’s marketing meeting at the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) in London. The area of Bloomsbury, with which I am linked through the Russell family, my great-grand-aunt, Fanny Gallaher, author, was for many years the personal secretary to the Duchess of Bedford aka the “Flying Duchess”, looked as splendid as ever in the winter sunshine. The picture here is of Gordon Square where the ‘Bloomsbury’ group met frequently. I discovered also that poet W B Yates lived at 5 Woburn Walk – a cut-through I use regularly on my way back to Kings Cross.

So what exactly does LIRG do? LIRG seeks to increase peoples awareness and understanding of research that relates to the library and information profession across all sectors by:

Increasing its profile and influencing its direction;
Promoting the dissemination of sound research methodology and results;
Assisting in the development of emerging researchers;
Enabling networking between researchers.

The activities of the Group are co-ordinated by an elected committee of researchers, research students, lecturers and practitioners in the library and information profession. More information about the group can be found through this link LIRG

The group also publishes 3 times a year its journal LIR – Library and Information Research found here LIR

HE Forum Online Session – Quality in VLE – a Delphi Study

Filed Under (Events, Research, VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)) by ronan on 18-01-2012

Tagged Under : ,

Research from the comfort of my desk.

Last week I took part in a live online forum and presented some research that I had carried out on behalf of JISC and MEG (Mixed Economy Group of colleges).

It was a very interesting excercise both in terms of the technology use and the feedback and discussion that followed. This research was carried out in the Summer of 2011 and looked at perceptions about quality issues in virtual learning environments of staff in colleges who offer higer education.

I presented the findings firstly to the funders in Preston to colleagues from MEG and further afield. I also presented a very shortened version to the MEG Committee meeting in London in December 2011.

There has been quite a bit of interest at all dissemination events in the use of the Delphi technique and in particular the use of the Moodle system to manage the roll-out of the Delphi technique.

The reason I used Delphi in this instance was to test its validity in terms of exploring issues of technology – I was particularly keen to see how it might give up – good quality data about future directions in the use of technology within learning environments. On this occasion, perhaps due to the small scale of the study, the dataset did not provide significant indications of current issues or future challenges.

I hope to use the Delphi technique to undertake a much larger piece of research that will look at changing perceptions of knowledge and scholarship within learning environments and education systems.

The link is here if you want to view the whole session.

From Lending to Learning – published

Filed Under (Built Learning Environments, General, Information Literacy, Professional practice, Research, Technology Reviews, VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)) by ronan on 29-11-2010

Tagged Under :

Ahh – finally… my book which is now available – an extract from the opening pages:

“As I write this introduction a debate on BBC Radio 4 suggests that in order to effect public sector efficiency savings, volunteers should run public libraries along the lines of charity shops. There are regular announcements of this type in the media with yet more initiatives to change public libraries. To breathe new life into them, to put new energy into the service and to take new approaches that range from raising noise levels to the provision of coffee and chat facilities. At the heart of all such announcements lies a very important, yet simple, question: what are public libraries for?

Wander into any one of the hundreds of public libraries in the UK and you will see a range of services there that have evolved in a fairly haphazard way. This is not to say that there is poor quality of service, simply a lack of consistent strategy. One is tempted to ask some very obvious questions. Who looks after the public libraries of this country? Is the power to shape the future of public libraries in the hands of the central government, the regional assemblies, local authorities or made-up agencies, quangos, held together by the short-term thinking of hands-off politicians and civil servants? What are the reasons for keeping an institution such as the public library active over centuries – is it simply tradition? And, looking ahead, what might be the public library needs of our grandchildren?

In the chapters that follow I try to unravel the complexity and distil a logic that might offer a way to view the public library not simply as a national institution steeped in tradition, or as a purposeless place providing little more than popular glossy magazine titles, but as a learning space. Or, more correctly, a space owned by and dedicated to learners.”

Order this title now through your local public library – or buy it yourself, read it and send me your comments.

Rónán O’Beirne From Lending to Learning – The development and extension of public libraries. 2010 Chandos Information Professional Series Chandos Publishing an imprint of Woodhead Publishing Ltd., Cambridge. ISBN 9781843343882.  – 216 pages  234 x 156mm  paperback £45.00 / US$75.00 / €55.00