Theory. A lens to see the world. A framework for making sense. I’m ok with the theory of theory. But whose theory is it and how ‘big’ should it be? All encompassing or subject specific? Reinventing the university or enhancing teaching and learning? Does education have to be critical? Should I be aiming to change the world or can I start with a smaller part of it? My research topic is teaching and learning online. It’s small in the scheme of things – but with potential to grow, be subversive, challenging, empowering. Social justice concerns me – but my research seeks to improve virtual practice – for now. I can write issues of digital division and exclusion into the curriculum, make inclusive practice part of the business of content development and online delivery. This is power. An example of a Freirean approach to the politics of education, where the enabling and disabling affordances of technology constitute my political agenda. In an increasingly digital society, to be shut out from the platforms of the public sphere is to be marginalised. Disempowered. Where the university is a place for critical knowledge production, a platform for debating oppositional ideas, it is also the place for raising awareness of silence; a platform for knowing and challenging exclusion rather than replicating and reinforcing exclusive behaviours.
Questions with no answers. Should my theory address wider discursive frameworks of power or focus on contemporary perspectives in elearning research? Do meta narratives and philosophical giants need a place, or are the experts in my field of study enough? What does the macro in a PhD look like? How macro can I go? Higher? Lower? Ground myself in the changing relationships between people, technology and knowledge? The commodification of education? The future of the university? Or is the rationale for participatory action research enough?
elearning research is a young discipline; not yet fully matured. Researchers have applied an eclectic mix of positivist and constructivist philosophies to underpin a range of learning theories. This should be liberating. It should instil confidence to know there is freedom to rethink and reframe what has gone before. I don’t know why I’m finding it so difficult. I’m Libran though. Good at balancing multiple sides of different stories. Identifying strengths and weakness. I sit well on fences. On either side of multiple possibilities. I’m more postmodern than Marxist but even this doesn’t help – the social impact of the internet reflects powerful capitalist roots and most literature on the VLE refers to the commodification of knowledge
This has been going on for long enough. I need to get brave, be decisive, ground myself in a theoretical approach which works on all levels. It’s not easy. Does the theory relate to the educational process or should it frame the wider society in which the pedagogy is located? Do I select a theory because it fits or because the words dance on the page shouting me! me! me! How do I know the best direction to take?
This is the problem with freedom.