PhD Research Proposal

Upon confirmation of acceptance in the PhD postgraduate program at the University of Wollongong, my supervisor Associate professor Katina Michael encouraged me to undertake a number of preliminary tasks which in hindsight formed the very constitution and backbone to my Phd research journey. 

I also confirmed with my co supervisor, Professor Teemu Leinonen from Aalto Media Lab that my application had been successful who immediately stated I needed to write a short introduction of my research intentions for presentation via Skype with the research group at Aalto Media Lab.

An excerpt from the PhD proposal provides the overall intent of the research;

“...The rapid uptake of body worn, location enabled, mobile network accessible solutions for rich media creation and connection in extreme sports, military and medical sectors is now also challenging the mobile learning and distance education stereotype. The re-purposed application of these technologies in the education and training sector is now opening up new domains for connecting learners with educators, which in turn poses substantial challenges for organizations as they grapple with the implications that this pervasive technology imbues. This research study will engage key stakeholders in interviews and case studies that evidence learning settings where it is critical or desirable to remain hands free, to have the ability to record evidence using rich media, to be remotely accessed / connected to trainers and assessors in the field as a desirable service delivery attribute and submit datasets as a further validation of participation in a learning experience. Likewise, the basis of the research is to build a body of evidence of perceived and actual uses of these data sets to inform critical debate that will influence policy affecting the educational purpose of these wearable and connected technologies.”

Given the commitments and investment over time I had made professionally with my entire professional network online I informed them also of my intent to engage in research activities in this technologically specific area. These included Asia Pacific online communities such as the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (AFLF), The Teach and Learn Online (TALO) group, Linkedin Educators and a number of international groups such as WebHeads International. 

An infamous exchange with members of the Teach And Learn Online Google Group which had over 2000 members at the time provides some insight into my condescending and precocious manner as I provoked others to think creatively about this new medium;

“...It seems strange typing into this stark page with months passing since I've really had ( or given ) TALO some mind thought. In fact TALO has become for me a memory of collegiality, a reckoning time and above all a damn good laugh at times. For the last few months I've been heating the planet up flying backwards and forwards from Darwin, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane investing huge chunks of time in what I consider is a very worthwhile  and open process to a sustainable income of sorts ( labour of love fast shifting .....). A few of you will know that a number of years ago I met Geoff Lubich whilst I was a Western Australian of sorts and during that time 4 years ago he presented me with this absurd idea that wearable resource development and ultimately live on demand accreditation and training with a mobile flavour would be at the forefront of things in years to come. Well the years to come have passed and a few iterations of some ostensibly flaky POV technology have passed through the VET ranks and then...bang.....about a year ago I saw Sue Waters playing around with some POV in aquaculture and then say Peter Higgs doing some things and then before long I started noticing kits appearing all over the place and then the ELMO gear turned up in Illawarra Institute and so on. Long and short of it is that I consider point-of-view technologies that have a web interface as well as a mobile learning re-usable user- generated form to be at where it's at for me. I find the concepts of seeing things from the perspective of the doer far more interesting from that of being the passive recipient and from an educational perspective if I can hook a mobile IP enabled POV camera to a small subset of easily available connected technologies that are web enabled then ANY environment and task oriented context becomes a re-usable and re-playable learning resource. I could be working my way up to a shameless plug here for the commercial interest I have in such an interrogation and ultimate flow through of short, sharp, live and real training resources but I'll hold back enough to say that EDUPOV has invested in bringing Leigh to Australia to speak with a whole range of people who are immersed in the technology and hopefully he will give everyone enough critical stick and some deep thought into where POV could head and where you might fit into the picture. Have a read of this - http://www.edupov.com/2009/01/edupov-leigh-blackall/  Poke around in there.Would love some feedback - even if it's just a little static or some amazingly ego-centred swipe at our efforts to build something from what you do best with your hands anyways.”

Across most network spaces I was referred to as an ‘educational technologist’ or as a ‘learning facilitator’ given that much of my employment was providing virtual services to differing organisations all around the world, especially within the Australian Vocational Education & Training sector. [ Ref: IPART Review 2009 Research ] 

A number of early meetings between my professional colleagues and my supervisor indicated that the research journey was going to build new alliances but also due to the difference between sectors cause alarm and division due to differing levels of knowledge or judgement. In many ways I attribute the New Media Consortium in bridging that divide and hold Larry Johnson in high esteem for the many and varied way that he brought whole areas of scholarly debate together via the Horizon reports. [ Ref 2008 Research NMC ]  I also had at the time loose connections with the Glogger.mobi community which was run by Professor Steve Mann, Toronto University [ Ref: Steve Mann ]  as well as numerous creative projects as a consultant investigating the role of social networking and virtual worlds in teaching and learning. In many ways, in reflection now I understand that my lifeworld and the differences in communities that I had inhabited meant that much of my activities from previous roles and communities were difficult to comprehend or to transfer.

At this early stage of the research project I had been recently married, I became a Father for the third time with the birth of my first Son and I was in the throes of renovating a house. I was also travelling extensively interstate, developing virtual courses on international frameworks of participation in virtual realities for TAFE NSW Australia [ IFP presentation ] as well as marketing body worn technologies to 144 differing clients and project stakeholders. The terms ‘workforce development’ and ‘reform VET’ ringing in my ears helped me shift from a reaction prone innovation to that of genuine inquiry and i watched many colleagues fail to make the transition and subsequently take redundancy payments as a result.

I was asked to re-draft the PhD Thesis application and submit a new draft by late 2009 which I took the liberty of bombarding my supervisor with a plethora of questions who responded with my need to commence a literature review. I was soon immersed in a preliminary literature review using the DIIGO bookmarking tool [ ref https://www.diigo.com/user/alexanderhayes ] for web search and also examining key works via Google scholar, the SCOPUS database at the University of Wollongong as well as LearnTechLib as a subscriber. I’d considered making the application through Queensland University of Technology but a few papers of the Michaels and I was hooked.

I noted at the time that very backbone to my sense of identity within a society as tightly bound into social, cultural and heterogeneous binary behaviours that I often referred to as ‘ourself’ yet when those attributes of cultural value shift according to our research endeavours I found myself at times as the outsider, peering back in at what I’d been endeavouring to understand. That keen sense to document the journey therefore using digital technologies was an inherent behaviour and this thesis is designed to interrogate how and why I shifted away from the overzealous technologist to that of the skeptic.