Research students’ conceptions of the role of information and communication technologies in educational technology research
The emergence of big data, digital scholarship and eResearch raises the question of how these digital developments in research methods and practices affect research students. This paper presents findings from a phenomenographic study that investigated postgraduate students’ conceptions of the role of information and communication technologies (ICT) in research. Ten students conducting research in the broad area of educational technology were interviewed. Three qualitatively different conceptions of ICT in research were identified: complementary, enhancing, and transforming. Results indicate that the three conceptions were closely associated with the expanding students’ focus from seeing ICT as a tool in the researchers’ hands, to noting that digital technologies may have implications for the process of inquiry, to seeing that ICT has distinct generative capacities and changes the nature of research practices. Findings suggest that students’ general understanding of ICT’s potential in research is underpinned not by abstract knowledge, but by their practical experiences of how ICT works and their abilities to see how technologies can enhance researchers’ individual capacities to generate knowledge in specific situations. Some implications for postgraduate research students’ education and capacity building are discussed.
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