Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sociological Theory Paradigms

Interpretivist Paradigm

1. What is the paradigm dialogue all about? What are the key elements of the debate?

Theoretical Paradigm’s in sociological science are important in helping to create the analytical structures needed in order to examine different ideas and concepts. As (Crotty 1998) suggests the landscape of sociological theory is rife with a maze of interpretations, terminology conflicts and evolutions, as well as outright contradictions making a systematic examination somewhat problematic. He goes further to offer four question related categories (Methods, Methodology, Theoretical Perspective and Epistemology) to provide the analytical structure needed in order to effectively examine the intricacies of each theoretical argument and their interrelated characteristics. The Burrell and Morgan text refers to the following four different main theoretical paradigms Radical Humanist, Radical Structuralist, Interpretivist, and Functionalist as the parameter boundaries of the paradigm debate. They provide a graphic representation of this boundary relationship in chapter one that demonstrates this relationship as well as providing visual learners like myself with increased tools for understanding the intricacies of these divergent yet overlapping theoretical orientations. The following citation clearly explains their rational for the four paradigm metric “We regard our four paradigms as being defined by the very basic meta-theoretical assumptions which under write the frame of reference, mode of theorizing, and modus operandi of social theorists who operate within them” (Burrell & Morgan 1979). This metric structure enables researchers to ground their academic inquiry within theoretical history thus allowing a macro level perspective that add depth, credibility and validity to sociological inquiry.

2. In what ways is this debate relevant or important today?

The important questions that these paradigms illuminate are timeless and universal to humanity. In contemporary society these questions maintain their universal relevance and yet something is different today. I would posit that technologies effect upon almost every aspect of industrialized societies and to lesser extent third world nations has forced us to re-examine the theoretical assumptions that have underpinned our sociological orientations. The ability to connect, communicate, collaborate, and create new sociological structures oblivious of international, political or religious boundaries or limitations is forcing theoretical scientists and scholars to re-examine ideas and develop new ones. This process of re-examination and creation is helping to generate the energetic synthesis needed to develop new perspectives and ideas which may address advances in technology and communication.

3. What does all this mean for my own research?

As a researcher in training my journey should begin with an examination of the historical theories that will begin to flesh out the parameters of my academic inquiry. I have a pretty good understanding of what I am interested in examining, the reasons for the examination and well as what I am hoping to achieve. Yet I need to create a formal structure that is grounded in such a way as to be credible, verifiable and repeatable. The examination of the four different paradigms will enable me to divine the boundaries of my questions within a theoretical framework that meets the above requirements.

4. Reflecting on your own organizations, is there a particular paradigm that predominates? How is this manifested in your work world?

This is a very interesting question, and one that I can’t completely answer at this time. Being in the Investment and Construction industries I can tell you that we have elements of all four paradigms. We use the Functionalist Approach to generally understand and address problems in more formal ways, taking this knowledge to develop static analytical procedures and processes that hopefully result in increasing business. The Radical Humanist perspective holds very little sway yet we can parallel it to be a breakdown in the powers that control the industries so we as a competing business can prosper. The Radical Structuralist perspective does not really apply to our industries except dealing with labor unions and governmental regulation and interference. It is the Interpretive Perspective that really speaks to our companies and their economic processes. Our personal relationships define our business relationships within our industries. These networks and the individuals that occupy the intersection points provide us with the strategic and analytical information we need in order to be successful. We consciously view our relationships from these individuals’ points of view, taking into account the dynamics of personal interaction, psychology, sociology and leadership to create strong networks of likeminded individuals who construct social and professional meaning from these relationships. The intricacies of human nature are endless and yet understanding them is critical to understanding our clients, employees and those who support them. While I don’t understand fully the boundaries and parameters of this paradigm, it does seem to apply to my professional situation in a more comprehensive way that the previous three.

5. What is your preferred orientation/paradigm and why? Is there a disjuncture between the “sets of lenses” or paradigm you use at work and the one you use in your private life or in personal relationships?

This is another wonderful and thoughtful question that I cannot answer fully at this time. I like to see myself at generally in the Interpretivist paradigm individually, and yet also have elements of the other three. My personal life is much more informal than my professional life but both are primarily grounded in personal relationships and the networks that connect and them. One of the things that conflict me personally is that I see elements of the other paradigms in my personal and professional lives. Yet the texts suggest that each is mutually exclusive to each other. How can this be? Why can’t elements of each be present in the many different aspects of our personal and professional lives? This is a question that I am very interested in examining further.


Burrell, G., & Morgan, G. (1979). Sociological paradigms and organizational analysis (1 ed.). Great Britain: Heinemann Educational Books.

Crotty, M. (1998). The foundations of social research. London: SAGE Publications.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Social Networking Structures are Changing the World

“College administrators have embraced technology as a means of furthering education, but they have failed to realize that younger users view technology largely as a means of delivering entertainment—be it music, video games, Internet access, or television—and secondarily, as a means of communicating” (Bugeja, 2006, p. 3).

This is a very interesting statement and warrants further discussion. What are the ramifications it this statement is true. The effects of social networking structures upon education especially higher education are becoming quite pronounced. Are University and College administration officials failing to understand the primary reason that their constituencies? They are expending are great deal of resources constructing social networking structures around recruitment and retention. Is this the most efficient use of limited resources? How can we expend this much capital without definitive research on the effects and sustainability of these structures?


Bugeja, M. J. (2006). Heads up facing facebook. Chronicle Careers, 52(21), 1-4. Retrieved from http://www.vpss.ku.edu/pdf/PSDC%20Facing%20the%20Facebook.pdf

Creating the College Classrooms of the Future

Friday, July 24, 2009

The essence of sheer motivation is interest

Dr. Hanan Yaniv, from the Graduate Division of Educational Research, captured the imagination of the class with his informal presentation. We were all sitting on the edges of our seat’s listening to his every word.

The Second Life work that he has been involved in was quite impressive and demonstrates his multiple interests in augmented digital realities and their potential. His discussion of John Dewey’s theories in relation to his own made real world connections that took theory and gave it life in learning structures.

As I listened to Dr. Yaniv one statement really jumped out at me “The essence of sheer motivation is interest”. What a simple yet profound statement! We see evidence of this all around us and yet it escapes us.

Video gaming is a great example of children learning deep and complex meta- cognitive processes and skills in a fast paced, interactive and interest focused learning environment. Usually the interest is so high that these learners have to be sternly separated from their learning process.

This is quite interesting and has very provocative implications for learning and teaching. As I left the discussion I could not help but dream about the possibilities that could be.

Communties of Inquiry and Practice Dr. Randy Garrison

Dr. Randy Garrison presented a very informative and interesting discussion around the structure called “Communities of Inquiry”. He related hat these are learning communities generally centered on subject or process inquiry. These structures are more formal and revolve around theories of Collaborative Constructivism and Social Presence.

My confusion revolves around the answer he gave me concerning the differences between Communities of Inquiry and Communities of Practice. He describes Communities of Practice as informal and more social in philosophical and functional framework. His is in direct conflict with what I was taught in Graduate School by a world renowned “Communities of Practice practitioner, Dr. Margaret Riel of Pepperdine University and a world renowned scholar in the field of Learning Circles and Communities of Practice.

She describes Communities of Practice as groups of people who collaboratively discuss and refine their “Professional Practices”, whatever that may be. It is not described as informal and social.

The clarification I got from Dr. Garrison only confused me further. This is the very important part of Doctoral Studies, discussing different ideas, philosophies and practices. I hope by the end of my time here I will be able to adequately understand the difference.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"An Educational Technology Vision of 21st Century College Classrooms"

The following reference written by Dr. Michelle Jacobsen, Graduate Professor in the Doctoral Studies Department of the University of Calgary illustrates a philosophy of using technology to support the theory rather than the other way around. “I believe that educational technology is ninety percent about how people learn and ten percent about making computers and networks support and extend that learning (Jacobsen, 2008). She goes further to suggest that creating dynamic learner centered environments, supported by media is a natural role for Educational Technologists.

She concludes by making the case for advocacy and leadership in illustrating and demonstrating leadership in communicating the important and power of these learning environments “illustrating and demonstrating the power of 21st century learning theories and technologies through teaching, speaking, and building communities of practice” (Jacobsen 2008). These main themes are woven through the article and form the basis of her professional practice.

The direction and pace of educational innovation is forcing the re-examination of previously held ideas about learning philosophies and instructional delivery methodologies. The rapid evolution of education demands new ways to thinking about how we educate, what types of technologies we use, and how we view the world. The question is can we keep up with the pace of innovation and technology?


Jacobsen, M. An Educational Technology Vision of the 21st Century 2008 Retrieved Fromhttp://www.mindsharelearning.com/report/july_09/docs/he_essay.pdf

Field of Educational Technology and Ethics

The field of Educational Technology has exploded in recent years with the development of digital technologies. Educational opportunities at all levels and are being created by the innovative application of technology. This has lead to the rapid expansion of the field creating significant challenges. Some of these include acceptable assessments; misunderstanding of best practices and educational theories, as well as a lack of a professional regulatory body. These are serious challenges but are currently being addressed by the academic community as evidenced by the ACET definition and the Code of Professional Ethics (Januszewski & Molenda pg. 3, 2008).

The opportunities in the Field of Educational Technology are limitless. It is one of the fastest growing and is becoming intertwined with almost every other facet of human life. This puts a great deal of responsibility upon Educational Technologists because they are becoming the facilitators of communication and education (Januszewski & Molenda pg. 2, 2008). We are responsible for adhering to the philosophy behind each element of the ACET definition. This is important for creating a universally acceptable framework that Educational Technologists can ethically operate within.

ACET Definition:

Educational Technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources (Januszewski & Molenda pg. 1, 2008).

The previous definition supplied by the text “Educational Technology, A Definition with Commentary”, comes from an Association for Educational Communications and Technology project and provides an opportunity to examine the underlying philosophies behind each element.

My personal definition of Educational Technology is as follows:

Educational technology is the analysis and implementation of technology in learning settings within the framework of best practices, ethics, and applied education instruction theories.

The two definitions while different express many of the same terms and philosophical understandings. Both are centered on the important foundational themes of analysis, implementation, best practices and ethics. These in my opinion should be the central pillars of Educational Technology as a field and profession. The literature as cited above suggests similar observations.

Ethics is perhaps one of the more problematic issues addressed by ACET. The importance to the field of using ethics as the foundational construct rather than a series of rules and expectations can’t be overstated. Without this philosophical framework success is not possible (Januszewski & Molenda pg. 3, 2008). I feel that this is quite a profound shift from historical applications of ethics philosophies and is re-defining the constructs with which we as Educational Technologists must operate within.


Januszewsk, A., Molenda, M., (2008) Educational Technology: a Definition with Commentary. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associate & Taylor and Francis Group

Saturday, July 18, 2009

University of Calgary Tour "Grassroots Video" Ed Tech on the Fly, in Action!


Here is an my example of "Grassroots Video", a wonderful type of evolutionary communication artifact, that has broken the choke hold on the information flow to the masses of us.

I made this video using Ed Tech on the Fly, something I learned at Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology. This one happens to be posted to YouTube, one of the sites that make this possible for all of us with access to digital assets.

Please take some time to come back and view the Wetpaint Wiki that our team is preparing for next week on this very subject matter.

Mitchel N. Townsend

Friday, July 17, 2009

Possible Areas of Inquiry

Subject matter research questions,

What do the current climate models suggest?
What time frames are we discussing?
What effects are we contemplating?

What technologies and implementation strategies are available?
What evidence is available for determining the effectiveness or potential effectiveness of these technologies?
What are the the cultural, societal and political considerations?
What type of research design strategy will be most effective in addressing these issues?
What worldview "lens"should I bring to the project? Mine or another?
What resources do I have to effectively address these potential research questions adequately?

Is this as valuable use of my time and educational focus?
Am I passionate about this issue?

Possible Research Question


Contextual Statement "Did your know that if we don't do something about seriously reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases, life will be drastically altered for every living creature on the planet?"

Problem Statement "How do we go about democratically finding and implementing humanistic and technologically blended solutions that slow or arrest this ongoing catastrophic process?"

Classmates, Please be candid and brutal if needed.
This is part of the shaking out process and I'll not be offended in the least!.


Mitchel Townsend

Dr. Jacobsen and Dr. Friesens's Work

The lecture that we received from these two distinguished scholars on Thursday was very informative and insightful. Thier Multi-year research and research application project has produced some very interesting results, that seem to be duplicatable and scalable.

Increased abilities and deep cognitive learning was happening at all levels in these schools from the students up through the parents, teachers and principles. These progress results were illuminated by using a newly designed chart that accurately and clearly lists the research results. This was and still is another very important part of their project in my opinion, being able to communicate complex data so that most anyone can understand it and graphically visualize it.

Some of the questions I have are about the increasing scalability of this project.

Evidence suggests that a cyclical process is at play here. With this information one must draft a clear and ongoing action process to take into account this dropping off period. Are the issues with the teachers? Their professional or lack of professional development? Or maybe its something else or a variable combination here to fore undiscovered?

I am very interested in this project because it has important implications for the applications of applied educational research in field settings.

I am going to go back and try to understand their data collection methodology. This may hold some very important research project design nuggets of precious wisdom.

Do you have any thought on this lecture and my observations concerning it?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In the Beginning

This is my first official Blog Spot! I am welcoming myself into the world of the Bloggers!!!!

Today's lectures presented the opportunity for some multi-faceted reflective analysis. The text Januszewski and Molenda, presented a historical contest around the process of trying to define the field of Educational Technology. The main idea that I have taken from the early text readings concerns the adoption of the term Educational rather than Instructional " in fact this is one of the reasons that the definition chooses the term educational technology rather than instructional technology, using the term with the broader connotation in order to capture both planned and spontaneous learning situations" ( Januszewski & Molenda, pg. 42, 2008).

This in my humble opinion is spot on, and truly reflects the reality that learning can take place at anytime and anywhere, under most any conditions.

In my opinion, Educational Technology is a living and breathing entity, it defies and refuses to be defined by the sheer speed of innovation and ubiquitous technological integrations.

How can you put a static label on a dynamic and ongoing transformational process.

What do you think and why? What did you get from the early text readings and why?