Tag Archives: Social Science Research

Web 2.0 in Education

A couple of days ago I attended a seminar on some emerging research looking at the use of Web 2.0 technologies in schools, given by Charles Crook of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Nottingham, who is also editor of the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (JCAL).

The researchers have surveyed over 3000 secondary school children and interviewed over 100 teachers, with the teacher interviews backed up with remote access to teacher PC desktops to see if what they say is backed up by what they do online.

The research is ongoing and the findings preliminary, but as someone who is surrounded by the Web 2.0 world and interested in what I may have to be keeping up with when dealing with the next batch of students in 5 years time – I found the seminar to be a welcome reality check – some notes below:

  • Very little Web 2.0 activity in schools – much less than in HE
  • Where it is taking place, it is much more likely to be due to individual teachers rather than a whole school approach
  • Web 2.0 activities seen as good at coordinating and encouraging communication among pupils, but rarely deliver genuine collaboration
  • Learners are conservative – when asked what electronic resources they wanted, asked for more PowerPoints from teachers
  • Teachers are fearful of the open web, seen as dangerous as reported by the mainstream media
  • Students are cautious of doing educational stuff on the open web, as they know it may still be there X years down the line
  • Most popular site for students was Bebo, their primary Web 2.0 activity was social networking
  • Students are concerned at the amount of time they spend on IM, chat and social networking, are NOT concerned about amount of time spent video gaming
  • No great demand or desire among learners for the way they enjoy themselves online to be part of the educational process
  • No mention at all of Virtual Worlds or Second Life

The seminar then moved into a discussion of Web 2.0 and Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), which I found somewhat strange – as when I think of Web 2.0 apps, I really would not think about a VLE – and this research seems to back this up, as VLEs are by design walled gardens with authoritative voices, managing learning and are seen as such by those who use them in schools.

As background, some previous research looking at undergraduate learning was referenced (alas no links), but stated that learners are uncomfortable with the way PCs (and therefore work) have invaded their study bedrooms. They also find little use for videos of lectures, as they prefer the contact time of physical attendance and the social aspects of learning.

More on the research is available from the Web 2.0 Technologies for Learning at Key Stages 3 and 4 project page and the Web 2.0 Activities in Secondary Schools page.

Intute: Social Sciences feature more resources on Educational Technology.

Britain in 2008

ESRC Britain in 2008 logoThe Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has just published Britain in 2008, which showcases the diversity of ESRC-funded research around the state of the nation in 2008. It offers a concise analysis of research and topical issues concerning Britain today, which is suitable for both academic and general audiences.

Features in this edition include:

  • Working for baby: Why is motherhood such hard work?
  • Radical changes in the NHS: 60 years in the life of the National Health Service
  • In search of Britain’s knowledge economy: Britain’s productivity record
  • The UK’s food: Our changing attitudes to food
  • China – the rising power: China’s phenomenal economic progress

Britain in 2008 is available in high street stores in the UK, including WHSmith, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Borders. It is priced at £3.95.

Intute: Social Sciences features more ESRC related websites.

The Cappuccino Community

Eric Laurier is a geographer who has spent time looking at the effect that the rise of the coffee shop culture has had on the UK. Using an ethnographic approach, he has used video, naturalistic observation and interviews to gather his data. He has even produced a ‘Day in the Life’ of a coffee shop in Manchester and shared it on YouTube.

For more details about this work try an article from The Edge on the ESRC website, the Award details webpage for The Cappuccino Community: Cafes and Civic Life in the Contemporary City which includes links to related publications, and the project page for the original study which has extra videos.

Intute: Social Sciences features more resources on Social Geography.

UK academic political research is world class

Political Studies AssociationUK Politics and International Studies research has been shown to be world leading according to a new report by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Political Studies Association (PSA) and the British International Studies Association.

As well as being of high quality, UK politics and international studies research is in demand with good numbers of undergraduates and postgraduates, a balanced age profile of academics with no looming retirement crisis and a strong record of providing wider benefits to society. Further details are available from the ESRC press release.

Part of the wider role of contributing to society is shown by the recent Political Studies Association report, Failing Politics? A response to The Governance of Britain Green Paper, which calls for a more realistic assessment of the state of political disaffection in the UK and for more imaginative remedies.

The PSA are also giving out their annual awards with prizes going to Alex Salmond, the BBC’s Nick Robinson and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Intute: Social Sciences features more resources on the issues of Politics and International Relations.

Economics research links

The Autumn 2007 issue of CentrePiece, the magazine of the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP), explores some of the central policy concerns facing institutions of higher education and their political masters. Findings include: Universities should offer more incentives for invention and technology transfer, concerns about an oversupply of graduates are misplaced and Europe’s universities need more diversity, creativity and independence.

The Centre for Market and Public Organisation has released the Autumn edition of Research in Public Policy. It finds that grammar schools are less, ‘ladders of opportunity’ than ‘ghettos of the advantaged’, Children whose mothers work full-time when they are aged between 5 and 7 are more likely to be overweight at age 16 and boys who spent at least 15 hours a week in their fathers’ care as toddlers perform worse on academic assessments when they start school.

Elsewhere Warwick University has launched a new publication featuring research from their Economic Research Institute with articles on technical analysis, managerial incentives to improve productivity and how new Politburo transcripts reveal how the Soviet economy took shape.

Intute: Social Sciences features more resources on the topic of Economics.

Who do you trust with your data?

ESRC logoWith the full story of the lost data discs from HM Revenue and Customs still emerging, the topic of data security and disclosure is a political hot potato. New research from the ESRC looks into people’s online behaviour and has found that internet users will reveal more personal information online if they believe they can trust the organisation that requests the information.

‘Even people who have previously demonstrated a high level of caution regarding online privacy will accept losses to their privacy if they trust the recipient of their personal information’ says Dr Adam Joinson

Key findings from the study include:

  • If a website is designed to look trustworthy, people are willing to accept privacy violations
  • If the response ‘I prefer not to say’ appears at the top of an options list, users are far less likely to disclose information
  • If given the opportunity to remain vague in their responses, they are more likely to opt for less disclosure e.g. when asked about salary details
  • People with a high level of concern regarding privacy online may act in a way that is contrary to their stated attitudes when they come across a particular set of conditions
  • People who are unconcerned about privacy would soon become opposed to ID cards if the way that they were asked for information made them feel that their privacy was threatened

Find out more about the research from the ESRC Award webpage, the Privacy and Self-Disclosure Online project website and from Adam Joinson’s personal webpage.

Intute: Social Sciences features more resources on the topic of internet security.

Podcast: European Economic Association Congress

Romesh Vaitilingam presents a special podcast on the recent European Economic Association Congress in Budapest. He speaks to:

For further information, feel free to contact Romesh by email.

Listen to the programme (35 mins, 16MB)


Find out more from the European Economic Association website.

Intute: Social Sciences features more resources on the topic of Economics.

For the many, not the few

ISER logoGordon Brown confidant Sir Ronald Cohen said recently that the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ could lead to street riots if nothing is done to reduce it. But do ordinary people care? And if not, why not?

New research from the Institute for Social and Economic Research sheds light on the apparent quiescence of the British public in the face of growing inequality. In a series of detailed interviews and focus groups, Professor Ray Pahl and his colleagues found that:

  • People have much higher material expectations nowadays
  • People are not necessarily well informed about particular occupational incomes
  • People are not likely to be aware of incomes, even among those known to them personally
  • People refer both up and down the social scale: to the super rich, and to people at ‘the bottom’ – people on benefits, refugees and asylum-seekers
  • People explicitly refer to differences in terms of lifestyle – houses, cars, clothes
  • People speak overwhelmingly in terms of individual career trajectories, individual lifestyle and an individual assessment of their social position

Read the press release and full report from the ISER website.

Intute: Social Sciences features more internet resources on the issue of the Distribution of Income and Wealth.

Gambling in Britain: the latest survey evidence

Gambling Commission logoTwo thirds of the British public (68%) gambled in the past year, according to an authoritative survey of over 9,000 people, conducted by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), the University of Birmingham and Nottingham Trent University.

View the press release from the Gambling Commission website and see the links to the full report, executive summary, details of methodological issues and comparisons with other countries, as well as British data from 1999.

The most popular activity was the National Lottery Draw with 57% of people purchasing National Lottery tickets. Half the population (48%) gambled on something other than the National Lottery Draw, notably scratchcards (20%), horse races (17%) and slot machines (14%).

Gambling is clearly a widespread activity. But while it is a recreational pursuit for most people, a small minority have problems with their gambling. The survey indicates that more than a quarter of a million adults in Britain are ‘problem gamblers’ – gambling in a way that is damaging to their family or personal life.

Intute: Social Sciences features more Internet resources on the issue of gambling.

Fertility and Women’s Education in the UK

The lifetime experiences of work and family life for women in the UK have become increasing polarised between those who have experienced higher education and those who have not. This polarisation is likely to increase the material advantages of better-educated mothers – both for themselves and for their children.

These are the conclusions of new research by Anita Ratcliffe and Sarah Smith, which looks at the dramatic changes in fertility in the UK since the 1930s – smaller family sizes, increased childlessness and a rise in the average age at which women have their first child – and how much women’s participation in higher education has influenced these trends.

Find out more about this research from the Centre for Market and Public Organisation at the University of Bristol via the press release, full article in the latest issue of Research in Public Policy or listen to the podcast interview.


Intute: Social Sciences features more resources on the issues of fertility, women and education and economics.