Digital and new technologies: Research tools and questions

Messer, David and Kucirkova, Natalia (2016). Digital and new technologies: Research tools and questions. In: Prior, Jess and Van Herwegen, Jo eds. Practical Research with Children. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 264–284.



Changes in technology, even small changes, have always been with us and in the lives of children. It also seems that these changes are accelerating in pace and involving younger and younger children. For example, there are widely circulated examples of infants swiping and tapping on iPads, while the availability of the Internet and the accessibility of digital information are significantly changing the working and on-working lives of all who use these systems. In this chapter, we first consider the use of iPads/tablets and other computer devices as ways to gather information about children and young people (e.g., as recording devices of their behaviours). This is similar to chapters in this book that are concerned with specific research techniques, such as eye-tracking, where the technique provides a way of understanding psychological processes. Second, we consider more general issues about research methods and design in relation to major research questions about the use of technology. In this case technology is not simply a research tool, but a subject of enquiry. We use the term research tools when discussing the ways new technologies can be used to collect information and the term methods to refer to general paradigms that are used in investigations, such as experimental, participatory and so on.

Our subject matter concerns new technologies and digital technologies and we use these terms to refer to various kinds of hardware such as iPads, tablets, smartphones as well as desktop computers (PCs) and entertainment devices such as PlayStations. We use the term technological tools when considering inter-connected networks or specific approaches, such as for example learning analytics and the Internet. Examples are often drawn from our own work (simply because we know it best), and often concern issues related to the use of technology for educational purposes or in educational settings. We conclude by outlining new issues and new directions for research in this area.

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