Next Phase for Tom Reeves

It was a very pleasant honor to be able to attend the retirement celebration and Design Based Research conference Georgia that honoured the  noted ed tech researcher, philosopher and activist – Tom Reeves.

The event was a very palatable love in for one of the most respect and loved academics in America. Tom has for 30 years been a professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Georgia. He has authored many articles, chapters and books, but is most known for his compelling presence as a speaker and advocate for meaningful research in education.

The conference featured a two day design based seminar  and conference for grad students and researchers focused on methods and results of design-based research. There were key note talks by Jan Harrington (Australia), Susan McKenny (Netherlands), Mike Spector, Michael Hannifin and Tom (University of Georgia).  There was also interesting mini sessions with scholars from Australia, Italy, South Africa  and from across the USA.

I was pleased to hear of many cases where design research is being used n local contexts from higher education, to classrooms, to professional education – with promising results. I also was busy scribbling references and resources (notably the 2007 Introduction to Design Based Research  booklet.) Tom’s own talk was both memories and inspiration as he demolished the focus on “rigour” that has marked the pendulum swing in the US as encapsulated in the No Child Left Behind and What Works thrusts of the Bush administration. Instead Tom championed, with many humorous and touching examples, the need for research that is relevant and makes a difference to real educators and most importantly real students.

There was a number of references for adding a fifth concurrent phase to design based research models based on a growing effort at understanding and promoting adoption of the design intervention in formal educational contexts.

I couldn’t help getting into a bit of a scrum with noted Ed tech author and publisher Michael Spector. Spector is the editor of the prestigious Journal Educational technology Research and Development, and the Handbook of Educational Technology, thus he is well positioned to present a “how to publish in Ed tech ” seminar. His talk ended with a listing of the 10″best” research journals in the ed tech field. However, only one of them was open access (Kinshuk’s Journal of Educational Technology & Society ). He dismissed all the other online journals as being of low quality. I had to jump up and dispute this claim and point out the growing list of Ed tech journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. I further noted that as long as senior scholars like himself, keep reinforcing the value and sending papers to closed publications, the majority of people on the earth will continue to be  denied access to these works. It is especially relevant in that much of Tom’s talk focused on the lack of impact of ed tech research on real teachers and schools – perhaps because researchers who publish in closed journals effectively deny access to their work to the teachers who need and support their work.

The event ended in a tribute banquet, at which many of Tom’s current and former colleagues, friends and over 30 PhD students thanked Tom for the remarkable influence he has had on their lives.  The event featured Jazz,  blues and folk musicians and not just a few embarrassing stories dredged up from Tom’s past. Tom has traveled and spoken at all of the major educational conferences around the world, and there are few countries who cannot claim to have been influenced and blessed by Tom’s words and presence. Finally, I had my first tastes of southern grits and other southern delicacies as Tom and wife Trish opened their home for a farewell brunch.

Tom promises not to disappear in retirement and I doubt he will! I think he still has a few corny jokes and more than a few insights left for anyone looking for a keynote speaker at their next conference.

All the best Tom and thanks for a great career long, contribution to “research that matters”.

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