Using Digital Video as a Research Tool: Ethical Issues for Researchers

Article excerpt

Digital video and accompanying editing software are increasingly becoming more accessible for researchers in terms of ease of use and cost. The rich, visually appealing and seductive nature of video-based data can convey a strong sense of direct experience with the phenomena studied (Pea, 1999). However, the ease of selection and editing of digital video clips means that researchers need to be aware of possible bias inherent in presentation of video vignettes and they also need to monitor the authenticity of clips. Issues of confidentiality and ownership are important and need to be thoughtfully considered by researchers before this new technology becomes ubiquitous in qualitative educational research. The article discusses ways in which digital video was used as a research tool in a project and explores these issues as experienced in the project.

**********

Digital technologies are becoming more commonly used in all areas of education. In particular, as they become more user-friendly, many technologies are now being used as tools in research, by nonspecialist users. This article discusses the use of digital video as a research tool in projects investigating pedagogy and children's learning. The ease of use of digital video and the accompanying editing has had implications for research, in that researchers can readily use this technology without having any specific expertise in the area. Due to the ubiquitous nature of the technology, its usage becomes commonplace, without the implications of such usage attracting much debate or consideration. As a result, some ethical issues may arise in projects that include teachers and children as participants. In this article, some of the issues surrounding the use of digital video as a research tool in education projects are analysed and this discussion is contextualised by locating it in a research project in Australian schools recently completed by the authors (Kearney & Schuck, 2005).

Ongoing developments with digital video cameras, computer hardware, and editing software increasingly make video use a viable option in research methodologies and, consequently, new ways of using, analysing, and presenting video data are occurring (Pea, 1999; Walker, 2002). Relevant video clips can be added to reports and papers to promote a richer discussion, highlight issues and provide opportunities for the reader to have access to data in an expanded number of ways. By inserting carefully selected video clips into a paper or presentation, for example, to illustrate a student's animation and excitement at solving a problem, researchers can present and support the data in a compelling and illuminating way. This article contributes to the debate on the changing nature of qualitative research techniques in the light of new technologies, and highlights the need for enhanced critical skills and ethical conduct in "reading" and presenting multimedia research documents.

BACKGROUND AND MOTIVATION

The authors have recently completed a collaborative research study, Students in the director's seat: Teaching and learning across the school curriculum with student-generated digital video (Schuck & Kearney, 2004), involving case studies of five schools in Australia. The schools were asked to participate in the study because they were known to be using digital video in innovative ways with their students. The researchers' interest in these case studies was in developing an understanding of the ways in which pedagogy might be influenced by the use of this technology, and hence the research questions explored the processes and roles of teachers and learners working with digital video in these schools. The case studies comprised visits to each school over a period of two to four days, in which lessons were observed, and students and teachers interviewed, with a focus on the way that student-generated digital video was being used to enhance learning. Audio tapes were used to record interview material, and video was used in the classrooms to capture the events occurring during the lessons. …