EDEV_504 Week 2_2

I think that you captured the essence of the difference between information science (IS) and much educational research. The raw data types at the base of informatics tend to be utilised in naturalistic methodologies, whereas educationalists see much more fluid scenarios where the separation of data from events is, arguably, more problematic (Myrdal, 1973).

Also, an important difference between the two disciplines is the definition of ontology. This is a difference of worldview at the level of terminology which may have implications at both more abstracted and practical levels. A typical IS use of ontology is shown by Frank (2001) who stated that “a database … is … an ontology” (p. 667). Rather than describe a database as being informed by what an educationalist may consider a positivist, constructivist, or some other form of ontology (e.g. being or becoming), Frank (2001), in common with the trend in IS studies, sees a database as representing an ontology. I suspect that this limited view leads to confusion as Frank continues to say, “Philosophers have proposed many different ontologies. Despite hundreds of years of effort, it has been impossible to reconcile the differences between them and to establish a single, widely accepted ontology” (p. 667), which indicates a conflation of the ‘database-as-ontology’ with the wider study of ontology as it applies to philosophy (and by extension to educational philosophy). Although Frank (2001) does eventually differentiate between layers, or ‘tiers’, in ontology, the term ‘ontology’ has definite and separate connotations in informatics than in education.

My questions to you are about your experiences during your transition from IS studies to education. The first is: How did you realise, conceptualise and operationalise the different methodologies between the disciplines? Do you think that there’s any merit to the suggestion that the two different uses of ‘ontology’ make discussion problematic between IS and educational practitioners? How can these problems, if they exist, be overcome?


Frank, A. U. (2001). Tiers of ontology and consistency constraints in geographical information systems. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 15(7), 667–678. http://doi.org/10.1080/13658810110061144

Myrdal, G. (1973). How Scientific Are the Social Sciences? Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, (January), 31–37.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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