Our Masters cohort #tiegrad has been asked to nail down a research focus for our Research project. This has been keeping me up at night, working in circles! I have a rough idea of WHAT I want to research, and why, but determining the actual problem has been a bit of an existential crisis. Does my research interest area actually have a problem to solve, or is it only a perceived problem by me?
In my desperation to move forward (this blog post was due in October), I turned to my recent readings. Our Creswell text has been described as “Masters Writing for Dummies”, and I needed specific help, so I re-read the section about “Research Problems”. Success and joy ensued. I don’t have a specific problem statement yet, but I have a process. As I tell my students, the process is often more valuable than the product. (Yes, I know that I must eventually find a product, but patience is a virtue… I’m just getting started here!!!)
Creswell suggests a fairly simple strategy for identifying your research problem. He clarifies that a research problem can be an educational issue, controversy, or concern that affects teachers, administration, or policy makers. He provides four questions to answer to help researchers identify their focus.
I began by drafting a quick web about my general thoughts about my overarching topic: BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. I included every type of issue or problem that I could identify as a possible problem, controversy, or issue for teachers, administration or policy-makers. I began with things that were obvious to me as I explored my own experiences launching BYOD in my own classroom last year, and then branched out in more general terms. I still kept a focus on the initial steps of BYOD: looking at the first users of BYOD in a middle school, or the beginning steps of launching BYOD.
After broadly drafting possible “problems”, I turned to Creswell’s four questions to answer for finding a research problem. Please understand that this is a think-on-paper, and does not contain “research-friendly” language. I did not censor my thinking, and some ideas are too vague, too specific, biased, or unclear. I look forward to your comments and suggestions in supporting me to find my way through this process.
1. What is the specific problem/issue/controversy that I need to address?
- a need for clear strategies or support for teachers who are implementing BYOD in their classrooms
- a need for guidance in the first steps in launching BYOD
- a need for mentoring or the sharing of stories from schools who have successfully created a culture of student use of personal devices for learning
- a lack of consistency in how technology is used by students for learning
- teacher/parent/administrator fear around student use of personal devices in classroom settings
- gaps in communication between parents/teachers/administration/IT departments around the use of personal technology in schools
- determining the rationale for student use of devices for learning
- a need to move from AUP (Acceptable Use Policies) and BYOD policies to a single, clear, culturally embedded plan for the use of technology as a learning tool (like paper and pens)
2. Why is this problem important?
- curating stories or resources to support the successful launch of BYOD will provide guidance, support, clarity and suggestions for classrooms/schools/districts who are taking initial steps in BYOD
- alleviating fear may support teachers in trialling BYOD in their practice
- alleviating fear may allow administration to establish a protocol for supporting students in using their own devices
- wifi has become a reality in our schools, creating a culture of digitally literate citizens should be a priority
- the devices are already travelling with the students to class, leveraging them for learning seems like a natural progression
- there is pressure from Middle Grades students to allow the use of their own devices
- we need to connect people with the wealth of resources for BYOD learning environments
- creating a digitally engaged culture can be an overwhelming task
3. How will my study add to what we already know about this problem?
- examining the shared characteristics of schools who have successfully launched BYOD, finding and sharing the common elements
- collecting resources for initial steps in BYOD
- finding common language, lessons, and steps for welcoming student device use
- analyzing the characteristics of successful school cultures actively using BYOD
- determine examples of good pedagogy involving personal device
- examples of frameworks for launching and continuing to support student use of devices
- providing other groups with a voice on this topic: have we heard enough from parents and students?
4. Who will benefit from what I learn about this problem?
- school/parent/district/student Technology Committees
Distilling the central issue around BYOD must include the following words and ideas: culture, successful implementation, support or strategies, and possibly rationale. I am still playing with how to word my research problem. But, a rough draft might be: There is a need for an authentic, adaptive plan for supporting the use of personal technology by our learning community.
Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Boston: Pearson.