Research Update – February

Better late than never, right?

I am feeling a little stalled with my Masters Research and upcoming Literature Review.

My activity:

  • I’ve downloaded about 15 articles
  • I’ve read a few articles and skimmed many others
  • I selected a citation tool! (That’s one for the “WIN” column!) Mendeley: free, easy, friendly, and shareable.

My inactivity:

  • I am not even sure which articles have any value for my project or my Literature Review
  • I have not been excited or inspired by any of the articles so far, except for a Lit Review from Great Britain from 2009. Too old.
  • I feel like I am reading FOR something, but I am not sure exactly what it is
  • Leftover from the summer sessions where I felt blindsided when I learned that the articles I had specifically selected from the University Library were not actually Peer Reviewed – although the Library had listed them as Peer Reviewed. I learned about this bizarre grey area where peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed articles cohabitate.
  • I struggle with formulaic writing. I know that I can do it, no one my age can make it through high school without learning how to slap together an essay, but I need a formula that works for me. I don’t know what I am doing or how to start.
  • My topic is still fuzzy. How can I start writing without a topic?

I’ve done everything to kick-start my process: web my ideas, journal informally, list ideas, re-list ideas, web my listed ideas, talk with people, read for more information, etc. I met with our professor earlier this month and she gave me great advice about telling my own story as part of this Masters project, and then looking for research to substantiate the actions or decisions that I made. Narrative writing makes me happy, and seems like a nice place to start. The most difficult thing about this is that I lost my “journals” about my process of initiating BYOD in my classroom last year when our blogs hosted at UVic were lost. Some of my most authentic reflections are gone. Those “in the moment” reflections are difficult to recreate.

I am excited about using Mendeley as a citation tool. A few of us got together to learn about it and will be blogging about it soon.

I’m not sure what to do next. Do I continue to read and hope something sparks? Do I continue to write sweet nothings on my so-called Lit Review? I know that I need to refine my keywords and pick a clear direction for selecting more articles to add to the pile. I also think that it is time to contact the UVic Research Librarian for help.

I also need to organize the articles I have printed. How much information do I need to keep with these articles? I believe that I need to have the location they were retrieved from and the search terms used. Anything else?

Taking some advice from Tracey Thorne means that my next step is to read, read, read and look for themes. It’s nice to have a plan.



Research Update: January

It is thanks to Liane’s brave post about Clarity and Confusion that I feel brave enough to admit that I am still feeling murky about my Lit Review and project altogether.

This is my January Research update, such as it is:

What have I done?

  • My one pager based on Creswell: Topic, problem, rationale, possible questions, theoretical frameworks and search terms.
  • Read a few articles and wrote (yes, wrote – with pen and paper. This is how I think best, sketching, messy, page filled, satisfying crinkled notebook pages) notes.
  • Began planning an outline for the Lit Review
  • Read a few other sample Lit Reviews for ideas
  • Met with my new reading group: Keith, Jarod, and Bryan – I am loving our team name: #bryansbrainiacs
  • Stressed non-stop about my topic, resources, the process of writing and due dates

What needs to be done?

  • Firm up my topic – see my muddled thinking below
  • Ensure that I have adequately documented where I am finding my resources – I rushed a few.
  • Read up on theoretical frameworks so that I can settle on one or two – not keep trying to make ALL of them work.
  • Meet with the UVic research librarians – they have the experience, the clarity and I am sure that I am not the first with an unclear direction
  • Find out if we can use professional literature reviews as part of our own Lit Review, or if we need to seek out each document mentioned and write our own connections, summaries and understandings. The most helpful article I found is a literature review – unfortunately a few years older than I would prefer, but amazing insights.
  • Meet with my team more frequently.

My Confusion: I love the idea behind my topic, but I am realizing that the problem I am trying to solve is far larger and more systemic than I am currently addressing. My general idea for my research and resulting project is to look at the initial steps required to effectively leverage the use of student-owned devices as learning tools and what a “BYOD” program could look like for grade 6 students. My project is meant to be a part of larger scope and sequence with Jarod’s digital literacies for Grade 7/8 Middle School students.

Initially, I think that I was focusing with a very narrow view of teacher and student needs. Taking a step back and reading more literature – including teacher blogs – I am realizing that the problem that I need to address is much larger than creating a “program”. The shifts that need to occur for effective digital literacy development are HUGE! The two areas that I have identified as needing a seismic shift are school (or district) cultural and curricular. It is not enough to embed technology into pre-existing lessons or create a series of one-offs. The use of technology has to be seamless and personalized. As I stated above, I prefer to write my notes on paper, where other grad students enjoy a digital format.

So where am I now? Addressing these questions as part of my research has overwhelmed me. What cultural and curricular shifts need to occur in order to effectively leverage the learning potential of personally-owned devices?

Feeling slightly lost in the research and reading makes me feel like I am constantly starting over. But, I guess it is important to just keep going forward. The pieces that don’t fit with the final product can be cut out. Evolution happens.

Critical Reflection: A Visit with Scott Johnston

note: Our visit occurred in November 2014, but it has taken time to practice and apply what I learned from that visit in order to compose a critical reflection…

Our #tiegrad group enjoyed a visit with Scott Johnston, a University of Victoria Graduate Studies Librarian. He was very calm and detailed in his approach as he shared the methods we could use to face this daunting task of researching and writing our Lit Reviews for the 2015 Spring Term. However, one particular quote from Scott has been rattling around in my brain ever since:

“organization is one of the key indicators of a successful project”.

Scott was speaking of the importance of staying on top of your research, and detailing each keyword used, each database accessed, and each step taken as we compile our data for our Literature Review. This was the moment my anxiety kicked into overdrive. Our summer course of accessing, reading, reviewing and discussing academic articles taught me that finding suitable articles and compiling the information into a proper Lit Review is already a monumental task, but documenting your steps, tangents and the rabbit holes of active research seems near impossible! I can’t really claim “organization” has ever been one of my personal strengths. So, yet another area in which to grow as I pursue my Masters!

I was quite pleased to learn even more information about effective search techniques from Scott. During the early days of our Summer Term, I re-watched a video shared with us by Dr. Valerie Irvine authored by Pia Russell, a Research Help Desk Librarian. She taught us about searching the various databases, using our temporary folders and citing our articles using Refworks. Scott extended my understanding (which, I admit, is quite limited) of Boolean language in searching. I knew about using quotation marks to search for phrases and to include “and” to refine my search. I did not know about the power of “or” to help find synonymous terms. I have also now learned to employ “not” to help me limit my own search. Every time I search for BYOD in academic research, the most common returns are related to employee use of their personal devices as part of their work. Using Google Scholar, I searched for BYOD, and received a return of 4760 academic articles written in the last 4 years. By entering “not workplace” my search became a more manageable 1150 articles!

One of the most important things I learned from Scott is about ALWAYS logging into the UVic Library first before accessing any other database. This summer, I had set up my account on Google Scholar and I have been receiving numerous alerts on articles of interest related to my possible Masters topic. However, many of these alerts have been useless to me as they are behind a paywall, making them cost-prohibitive to preview. By logging into the UVic library first, Google Scholar (and all other databases) recognizes me as a registered University student, and the results of my searches are tailored more deliberately for my needs. An additional column also appears, showing me how to retrieve some articles that may otherwise require payment before viewing. This has been a wallet-saver recently!

We were left with a list of databases on which to focus our energies:




Web of Science

To develop my own organizational strategies, I will need to set up alerts for topics of interest, document the keywords that I am using, and set up a research schedule. I can access other Lit Reviews to get a better idea of what will be required. I must also finally make a decision about purchasing a citation manager or continue to make use of the free services. I am most curious about using Endnote.

Thank you for your time, Scott Johnston. It was nice to learn that we can book an individual consult with our University Graduate Librarians. The pressure is on to now apply these skills!

Research Focus #3 November

Photo Credit: DennisCallahan via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: DennisCallahan via Compfight cc

A shared post by Jarod Fong and Heidi James

For the November update, Jarod and Heidi shared a GoogleDoc to co-craft this post. We have been meeting digitally to share our ideas and have shared Documents and Folders to hold our thoughts and our research and would like to use this post as an opportunity to share our process with our #tiegrad friends.

Our initial steps in this BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) journey began last year when we realized that we were at opposite ends of the BYOD spectrum: Jarod was 3 years into using BYOD and experiencing a plateau and Heidi was hoping to launch it in her school. We connected and shared ideas. We recognized the need for ongoing conversations around the use of personal devices in an educational classroom. We would like to create a resource of some kind to transform how BYOD is being used by our students.

Our initial view was very expansive: we were looking at creating a curriculum for Middle School Digital Literacy or Citizenship with a focus on the implementation of BYOD.

We met recently to refine our work. Some of our new thoughts include creating a scope and sequence for Middle School Teachers and Learners. We like the idea of using the Core Competencies language from the new BC Curriculum Draft. Our project will include a resource section for teachers. Our original steps included locating resources that we have personally used for teaching digital literacy skills in our own classrooms and we planned to share out those lessons with the resources attached. Instead, we believe that a more flexible, personalized approach may be to curate dynamic and effective resources and tag them to specific competencies. This will encourage teachers to use the resources in innovative ways, and hopefully share their ideas!

What the Resource Needs to Include:

  • must be adaptable, flexible and a living document – something that can grow and change over time: as technology changes, as opportunities arise
  • a framework for supporting digital literacies province-wide
  • language around creating a globally connected, digitally literate classroom culture

Jarod’s Next Steps:

  • searching for research around digital citizenship
  • finding resources and examples of digital citizenship appropriate for Middle School grades
  • exploring citizenship vs. digital citizenship with regards to the curricular competencies
  • curating resources for digital citizenship
  • exploring different resources and vehicles for that will evolve with time in an area that changes rapidly

Heidi’s Next Steps:

  • finding research around BYOD in Middle School Classrooms
  • finding examples of how BYOD is being used in classrooms
  • curating resources for digital literacies
  • learning more about content creation versus content consumption and how to create that climate in a classroom setting

One of many challenges that we are looking at is how to create a resource that will continue to evolve with not only technology, but the social changes that are created as new platforms for connecting with people come and go. Technology and social media have become a vehicle for global awareness and change. How do we create a resource that will continue to evolve and stay current as an unknown future evolves; a resource that will help to integrate BYOD and digital citizenship effectively for our students today and in the future when new technology and new forms of media have emerged? With a focus on new curricular competencies, our project will be about people as much as it is about technology as a tool and social media as a platform.

Research Focus #2

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?

  • teachers
  • administration
  • policy-makers
  • parents
  • students
  • 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.


Research Focus 1

Last year was a time of professional growth and exploration for me. I was given an opportunity to work closely with other teachers to support the implementation of technology in more classrooms and to be a part of a pilot project where our Learning Support team deployed iPads to support student learning. One of my goals last year was to develop and launch a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for our school. I met with parents and our administration during the summer of 2013 to begin drafting the policy. We looked at several other schools and the wording of their documents to formulate the language of our own policy. Once school began, I created a Technology Committee for our staff and then a second Technology Committee for our students, with the hopes that all three committees (parent, staff and students) would soon work together.

For a variety of reasons, I was unsuccessful in meeting my goal of school-wide implementation of BYOD. However, I was very pleased with the BYOD practices and launch within my own classroom. We enjoyed months of personal device use, and shared out our ideas and experiences regularly through a classroom Twitter account and at a conference.

My research interests for my #tiegrad Masters of Education assignment revolve around student use of personal devices for learning and connecting with a global audience. I am interested in discovering what prerequisite skills and habits should be fostered in students as schools begin to move towards BYOD (Bring Your own Device). I am interested in what discussions should take place, and who should be a part of those discussions. I am interested in discovering common language in successful BYOD programs. I am curious about how other schools are using student devices.

My focus will be on Middle Years schools (grade 6-8), and I will be seeking research to support that there is a need for some scaffolding and a bank of ideas to support learners in developing digital literacies while using their personal devices in and beyond an academic setting.

The resource that I hope to build through this research might include:

  • Suggested strategies and rationales to implement BYOD for students, teachers, parents, and administrators
  • Links to resources to support all stakeholders
  • Suggested initial steps in creating a strong foundation in digital citizenship skills
  • Links to sample BYOD documents
  • Examples of how devices are currently being used and ideas to extend beyond initial steps
  • Suggestions on building a positive school culture to welcome the use of student devices for learning


Some questions I have about this topic include:

  • What are some examples of good pedagogy in developing responsible use habits?
  • How are personal devices being used?
  • How can we support our learners in developing appropriate skills, habits and awareness to carry them through independent use at school and beyond?
  • What resources are available to support teachers in developing BYOD practices in their classrooms?
  • How can we leverage the possibilities of technology to amplify student voice and create rich global connections?
  • How will writing for a global audience impact student engagement and output in writing?
  • How can personal devices be used to bridge learning between home and school environments?
  • What language and habits should be common within a school culture to support an effective roll-out of BYOD?
  • How do we support learners who are not able to bring in a personal device in a BYOD school?
  • What do students need to know in order to interact safely with a global audience?
  • What resources are available for teachers who are looking to take the first steps in BYOD?

    The list my students generated last year when asked "Why BYOD?"

    The list my students generated last year when asked “Why BYOD?”

I intend to try BYOD again this year. I witnessed value in how my students used their devices last year. When asked why my students wanted to use their own devices last year, the response that resonated most for me was “So we can learn how WE want to learn”.

It’s all about the learning, after all.

Reflective Teaching – Day 24

Te@chThought‘s Day 24 Challenge is: “Which learning trend captures your attention the most, and why? (Mobile learning, project-based learning, game-based learning, etc.)

I am actually basing my Masters research on this topic! I will link my Research Proposal draft here (eventually).

My biggest interest right now is BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. I want to know how we can leverage the devices that the students are currently carrying effectively to transform education. I want to explore what attitudes, habits, and citizenship skills need to be in place for a BYOD launch to be successful. I would like to curate some resources around citizenship as an ongoing focus for educators who are using BYOD and explore examples of good pedagogy around BYOD.

Who do you consider to be experts in BYOD? Launching BYOD school-wide can be a challenge when considering the variety of opinions regarding technology use, screen time, and digital citizenship concerns that all stakeholders must address. My other question is how to support the learners who do not have their own devices?

I think that encouraging students to use their own phones, tablets and laptops helps to bridge that gap between learning at home and learning at school. How are you using student devices in your own classrooms?