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.

 

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#tiebc Chapter 8 Ambient Awareness

I am smiling as I write this post, with my Mom’s beautiful face clearly in my mind. You see, I know that my Mom is usually one of the first to read my blog posts. And, I believe that she reads them from beginning to end; truly wading through the mire of my digital diary, not just skimming for salient details and points of interest.

Clive Thompson’s Chapter 8 “Ambient Awareness” in his book Smarter Than You Think became one of my favourite chapters, as I was reminded repeatedly of the opportunities and connections that technology has brought into our lives. Clive is a strong proponent of our micro-blogged status updates, our shared dinner pictures and our endless chatter about the minutiae of our days. He describes the wonder of our culture of over-sharing; how it becomes like an ongoing conversation. He actually describes it as social proprioception – an awareness of where our digital community members are, and what they may be engaged in: a group’s sense of itself. What is appealing about these morsels of shared information is that they invite you to interact; they do not demand your attention. When a friend shares out that they are considering which movie to watch on a Friday evening, you can experience a moment of envy about their evening plans and move your attention to other things, or you can offer an opinion and begin a conversation.

I admire people who can blend their personal and professional selves seamlessly online. They can share tidbits about their day, as well as professional resources that their followers will appreciate. My Twitter timeline shares a lot of my celebrations as a learner and a teacher, but I rarely sneak in the occasional personal tweet. I might enthuse about the snow falling, or how my dogs are demanding my attention as I multi-task through my schoolwork on my front deck.

Thompson made me laugh out loud when he talked about how our ambient awareness allows other people know how truly weird you actually are! He describes how freeing text can be. When I reflect on the people who follow my Twitter account and how they read my thoughts about my Masters, my ideas about teaching or my conversations with other people; I regain my fear about posting my words so publicly. It is bizarre to have a clear understanding of and sense of closeness with someone you have never met. Twitter allows us a new social opportunity that breaks the standard conventions of conversations. We drop into conversations held between other people, we leave without polite goodbyes, and we share out random facts, pictures, ideas, and conversation starters to see if anyone wants to talk to us. Our recent history is filled with stories of the dreaded evenings at family or friends’ homes where we may have been forced to sit through endless photo albums, or worse, a slideshow. Yet, Instagram has been embraced as a window into the lives of those around us. This is another example of being invited in, as opposed to feeling trapped.

Ambient awareness extends to everyone. Although we may be intending to share our words or pictures with a few friends in our digital community, we must remain aware that our true audience is huge. Future employers, friends or spouses can see our interactions, or trace our histories with a simple search. Our current employers, friends and spouses have an ongoing geo-tagged window into our every digital utterance. A new mindset of how to behave when we know someone is watching should be taught at a younger age. In discussing my “audience awareness” with my students at the advent of blogging together, I have learned that most of my students do not think about what it means to be interacting publicly.

After reading this chapter, and experiencing my ever-present anxiety of living this public life, I also acquired a new calm. Thompson’s rebuttal to the many people who mourn the use of our social networks to post random updates is that these tools do not actually make us trivial: they just reveal how trivial we truly are. I, for one, am grateful for all of the opportunities that technology has brought into my life. I do feel more connected – to the people I know well, and also to people I have yet to meet in person.

So, post away. Tell me about the dessert you just ate. Connect with me through Fitbit so that I may know how many steps you took today. Post another cute picture of your dog napping. Tell me the funny thing that happened at work today. Capture the beauty outside your front door in a quick pic. Tag me into that conversation about popcorn, because you know I have an opinion about that. What unexpected plot twists filled your day today?

Enjoying the view with my dog Ash. One of my favourite hikes behind my house.

Enjoying the view with my dog Ash. One of my favourite hikes behind my house.

Because, I know that if I shared these things more often, my lovely Mom would feel even more up-to-date in my day. I know that she would be happy to see how my elaborate dinner turned out. She would be able to picture me on my hiking trails vividly if I shared a picture in real time. She would laugh at my stories, even if no one else did. Our connection would deepen because she would be able to see the blend of my personal life and my professional life and how all of the pieces fit together in the course of each day.

Status update: I’m off to tidy my house so that I may decorate for Christmas tomorrow. 🙂

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.

Thoughts?

References:

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Boston: Pearson.

 

Reflective Teaching – Day 30

Te@chThought‘s Day 30 Challenge is: “What would you do (as a teacher) if you weren’t afraid?”

I’d like to view this question as a teaching bucket list! There are a variety of ways that fear presents itself in relation to teaching or careers in general: monetary, starting over, losing seniority, retirement planning, learning new expectations, new bosses, etc. These are reasonable fears and concerns.

So, my no-holds-barred Teaching Bucket List would include:

  • teaching in another country – preferably somewhere tropical – I am truly drawn to Cuba…?
  • teaching in Northern BC. I would love some snow play days
  • stocking my classroom with the technology needed to provide learners with choice
  • teaching outdoors
  • teaching on a sailboat – Have you seen “White Squall“???
  • exploring more Montessori principles while teaching in public school
  • teaching in Scotland
  • teaching high school
  • blogging about my teaching regularly
  • team-teaching a multi-age group
  • opening my own school – a rural, one-room school house
  • teaching without a set schedule. I am not sure what this would look like, but I would like to believe that it would follow some sort of Distributed Learning model, but with even more flexibility for student needs.
  • trying some of the Waldorf principles and stream a large group of learners for several years.
  • finding a way to incorporate more play or tinkering at the Middle School level
  • collaborating on a long term learning experience with a buddy class – where travel and meeting in real life are a part of our plan