Category Archives: Research

A Continuing Dilemma

Where I’ve been – and a possible shift in where I’m going is a post that really resonates with me. Sara shares her feelings here:

What that means is that I often feel split right down the middle when it comes to the writing I want to do vs. the writing that “counts.” And, my absence from my blog writing has much to do with this – as time spent blogging is time apart from data sets and writing publications that stand a chance of getting cited in other spaces, etc.

Sara pointed to danah boyd’s post where she reflected on what it means for research to have “impact.” Sara continued:

Yes, I work in a system that values a certain kind of publishing- and I knew that going into this job. And, yes, I expected “push-back” when it came to the degree to which I write for teachers. but, the reality is that my audience doesn’t turn to a journal on research in teacher education to learn. so, to use danah’s frame, the impact of my work is measured less by citation count than by shifts in teachers’ pedagogy and, perhaps more importantly, the engagment, motivation, and learning of each student in their classrooms.

The question that emerged for Sara was “Could a blog be useful in disseminating research findings?” Then her bigger question, “Can a blog that is mostly public be a space for the meaning making that happens prior to drafting a manuscript?”

I say yes and we would be the better for it. I have blogged very little since working on published research for the past two years. I can’t help but think all the published results would have been improved with input from the larger audience that would lead to better meaning making. I don’t have answers to this dilemma but this is something I keep struggling with a lot.


Photo Credit

“Am I Making Sense Here?”: What Blogging Reveals about Undergraduate Student Understanding

journal cover

I’ve been spending time browsing through these open access journals mentioned on my previous post.
The Spring 2009 issue of The Journal of Interactive Online Learning has an article “Am I Making Sense Here?”: What blogging Reveals about Undergraduate Student Understanding.
This study examines how blogs can extend learning and facilitate transfer of learned concepts. Blogging was used after a nutrition course was finished to document and analyze the learning. Blogging conversations were explored over seven weeks to determine what happened in the blog conversations and to see how participants were making meaning of nutrition science concepts. Students were asked to post 21 times (3x per week) and comment on 35 posts by others (5x per week). Most posted and commmented more often than requested.

Four themes emerged from the analysis of how students made meaning of the nutrition concepts through their blog conversations. The first themes had students writing about nutrition science from the context of their daily lives as they strived to apply what they had learned. The second theme had participants recognizing and critiquing perceived barriers to successfully applying what they had learned about nutrition. The third theme had the students viewing the news media as an expert source of information as there was no instructor voice in the blogs. The fourth theme centers on unanswered questions in conversations and how these questions indicate gaps in students’ understanding of nutrition concepts.

The study has samples of the orientation materials used and interview protocol.It’s an interesting qualitative case study that could get us thinking about directions to head toward in future studies.

This online journal has lots of interesting articles. Its aims as listed on the “About” page are:

Provide a forum for the dissemination of research on interactive online education

Disseminate ideas that enhance the practical aspects of interactive online education

Further knowledge and understanding of emerging innovations in online education

Foster debate about the use and application of online education

Bypass expensive resources: Go directly to free

I’ve posted my frustrations about publishing research and the difficulty of access by all before, so this study really piqued my interest. It may yours as well so I thought I’d share.

This study, LIS Open Access E=Journal – where are you?, in Webology examines how the landscape of online journals has changed. It explores:

    whether the journals are known
    if their content is easy to find
    if they have gained acceptance in directories, indexes, and abstracting tools
    the extent to which they have established their reputation

The criteria to include the journals in the study included:

    being free
    published in 2000 or later
    the frequency of publication included any frequency up to and including those published annually

Journals were excluded that:

    were currently available in print
    English was not the primary language
    no publication in the last 2 years
    required subscription or membership

The article provides links to the various directories.

After checking the accuracy of the author’s established selection and exclusion criteria they were checked against information provided in standard bibliographic sources. They also checked in abstracting and indexing sources. You will find those links in the article, too.

They came up with a final list of 31 e-journal titles and all those links are provided, as well.

Google Scholar was noted as the search engine of choice and had the advantage of being free as opposed to expensive subscription based databases. Other resources to keep in mind are DOAJ, World Cat, and EBSCO.s LISTA. World Cat was mentioned as the source to go to to verify bibliographic information about a LIS e-journal. It had 100% coverage of all 31 titles and that made it stand out in relation to other examined source.

I’ve been spending some time browsing through these journals and they are good reads. I’ll try to post some links to noteworthy articles in my next post.

Research frustrations, joys, and further thoughts

iBreadCrumbs is a free online tool that helps users record and share research. What is really cool is that this tool was developed by two college graduates, Reuben Fine and Rey Marques. They had become frustrated by the inefficiency and redundancy of gathering research. See Campus Technology for further reading about this intriguing tool. It is interesting tool that I will be following. I’ll be curious to see how professors and others conducting research will use this tool. If anybody knows of similar tools, please let me know.

Reading about this tool prompted me to think about how much I am learning this past year. It is ever frustrating to not immediately share my “inconclusive” thoughts. The problem is that these “inconclusive” thoughts need to be reflected upon and studied from different perspectives. You examine different areas comprehensively and then have to step back and mull it over. Most times, this type of reflection points you to a totally different pat or way of needing to take a closer look at what is happening. You begin again.

There are many frustrations that surface for me daily. I still don’t know just what I can share and what I can’t as I learn. One corner of this community urges me to just get it out there, another says no, finish studying what happened so there will be accuracy and validity in the findings. Results are inconclusive at this stage. Basically I agree with that but I find myself in an arena where I am constantly unsure of the rules. I don’t want to be a risk taker at this point. Too much is at stake. Yet being silent is so hard! I know I don’t have enough knowledge or experience in this area to judge. Yet I do judge but I am quiet for now with that judging. I have to keep learning so my conclusions on my view of research will “feel right” for me to follow. I d rail at the amount of time research takes, the closed aspects of the research process, the way it ends up not being readily available to every interested party, and it even appears that you lose ownership (I’m talking about ownership to share verbatim) as far as just sharing it “word-for-word” after it is published!

Then the publishing aspect itself is quite a time consumer as you submit articles, wait a month or two, get accepted or rejected, revise, head off to another publisher, work on several pieces at once, etc.

Now those are some of my frustrations but I have much, much joy being involved with this research. I know it is going to be something I will be proud to have a part in contributing to our community. I don’t think I have ever examined anything in more depth. I wish teachers could have opportunities to participate in this kind of learning but realize how impossible this would be for them currently, mainly because of time constraints and few opportunities during the work day to truly invest in their own learning. This could send me off on another rant about treating teachers as professionals but I’ll get to that on another post.

Digging deeply into the accumulated data has given me a new lens with which to view the learning that occurs through blogging. It is inspiring. It has forged a path full of twists and turns that lead to further learning, further examining, and further questions. It is exciting and so very worthwhile. It leads you down a trail of focused thinking on what matters. I think that’s the joy of doing research – making those discoveries and having your thinking pushed in incredible ways.

Meanwhile I have read some of the most fascinating and interesting research around, and that I can share so I will do that in future posts.

This is the kind of learning in which I’d like to see our students have more opportunities. They need to be able to do a little research on their own learning and feel that their choices on learning and their strengths are being honored. We need to guide and encourage that. We spend too much time in our classrooms telling students what they need to learn. We direct and we supervise. We need to empower them by getting them involved in making choices and decisions for some of their own personal learning in schools. They need time to learn what matters to them and go off on a journey where they construct the knowledge and have joy in the journey. Meaningful learning will occur as a result of their making those choices and decisions. Meaningful learning will not occur just by following directions on what to learn being decided totally by others.

Light at the end of the tunnel

I am really excited about the beginning of a new year. I don’t think my schedule is going to slow down but I am learning so much. Digging into the mounds of material that we have from the research project has been rewarding yet overwhelming. I have been up and down so many paths that lead me to other paths of learning! As Juan, one of my previous elementary bloggers said, “Aw my brain hurts!” I’m there now but I have to tell you that the process is so worthwhile. It is excruciating, exciting, exhausting, and exhilarating all at the same time.

Here’s how I have been spending my days:

  • plowing through the data
  • discussing and re-discussing the data with my research colleague
  • studying the data
  • pouring over previous research to make connections
  • interpreting the data
  • learning from the data
  • struggling so hard to find just the right words to tell the story
  • backtracking to make sure things weren’t missed
  • finishing a piece or thinking you have finished a piece and then the lightbulb comes on and you’re down another path
  • coding and yes even still transcribing
  • exploring different paths for evaluation
  • writing, re-writing, and thinking about what will be written next

I could go on and on with that list but I’m sure you get the picture. I have a lot of frustrations with the slow process of writing and publishing research yet I am learning the benefits. Many thanks go to my colleague, Ewa. I think we are going to be contributing some very important pieces to this whole process.

Meanwhile I am going to try by best to get back to blogging, even if I still can’t always blog about what I would like to at the moment. That time will come… patience was never one of my strong suits.There will be light at the end of the tunnel!


Twin Peaks tunnel by Jeff Poskanzer’s photostream

Research update

I have been in so many new and different learning environments over the past 5 years and I have to say that it is an incredible journey. I still can remember the day I was introduced to blogs back in January of 2002. I remember thinking hmmm, this has possiblilities. I wonder how I could use these to get kids involved more in writing. Little did I know then how life-changing this journey would be.

I am currently working every moment we can schedule with Ewa McGrail, the professor here at Georgia State University on all the research data we compiled from the project last year. It is incredible the amount of data we have. We have submitted one article already, have lots more to work on. We are currently working on a book chapter. It takes a tremendous amount  of time and heavy thinking  as we analyze the data, continue transcribing and searching through the materials, the interviews, the podcasts, and many other records. Writing is grueling because you want to be so thorough and get the words right to capture the moments and truly portray what happened. Again I am learning so much and just processing all that is quite a lot. Sometimes I have to just step back, catch my breath, and say yes we can get this right. Ewa is teaching me a lot and great to work with as we try to schedule as many moments together as we can. That’s the other part – getting our schedules to work together when we both already have lots else going on at the same time. We both have it as a high priority and would love to be able to have this part full time but that’s not the real world, right? I still struggle with just what is OK to blog about and what is not. Anyway I just wanted to let you know why I am so “absent” from blogging lately. I am thankful I could be a part of something like this. We need more research in this area. As I cull through other research I am amazed at what I am finding that somehow escaped me before. As I said the learning part is absolutely awesome. I will get back to my normal blogging in time but right now it’s just too much.

Blogging with 3 classes!

The classroom teacher who participated in the research with us this past school year emailed me and she may start blogging with 3 classes this year! Wow! Usually there are four teachers in the fifth grade but this year there will just be three. They are working out blocks of time to meet every three days for an hour and a half. One will teach Science, one Social Studies, and the classroom teacher will be able to get all three classes blogging! I call that success, logging having a slot right up there!
Steve Dembo recently posted about the Dragon software that I am using to transcribe. I’ve had the same frustrations he mentioned. Now the CastingWords site fascinates me to but adding up what it would cost me is astronomical. No way could I afford that! Sigh….  It is slow going and I am still doing that as I can.

Ewa and I have sat down and we’re in the process of working on the first piece. This body of information that we have collected lends itself to quite a bit of publishing. We have a lot of choices and that is always difficult. I don’t like leaving parts out.

We also have a lot of digging down into it and studying different aspects that again requires thought and time. I haven’t blogged much this past year due to all this and I have to say that that part of research drives me up the wall. I realize the worth of it but I love the way we can just put it out there when we blog. There’s much value in that too. Hmmm, maybe that’s what we need to research. We do hope to write a piece on the research process itself and the difficulties of having to be quiet or at least we felt we had to be so careful so we would not do anything to hurt the research but the best part of blogging is the feedback and that was missing for me.
Right now Ewa is in Poland visiting her family so early August we will be setting up a schedule that makes all this a top priority. The time it takes is mind boggling.

But just think 3 classes blogging is part of what came out of the year long process. I call that success of the highest level!! I’ll keep up with them and let you know when they get going. I’m soaring again!

Lessons Learned from Blogging with Elementary and University Students

Ewa McGrail and I did a poster session at NECC, “Lessons Learned from Blogging with Elementary and University Students”.

This is the research project we have been conducting all year. It was an overview of the project with a focus for this particular presentation on the relationships with the elementary and university students. We highlighted different aspects of the project. See “Lessons Learned” for our initial observations and thoughts as we have yet to dig through and analyze all the data from the year. Hey, I am still transcribing! Will that part ever end? 🙂

I put together a slide show of the many participants who came by. We appreciate everyone coming by. The conversations were great!

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I miss blogging!

I am consumed with keeping all the pieces of this research on blogging into a manageable form that will be useful as we start this summer digging into all that has transpired and what it means. I have had much to learn about the research process and one side aspect of this project is that I have been unable to blog in the manner that I am accustomed to. I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize the results. The problem is that I don’t know what areas those are so mostly I have been quiet about everything. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve started but then not finished. I’m also knee deep in transcribing sessions. I’ve been using Dragon software – my less than “affectionate” name for the software is Cruella. Transcribing is a tedious and time-consuming process.

At this point I have so many thoughts in my head. So many truly interesting things have been going on and the conversations with students tell us so much. Now bear in mind that I have no idea at this point what the results will be but the difficult part for me is that there are so many areas that I want to blog about with this community and I have felt great frustration in being silent. I miss being able to blog about whatever crosses my mind. I will be able to do that at some point and I know that but boy do I wish I could have the conversations now. Those conversations are how I as the teacher get feedback that in turn gets me rethinking and considering other aspects that I may not have noticed. I think the research is more important than the blogging at this point but I also think some aspects of research need revising. I have enough sense to know though that I have much to learn in this area so I’m trying to be patient and keep learning. Let my understandings unfold and keep on working at learning to have patience!
I had an interesting conversation with Rena Shifflet this past weekend. She told me about a book that said research was a lonely process. The book was Particularities by George Noblit. I need to read it. I met Rena at a workshop at NECC in Seattle. She had created some really great blogging projects. I look forward to following her blog and know she will add much to our conversations. She gets the possibilities that blogging and other web tools offer.

Special issue on “Blogging as an Educational Technology”

Learning Technology is a publication of IEEE Computer Society. They published a special issue on “Blogging as an Educational Technology” My article “Thinking & Writing Wrinkles Bloggers” was accepted.

Her paper shares a project where fifth grade elementary school students who used blogs to communicate with other educational bloggers. In her paper she looks at how blogs were used in cooperative learning and how they increased social, academic, and technological participation.

Here’s the overview of the other articles published. It looks like some good reading so I’m off to do just that. It is so good to see more and more published work on blogging in education.