The Digital Learning Collaborative, a project I love and spend ever more of my time with, will be taking a large cohort of teachers through the work of conducting teacher research on and in their classrooms over the next couple of years. That’s pretty exciting to me, for teacher research has been in my blood since I was a preservice teacher working as a graduate assistant with one of my favorite teachers ever. And in the current climate, strategies like teacher research have much to offer teachers as professionals and as voices in educational conversations.
So here we go. And here I go, as well.
It seems only fair and fitting that, as we facilitate teacher research for others, I engage in a teacher research project of my own. This is slightly unusual – my “students” in this case are the teachers and students of the school district where I work. My classroom is spread out over fifty buildings and miles and miles of physical territory. Further, I work more and more in online spaces, so my classroom includes those spaces, too.
What to look at? Well, that’s the easy part, I think. Since I went to work in technology, two spaces have consumed much of my time, our Virtual Campus, a district-wide implementation of Moodle, as well as St. Vrain Blogs, our district’s WordPress MU-powered blog engine, also open to the district as a whole.
I wonder about how these spaces change classroom practice. I think about how writing, and more generally, composition, becomes an extension for learning, particularly when there is a public audience for the work. Who is using these spaces? To what ends? How do the use of blogs and online courseware change the experience of teaching and learning in my school district? (Does anything change?) How are teachers using spaces like these? Is the learning day extended? What kinds of writing are happening in these spaces? To what effect?
Those are the questions1 I’ll start with. As for data – well, we’ve got lots to look at. The blog engine itself is a public repository of the use of these tools. What are the ethical implications of studying, in public, a public space where learning is taking place? I plan to blog my research log, a tool that I’ll use to keep my reflections and observations about what I’m seeing and learning as I study these questions. In addition, I anticipate that I’ll conduct interviews with people using these tools in my quest to understand their impact. I intend to publish these recordings, as well, prior to my analysis of them.
One question – and it seems a silly one – but should I start a separate blog over in the district blogging engine to collect all this work, or should I separate it a bit by placing it over here, at my place? I’m leaning towards creating a space there. But I’m still thinking.
So, um, here goes. Wish us luck. If we do this right, we’ll be telling lots of the stories of our classrooms that don’t get told. And, ideally, we’ll be getting better at teaching and learning through the process.