I'm Wondering: Starting Some Inquiry

As part of our work this year in the Digital Learning Collaborative, we are going to be engaging in some teacher research. The was to start thinking through possible questions. Michelle and I are eating our own dog food – we’ll be trying to conduct our own studies.

Back in May, I wrote some about my possible questions:

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 questions 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.

I’m still thinking about digital spaces ((Good grief. As we roll out Google Apps in our district, any student will be able to publish anywhere without the intervention of the teacher. We’re rolling in places to post and share. )), but I thought I might write a bit more about why. As we’re asking the team leaders to think through the passions identified by the authors of our text, I need to first contextualize my thinking through those. I’m thinking that my questions involve two of the passion categories – a desire to explore the relationship between my beliefs and my classroom practice ((Oddly, my “classroom” as an instructional technology coordinator is actually a virtual space – and, because of the areas of my interest right now, is the Internet. Which is pretty big. So I’m going to have to try to limit that somehow. )) (.p 38-39) and a “focus on understanding the teaching and learning context.” (p.54-55)

And I guess, too, that I’m still thinking about how we use those tools – how their presence affects what happens in the classroom. If what happens is “well, the notes are on the blog,” that’s not a terribly big change – or is it. I’m going to explore some examples of interesting blogging practice and try to see what influence those have on the classrooms they came from. A few teachers come to mind for my inquiry – but I’m still wondering if I want to try to look at these questions as someone looking at the texts or at the practices that generate these texts. Or both.

I know from my own classroom experience that the potential exists in these publishing tools to extend the school experience beyond the walls of the school – and to bring the outside world in. Permeable walls are possible through publishing. But are they happening? Should they be?  Writing ((or composition)) is powerful learning.  If we create more opportunities for writing and being thoughtful, might that make a positive difference for students?  Teachers?  Learning?

As of right this minute, that’s what I’m thinking about.  That said, as with all good inquiry, I suspect my questions will change over the next several weeks as I dig in further.

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