Monday, November 22, 2010

Viewing Methodologies

We've been discussing our views on methodologies for the past few weeks in class. Specifically, how do different research methods relate to one another? For our Research Critique assignment, each of us studied 3 different articles and and analyzed their methodologies. When we got together in class, we arranged those methodologies into a big research map (see the image above, via Kuen, Instead of viewing research methods in a chronological or hierarchical fashion (like a tree), our map was much more rhizomatic (like an interconnected web or field of grass).

Each classmate then shared his/her personal view on methodology mapping. After discussing research organization via tagging, I realized that it was easy for me to view methodologies as data sets that can be connected through different tags. According to Wikipedia, a tag is

"...a non-hierarchical keyword or term assigned to a piece of information (such as an Internet bookmark, digital image, or computer file). This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching. Tags are generally chosen informally and personally by the item's creator or by its viewer, depending on the system."

As long as all methodologies were coded accordingly, I could potentially call all participant-based research methods via the tag "@researchparticipants"--these could include ethnographic, arts-inquiry, case study, etc. An example of tagging can be seen below this post ("research" and "methodologies"). By clicking on these tags, one can see all posts that I've labeled similarly.

Other students examples included flower beds and pollination and clouds. You can check out their ideas in the linked blogs to the right.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Viewing My Research Through Constructivism

After spending longer than I care to admit perusing the myriad of methodologies presented on our course website, I decided to check out Constructivism. I first became aware of this theoretical framework in my undergraduate sociology courses. As it applies to instruction, Constructivists are concerned with four major principles. The first, Readiness, refers to the personal experiences and contexts that allow students to be willing and able to learn. Spiral Organization, the second principle, focuses on structuring content for easy understanding. Going Beyond the Information Given and The Nature and Pacing of Rewards and Punishments suggest designing instruction to facilitate extrapolation and filling-in gaps of knowledge for one’s own edification (Kearsley). Each of these principals provide a foundation with which to view with my interest in the adaptation of technology in facilitating Authentic Learning. Other theories (such as Social Development theory, Multiple Intelligences theory, Feminist theories, and Social Justice inquiry) can be used in conjunction with Constructivism to offer more insight into the understanding of how meaning is derived within cognitive structures.

Readiness, the first principle of Constructivist theory as it applies to instruction, connects with the first two criteria of Authentic Instruction, “(1) students construct meaning and produce knowledge, (2) students use disciplined inquiry to construct meaning” (Newmann & Wehlage, 1993, p. 8). Students are unable to create meaningful questions without basing their inquiries on prior assumptions and beliefs. Constructivism allows us to see that new knowledge can be acquired only after the appropriate groundwork has been laid. On a practical level, this could translate into making sure learners are familiar with technical tools of online learning. Vygotsky’s Social Development theory can also be used to help translate the Readiness principal into a tool for Authentic Instruction curriculum development by establishing an appropriate base for students.

Spiral Learning builds upon Readiness by structuring content for easy student understanding. This relates to many standards of Authentic Instruction, including Depth of Knowledge, Connectedness to the World, Substantive Conversation, and Social Support for Student Achievement. Building an online environment where these values are emphasized requires specific attention be paid to accessibility issues and learning styles. Accessibility issues make up a major concern in online learning, and Constructivism stresses that content must be structured in a way that all learners are able to access educational tools. Student needs and learning styles could also examined and assisted through the theory of Multiple Intelligences as well.

The third principle of Constructivism, Going Beyond the Information Given, is what I believe to be the crux of Authentic Learning. The final Authentic Instruction criteria, student work aimed “toward production of discourse, products, and performances that have value of meaning beyond success in school” (Newmann & Wehlage, 1993, p. 8), and the standard of Higher-Order Thinking reflect this theme. Constructivists believe that Rewards and Punishments (the final principle) for learning should be centered on personal growth. Feminist theories (particularly the collaborative themes stressed in the Feminist Invitational Collaboration in a Digital Age) and Social Justice theories would be particularly suited to help formulate techniques that foster the ability to think critically and provide motivation for future study.

As applied to curriculum development, Constructivist principles clearly merge with the criteria and standards of Authentic Instruction. By using the framework of Readiness, Spiral Learning, Going Beyond the Information Given and Rewards and Punishments, a researcher will be able to assess the success of Authentic Instruction as it applies to online learning. Many other theories from the smorgasbord of methodologies can be sampled and applied seamlessly into the Constructivist approach as well, creating an opportunity for both rich and diverse discourse.

Works Cited

Kearsley, G. September 27, 2010. The Theory Into Practice Database. Retrieved from

Newmann, F. M., & Wehlage, G. G. (1993). Five standards of authentic instruction. Educational Leadership, 50(7), 8-12.

Other Methodology Resources:

Feminist Invitational Collaboration in a Digital Age:,_Communication,_and_Technology/Feminist_Invitational_Collaboration_in_a_Digital_Age:_Looking_over_Disciplinary_and_National_Borders

Feminist Theories:

Multiple Intelligences:

Social Development Theory:

Social Justice Theories:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Problem Statement Draft

I'm having a really hard time finding my focus, so I thought I might use the opportunity to create a few problem statements. Here is the construct we were provided with:

Parts of a Qualitative Problem Statement:
The purpose of this [type of study] study is to understand [what] of [who or what] involving [what or who] from [when] to [purpose].

The purpose of this [____] is to understand if e-Learning can provide educators with accessible Authentic Instruction....
1. [qualitative study] ...during the semester of a hybrid and/or fully online class through the perspective of a participant/researcher to experience the strengths and weaknesses of current technology.
2. [meta-analysis] ...through a review of current research, trends and new technology to synthesize best practices.
3. [quantitative study] analyzing comprehensive testing data of current online class takers to determine internalized knowledge.

Research Concept Map (First Draft)

Here's the first draft of my research concept map. I'm having trouble narrowing my focus, but hopefully we'll be able to discuss some options in class tomorrow.

Enjoy! And let me know if you have any trouble viewing. The full-screen presentation can be viewed here:

Monday, August 30, 2010

(Re)Searching For Answers Part 2: Future Research Ideas

I think that the future of education lies in technology. A pretty heavy sentiment, but it seems reasonable to suppose that any medium that combines (relatively) cheap multimedia communication with global access is particularly suited to the dispersion of knowledge. The trick is to make technology work for us, and not mold our learners to work for technology.

There are two experiences in particular that have shaped my interest in this topic.
Living with a non-sighted father has given me insight into the needs and demands of those who do not experience the world (and technology) as I do. I have learned how the current online environment marginalizes people that have difficulty using a computer mouse. I also see other disadvantages of online learning practices, such as the use of video that does not contain written translations for those who have difficulty hearing. It amazes me to think of the untapped potential audience waiting for accessible technology.

Another accessibility roadblock can be seen across economic divides. After spending a year teaching in a government-run housing project, it seems clear to me that the (relatively) cheap possibility of visiting a website for information is a much more real possibility than taking a municipal bus to a local museum. This is not to say virtual manifestations eliminate the need for brick-and-mortar institutions. Far from it! Rather, these institutions should embrace the wider audience they will certainly receive with a well-created and marketed presence.

It is also clear to me that money, not the wellbeing of others, seems to be the major focus of most institutions and corporations. While I personally believe the bottom line should always be focused on human welfare, it seems possible that a creative, engaging and rich environment can be created on a profit-based system.

The question then becomes:
How can we create an accessible (in terms of cost and ADA standards) online learning environment that engages and empowers learners?

The major disconnect I see in current online learning stems from two facts I've noticed:
1. I have yet to encounter a student who has taken an online class that they have enjoyed.
2. I know many people who spend most of their lives connected to a rich internet-based community.

This leads me to believe that engaging and empowering online classes are both possible and necessary for the continued dissemination of knowledge from the elite to the masses.

Note: The picture above is of the cubical I worked in for 3 years. Feather boa was not included.

(Re)Searching For Answers Part 1: Definitions and Identity

Merriam-Webster Online defines research as:

1: careful or diligent search
2: studious inquiry or examination; especially : investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws
3: the collecting of information about a particular subject

In my humble opinion, research aims to describe current, historical, and/or potential future data via the scientific method.

Tap Dance Picture
My identity as a researcher is shaped by all the facets that make up my personality. Below, please find a (by no means exclusive) list of personal factors that influence my research. By recognizing these attributes, I hope that I take the first step to mitigating potentially harm the impartiality of my future work.

  • I am a well-educated, twentysomething white female
  • I come from a middle/upper-middle class Jewish background
  • My father is blind and has other disabilities stemming from illnesses experienced in the past 15 years
  • I went to 4 undergraduate schools (and still managed to graduate in 4 years--perhaps my biggest accomplishment!), and studied Studio and New Media art at all of them
  • I am particularly sensitive to gender, LGBTQ, racial, ethnic and other rights movements
  • I worked in web design and production at a large corporation in New York for the 3 years in between undergraduate and graduate study
  • I am currently working at the Palmer Museum while taking graduate classes

Refworks Link

I've begun posting articles about online learning, online communities and using multimedia methods in the classroom in Refworks, view my research folder here:

I hope to learn more about online classrooms and best practices--particularly concerning arts education and appreciation, accessibility issues and the fostering of supportive knowledge-based social networks.

First week of class...

Brings this quote to mind, from Calvin and Hobbes, a comic strip written by another Kenyon Alum, Bill Watterson:
Calvin: I used to hate writing assignments, but now I enjoy them. I realized that the purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog! Want to see my book report?
Hobbes: (Reading Calvin's paper) "The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender modes."
Calvin: Academia, here I come!
I'll start posting my responses to class tonight!