Tackling the Research Question

Posted: November 3, 2008 in AI, Brainstorm, Futurism, Methods, School, writing

At the start of the semester, I had a research question planned out. It was basically asking what the future holds for technology, and how we can prepare for using that technology in the classroom. Since then, I’ve refined things a bit. And in the interest of clarity, I’ve broken it down into a list of more specific questions:

  1. What methods can be developed to shorten the time it takes to incorporate new technologies into the classroom?
  2. How can we make sure that the way we incorporate a new technology is the best way to go about it?
  3. What technology should we prepare for?
  4. What potential paradigm shifts are coming, and what do they mean for pedagogy?
  5. How do we prepare for those shifts?

All good questions, I think. And all focusing on a common theme. Which brings me to a brief presentation I’ll be doing later today.

I’m supposed to give a ‘progress report’ of sorts. In it, I’m going to present a basic introduction to my project, then touch on the related research and the design/methodology decisions I’ve made and still have to make. The advice I’ve been given has been to “keep the project small and manageable,” and I’ll do my best to work on that. The trouble is that this project could potentially be a dissertation, and I need to narrow it down to at best a journal article level.

So, going off the chart from Marshall and Rossman’s Designing Qualitative Research, page 25, here’s what I’ve got:


Overview: the overall goal of the project is to develop strategies for dealing with changes to the world that have not yet occurred, in the hopes of helping these changes integrate quickly and use them to best serve pedagogy quickly and efficiently. Just as developing a new pharmaceutical device can take up to 10 years from its invention to its introduction to the public, new technology can take up to 10 years from its introduction to the public to its effective use in the classroom. There have been attempts to reduce the pharmaceutical problem, predicting that the 10 year gap can be cut as low as 2 years. My contention is that the same can be done with technology.

Topic and Purpose: For this particular part of the project, I will be focusing on the potential technologies and developing ways to integrate them as a means of designing strategies that might work generally. The problem with any futurist prediction is that it either won’t be accurate at all or won’t include some important detail.

Potential significance: This project could potentially help teaching methods catch up with technology development, offering students the latest and best methods for learning and for preparing them for the world around them.

Framework and general research questions: Generally, I’ll be looking at the questions stated above, particularly the last three. As for the framework, my intention is to frame it as a series of ‘potential case studies,’ where I look at several possible/likely changes to the world and how to deal with each of them, and from there generalizing to strategies that may work near universally.

Limitations: For one thing, I cannot travel into the future. I can’t even accurately see into it. So I am stuck with predictions, which are just a polite way of saying ‘guessing.’ The guesses will be educated and backed up by history, but there is no guarantee that the future will resemble the past (as Hume so famously pointed out). So the cases I present may never actually come to be. Further, other cases might come into play, making the ones I present less valuable. Even still, I think that trying to develop strategies for dealing with new things is worth doing, because it may still help, even if every case is drastically wrong.

Review of related literature

There’s not really all that much literature on parts of this project. There’s a whole lot on futurism, a great deal on how technology has been integrated into the classroom in the past, and a little bit about considerations of technology in the future (like the authorship question when dealing with wikipedia bots, as Krista Kennedy is researching). One large portion of this project will be reviewing all of these disparate literatures and integrating them, synthesizing a kind of literature for this subject and hopefully gaining insight into strategies that have worked in the past.

Design and methodology

I’ve discussed a lot of this stuff already, but to sift it out, I’m relying on two methods for this portion of the project, with the caveat that other methods will be included in the large project. The methods I’m looking at right at this stage are literature review and case study, as I discussed above.

The other methods that might be used? I could do a rhetorical analysis of ‘hard’ science fiction, a bit of personal biography when it comes to how I’ve used technology in the classroom (and how teachers of mine have) and how well those methods work. Most likely, I will include some method of survey (or case study) with current teachers in a variety of fields, asking them how they have adapted to new technologies, what their strategies are, and how well those strategies have worked. There is also a point in the project when I will need to identify technology that currently exists outside the classroom that can be used effectively within the classroom (like, up until very recently, YouTube), applying my method to new technology to see if it works.

Are there ethical considerations? Probably. I’m not sure what they are yet, aside from the standard IRB issues for interviewing and surveying.

What about trustworthiness? I think I can establish credibility pretty well with an intensive literature review. Thankfully, between futurism, a history of technology, a history of pedagogy, and a review of current movements in the field, I’m confident I can do this.

So that’s my project. It may end up a dissertation, it may end up something I look back on and shake my head about, glad that I never went through with it. I have a feeling I need to narrow down even more for my current need. Whatever it is, it’s a question that interests me, and for now, that’s what I care about.

  1. cbd says:

    How did the presentation go?

    This is big project stuff. Nothing wrong with that. My suggestion for revision makes it wider: move the language to plurals here (#2 effective not best, #3 technologies not technology). I don’t feel bad about that, though, because your methodologies narrow it considerably. I’ll point to a few other sources for materials: (1) mailing lists like TechRhet and WPA, which have low signal-to-noise but do contain a lot of the comment you want; (2) books like Cynthia Selfe’s Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-First Century, which I think I loaned to you a few years back. You might also have to look for texts which cover this ground but not explicitly: for example, my work with del.icio.us fits the mold in many ways though it’s not explicitly geared toward your questions.

    I’m always glad to see you working ideas out here.

  2. Beagle says:

    This sounds like an awesome project! How did it go? Is this related to your dissertation by any chance? I am still trying to figure out what to do with mine!

  3. cogitas says:

    Oddly enough, while it went very well, it veered off quite a bit. But yeah, it’s related to my dissertation (such as it is). This is what I’m interested in. I worry about claiming that this is what I’ll write my dissertation on. I mean, on the one hand, I should know by now. But on the other, I don’t really have to decide for another year and a half.

  4. Beagle says:

    Yeah I feel the same way (I don’t have to decide now, but it’d be nice to have an idea of where I am heading). I am also interested in issues that are related to technology and its implementation. Hope I’ll read more about it from your blog! Nice theme, by the way.

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