Time to Survey

Lavin, A. M., Korte, L., & Davies, T. L. (2011). The impact of classroom technology on student behavior. Journal of Technology Research, 2, 1–13. Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=57522954&site=eds-live

Technology plays a big role in our lives today. However, the amount of technology we use in our everyday life does not always translate into the amount used in education. At any level, one can find classes that use technology effectively and extensively and classes that do not utilize technology at all. The more technology has become a tool in education, the more important it becomes to understand all the aspects it impacts.

Student behaviors can alter depending on what resources they are using. “The Impact of Classroom Technology on Student Behavior” tries to understand the impact technology has on specific student behaviors. A couple examples are:

  • The level of preparedness for each class.
  • The quality of notes taken.
  • The level of participation in class discussions.

The authors surveyed 700 students, of which 557 were returned and usable. The survey was distributed to students in all levels of business classes at a Mid-western university. “Both versions of the survey used the following five point scale to collect student opinions: “1” was significantly positive, ‘2’ was somewhat positive, ‘3’ was no difference, ‘4’ was somewhat negative, and ‘5’ was significantly negative”(Lavin, Korte, & Davies, 2011, p.4). In order to determine if there were significant effects, the answers were compared to the “neutral”, which is 3. Means above 3 showed a negative impact and means below 3 showed positive impact. The questions were specific for two groups of students, but the way the questions were approached was different. The first group of students came from classes where the professors identified a moderate to extensive use of technology, while the second group of students had professors who indicated that no technology was used.  For the group in classes with technology they were asked how an absence of technology would affect each behavior. For the group in classes without technology they were asked how the addition of technology would impact each behavior.  Overall, the results of the survey showed technology had a positive impact on student behaviors (Lavin et al., 2011).

The most important impact this article has to the field is that it gives researchers a starting point. As with most of the research I have read, it tends to develop more questions than answers. As the researchers pointed out, this is just a first step. There needs to be further studies that include a larger base of students and studies that focus on what technology has the greatest impact on learning. To make the article a little easier to read, especially in the results section, I would have broken it down into sections based on each group, rather than trying to address both at the same time. It made the conclusion a little difficult to track. The authors discussed a few theories and nicely connected them to other literature, but until I got to the “Current Study” section, I wasn’t sure what the focus of the research was. I didn’t feel the discussion of other theories was necessary to discussing the current study. The authors included their data in table format, which I found helpful since the discussion of the results was difficult to track. Additionally, since I plan on including surveys in my work, this gives me a good idea of how to approach. I was surprised to find a few grammatical errors, but they were minor and the meaning of the sections was not lost.

I was expecting the results to be a little different than they were. There were a few areas the group with technology said would improve without technology. This wasn’t a result I would have guessed, however, it also brought additional questions to mind. For instance, the group with technology indicated that the absence of technology “would have a positive impact…on the amount of time they study for class each day” (Lavin et al., 2011, p.5). Had I been the one doing the survey, I would have done a follow-up survey to clarify their reasons. Would they study less because of the amount of notes they would have to take in class or would they study less because without technology they have no distractions? Or, do would they study less because they have fewer materials to look at? In my own research I could do follow-up surveys as needed or I can provide a comments section under each question in which the respondent would be able to clarify their answer. Although, this would complicate the mathematics, as it is difficult to put a value on answers that could vary from person to person. One insight I had while I read through the tables showing the data is that I need to build my mathematical knowledge. There were some sections I vaguely recognize, but I am unsure as how to use them now and there were some that were totally foreign to me. So, either I need to increase my math skills or find a partner who already possesses such skills and will help me.

A survey I would like to do within my community would be how technology affects student achievement from multiple views: the teachers, the administrators, the parents and the students. I would like to address if they feel technology affects their achievement and how, meaning it helps them learn quicker, deeper or if it makes learning more difficult. In the study by Lavin, Korte and Davies they ask specially about how technology affects the students behaviors (Lavin et al., 2011). I would like to address that, but in addition look at if the responders feel there is a specific technology that allows them a deeper understanding of the content. One thing I will have to consider is the number of surveys (one large survey or multiple smaller surveys) and what will be more reliable.

This study brings focus onto the community and gives them a voice. If students feel their opinion matters, they are likely to be more motivated. I think that the surveys in my research will hold valuable information and will play a big role in my research. Teachers do not need to add technology in for the sake of technology. Teachers need to add technology in because it gives the students a deeper understanding for the concept. I suspect that student achievement is impacted by technology when it requires the student to take charge of their learning.


The Role of Emotions

“We were, we told ourselves, too close to the work” (Paris & Winn, 2014). I have told myself this many times in relation to my job. In my opinion, it is a hazard of being a teacher. It is difficult to find the balance between work and home. This probably has a great deal to do with why so many teachers burn out within the first five years. I don’t envision a researcher as having such problems. In the past I have typically thought of a researcher as one who is serious, precise, objective and disconnected. Prior to starting this program, I was trying to determine what I wanted to research. I had a difficult time because I felt I was overly passionate about the things I wanted to research, but on the other hand I did not want to research a subject that I was dispassionate about; I imagine that would become tedious. “We have not paid significant attention to these feelings, yet they persist and continue to shape our work” (Paris & Winn, 2014). When reading through research articles, it appears that the common approach to research is to be detached, in order to be objective.

In Renato Rosaldo’s book, Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis, he discusses the difference “between the technical idiom of ethnography and the language of everyday life” (1994). Rosaldo gives multiple examples in his book of daily life being described in Ethnographic terms. Each time I feel as though the researcher in the example has no idea what they are talking about because all emotion has been taken out of play. It leaves the description sounding idiotic. One example Rosaldo gives is Horace Mann’s paper, “Nacirema”. I had read it in elementary school and I remember being a little disturbed and thinking Nacirema people were barbaric. When I found out it was actually about Americans I was shocked and thought it was the funniest thing I had ever heard. It became a joke to speak in such a manner.

People are emotional; they have joy, grief, anger…etc. When emotion is taken out of the equation daily actions seem a little crazy. I understand that the purpose is to stay distanced, but people research with purpose. “I want to emphasis…research carried out by anyone is a political-historical process.(Lave, 2012) Regardless of whether one expects their research to have an impact, it does, in some aspect have an influence on society. As quoted by Lave, research is political. It goes back to knowing the community and how the research will impact them. Paris and Winn discuss how emotions are used to modify policies. “The fear of terrorist violence of ‘illegal aliens’ taking U.S. jobs, of prisoners using tax dollars…all help to justify expanding the punitive arm of the state” (Paris & Winn, 2014). My purpose in researching is to initiate change within my community. The keyword throughout these readings seems to be balance. One must be aware how their emotions, passions and desires affect them in order to keep bias from impacting the results of their research. However, it is our passions that drive us.  Additionally, remembering that the community you are studying is made up of people and that the purpose of the research is to create a better world for them. Once we lose sight of that, there is no point in continuing to research.


Lave, J. (2012). Changing practice. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 19(2), 156–171. doi:10.1080/10749039.2012.666317

Paris, D., & Winn, M. T. (2014). Humanizing Research (p. 277). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Rosaldo, R. (1994). Culture and truth: The remaking of social analysis (pp. 1–52). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Subject Selection

Guzey, S. S., & Roehrig, G. H. (2009). Teaching science with technology: case studies of science teachers’ development of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9, 25–45. doi:10.1007/s10956-008-9140-4

This week I looked at an article called Teaching Science with Technology: Case Studies of Science Teachers’ Development of Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge. (Guzey & Roehrig, 2009)The study is looking at how a professional development program called Technology Enhanced Communities or TEC, enhanced science teachers’ TPACK.

TPACK is a theoretical framework which is derived from Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. TPACK is made up of three forms of knowledge: content, pedagogy and technology. The argument is that a teacher must have integration of all three knowledge areas in order to be effective. TEC is described in the article as “a yearlong, intensive program, which included a 2-week-long summer introductory course about inquiry teaching and technology tools.” In addition, there were group meetings throughout the year, which was associated with an online teacher action research course. During the two week course in the summer, the participating teachers learned about inquiry-based activities while learning several instructional technologies.

Guzey and Roehrig did qualitative research and collected data through observation, interviews and surveys. In this study, they chose four teachers, new to the field; all of whom had less than three years of experience.

The organization of the article is very easy follow and read. However, the order of the sections didn’t make sense to me. Guzey and Roehrig put the profiles of the teachers in between the results and the discussion. This caused it to feel disjointed, as it didn’t flow properly. The author clearly explains the theories and gives examples of the research they came from. However, the research is supposed to be looking at the impact of TEC, but I felt that there was a lot of focus on inquiry, which is a component of TEC; none the less, too much focus on it. Additionally, the author went into great length of what TPACK is, but, it wasn’t necessary to understand the theory at the depth provided in order to comprehend the research.

Guzey and Roehrig chose beginning teachers because they felt this would provide more commonalities: they had graduated from the same program, they were all going to be teaching their specialty …etc. However, I totally disagree with this approach to selection. Had veteran teachers been selected, there would have been more focus on the authors’ guiding question rather than on common rookie issues (e.g. classroom management, flexibility, lesson planning). Much of the article discusses these issues, which, while they play a role in being an effective teacher, doesn’t necessarily impact whether or not the TEC program is working. By selecting veteran teachers, much of this would have been avoided.

The analysis gives a pretty clear picture of their work and if the resources were available could be reproduced. In the results section, Guzey and Roehrig stated, “Teachers were each found to integrate technology into their teaching to various degrees.” However, their guiding question was how does TEC enhance TPACK? How can the depth of integration of technology be their result? In the decision section of the article they state that TEC was found to have a “varying impact on teacher development of TPACK.” That should have been in their results. Unfortunately, since new teachers are learning so much more at one time than veteran teachers, I don’t know how reliable these results are. It is doubtful that this research had a big impact within the field, as the findings were not significant.

The impact that this research had on my area of inquiry is a different story. I have been solely focused on how integrating technology will have an impact on student achievement and it never occurred to me to consider the teachers’ experience or effectiveness. If a teacher has poor classroom management, adding technology to the mix is not going to increase student achievement. In fact, it is likely to do the opposite. Managing technology in a classroom adds a degree of chaos. Most veteran teachers are adept at establishing new procedures and have enough forethought to know what those procedures should be. One has to be able to understand what problems may arise with students in order to establish procedures that would circumvent said problems. It is unlikely that most beginning teachers have this depth of knowledge. Additionally, veteran teachers have the ability to adjust at a moment’s notice when technology fails, which it does and will. This again, goes back to experience. It would be like giving a two-handed piano piece to a beginning piano student, who is only ready to play with one hand. Reading two lines of music at the same time, maintaining a steady tempo, including dynamics and phrasing is more than one can expect from a beginning musician, but after a few weeks or months of one-handed pieces, that student will be ready to add a level of difficulty. This is not to say that beginning teachers shouldn’t be using technology, the opposite is true; but, to utilize beginning teachers as research participants in how effective technology is, may not be the wisest decision.

Professional development is not a point I considered as a piece to my research. Often, professional development is a hit and run experience. We receive an hour or two of training and then we, the teachers, are expected to have it completely integrated the following day and we never speak of it again. This could be why so many teachers are so cynical about new programs. As a music teacher, very few of the professional developments I have attended have been catered to me specifically. Due to this, I have spent much time over the last twelve years, essentially providing my own professional development. On one hand I have become quit proficient at innovating within my classroom, but had I received more guidance from a veteran teacher, it would have taken me less time to achieve what I have. Technology is a tricky area, in that some people are very comfortable with daily technology interactions and some people struggle with turning on electronics. It may be necessary to include a professional development component within my action research in order to create support for the teachers I work with. It would need to be implemented in such a way that the teachers are able to reflect and discuss their experiences and brainstorm new ideas. This will create lessons that utilize technology to deepen the understanding of the concept, not just adding technology for the sake of technology. Overall, I enjoyed reading this article, it really got me reflecting on the presentation of my own work and the components I should or shouldn’t include.

Growth Through Uncertainty

Jordan, M. E., & Mcdaniel, R. R. (2014). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 1–49. doi:10.1080/10508406.2014.896254

Aw man, I’m a fifth grader!  Ok, I’m not a fifth grader, but that is who I was connecting with in the article by M.E. Jordan. I have so many new adventures I am starting and these days, uncertainty seems to be my constant state of mind. In addition to starting the Ed. D. program, I am now one of the mentor teachers at my school. To say that I have uncertainty about how my life will work over the next year is an understatement.

When any of my colleagues point out that I’m crazy for taking on so much and that it is going to be so hard, my response is always the same. “Yes, I’m a little crazy, but the most difficult stuff is the most rewarding.” When I read the statement, “Generating uncertainty can facilitate the reorganization of current beliefs, values and conceptions.” (Jordan & Mcdaniel, 2014), I was pleased to find an affirmation of my beliefs; further evidence, that in order to change, one has to work through the issue.

As I continued to reflect on the article and my new position at work I realized that I would not be the only person coming into this new community of practice with uncertainty. The new teachers I will be working with are not only going to be uncertain, but probably apprehensive. Jordan says that when we are presented with another’s uncertainty we will either respond in a socially supportive way or not. It is my job to help the new teachers grow as educators and to build a community of practice that deals with the uncertainty in a positive way. In an article by Wenger, he says that “Members build their community through mutual engagement. They interact with one another, establishing norms and relationships of mutuality that reflect these interactions.” (Wenger, 2000) Building relationships and establishing norms is going to play a huge role in how I can assist others in their uncertainty and vice versa.

I saw so many parallels between the 5th grade class in the article and the community I am now a part of in cohort 9. Each of us has been uncertain at many points over the last few weeks, but as a group we have helped each other in a positive way and have not only worked through our uncertainty, but have created a community of practice who works to support each other through our growth. It is exciting to be a part of it!

Tara Yosso discusses deficit thinking in her article. Even though she is discussing it from the position of minority students, I think it can be applied to any community of practice. She says that “Cultural capital is not just inherited or possessed by the middle class, but rather it refers to an accumulation of specific forms of knowledge, skills and abilities.”(Yosso, 2005) Each person brings cultural capital, regardless of race. As a leader it is really important to remember that everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses. In addition, my strengths are not going to be the same as the next person’s. By valuing people for the capital they bring, the community will become a valuable tool that will allow each of us to work together through our trials.

As I continue on my new adventures, I am confident that I can work through all of my uncertainties and help my community members through theirs. It is empowering to know that, at times, everyone has doubts and that working in a community of practice will allow me to grow, in spite of my uncertainty.


Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Sage, 7(2), 225–246. doi:10.1177/135050840072002

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69–91. doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006

Music and Technology

Carruthers, G. (2009). Engaging music and media: Technology as a universal language. Research & Issues in Music Education, 7(1), 1–9. Retrieved from http://www.stthomas.edu/rimeonline/vol7/carruthers.htm


This week I read “Engaging Music and Media: Technology as a Universal Language.” (Carruthers, 2009) The article is about the role of music and technology in education and how they might play a role together. The article doesn’t offer new research, but it does synthesize others’ research.

The first discussion is about the roles of music, within education and how they might affect each other. Carruthers states that music often plays a secondary role in education. Meaning, that we don’t teach music as part of our curriculum because music is good, in and of itself, we have music within our curriculum because it supports something else. As a music teacher, I often find myself saying “This directly supports you” to other content teachers. You don’t often hear a math teacher justifying why the kids need to learn math. There is an array of reasons why music is valuable on its own legs. It doesn’t need to be supporting anything else.

After reading the article, I recognized that I had used the same type of reasoning as the supporters of Flores v. Arizona. As discussed in “Keeping up the Good Fight: the said and unsaid in Flores V. Arizona.” The supporters had many reasons why the ELL funding in Arizona should be awarded to the schools. The findings, however, showed the reasons from the supporting side fell under the idea of, ‘you should support this because you’ll get this out of it’ mentality. (Thomas, Risri Aletheiani, Carlson, & Ewbank, 2014)With that being said, great teachers integrate all areas into their content. Students need to see how everything is interrelated. Often times children are taught in compartments: math in math class, science in science class…etc, but our lives do not work this way.

Music has, what Caruthers calls, a division of labor. In music, this is the composer, performer and listener; each has their separate job and people rarely cross over. With the addition of technology, this isn’t necessarily the case. My own children compose music with special applications that do not require them to read music. Anyone with the right software can do all three. I see this as one of the biggest impacts technology has had on music. In the past, if one didn’t read music, composing to share with other was rather difficult. Now with software and media- sharing, this becomes relatively easy.

In order to look at the various ways technology impacts us, Caruthers defines technology as anything “from the wheel” to “a personal computer.” This immediately caught me off guard. Defining what is technology never occurred to me. I simply thought of technology as laptops, computers and electronic devices and any software to go along with it, but after reading how Caruthers is approaching technology, I may have to be more specific in what I’m viewing as technology within my research. The ways technology can have an impact, according to Caruthers, can be broken into four parts, technology that: 1. makes things easier to do than it was before, 2. does things better than before, 3. allows us to do things we couldn’t do before and 4. makes us think differently. Again, I had to consider the future of my research. At what level of impact am I going to be assessing. For instance, making it easier to do things than it was before, such as multiplication practice, may not have as big of an impact on student achievement as something that makes the student think in a different way.

The article was more thought provoking than I expected it to be.  Carruthers was clear from the beginning, he was reviewing previous research and that the paper would not answer many of the questions. The purpose of the paper is to create discussion and it proved to do just that. It caused me to look at the research I’m heading into and the basics of how I will approach it. I am dealing with so many more layers than I had previously thought. Carruthers poses, “It is incumbent upon us as educators not only to evaluate the uses of technology – to extol its virtues and denounce its failings – but also to explore deeply how it encourages or causes us to think differently about the world around us.” In my research, I will have to decide if I’m going to look at the level of technology that creates the deepest learning or do I not even take it into consideration.  Do I continue looking at the impact of music with technology on achievement or solely at the impact technology? If I research the impact of music and technology together, does the depth of learning within the music matter in the research? For instance, composing is a deeper depth of knowledge than identifying notes. How does one take this into consideration?  If my research does show an impact on student achievement, is it necessary or valuable to determine if the act of utilizing technology is creating more engagement or is the technology deepening the students’ understanding? Either one could impact student achievement; is there a way to tell which it is? How do I approach the research in a manner that will include my community and their views? In fact, can I even account for the ways technology and especially music has on the community?

Carruthes said it well, “Many of the benefits of music study, some of which are imbedded in the art form itself, are intended by teachers and curriculum planners while others are not” I suspect, that this is the case in technology as well. Unfortunately, it adds another question for me. How do I consider this in my research?

Overall, the article was well written and professional. It was organized in a logical way and he was very clear that he was presenting theories and that, as a literature review, was creating more questions than could be answered in this one piece. His ideas are insightful and have definitely given me pause. I have a lot to consider as I dive deeper into my research.



Thomas, M. H., Risri Aletheiani, D., Carlson, D. L., & Ewbank, A. D. (2014). “Keeping up the good fight”: the said and unsaid in Flroes v. Arizona. Policy Futures in Education, 12(2), 242–261. doi:10.2304/pfie.2014.12.2.242

Dare to Inspire

As an undergraduate, in an education program, there is one question that is presented over and over again. “Why do you want to be a teacher?” In general, there are two answers to this question:  one, the person answering had a wonderful educational experience and wants to reproduce the same experience for others or, two, the person answering had a horrible educational experience and wants to create a better experience for future students. Details in the answers change, but the underlying idea stays the same. People become teachers because they want to do right by children. My answer is no different. I had some amazing teachers and I saw the impact they had on students’ lives. I wanted to affect that kind of change.

As I was sitting in a planning meeting for next school year, we were discussing data and how do we go about impacting our student achievement; in particular, our low and at risk students. The terms that came up over and over again were “making connections,” “real life problems” and “making learning meaningful.”

Essentially, we were brainstorming about how to inspire our students.  I couldn’t stop thinking of an article I read, Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological insights from the Council of Youth Research. The article is actually discussing an approach to research which includes students, teachers, graduate students and professors. This in itself was exciting to think about, but what I kept coming back to is the impact that this experience would have on the students involved in the project.

The students are identifying problems within their community and actively participating in the research, working directly with adults who value their opinion and empower them to not only define the problem and find solutions, but to voice it. (Bautista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza, & Matthews, 2013) In Medicine Stories, Morales says that healing will start when a community starts to discuss the trauma or injustice that has affected them.  (Morales, 1998) The students involved in the Council of Youth Research have lived inequality in their education, but the students have now started to deal with how this inequality has affected them and they are becoming change makers. They are researching and assisting in the project, but consider the learning that is taking place in the Council.

The problems being discussed and researched are “real life” problems and they are problems that directly impact the students. “Students are expected to learn and use research methods in order to produce knowledge about their educational experience so that they can develop identities as critical agents who work to facilitate change in education.” (Bautista et al., 2013) Setting aside the skills the students are learning in research, writing, presenting, interviewing…etc., imagine the impact on how these students view themselves and what they are able to affect. Picture the kind of learning that would take place on a daily basis if we, as teachers, could make the concepts as personal to our students.

In an excerpt from the Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies there is a discussion about the difference between how Western culture and the Native American culture approaches science. The author isn’t arguing that one is better over the other, it simply spells out the differences and he states that, “These two approaches can complement one another.”  He goes on to say that in order for science to have meaning for students, “that meaning must be inherent in both the content and presentation.” In other words, teachers must know their community and culture of students and present the information in a way that is relevant for the student. “The first step in motivating and enhancing learning of any sort is by encouraging involvement in the learning process.” (Denizin, Lincoln, & Tuhiwai Smith, 2008)

It is easy, as a teacher, to become caught up in the overload of responsibilities our position demands and sometimes we forget why we became teachers. We are not in a job where we go home and leave work at work. That is what makes our job amazing because we are directly impacting the life of a child. We get to inspire students to do and be their best, but in order to do so, it is imperative that we approach our students in a fashion that is culturally relevant for them. We have to ask our students what is important to them. We need to allow our students to identify the problems they see around them and to search out solutions. More importantly, what would happen if we empowered our students to speak out against injustices?  How many students would blossom just by the experience of having an adult value their opinion and work? What would our schools look like if we had mini councils of youth research happening in our classrooms? I bet the teachers would end up being just as inspired as the students.



Bautista, M. A., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D., & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory action research and city youth: Methodological insights from the Council of Youth Research. Techers College Record, 115(October 2013), 1–23.

Denizin, N. K., Lincoln, Y. S., & Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2008). Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies: Chapter 24. Sage Publications Inc.

Morales, A. L. (1998). Medicine stories: History, culture and the politics of integrity (p. 135). Cambridge: South End Press.

Inequality in Education

Doyle, J. L. (2014). Cultural relevance in urban music education: a synthesis of the literature. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 32(2), 44–51. doi:10.1177/8755123314521037

During an observation I did last week, I was struck with the reality that, in comparison, I am a teacher at a privileged school. When I examined the differences between the campus I was visiting and the campus I work at, I started shifting on the direction of research I wanted to look into. Originally, what caught me off guard was the realization that the students in the classroom I was visiting had zero technology to use; nothing, unless we are going to consider a mechanical pencil technology. However, as I learned more about the school I was in, the more dismayed I became. (Truth be told I was all sorts of fired up!)

The school I was observing in has made some cuts to their staff, which is no different than any other school in Arizona, but this district made major cuts to their special areas team. The students never have art and they had a whopping two hours of music the entire year. I don’t imagine they made a year’s growth in those two hours. They did have, in alternating weeks, PE and technology class. Keep in mind, they have no technology in their classroom. There is a band program, but the students are only pulled out once a week.

In comparison, the school I work at has five Chromebooks for each grade level in addition to the laptops we have in every classroom and an iPad cart that is shared. That sounds more amazing than it is. For example, I had eight laptops in my classroom, but only three of them worked. The major difference, technology wise, is that our students are not only allowed, but encouraged to bring their electronic devices to school. In addition, we have a full special area team, which includes: art, music, college and career readiness, and two PE teachers. The students also have the option of joining band and/or choir.

The ramifications of not having music, art, or technology at a school are mind boggling. Think about the impact art has in the engineering and design of items like cell phones and tablets. I guarantee there is a lot of thought put into the visual effect of everyday items. The higher level thinking involved in each of these areas allows our students to problem solve and be creative in a way that is only possible in the arts and technology. The students I had the opportunity to visit with are going through their education without the same resources other students have.

I started researching anything that had to do with music, technology and achievement. I came across an article by Jennifer Lee Doyle entitled Cultural Relevance in Urban Music Education: A Synthesis of the Literature. Basically, the article is looking at the students of low socioeconomic status and how their social and academic outcome is affected by the arts. I have failed to mention thus far, that the school I visited is 94% free and reduced lunch, meaning the students who attend the school come from low socioeconomic status. The school I work at would be considered mid-level socioeconomic status; we have very few student on free and reduced lunch. The article says that “students who participate in the arts tend to have better academic and social outcomes than do students who do not participate in the arts.” She goes on to say that low SES students have increased civic engagement, better achievement test scores, school grades, graduation rates and college enrollment rates when compared to low SES students who are not in the arts. One point I found interesting was that she specifically pointed out that students “with a history of intensive arts experiences” score closer to the level, and sometimes exceeding the level shown by the general populations. This would definitely support my theory that a school without music or art will impact the students in a negative way.

The next section of her article she says there are indications that students of color, low SES and with low academic achievement are underrepresented in secondary music programs in the United States. From experience, I can tell you that there are many reasons for this and from what I have witnessed, is totally accurate. In high schools across Arizona students who participate in band typically pay $100 or more for supplies, uniform…etc. I have heard numbers as high as $500. This does not include the cost of any trips the group takes or their instrument. The non-existent funding for music programs in the high school means, that those costs fall to the families. Students from a low SES, struggle with this. Fundraising helps, but there are only so many scented candles one can sell. In regards to the students who struggle academically, from what I have witnessed, they are underrepresented because there is no more room in their schedule due to the remedial courses they are required to take. The same holds true for ELL students. A study that Doyle looked at said that 65.7% of music students, in secondary school are Caucasian and 90.4% of them are native English speakers. In the school the study looked at, only 50% of the students were Caucasian. Obviously, this does not match with the composition of the music program. A second study she looked at found a strong association between SES and music participation. “Only 17% of music students were from the lowest SES quartile.” It is baffling that we have areas in education today still, essentially, segregating our students.

Doyle suggests that in order to raise participation in music programs, specifically in junior high and high school, teachers need to create more culturally relevant courses.  She gives several examples of how to implement this: integrating multicultural music styles, offer nontraditional ensembles, teach courses that relate directly to local student interests and to be more present in the lower level schools. Making the classes more culturally relevant just means that one is being a good teacher. It is all about making connections and in middle school and high school, if a student does not feel connected, they will not stay in the program. However, music programs are unique in this way because of the amount of time the ensembles spend together, the community created is tighter than in a regular classroom. My theory is that students in general, have a higher rate of success in school when they are in such a community.

Overall, the article was easy to read and was thought provoking for me. It definitely has me looking at different ways to research. However, because it was a literature review and not quantitative research, I felt as though it didn’t dive very deep into each issue discussed, especially within data. Therefore, I don’t feel like it is or going to be very impactful.  If anything, I would have liked to see more information and statistics. However, she cited forty-two different references, which absolutely gives me a place to dive deeper.

Even though Doyle’s article is discussing secondary schools, there is still a connection to elementary. Elementary school prepares the students for secondary school. If the students are receiving an education that forces them to work at a high, more rigorous level and requires them to be creative, imagine how much farther they would end up in middle school and high school.  In the meantime, I will be looking at how the arts and technology impact student achievement and how that relates to students of color, low SES and English language learners.

Researcher Beware

First year teachers are like brand new pennies, they have been untouched by the issues in education, all shiny and new. They start out with their excited smiles and the “I’m going to change the world,” attitude. This is not to say that veteran teachers are not passionate about their role, but it is easy to see that veteran teachers have a weight on their shoulders. As teachers, we fight for what is right for our students and work without the resources we need, but we give our students the best education we can offer.

I remember the moment I realized that my students were not given the same opportunities. I was a first or second year teacher and I was at a music conference, still shiny and new. I was in awe, watching a middle school band; they were amazing! When the band finished playing, the director had the kids stand and take a bow. I was struck with the realization that, with the exception of four students, the entire ensemble was Caucasian. I instantly found this odd, as this was not the case at my school.

Then the director started talking about what he did to get the students to produce such incredible music. He was adamant that the teachers in the room needed to make sure the students were playing on matched instruments. Matched instruments! I was lucky if my students had instruments at all. Not only were these students all playing on school instruments, but they were all matched and brand new. It was at this point that I became a little tarnished. I was astonished that he had the budget for that. I had to fight for every piece of music I had and instruments were not an option. At that moment I realized that my students were disadvantaged and that the director and I were not playing on the same field.

While I read the article by Garcia and Ortiz (2013), I kept coming back to the same thoughts of my students. What could they have achieved had they been given the same access to resources? Garcia stated, educational equity remains an elusive goal for students from non-dominant racial, ethnic, linguistic and socio-cultural communities…” (Garcia & Ortiz, 2013) Our schools are not equitable. The students do not have the same classes, services, resources or diversity.

As I contemplate my research along with the articles, I was struck by the fact that my research could have a lasting effect on education. It is doubtful that teachers and researchers enter their field with thoughts of holding people back, yet the unconscious bias one has, can do just that. Gould discusses this very problem.

Morton made no attempt to cover his tracks and I must presume that he was unaware he had left them. He explained all his procedures and published all his raw data. All I can discern is an a priori conviction about racial ranking so powerful that it directed his tabulations along preestablished lines. Yet Morton was widely hailed as the objectivist of his age, the man who would rescue American science from the mire of unsupported speculation. (Gould, 1996)

The research presented by Morton was, in his eyes, objective. However, his research held bias towards minorities and had an impact on education and society. (Gould, 1996) If one looks at the demographics of our schools, specifically race, and the access they have to resources, it is easy to see that the bias Morton held, still affect us today. “Education equity remains an elusive goal for students from non-dominant racial, ethnic, linguistic, and socio-cultural communities; the research conducted to-date has not been successful in altering this trajectory.” (Garcia & Ortiz, 2013)

I find myself wary of my own possible bias as I approach the start of my research. As previously stated, it is doubtful that any researcher has the intent of causing harm to another person or culture; however, it is clearly possible. How does one avoid such a disaster? If I were required to list my bias at this very moment, I don’t know that I would be able to write anything down. In order to know what one’s bias is critical reflection must be utilized. As discussed by Howard, “Critical reflection is the type of processing that is crucial to the concept of culturally relevant pedagogy.”(Howard, 2003) He goes on to state that “Critical reflection should include an examination of how race, culture, and social class shape students’ thinking learning, and various understandings of the world.” (Howard, 2003) This could also be applied to researchers and educators. If educators have a clear understanding of how race, culture and social class shape their own thinking, we would have a better idea of our bias and how we are unconsciously communicating these ideas to our students. What becomes plainly obvious is that researchers in general need to spend time in critical reflection in order to keep the bias from affecting their work, as it did with Melton. By using Melton (Gould, 1996) as an example, one can find the following guidance:

  1. Look at the whole picture, be aware of the sub-samples and be consistent in the collection of the data.
  2. Set bias aside and confirm that the results can be reproduced
  3. Keep an open mind. If the data leads to alternate hypotheses, follow it.
  4. Check the math and leave nothing out.

As I set out to tackle my own research, critical reflection will play a role in my awareness of how I fit into the culture I will be studying. By being aware of my preconceived notions of culture, race and social class prior to my research I may be able to keep my ideas of such from hindering my research. The idea that I could impact others’ lives is both exciting and intimidating, as there is a fear there that research can hinder as much as help.

Garcia, S. B., & Ortiz, A. A. (2013). Intersectionality as a Framework for Transformative Research in Special Education. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Lerners, 13(2), 32–47.

Gould, S. (1996). The Mismeasure of Man: American Polygeny and Craniometry Before Darwin. The “racial” economy of science (pp. 30–72). New York: WW Norton & Company. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books=en&lr=&id=CmJWBaANlsEC&oi=fnd&pg=PA84&dq=American+Polygeny+and+Craniometry+before+Darwin&ots=gu4mtzHxt_&sig=SJ7qO0-EjTwDdury27I9m2tcam8

Howard, T. C. (2003). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection. Theory into Practice, 42(3), 195–202. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1477320