Online Annotations are the new Sticky Notes

Lu, J., & Deng, L. (2012). Reading actively online: An exploratory investigation of online annotation tools for learning inquiry learning. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology. 38(3), 1-16.



Critical thinking is a difficult concept and students need to learn the skills necessary to accomplish that.  My research hopes to incorporate technology, critical thinking, and sound pedagogy in order to help students achieve the maximum benefits when learning.  This research study looks at how a specific piece of technology can be used to help students engage in critical thinking skills during reading.  The research was conducted in Hong Kong with students who were the equivalent of tenth graders in the United States.  Research was evaluated in two categories: a review of pedagogical annotations and a review of currently available annotating web programs.  The literature shows that the more annotations readers take, the more they increase their comprehension.  This is true for both for the frequency and quality of those notes.  The annotation process is helpful when done either individually or collaboratively and this information was factored into the study.  There were five online annotation tools available.  The literature detailed the differences between them and then explained its rationale for choosing Diigo (Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff).  Diigo provided a few features that allowed students to interact with the text in ways that some of the others did not. The authors believed it was best suited to support the critical thinking process.


The study consisted of two classes of students.  One class was an advanced level class.  That class began with 44 students but the study only assessed 42 students after accounting for factors such as excessive absences.  The other group of students was a class of regular education students.  That class began with 37 students but only accounted for 27 once also weighing for absences.  The differences between the two types of classes was purposeful.  One question the researchers examined was the difference between how the two groups’ behaviors and observations related to Diigo.  Other goals of the study were to find out how all of the students used the technology, perceived it, and how their actual use of it compared to their reported responses.  The research was conducted in four sessions.  First, the teacher gave the students material to read.  The next session required the use of Diigo.  On the third session, students worked independently and could take notes or interact with the text however they chose.  The fourth session was for students to share their notes with each other and synthesize information.


The researchers individually observed and assessed each note card entered it into the Diigo system.  Calculations were based on those results.  The notes were categorized into four sections: define, tag, record, and discuss.  A Likert scale assessment was also used to measure the students’ opinions.  MANOVA tests were performed.   Scores were adjusted to account for the differences in the number of students in the two classes. The results showed that Class A used, and reported liking, the sticky notes more.  They also used the define category the most.  Both groups reported enjoying the notes according to the survey results, however, Class B had so few notes that some categories could not be fully assessed.



Strengths and Critiques

This research compares two classes one of which had high achieving students.  One of the big problems is that the tool being assessed involves students’ ability to read critically.  The reason that Class A may have had more notes in Diigo may have had nothing to do with the product or its effectiveness but everything to do with the students’ skill in Class B to complete the assignment.  The research did not detail the reading level of the material presented to the classes nor did it specify if it was the same passage for both groups.  There were a few other problems as well.  Class A and Class B were very small making it unable to be generalizable even if they were both the same type of learners.  Another problem is that one class lost two students while another class lost ten.  There might be some dynamic or secondary issue going on (behavior, illness, etc.) that had an effect on the remainder of the students which could, in turn, effect the results.  The authors didn’t address that issue.  Finally, the design called for students to be grouped by their teachers.  Again, since both classes started out with larger numbers and ended smaller, the research did not explain how groupings were changed during the project as absences occurred.  Since Group B lost ten students and Group A only lost 2 that might have been another factor.


The researchers evaluated each note card themselves.  That left the opportunity for interpretation of the cards.  There was no independent party also evaluating the messages on the sticky notes so the breakdown of data could have been construed differently had someone without a bias been the arbiter.


There literature review was broken into two sections.  The first section evaluated the pedagogy value behind annotations.  The second section was not a review of literature at all.  Rather, it was a review of the products that are currently on the internet and available.  It explained to the readers the rationale behind the choice of using Diigo as the source for this research.


The layout of the paper was fine, however, the one typographical error was very noticeable and did create difficulty when reading.  At the end of the Research Question section, it stated that there were three questions they would be focusing on but then proceeded to list four questions.  I reread that several times as I was initially unsure if the mistake was that the three should have been a four (which is what I concluded) or if one of the questions on the list was the error. That mistake was very confusing and distracting.


Further Study

I think that the researchers had a very valuable idea by choosing to research how a specific piece of technology can assist in building students’ reading skills.  In order to extend beyond this study, the research needs to be repeated with several changes.  First, more students need to be involved.  Second, consistent academic levels need to be considered. Once this study has been repeated accurately, other studies also can be done to compare the other technology options that were presented at the beginning of the literature review section.  One more direction that this study could be taken is to compare the use of the online annotations to traditional annotations with paper and pencil or sticky notes. This study compared higher level students with average students but on a very small scale.  The next study could be done on a large level with groups of students at both high and average academic levels which would make the results generalizable.  The reading passages each group gets could match their abilities.  The results could be compared to each other after the fact thereby eliminating that variable as a factor.


Relate to Another Reading

The literature review and discussions in Effects of Technology on Critical Thinking and Essay Writing Among Gifted Adolescents (Dixon, F., Cassady, J., Cross, T., & Williams, D., 2005) argued that little research has been explored specifically regarding how gifted students learn.  Both studies look at how technology is used by high achieving students.  Neither study used large enough groups to make the results generalizable so neither were able to contribute much to the overall development of literature of the way gifted students acquire knowledge.


Brainstorms for My Area of Interest

This study had two of the three components that I am looking to use in my study; the technology and the critical reading development.  The pedagogy base was discussed in the literature review but not analyzed in the research so I do not consider it as fully part of the research.  I was completely unaware that this type of annotating technology existed until I read this research.  This seems like a simple, free, easily accessible piece of software.  The literature section described several of the options available and provided the sites to access them.  What it made me realize is just how much may be obtainable for my research that I have not even thought about.  I recognize now that I may have been limiting my options.  I am going to begin to trolling through many places to explore what else may be possible before I narrow my research decisions.



Dixon, F., Cassady, J., Cross, T., & Williams, D. (2005). Effects of technology on critical thinking and essay writing among gifted adolescents. The Journal of secondary gifted education, 16(4). 180-189.


Languages Need to Live

Reading Indigenous Epistemologies and Education—Self-Determination, Anthropology, and Human Rights (McCarthy, 2005) struck a very personal cord with me.  The article explains that the groups of people who are identified as being Indigenous live on nineteen percent of the world’s land but populate only four percent of the world.  In contrast to their small demographic population, they speak 4000-5000 of the 6000 languages worldwide.  Of the 210 languages in the area that is now the Unites States and Canada, only sixteen percent are currently being learned by children through their families and communities as they grow up.  If languages are not being learned by children, they will eventually cease to exist.  Not only does the language itself die, but along with it goes other cultural connections.


The concern addressed in the article is the loss of many of those languages and what the school systems can do to try and help change that situation.  This article is an introduction to four examples of K-12 schools that try and incorporate Indigenous languages and cultures into their systems in the hopes of saving them.  When providing the example about inclusion of Native Hawaiian into Hawaiian elementary schools, it discussed the importance of doing more than just teach the language—inclusion of the culture must accompany it.  That same lesson was learned for the schools that tried to implement the learning of Ojibwe as an “add-on” course.


One successful example of a language reintroduction has been the language immersion program done in New Zealand with the Maori language.  In addition to learning the language, the program has also helped to support a rise in self-determination to a limited extent.  Another positive example is a program connected to a large university (Michigan State University) that has had encouraging effects in revitalizing the Ojibwe language by creating a plan that worked to do more than just implement language learning.


My interest in this week’s article stems from my personal experience with a dying language: Yiddish.  I realize that the culture connected to it as a whole, Judaism, is still very much thriving.  That said, I am also very aware that when a language dies there are components and nuances that cannot be recovered.  I have also personally witnessed a small portion of that language die.  As a child, Yiddish was something that my grandmother spoke to my great-grandfather sporadically.  It was also, and still is, the handful of words that some Jewish people, including myself, use to communicate with each other when English words just “aren’t quite right.”  They are also words that have become part of the larger American Jewish culture which still remains intact.


What changed dramatically for me regarding my attitude towards Yiddish was when I met my husband.  Yiddish was his first language.  For his parents, who were born in Europe in the years preceding World War II and moved here (and met here) after the war, Yiddish was their primary language.  It was the way that Jewish people communicated with each other in Europe.  Regardless of what country someone lived in or what other language they spoke, Jews could communicate with each other through Yiddish.  After his parents immigrated to the United States, met and married, Yiddish remained the language of their home.  Although his parents learned English fluently, when they had children they still spoke Yiddish.  When I met my in-laws, I became immersed in Yiddish.  Although they were happy to speak English around me, I was eager to listen them speak their primary tongue.  I had hoped to pick up as much as I could.  Now, one generation later, my in-laws have both passed away, my husband has nobody to speak the language to, and my children only know the handful of “cultural” words that I know.  Yiddish wasn’t spoken in our home.  In my little part of the world, in one quick generation, I witnessed the language and the parts of the culture that accompany it go from complete to gone.


For Indigenous cultures, the ramifications of lost languages is far more significant than the loss of Yiddish.  The rest of my culture is still intact and Hebrew has now become a daily spoken language where it didn’t used to be.  Although the culture that goes with Yiddish is different, the remainder of the community and many other parts of it are still intact.  That is not the case for all of the Indigenous communities.  The impact of the loss of those languages has had a voluminous loss of access to many things.  For example, many of their stories were often oral so without the language, an even larger part of their culture died.  Work needs to be done to bring as much of those languages back but in ways that manages to help support and encourage the cultures to become stronger and reach independence and excellence and not ways that, inadvertently, impose the same type of oppression on them that has been in place for the past several centuries.   Ethnographers are in the perfect position to monitor the various programs as Indigenous languages are being revived to ensure that they are helping empower the communities they are setting out to support.  They are in the perfect position to be truly be able to assess the inner dynamics of the groups (Paris & Winn, 2014).  With that support, hopefully the languages that are currently alive, and those that are attempting to be reintroduced will be able to thrive from this point on.






McCarthy, T. L. (2005). Indigenous epistemologies and education–self-determination, anthropology, and human rights. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, (36)1, 1-7.


Paris, D. & Winn, M. T. (2014).  Humanizing research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities. Los Angles: Sage.


Boys vs Girls vs Computers

Dixon, F., Cassady, J., Cross, T. & Williams, D. (2005). Effects of technology on critical thinking and essay writing among gifted adolescents.  The Journal of secondary gifted education, 16(4), 180-189.


Article Summary

My area of interest is critical thinking, technology, and pedagogy.  The pedagogy I hope to focus on is Bloom’s Taxonomy.  I want to create a study where all three meet in my fifth grade classroom.  This study interested me because it is about critical thinking and technology and part of the assessment that they used to measure the critical thinking focuses on analysis, synthesis, and evaluation which are the higher level of Bloom’s order so this research fits well with my classroom goal. The technology used in this study is trying to determine if a computer can help students become better critical thinkers when they write.  It is also trying to determine if the students’ gender makes any difference in the outcome.   Researchers decided to determine if technology would have an impact on the writing and critical thinking of gifted high school students.  The research was conducted at a residential, gifted high school.  99 incoming juniors wrote an essay.  39 of those students were males and 60 were females, all were sixteen years old.   One year later, the students were incoming seniors and they wrote a second essay.  The prompts for each essay were based off of the same poem.  Directions given for both essays were identical.  This second time the students wrote their essay, they were randomly assigned to one of two groups.  One group wrote the essay by handwriting it as they had done the first time and the second group used a computer to compose their thoughts.  These essays were also scored by the same two people using the same rubric they used the year prior.   The essays measured critical thinking using a five point scale.  The five point assessment measured the critical thinking skills of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation and did not focus on the mechanics of writing.  To score those, two people were brought in and trained until an interrater reliability was established.  A second critical thinking assessment was also used called the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal.  That was an 80 question test that measured critical thinking a different way than the essays.  The results compared the two scores.   There were two sets of results that this study examined.  One was the comparison of the critical thinking scores and the basic writing indicators.  As far as the first comparison, the conclusions of the study led to the analysis that critical thinking was significantly related.  The other evaluated if gender and the computers were interconnected which was the primary focus of the study.  “A…2 (male, female) by 2 (word process, handwrite) repeated measures multivariate analysis of variance was employed, examining four dependent variables at two points in time (WS-1, WS-2). That revealed statistically significant main effects for gender, method of writing at WS-2, and the repeated factor (time)” (Dixon, F., Cassady, J., Cross, T. & Williams, D., 2005 p.185).  The study found that boys did better using the computer.  It found no difference for girls.



Strengths and Critiques

This study had several limitations that were not addressed.  First, the sample size was very small which makes the results not generalizable.  Not only does it begin with 99 students, but it looks at the results based on gender and the gender is not split evenly to start with so only 39 boys are part of the study out of the 99 total.  That is before dividing the students for the second half of the study.  The researchers also said that the students were randomly assigned to write either by hand or on the computer.  What they did not specify is if the calculations were purposefully made so that the students were evenly divided down the middle or if the random assignments were made by gender.  If they were not, then there is no way of knowing how many male students used the computer and how many completed their second essay by hand. In that case it is possible the results could be very skewed.  Even if the students were evenly divided by gender, that would have left only 19 boys in one of the groups and 20 in the other which is a very small group.   Another issue examine is that this research specifically states that it is done with gifted students.  The authors cite the lack of research in the field of gifted education.  Doing research specifically for the gifted community is a valuable contribution to the field.  However, in addition to repeating this study within the gifted community, because of the small sample size, it might also be a good idea to have another study in which this is attempted in the non-gifted population as well to see what those results show.  A additional study with special education students might also prove worthwhile.


One more issue that was not addressed was the amount of word processing skills or familiarity that any of the students had with the computers.  We don’t know how often these students had access to the computers they used for the second essay and if that could account for any of the disparity.  If, by chance, the males had access to the computers more often that might be a contributing factor to their increased scores.  We also don’t know if they were ever given word processing classes, how often, if they had the same access to it as the females, etc.  Other unknown factors that could have impacted the study were the students’ connection to or interest it either of the prompts or to the poem.


The overall organization of the article was good and the literature study was detailed.  Several articles were given to support the connection between critical thinking and writing as well as articles supporting the use of computers to assist in writing.  There were no editorial errors.



Connecting to Past Research

As a classroom teacher who teaches writing, I think that this study has some interesting promise.  Writing fluency is an important component to being a competent writer.  More research needs to be done to explore the effects of using the tools that are available.  Not only should larger sample sizes be used but other types of research could be explored.  For example, what types of hardware (tablets, personal computers, etc.) would help versus hinder the writing process.  Will word processing programs get in the way of students’ writing because they become too encumbered with the minutia of spell-checking and editing rather than focus on the bigger picture of concepts? If technology is available and can help students with the writing process then it is definitely something that should be explored.  If it is something that is prone to help one gender more than another, that is worth examining as well.  If the findings from this research that males are able to write significantly more fluently by using computers is proven valid then the ramifications could have an enormous impact on the way we help students learn.  The technology is readily available in many classrooms and if the expectations become that we allow boys the access to do their writing on technology, and as a result, they become better able to communicate their thoughts, it could have a great impact on their ability to reach academic excellence.


Furthering My Area of Interest

This connects to my research in that it opens my mind to the type of technology I might use with my students.  This study made me realize that I don’t have to use something extravagant in order to be effective and have an impact on student learning.  I had been searching for a specific technology “tool” to use but it is now something I am starting to rethink.  In one of the research articles I read, they named a precise Microsoft program (Hubbard, J. D. & Price, G. 2013) that they used. After reading this research, I am reconsidering the direction to take. My goal is to use technology to help students become better critical thinkers based on sound pedagogy.  The background piece for this research began by explaining that laptops are in students’ hands every day which is why they chose to do this study.  The impact of their study alone, even with its issues, has made me consider letting some of the students in my classroom use computers to see if it will help them become more fluent writers.  This has made me contemplate that when I choose my study it would be more helpful to my students, and to anyone who reads my study, to have technology that is a part of their daily live rather than an isolated piece.



Hubbard, J. D. & Price, G. (2013). Cross-culture and technology integration: Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology (RECT) 9(1).

I’m Becoming a Butterfly

I get it.  This week was my “ah-ha” moment.  We were told during the very first week by our professor and by some of the students from the cohort ahead of us to expect change.  That we would be changed.  I’ve watched some of my cohort peers come to theirs through a reading or a comment and I kept moving forward but without making any of the personal connections to the readings or dialogues that some of the others were.  That is until I began reading Managing Uncertainty During Collaborative Problem Solving in Elementary School Teams: The Role of Peer Influence in Robotics Engineering Activity (Jordan, M. E. & McDaniel, R., in press).

Now you may think it’s because the article is about a fifth grade classroom and I teach fifth graders but that’s not it.  The article talks about uncertainty.  Yes, I have PLENTY of that.  But that’s not it, either.  Well, not exactly.  My great big light shining through came with the sentence that reads: Uncertainty is likely a particularly common experience in learning, as individuals grapple to construct new disciplinary understandings and struggle to participate in new social practices (Jordan, 2010).  That’s MY sentence.  Well, not exactly but sort of.  That’s what I tell my students’ parents at parent orientation.  That’s what I tell parents when I push their child to do more, work harder, and reach further than they thought their child was capable of.

Only my sentence is a story that goes something like this:  Your child will enter this year like a caterpillar who is going to become a butterfly and spread their wings so they can fly into middle school.  Caterpillars need to struggle in order to push the fluid into their wings.  If you keep them from struggling then the fluid won’t go into their wings, they won’t become butterflies, and they won’t survive.  If you don’t let your child make some mistakes and struggle through the consequences then they won’t be ready to fly off to middle school.  I tell them this story because I know that their student needs to struggle in order to reach the excellence that they are capable of reaching.  I know that if their parents try and minimize that struggle for them, they will be keeping their student from accessing the strengths within them that are there but won’t shine through without somewhat of a push.  I reassure them that I will guide, help, and teach all year long.  I guarantee them that I will set the bar high but not so high that it can’t be reached.  But I also tell them that I will keep moving that bar up just far enough to make it a struggle.  A struggle towards excellence.  A struggle towards becoming a beautiful butterfly who can fly off and succeed independently.

What I hadn’t connected until reading this is that now I, too, am the caterpillar.  I am the one struggling to access areas of myself, my abilities, my capabilities that I didn’t know I had in me.  I am stretching to new heights so that I can make an impact of excellence within the educational community of practice that I work in and future students I hope to reach.  As I read through the article the first time, I took it in from my personal perspective of conflict, struggle and change.  As I read about the student dynamics, I thought about various adult dynamics I’ve experienced.  After digesting that for a while, I proceeded to reread the article only this time, from a doctoral candidate student’s view.

The article discusses researching how fifth graders managed uncertainty while putting together a predetermined project.  It took place in a heterogeneous fifth grade public school classroom.  The teacher led the class and the researchers were there as observers.  As I began rereading the article, I realized that I was thinking like a leader—the classroom teacher, that is.  It was hard not to do this as this was a fifth grade experiment and that’s what I do during the year.  I had many wonderings. How would experiment look in my classroom? How would I organize the flow of the process?  How might I manage some of the dynamics?  Then I stopped, regrouped, and put myself, for the first time, in the role of a different leader—the researcher.  How would I collect the data?  What would that look like?  How would I organize it?  How would I respond to a student who did not want to talk during an interview as much as I had hoped for?  My frame of reference was starting to change.

The article went on to define two types of uncertainty: content uncertainty which is uncertainty focused around solving a particular problem and relationship uncertainty which is uncertainty relating to interactions with others.  The results of this study found that in every group studied, every day, some type of uncertainty occurred.  It was not true of all students all the time and content uncertainty was more widespread that relationship uncertainty.  However, the study examined varied groups of students whose dynamics fluctuated throughout the course of the projects and the findings remained that uncertainty was a constant.  The researchers did caution that their findings were based on interpretations of student conversations and observations and that others might analyze some of the collected data differently and reach different conclusions.


The article said that “managing uncertainty” refers to behaviors an individual engages in to enable action in the face of uncertainty (Jordan, M. E. & McDaniel, R. R., in press).  I know that managing uncertainty will become part of my natural order if I plan on becoming a butterfly and spreading my wings to fly three years from now.  Look for me.  I’ll be there with my Cohort #9 peers.  We will be the kaleidoscope of butterflies beginning our new journeys towards excellence in education.




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



Jordan, M. E. (2010). Collaborative robotics engineering projects: Managing uncertainty in multimodal literacy practice in a fifth-grade class. Yearbook of the National Reading Conference, 59.

Teaching Pre-service Teachers Content Area–easy….Technology–notsomuch

Hubbard, J. D. & Price, G. (2013). Cross-culture and technology integration: Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology (RECT) 9(1).



Cross-Culture and Technology Integration: Examining the Impact of a PTACK-focused Collaborative Project on Pre-Service Teachers and Teacher Education Faculty (Hubbard & Price, 2013) is an article that was written about research done with pre-service teachers.  The intent of the research was two-fold.  First, it was to have pre-service teachers create an instructional lesson using the TPACK model as a basis.  Second, it was to determine how those pre-service teachers might incorporate technology into their lessons when they become in-service teachers in the future.

The study was based on research that supported several sub-components of TPACK (Technology, Pedagogy, And Content Knowledge).  The investigators provided research that backs the need for research in five different intersecting categories. After detailing each, it then chose to focus on just two of those for this study; the last two of the five.   Laying out the literature section in this way proved to be one of the weakness of the article.  The most important items should have been listed first and given more weight and research to back up the rationale.  No justification explaining why these two of the five were being targeted was ever explained.

The researchers did go on to describe that they wanted the pre-service teachers create a Learning Activity Type (LAT) project that required the application of inquiry based social studies skills.   They also mandated the use Microsoft Photostory 3.0 for the technology component.  The pedagogical basis was the concept of culturally responsive instruction which corresponded to the social studies content knowledge of multicultural and global perspectives.

The requirement for the pre-service teachers was to interview a foreign-born person then use internet research skills to gain additional information about the country from which that person came.  Then they were tasked with organizing it and using Microsoft Photostory 3.0 to create their final project which would tell the story about their interviewee’s life, culture, and heritage.

There were 83 students who participated in this project all of whom were all juniors at a university and enrolled in a K-6 elementary school program.  These students were assigned to one of four classes consisting of about twenty students each.  Each class had one of four instructors.  The students also were assigned to meet, as a class, periodically in the computer lab.  There was a separate instructor available there whose job it was solely to help with the technology aspect of this assignment.  That person kept a journal regarding his observations of the classes for the research project but was not considered an instructor for purposes of this study.

The quantitative data came from two sources.  Surveys were given to the students and their instructors.  The student surveys had nine questions that described the learning experience.  Two versions of Likert scales were used.  One set on the first five questions and another on the second four.  82 of the 83 surveys returned were usable.  The other set of data came from responses gathered from a survey given to the instructors.  Of the four instructors, one of them was also one of the researchers and that person chose not to complete a survey to minimize the bias of the results.  This would be another example of a weakness of the research as there were only four instructors to begin with and one chose to, rightly, to withhold filling out the survey.  That reduced the results by 25% of what they could have been and with such a small sample size to begin with, that may have had a large impact on the results.  A strength, however, is that the other three surveys were sent out to be evaluated by a different set of technology experts as opposed to the researchers working on this project in order to minimize any conflict.  The instrument had a reliability coefficient using Cronbach’s alpha of .832.  The standard error of measurement was found to be 2.033 (Hubbard & Price, 2013).

The results from the first five questions on the student survey showed that the pre-service teachers reported being pleased with the class.  The responses for the first five questions ranged from 86.6%-95.1% answering fairly or very useful for questions such as the types of hand-outs used in class, the usefulness of the class, etc.  The remaining four questions garnered a more varied response with only 37.9% reporting that they were fairly or very much likely to use Microsoft Photostory 3.0 as a teaching or learning tool.  The results of instructor surveyed demonstrated that although they felt “very satisfied” with the course, they felt an overall lacking of their own comfort with the technology tool being used which kept them in a situation where they were unable to help their students to the extent they would have liked.

In addition to the two surveys, artifacts were collected throughout the research project.  The researchers recorded classes on video, held one-on-one meetings, took notes, and held interviews with pre-service teachers.  The results from this study indicated that the project did not overwhelmingly help pre-service teachers view technology as a necessary component when teaching.  The survey showed that it did help them gain an awareness of technology and content knowledge (i.e. the cultural responsive component).  This survey size is too small to be generalizable.

Although this research was focused on pre-service teachers and I want to create a TPACK action research for my fifth grade classroom, I still found many ways I can apply some of these concepts to own project.  One of the thoughts that was generated from the results of the survey was that the pre-service teachers did not understand why they were required to use Microsoft Photostory 3.0.  They saw it only as a requirement to contend with rather than concept to master.  I can definitely apply those results to my research.  My students may respond better to the technology I use in my study if they understand that it is something to learn in and of itself and not just a meaningless requirement.

I also made a connection between this piece and the article Rural Elementary School Teachers’ Technology Integration (Howley, Wood, & Hough 2011).  That article described how the attitude of the teacher was so vital towards the successful implementation of technology.  Although this differs because the instructors did want this to be a successful experience, their survey results showed that they expressed a discomfort with the tool.  They also conveyed that not knowing how to use the technology caused them to be unable to help their students during their projects.  I wonder how much more successful this entire study might have been if the four instructors had been well-versed in the tools they were requiring their students to use.

The final connection for me is the concept of completion.  Although not a requirement in one sense, the students were not allotted the time to be able to share their projects.  While that may not have been a requirement needed for successful implementation in the authors’ minds, I wonder if it might have made the project more appealing to the students and therefore raised the scores of some of the pre-service teachers to some degree, and ultimately their desire to implement technology in their own classrooms down the road.  That, for me, is another lesson I will take when I create my own action research project.


Howley, A., Wood, L., & Hough, B. (2011). Rural elementary school teachers’ technology integration. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 26, 1-13

Students and the Power of their Voices

As I read the article Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights from the Council of Youth Research (Bautista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza, & Matthews), my mind was flooded with how many different ways the article appealed to me.


The main thrust of the article was about bringing Latino and African American youth into the process of action research.  In particular, giving a voice to minority students who, research has shown, have often become disenfranchised within the public school systems.  I think that is a phenomenal idea and read with intrigue about the steps taken and the results that occurred. Taking high school students and guiding them through the scientific methods of Participatory Action Research is an incredibly powerful learning experience.  The educational value of teaching students to be researchers, alone, is enormous.  Yet that was just the first part.  The students then took it to the next level by researching a question that impacted their lives: that of being able to access an equitable, quality based education.


What struck me almost immediately was how the article connected in my mind to a portion of the book Why Race and Culture Matter In Schools (Howard, 2010).  In chapter 5, Howard discusses some interviews that he conducted as part of a research team while he was also working with African American and Latino high school students. The interviews gave the students a chance to voice their perceptions and detail some of things that have happened to them over their years as students.  It focused on how teachers and counselors within the school system have made comments to them implying that, by virtue of their minority status alone, they may not be as capable or as qualified to take the more difficult course like their peers.


When I linked these two pieces of writing together in my mind, it seemed to make perfect sense.  First, both tackle the issue of the imbalance that happens in schools to minority students.  It addressed how some students are the recipients of the problems but so often they aren’t allowed to have a voice or a platform.  The opportunity to teach students how to become action researchers allows them do more than remain passively frustrated without an outlet.  It gives them a chance to learn about a situation, research it, and then hopefully acquire the skills to act on it in the future.


Second, it creates another proposal, in my mind, to the ideas of how schools can create change within their cultures.  Much of Howard’s book was dedicated to the premise of changing teachers’ perceptions.  One idea he strongly advocated was through teacher self-reflection.  He stated that value very succinctly and powerfully.  The thought, though, occurred to me that not all teachers are going to be good at self-reflective behavior.  Even those who are good may need a little more prodding to truly understand the impact–nee devastation– that their words are doing to those they are saying them to.  Words that, when they were spoken, may have been said with seemingly good intentions but that was not how those same words were heard in our students’ ears.  Those teachers may need a mirror in addition to their own journals.  The mirror of students’ voices and stories to propel them to change.  The mirror of research results from students who could be fortunate enough to be able to participate in a Youth Participatory Action Research program.


The last way that this article connected to me was in the ways that I might be able to try and empower my students within my own classroom.  I teach fifth graders and they are clearly not ready to tackle something of this magnitude.  One of the parts that made the research in the article so wonderful was the authentic nature of the research.  That leads me to ponder about opportunities that I can stay open for that might allow my students to engage in a very simplified version of an action research project of their own.  Not in any sense of it being “valid” but for the value that my students can learn about becoming active learners and engaged participants in society.



Bautista, M., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D., & Matthews C. (2013). Participatory action research and city youth: methodological insights from the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record 15. Retrieved from


Howard, T. C. (2010).  Why race and culture matter in schools.  New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Technology…’s all about the Teacher

Howley, A., Wood, L., & Hough, B. (2011). Rural Elementary School Teachers’ Technology Integration. Journal of Research in Rural Education26, 1-13


In 2011, Howley, Wood, & Hough (2011) chose to survey the technology habits of teachers in the state of Ohio.  They wanted to address technology integration in rural areas.  They were specifically looking to evaluate three categories.  First, they wanted to learn if teacher attitude had an impact on technology integration.  Second, they looked at if the students’ ability to use technology made a difference. Finally, they wanted to determine how teacher preparedness factored into the equation.


The authors examined literature from all three areas they were evaluating.  Their findings concluded that most schools do have access to the basic technology, although the broadband connections are often unreliable.  Previous research showed that teacher attitude often drove the use of the technology that was available to them.  They also found that in some instances in rural schools, culture played an impact because some adults felt that technology use interferes with rural values and ways of life (Howley, A., Wood, L., & Hough, B., 2011 p.4).  They also provided examples of rural schools that felt the opposite of that and did want their students using technology.  When that was the case, the issue tended to focus on either obtaining the technology or on using the technology they did have.  This article also had a section dedicated to areas related to this topic where literature is lacking.  Based on their research, little has been done in regards with evaluating elementary schools.  They found more research in this area from middle school upwards; hence their desire to focus on third grader teachers.


For this study, the Ohio Department of Education was contacted for a list of third grade teachers.  Additional details regarding the responding teachers was provided in the literature (i.e. average age, gender, etc…).  Specials teachers such as art, music, and physical education were eliminated from the list.  A 56 largely closed-ended question survey was specifically developed for this research assessment and was mailed to these teachers.  Ground mail was chosen over email in order to eliminate a technological component purposefully in this survey. Letters ensuring teachers anonymity and stamped, self-addressed envelopes were also included in order to increase the chances of participation.  One thousand teacher names were randomly generated and of that, 514 usable responses were returned. Of those, 157 came from rural teachers and 357 from non-rural teachers.  The mailings occurred during a three week time period and care was taken to ensure that the survey was not sent during a period of time such as a high-stakes testing week.


The goal of the study was to tease out any potential differences, if they existed, between rural and non-rural teachers in regards to their use and attitudes of technology.  Since there were many different variances that could result from the survey, the research team used the one way analysis variance (ANOVA) as well as analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) to compare mean responses to scales constructed from cluster of related items (Howley, A., Wood, L., & Hough, B., 2011 p.6).   The findings of these results did show one significant difference, namely in the attitudes of teachers toward technology integration (Howley, A., Wood, L., & Hough, B., 2011 p.6).  Based on the results of this survey, teacher attitude towards technology appears to have the most influential determiner on usage.  The next two factors that the data did show in of having some impact (in decreasing order) were the amount of time that teachers needed to prepare in order to use the technology and the teachers’ views that they felt that they lacked technology in their schools.


The conclusions that the research leads to is that teacher attitude towards the use of technology within the classroom is the driving force.


This article was very comprehensive and definitely appeared to be able to be replicated. The literature review went to great lengths to provide thorough examples to back up its findings. Only one article was from 1999, the rest were from 2000 or newer with many citations coming from within the past five years.  They explained in detail how they got their research sample and provided an index with the technology questions that they asked.


A critique of the article would be that it would have been helpful if they had a breakdown available of the results to the specific questions.  Notable, the last question asks teachers to detail how they use technology with the classroom.  It would be interesting to view those results.  I believe that would give insight as to the type of teacher and comfort level and may provide additional insight.


The article was largely well written with almost only one grammatical or punctuation error (a missing period).  However, the headings and subheadings were the same font.  Although the headings were centered and the subheading were left justified, the subheadings in some sections were so long that it created some confusion as a reader.  It would have been helpful if the headings were either a little larger or bolder making the article easier to read and follow.


After reading this research, I would be very interested in finding out how the results of the question that asked teachers to delineate how they use technology within their classrooms bore out.  If teacher attitude has been determined to be such a deciding factor I would like to know how the teachers who are using the technology they have are putting it to use.  I would then like to create a professional development study to study the best way to move those teachers forward to maximize the benefits.


I chose this article to read because I want to explore integrating technology alongside critical thinking and solid pedagogy in order to create an optimal learning experience for my students. From this article I was looking for insight on technology and what I might learn with regards to classroom implementation.  I did come up with a few ideas but after reflecting on the results from the survey sent to 1000 third grade classroom teachers in Ohio about technology, the results all come down to…..the attitude of the classroom teacher.  At the end of the day, it all seems to boil down to that.  And what a valuable lesson that is.  In the classes I’m taking, the value of teachers to self-reflect has been discussed.  This is a perfect example of a situation where the teachers in this study might be shocked to learn that THEY are the ones standing in the way of their students having access to technology, not the other way around.  The power teachers have and how much could be done if they only realized how much control they have is limitless.  Imagine how much could be accomplished within classrooms if teachers harnessed that power every day and for every student.

Intersectionality and Gifted Education


The article, Intersectionality as a Framework for Transformative Research in Special Education (2013), connected to many professional experiences I have had but not necessarily for the more direct or obvious reasons.  The article describes in detail the boxes we put students into, quite literally on forms to begin with, and the more expansively in our experiences with how we treat students in the education environment.  Intersectionality is the term the article uses to explain as the basis of two or more markers of identity and difference (e.g. race, class, and gender)  (Garcia and Ortiz, 2013).  The article tackles the theory that students are judged and discriminated against in the educational system based on the categories and labels of how they are assessed.  They authors make five points as to the impact of intersectionality: 1. Students are complex and the categories they fit into should not be viewed through narrow lenses  2. How these categories are interconnected should be carefully evaluated  3. Ethnic groups are misrepresented within every category based on stereotypes in that there seems to be a minority that is stereotyped into a program at some level 4. Intersectionality attempts to create layers to the system so that students are no longer viewed as one-dimensional and 5.  The power base that the system is created on needs to be evaluated and addressed, and ultimately changed. This creates an unbalancedsystem that our students are experiencing.  As an educator, that is something that I see needs to desperately to be addressed.  Teachers need training in order to address this issue and become more skilled.

Many of the examples given were concerning student ability, minority status, and the students’ economic status. Much of the article was focused on creating opportunities to redirect students out of ELL and special education classrooms.  However, my connection to this article was with the comment regarding minority students and having access to gifted education.  I teach in a school with very few minorities but my district does have Hispanic students in significant numbers at other schools.  I obtained my endorsement in gifted education several years ago and became aware of the underrepresentation of minority students not only in my district but also  nationwide.   The lack of access to gifted services for minority students is often due to language or cultural barriers inhibiting their success on the assessment we have.  The head of our district’s gifted department at the time I was obtaining my endorsement chose to remedy that by giving all ELL students a non-verbal gifted assessment to see if some of those students might qualify.  The value of enabling all students to have their needs fully met with the education system was immeasurable and it saddens me to think of how many gifted students did not have the opportunity to receive the benefits prior to that.  I am pleased, though, that I witnessed her use her voice as a scholar to create a balanced system during the time that she was there.

Having access is only important if the program itself leads to excellence.  The irony was that as the gifted system was set up at the time, students could qualify for services in up to three different subjects: verbal (reading), quantitative (math), and non-verbal (spatial).  The students who received services for non-verbal only attended for one, 45 minute session a week.  Although it is better than nothing, it certainly is not likely to fully meet the needs of a student who is gifted but is unable to demonstrate it due to a language barrier.

Referring back to the fifth point in the article above, our district now has had a change in the head of our gifted program (i.e. a “power”).  Non-verbal no longer exists once a week as this leader believes the program should be set up differently.  However, an entirely new test is used for students to be able to qualify for the gifted program.  I do not have access to the results but after reading this article, I wonder how many of our ELL students are being impacted by the current test that was chosen and if anything is being done to reach out to ensure that their needs are being met.


Garcia, Shernaz B. and Alba A. Ortiz (2013). Intersectionality as a Framework for Transformative Research in Special Education.  Multiple Voices,  13(2),  32-47