Gail's AR Work in Progress 2010/11

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction

Research Focus



In Australia young people spend a great deal of their time outside school using social media. Educationalists have realised that using these media in schools can assist teachers to engage their students. This research investigates how teachers can use the Internet and online social media to develop, in middle-years students, a range of skills including newliteracies and creative abilities.
The project uses action research methodology to enable the author to act as a teacher/researcher in the classroom. The approach to teaching, learning and assessment used values students as resources for their own learning and that oftheir peers. Building online collaborative environments to support newliteracies in everyday teaching practice in middle years’ classrooms creates opportunities for students to be mentors, educators and assessors of their peers.
This research (2010/12) builds on the findings from the researcher’s previous action research in 2008/9. It examines ways of making teaching and learning more relevant to students by incorporating activities that require students to use their out-of-school literacy practices. Using online environments as a means to foster local connections in a global context may prove to be an effective mechanism to help prepare students for the complexand global nature of their current and prospective lives, and to provide opportunities for them to engage in the multimodal design of digital texts. Aspart of the learning process, it is intended that students will use a ‘Ning’social networking environment to collaborate and interact. This environment provides students with an immediate method for searching and capturing multiple perspectives on a variety of issues. In online environments students have ready access to information sources, but the development of opinions and the construction of learning avenues (avenues that can be connected within their ‘Ning’ classroom) for other students, requires more complexity. Investigating this complexity is a significant aim of this research.
The researcher will work in collaboration with both students and other teachers. It is intended that this action research will encourage constructive critical feedback both within several classrooms andbetween those disparate class groups. This research will allow an immediate impact on students’ learning because the cyclic process of action research will be an integral part of day-to-day classroom practice.
It is intended that the outcomes of this study will provide samples for educators that will support them in meeting the learning and curriculum needs for future schooling; samples that can assist teachers in moving from the conservative teacher directed approach to learning to one where the students play a more central and active role.

Growing as an educator

Nearly fifteen years ago I took on my first leadership positionin a small country school with 110 students. I was in charge of InformationTechnology (IT) as well as being Student Manager at years 7, 8, 9 and 10: being a small school, most teachers had more than one responsibility. I had no technician to help support the school computer network and the Department ofEducation was pressing for the integration of IT across the curriculum. Neighbouring schools began to plead for help with professional development (PD) and for curriculum ideas and resources. One of my teaching subjects was IT and, hence, my skills were in great demand. This, for me, was the beginning of a decade of professional growth developing teaching resources and materials across the curriculum. At times it seemed like I was training staff as much as I was teaching students. When developing ‘across the curriculum’ activities, two of my favourite areas were (and are still, to this day) global classroom projects and digital storytelling. Gradually, I developed as a presenter and mentor/trainer at local, regional and state level; I now also travel internationally.

It was not until 2005 that I became more interested in the concept of ‘good pedagogy’ in education and as it specifically relates to my teaching. By this time I had been eLearning Leader at three schools, two of them being larger state secondary schools. During 2005 I was granted leave for twelve months to take on the role of Principal Senior Trainer in the Intel Teach to the Future Program. This required me to travel extensively aroundVictoria to implement a ‘Train the Trainer’ program helping teachers develop curriculum resources across all learning areas. At this time, something ‘clicked’ for me: I suddenly became aware that my own teaching and learning attitudes had continued to move away from the traditional teacher directed approach where students are the sponges of knowledge. I realised that embedded in my own classroom practices as well as my training programs for teachers was an underlying desire to change this standard teacher directed approach. The focus of change was using IT as a vehicle to transform classroom practices into a framework to support the skills needed for more than good marks on ‘next weeks test’ or ‘end of year exam’. It was one that encouraged students to be active learners, creative as well as critical learners where digital stories, multimedia and online collaboration opened up an appreciation for new literacies. Through this type of learning I began to develop a framework for teaching and learning where students were valued as participants in the learning process and could be considered a valued resource to both the teacher and their peers - this I connected with the term ‘good pedagogy’.

During my Intel experience I was given opportunities to present in Penang (Malaysia) and Boston (USA) as part of an Intel world wide program. Having previously worked extensively on global classroom projects with a wide range of countries I was left with the desire to explore further approaches to teaching and learning in other countries. I completed a Certificate III in TESOL and in 2007 took 12 months leave and taught English as a Second Language (ESL) in South Korea; South Korea because it valued education and had a fast Internet service which supported my global project work. This experience clarified for me just how much of a burden it is for many teachers to implement IT into their classroom. In a country noted for its fast broadband connections, I found that the teachers I worked with in South Korea were highly competent in teaching in a way that enabled students to achieve very high marks – this was their core role and they were very successful in this - but it was difficult for them to integrate IT into their teaching program. I became frustrated at the lack of what I considered ‘good pedagogy’. I asked myself ‘how can I model and support teachers to ensure that this is not such a burden for them?’

In 2009 I again took twelve months leave to accept the position of IT mentor/trainer in a private school. I found that the staff, as in SouthKorea, was highly skilled in teaching techniques that produced high university entrance scores for their students: parents invested a great deal of money to send their students to a school that was successful in this respect. Staff, however, struggled to integrate IT into their classroom beyond word processing, Internet searching and PowerPoint presentations. I again I asked myself ‘how can I model and support teachers to ensure that this is not such a burden forthem?’ This research will be a start in answering this question.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Over the next few years, all Australian states will move fromteaching their own state curriculum to one that is shared: the states areworking together to produce one curriculum that will provide a shared visionfor education in Australia. With thisexpanded vision of education I look forward to the changing of the boundariesof the curriculum within which I work and I am reminded of Hamilton’s words (2002a, p. 7)‘The limits of curriculum knowledge are also the boundaries of curriculumignorance.’ To expand my own knowledge I must study what the theorists have tosay and, as I do this in this chapter, I think of my own classroom practices;how I can improve what I do and how I do it.

2.1 Quality Teaching and Learning

The quality of learning concerns all educators. Hamilton (2002b, p. 10)argues that ‘All educational practice has quality or qualities. The problem,then, is not how much quality but rather, what kind of quality?’ Most thinkthey know quality when they see it but they find that it is very difficult todefine, particularly in terms understandable to students (Biggs 1982).When discussing the connection between values and quality in educationalpractice Hamilton (2002b)suggests that there is a dynamic relationship between educational ideals,qualities, practices and performance. He believes that to ascribe quality is toallocate it to a category but he goes on to argue that that allocation may alsobe an act of discrimination. Hamilton goes on to discuss the widespreadassumption that qualities can be matched to simple measuring scales and thatperformance can be placed on these scales. Like Hamilton, I believe that thisview of quality is kept in place by an important premise: the social categoriesbeing used are pure, exhaustive and mutually-exclusive, which is not the casein education.
It is interesting to read Hamilton’s description on externalaudits, which conventionally expect institutions to establish a knowledgesystem following guidelines which are provided by specific auditors. An audittrail is then created, linking practices and performance. He suggests thatinstitutions modify their practices to meet these requirements when members ofthe institutions become aware of the underlying goals of the audit. The institutions establish their audit trailthat corresponds to these goals, but Hamilton (2002b, p. 8) describes this as them learning to ‘play the game’and goes on to discuss how ‘contract compliance can become creativeaccounting’. Hamilton explains that they may play the audit game withenthusiasm yet in the process become confused when their attention isdrawn to divergent goals. The absence of distraction, he argues, is fundamentalto contract compliance but human beings find it difficult to avoid distraction.External auditing is designed as a system for the control of control, butmisjudgements by those who devise and/or approve knowledge systems ineducational practice, Hamilton argues, prove neither safe nor secure.
Weedon (2001, p. 2)discusses standards in English schools and notes that standards are going up:this is at least the judgement of the Office for Standards in Education basedon its inspections. He argues that teachers are becoming better at preparingpupils to perform in these national tests but questions the implication thatpupils are becoming better learners. He questions whether pupils are becomingbetter equipped to be lifelong learners and asks if some are being demotivatedby assessment. He asks ‘Are we indeed paying a price for the growing emphasison performance that is necessarily dominating teachers’ and pupils’ minds intoday’s schools?’ He goes on to discuss how schools and teachers can useassessment to promote learning. Weedon (p. 4) explains that answers to theseand many other questions come from a research project called LEARN conducted in1999 and funded by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. The study wasdesigned to find out both how pupils viewed themselves as learners and alsotheir views on the interaction between assessment and the learning process inschool. The LEARN project (p. 5) found that pupils’ responses suggested that despiteachieving higher standards, in informal tests they are no more empowered asindependent learners than before: indeed, perhaps less so. The study also foundthat, while pupils are better prepared to pass particular tests, they are notnecessarily better equipped to use their knowledge and skills effectively inother contexts.
In their book on their research study promoting quality inlearning, Broadfoot et al (2000, p. 5)discuss what they call ‘the increasing international obsession with comparingrelative national educational performance’. They surmise that, as a researchcommunity whose efforts should ultimately be concerned with guiding policy, weurgently need to establish how best we can meetpolicy-makers’ legitimate needs for reassurance concerning both theabsolute and the relative effectiveness of national education systems and canprovide them with guidance concerning what can usefully be learned and, hencehow to improve the level of pupil achievement. In looking at assessment,Gardner (2006, p. 23)believes that assessment can be much broader, much more humane than it is now.He believes that in our society we suffer from three biases:
  1. Westist– involves putting certain western cultural values, which date back toSocrates, on a pedestal.
  2. Testist– suggests a bias towards focusing on those human abilities or approaches thatare readily testable. If it can’t be tested, it sometimes seems, it is notworth paying attention to.
  3. Bestist– suggests that all answers to a given problem lie in one certain approach (eglogical mathematical thinking).
In view of the discussions on the quality of teaching andlearning, when I picture many of my teacher colleagues in the classroom usingtheir professional judgements as they discuss quality of work with students Ithink of Landvogt’s (2000, p. 2)argument:
One of the reasons why “teacher proof” materials weredoomed to failure is that teachers rarely do as they are told! They adapt andselect, making decisions based on their beliefs about teaching and learning and– and, most importantly, according to their beliefs and knowledge about theindividual children and the particular class they work with.

2.2 Effective Teaching and Learning

One question that needs to be asked is what is effectiveteaching and learning? As teachers become more experienced they move through,in their years of teaching, a great range of new initiatives and programsdesigned to make their core role of teaching and learning more effective. The driveto improve the educational system in Australia has been approached differentlyby each state. Three of these models can be found via the links below:
Victoria – The six principles of learning and teaching (PoLT)(retrieved 9/12/2010):
Queensland– Have moved from their previous five guiding principles to promote effectivelearning and teaching to ‘pedagogy guidelines’ (retrieved 9/12/2010):

SouthAustralia – Teaching for Effective Learning Framework which includes fourdomains for unleashing learning potential (retrieved 9/12/2010):
Just as each education system has their own theory on effectiveteaching and learning I examine the ideas from a range of theorists:
McLeod (2006, p. 4)discusses the concept of effective teaching as a spiral with evolving cycles ofpractice. She has developed planning frameworks which are aimed to achieve effectivelearning in the classroom. These include:
  • Usinglearning involves planning structured situations where learners apply theirlearning through real problem-solving situations.
  • Sharinglearning involves planning that creates opportunities for learners to learnfrom and with others.
  • Learning in different ways involves planningthat facilitates learning for diverse abilities, intelligences, styles andperspectives.
McLeod argues that when teachers manage learning they shouldinvolve planning that supports learners to develop control over their ownlearning process; and teachers, as they plan new learning experiences, todevelop further the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values they havepreviously taught, should include the above framework. McLeod (2006, p. 110)goes on to discuss how learningoutcomes should be assessed through work samples, teacher observation,questioning and performance and from the learners' own self and peerassessment.
Theconcept that students are neither empty vessels nor sponges is explored byJacobson (2004, p. 65). As my students haveprogressed through secondary education, in past years, I have seen them add totheir store of experiences and hence I find Jacobson’s argument has great relevancein my own classroom. He argues that students come complete with knowledge andexperiences of their own and they do not simply replace what they know withwhat we teach them. He believes that students need a chance to compare whatthey know with what they are learning, to figure out how the pieces interrelateand come up with a new knowledge set. To do this, he says, they need to dosomething active with it, talk about it with classmates, try it out, makemistakes, see what needs fixing and try again. Jacobson argues that activelearning and teaching methods enable students to interact more closely withcourse material.
Frangenheim (2005, p. 19)defines the concept of the Success Spiral which he considers central to ourpractice as educators. He explains that he does not teach a specific subjectsuch as history but he ‘teaches students’. Frangenheim argues that all learnershave ‘potential’ and that the trick is to place learners in situations so thatwhen they take ‘Action’ the ‘Result’ is successful, leading to positive talkand positive ‘self-belief’. This in turn leads to a belief that one has‘potential’, to learn more, take more ‘action’, experience a successful‘result’, have greater ‘self-belief’ and continue in this positive cycleleading to the Success Spiral.
Cooperative learning in schools is widely recognised as ateaching strategy that promotes socialisation and learning among students fromkindergarten through college and across different subjects areas (Cohen, 1994 in Gillies 2007, p. 1). Gillies draws our attentionto research which indicates that if students are to reap the benefits widelyattributed to cooperative learning then groups need to be established so that:
  • Positive interdependences exists among groupmembers
  • Promotive interaction is encouraged
  • Individual accountability is required
  • Interpersonal and small group skills areemployed
  • Group processing is practiced
When thinking critically, Paul (2006, p. xx)argues that, people realise that matters must not be accepted at face value butmust be analysed and assessed for their clarity, accuracy, relevance, depth,breadth and logic. Paul explains that all reasoning occurs from viewpoints andwithin frames of reference, proceeds from particular goals and objectives andit has an informational bias. All data, when used in reasoning, requireinterpretation, based on concepts and assumptions. Paul (p 257) suggests thatmost of us are not what we could be: we are less. He further explains that people have greatcapacity but most of it is dormant: most is undeveloped. Improvement inthinking is like improvement in basketball, ballet or playing the saxophone andis unlikely to occur in the absence of a conscious commitment to learn. For Paul, development in thinking is agradual process requiring achieving subsequent higher plateaux of learning.
Mason (2008, p. 139)discusses reflective learning and argues that this encourages students to bemore self-aware and self-critical; to be honest about themselves and open tocriticism and feedback. Ultimately, he believes, this method of teaching helpsto develop independent life-long learners. Mason explains that many studiesreport findings that highlight students as task-focused and outcome-orientedwhich results in students finding it difficult to understand the need forreflection, hence making it difficult to embed reflection into classroompractice. It may be useful to consider motivating students to become morereflective by looking at Jacobson’s (2004) views on extrinsic motivators and intrinsic motivators. She explainshow both of these affect our students and suggests four prerequisites forstudent motivation:
  • Attention
  • Relevance
  • Confidence
  • Satisfaction
When consideringreflection in classroom practice it may be useful to examine more closely the broader DEECD perspective of effectiveteaching and learning. During 2011, Victorian schools are in theinitial stages of implementing a new model that supports their PoLT, mentioned earlier. In introducing this new e5 InstructionalModel, Fraser (2010, p.7), describes it as a framework to informconversations and to guide the observation, critique and reflection of classroompractice. This framework takes teachersthrough the process of what effective teachers do in the classroom, the DEECDperspective, to engage students in intellectually demanding work. Fraserexplains that the models for this framework came from debates on existingresearch and include: Five Standards developed by the Centre for Research onEducation, Diversity and Excellence (CREDE) <>, ProductivePedagogies (Queensland Education Department) <> and AuthenticPedagogy(Newmann &Wehlage, 1993). Fraser goes on to explain that these models were interrogatedto determine the key domains of knowledge, skills and behaviours underpinningthe constructs and their applicability to the Victorian context. The new e5 InstructionalModel, which supports PoLT, is based on five domains:
  • Engage: develop shared norms, determine readinessfor learning, establish learning goals, develop metacognitive capacity
  • Explore: prompt inquiry, structure inquiry,maintain session momentum
  • Explain: present new content, develop languageand literacy, strengthen connections
  • Elaborate: facilitate substantive conversation,cultivate higher order thinking, monitor progress
  • Evaluate: assess performance against standards,facilitate student self assessment
Fraser argues that thismodel provides a learning resource for teachers that supports teacherreflection on their own practice and informs the ways in which they designonline learning experiences for students within the Victorian state schools newonline environment, which is called the Ultranet. It emphasises what theteacher is doing, not what students are doing in the classroom or what studentsleave the classroom capable of doing as a consequence of that instruction. Therationale came in part from the research base of Bransford, Brown and Cocking (cited inDEECD 2010, p. 9) which claims to demonstrate that studentsdo not routinely develop the ability to analyse, think critically, write andspeak effectively, or solve complex problems from working on low level tasksthat emphasise memorisation or recall or application of simple algorithms. The e5 InstructionalModel appears to have a number of strong links with the approach planned forthis research and will be investigated further at a later stage.

2.3 Education Today

To me, my professional world has always been in a state ofchange. Throughout my career, there have always been new policies or directionsfor me to follow or implement. As Iexplore the theories and perspectives of education today I wonder how I canchange my classroom to utilise and value the knowledge and perspectives ofothers.
The rapid technological advances of the last two decades havebrought with them dramatic changes in political and economic relationships,including changes in the organisation of capitalism and the ways in which workis conducted and rewarded (Hinchman & Lalik2002, p. 84).With this understanding, Hinchman and Lalik discuss how literacy teacher educationmight address the development of adolescents’ literacies. They welcome technological advances butexplain that it is unclear what life chances will exist for the growing numberof people who find themselves outside elite social groups and they worry thatthe impact of technological changes on literacies is constant and pervasive.They argue that there is reason to believe that school literacy teaching mayunwittingly contribute to a growing divide.
Invaluing the potential of all students, Healy (1991, p. 278) highlights the concern thatchildren, in many respects, now come to school with more potential and a widerexperiential background than children of a previous generation. He (p280) explainsthat education is currently being trivialised by machine-scored,multiple-choice tests. He believes that we should not be surprised if studentscan’t reason effectively or if they emulate their elders in looking for theeasy way out. In describing one potentially promising trend in education, Healy(p183) draws our attention to the greater use of collaborative learningtechniques where more emphasis is placed on the types of cooperation andcommunication that will be needed in an information age. Healy (p81) arguesthat while a person’s genes may set the potential of their mental ability, theway they use such ability determines how their intelligence is expressed. Ifthe use is in a certain pattern of response, the less flexible they appear tobecome. The environments that are provided for children, the stimuli with whichthey interact and the ways teachers demonstrate – these shape both their intellectand approach to learning.
Ibelieve that there is an increasing need to prepare students to reasoneffectively and this should be a shared responsibility in the schoolcurriculum. Media studies or media literacy studies traditionally have been thedomain of English and Arts classrooms while computer studies have focusedprincipally on the teaching of operational “how-to” skills. Luke (2002, p. 132) argues that given thecurrent drift toward media convergence, the areas of media studies, culturalstudies and computer and technology studies should no longer be taughtindependently of each other. Like Luke, I believe that doing this will injectnew life into these studies and Information Technologies (IT) can benefit fromthe theoretical and critically analytic orientation of media/cultural studies.Having grown up with electronic toys, VCRs, Gameboys and Playstations, Luke(p145) explains that students now spend as much and often more time online aswatching TV and she argues that it is no longer sufficient to containdefinitions of media literacy within the old-style broadcast media; computereducation experts need to take more responsibility for providing criticalliteracy.
Helpingstudents becoming more critical and able to share responsibility for learningare important concepts in this research study, perhaps the concept ofcommunities of practice may be supportive in developing these concepts. Gee (2000, p. 50) argues that no educationaltrend better reflects the growing convergence between new classrooms and newbusinesses than the current focus on ‘communities of practice’. He describesromantic nostalgia associated with ‘community’ is recruited, while the primacyof sociotechnical engineering is masked. Wenger (2006) defines the concept ofcommunity of practice as groups of people who share a concern or a passion forsomething they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. Shedescribes it as a useful perspective on knowing and learning and explains thata growing number of people and organisations in various sectors are nowfocusing on communities of practice as a key to improving their performance.
Improving performance is seen differently by different schoolcommunity members but I believe that a common understanding held by educatorsis the need for students to feel good about themselves. Gardner’s research indevelopmental and neuropsychology, which led to the theory of multipleintelligences, began in the early 1970s. Twenty-five years later he provided anup-to-date and comprehensive overview of his theory. In this update, he explainhow his theory has taken on a life of its own (Gardner 2006, p. 26) largely because scholars andpractitioners have taken it in directions and raised questions that he couldnever have anticipated as well as carrying out studies that he could never haveenvisioned. As I read this I wonder ifthe day will come when students rather than teachers take teaching and learningin directions and raise questions that teachers would not have anticipated.Although this research study incorporates new technologies it still needs to buildinto the classroom a framework that supports students in a wide variety of waysand hence I value the words of Garner (2006, p. 24):
If we can mobilise the spectrum of human abilities, notonly will people feel better about themselves and more competent, it is evenpossible that they will also feel more engaged and better able to join the restof the world community in working for the broader good.

2.4 Teaching Middle Years

When initially I commenced as a teacher it was in a smallcountry town and I mainly taught the senior years’ maths and IT for that firstfour years. Once I moved to larger schools I was able to influence the classesI was allocated and I chose to have a reduced emphasis on senior years’classes. I found senior classes were extremely structured and the studentsthemselves were often firmly set in their own ideas and beliefs. I found middleyears (years 7, 8, 9 and 10) to be a refreshing area in which to teach. Inmiddle years, students still had some innocence and an openness to be engagedin curriculum exploration and play. For most of the last ten years I havemanaged to have this choice accepted by school planners, which has given meflexibility in both curriculum content and delivery in the classroom. As Iexplore the theorist perspective and ideas on teaching middle years I draw onmy own experience and wonder how I can improve the “what” and “how” of my ownteaching and learning.
Hiltonand Hilton (2005, p. 196) discuss the intellectualgrowth of middle school students and argue that this should be acknowledged andsupported by matching students’ dramatic changes in thinking ability withincreased expectations of what they can achieve. They argue that the inclusionof higher order thinking skills as a middle schooling practice, in conjunctionwith other pedagogies, will greatly enhance the prospect of developing thecognitive needs of these students’.
In discussing how students face special literacy challenges inthe middle years, Maclean (2005, p. 103)argues that, as a result of the changing reading and writing demands in theworld today, there is a lessening of student engagement in the school system.He believes that in order to support students to rise to these challengesteachers need to design units of work and activities that integrate print,sound, illustration and visual design that are purposeful, engaging andrelevant and that lead students to critique and transform their social worlds.Maclean argues that the skills and strategies must be taught at the point ofneed to help students achieve their immediate goals and also to help them bemore independent readers and writers.
Designing learning experiences, as argued by Nagel (2005, p. 75),is premised on relevance and a capacity for students to form personal andemotional connections which can ultimately increase opportunities for enrichedneural activity and long-term memory, and can work to eliminate a perception ofbeing slow thinking. Students from an early age are very inquisitive. Steinbertand Kincheloe (1998)highlight the common understanding that students are often 'educated' to becomepassive recipients of information. They argue (p. 240)that there is a need to re-induce students as researchers and that criticalstudent research:
  • Moves students to the critical realm ofknowledge production
  • Focuses student attention on thinking abouttheir own thinking
  • Creates an analytical orientation towards theirlives
  • Helps students learn to teach themselves
  • Improves students ability to engage inanticipatory accommodations
  • Cultivates empathy with others
  • Negates reliance on procedural thinking and
  • Improves thinking by making it just anotheraspect of everyday existence.
Steinbert and Kincheloe also stress(p. 241) that students should have some say and make choices about what theylearn, how they learn it and how this can be assessed. Research suggests thatstudents' learning is more effective and rewarding if they have a “voice” inand ownership of aspects of the curriculum and the teaching/learning process (Hunter & Park 2005, p. 165).

2.5 The Internet and Social Media in the Classroom

Schools at present are wary of social media in their classroomand justifiably so. Over the last three years I have been using social media inmy classroom and they have provided students with an environment involving morefreedom and flexibility than the traditional classroom. As a teacher I am notavailable to monitor students twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week – anelement of trust and understanding has needed to be built before itsimplementation. Many of the learning tasks that I have used support Hillis’ (2010, p. 1)beliefs:
Much of the current research into enhanced teaching andlearning through ICT emphasises the importance of the accompanying learningtasks, notably authentic activities, rather than the technology itself.
Social media are about the content and building a sense ofcommunity. It can become an addictive pastime for many young people as theykeep monitoring their own developed online site for new activity or comment.Mason (2008, p. 70)describes some unique qualities of social media when in the classroom: they requirestudents to participate, think, contribute and become active in their learning.Using a social network, such as a Ning, in the classroom allows the teacher notonly to incorporate multimedia and multimodal texts but also to share thesequickly and easily, providing a collaborative learning environment for studentsto communicate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By incorporating social mediainto the day to day lives of students in the classroom we can also incorporatethe new literacies that are becoming part of students out of school lives. Theseconcepts are supported by Alvarez (2001),Fletcher, (2007)(Glover & Oliver 2008) and (Hahn 2008) to name just a few. Social Media ineducation is being explored by a range of educators: one example of educatorsworking collaboratively is given in the Figure below.

Rather than blocking students from using technologies in theclassroom, Mason (2008)argues that educators should teach them how to discern when, where, and forwhat purpose these may be appropriate or not. She discusses how socialnetworking helps students become more critical and offers opportunities forthem to:
  • discriminate content on social network sites
  • not accept profiles at face value
  • realise that, in addition to one’s peers, othersdo access profiles
  • have discussion about profiles – how toconstruct them and what it means to present oneself online
Using social networking in education, as described by Mason,gives students skills in how to cope with virtual relationships and tounderstand what “friendship” means in the new social culture created by Web 2environments. It also provides for students’ creativity, both inself-presentation through profiles and in artistic presentations through photosand music additions to their profiles. Mason highlights the concept of using socialnetworking in education as an acknowledgement of the social change spawned bythis phenomenon and argues that it gives students the feeling of belonging andthe chance to explore their own identity. Giving students multiple means ofpresenting and producing products (eg podcasts and video clips) represents anexciting challenge in that they empower students to create content and takepart in authentic learning projects. Students can be active learners, notpassive consumers of information (Mason 2008, p. 70).
Penrod (2007, p. 3)explains that social media challenges teachers and students to see the learningexperience as something extending beyond the set classroom time. For studentswho are absent, they offer an alternative method of learning. For students tosucceed in the future, they should be masters of their native tongue and of thegenres found on the Internet. He argues that the best place for students tolearn these ideas is in school under the guidance and direction of trainedteachers who can talk about the importance of language, the Internet and thecentrality of both of these to our lives in the 21st century. He gives fivebasic reasons to use social media such as blogs:
  • they are incredibly easy to publish because oftechnological advances
  • they mix pleasure with information to create aninformation reformation
  • they are a malleable writing genre
  • they allow writers to generate new personas andconstruct new worlds.
  • they empower those who are often marginalized insociety.
Palloff (2007, p. 8)argues that an introverted person will probably become more successful online,given the absence of social pressures that exist in face-to-face situationsand, conversely, extroverted people may have more difficulty establishing theirpresence in an online environment. Since the dawn of the first online course,the easiest content to post to the Web has been text (Bonk 2008).Unlike traditional instruction, in which a learner may be allowed a mere 5 or10 seconds to come up with a response, in online environments time is stretchedin many ways. There are, as Bonk suggests, significant advantages and disadvantagesfor such time extensions. The advantages include students being able to gathermore data and information before contributing and, also, to do so withoutpressure from the more expressive students. Furthermore, learners may feel morecomfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. Bonk explains that these opportunitieshelp students to better understand the perspective of peers beforeparticipating, and they can revisit their postings and change their views. Incontrast, the disadvantages in allowing extra time for reflection include that learnersmay get ‘lost’ in their own reflections, awaiting a state of perfection intheir thoughts. Similarly, since an online course is not constrained by theclass timetable, they may feel a need to keep reflecting well beyond the timetheir initial ideas would have sufficed.
Using online social media in the classroom encourages studentsto publish their work. This type of publication is changing the way people viewwriting, the writing process and the finished product. It is, indeed, a newwriting genre, one that has already altered communication (Penrod 2007, p. 48). Reclaiming social networking such as bloggingfor educational purposes, Penrod (2007, p136) argues, will ensure thatteenagers have the skills, competencies, intelligences and abilities needed forliteracy in the years ahead. He explains that unlike traditional reading andwriting methods or processes, social networking requires students to be activelearners. Active learning means students shape the information they take in andmake that material their own. Nings, blogs and other similar online learningenvironments allow students the opportunity for asynchronous, on-demandlearning that helps them develop at their own pace. Penrod goes on to arguethat the multimedia capabilities of Nings, blogs, wikis, podcasts and vodcastsalso allow students to use varied intelligences; a process that reinforceslearning and the retention of complex course material. In asynchronous learningenvironments, students can adapt course materials to their intellectualstrengths - writing and thinking can become a collaborative venture without thedistractions that frequently plague a traditional classroom. Penrod (2007,p154) suggests five challenges facing classroom use of social media such as blogging:
  • A blog is only as good or as useful as theblogger who builds it.
  • If teachers incorporate blogging into thecurriculum without blogging themselves, as some do, then the blog is amiserable add-on.
  • Instruction depends upon a teacher’s ability toconstruct well-designed assignments and tasks.
  • Teachers need to integrate multiple intelligencetheory into blogging.
  • Encountering information overload.
Whendiscussing the increasingly sophisticated pedagogical demands on teachersincluding the need to be able to make decisions about how, when and with whomteachers should select and use new technologies in their teaching, Wells (2007)explains how, when used effectively, new technologies have the potential toallow students to ‘speak’ to a world far beyond their local community. In doingso they can empower students to write and publish for a world wide audience,not just to be the audience. Like Wells, I believe that if teachers understandthe possibilities and the possible pitfalls associated with the use of newtechnologies then they will be better prepared to make informal decisions abouttheir effective and appropriate use in the classroom.

Chapter 3: Research Methodology and Design

Social science research differs fromresearch in the natural sciences due to its focus on people - individual andgroups – and their behaviours within cultures and organisations that varywidely socially and historically (Somekh 2005,p. 3). This research proposal focuses on people and, because humanexperience is characterised by complexity, the teacher/researcher needs toresist the temptation, as discussed by Somekh, to impose unwarranted order through the application of ‘one size fitsall’ theories. This chapter provides a discussion on ethical issues andresearch integrity as well as an explanation of how data will be collected and analysed.

3.1 This Study

Developing models forteachers to view, use, change, develop and explore, when used in the classroom,has the potential to change the:
  • way students and teachers interact
  • audience of individual student and class work
  • access and development of curriculum learningmaterials
  • way assessment occurs
  • class power dynamics
Developing thesemodels will help to provide scaffolding for teachers; to support them in theincreasing demands that one-to-one laptop programs and increased classroomcomputer use bring to the school curriculum. It has the potential to providethe scaffolding for teachers to implement many of the new ways of teaching andlearning that are discussed by Davis, Evans and Hickey (2006, p. 235).
As theteacher/researcher of this study I have written two vignettes describing two ofthe frustrations I experience in the classroom; frustrations that I hope thisstudy will help to address. As I read over these vignettes that follow, Irevisit in my mind many aspects of my earlier literature study such as Healy’s (1991, p. 278) discussion on students coming to schoolwith a wider experiential background than ever before, Palfrey’s (2008, p. 287) belief that students today are changing howthe world works and Mason’s (2008, p. 70) arguments on the need to build a sense ofcommunity into the students learning:
1. I am in myclassroom surrounded by what feels like a sea of year 7 students. The studentsare still young and enthusiastic. As part of the school one-to-one laptopprogram they have, in front of them, their small individual laptops. Studentsare out of their seat, they are helping each other and they are showing eachother the latest things they loaded onto their computers last night. Studentsare also demonstrating how to map the school network drives and they are usinglanguage appropriate to the tasks. These students are the guinea pigs, thefirst stage of embedding a one-to-one laptop program into the school. In my mind I want to capture the excitementand learning that now surrounds me. I hold this moment in my mind while I askmyself - How can I reproduce what is going on around me as a model forlearning? How can I make the learning in all my classes feel like this? Am I cleverenough, creative enough or innovative enough to build this feeling of learninginto every class I teach? How can I use my own peers, just as my students aremodelling, to help me develop programs where I can expand on this type ofsocial learning?
2. There are fourweeks before the end of semester and my mark book is full of gaps and I amunder pressure to finish correction, collate marks, calculate grades and beginwriting my 175 student reports. I am under pressure from Student Mangers toprovide detailed lists of work which is outstanding for students who are,consequently, at risk of failure. I find myself frustrated and annoyed and,while making my lists, I grumble to myself as I ask “what is the studentlearning by my spending valuable time making a list of what they have notdone?” I air my frustration with my colleague at recess where our discussionregularly focuses on student learning. I come away asking myself "how canI turn around this negative list of what the student hasn’t done?” I, like manyother teachers, am distracted by the everyday pressures in a school – I don’tgive my students enough positive feedback on what they can do but I continue tofind myself telling students what they haven’t done, what they haven’t handedin and what they haven’t finished (in addition to negatives about theirbehaviours). This particular recess peer discussion ended with us all inagreement - "there must be a better way".
Extending the learningexperience beyond the set classroom as discussed by Penrod (2007, p. 3) and Mason (2008, p. 70) could be the solution to some of theseissues in the vignettes. As I have travelled to regional, state, Australian andinternational conferences I find that these vignettes describe the frustrationof many teachers. This study will explore responses to these vignettes and willprovide models that will support educators in moving from the traditionalteacher approach to one where the students play a more central and active role.
This study will focus on following threeareas and ask the questions:
1. Teachers: What new demands could this type of model bring to teachers and what professional development is needed to support such change?
2. Students: What are the complexities indeveloping such a model and what scaffolding is needed to help students learn within such complexity?
3. Learning: How can this model help meet the learning and curriculum needs for schooling?

As discussed byHanewald (2010) Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are anintegral part of contemporary society, offering digital tools that allow foreasy and fast creation, mixing and sharing of content with large audiences.Young people are using mobile communication and Web 2.0 applications (e.g. socialnetworking sites, blogs, Nings, wikis, bulletin boards, podcasts, YouTube) toconnect and converse with others through verbal, textual and visual modes.These new and extensive virtual spaces offer rich learning opportunities fortoday’s youth but they are not always safe (Hanewald 2010). Like Hanewald, I believe that there is anurgent need to address issues such as Internet safety and cyber misconduct asthere is little support for students in their own home - often due to the‘generation gap’. This research touches on these issues indirectly by thenature of its online communication and collaboration techniques.

Using learningenvironments, such as online social media, has the potential to foster learningtailored to the needs of the individual student. Learning that uses socialmedia needs to take place in contexts that promote interaction and a sense ofcommunity that enables formal and informal learning (21st CenturyLearning Environments 2009). Research shows that student learning gainsare greatest when technology is fully integrated with content, sound principlesof learning, and high-quality teaching – all of which must be aligned withassessment and accountability (21st CenturyLearning Environments 2009).
When students areasked to write in a traditional class they know their audience and theexpectations of the teacher. The parameters for the writing assignments aregiven to them and they follow these guidelines as they gather information andfinalise their work. Each student understands the social climate, relationshipto other classmates and what must be done to satisfy the requirements. On awebsite the format changes; the audience is now faceless and unknown and thepurpose and the conditions in which this form of an electronic communication isdistributed affect the thought process of the student (Alvarez2001, p. 194). When students are asked to write somethingthat will appear on the Web they may think differently about the process andthe content. If we are to meet the challenges of a global society and the needsof a diversified adolescent population, I believe, it is vital that an emergentcurriculum be our focus, as discussed by Alvarez (p. P196); a curriculum thatchallenges students to engage in meaningful learning activities by offeringproblem-oriented tasks using authentic materials and affords opportunities formultiple resolutions. Alvarez goes on to explain that this type of learningspurs the imagination of passive learners. This research will encouragestudents to bring their knowledge and skills into the classroom and willexplore ways for teachers to use these, value these, assess these and takeadvantage of them.

3.2 Action Research

As a teacher Icontinue to want to improve the ‘what’ I do and ‘how’ I do it in the classroom.Action research is seen as a form of teacher professional development and it issupported by my school and by DEECD. Action research is concerned withresearching actual, not abstract, practices. Kemmis and Wilkinson (1998, p. 22) describe it as a collaborative socialprocess of learning, realised by groups of people who join together in changingthe practices through which they interact in a shared social world - a world inwhich, for better or for worse, we live with the consequences of one another'sactions.
During the datacollection stages of this research I will work in collaboration with bothstudents and other teachers; hence, action research has been chosen as thisallows an immediate impact on students’ learning due to the cyclic processbecoming an integral part of the day-to-day classroom practice. Below I exploreaction research further.
Mills (1999, p. 6) outlines the historyof action research and goes on to explain that it has been well documented anddebated (Kemmis, 1990; Adelman, 1993; Noffke, 1994; and Gunz, 1996). Hedescribes Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) as being frequently credited with coming upwith the term “action research” in about 1934. Mills goes on to explain thatthe many “descendants” of early action researchers follow different schools ofaction research thought and the theoretical perspectives and philosophies thatinform the practices of teacher researchers today are as varied as thehistorical roots for action research. However, Mills goes on to explainthat the primary focus of all of these, regardless of the context, when appliedto teaching and learning is on enhancing the lives of the students.

Like Elliott (1991), I see action research as a form of teacherprofessional development. Elliott discusses the emergence of action research inthe context of school initiated change in the 1960s and goes on to look at themethodological issues of facilitating it as a form of professional learning inschools. He focuses on action research as a ‘cultural innovation’ withtransformative possibilities for both the professional culture of teachers andteacher education. He also provides models of the action research process (p70)and lists methods and techniques for gathering and analysing data. Elliott’sframework for school based classroom research consists of a series of answersto important questions when organizing action research in schools (Elliott1991, p. 85). All of these were actively considered inthis study:
Although the processof action research sounds technical, Grundy (1995, p. 18) in her book entitled Action Research as on-going Professional Development argued thatpeople usually find it a far more dynamic process than it might appear. Shediscussed how high levels of commitment are required: a commitment to do thenecessary work and also a commitment to the principles of equality and freedomare both vital. She believed that action research is ineffective when peoplefeel coerced into participation and critical reflection and alternativeinterpretations will not be possible where people do not feel free to speaktheir minds. All opinions and interpretations need to be valued equally forreal improvement to occur. Grundy explained that years of experience mightsuggest a degree of prudence but it does not guarantee interpretation free ofunrecognised biases. She argued that position and power bring no privileges inaction research. These points will be held at the forefront of theteacher/researchers mind whilst working through the different stages of datacollection.
Kemmis and Wilkinson (1998, p. 23) discussparticipatory action research as a social process and argue six centralfeatures that they consider at least as important as what is commonly known asthe AR spiral:
  1. Thesocial process of teaching and the process of individuation and socialisationcontinue to shape individuals and social relationships while in the teachingand education process.
  2. Itengages with staff, students and parents in examining their understandings,skills and values and the ways they interpret themselves and their action inthe social and material world. It is a process in which each individual in agroup tries to get a handle on the way their knowledge shapes their sense ofidentity and agency and to reflect critically on how their present knowledgeframes and constrains their action.
  3. Critical friends,professional groups, students and colleagues work together to reconstruct theirsocial interactions by reconstructing the acts that constitute them – it is aresearch done with others.
  4. It aims to help people recover andunshackle themselves from the constraints of irrational, unproductive, unjustand unsatisfying social structures which limit their self-development and self-determination. As the study progresses it will need tofind how best to work within and around constraints to minimise the extent towhich they contribute to irrational, unproductive injustice anddissatisfactions as people whose work and lives contribute to the structures ofa shared social life.
  5. It deliberately sets out to contest and toreconstitute irrational, unproductive, unjust and or unsatisfying ways ofinterpreting and describing their world, ways of working and ways of relatingto others (power).
  6. It is a process of learning by doing - andlearning with others by changing the ways they interact in a shared socialworld.

As the research forthis study progresses and through the action research cycle, a researchapproach that includes students as researchers will be included. It is hopedthat, as students take more responsibility for their learning and as their ownapproach to learning changes, they will become active participants of theresearch cycle - this would be ideal but much work in changing attitudes needsto be done before this aspect can be included. Engaging students as bothinformants and as researchers themselves, with teacher(s) supporting andfacilitating the process can, theoretically, lead to significantly positiveoutcomes for students. Empowering students throughout the learning process, withinthe study, is intended to build a more open and trusting relationship. Throughoutthe study, students will, where possible, choose their own software formultimedia productions and make recommendations for topic themes as well ascriteria for assessment. As part of the learning process students will beencouraged to set their own learning goals and keep records and reflections oftheir successes and problem issues. Bland and Atweh (2007), Fielding (2001), Leithch et al.(2007) discuss engaging students’ voices in actionresearch as a means of working collaboratively towards positive outcomes forstudents and schools sharing the responsibility and achievement. Theyacknowledge that it takes time for students to adjust to the novelty of having theirvoices respected – this will be taken into account as students move from theteacher directed style of learning to one that is more student centred.

Armstrong and Morre’s (2004) work on the nature of practitioner researchin relation to issues of exclusion and inclusion in education have found that amultitude of controversies, confusions and contradictions exist during theresearch process. They give many examples of the breadth of issues which can beexplored through practitioner research and highlight some to the unexpectedissues and outcomes which may emerge in the research process. They believe (p2) that action research or ‘researchaction’ as, potentially, an approach in which a transfer of power takes placefrom those who have traditionally carried out research to those who havehistorically been on the receiving end of change which has been planned andimposed by others.
In recent years, asdiscussed by Armstrong and Moore, there has been a drive from government andsome university departments to ensure that research in education is linked withthe implementation of government policy, particularly as part of a wider agendaconcerned with ‘school improvement’ and ‘raising standards’. It has also beenused as a means of imposing policy change and of implementing policy -Armstrong and Morre (p 4) describe this as, at times, no more than a gentlerversion of imposing change. In contrast, they also discuss how it can beinterpreted as an approach to research which challenges top-down policy makingand hegemonically accepted values and it can be used as a powerful mechanismfor transforming school cultures and empowering schools, teachers and pupils.
Armstrong and Moore (2004, p. 13) discuss action research and its well knownresearch spiral, to reflect the cyclical character of its approach which hasbeen diagrammatically represented in a number of different ways by numerousresearchers. But they also discussdifferent action research spirals that depict the action, critical reflectionand planning dynamics. Their version of the action research spiral, given inthe following Figure 4, explicitly seeks to encourage inclusive processes whichadvance inclusion through research design, practice and process, and researchoutcomes. They stress that their framework should be elastic and permeable. Itshould not act as a rigid structure which constrains creative exploration. Theyencourage action researchers to develop their own research approach reflectingthe culture, constraints and possibilities presented in their own work context.This more flexible approach to AR is helpful and supportive for the teachingenvironment of today’s teacher and is the approach that appears to fit in wellwith the setting of this study.

Carr and Kemmis (1997, p. 41) discussed teachers’ knowledge in light ofdeveloping as a critical action researcher. They described some of theknowledge that teachers have, such as the notion that classrooms are anappropriate place for education, has its roots in habit, ritual, precedent,custom, opinion or mere impressions. They go on to discuss other knowledge suchas the theory of individual differences in ability and describe this asessentially abstract and that its concrete implications must be worked out toreclaim it for critical analysis. Carr emphasised that some kinds of knowledgebprovide a more effective foundation for critical reflection than others.

Carr and Kemmis (1997, p. 42) describes some of their kinds of knowledgeas having the roots of their rationality well hidden ‘underground’ in the lifeof practice. Others, they believe, have their heads in clouds of talk. Theformer must be reclaimed from the taken-for-granted to be analysed: the latter mustbe made real and concrete before their implications can be understood. Theystress that critical analysis is only possible when both theory (organisedknowledge) and practice (organised action ) can be treated in a unified way asproblematic – as open to dialectical reconstructing through reflection andrevision.
There has been anumber of changes in action research in recent years, as discussed by Carr andKemmis (2005, p.351). There is a move towards a fully grown international movementsustained by a large number of teachers, teacher educators and educational researchersand supported by numerous education institutions and research agenciesthroughout the world. Carr and Kemmis worry that as action researchincreasingly becomes an institutionalised model of in-service teachereducation, some forms of action research have become detached from anyemancipatory aspirations and transformed into little more than a researchmethod that could be readily assimilated to and accommodated within the broaderrequirements of the orthodox research paradigms they had intended it toreplace. Their concern is the gap between the theory of action research thatthey, in the past, have espoused and the many and various way in which actionresearch is now being practiced and understood – they describe this as actionresearch itself having fallen victim to the very theory-practice dualism it wasintended to resolve.

Action research hasthe potential to be a powerful agent of educational change (Mills 1999). Action research, as discussed by Mills,helps to develop teachers and administrators with professional attitudes thatembrace action, progress and reform rather than stability and mediocrity. Hedescribes it as empowering individual teachers through participation in acollaborative, socially responsive research activity (p. v). Mills also seesaction research as an invitation to learn, a means to tackle tough questionsthat face us, individually and collectively, as teachers and a method forquestioning our daily taken-for-granted assumptions as a way to find hope forthe future.
Mills (1999, p. 13) reports that researchinto the connection between research and practice and the apparent failure ofresearch to affect teaching has provided the following insights:
  • Teachers do not findresearch persuasive or authoritative
  • Research has not beenrelevant to practice and has not addressed teachers’ questions
  • The education systemitself is unable to change or conversely, it is inherently unstable andsusceptible to fads (Kennedy 1997 cited in Mills 1999).
From my experience as a teacher I believe thatMills is correct in his insights. He also suggests that many teacherresearchers may consider Kennedy’s hypotheses to be statements of the obviousbut he argues that they provide a rationale for why many have chosen to bereflective practitioners.

3.3 Reflective Practice

McIntosh (2010) argues that reflection can be research andthat creative approaches can be utilised effectively in critically reflectiveways, creating a new style of action research that is both innovative andtheoretically robust. McIntosh believes that the resulting approach improvesevidence-based research in not only education but in health care and othersocial sciences to enhance perception and understanding of events, identity andself. Reflective practice and action research, as argued by McIntosh (2010), can become mechanistic in their use,unless fresh creative approaches are employed.
When in the process ofreflection Rolfe (2006, p. 99) questions: Do you notice that your feelings about it have changed over time or in thecourse of writing?If you step back from classroom management and behaviour - does it lookdifferent?’ She goes on to discuss the importance of reflecting on three main areas:
  • Reflecting on beliefs
  • Reflecting on concepts
  • Reflecting on learning
Theprocess of working through problems towards a better understanding is explained by Schön(1983,p. 68). He describes a common situation thatmost teachers encounter:
Throughout every working day I ask myselfwhether I am doing things in the most effective way/s and whether the directionof my work is on the right track. When I am teaching I am constantly looking atfaces, observing actions and asking questions to check whether I am reallyhelping students to learn. Am I making a difference in their lives?

This is the core of Schön’s evaluation and it is a normal part of life for many teachers. But he chosenot to make this reflective process explicit – first, because it would make itmore time consuming and, secondly, because the process can become highlyinhibited if concerned about what other people think. Making evaluationrelevant, directly helpful and informative is important. Schön (p84) is awarethat practicalities and methods are also concerns for how best to make use ofreflection can all be problematic for practitioners who naturally hold widelydiffering views on these matters. He continues to explain (p84) that progressand development are not automatic unless reflection and action are used inconjunction with each other and without built-in evaluation and reflectionthere is the potential for repeating mistakes eternally.
'When we go about thespontaneous, intuitive performance of the actions of everyday life, we showourselves to be knowledgeable in a special way. We often cannot say what it is that we know. When we try to describeit we find ourselves at a loss, or we produce descriptions that are obviouslyinappropriate. Our knowing is ordinarily tacit, implicit in our patterns ofaction and in our feel for the stuff with which we are dealing. It seems rightto say that our knowing is in our action’ (Schön 1983,p. 49).

Schön (1983, 1987) argued for thereflection-in-action behaviour of solving problems through rapid thinking andtrial and error that brings about on-the-spot experiments and spontaneousresponses. He also encourages the reflection-on-action approach to look back onwhat has happened to develop one's self-knowledge and the ability to analysesituations in order to improve. Schön (1991, p. 9)examines two closely coupled criteria:validity and utility. He asks: What shall we take as evidence for the truth ofour assertions? How do we know what we claim to know? On the basis of whatsorts of data, how much evidence, of what kinds, with be "enough" forus? Is it enough to tell? He believes that the central themes that researchersshould avoid at their own peril include:
  • What isit appropriate to reflect on?
  • What isan appropriate way of observing and reflecting on practice? (Media andstrategies)
  • When wehave taken the reflective turn, what constitutes appropriate rigor?

Moon (2000) examines a learner journal as a vehicle forreflection, which is an accumulation of material that is largely based on thewriter's processes of reflection. She describes these as capturing thinking,connecting knowledge and ideas and stimulating creativity. Whilst their use ineducation is generally accepted as an acknowledged learning tool she alsorecognises that this type of reflection is intellectually challenging (p95).Moon explains how areas of strength need to be identified which can be builtupon to monitor progress over time and set realistic targets for professionaldevelopment. She believes that, to analyse experience and to place it in awider context related to the theory of teaching and learning and to developawareness and understanding of how personal and professional development, leadsto an individual philosophy of teaching.

3.4 The Research

This research projectoccurs in the school setting and I have commenced, and will continue, to conductthe research as a teacher at the school. I started data collection at thebeginning of Semester 2, 2010 and will continue to do so throughout the 2011school year. During 2010 I was a full time teacher (classified as 1.0 timefraction) and collected data on all of my classes; these were Mathematics and InformationTechnology (IT) classes. In 2011 I will be a part time (classified as 0.8 timefraction) teacher and will also be collecting data on all of my classes whichwill again be Mathematics and IT classes. In addition to the above, I was previously a Leading Teacher (eLearningLeader) at the research site during 2004 and have, since that time, been aclassroom teacher (classified as an expert teacher) at the site in 2006 and2008. Hence, I am well known in the school community.
I am experienced in actionresearch and my previous Master’s action research data collection occurredduring 2008 at the same school. That research was focused on “Using socialnetworking to build critical literacy and creativity”. It involved ayear 9/10 elective group partnered with year 7 students at the same researchsite. Students collaborated using an online social network called a “Ning”. Allused fictional names and, hence, could not be identified. Planning andactivities were conducted in the four action research phases (plan, act,analyse, reflect) and a very large quantity of data was collected and sorted.The current research study is an extension of that research. A summary of the findingsinclude:
  • I found that the Ning required students to beactive rather than passive learners and that the majority of students believedthat our class Ning was classified as “social networking”.
Further findings and asummary report can be found in Appendix 1.
I am a member of threefocus groups at the research site and I have a fourth support mechanism in theform of critical friends.

3.5 The Research Site

The research site, Geelong High School, is a year 7 to 12 co-educationalschool. Its 2009 online school profile, available to the public, isgiven in the Figure below: further performance information from the GovernmentSchool Performance data (Geelong High School 2009b) is given in Appendix 2.

In theschool’s ‘What Our School is Doing’ report (Geelong High School 2009c) it describes itself as follows: approximately 900 students who come mainlyfrom the areas of East and South Geelong, Newtown, Leopold and with anincreasing proportion from the Bellarine Peninsula. It draws its studentpopulation from over 30 feeder schools and from a diverse range of socio-economicbackgrounds. Parents’ perceptions and expectations of students with regard tocareer aspirations are wide. The school offers a year 7 Integrated Curriculumprogram combining all the Key Learning Areas (KLAs). In years 8, 9 and 10 avertical program called Individual Learning Pathways is offered. The programprovides students with a choice of subject areas to specialise within a KLA.Acceleration and consolidation opportunities are available through thisprogram. The School offers a broad later years’ program, including VictorianCertificate of Education (VCE), Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL),Vocational Education and Training (VET), School Based Apprenticeships and theopportunity to extend in university studies (Geelong High School 2009c).
The school describes itself as being in an excellent financialposition (Geelong High School 2009a). In 2010 the School Council allocated$920,000.00 to the refurbishment of the buildings and grounds. School Councilcommitted to funding the replacement of the schools weight training room fromthese funds ($170,000) and the refurbishment of classrooms ($100,000) which hasbeen further supported by the National Schools pride initiative($200,000). It was felt that thiscommitment to the improvement of the working and leisure environments wouldactively encourage learning. There isalso a commitment to the improvement of ICT skills across the school throughthe appointment of an eLearning coach for 2010. This position supports the increased use of ICT across the school andsupported the roll out of the school’s one-to-one year 7 laptop program insemester 2, 2010.
The school has three computer labs (approximately 25 computersin each), three computer pods (approximately 15 computers each) and four laptoptrolleys (approx 16 laptops in each trolley) available for class booking whennot timetabled for use. There are also another two laptop trolleys(approximately 16 laptops in each trolley) housed in the science area and onein a special middle years learning area involving four classrooms. In addition,the school has approximately 20 computers scattered around the school in theback of classrooms (such as maths rooms and the year 7 learning area) and inshared areas. Good wireless access is available in most classrooms and is ingeneral use around the school. Each teaching staff member has their own leasedDepartment of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) laptop whichthey are expected to use in each class for the school’s electronic roll markingand reporting systems as well as for possible class preparation andpresentation. The school library has a number of digital cameras, scanners andaudio equipment available through their online booking system. The school hastwenty one interactive white boards (IWB) and promotes staff user groups in IWBand the sharing of knowledge and skills of IT in the classroom. At thecommencement of Semester 2 in 2010, the school started to phase in theirone-to-one laptop program, starting with year 7. These students began a threeyear laptop (netbook size) leasing arrangement with the school (8 out of 174year 7 students did not take up this laptop option for various reasons).

3.6 Data Collection and Analysis

Throughout the research, online tools and environments will be used in all of theteacher/researcher’s classes as a method of delivering the classroom curriculum.The teacher will cover the set curriculum topics, as determined within eachrelevant Key Learning Area (KLA) at the school. As with all classes at theschool, the teacher has flexibility in how they deliver the given curriculum. Asthe teacher/researcher, the flexibility I have chosen will incorporate a rangeof online tools and environments into the content delivery, presentation,communication and publication of class and student work. The school hasencouraged this approach and it is in line with DEECD initiatives. Somestudents in the designated classes, due to the requirement to opt-in for bothstudents and their parents, may not officially have selected to be involved inthis research project. Only those who have opted-in will have their individualdata included in the project. However, all will have the same teacher, have thesame method of presentation, will undertake the same class work and will beassessed in the same way with the same school reporting requirements. Hence, nostudent will be disadvantaged in any way by their involvement or their non-involvementin the research.
Data during semester 2, 2010, was collectedfrom seven classes as listed below - each period is of approximately 50minutes:
  • MAB22 – Year 9 Maths class (5 periods per week)
  • TIC19 – Year 9/10 Multimedia class (5 periodsper week)
  • TIB19 – Year 8/9 IT and Me class (5 periods per week)
  • Year 7 IT classes (four classes 7BB IT, 7CA IT,7CB IT, 7LA). Most of these students have their own laptop. (each of the four year7 classes have 2 periods per week)
Each class consisted of up to 25 students - a total of almost175 students being involved during semester two 2010. The curriculum outlinesfor these classes can be found in Appendix 3. What is beyond the control of theresearcher/teacher (and is largely due to the vertically unitised structure ofhalf of the school) is that many of the students involved in the semester oneof 2011 data collection may be different from those in 2010; and there would besome further student changes in semester two of 2011 – hence, whilst the totalnumber of students involved in aspects of this study cannot be specified inadvance, it could exceed 325.
Data during Semester 1,2011, will be collected from five classes as listed below:
  • MAA21 (two classes) – Year 8 Maths class: Thesestudents have come from the Year 7 1-1 laptop program in 2010 hence areexperienced with their own laptop (5 periods per week for each of the twogroups)
  • Year 7 IT classes (two classes 7CB and 7MB).Most of these students will have their own laptops (2 periods per week for eachclass)
  • TIB39 – Programming and Robotics (5 periods perweek)
Approximately one third to one half of the students in eachclass agreed to be involved in the data collection and completed the requireddocuments in 2010. Examples of the data collected during Semester2, 2010, can be seen in chapter 4. Data collection will continue untilthe end of 2011.
All students will be given time to explore and work with thedifferent components of the Ning online environment, a discussion of Ningactivities and aspects of moderation can be found in Appendix 4. Datacollection will include student interactions, comments and publishing from therange of activities (available on the Ning) such as ‘My Page’, photos, videos,forums, events, groups and notes. Sample screen shots of the two Nings used fordata collection during Semester 2 2010 are shown in the two following Figures:

Data to be collected

The following table shows the four generalcategories for collecting data. These are broken down further in the followingpages.

Table1: Summary of the four general datacategories
Data Collected
This includes:
How it was/will be collected
Teacher directed activities
Teacher plans for classroom activities, student handouts, student online activities and instructions.
Typed plans in the OneNote Teacher Notebook, screen shots from online sources and collection of word processed documents.
Field Notes & Reflections
Notes taken in the classroom by the teacher including things observed, student reactions, activities going on, feelings and emotions. Teacher Observations would be written during or immediately after each class. These will allow reflection on what happened in the classroom and to prepare for the subsequent classes. The observations are also an important part of the action research cycle - they are fundamentally for immediate teacher/researcher use on a day-to-day basis as part of the AR cycle. This also includes end of week reflections and those at the end of each five week period.
This data will be collected by the teacher typing or using electronic inking to write directly into the OneNote Teacher Notebook.
Student Work
Multimedia and multimodal documents, online comments, forum activity, online posts and other online activity. This will also include any work submitted on paper and through electronic means such as email and the school computer network.
These will be submitted electronically to the teacher or downloaded from the Internet/Ning and will also include screen shots of specific sections of work. Samples of paper submissions will be scanned.
Peer and critical friend feedback
Meetings notes, notes made from verbal discussions and written feedback.
Reflections during staff/teacher training sessions and conference presentations.
Typed notes or electronic inking to write directly into the OneNote software.

3.7 OneNote Software

To organise the collected digital data there will be threeOneNote® digital notebooks. Each OneNote notebook will contain a series ofsections – sections have icons similar to andsection groups have icons such as shown inthe following Figure. (Section groups contain a number of sections and eachsection contain pages.)
Using OneNote notebooks allows a simple drag and drop of pages,sections and section groups as the quantity of data grows whilst reorganising;renaming and adding to these is also very easy. The three OneNote notebooks are:1. Teacher – This notebook will be theused daily. It will contain teacher planning notes and field notes for eachsubject. It will also contain the weekly reflections, 5 week summaries, 10 weeksummaries, notes from critical friend meetings and notes on teacher timeissues.2. Student Work – This notebook will be used as data is analysed; samples ofstudent work from set classroom activities will be added here.3. Student Play – This notebook will be used as data is analysed; samples ofstudent directed activities will be added here.
Thethree tables in the pages that follow explain further the codes that are to beused to sort the data. As the quantity of data increases data from similarsections will be moved into a section group (eg ‘TR1_Weekly Reflections’ underthe Teacher Notebook below). The screen shots below show how the three OneNotenotebooks are to be setup with codes allocated eg T1_MAB22 contains teacherdirected activity data from the Maths class.
Figure9: Three OneNote Notebooks –Teacher, StudentsWork & Student Play with the tags to be used

When data was tagged an icon appeared next to the data and some tags such as Worked, XWorked etc were also tagged with a colour as well as an icon.

OneNote notebooks are searchable and allow for custom-made tagsto help make data easier to find. The tags with their icons can be found on topof the OneNote software menu bar for easy access during data collection. Thefollowing screen shot shows how this is displayed on the menu bar:

Teacher Notebook
Table2: Teacher notebook - showing the breakdownof the data to be collected
Teacher Notebook Section
Teacher Activities
Summary of Data Collected
Weekly planning and field notes from the Maths class.
The teacher/researcher entered planning details and field notes directly into this OneNote Notebook using a tablet PC (using both electronic hand writing and typing from the keyboard).
Weekly planning and field notes from the Multimedia class.
Weekly planning and field notes from the 'A Bit More IT' class.
T4_Year 7
Weekly planning and field notes from Year 7 class.
TR1_Weekly Reflections
Daily screen clips and end of week reflections covering all classes.
This data included screen clips, taken each day, of student online work, comments, avatars and latest activity. It also included teacher summaries written in OneNote at the end of each week.
TR2_Mid & End of Term Reflections
Summary and reflection after each 5 week period.
This data included screen clips taken after each five week period. The screen clips were samples of student online work and their communication. It also included teacher summaries written in OneNote at the end of the five week period.
TT_Teacher Time
The demands on teacher time both inside and outside the classroom.
This includes:
Preparation time.
Time spent monitoring students.
Giving online feedback.
Assessing students.
This data included notes and reflections on the demands of the teacher time throughout the semester and was written or typed directly into the OneNote Notebook.
TC_Critical friends
Teacher Peer feedback from Critical Friends
Meetings with Critical Friends included informal chats, allocated meeting time and dinner meetings. It also included discussions and feedback from teachers when presenting the research at conferences. This data was placed directly into the OneNote Notebook.

Student Work Notebook

Table3: Student Work notebook - showing thebreakdown of the data to be collected
Student Work Notebook Section
Student Activities - Teacher Directed
Summary of Data Collection
Students use the Internet to find information and to research/explore ideas.
In each topic students will be involved in some form of research or exploration of topic materials. This may be student or teacher directed. This data will be collected by using screen shots and/or copying and pasting text into OneNote software.
Students design/plan their ideas/approach to a project or problem.
Students complete these using software such as Inspiration and SmartArt software or use online mind mapping such as Students take screenshots of these or export them as picture files and upload them into the Ning. They may also embed these into the Ning. Screenshots of the designs and mind maps will then be taken and collected as data.
Publishers of content
Students will produce and publish a variety of multimedia, text and sound products which they will upload or embed in the Ning. This data is to be collected by downloading the content and/or by taking screen clips.
SW4_Peer Support
Students will give each other online feedback by leaving comments on discussion forums, groups and student pages. This will require students being positive as well as constructive in order to support improvement in their peer's work. Students will also be asked to assess their peer's work online by giving 'High', 'Medium', 'Low' and 'N' (Not Satisfactory). This data will be collected by using screen shots and/or copying and pasting text into OneNote software.
Student reflection & self assessment.
Students will be asked to complete self assessments and reflections. These will be either by using a pen and paper or typed directly online. This data will be collected by scanning paper copies or taking screen shots of online data.

Student Play Notebook

Table4: Student Play notebook - showing thebreakdown of the data to be collected
Student Play Notebook Section
Student Activities - Student Directed
Summary of Data Collection
SP1_Neg Behaviour
This includes:
Suspensions from the Ning.
Banned list.
Groups deleted.
Negative messages sent by the teacher
Inappropriate avatars used.
This data will be collected by using screen shots and/or copying and pasting text into OneNote software.
Student directed online Ning comments
This data will include most of the comments that students exchange on each other’s Ning pages, group discussions and forums. Comments collected here may or may not be related to the specific tasks at hand - students often communicate with each other just because they can.
SP3_Forums & Groups
Student online Ning group or discussion forum activity
Students will be allowed to create groups in the Ning environments without teacher approval.
These will be noted here and screen shots taken of sample activities in those groups.
Other Ning activity that was student directed – This includes change of avatars, profiles updates, uploading photos, videos not related to the task given by the teacher and other general posts.
When students join a Ning they will be invited to choose a pseudonym, develop a profile and upload an avatar – these three characteristics form their online identity. Students can change their profile.
Screen clips will be taken of student profiles and avatars for data collection. Changes to these will be noted.

3.8 Linking research questions to the collected

data and the tags used.

Table5: Research question breakdown showing thelinks to the tags used
Research Question Breakdown
1. Teacher - What are the Implications

1.1 Things that worked - in class
When the class activities and student reactions were positive and exciting
1.2 Things that did not work - in class
When the class activities and reaction were disappointing
1.3 Issues/Inappropriate

Inappropriate student behaviour
Inappropriate publishing and uploading
Inappropriate student online comments to others
Other inappropriate activities
1.4 The effect on teacher time:

2. Students - What are the Implications

2.1 Students as resources

To the teacher
To the student - mentors
2.2 Students working differently
2.3 Students behaving differently
3. Learning – Today's Learner

3.1 Student directed
3.2 Student ownership
3.3 Power
3.4 Critical Literacy
3.5 Creativity
3.6 ‘Real Learning’

3.9 Ethical Issues and Research Integrity

Participation in the research project is voluntary. If astudent does not wish to take part they are not obliged to do so. If theydecide to take part and later change their mind, they are free to withdraw fromthe project at any stage. If the student withdraws, where possible the student’sdata will be withdrawn and no further data will be collected from that student.
Decisions about whether to take part or not to take part, or totake part and then withdraw, will not affect the students’ curriculum programor relationship with Deakin University, Geelong High School or theteacher/researcher.
Thereare four steps in the consent process for participants. Step One: Gail Casey, theteacher/researcher, will explain the study to a teacher-aide verbally,providing all pertinent information (purpose, procedures, risks, benefits,alternatives to participation, etc.),
Step Two: Gail Casey will provide class time for the teacher-aidto present the project information to the students, allowing ample opportunityfor students to ask questions. Gail will not be present when the teacher-aidepresents the information to the classes, allowing an open conversation andinformation dispersal. The teacher-aide will provide each student with astudent consent and information form regarding participation. This form will beread aloud and explained to the students - if required further time will begiven for questions and sufficient time will be given to students allowing themtime to consider whether or not to participate in the research.
Step Three: Students can agree or disagree to be part of thestudy themselves. Once a student signs their consent form they will be given aparent consent and information form. Students will have one week to discusswith their parents/guardians, teacher-aide, Gail Casey and peers beforedeciding.
Step Four: Those students who took the consent form home to theparents/guardians will return it to the teacher-aide or to Gail Casey (via aself addressed stamped envelope) or to the main school office. Students who donot participate will follow the same curriculum as the rest of the class buttheir individualdatawill not be used in this study.
Studentsin the classroom will use pseudonyms whilst online, hence they cannot beidentified by the general public. The data collected will comprise their classwork as published online. While students themselves could give out the detailsof their pseudonym to other students in class, no private data will becollected and hence there is no possibility that identification could exposethem to risk. When the report for this study is published there is a small riskthat students, if they read the report, may identify other students’ work butno personal information is collected and that risk is low. Note that:
  • Although some students may choose not to beinvolved in this research project all students will be involved in the sameclass work. Students who agree to participate in this project will have theirwork and self-evaluations of their work used to draw conclusions about thesuccess or otherwise of the activities.
  • All work and online activity will be monitoredby Ms Casey, the class teacher.
  • Online environments will be secure withmembership being restricted and monitored by the teacher.
  • Students will be reminded of the Geelong HighSchool’s ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Acceptable User Policy.All students have already agreed to abide by this set code of conduct inrelation to the use of computers and the internet; in particular they shouldcontact a teacher if at anytime they feel uncomfortable or insecure.
  • No identifiable data linking student work withstudent names will be analysed in this research. However, during the semester the classroomteacher will develop a list of both the student name and the matching pseudonymsto be used for classroom feedback, assessment and school reporting purposes.
‘Research integrity’ is animportant issue. The researcher has read the Australian code for theresponsible conduct of research guides and will ensure that the research practicesabide by this guide. This research plans to demonstrate a strong researchculture through:
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Respect for human research participants
  • Good stewardship of public resources used
  • Responsible communication of research results.
(National Health and Medical Reserch Council 2009)

Chapter 4: Data Collected Semester 2, 2010

The action research cycle used in this study, shown earlier inFigure 4, explicitly seeks to encourage inclusive processes which Armstrong andMoore (2004, p. 13) describe as advance inclusionthrough research design, practice and process, and research outcomes. Theteacher/researcher of this study used this framework because it did not suggesta sequence of segmented activities; rather, it encouraged a continuous,overlapping process of reflection, consultation, planning and change. Theteacher/researcher found this action research framework to be elastic andpermeable throughout the data collection, which was important due to the manyclassroom projects developed and that were used for multiple classes - at timesthere could be six classes, approximately 150 students, working on the sameproject at different year levels and stages. Hence, any stage of the action research cycle could became extended andoverlap with other stages. However, the processes of observing, identifyingissues, raising questions, developing ideas, monitoring, evaluating andchanging what and how things were done were constant and became part of day today teaching life. Although some of the data collected did not go as far asothers in seeking out the views of others and few, if any, have managed toshare control of the research focus, planning, process and evaluation with awider group, it has provided the teacher/researcher with ideas and inspirationon how she might begin to set about changing places, changing practices andchanging minds, as encouraged by Armstrong and Moore in their discussion ontheir action research framework (2004, p. 14). This data collectionapproach was found to be very rewarding.
In order to develop authentic teaching and learning models toaddress the study’s research questions the teacher/researcher chose to be afull time teacher at the research site. Any model developed would almostcertainly bring pressures for a full-time teacher and, thus, the researcherwould be able to relate, whole-heartedly, with these pressures. Hence, theteacher/researcher taught a full teaching allotment, including yard duty andscheduled meetings during 2010 - although leave of absence was taken forapproximately one week at a time twice per term, or as required, to support thedocumentation and analysis of the research cycle.
Earlier, in Chapter 3, the data types to be collected were describedin Table 1. These will be discussed at length in this chapter, these being:
  • Teacher directed activities
  • Field notes and reflections
  • Student work
  • Peer and critical friend feedback
Also discussed in this chapter will be the three OneNotenotebooks and tags used, also mentioned in Chapter 3 and shown earlier inFigure 9. This includes the Teacher, Student Work and Student Play notebooks.These notebooks are where all of the planning, documentation and storage ofdata was stored and organised. This chapter will also give samples of data anddiscuss the importance of the data collected.

4.1 Teacher Notebook 2010 - data collected

The Teacher notebookwas discussed in Chapter 3. The type of data that was, and will continue to be,collected in this notebook was described earlier in Table 2. Below is furtherdetail of that process.

Weekly Planning Documents and Field Notes

Weekly planning documents are essential for any teacher;these enable them to organise the content and flow of their classroom lessons.McKernan (1991, p. 96) discusses how field notesoften provide clues to fundamental issues of importance and group dynamicswhereas more structured instruments such as questionnaires and checklists manynot be sensitive enough to recognise underlying and often subtle themes andoccurrences. He asserts that despite their inherent subjectivity, field notesremain a major scientific tool. The teacher/researcher in this study foundMcKernan’s discussion on observational, conceptual and procedural field notes,as well as the inherent advantages and disadvantages, very helpful and relevantto this study. Theyformed an important data collection method and play a major role in supportingthe range of reflections carried out in this study - a summary is givenbelow:
Observational fieldnotes - These had a bearing upon events experienced thorough directlistening and watching students in the classroom setting. They formed ofnon-interactive interpretation which described the action and focused ondescription rather than interpretation.
Conceptual field notes- It was vital to look at the facts and then to construct a personal statementof their importance and significance.
Procedural field notes– This included methods, operations, sequencing, timing etc.
Advantages of field notes:
  • They are simpleto record
  • No outsideobserver is necessary.
  • They areexcellent as a running ethnographic record of the action
  • Problems can bestudied in the teacher's own time.
  • They provide a usefuldata base for the writing
  • They can functionas an aide-memoire
  • They provideclues and data not dredged up by quantified means

Disadvantages of field notes:
  • It is difficultto record lengthy conversations
  • They can befraught with problems of researcher response, bias, and subjectivity
  • It istime-consuming to write up field notes on numerous characters.
  • They shouldtriangulate with other methods
  • They can bedifficult to structure and file

The teacher/researcher needed a consistent method to document theclassroom planning process for each class and hence developed OneNote templatesfor each subject, such as the one shown in Figure 13 – further samples aregiven in Appendix 5. These enabled the teacher/researcher to view the classlesson plan while the class was in progress as well as taking field noteseasily in the classroom. The field notes were written below the weekly lessonplan and was able to be annotated to show changes or other more specificprocedural information. Each of the different subjects was given a differentbackground for the template to easily identify which class was being viewed atany time.

Teacher Weekly Reflections 2010

At the end of each week, reflections, for that week, werewritten on a page in the TR1_Weekly section group of the Teacher Notebook - aOneNote template was again made for these weekly reflections. Over time, this data was managed by makingone section for each five week period as shown in Figure 15. For example thefirst five weeks were placed in the ‘TR1_W1-5 Reflections’ section tab. Pagescontaining sample screen clips from any particular week were also placed in therelevant section - this included student work, emails, ideas and notes takenduring the week that were considered important at the time.
Below is a screen clip, Figure 15, of the top part of the pagefor the Week 1 reflection. Further weekly reflections can be found in Appendix6. Note that the tag codes at the top of the weekly reflection template as areminder of the breakdown of the research questions that will need to beaddressed.

The following two screen clips (Figures 16 and 17) show how thefocus of reflection changed after ten weeks. Figure 16 shows the three main reflection focus areas used in the first10 weeks of data collection with a focus on beliefs, concepts and learningusing Rolfe’s (2006, p. 99)approach. Figure 17 shows the last ten weeks of data collection focusingreflections using Grundy’s (1995, p. 17)approach, using reflection questions. Although Rolfe’s (2006)approach to reflection was sound in theory and using his approach ensured that the teacher/researcherconsidered her own bias, the teacher/researcher found that it did not promptenough specific information for this study. Grundy described reflection ashaving a ‘good hard look’ at the evidence and about making rational judgmentson the basis of the evidence from what occurred and how worthwhile it was. FromWeek 11 (start of Term 4, 2010), the weekly reflections looked more closely atthe following questions:
  • What worked?
  • What did not work?
  • What was found interesting?
  • What will theteacher/researcher look forward to next week?
  • What does theteacher/researcher still need to focus on?
  • What progress was made thisweek for each class

Teacher Mid-Term and End-of-Term Reflections

Mid Term 3 (after 5 weeks)

As part of the action research cycle during the reflectionstage Armstrong and Moore (2004, p. 12)describe ‘Reflexive critique’ as a process of becoming aware of our ownperceptual biases. They also describe ‘Dialectic critique’ as a way ofunderstanding the relationship between the various aspects of our own workcontext. With these in mind, reflections were made at the end of each week thenalso at five week intervals with the aim of reducing bias and gaining greaterunderstanding of the bigger picture of what was happening. Below is part of theend of week 5 reflections showing a reflection of the projects as a wholerather that the smaller ‘nitty gritty’ aspects of weekly reflections – longer termreflections can be found in Appendix 7.
End of Week 5 Teacher Reflections
TIC19 Project 'I can't believe my eyes' and TIB19 Project 'I can do it'
Showcasing the students work on the Ning to the whole class gave other students the incentive to improve their work and resubmit.

The software was easy for students to use. Students had fun with the cameras but did not always have a lot to download as useful footage. Class rule was made - you can only go out with camera once per project to avoid wanders around the school.

Although planned, I decided not to start with research - this was because once on the internet it is hard to bring students attention back. Many go off track as soon as they open Internet Explorer.

Internet restrictions meant that initially a number of students could not access the Ning.
TIC19 - Project 'GHS 100 years' and TIB19 - Project 'GHS 100 years'
Students were very supportive of each other in the classroom when using the Ning. When one wants to know how to do things they ask each other and everyone is very supportive - as compared to other general class work it is more a case of 'I am not sure' and students do not jump to help each other.

Students were at times interested but not greatly engaged. At times they were off task especially during activities such as planning and mind mapping.

It was good to get some planning onto the Ning and some discussion/peer evaluation occurring by the end of the five weeks - not much has occurred so far but I see it as a training process for students.
My classes could not explore microphones and sound due to problems with microphones and Acid software not loaded in my computer rooms.

Once students are involved in activities on the internet and Ning it is hard to draw them back and gain their attention to give instructions.

Teachers’ Time

The use of teachers’ time is a major factor in developingmodels for teachers and, thus is important to evaluate to answer the researchquestions. Students used pseudonyms when working online and many continued tochange their name. A student could always be identified by theteacher/researcher checking the membership details of any student – studentswere required to use their school email address when registering for the site.Each week as part of the data collection this information was downloaded as aspreadsheet and organised in two ways: first alphabetical in pseudonym order;secondly, alphabetical in email order. These data were not used as part of thedata collection in this study; it was only used by the teacher to identifystudents for assessment.
In addition to the time taken for behaviour management,administration requirements (such as roll marking and reporting) and theorganisation and maintenance of the hardware and software (by communicationswith the technical support personnel and in come cases by direct hands onintervention) a number of possible other factors that could affect teacher timeinclude:
  • checking and organising emails that areautomatically generated when students are active in an online environment
  • identifying students who continue to changetheir pseudonym online name and profile
  • identifying the amount of work a studentcompletes in any particular lesson
  • preparation time designing online lessons,including learning and using the Ning and other Web 2.0 software
  • monitoring and giving online feedback
The use of non school email account was essential to avoiderror messages such as ‘Your email box is full’ due to the large quantities ofemails each day. The Ning generates an email when activities occur – this couldbe up to 400 emails in one day. Email notification settings could be changedbut the teacher/researcher felt that this facility helped to monitor studentactivity. Other data collected in this area included student Ning activityoutside school time, methods of saving time when monitoring student Ningactivity and sample communication.
The following Figure shows a screen clip from an early teacherreflection – the teacher is overwhelmed by the number of student directedgroups made. Further screen clipsshowing examples of teacher time can be found in Appendix 8.
Figure17: An early teacher reflection when studentsfirst learnt how to make groups

Critical Friends

Criticalfriends were important for gaining feedback. Mills (1999,p. 104) suggests that if you have difficulty focusing aninterpretive lens on your work then you should rely on your trusted colleaguesto offer insights that you may have missed because of your closeness to thework. He does warn that the more opinions sought the more you will receive andoften these suggestions come with the expectation that you will accept theadvice offered. Time was taken during the study to build special relationshipswith three critical friends who offered interpretations, support and insightinto a range of strategies such as assessment, presentation and other ways ofdoing things as well as critical feedback on what dad been attempted sofar. Critical friends included:
  • Three members of the teaching staff who also useNings in their classroom
  • Feedback from both Maths and IT KLA as well asCurriculum members’ feedback
  • Feedback from presentations to small groups ofstaff as well as at staff meetings
  • Discussions and presentations with staff at theresearch site – reflection shown in Figure 19
  • Feedback from participants at conferencepresentations
  • Feedback from online publishing from myprofessional websites or those to which I subscribe

4.2 Student Work Notebook – data collected

In Chapter 3 the type of data that was collected in the StudentWork Notebook was listed and discussed. This includedstudents as explores, designers, publishers, and peer support, self reflectionand assessment. The example below shows students exploring the Ning.Students were to choose one thing they found boring and describe it, withoutidentifying it to others. This project was used to give students time ‘playing’with the Ning in a constructive manner. It required them to think, write andrespond to other students. This included making a discussion forum as well as,eventually, uploading pictures and multimedia. Further examples of student workdata collected are given in Appendix 9.

Student Peer Support

During Term 4 students began their training for peer assessmentand support. When assessing each other (peers), students were asked to allocatea High (H), Medium (M), Low (L) or Not Pass (N) to three of their peers duringprojects. This was done by students going to the Ning blog menu where everyonewho recently published a blog was listed in the order the blogs were publishedwith the newest published blog on top. Students found their own blog then, forassessment chose the student blog listed immediately below theirs andimmediately above theirs and any one other. Initially, when this peerassessment started, students were asked to leave a comment about one positiveaspect, then a negative, followed by another positive to finish (known atschool as the sandwich approach). This later evolved to allocating H, M, L or Nas well as commenting to suggest something nice they found regarding the workand offering ideas for improvement – being specific to help someone improvetheir work. Below shows a students giving feedback to their peer and assessingthem – in this case they gave them a fail (N).

Student Reflections

Student reflections and self assessment were usually done onpaper handouts to encourage more private information could be included. Belowshows the types of questions asked of students. They were encouraged to usethis feedback as a means of gaining recognition for work that may have beenstarted but was lost or for recognition of the time taken to help others. Ascanned image of a Year 7 student self assessment of the global classroomproject is shown below:

4.3 Student Play Notebook – data collected

This was a very interesting area of datacollection as it often involved students extending the boundaries of the lessonexpectations; at times showing depth of thinking and creativity but, sadly, attimes in negative ways. Below is astudent’s blog post showing the students avatar as a ghost likeperson. Many students made comments to me regarding this and said that it was‘creepy’ – other examples of data collected from the Student Play Notebook canbe seen in Appendix 10.
Figure22: Student Ning example – Students found the‘Watcher’ creepy

Some students used it as on online sharing area and postedtheir ‘Free Rider’ game codes that they made. This enabled others to copy anduse their games.

Chapter 5: Initial Analysis of the 2010 Data

Globalisation hasplaced new demands on the kinds of literacies needed in the workplace and ineveryday life. The New London Group (1996) argued that the multiplicity ofcommunications channels and increasing cultural and linguistic diversity in theworld today call for a much broader view of literacy than portrayed bytraditional langue-based approaches. There is a pressing need for students tobe literate in the new kinds of digital literacy practices that will be neededfor active participation in such a global world. These are the views typicallyexpressed by Dillon (2006), Johnson and Kress (2003), Edmonds (2006), Luke andElkins(2002) and Merchant (2007). My students often communicate in ways thatthe education system does not formally recognise but in ways that the workplaceis accepting as day to day practice: these include such things as Facebook.>and Twitter <>. It is intended that, through theanalysis of this study, models will be developed for educators that will helpthem incorporate these new literacies. This study aims to explore classroompractices that both engage students and enhance teaching and learning. Thischapter will analyse the Semester 2, 2010 data in the three focus areas of theresearch:

5.1 Teacher-Focused Research Question

This section will look atsetting up the initial stages of analysis, for the collected data in order toaddress the teacher focused research question - what new demands could this type of model bring to teachers and whatprofessional development is needed to support such change?

Identifying what works and what does not work in the classroom

Atkinson and Claxton (2000, p. 1)argue that it is self-evident that much of what teachers (and others) do, inthe heat of the moment, is not premeditated, but intuitive. A situation arises,the teacher responds, and only later, if at all, will they pause to ‘figureout’ what was going on and why they did what they did. Atkinson and Claxton goon to discuss the relationship between the rational and the intuitive, theexplicit and the tacit, and between articulated comprehension and ‘gutfeeling’. Their discussion of what professionals do and how they learn to do ithelped me understand why I often go into the classroom and change aspects ofwhat I have planned. It has helped me to understand the role of intuition inprofessional practice and its significance in my own development as a teacher.Although teachers must keep in mind, as Draut (2000, p. 267)reminds us, that they remain accountable for the learners’ long-term progress,motivation and well-being on which evaluations of practice need to focus.
As data is collected in the classroom, what works or not, is ajudgement of the teacher/researcher. Claxton (2000, p. 37)describes judgement as one variety of intuition in professional practice anddevelopment. He goes on to argue that expert judgement in many professions isoften wholly or largely intuitive and that a teacher, in coming to a judgement,draws upon a vast database of largely inarticulate impressions (as well asdocumented materials) and may be forced to neglect rich, non-verbal,non-measurable information if forced to justify every judgement explicitly.Below is an attempt to describe the difference between data tagged as ‘Worked’and ‘XWorked’:
Worked –classroom/student/project expectations were achieved or unexpected positiveoutcomes came about. Students and/or teacher were positive/happy/excited andlearning was occurring.
XWorked – studentsdid not want to comply, negative comments/feedback was occurring in theclassroom and/or students were off task.

Tag Summaries linked to the semester topics and projects

At the end of term 4, 2010, some initial analysis of the dataand tags was implemented in each of the teacher OneNote notebooks for each of theclasses; these are summarised in the tables in the following pages.
Table6: Year 7 tag summaries linked to weeklytopics and projects
Summary of the field notes tagged
Sem2, 2010
W1 to 7
Photo Journey

Laptop 1-1

Internet Safety
Boring Project tasks:
SmartArt - Web2
Movie Maker

Internet searching:
Google family
Google home
Students keen to work with Ning
Assessing students in class
Speed some students work
Positive atmosphere – ‘please approve me’
Less confident could manage a comment
Exit cards as tick off sheets for low achievers
Web 2.0 - Voki, Animoto
Students making groups – ‘megasmiles’
Students sending messages to each other
Teacher insisting on correct avatar
Students making groups-1-1 shooter
Making friends when they don’t know who is who
Excited to learn – just in time learning: pseudonyms, copyright, new skills, giving private info
Room changes
Booking laptop trolleys
Booking projector
Some don’t have laptops
Some rooms don’t have projectors
Some don’t bring their laptops
Some laptop batteries flat
Log on to Ning with wrong email
School email doesn’t work
Ning groups don’t have moderation set on pictures
Difficult to find replies to forum comments
Students not listening
Laptop viruses
Slow Wireless
Students not knowing where they are up to
Students not interested in reflecting
Students not interested in improving
Weaker student received higher marks due to in class assessment
Use pseudonyms in comments
One had no concept of comments & got upset
Walking the room matching pseudonyms
4 Short Skills Test
Ning publishing

Helping Others
‘Tips & Tricks’

‘Software did you know’

‘Helping Others’
Screen recorder
Changing online names
Copying teacher profile
Identifying student work

Indentifying students and classes
Lack of interest of where they are up to
Peer Assessors Training
Discussion of H, M, L, N
Less teacher assessment
Good discussion between students re assessment
Feedback using peer assessment very helpful
Girls not leaving enough time for peer assessment & improvement
Ning Mini-blogs are auto moderated
Peer assessment
Global Project
What’s in your closet?

What’s for dinner?

School Days

What’s so interesting?

Get your game on!

I bet you didn’t know

Celebrate good times

You have virtual visitors
Internet searching
PhotoStory/Movie Maker
OneNote screen shots
Blog allowed them to remember last work
Range of online tools eg Tagxedo
Variety of tasks & tools met needs & interests
Students didn’t like to read or listen
Learning: Other schools have trampolines & take baths
Activity online can be confusing – eg twitter feeds
Ning –less handouts, more collaboration/communication
Less specific directions what to do eg how many photos?
Working but not looking like they are working due to the nature of the task
Holding back from doing too much for students
Teacher wanting to reprimanding for not working
Real L:
Learning about other cultures
Doing too much for students
To Note:
The loud students do not necessarily represent the group
Frustrations: students not knowing what to do
Frustrations: students waiting to be told to work
‘Cockatoo Stew’
Internet searching
Students discussing how to share recipes
Assessing students 1to1 in class
Giving students at risk extra time
Internet Research
‘Ratings & Tags’

New Technologies
Internet searching
Using students to help solve problems
Marking students face to face, giving them feedback then giving time for improvement
Building in early assessment so they take work seriously from the beginning

Table7: TIB19, A Bit More IT, tag summaries linkedto weekly topics and projects
Software Used
Tags used
W1 to 4
Basic Video Production Software
Internet Searching (what is Photo Story)

File size and type

Copyright & giving Credit

Movie Making:
'I can do it'
Photo Story
Movie Maker
Instant feedback
Making avatars
Helping each other
Ning access on mobile phones
Relaxed - students & teacher
Internet pictures used
Ning backgrounds found
32 pictures uploaded
Group work allocation of roles
Suspended students organised discussion at recess
Cyber Awareness
Internet Safety

Digital Footprints

Cybernetrix Website
Internet searching: (Google themselves & family)
Google Maps
PhotoStory/Movie Maker
OneNote screen shots
Quality of camera angles
Imagination in storylines
Range of expressions & gestures
Use of prior knowledge
Google maps-whose house can they find
Making a story from pics
Surveys, data collection and excel
What do I want to find out?

Making a survey in Polldaddy
Building skills from Polldaddy, excel and publishing graphs
Setting up Buddies
Global Project
Intro to other schools
PB Wikispaces
Any Web2
Photo Story
Movie Maker
Using blogs to document what will be done
Peer comments + - +
One to one discussion of peer comments
Word Skills
Newspaper Project
Internet Content
Learning new skills/being extended
Giving students time for improvement
Internet Research
Conventional Research
Internet Searching
Access to blocked websites-Creative Commons
Bucket Blogs (animation)

Online animation

Animation Software
Internet Searching
Scratch Website
Pivot Website
Inconsistent access to blocked websites-goanimate
Bucket blogs-edited & some don't like copy & paste
Worked & STowned:
Animation research/theme
To Note:
Improvements to Bucket blog

Table8: TIC19, Multimedia, tag summaries linked toweekly topics and projects
Software Used
Tags used
W1 to 5
Basic Video Production Software

File size and type

Copyright & giving Credit

Movie Making:
'I can't believe my eyes'

'GHS 100 Years'
Photo Story
Movie Maker
Internet Searching
Marking-Showcasing student work on IWB
Students improving their work
Students supportive of each other
Listened when appearing to not
Marking- in class walking around
Students thinking when researching
One Ning membership name
School access to Ning
Difficult to get students to listen when logged on
Software not loaded in R11
Student email access
Suspended students organised discussion at recess
I needed a break from the Ning Traffic
Forgotten passwords
Cyber Awareness
Internet Safety

Digital Footprints

Cybernetrix Website
Internet searching:
(Google themselves/family)
Google Maps
PhotoStory/Movie Maker
OneNote screen shots
Porn & rape references in student work
Software not working
Multimedia to help others
Save the World
Using Ning for student tutorials
Peer feedback
Students looking at other Ning groups
Changing names so as not to be identified
File Types & Formats
Acid loops
Internet research
Finding Acid loops
Students not listening
Using real names in online comments
To Note:
Feeling of wanting to be in charge but knowing kids would appreciate it more if I backed off
Exam Prep
Movie Maker
After Effects
Internet research
Students being marked on comments
Blogging their research
Peer Assessment
(Marking H, M, L, N rather than + - + then asked 3 questions
Student conversations 'you copied and pasted')
Timeline for students to organise themselves
Online help tutorials
Planning movie
New technologies: Bucket research
Internet searching
Sharing buckets
Giving students time to organise themselves
Student angry at having to make up his own assessment criteria
Practice Exam
Internet searching
Premier & After Effects

Table9: MAB22, Year 9 Maths, tag summaries linkedto weekly topics and projects
Software Used
Tags used
W1 to 5
Chapter2 of text

Math Websites
Textbook CD

Math Websites

Internet searching
Math Websites - games
Students correcting own work
Work list on Ning

Notification: ‘Jackoff’ suspended

‘What does this have to do with Maths?’

46 Groups in 2 weeks
Full dayx2 teaching load

Room changes
Some students scared of social networks

‘Chloe smells’

Claiming to have finished
Expanding & Factorising
Chapter 4 of text

Algebra & Excel

Xtranormal in Maths
Textbook CD

Excel + screen clips to Ning blogs

Xtranormal – Web2.0

Maths help tutorials

Math Websites

Data Visualisation
Peer assessment
Making help video tutorials on Ning

Making Web2.0 accounts online
Making help video tutorials

Making help video tutorials
Linear Equations
Chapter 6 of text

Straight lines

Following instructions
Textbook CD

Math Websites


Google SketchUp
Math games

Using mobile to take pics for uploading

Using laptops in portables

Things that worked and did not work

A large volume of data was collected throughout the classroomprojects in semester 2, 2010. During Term 3 the teaching approach was to make aNing group for each class project. As time went on this became difficult andtime consuming to monitor and assess. There were, for example, about 75 students in one group publishing theirwork for the ‘Boring’ project and at times this meant that there were about 75discussion forums in this one group.
During Term 4 class project details were still often providedin a specific group but students were asked to use their blogs from their ‘MyPage’ to discuss and publish their work rather than do this in discussionforums as part of the group. This change made assessment easier and work becameeasier to monitor and find. Some handouts were also given to students whenthere was a need to make instructions step by step. As lessons progressedinstructions at times would be given out on paper as a tick-monitor sheet andthese were also uploaded into the ‘Handout’ group on the Ning for students touse; lower students, at times, had struggled with only online instructionshence these became very useful.
Appendix 11 shows reflections from a range of projects that theteacher/researcher felt worked well. Appendix 12 shows reflections from a rangeof projects where the teacher/researcher felt that some aspects did not workvery well. The content of these appendices are summarised below:

Did not work well:
  • When large numbers of students posted to forumsor made forums to publish work – thesewere, at times, difficult to find
  • Uploading music, sound and podcasts – sound andvideo files could only be added by embedding code from other websites (exceptfor swf file types)
  • In maths, students felt uncomfortable when askedto make help tutorial videos – they hated recording their own voice
  • MostWeb2.0 applications needed email addresses to authenticate the account – thiswas difficult because school emails were usually not working and students didnot have access to other email accounts
  • Organising partners/buddies for students to workwith – other than using those from the same class
  • Students showed little interest in researching,finding out more or exploring areas of class projects – they usually seemed towant the teacher to tell them what to do and how to do it
  • Students, at times, struggled to remember to usepseudonym when giving feedback to peers
  • Using the Web 2.0 presentation programs Glogster<>was very slow to use and useless in the classroom due to the time taken forvideo to download and run

Aspects to further develop:
  • Helping students further develop techniques ofreplying to each other online
  • Making instructions easy to find – less clicks
  • Getting students to copy and paste instructionsinto their own Ning blogs to remind them of what needs to be done during thenext lesson, which could be a week away for year 7
  • Use small printed sheets (exit cards) in theirdiaries to show the work completed so far
  • Opening up more opportunities for work betweenclasses to be shared
  • Explore better ways to share comments between alarger group of students
  • Bucket blog concept of Internet searching <>is very collaborative but needs to be broken down into easier and morelogical steps – this supports the natural inclination of students to cut andpaste information from the Internet.
  • There were lots of really effective Web2.0programs used but many students needed more support when first using them –some students are very confident on the Internet but there are others who giveup when things don’t work or when they can’t quickly see how to do something
  • Studentsneeded to have a purpose to use the Ning site. Again, confident students had noproblems making groups and leaving comments for each other but other studentsneeded more constructive activities to help them gain confidence and to see apurpose for using it
Issues and Inappropriate behaviour
A small amount of bad/inappropriate language was used on theNing. These tended to appear in sports-focused groups where one group wanted totell the world that their team was the best. I did not delete student groupsunless I could see some inappropriate behaviour starting to occur such as the‘clifton springs suck’ comment below and the trolls group also shown below.Other examples of issues and inappropriate behaviour can be found in Appendix 13including one where a student used the teachers online Ning identity to publishnegative comments.

Teacher Time

Marking takes up many hours of a teacher’s week but much ofthis time is spent checking that work has been completed rather than being morefocused on identifying learning problems and helping pupils to identifyproblems for themselves. (Weedon 2002, p. 68)
There is no doubt that the demand on teachers’ time is a majorfactor in discussions on changing classroom practices. At the beginning of thisstudy I felt that the number one problem with implementing new teaching andlearning models would be teachers’ time, but, surprisingly, as the studyprogressed and I continued to modify my classroom projects and my ownbehaviour, through the action research cycle, these problems receded. Duringthe research cycle I asked myself questions such as “if I am already activelywalking around the classroom, discussing and viewing progress with students,how important is it for me to correct student work at the moment?” My answer tothis question was often “I had more important things to monitor on the Ning andideas to develop in the classroom”. I continued to reduce my correction andspent more time viewing and discussing student work in classroom time. Oncestudents started to use peer assessment I found the demands on my timecontinued to reduce and I felt that my 175 students were not suffering at all:perhaps they were better off. By using classroom observations, peer assessmentand detailed student self assessment provided me the triangulation ofassessment data that I valued to make judgements on my students’ work. I feltthat, not only had assessment become easier but there was excellent potentialfor students to become valuable resources for their peers and teachers whichcould lead to developing models for teaching and learning that were moreefficient and effective. However, at times I did struggle with the concept ofstudents being so responsible for assessment, Was I fulfilling my role as ‘TheTeacher’?
Working with students in the classroom, as discussed above,took energy, enthusiasm and organisation to provide the training and supportthey needed in their roles. Occasionally, I would break from the constantpressures of activity in the classroom and set more conventional work. Thisallowed me to have more quiet time with individual students, as indicated bythe Week 16 reflection screen clip below.

The number of emails that the Ning automaticallygenerated, as mentioned in Chapter 4, was initially a time problem for teachersbut, by using an email account that could store gigabytes of data, such asgmail, the emails became a source of information to be referred to when and ifnecessary - the emails could sit in the inbox without concern. (I could imaginesome teachers would be uncomfortable with large amounts of emails in theirinbox as they regularly empty their box as part of their tidiness andorganisation.) The following is a screen clip from my reflections tagged withissues for teacher time.

Problems with school computer networks were occasionally ofconcern. Ensuring websites were not blocked for students was initially aproblem but was resolved after a week. Problems with projectors not working orcomputer rooms/laptop trolleys not being available added to teacher stress andtime. Below is an email from a critical friend (teacher of English)experiencing such difficulties.

Student’s prior knowledge and skills was often used tosupport problems and issues that arose. This saved teacher time and was a goodresource. Below is a screen clip of a teacher reflection made acknowledging aclever student that resolved a problem of uploading video to the Ning.

Dealing with inappropriate behaviour, including spam, did notaffect teachers’ time. Also, the approximately 40 student-made groups notrelated to class work were not significant in terms of the time needed tomonitor them, which I found surprising.

5.2 Student-Focused Research Question

This section will look atsetting up the initial stages of analysis, for the collected data in order toaddress the student research question - What are the complexities in developing such a model and whatscaffolding is needed to help students learn within such complexity?:

Students as Resources

The introduction of peer feedback was very successful,especially in the conversations that occurred in the classroom. For example,when the Year 9/10 Multimedia class was participating in exam revision, whichincluded some Internet searching on different file types, the conversation inthe classroom between students became very critical - students accused eachother of cutting and pasting answers rather than writing summaries.Gillies’ (2007, p. 91) discussion of achievementgains for both the giver and the receiver, when students work together are veryencouraging in the context of the peer feedback that my students have beendeveloping. Gillies argues that when students give elaborated help to eachother they are forced to reorganise and restructure their own understandingsand, in so doing, often construct more elaborate cognitive understandings thanthey had previously.
Generally, peer assessment was extremely successful. Studentswere given much more constructive feedback for their work and more timelyfeedback than in the normal teacher directed classroom. They were also happy toprovide this assessment once they worked out the process. By using peerassessment students were given feedback on their work before they actuallysubmitted it to the teacher hence had time to improve their work, although manydid not want to put in the extra effort to improve.
Students were generally positive when I was training them togive constructive feedback. I started with a simple model and spent time givingthem individual feedback in class on how to improve their feedback. Studentswere, by default, mentors to others, because their work, feedback andassessment were online for all to see and use as examples. This appeared tohelp students to get pictures of the expectations. One comment from a studentwho was struggling could be heard in the classroom as saying “oh, is that all Ihave to do to pass” when looking at their peers work online.
Students built up their peer feedback and assessment skills andeventually many were able to give specific constructive feedback, positivefeedback and a grade. Each student was marked on their ability to give peerfeedback and assessment by the teacher hence there was reason for them to takethis seriously.
The following screenclips are examples of how students moved from their ‘sandwich’ method offeedback (positive, negative, positive) as well as high, medium, low or N(fail) grades to more critical feedback – Appendix 14 provide further examplesof students as resources to others.

The following twoscreen clips show students’ work from a project using a concept called ‘bucketblog’ which required them to choose a topic to search on the Internet. They hadto find resources from at least three different Internet sites then copy andpaste information into their blogs. Then students would use the information andpresent it in some way. The idea was that students would share their buckets ofinformation with others. When a student used another student’s information theywere expected to be polite and acknowledge this in some way. This type of projectwas aimed at improving the students’ depth of research that students finaliseby accepting that they will copy and paste their information. I believe it isbetter that they do this openly and share that information before they use itto develop their own opinion – lots of work is still needed to fine tune manyaspects of this project including the instructions to students. In thisproject, students developed their own assessment criteria for the project,their reaction to this was initially shock, and then joy, but again furtherwork still needs to be done to improve how this worked. The following Figuresshow two screen clips from students’ work on this project. I was veryencouraged by the way students communicated in such a positive manner.

Students Working and Behaving Differently

During this study students were given more opportunities tomake decisions and be more responsible, for example in assessment and feedbackto others. Most students come into the classroom and expect me to be responsiblefor these things and some of these new practices took time to be accepted; butthey were accepted. For some students, time is needed for them to becomeaccustomed to changes. But, it was interesting to see that other students weremuch more accepting of the approach and appreciated the extra flexibility. Somescreen clips of students working and behaving differently can be found in Appendix 15.
I found it interesting that a number of quiet students, whonever appear to do anything wrong in the classroom, have been ones who weresuspended on the Ning or spoken to for inappropriate behaviour. This occurredin a number of classes and further data collection is needed to observe andappreciate any patterns.
Over the last ten years, it has become rare for students toseek my assistance outside the classroom without being specifically instructedto do so. However, I found that banned students often did want clarification onwhy they were banned and directions on what to do to resolve the issue promptly.There was also a number of emails to the teacher requesting support to resolveissues. This leads me to believe that generally students did want to be part ofthe Ning environment.

5.3 Learning-Focused Research Question

This section will look at setting up the initial stages ofanalysis for the collected data in order to help address the Learning focusedresearch question - How can this modelhelp meet the learning and curriculum needs for schooling?

Student-directed learning

The Ning offered students a great range of opportunities tomake their own groups and to become involved in groups made by others; studentsalso made online friends and sent gifts. I believe that the Ning providedstudents with this life-like curriculum that Beane (2006, p. 10) suggests. Many students Iteach use social media outside the classroom. Students were supportive of eachother when solving problems and they were able to draw upon relevant,integrated knowledge and skills that many have developed outside the classroom.I argue that my students were developing, what Beane calls, self and socialmeaning.
The way students communicate on the Ning has allowed them agreat deal of flexibility in making groups, reading and writing comments aswell as clarifying and asking questions. In the following screen clip a studentasks “what is a noob?” after another student made a group called ‘I hatenoobs’. I didn’t know what a noob was, so I was interested to know the answer.I asked a few students in class verbally: in hindsight I should have asked thequestion online to promote further discussion, as I am sure there were manyothers who did not know the answer.
Figure33: Student directed learning example - noobs

Soap's Inpersonator's Page -GHS 2010,,Screen clipping taken: 24/11/2010, 2:20 PM

Students’ ownership

By the end of semester 2 there were 77 groups in operation withmore than forty groups being student-initiated (groups unrelated to classprojects). Initially a few students would make up to five groups at a time – Idid speak to them about the value of this. Perhaps they enjoyed being noticedby others or myself. Once a group was made the creater then had control of itsmembers and the contributions: there was ownership. The following two screen clips show examples of student groups.The first never had more than one member – students tended to join groups to bepart of something they are interested in, enjoyed or when they wanted to make apoint. The second group has embeddedanimations and links to game sites and was popular with some year 7 boys.
The following screen clip shows communication on the Math Helpgroup as discussed earlier. Although the option was given to all math students,only two students wanted to make their own Maths help tutorial video - theyused the teacher’s tablet PC to enable handwriting to be used with their verbalexplanation. In 2011, year 8 math students will have their own laptop; hence Ihope to use this type of activity on a more regular basis. In 2010, one studentspent half of recess redoing his video because he wanted to make it perfect:this was a student who struggled with many of the math concepts, but by thetime he had finished he had the process well and truly understood. This is anexample of the student taking ownership of this piece of work. He was not doingit for the teacher or for anyone else, the student knew that this work was notbeing assessed in any way.
In maths, students also had greater opportunities to takeresponsibility for their learning by identifying the area of difficulty andrequesting a video tutorial made by the teacher. This was available both insideand outside school time as shown in the following screen clip, made during theschool holidays while I was in Tasmania. Perhaps this issue is more aboutstudents’ responsibility than ownership; more time is needed to explore thedifferences.


As students are put under pressure, at different times of thesemester, they can react very abruptly. The student in the following screenclip was reprimanded by me becauseshe had not completed her work or even made a reasonable attempt to do so. (Shealso did not complete the previous project work.) In her frustration at being reprimanded shemade a comment on the 'ning is bad' group, which in itself was a goodachievement for this student. The ‘ning is bad’ group was started by a studentwho did not like the previous global project and the range of Web2.0 tools thathe was expected to use. I did not delete the group until the student usedinappropriate language, as shown in the following Figures. I was happy forstudents to make their own group, even negative ones, to express themselves,but once the language became inappropriate students tended to feed off eachother to quickly develop something that was not educational. In hindsight, Ishould have asked to further discuss BelladonnaWhat’s work with her. By usingthe Ning, students have the opportunity to express themselves in ways that werenot available before and, with some of these ways, come the possibility of ashift in the power dynamics in the classroom.
In Weedon’s (2002, p. 9) discussion of ‘What are wereally assessing’, he agrees that learning is a complex process and argues thatthe emphasis on changing teachers’ classroom practices, that has characterisedgovernment policy in recent years (for example literacy and numeracy) has obscured equally important issues about howpupils learn and the factors that impact on that learning. His discussion (p. 12) explores how schools mightuse assessment more effectively to promote learning (formative assessment) inparticular he focuses on the use of assessment to empower students as learners.There are many examples of student self and peer assessment in this study.Further work still needs to be done in 2011 to look more closely at theseaspects.

As mentioned earlier, there were 77 groups made by theend of semester 2. More than forty of these were student-initiated andunrelated to class projects. This gave students some control over theirlearning environment. They were, to some extent, dictating the availablediscussions. All seventy-seven groups were part of the one learningenvironment. Although the connections between learning and many of the groupsthat students have made may be difficult to understand, I argue that, by makingthese groups, my students are developing skills and behaviours that are neededfor them in their future working lives. Suda (2001, p. 8),in discussing an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)1996 report on lifelong learning, asserts that there is an increasing emphasis,in the literature, that lifelong learning does not take place only in formalsettings, but informally at work, by talking to others, by watching television,by playing games and through virtually every other form of human activity. I suggest, in the following screen clip, thatstudents are developing power and taking ownership of their learningenvironment; hence incorporating their own interests, conversations andexchanges of information. This has the potential to become valuable resourcesfor learning and peer support.

The following screen clip shows the frustrations of astudent. She was using her computer rather than listening to instructions, fromme, in the classroom. When she asked what to do I reprimanded her for notlistening to the initial instructions. It seems, from the screen clip, thatother things were also going wrong in her life and she was using the Ning tovent some of her frustrations. By sharing her frustrations she receivedfeedback from both myself and another student. I think this made the studentfeel uncomfortable to know that what she was writing was being read by othersand perhaps she should be more careful - the group was deleted, by the student,soon after. I suggest that this screen clip demonstrates power in publishing onsocial media in the classroom (whether you want that power or not).

Critical Literacy

Below shows some math peer assessment activities whichdemonstrated the types of things in which students were expected to beinvolved, where they critique and question their peers. More work is needed todevelop this approach further in Maths. It seems that, in Maths, some studentsfelt that this type of work had little to do with what they should be doing orlearning – they wanted to know what page and which questions from the textbookthey needed to complete!
Paul (2006, p. 257) discusses his six stages all of us gothrough if we aspire to develop as thinkers; he explains that we all are born,and most of us die, as largely unreflective thinkers, fundamentally unaware ofthe role that thinking is playing in our lives. At this unreflective stage heargues that we have no useful conception of what thinking entails and we don’tnotice that we are continually making assumptions, forming concepts, drawinginferences and thinking within points of view. I feel as though many of mystudents are at this stage. I would like to work on moving my students fromthis initial stage of thinking as part of my day to day approach to teachingand learning in 2011. Specifically, I would like to incorporate Paul’s (2006, p. 104) ideas for improving learning by developingstudents thinking skills as well as using Frangenheim (2005) general ideas on reflections in classroomthinking strategies. Hence I hope to develop a more structured approach tocritical literacy.


When using the Ning, each student hadtheir own ‘My Page’. Some students used their knowledge of the Internet andhtml to develop their ‘My Page’ further than the set themes and coloursavailable on the Ning as shown below.

As student projects become more flexibleand open ended, students began exploring and developing their ideas in a widervariety of ways. The screen clips below show some of the student work from the‘Boring’ project. The online resources that are available to students didappear to open up greater opportunities for them to be creative.

Ihave been teaching Internet safety for many years. During the Internet safetyproject, based on the Ning, the classes used the XtraNormal animation, a Web2.0tool used to produce and publish animation. When using XtraNormal animations,different camera angles and facial (as well as bodily) expressions are veryeasily incorporated. I was surprised at the quality of the student work usingthis online tool. Student work had excellent depth of thinking in the messagesthey were presenting – these were certainly the highest quality that I haveever seen my students produce. In addition, students were not only creative intheir products but also in the way they developed their own personal experienceand past knowledge into the project which was extremely pleasing. One studentwho produced work with inappropriate words (students were told the audience wasto be students in year 7) in the animation argued with me for some time thatthat his animation was appropriate. He wanted year 7 students to know that “there are people on the Internet trying to get into their pants”. He explainedto me that a daughter of his mother’s best friend had a bad experience online andhe was determined to make his animation frank and honest. I could see hispoint, but the language he used could not be published on our classroom Ning:this was disappointing for us both.
Below is a screen clip from one group of students who used theidea of their mum stalking them. At times I was amazed at how they came up withsome of these ideas.

Below is a screen clip of an animation where one student isgiving advice to another which was an excellent example to show year 7students.

‘Real Learning’

Discussing‘Real Learning’ is a concept that many people avoid because it is soopen to personal beliefs and experiences. Perhaps others see it as a ‘yuppie’or an ‘in’ concept. Earlier in this paper, I described a number of vignettesand can clearly remember the excitement and feelings of, what I would call, the‘social learning’ that occurred in my classroom. My definition of ‘RealLearning’ is developing from those vignettes and will continue to developduring 2011. At this stage, I do not want to go down the lines of those such asMarc Prensky’s ‘Teaching digital natives: partnering for real learning’. Iwould like to develop my definition from the feelings and observations that Ipersonally make as a practising classroom teacher trying to change herpractices into those that will best suit her students.
Developing models that could be considered ‘Real learning’, inmy opinion, initially stems from the concept of students being active learners.This could be done by working with students to negotiated control over theirlearning and their learning environment, as has been done in this study: somewould say that this is empowering students.
‘Our youth, who areincreasingly inattentive and disinterested in school, are increasinglydeveloping an unsanctioned, articulate and even masterful digitally literate,critically literate, and intermedial competence in which schools are slow torecognise or adapt’ (King & O'Brien 2002, p. 50). I find this assertiondisturbing but, as a teacher, I acknowledge that there is some truth in it. Ifeel that if the concept of ‘Real Learning’ actually exists and can be defined;if it can be found and can be developed then many of the teaching and learningproblems in schools today will be solved.
The following Figure is a scan of a Year 7 feedback/selfreflection from the global project. Two students indicated on their sheets thatthe project was hard because ‘they had to figure things out for themselves’.This was an interesting comment and I must confess that I have continued to tryto incorporate ‘students figuring things out for themselves’ as part of myapproach. Over the next twelve months of data collection I would like to linkthis type of comment with what was actually learnt and, then, to look moreclosely into the ‘how’ and ‘why’.

Chapter 6: Preliminary findings


In the following pages, I reflect on what was done and found inthis study during Semester 2 2010, whilst focusing on the teacher, student andlearning goals.

6.1 The Teacher

What new demands couldthis type of model bring to teachers and what professional development isneeded to support such change?
Thisstudy found that, generally, students enjoyed using the Ning environment. Therewas an increase in time teachers neededto monitor and participate in the Ning. It was found that theteacher/researcher successfully reduced her time spent on correction byimplementing peer and self assessment with students and by using her classroomobservations. This led to an effective triangulation of assessment data. Weedon(2002, p. 72) suggests that one, maybe radical, changeteachers can make is to train their pupils to use self-assessment. He arguesthat the process of self assessment helps them think about their own learningand to understand it better. He goes on to explain that the role of assessmentin supporting learning is, essentially, to identify the gap between current anddesired performance and to offer support to the pupil in closing that gap. Itis the student who needs to make the step forward in their learning, andself-assessment can give them information about their achievements and a betterunderstanding of what is needed to ‘close the gap’.
Weedon’s (2002, p. 89) discussion on peer-assessment explains thatit contributes to students’ personal and social development. He argues thatindividual pupils learn how to communicate with their peers in non-judgementalways. They soon find that if they want constructive feedback they have to besensitive about the kind of feedback they give others. The shared understandingof learning can help pupils develop through seeing other ways of looking at aproblem. What is valued is no longer simply ‘what the teacher says’ but expandsto include understanding someone else’s viewpoint.
Teachers’time is needed to understand the Ning moderation and search facility, and itsorganisational proceedures. It was reasonably quick and easy to learn the useof Web 2.0 software tools and students could quickly become independent usersof these types of online programs as well as effectivly supporting each other.

Maths, parents appreciated the availability of online help resources andsupport for their children. They also acknowledged the usefulness of 24/7availability of classroom work details and excercises. This also saved theteacher time, due to the repetition of explanation of some maths problems.
There is no doubt in the teacher/researchers mind that makinggood use of new technologies increases the demands on teachers, as argued byBertram (2002, p. 17).New technologies are no panacea for problems in education, and by themselves,enable, rather than create, change; it is teachers who make the difference.Simply using computers or connecting to the network does not ensure thatteaching is easier and more effective or that adolescents will be automaticallywell prepared to read, write, and live in the 21st century.
Professional development (PD) appears to be needed in writingclassroom projects that take advantage of the uniqueness of the technologybeing used. In this study, I believe teacher PD would be important to helpadjust classroom projects to take advantage on online communication andcollaborative tools of social media.

As a teacher, I am happiest in the classroom when I am not continually telling students what to do and how to do it. I like to spend my class time walking around the room talking with students about their work. A bad lesson for me is when I am having a power struggle - trying to get students to do what I want and listen to my instructions.

Reflecting on my role as the teacher: I have, at times, struggled with my own values and beliefs on my role as ‘The Teacher’. On some occasions I have also been, concerned with the perception my students and colleagues have of me as ‘The Teacher’.

6.2 The Students

What are thecomplexities in developing such a model and what scaffolding is needed to helpstudents learn within such complexity?
Reviewing many of the screen clips given throughout thisproposal, one can see the diversity of roles and activities in which thestudents engaged. Many of these include students simply interacting with theirpeers at a personal level, talking about sport, games, music and their otherinterests. As discussed by Bertram (2002, p. 1)much of their activities reminds us of times when we were their age, but onekey difference is the mediation of activities through the electronictechnologies (online social media). Bertram asserts that young people areengaged in technology-mediated social interaction and this certainly shows inthe 77 groups on the Ning where over forty of these were made by students andwere unrelated to class work. The teacher/researcher feels that using the Ningwhere students made online friends and used pseudonyms has changed the waystudents work and communicate in the classroom. Further study needs to becarried out to determine more specific findings, but some initial investigationsuggests that:
  • At times the teacher/researcher felt thatstudents were given a second, third and even fourth chance at being accepted intheir own way by changing their name and profile.
  • Student peer feedback and assessment has beenwell accepted and appreciated by many students.
  • Weaker students got more feedback which has beenhelpful to them.
  • The concept of working online and not knowingwho anyone was on the Ning was a new concept to many students and somestruggled with this initially.
  • Some of the more talented students whopreviously completed their work on time were not, as yet, able to factor inpeer feedback and improvement into their timeline.
  • Working with Web2.0 could be challenging, havingto continue to make accounts for each different tool and remembering loginnames and passwords.
  • Students often took some interest in what otherclasses were doing via the Ning groups.
  • Using computers in maths is not a welcomedconcept to some students – the question was asked ‘what does this have to dowith maths?’
  • Using help video tutorials in Maths that areonline and available 24/7 is appreciated by parents but only some students
  • Using mobile phones to take pictures of thewritten work on the board can have constructive benefits

Reflecting on my students at this point in time: Online profiles were important to students. Many, often, not only changed their avatar but their name, country and age – perhaps I should be more flexible and allow more freedom with their avatar pictures.

Finding ways to connect student directed groups more closely to project work could be useful in linking learning to student interests. This might even help students appreciate and understand each other.

6.3 Learning

How can this model helpmeet the learning and curriculum needs for schooling?
As this study has progressed I appreciate the encouraging wordsfrom Weedon (2002, p. 90)‘If learning can become more effective, time can be saved not lost, but we alsorecognise that this is not a short-term process’. Likewise, this research isnot a short-term study. There is a lot more work that needs to be done tocontinue to develop and trial learning projects (such as ‘bucket blog’) forInternet searching. It was found that projects such as this provide a goodexample of how a topic can be delivered in a way that takes advantage of theactive and collaborative nature of social media. I can see a framework developingin my mind where projects will meet criteria if they use an online socialmedia. These criteria will be developed at a later stage.
Students enjoyed making groups and being able to freely expressthemselves, within school rules, online, in the classroom environment. Ibelieve that this helped students become confident and valued, yet able toremain anonymous if they so desired. Students, at times, were empowered intheir learning by controlling their own assessment criteria and other areas ofassessment. On the whole this was accepted well by students and the standard ofstudent work was pleasing. Students worked hard on critiquing their peersduring Term 4 and the outcomes were very encouraging, although more work isneeded to fine tune processes and procedures. Many students appreciated andenjoyed the opportunities given them, when using Web2.0 tools, to demonstratetheir creativity and individually. This was shown in the standard of their workas well as their classroom behaviour.
In my opinion, effective teaching and learning projects usingsocial media should not look text book learning. This example hasa very practical use online in that it allowed students 24/7 access tomaterials and it brought with it the advantage that students cannot use the ‘Idid not know what to do’ excuse for homework or due dates. During 2011 I aim tomove beyond the concept of this type of learning and to shift power relationsin the classroom to provide more opportunities for students to be active and resourcefulmembers of the teaching and learning practice hence being more proactive indetermining their own learning needs.