Collaboration 2.0 Action Research

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

As a part of fulfilling a requirement for my research class I was to design a research proposal in an area of my choosing. Since I tend to you a lot of technology in my own classroom I am interested in the exploration of Collaboration using social media and the possible benefits of its use. Included in this post is the entire content of the research proposal. I hav not yet conducted the research as I was hoping to recieve some feedback and adjust as needed. I am hoping to carry through with this study and will keep you updated as progression happens.

Action Research Proposal
Context
The progression of my professional growth as an educator has always been intertwined with technology. My role with technology has ranged from student facilitator to school consultant with responsibilities of hardware maintenance. Throughout the varying roles that technology had played within my career I had often wondered how technology would impact education at a classroom level. From my early experiences I quite often saw computer use as a reward and the subsequent game playing used as extrinsic motivation for assignment completion. Further along office applications took center stage as processing programs took root. All of this was great for productivity but besides having neatly typed assignments there seemed little academic benefit could be derived from the use of computers and education waited until the next emergence of education application programs. With the growth of web 2.0 technologies I began to see a connection emerging as to the use of these tools for collaboration and a shared learning experience. I took measures to alter one of my research assignments for a group of my students to allow for online sharing of research resources and any written material the students would like to share. Ten days and eighty two discussion posts resulted and while grading the paper of the students who posted the most often a perceived pattern emerged. It seemed students who were further into the discussions and sharing of content were scoring higher on the grading rubric than those students who did not utilize the online discussion forum. I wondered if there was a causal effect to the perceived pattern or whether it was corollary evidence observations. Were the students who utilized the online forum just displaying a higher level of familiarity with the content or was something more happening? I then turned my focus on the standardized tests given at the end of each school year and thought; Does a student using web 2.0 tools for collaboration translate into higher scores for the individual student on the states standardized science test?

Hypothesis:
When stating a hypotheses one must formulate a prediction and then formulate a second hypothesis that is mutually exclusive of the first and incorporates all possible alternative outcomes for that case. In research projects designs H0 refers to the null hypothesis and it describes all the remaining possible outcomes in opposition to the H1 or the research project hypothesis statement. (Shuttleworth, 2009) “The ‘null’ often refers to the common view of something, while the alternative hypothesis is what the researcher really thinks is the cause of a phenomenon” (Shutteworth, 2009).

In this research project the H1 is the examination of the impact of the current use of social media (web 2.0 technology) in a 7th grade middle school science classroom and its impact on Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals as measured by the state end of grade test. The H0

or null hypothesis for this study would be cited as; there will be no measurable impact on student end of grade test scores after having used social media (web 2.0 technology) in the classroom. In working to examine the research question one must remember that although a failure to prove the hypothesis (H1 ) can be observed as a failure of the whole research project it actually is a success. With every successive H0 or null hypothesis that is proven it brings research one step closer to an accurate portrayal or the factors producing the results that first drew interest (Shuttleworth, 2009).

Contextual Framework
My current teaching assignment is a seventh grade science class at a magnet middle school for Math, Science and Technology. My classroom has been outfitted with a Promethean Board for interactive technology use as well as the room being outfitted with six computers, one for each collaborative student group, which sets the stage for heavy use of technology in my classroom. I wanted to make sure student use of technology in the classroom was not superficial and the students could be provided with an opportunity for attaining measurable academic gains. End of grade tests are common practice in my current state of employment and part and parcel to this practice is quarterly summative assessments which are based on similar composition to the end of grade tests. As a conscientious educator I could not breakdown and teach to test questions in hopes of higher student test scores. I needed to find a way to engage students in the content and generate the same amount or greater familiarity with the course content. Social media is very much a part of middle school life outside of school so I wanted to explore the effect of this particular mode of communication as utilized in the classroom for the purpose of generating the familiarity needed by students to do well on end of grade tests or their quarterly equivalents.

In their book, “Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track”, authors Russell L. Ackoff and Daniel Greenberg acknowledge the serious flaws in the education system. They state that education focuses on teaching rather than learning (Ackoff, R., Greenberg, D., 2008). Ackoff and Greenberg challenge the education system and ask “Why should children — or adults, for that matter — be asked to do something computers and related equipment can do much better than they can? Why doesn’t education focus on what humans can do better than the machines and instruments they create?” (Ackoff, R., Greenberg, D., 2008). In approaching education in this manner they want to transform the education system to better reflect the intent of a wide variety of approaches being utilized to reach a far greater number of students learning styles. They write that the breakdown in education came when a generalized mass delivery of content needed to be established. In establishing such a class based industrial model for education it removed in part the focus education should have as a student based concept and created a expert based model of teacher delivered content. “Every word — teacher, student, school, discipline, and so on — took on meanings diametrically opposed to what they had originally meant” (Ackoff, R., Greenberg, D., 2008). Ackoff and Greenberg finish with placing education into two categories:
…one world consists of the schools and colleges (and even graduate schools) of our education complex, in which standardization prevails. In that world, an industrial training mega-structure strives to turn out identical replicas of a product called “people educated for the twenty-first century”; the second is the world of information, knowledge, and wisdom, in which the real population of the world resides when not incarcerated in schools. In that world, learning takes place like it always did, and teaching consists of imparting one’s wisdom, among other things, to voluntary listeners (Ackoff, R., Greenberg, D., 2008).
Education needs to be about the empowerment of the student and providing various routes to the attainment of knowledge and technology may be a twenty-first century tool that can achieve this lofty goal. Technology has the ability to transform the classroom back to a teacher facilitated environment where student collaboration is at the center and the technology tools supply the forum for this educational transition.

Emerging questions for continued exploration
The primary focus of this study is on the impact of the current use of social media (web 2.0 technology) in a 7th grade middle school science classroom and its impact on Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals as measured by the state end of grade test. However, upon examination several questions emerged:

1. Does the use of social media in a classroom generate increased familiarity with content areas of study and therefore impact student scores on standardized end of grade tests?

2. Does collaboration via web 2.0 tools translate into higher test scores on state generated end of year exams?

3. Can the use of online course materials provide curricular differentiation to various levels of student ability groups and in doing so translate into higher test scores on state generated end of year exams?

4. What effect does the digital divide have on lower socio-economic groups with limited access to computer use?

5. Does cultural legacies effect demographic groups posting certain content on social media sites?

Literature Review

Michael Wesch thought the creation of a platform for participation that allows students to realize and leverage the emerging media environment that students see as tools not just playful programs is an important change in perspective. Within the platform that Michael presents there is an element of collaborating embedded in his presented use of technology. Michael sets the traditional classroom in opposition to web 2.0 learning theories in that traditional classrooms are designed to be a setting where; to learn is to acquire something, information is scarce and hard to find, students should trust authority for good information, authorized information is beyond discussion, obey the authority and follow along. Michael continues his presentation with how the educational assumptions of the past no longer provide an adequate education today. Critique and evaluation of content needs to be a part of the new learning environment and student generated collective intelligence is the ultimate aim in the web 2.0 classroom. Micheal puts forth a multi step approach to using technology in the classroom. The first being creating a grand narrative to provide relevance and context of learning. In doing so it allows students and teachers to address semantic meaning within learning. This approach also creates a learning environment that values and allows leverage of the newly formed understanding to the learner themselves as this addresses the personal meaning in education and creates value in learning. In addressing both the semantic and personal aspects of education in a way that realizes and leverages the existing media environment Micheal envisions students who can leverage the existing media environment for their learning needs and by doing so making the educational experience more personal and valuable. (wesch)

In contrary to Micheal Weschs’ exploration of technology a significant segment of the education community is currently exploring the use of web 2.0 tools in classrooms as a part of inquiry based learning. Researchers do not anticipate students attaining gains which can be translated into significant achievement in student growth. Along with the ability for students to conduct purposeful searches educators may believe they are providing an enriched working environment for their students. In a technology and media rich environment students can instantly scan, clip notes, save and post anything they find will in mid search. Educators and students may begin to feel somewhat like an authority in certain disciplines; however, this perception is not what some research is telling us. The article “The web shatters focus, rewires brain” by Nicholas Carr, a note worthy Dartmouth and Harvard grad and author of numerous articles such as “Is Google Making us Stupid and his book “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” shares neurological research done by psychiatrist and author Gary Small detailing specifically brain area reaction while individuals conduct Internet searches. Dr. Small’s research in the area of mapping brain response in the prefrontal cortex as subjects interact with google based searches works by measuring the blood flow to certain areas of the brain. Although there is a lot of brain activity, as measured by Whole Brain MRI machines, this does not mean that more is better. The current explosion of digital technology is not only changing the way we live and communicate,” Small concluded, “but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains.” (Carr, 2010) Small contends that since the Internet allows us easy access to copious amounts of information and working through the vast reaches of cyberspace requires a different skill set. A skill set that tends to be more cursory and therefore turning its users into shallower thinkers. (Carr, 2010) Educators and students may be making new connections and it is important that research examines whether the new connections are beneficial to the learning process. As an educator contemplating in class use of technology this reading selection proved there is a need for further research on student achievement within web-based content inquiry.

A description of how data or artifacts are gathered
A quantitative approach to data gathering will be used to explore emerging trends in student achievement with a specific focus on increased standardized test scores in relation to time spent using social media or web 2.0 collaboration tools. The state generated Blue Diamond test is a system measure that shares similar attributes to the end of grade test being used as a year end measure. This test is given to all students and percentile comparison data is created that can be used to track student concept attainment in relation to state generated standard course of study. The data will be fed into the algorithm program that will compare student answers and provide a percentile comparison of each students concept attainment for the particular unit of study. Since the use of social media technology can be applied to an array of topics in the curriculum no one particular topic would provide more accurate data than another.
As student use of computers will be tracked at school using a daily log filled in by each student it is also important to gain an understanding as to computer use outside of the school setting. Surveys will be sent home to gather data on the availability of computers in students homes as this will allow researchers to assessing how often a student is on a social media site away from school. The more opportunities a student has to interact with the technology the more proficient they will become. In this case practice definitely makes perfect. The survey will include data gathering on time spent on the site, type of content added to the site, if the students main focus was image and/or video based, or if students were adding to the blog (written) section of the site. The variation in the content interaction is important as each require varying skill sets in visual, linguistic and critical thinking. Survey data can be interpreted through the use of graphs/data table comparing correlations between the survey data and test score achievement data gathered via the Blue Diamond assessments. A more in depth analysis of the data may include comparing the demographic subsets to the variations of content posted as to look for any trends between demographic groups and content interaction. The data may provide an insight into cultural legacies that draw particular demographic groups to post a particular content type and allows researchers to examine levels of content familiarity gained by various demographic subsets of the study.
When a study is designed to determine whether one or more variables of a program or treatment variable has a measurable cause and/or affect there may be one or more outcome variables (Smith, 2009). For this study I would focus on comparing the students in two similar classroom settings based on their ability groupings and achievement scores. In this research project the unit to be studied would be the individual child as you are able to generate test scores for each student. There would be an associated focus on the demographic group scores as an aggregate of classroom climate as a means to look at the whole picture. One must account for the variance of teacher approach to facilitating content delivery.

The time frame for the research would need to be long term. In using a longitudinal study that would take place over at least one school year this would allow the tracking of students through several topics as well as multiple variances of the Blue Diamond assessment. However, if time permitted a study over the course of the three years of middle would provide more complete data sets and therefore provide a more accurate measure of the impact social media use has on student achievement and raising standardized test scores. In utilizing a longitudinal approach for this study we have at least two waves of measurement. The first focus for measurement would be to examine the relationship within the variables being studied. In this project the relationship between the use of social media and student academic growth. The second wave of measurement would be in examining the causal focus. Looking at causality would allow the examination of the relationship between the event, use of social media and a second event, the achievement of higher standardized test scores, where the second event would be examined as a consequence of the first.

Within the data gathered one could look for a positive relationships emerging among the selected subject pools. In a positive relationship high values on one variable are associated with high values on the other. In this research the high value placed on gathering data on the effects of social media is correlated to the use of standardized test score data as both contain potential measures of student concept attainment. However, researchers may find a negative relationship connected to the data. A negative relationship implies that high values on one variable are associated with low values on the other. This is also sometimes termed an inverse relationship. In this study researchers may find more value being placed on the standardized test score data rather then the use of the social media as a means of increasing test scores.

Avoiding Fallacies
When conducting this research the research team must be aware of fallacies that may skew the results. The first such fallacy is an ecological fallacy where researchers make conclusions about individuals based only on the analyses of group data. For example one must be aware that a good class average on the standardized test does not translate into a broad finding of all individual students gaining an advantage from the use of social media. Secondly researchers need to acknowledge the exception fallacy. Exception fallacy occurs when a researcher makes a conclusion on the basis of an exceptional case. In the study of using social media to increase test scores there may be some outliers of exceptional gains in student test scores however, that may not be correlated to the use of technology as the student may have prior knowledge that skewed the results.

Variables to be considered:

Student groups to be explored: Black, Hispanic, White, Asian and other with both males and females in previously cited demographic categories. This allows a broader cross section of the student population to be explored with focus on the cultural legacies, which may effect research data. In examining the various demographic groups a more focused consideration can be given to the digital divide and its effect within the scope of this study. Also in an effort to avoid omitted variable bias in the research, researchers should look at the teacher effective index as data permits from the school districts Evaluation and Research site to explore various classroom teachers pedagogical approach in order to factor in its effect on the research data.

Research framework the experimental narrative
In this section, if I was to actually proceed with the research one would find the real world research examples of the process of answering the main focus being an examination of the impact of the current use of social media (web 2.0 technology) in a 7th grade middle school science classroom and its impact on Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals.

Included in this section would also be a description of the actual process of gathering the data including survey results, examples of student work, and snap shots of the summative assessments used to measure student growth. Along with the data I would include the data tables which highlight the correlated data sets from the research.
Provide evidence from research
In this section I would begin to discuss the emerging evidence from the gathered data in support of the research hypothesis. I would also tie into my research related research done in this field. In showing the parallel findings from various studies and my own I would hope to establish credibility through correlating the results from the various studies.
Conclusion and reflection of research
In the final section of reflection on the research performed I would seek to draw conclusions about the research and my findings. I would discuss the patterns in the data that work to support or refocus the original research question and examine the null hypothesis in relation to the data. In this section I would also discuss any unforeseen bias that may have emerged as a result of asking emerging questions from the literature review content. I would also explore ways to improve research in this field and offer suggestions for further research.
Acknowledgement of bias and precautions taken
I am a heavy user of technology in my own education so I believe there is value to the use of web 2.0 tools. I do see a cursory correlation of evidence that students do better in a classroom setting where they have access to computer use with a specific focus on standard course of study content. However, at this time my opinion comes without much tested data to support this belief. I am also cognizant of the digital divide separating segments of my demographic groupings allowing the more affluent students greater access to computer time out side of the school setting. In hoping to close the digital divide gap within the school setting I would set up class time in the computer lab at minimum of one day a week during the study to ensure at least a moderate level of balanced computer exposure. Although one day per week may not fully balance the digital divide inequality it would serve as a means to attempt a balance of computer exposure. Remember practice does make perfect.
End result
In this section I would draw a conclusion about whether the examination of the impact of the current use of social media (web 2.0 technology) in a 7th grade middle school science classroom has a positive impact on Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals in particular the summative state generated tests that measure student growth.

References
Carr, N. (2010, May 24). The web shatters focus, rewires brain. Retrieved from
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/05/ff_nicholas_carr/all/1

Ackoff, D., Greenberg, D., (2008, August 20). Knowledge at Wharton, Retrieved from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2032

Shuttleworth, Martyn (2009). How to Write a Hypothesis. Retrieved [October, 2010] from Experiment Resources:
http://www.experiment-resources.com/how-to-write-a-hypothesis.html

Smith, M. (2009). Common mistakes in using statistics: spotting and avoinding them. Retrieved from http://www.ma.utexas.edu/users/mks/statmistakes/Outcomevariables.html

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One comment on “Collaboration 2.0 Action Research

  1. […] Collaboration 2.0 Action Research « Slightly Shumay Collaboration 2.0 Action Research: http://t.co/ORnV59K (tags: via:packrati.us) […]

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