Tag Archive | case study

Glow Wikis, ePortfolios and Longevity

At time of writing my case study, I decided not to dictate how the children should use their individual blogs. During the research period, I contacted Jackie Marsh  – and she agreed (I gained permission at the time to quote her):

“I have had a look at the blogs and they are great! I like the way you are
letting the children drive the use of the blogs, that is so important if they
are going to be successful. “

She also mentioned how we were using them on a post on her own blog at the time :

“I am speaking at the BFI ‘Reading on Screen’ conference for teachers tomorrow and although my main aim is to report on the evaluation of the very successful BFI ‘Lead Practioners Project’, I do want to highlight the potential that blogs have for disseminating children’s film productions and facilitating their peers’ critical comments on the films. I was contacted a few weeks ago by Margaret Vass, who is a Primary 7 class teacher at Carronshore Primary School, Falkirk. She told me about the excellent blog she has set up for the children in her class – I really like the children’s ‘WeeMees‘ and love the Voki posting developed by Bethany…blog on, Carronshore Primary 7!”

Bethany’s Voki on edublogs blog is missing now – what a shame 🙁

At the time, all of the Primary 7’s interviewed their parents so that they could write about their early years (as part of an autobiography).

Luckily I can still access the Vokis. Bethany’s is here:


Issues of this sort of thing happening have been discussed on this blog previously.

I still remember the unfortunate incident that led to the decision to transfer the children’s blogs from learnerblogs to edublogs. Edublogs chose to have all new blogs, including pupil blogs, hosted at edublogs. It was made clear that all existing learnerblogs could, if chosen, remain where they were. Around the time of this announcement, however, spam comments began to appear on a few of the children’s blogs. Email alerts usually ensured that these were deleted promptly. On one particular occasion, though, one was noticed by a pupil in her comment moderation queue when she logged in to her blog. Unfortunately, it contained very inappropriate content.

It was a lot of work moving the children’s blogs from learnerblogs to edublogs …. and then edublogs let us down.

Recently I’ve  spent some time reflecting on the journey to give children a more stable online environment and I revisited this post and a thought-provoking comment from David Gilmour

“This is a good topic to debate, thanks for spending your Saturday night doing such a detailed post!

I’m really pleased that Marc got such a good audience for his writing.

Another aspect to this, which cropped up this week for us with the demise of Bubbleshare.com, is the longevity of Web 2.0 services. Inevitably there’s an element of risk in using these free services, and we’ve accepted that. For the schools involved, we’ve had a lot of useful learning – and fun – from it. The slideshows will vanish from the sites, but they’ve probably served their purpose and copies of the original images will still be on disk in the schools.

With portfolios that are needed long-term, though, we’ll need to be careful to take such risks into account.”

Now that I’ve finally set up some ePortfolios with the class I have now, I’m hoping that  Glow will provide the stability we’re after.

And if it doesn’t – at least we’ll be sure to back up all the files as using the new Glow Wikis means that there’s no need to host content elsewhere.

Check out Anna’s ePortfolio – hopefully it’s just the beginning 🙂

Literature Review No.1 …….


My ‘Review of the Literature’ bit of the Dissertation is due scarily soon! I’ve been saving links to my delicious account, and I’ve ‘copied and pasted’ relevant bits and pieces from various ones onto a wikispace ……… and from there on to a Word document where each ‘link’ has its own page (well, at least I’m familiar with the content now)! It’s surely just a simple matter of making a plan and placing each page into the correct section??

………….. The trouble is that I keep getting more and more ‘leads’ to new research and new articles. For example, when I first contacted Jackie Marsh, she very kindly sent me a copy of one of her publications. The quote below from her article has helped to allay any fears that I should be more prescriptive about the use of blogging with my own class. She wrote:

“More frequent opportunities for more open-ended explorations would be a useful addition to current pedagogical practices. Enabling children to create blogs based on their own interests and experiences, rather than linked to a classroom-based topic, might offer opportunities for children to create networks of peers interested in similar topics, thus offering valuable learning opportunities with regard to social networking software”

This idea was echoed in her email to me when she wrote:

“I like the way you are letting the children drive the use of the blogs, that is so important if they are going to be successful. An interesting area to explore would be gendered representations of identity, it strikes me just from the pictures the children
have used!”

There’s always the temptation to be seen to ‘lead’ the learning … but I’m glad now that I’ve resisted 🙂

As I read through Jackie’s paper, I noted that she’d worked with Victoria Carrington. I ‘googled’ Victoria and decided to send her an email. She’s kindly allowed me to share her advice here. She wrote:

“I read your entry about the kids in your class and their preference for bebo. This corresponds with feedback from slightly older kids in the UK and here in Australia (13 and 14 year olds). they say they use bebo because it does more interesting things than myspace, but also because they have more personal control. they’re very wary of handing over any control. the other thing that is striking is that most of the kids i’ve come across (i have a small set of early adolescents i watch here in australia and one of my doctoral students is watching another group in the UK) is that the bebo accounts are pretty much an extension and intensification of social contacts they have offline. the online-offline movement seems very fluid.

Most of my own stuff in this area has been about out-of-school learning and use of text/literacy. i will be interested to hear how these things are translating into classroom practice – whether the use of co-existing online communities enhances and/or changes the offline context of your classroom; whether it shifts the ways in which you and your students conceptualize and operationalize curriculum; whether you find yourself changing the ways in which you teach and deliver curriculum; whether a school-sourced online community will have the same features and adoption as one created by the kids outside school. will be really interesting.”

All of this is going to be so helpful for my dissertation ‘write-up’. It’s great to get personal feedback. When I contacted Jackie and Victoria, I had no idea that they both had Blogs ….. and unfortunately, instead of getting on with my Literature Review write up, I’ve been reading them!

………… However, I did find a great link today on one of Jackie’s posts and I’ll definately be quoting from this research.

Ok ….. I’m off now to reduce my 17,874 word count to the 8000 limit for this section of the dissertation. I need that plan (and I need it quickly!)

Methodology Questions …. Even More Thoughts?


  Elements of a Case Study:
•Rich, vivid and holistic description (‘thick description’) and portrayal of events, contexts and situations through the eyes of participants (including the researcher) …. all involved: me,  pupils (both in my own school and other schools e.g. Australian ‘AllStars’),  parents and other adults who comment
•Contexts are temporal, physical, organizational, institutional, interpersonal … describes the blogs well?
•Chronological narrative –  definately ‘fits’ well
•tell the story – also fits well with what I want to do 

The Course Textbook, however, reminds us that there are also Problems with Case Studies (my thoughts on how to overcome these problems are in ‘blue’) 

  • Organisation difficulties (hopefully this won’t be too much of a problem because of RSS feeds to enable tracking posts)
  • Limited generalisability (because of the nature of the study, I hope to identify general trends e.g. gender issues if applicable … but only within this particular group of pupils. No claim will be made that the same effect would happen with a different set of pupils in another class situation)
  • Problems of cross-checking (using a variety of data gathering techniques should address the ‘cross-checking’ issue)
  • Risk of bias, selectivity and subjectivity (I have asked the depute head in school to meet regularly to discuss the research. She is very skeptical about the use of blogging and admits that she sees no difference between what I’m doing and allowing the pupils to freely use other social networks such as ‘My Space’ or ‘Bebo’. We have a good working relationship generally, so it won’t be perceived as a ‘threatening situation’ J. Kim P, a teacher from Sidney, whose pupils also blog, has agreed to be my ‘critical friend’ during the research period. Some of our pupils communicate with each other regularly through their blogs)

 Data Gathering Techniques used in Case Studies:

  • Observations (structured to unstructured) (regular RSS feed checks in order to observe who is posting, commenting)
  • Field notes (what is being said? Are the comments building on what’s been posted, or are they written in ‘isolation’ – e.g. Hi, how are you doing? Type of comment)
  • Interviews (structured to unstructured) (necessary, in order to establish that my view of what I’m reading is correct. Informal interviews can be held in class, formal interviews will ensure anonymity if required and will be useful for gathering data from pupils in Australia via teacher e-mail)
  • Documents (?….)
  • Numbers (although mainly a ‘qualitative’ study, some numbers will be included ….  explanation to follow!)


This will be used to ensure that I don’t ‘just see what I’m looking for’. Discussing my perception of events with my ‘skeptical colleague’ (depute head) and my ‘critical friend’ (Kim P from Australia ) will be one way of ‘keeping my feet on the ground’.  There will also be data collected from a variety of sourcesand in a number of ways over time in order that information gathered can be compared and contrasted. This should ensure enough information can be made available in order to answer the research question.

Stages in a Case Study:

  • Start with a wide field of focus ( I will look closely at the ‘big picture’. Who is posting and commenting? Who are receiving comments and from whom? What is being said in posts and comments?)

·        Progressive focusing (a closer look at comments in order to establish any formal / informal learning taking place. Distribution of questionnaires. Holding of formal and informal interviews in order to verify my interpretation of events)

  • Draft interpretation/report (avoid generalizing too early). (on-going discussions with skeptical friend / critical friend)

Research Methodologies ….. It’s Beginning to Dawn?

What’s the main methodology of the research?

I’ve been reading about the different methodologies, and here’s where I’m at so far.

These ‘Blue Sky’ font thoughts are mine …… all other ideas are taken  from the main course textbook or the companion website

Will it be ….

A survey?
An experiment?
An in-depth ethnography??
Action research?
Case study research?
Testing and assessment?
………. or what?  🙂

I’ve chosen a  ‘case study’ …  because it’s:

•a unique instance designed to illustrate a more general principle …. an (on-line) learning community (community of practice??). There’s plenty of  info. out there about this ‘general principle’
•the study of an instance in action  – pupils have ‘ownership’ and how they use that ‘ownership’ can be studied
•the study of an evolving situation – bloggs are ‘going somewhere’ … diaries/learning logs?
•the portrayal of  ‘what it’s like’ to be in a particular situation – ‘real’ accounts of ‘real’  pupils’ thoughts

 Elements of a Case Study:
•Rich, vivid and holistic description (‘thick description’) and portrayal of events, contexts and situations through the eyes of participants (including the researcher) …. all involved: me,  pupils (both in my own school and other schools e.g. Australian ‘AllStars’),  parents and other adults who comment
•Contexts are temporal, physical, organizational, institutional, interpersonal … describes the blogs well?
•Chronological narrative –  definately ‘fits’ well
•tell the story – also fits well with what I want to do

Strengths Of Case Studies
Can establish cause and effect;
Rooted in real contexts;
Regard context as determinant of behaviour;
The whole is more than the sum of the parts (holism);
Strong on reality;
Recognize and accept complexity,uniqueness and unpredictability;
Lead to action (link to action research);
Can focus on critical incidents;
Written in accessible style and are immediately intelligible;
Practicable (can be done by a single researcher);
Can permit generalizations and application to similar situations;


Problems With Case Studies
Difficult to organize;
Problems of cross-checking;
Risk of bias, selectivity and subjectivity; 

Points to note from elsewhere on the website ….. just to keep me on my toes 🙂

Validity in qualitative research often concerns: honesty, richness, authenticity, depth, scope, subjectivity, strength of feeling, catching uniqueness, idiographic statements.   

Reliability in qualitative research often concerns: accuracy, fairness, dependability, comprehensiveness, respondent validation, ‘checkability’, empathy, uniqueness, explanatory and descriptive potential, confirmability.

Next post concerns: 

Data In Case Studies:
Observations (structured to unstructured);
Field notes;
Interviews (structured to unstructured);

Theory (interpretive paradigms/lenses).  

Stages In Case Studies:
Start with a wide field of focus;
Progressive focusing;
Draft interpretation/report (avoid generalizing too early).        

Lots more thinking to do before before that sun rises 🙂


Blog Changes

The survey results mentioned in the previous post prompted me to look for alternative blogging tools for those pupils whose frustration at not being able to master the codes for wordpress was affecting their motivation to blog. I used Blogger before migrating to edublogs (I still use it occasionally to experiment with posts for the class blog). In many ways, it’s much more user friendly and when I demonstrated this to the pupils, there were actual shouts of, ‘Hooray!’

Everyone now has a new ‘blogger blog’ and will have the choice of whether or not to stay with their learner blog or move everything over like Adam has begun to do. Adam is clearly delighted with his new ‘easier to use’ blog (and has admitted to being one of those who chose no.1 in the ‘blog popularity’ survey question).

I’ve also been reading how Conrad Glogowski, mentioned in a previous post, encourages his pupils to ‘grow a blog’. I really like this idea and have been wodering if I can adapt his worksheet to suit my own pupils’ needs.

Meanwhile, I need to come up with a more refined research question ….. and clearer aims. Lots of thinking to do!

Research Justification

I’ve been re-visiting an essay written for a recent charter teacher ‘E-Learning’ module (ouch .. it hurt bringing back the horrible memories of actually puting it all together!). Thinking from that module led me to want to research the area further, so I’ve picked out just a few of the points made during the essay:

  • A recent HMI Report on Improving Scottish Education includes a section on ‘ICT in Learning and Teaching’ (2007). In the introduction to that report, Graham Donaldson (HM Senior Chief Inspector of Education) states that :

Information and communications technology (ICT) has transformed the means by which we inform ourselves, remain up to date with world event and areas of personal interest, and further our learning. For many, books and journals are no longer the first or primary source of information or learning. We now regularly rely on images, video, animations and sound to acquire information and to learn. Increased and improved access to the internet has accelerated this phenomenon. We now acquire and access information in ways fundamentally different from the pre-ICT era. The findings outlined in this report confirm that Scotland is well placed to build on current strengths in order to realise the full potential of ICT to improve learning and achievement. The challenge is to make that happen.

Feedback from teachers shows that pupils are generally more eager to take part as they use ICT equipment to engage with learning.

  • In The Paper, ‘A Digitally Driven Curriculum’ by Buckingham and McFarlane (2001-sorry I can’t find a direct link to this!) remind that today’s children know much more than the majority of adults and that schools need to engage with, and build upon the new kinds of informal learning that are developing around these media.
  • Many pupils are using sites such as ‘My Space’, ‘Beebo’, and MSN. Maybe we need to monopolise on the online communication skills already being developed in the pupils’ lives outside of school.
  • Blogs and wikis are not unlike the social network tools already being used …. can they be adapted to incorporate e-learning to occur successfully? A community of learners?
  • Etienne Wenger who, along with Jean Lave, coined the term ‘Community of Practice’ . He believes that:

……..the school is not the privileged locus of learning. It is not a self-contained, closed world in which students acquire knowledge to be applied outside, but a part of a broader learning system. The class is not the primary learning event. It is life itself that is the main learning event.

  • Bob Godwin-Jones of Virginia Commonwealth University writes in ‘Emerging Technologies that blogs and wikis offer powerful opportunities for online collaboration for learners
  • Steve O’Hear wrote in The Guardian that:‘The web’s shift from a tool of reference to one of collaboration presents teachers with some rich opportunities for e-learning’

    He also writes that many believe that the web has entered a second phase where new services and software – collectively known as web 2.0 – are transforming the web from a predominantly “read only” medium to one where anyone can publish and share content and easily collaborate with others. He also explains that the “new” web is already having an impact in class, as teachers start exploring the potential of blogs, media-sharing services, and other social software, which, although not designed specifically for e-learning, can be used to empower students and create exciting new learning opportunities.

  • The next point is to do with motivation. The report by the Scottish Parliament Education Committee emphasises the need to introduce pupil centred learning and to cater for multiple learning styles. The new web 2 tools certainly cater for a variety of learning styles.

OK! I think it was worth the pain! Is that what I want to look at here … the ‘motivation’ factor? Maybe that’s the crucial thing – I need to try to make sure that they don’t lose interest because they see the use of blogs as less motivating than their own social on-line experiences.