Digging Deeper into Research

While reading about the different genres of participation in Living and Learning in New Media, it was hard not to reflect on my own technology use. One of those genres, “hanging out,” describes the ways that teenagers are hanging out and how their use of technology helps them identify themselves in relation to their peers in regards to their likes and dislikes from music to gaming to style.  These teenagers were using multiple modes of digital technology at the same time and I find that I am almost as asynchronous as teenagers in their use.  Even at work, I’m using multiple mediums of digital technology for communicating such as chatting on Microsoft Teams with our tech department, messaging teachers on WeChat (the instant messaging platform most widely used in China), posting examples of student work to other teachers via seesaw, emailing teachers, and even answering my personal phone or the work phone.  Just like in the studies show; the adolescents hang out online as an extension of how they hang out offline.  I found the readings fascinating and confirms my feelings that while technology has changed the way in which we interact, it doesn’t lessen the quality of our communication and connections.

This is what my desk would look like.. if it was cleaner

What does our changing interactions via digital technology have to do with research? Well, our use of technology has changed dramatically and there are multiple mediums of connection with social media, texting, phone calls, and instant messaging but my mode of research is still pretty much “old school.”  I’m still reading books and googling for information but I don’t actively seek information in other ways.  Even the books I read are passively found.  They have been recommended by other teachers, professionals at conferences, highlighted within an email of an organization I subscribe to etc.  How can I use the ways that I’m already connected to find the information that I want?  One easy answer: asking or looking for it in the right places!  Teaching in a public school, we were told which programs we were using for reading, writing and math.  We were given training in the preferred models.  There wasn’t much choice in what we used and so research wasn’t something that I did on a consistent basis other than finding particular projects for different units.  However, that changed with the international school system where people would bring the programs they were familiar or liked with them.

One of the most important things about research is credibility.  In the UNICEF article Children in the Digital World, it mentions this is a key challenge for children in the digital world but it’s also the same for adults.  Even the president of the United States can’t stop talking about “fake news.”  However, with such things as Google Scholar, researching is becoming easier.  I’m hosting a parent workshop to discuss technology use and screen time with their children.  I wanted to find recent findings from reputable organizations and sources about the effects of screen time on children.  Using Google Scholar, I was able to find an article in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health in their August 2018 edition that discusses how children with developmental disabilities have less sleep when their screen times were greater.  On average, those children had an average of 2 hours and 53 minutes of screen time.  For every additional 9.17 minutes of screen time in a day, they lose one minute of sleep.  What I noticed when I originally typed in screen time for children, I received a wide variety of options.  There were articles about longitudinal behavior studies, self-esteem in adolescents and obesity and lack of physical activity.  I realized that I needed to be even more specific to what I was looking for.

This is what I imagine when I start researching… a research vortex

Sometimes in my job, I don’t need the studies but I need concrete answers to real life school problems.  For example, I’ve been trying to find an app for the iPad or computer that grade 3 students could use to make a timeline easily.  I’ve been looking at videos online and reading up about timeline apps.  Unfortunately, the videos are a few years old (which as we know in the digital world means not up to date) and the apps are unavailable in the Apple iTunes store.   Asking the Twitterverse could give me ideas of what’s available now.  What are real teachers doing in real classrooms NOW.  Ultimately this benefits my students the most.  They get to reap the reward of the most up to date information and resources. Even though I didn’t get an answer to my tweet – that shows me that maybe that app that I’m looking for doesn’t exist…yet.

In this particular field, research is essential because the information is changing rapidly.  Without the most up to date information, we are only making the job harder for ourselves.  With a digital tool like G Suite for Education and more specifically the explore tools within Google Docs; it’s only making research easier for us and for our students.  With one click, students are able to look up images, conduct research in the same window, and even adding citations.


2 thoughts on “Digging Deeper into Research

  1. There are a couple things that really resonated with me in your post, the least of which is the constant search for an awesome timeline creation tool for students! Everything I’ve ever tried is either too complex, or doesn’t include enough details. The best I’ve found is this timeline template that publishes a timeline from a Google Sheet. Likely a bit more complex than you’d want form a group of Grade 3 students. I’m also a big fan of just having the students create one in Keynote/Slides/Book Creator. I recently went to a workshop with Keri-Lee Beasley all about helping students to create meaningful visuals that added depth to their work that has me really excited about student designs.

    I also understand the struggle of trying to find research to provide guidance for parents on technology at home and screen time. One of the challenges of so much information being available is that there is a seemingly well-researched study that supports just about every possible opinion about tech usage at home. I am a big fan of the “Goldilocks” level that was referenced in the UNICEF report. We are having a “Coffee and Conversation” morning for parents next week at our school, with the aim of facilitating discussion among our elementary school parents about screen time and tech usage. One of the things we have noticed is that many parents are concerned or unsure of what guidelines they can or should set, and don’t have the confidence to set clear guidelines for their children because they don’t want to feel like the only parent that is setting those rules. We hope that we’ll be able to help parents find their own “Goldilocks” level that they are comfortable with, and reassure them that all parents are struggling with these same issues!

    Let us know how your parent workshop goes!

  2. When I was reading your post, a title of a book came to my mind “It’s complicated : the social lives of networked teens by Danah Boyd (You can read a review here: https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/download/3274/1252) , she analyses the impact of social media in teenagers ‘ live and how adults sometimes misunderstand them. There is a huge generational gap between parents and teenagers, I was born in 1970 and I have experienced the transition to the digital world and the eruption of social media. Most of the teenagers with access to all this digital era, they developed a connection with technology since they were born. I do agree with both of you about the support and guidance that parents required. I think there’s no magic key about the appropriate screen time for children and teenagers. Many times, I can see how parents also misused gadgets with their children to keep them busy. So, they can continue with their activities. My concern is related to ‘bedroom culture’ , it’s a bit isolated from the family and that relationship needs to be reinforced for their wellness. Parents also need to be guided about the advantages and disadvantages of online video games. As an example, Minaecraft is a game that develop coding skills. I think that our role as educators/tech specialists/ librarians is to support parents with sources of information related to this topics. We shall demystify social media, gaming and teenagers but also, encourage safety and respect for copyrights. Just to finish, one of my teachers’ at the university, just shared a document published by the British Parliament ‘Misinformation and Fake news: final report’ https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcumeds/1791/1791.pdf
    Worth reading!

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