Category Archives: Research

Top Tools for Supporting Dissertations

Last week we looked at tips for managing the dissertation advising process for online PhDs. This week, let’s look at a variety of tools for supporting the dissertation process.

Collecting and Formatting References

  • A reference manager. First and foremost, you absolutely must start using a  reference manager, if you haven’t already. While it takes a bit to set up, it will save you hours in the long run, making sure that all references are properly cited. The top tools are listed below. The Barnard Library has created a useful comparison of the three.
  • Tutorials. I created this collection of tutorials when I was starting my PhD. While the software specifics might have changed slightly over time, the principles of how to organize yourself for reference collection are still useful.
  • Smart use of Google Scholar. Have you noticed that if you’re on campus at your university, and you use Google Scholar, all the references link to databases subscribed to by your library? What if you’re off campus though? Here are a couple of tips.
    • Check your Google Scholar settings. Select your university’s library under Libraries.
    • Set it to automatically save to your reference software, such as EndNote while you’re there. This will provide a direct link to import in the GoogleScholar results, as shown below.
    • Collect references and PDFs as you work. Here’s a tutorial I did for my graduate social media class in the fall of 2015 on how to find the PDFs after doing a Google Scholar search. Be a good researcher, and don’t just read the abstracts! Read, collect, and cite the full article!

Note Taking

Next, it’s a good idea to create a habit of taking notes on your reading. It could be scribbles, bullet points, short bits. But be writing in your own words about your literature reading.

  • Evernote. I’m a huge Evernote fan. The point of Evernote is to clip EVERYTHING you might want to remember. Yyu can grab pictures, pieces of websites, snapshots of text that is then searchable, etc. You can search it at any time for whatever you need. It’s like having a second brain. My Evernote is a huge searchable collection bin – interesting articles, random thoughts I scribble down, results from SPSS with scribbled thinking, etc. Keeping a research notebook is a good habit to establish. It will help with your academic publishing as well. And dissertation advisors, you can use it to keep notes on the dissertations you’re supporting!
  • Blogging. I am one who likes to learn publicly. Depending on your audience and your dissertation topic, you may find this strategy helpful as well. This page has my collection of PhD blog posts – on my dissertation, my literature review, and other topics I studied. I have always found writing to learn helps cement new knowledge in my brain. Tools for blogging include:
  • Writing Daily. There are some interesting tools out there to help you get in the habit of writing daily. You should be generating text on a regular basis, even if it is draft thinking, prewriting, or outlining. If you don’t want to write publicly, like on a blog, another great option is 750Words. This tool motivates and tracks your regular writing habit. Wondering what to write daily? Try these tips for applying the 750-1000 words-a-day habit to your dissertation.


How are you keeping tabs on your topic or field? Here are some notifications you should have set up already:

  • Subscribing to journals. Almost every journal has a way to subscribe to the Table of Contents updates. Sign up for your favorites to keep tabs on the field. Read titles quickly, don’t get distracted!
  • Google Alerts. Did you know you can set up alerts to monitor the web, your reputation, your topic? Google Scholar has alerts also. Let the web come to you!
  • Academic social networks also provide alerts and notifications on topics and researchers:

Tracking Progress

How are you tracking your progress? One of my favorite books on writing is How to Write a Lot. One of the excellent suggestions there is to track your progress. Count:

  • Time spent writing
  • Words generated
  • Note the topic/task/project you were working on

Note how my spreadsheet for writing tracking looks:

Or, you can try one of many goal setting apps to track your progress. Set goals and track them.

What gets measured gets done!


Finally, a few tools for editing your writing:

  • Grammarly. This free grammar checker can assist you in creating academic prose.
  • TurnItIn. Find out from your university ed tech tool helpdesk how you can use TurnItIn to check your ability to cite your sources well. Or your university may provide resources in the dissertation preparation courses.
  • Color edits. Another of my favorite writing books is Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks. This book has an awesome section on using colors to edit your writing. I’ve found it incredibly helpful.

Your Turn

What would you add? Are there other tasks or components of the dissertation process that you use another tool to support? Do any of these tools also work for you? Please comment!

Shorter Time between Assignments for Success in Self-Paced Courses

As a follow-up to a study published earlier in 2016, I have another research article examining student behavior in self-paced courses…

See the out of sequence article for some background and previous work…

Do an Online Assignment Out of Sequence to Be More Successful

In this latest article, I looked at three measures of student delay behavior (is it delay or procrastination? That’s a whole field of study too!): 

  • the days between registration date and first date of assignment submission (Days to Start)
  • the average days between assignment submissions (Days between Assignments)
  • total days between registration and completion (Days to Complete)

Of these three, the average length of time between assignment submissions was found to be most useful to predict final letter grade and withdrawal. Students with shorter amounts of time between assignments were more likely to complete successfully.

Check out the full article online in the Distance Education journal.

While one could argue that an instructor is needed to keep students’ on pace, some of the students in this study did very well on keeping a regular pace. That self-regulation skill is critical for life, don’t you think? Good to learn and practice.

What do you think?

Do you think that learning analytics such as this, watching student behavior in an online course, is useful for predicting completion? useful for planning interventions for students not doing so well? Is it intrusive or useful? Should we try to find a threshold for success? If we did, what interventions might be appropriate? What questions does this result raise in your mind? Please comment.

Getting Professionally Published

Blogging the 2014 AECT International Convention.

Presenter: Donovan Walling

His latest book: Designing Learning for Tablet Classrooms

Understanding the publishing process is the key to getting published WHEN and WHERE you want to be published.

The Idea

  • Publishing is a futures game – you want to know what is going to be of interest and salable 1-2 years down the road. It’s going to take 1-2 years to get published.
  • Think about new topics; current topics; and enduring

Information Gathering

  • Expertise – what experience do you bring to the project? What education do you bring to the project? What credibility do you bring to the project? What do you bring to the table as an author? What can you write about from your personal knowledge base?
  • Interests – how does your vocation contribute to the project? What are you really interested in?
  • Market research – what is the marketplace for your project? Know the journals in your field. Those journals are your specific journals. What specific market best suits your project? Does your project match the market? Most journals have a set focus. Find where you fit in. Don’t try to plow new ground. Read the journals. Read a book or two from the publisher you’re aiming for. What type of writing style and scope does this publisher look for? This may change over time, so look at recent editions. What will the market accept? Tailor your efforts to what looks like that market.

Four Trends in Publishing

  • Accessibility. How to get information out quickly. Abstracts. Keywords. Epublishing. Anthologies.
  • Personalization. Writing used to be more impersonal; but now we want a face and anecdotes.
  • Distillation. Be succinct, focused, concise.
  • Find the niche that fits your project.

Emerging trends

  • Book as presenter/instructor support. If you aren’t prepared to hawk your own book, they don’t want you to publish.
  • Buying E-Content: buying a chapter, an article, a piece, a section. If people can buy a piece of the work, that changes how the work is structured. i.e. chapters may need an abstract and keywords.


If you do your research, you should know whether you will be published or not. Find out what the editor really wants.

  • Article for a general issue of a journal – no, don’t query
  • Article for a themed journal issue – maybe
  • Article for an anthology or encyclopedia – yes
  • Book idea – yes – that’s the only way to get in for a book
    • Book proposal: introduction, follow their template, synopsis of the proposed book, annotated outline, sample chapter – usually not chapter 1

Submission Basics

  • Follow publisher guidelines, read them carefully and double check
  • Most academic journals do not have professional staff; someone is doing it on the side to their regular work.
  • You can always withdraw a piece of the journal accepts it but doesn’t get around to actually publishing it.
  • Be a partner with the editor – suggest reviewers; respond thoughtfully to critiques, revise as they ask, proofread carefully.

Post Publication

  • Afterwards, there may be reviewers for a Book Review, etc.
  • Where possible, link speaking and consulting to the publication; conference sessions, etc.
  • Extend through electronic networking, twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Respond to your readers; engage in conversations around the work

Additional digital options: Electronic only; open source; self-publishing; website; blogging; be careful of vanity press concept

Think carefully why you want to be published…

His resources and PowerPoint are online at his site under Resources.

First Course Success: Using Data to Predict Program Success

This action research at USDLA 2014 was presented by Karen Ferguson & Renee Aitken from Northcentral University. They were looking at students’ first course success as a potential predictor for their overall program success. They are serving working adults, and they start a set of classes every Monday.

They took an interesting presentation approach by first having the audience discuss in small groups whether we thought the first course success could predict program success or not. In that discussion, other potential factors were suggested, including the important of how the student liked the teacher, how they liked the LMS, their completion of a previous course, etc. We also discussed what factors might influence attrition, including a non-responsive instructor, life factors, the amount of work/rigor, self-directed ability.

In their study, they looked at the student’s occupation, students’ grade in the Foundations in Graduate Studies course, their introduction to online and higher ed for adult students, and if that GPA might be a predictor of persistence.

This presentation was very interesting to me as we are looking at various variables for student successful completion of courses, with our greatest registrations from students who are filling in the gaps in their schedule or required general education courses.

Online Teaching and Learning: Community of Inquiry Research

Blogging another AREA session.

Chair: Norman Davis Vaughan, Mount Royal University

This session has six papers:

  • An Inquiry Into Relationships Between Demographic Factors and Teaching, Social, and Cognitive Presence Angela M. Gibson, American Public University System; Phil Ice, American Public University System; Rob Mitchell, American Public University System; Lori Kupczynski, Texas A&M University – Kingsville
  • Community of Inquiry and the Effects of Technology on Online Teaching and Learning Beth Rubin, DePaul University; Ron Fernandes, DePaul University; Maria D. Avgerinou, DePaul University
  • Using Design-Based Research and Iterative Course Redesign to Improve an Online Program Karen P. Swan, University of Illinois at Springfield; Emily Welch-Boles, University of Illinois at Springfield; Leonard Ray Bogle, University of Illinois at Springfield; Scott L. Day, University of Illinois at Springfield; Michael Lane, University of Illinois at Springfield; Daniel B. Matthews, University of Illinois at Springfield
  • Effect of Manipulating Teaching Presence on Students’ Perceptions of Community and Presence in Online Courses Melissa Kelly, National Louis University
  • Experiencing Synchronous Online Teaching and Learning: A Simultaneous Comparison With Face-to-Face Teaching for Engineering Students Elson S.Y. Szeto, The Hong Kong Institute of Education
  • The Contributions of On-Site Facilitators to Teaching Presence in a Blended Learning Environment Julie Thompson Keane, VIF International Education; Claire de la Varre, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; Matthew J. Irvin, University of South Carolina

An Inquiry Into Relationships Between Demographic Factors and Teaching, Social, and Cognitive Presence

  • American Public University has the 2nd largest population of online students (fully online, for profit, fully accredited)
  • The problem is attrition – and most studies look at attrition in brick and mortar institutions, not online.
  • For learning more about Community of Inquiry (three presences: social, cognitive, and teaching)
  • This study used 18 months of end of course survey data
  • Demographics were not significant for engagement (which is very much unlike the brick and mortar research
  • This study attempted to start setting up the literature for online learning to match what is available in for brick and mortar research on attrition
  • It’s not the military students either that make a difference
  • So now they think next they will look at other supports and teaching strategies that make a difference
  • Their courses are two months and they think that this is better for adult learners who might drop out in a traditional semester – because they can start again in another month; or in two months it’s less likely that
  • In the Q&A commenting, people suggested more qualitative research, that online makes it easier to deal with life crises, and that completion in the first course predicted success in the whole program.

Community of Inquiry and the Effects of Technology on Online Teaching and Learning

  • This study incorporated into the CoI model the effects of the learning management system (LMS).
  • CoI bits: Setting climate, selecting content, supporting discourse
  • All the actions that create the presences in CoI are computer mediated – usually in the LMS
  • Communication, the heart of CoI, is in the LMS
  • Affordances (1999 / 2008) – are what the tool lets you do (here’s more about that) (Rubin explained this by looking at chairs and doors – love that she’s using physical objects to explain this. just like I do with the idea of structure in online courses)
  • Faculty won’t use tools unless they are “durable” – last across semesters
  • Richard Clarke argues that the LMS doesn’t matter at all – it’s a truck. Rubin says that the LMS needs to make it easy for the teachers to use it
  • They say that the LMS affordances affect student satisfaction with the course
  • She talked about changing an LMS and that it cost $100,000 of man hours to switch to another LMS.
  • In this study they switched from Blackboard to D2L
  • Major finding: ease of communication was highly significant; easy to find things was also significant; ease of use wasn’t significant though
  • Older faculty had higher community of inquiry scores
  • Students care about the LMS and how easy it is to use

Using Design-Based Research and Iterative Course Redesign to Improve an Online Program

  • They are looking at CoI practically and using it to design courses.
  • A design experiment blends empirical research with the theory-based design of learning environments – akin to action research
  • They got baseline data – CoI survey results on courses; then they redesigned courses based on Quality Matters and CoI; and then looked at what results they found in changing to student learning
  • Quality Matters is an input model of learning; CoI looks at the process of learning
  • Quality Matters is a peer review; CoI looks at student perceptions
  • They collect baseline and outcomes data; review and make revisions; then survey again; then analyze and make revisions; etc. It’s a cycle of course improvement.
  • Some changes they made to courses based on survey feedback: instructor posted more often in discussion; more whole group activities to hep students get to know each other; more group activities;
  • They did this work with 4 courses – and the work goes over Fall of 09 through Spring 2012
  • The basic changes they did with QM was to add objectives to the course – and some of those made a difference in student outcomes for some courses. There’s a big jump in student outcomes after QM review and revision. But that also dropped the CoI scores, particularly for teacher presence. But over 5 or 6 semesters with improving the course on both measures – it seemed to improve student outcomes over the long term.
  • They give students a definition of the presences on the survey form, and also have students read an article about the CoI model so they understand what they are trying to do.
  • This data and improvement was done within one department.


Exploring Online Discussions

Blogging yet another AERA session.

Chair: Steven R. Terrell, Nova Southeastern University

There are five papers in this session:

  • Building a Taxonomy of “Listening” Behaviors in Online Discussions: Case Studies of High- and Low-Activity Students Alyssa F. Wise, Simon Fraser University; Ying-Ting Hsiao, Simon Fraser University; Farshid Marbouti, Simon Fraser University; Jennifer Speer, Simon Fraser University; Nishan Perera, Simon Fraser University
  • Instructor and Student Participation in Online Discussion Boards as Predictors of Student Outcomes Marlowe Mager, Haywood Community College; Steven Talmadge Heulett, Haywood Community College
  • Online Learner Self-Regulation: Learning Presence Viewed Through Quantitative Content and Social Network Analysis Peter Shea, University at Albany – SUNY; Suzanne Hayes, Empire State College – SUNY; Sedef Uzuner Smith, Indiana University of Pennsylvania; Jason Vickers, University at Albany – SUNY; Mary Gozza-Cohen, Marist College; Shou-Bang Jian, University at Albany – SUNY; Alexandra M Pickett, SUNY Learning Network; Jane Wilde, University at Albany – SUNY; Chi-Hua Tseng, Empire State College – SUNY
  • More Than Words: How the Structure of Online Discussions Impacts the Development of Learning Communities Lane W. Clarke, University of New England; Lenore Kinne, Northern Kentucky University
  • The Impact of Modeling and Staggered Participation in Video-Annotated Preservice Teacher Discussions Craig D. Howard, Indiana University – Bloomington

Building a Taxonomy of “Listening” Behaviors in Online Discussions: Case Studies of High- and Low-Activity Students

  • Focus on “attending to the ideas of others” – it’s critical to learning through discussion
  • Discussion is both listening and speaking – if we focus only on the speaking/writing that is seen in the discussion, we’re missing the listening part
  • Students can make choices on what messages to “listening”
  • This isn’t about lurking… it’s about “listening”, a behavior
  • Reading is very generic, and listening is different. Reading is static and written by one author usually. It’s written in segments – it’s different than reading. This is such an interesting and useful differentiation!
  • Dysfunctional discussion is like everyone shouting in a room
  • This is from the e-listening research project.
  • Taxonomy of participation proposed by Knowlton 2005; they’ve added to this concept some proposed listening behaviors happening in the participation type and description
  • The course had 20% of the grade on discussion –and they consider that to be a high level for an undergraduate course
  • They used data from what students are doing online: how long they read a post (scanning vs reading), how long they are logged in for a session; what they are doing online; they looked for differences in students and differences in their patterns of behavior
  • Question: I wonder what kind of studies are done on student behavior in face to face classes of how much time they spend on homework, reading etc. Is anyone curious about that too? Or are we mostly interested because we are trying to figure out how to do online learning well?
  • Listening types: Disregardful with minimal attention to other’s ideas; Preparatory – listening to prepare to contribute; Social – focusing on peer posts; Targeted focusing on instructor’s posts; Interactive – building on ideas; Reflective – where it’s dialogical and changing ideas; potentially thinking about adding Coverage – focusing on the content knowledge.
  • Big takeaway – more isn’t necessarily better in the discussion – more reading or more posting.
  • Thinking: Hmm. What does this mean? Does it mean instructors should change requirements? Certainly it’s good to think about what students are doing when they aren’t posting. How does this data help us think about what students are doing? As I start to think about how to train faculty to teach online… I can see that I have much to do and learn to explore my own thinking on online discussions and what others are thinking about it.

Instructor and Student Participation in Online Discussion Boards as Predictors of Student Outcomes

  • Discussion boards are ubiquitous in online learning –but instructors aren’t clear on what they want students to be gaining from the discussion. Hmm. What are the student outcomes I’m looking for in my technology integration classes? Need to think about that more. What do I expect faculty to expect to see in their online learning? Giving the federal requirements for “interaction” in online learning, what do we mean by that and what are we looking for?
  • In a previous study: Social posts by instructors were most likely to affect the students’ grade.; Low achieving students made more agree/disagree posts. ; Teachers varied in weighting of discussion from 10-25%.
  • This study looked at the behaviors of instructors and students in the discussion board and the students’ achievement in the course.
  • Collins & Burdge’s 1995 typology of instructor posts: Pedagogical, Social, Managerial and Technical.
  • Codes for students: social development from Cox & Cox 2008; and Critical thinking Slide went by too fast for me to catch this.
  • High achieving students did more posts with synthesis. This seems to fit well with the previous paper – and raises the question – how do we teach/nudge/encourage low achieving students to do more synthesis? What can help them know how to do that? I think it’s more than just nudging them…. Do they need it modeled / taught / scaffolded?

Online Learner Self-Regulation: Learning Presence Viewed Through Quantitative Content and Social Network Analysis

  • Community of Inquiry Model (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000) – teaching presence, social presence, cognitive presence
  • They want to add to this concept the idea of learning presence
  • When students self-regulate – self monitoring, self evaluation and self assessment – they do better. (John Hattie Visible Learning)
  • Learning presence is planning, strategizing and reflecting
  • In the study – the doctoral students were taking on the role of facilitation in the discussion
  • Social network analysis examines ties between participants or nodes and looks at who talk to who and how often
  • They looked at different ways to measure what effect having the student as a facilitator what that did to the learning
  • If self-regulation is so critical, how do we teach students to self-regulate??

More Than Words: How the Structure of Online Discussions Impacts the Development of Learning Communities

  • They compared online discussion boards vs. blogs.  Does the format have an impact on learning community?
  • How do you model in an online course the strategies P12 teachers should use in their teaching? Is it possible to model instructional strategies online for teachers to use in face to face teaching? Is this why some places don’t allow methods classes to be taught online? Still thinking here.
  • They wondered why everyone uses threaded discussions and what would happen if you did this some other way – such as with blogs.
  • Blogs had longer initial posts; and more responses, and longer word count for the responses.
  • Discussion had more back and forth dialogue; more on topic responses; more academic responses vs. personal responses.
  • Discussions had “school based talk” whereas the blogs were more like “podium talk”. Interesting to connect this back to the first paper where they were trying to tease out the listening behaviors. Blogs seem to fall even farther on the continuum for less listening and making connections with what other people said.
  • Students were much more satisfied with the learning and engagement with the blogs. The students really like the social conversations that happened on the blogs.
  • Discussion boards do a really good job at knowledge building community; whereas the blogs facilitated a community of practice. The blogs had more photos and videos also. The blogs facilitated a different type of discursive practice.
  • This study is really interesting. Does it mean then, that students want to KNOW each other – and the “extras” “non academic” conversation helped them feel connected to each other. In online discussions, how do they get to know each other?
  • In the Q&A afterwards, a statistician who teaches online pointed out that the blogs had more academic posts overall. Do people post more academic when they feel more connected to each other??

The Impact of Modeling and Staggered Participation in Video-Annotated Preservice Teacher Discussions

  • Imagetexts are artifacts where image and text come together to create new meanings neither of the two would have convened on their own (Kress 2001 and Preston 2010)
  • Collaborative Video Annotation. Students viewed the same teacher video, and then they posted comments on the video instruction – and their comments are right on top of the video.
  • I think they are doing this on YouTube with the annotation options.
  • Scaffolds: learners had to add one annotation. Then they had to go back and experience the annotations and add three more.
  • Another scaffold was that the instructor added “models: with experts discussion contributions that were placed in the video before the students came in to add their own annotations. (this modeled to the students how to do critical thinking posts)
  • Intellectual modesty – realizing that there is nothing else to add to the discussion
  • He had an assessment tool that pulled the annotations down into Excel (with a php script)
  • In comparing to control group of asynchronous discussion, the students created less posts with more words.
  • Thinking: While the video is cool – one of my take-away from this session is the idea of modeling where the instructor planted sample posts that were the type of responses he was looking for. This would be harder to do in an asynchronous discussion board – the YouTube video allowed for these posts to be added ahead of time. This partially answers my question of how to teach students how to do these kinds of discussion posts.
  • To sustain higher order thinking, students need help and scaffolding – and this annotated video discussion is a way to scaffold the task for students.
  • The full paper is online here.

Developing In-Service Teachers’ Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge

I chose this session because I’ve heard about TPACK but haven’t really learned what it is. This session had four papers on TPACK:

  • Supporting Adaptive Expertise for Teachers Through a Customized Graduate Degree Program Meghan McGlinn Manfra, North Carolina State University; Hiller A. Spires, North Carolina State University
  • Identifying Effective Pedagogical Approaches for Online Learning: Exploring Educators’ Experiences in a Graduate-Level Course Erica C. Boling, Rutgers University; Erica Michelle Holan, Rutgers University; Brent Horbatt, Rutgers University; Mary Hough, Rutgers University; Jennifer Jean-Louis, Rutgers University; Chesta Khurana, Rutgers University; Hindi L. Krinsky, Rutgers University; Christina Spiezio, Rutgers University
  • TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge) Development in an Online Masters Program: How Do Teacher Perceptions Align With Classroom Practice? Nancy Staus, Oregon State University; Henry Gillow-Wiles, Oregon State University; Margaret L. Niess, Oregon State University; Emily H. Van Zee, Oregon State University
  • Affordances of Digital Technologies for Practicing Teachers by Beth Bos, Texas State University-San Marcos

What is TPACK?

  • It stands for technological pedagogical content knowledge
  • It is a framework for using technology with curriculum
  • Teachers may struggle with theoretical frameworks – they want the practical
  • The intersection of technological, pedagogical and content knowledge is where the transformative learning occurs
  • Neiss, (someone there called her the founding mother of TPACK) was there. At the very end she talked about how the knowledge in the middle – the center of the TPACK graph – is actually different knowledge. It’s like a chemical change where what is created is actually different – not that you can separate out the pieces and identify them like some people are doing with TPACK. If that is the case, what are the characteristics of that transformed knowledge? What does that really mean?

Identifying Effective Pedagogical Approaches for Online Learning

  • Not innovative is “linear text-based format”
  • Cognitive apprenticeship model as a framework to think about teaching online – because it focuses on the LEARNING not the technology
  • The courses in the study focused on project based learning and discussion forums
  • The courses consisted of modeling and coaching – in the form of video interviews, guest speakers in the discussion area
  • Instructor modeled using tools such as Animoto making videos. Then the introductory videos were embedded into the discussion forum.
  • Project proposals went to both the instructor and the participants
  • Very specific rubrics for participants
  • Their course was in ThinkFinity in a private community; and then using tools all across the web no evidence of being in an LMS – so that’s interesting – like the digital storytelling course community ds106.
  • They used Screenr to do tutorials for the teachers; and then teachers in the class would make screencasts to show the progress on their projects. (Screenr is free for 5 minutes and very simple to use because teachers don’t have to download software.)
  • They had to do critiques of tools such as Prezi – sharing with screencasts  – I like this idea of critiquing tools – I’m not doing this in my online classes right now – but it ends up in the discussion area.
  • The importance of instructors giving modeling and prompting students to elaborate further and to dig deeper in their conversations

Take-aways: I need to help our faculty see how they can use video and screencasts in their online teaching; to push teachers harder in my own classes to critique and think more deeply about the use of technology.

TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge) Development in an Online Masters Program: How Do Teacher Perceptions Align With Classroom Practice?

  • Levels of TPACK: Recognizing (knowledge), accepting, adapting, exploring, and advancing (Niess, 2009)
  • This study looked at three teachers and their perceptions and classroom observations – and looked at how the teachers were using technology in their classrooms.

Questions Raised:

  • Is TPACK easier to do in some content areas than others? Thinking of the comparison of the math teachers vs. science teachers?
  • The presenter alluded to the tension among the three types of knowledge within TPACK. What is that and how does it work? Does trying a new technology drop teachers down to a lower level of implementation (thinking of Fullan’s work where the management of the new method is the main focus at the beginning of implementation)? Is it only the really technically comfortable teachers who can easily add a new technology and use it at a high level?

Affordances of Digital Technologies for Practicing

  • There’s a TPACK survey. I found this online but am not sure it’s the same one they are talking about.
  • The center of TPACK is the sweet spot – where all three types of knowledge interact.


Natalie B. Milman, The George Washington University

Interesting questions and comments from Natalie:

  • What are the best ways to study “effective online pedagogical practices”?
  • She has a bias for mixed methods – that when studying technology we need both types of data
  • How do you determine when to collect what and what to collect? And what are the ramifications of those choices?
  • She sounds like she’d be an amazing research coach – has really good process and research questions for each paper presented…
  • There’s a document called Standards for Reporting on Empirical Social Science Research in AERA Publications. A good guide for publications both at AERA and when submitting to journals also.
  • Why is TPACK important to study?  Is TPACK a theoretical or a conceptual framework? Is TPACK measurable?
  • The instruments were developed for pre-service teachers… should it be used for in-service teachers? The instrument hasn’t been validated for that other population.
  • Context is really important to share with the research study – what is the context of the study?
  • Koehler & Mishra, 2008 said that technology is a “wicked problem”.  How do we factor in those challenges as we design research on technology in the classroom?

I thoroughly enjoyed Natalie’s questions and want to learn more about her work, particularly her research and portfolio work.

Last Thoughts

Now that I’ve had a chance to link some resources to this post, I can see more of what TPACK is. I can see it fits well with my idea of teaching instructional strategies at the same time as teaching the technology tools. I attempty to do that in my latest Integrating Technology with Pathways classes. But what I’m missing in my work is the focus on the content knowledge. Hmm. I can see that I want to think about this much more.

Investigations of Wikis for Collaboration and Knowledge Building: Part 3

Educating With Social Media: Policy and Practice in British Columbia
Rachel F. Moll, Vancouver Island University; Julia Hengstler, Vancouver Island University

Emails: and

Google Presentation

They started with several data points that showed that social media is growing at multiple levels.

Complexity Thinking (Davis & Sumara, 2006) is the theoretical framework they used – they think that most work on social media doesn’t think deeply enough about what is so engaging about the connectedness of social media.

They have two studies in one paper.

Student use of social media included Facebook, videos (i.e. YouTube), online forums (i.e. Yahoo Answers), Google, and Wikipedia – in that order of frequency. Students use Facebook and chat clients to ask their face to face friends at school about assignments. High school students looked online for “the answer”; whereas postsecondary students were looking for resources as references for their higher level thinking assignments.  The students said that when teachers used social media, they didn’t use it in a way that allowed for collaboration among the students.

The other study was a case study surveying 27% of the staff at a school district in British Columbia looking at teachers knowledge, beliefs, and learning from a workshop on social media – finding that teachers need support to use social media appropriately in the classroom and how to work with the school policies and provincial laws. SD10 is following the Kent County UK model for teaching social media, and for further study, Hengstler will research further to see how that progresses and what can be learned from it.

In the discussion afterwards, the practitioner in the room started a conversation on how critical it is to create a social contract and understanding for how to behave online in social media, just like there is a social contract of how to behave in a classroom. Scaffolding is critical to help students learn how to behave well on social media.


My take away from the Friday set of sessions at AERA 2012 is that it’s so critical to scaffold, plan, and support learning to use technology in transformative ways. Otherwise, you have the same types of “following directions” or low level thinking activities that are common in schools anyway. The distribution graphs with 1-10% of high level activity presented in multiple sessions was thought provoking. What does it take to bring high level critical thinking and collaboration to all students?

Investigations of Wikis for Collaboration and Knowledge Building: Part 2

Where these sessions cover multiple papers, it seems that this might be more useful and readable for others to break it out by paper. So here’s the next paper from this session:

The Sequential Analysis of Individual versus Collaborative Writing Processes in Wikis
Presenter: Allan C. Jeong, Florida State University
CoAuthor: Patricia Anne Heeter, Florida State University

Problems with wikis – students are reluctant to edit each other’s work, just as Justin mentioned – the strong individual ownership of writing.

  • Can we define the collaborative writing process?
  • What processes identify individual vs. collaborative writing?

These conversations are making me think about my own collaborative writing. Collaborative blogging the 20 Days Challenges with Roxanne Glaser: it included collaborative brainstorming; shared posting on both of our blogs; some posts we wrote alone; some posts one of us would start, the other would come along and add to it, then someone would polish it up into a final document. It seems that the process of collaborative writing isn’t necessarily set in stone – and needs to be fluid and include back & forth editing and contribution over time.

This study generated a coding scheme and then coded wiki postings to analyze what type of editing happened on the wiki pages being analyzed.

Another learning for me from each of these sessions are the research methods. Dr. Jeong has over the last 10 years developed a Discussion Analysis Tool which is a software tool for analyzing discussion linearly or hierarchically.

Interestingly, given my reflection above, his data shows a pattern in the collaborative writing: first adding paragraphs, then a first round of edits, then a second round of edits. I didn’t catch the context of these wikis, which would be interesting to know as well. It seems to line up well with my own collaborative writing experience. 

In the Q&A, someone asked about people who draft things quickly, and those who are good editors. It’s a good question and interesting thing to think about when you consider what we might expect from students working on a wiki. What skills do we really want out of them??

Investigations of Wikis for Collaboration and Knowledge Building: Part 1

Investigations of Wikis for Collaboration and Knowledge Building: Part 1

Chair: Sara L. Dexter, University of Virginia

Here I am about to listen to another session, realizing that it’s mostly K12. Since I’ve just come from the K12 arena, it feels familiar. But I’m also curious if anyone is doing engaging things with wikis on the higher ed level also.

There are a couple other roundtable and poster sessions coming up on wikis that I hope to get to or find the paper for in the online repository:

  • The 4E (Establish, Extend, Elaborate, and Edit) Wiki Model: Facilitating Writing Development and Conceptual Understandings in a Technologically Relevant Way Jenifer Salter Thornton, The University of Texas – San Antonio
  • Effects of Structure in Wiki Templates on Holistic and Analytic Students’ Learning Outcomes and Knowledge Construction Patterns Ying Xie, Idaho State University
  • Leveraging Wiki Technology Support for Threaded Discussion to Facilitate Online Collaborative Knowledge Construction Andri Ioannou, Cyprus University of Technology; Agni Stylianou-Georgiou, University of Nicosia
  • Wikis as Collaborative Learning Tools in Higher Education: From Content Analyses of Wiki Behaviors to Instructional Practices Chun-Yi Lin, Indiana University – Bloomington; Hyunkyung Lee, Yonsei University

I am glad to see the emphasis on imposing some type of scaffolding or structure on the wiki to teach and encourage the desired collaborative behavior. Using a technology tool without some instructional goal, scaffolding, and planning usually results in disaster or at least less-than-desired learning outcomes.

Justin Reich from the Distributed Collaborative Learning Communities Project

Paper: Are Great Classroom Wikis Born or Made? Using Continuous-Time Data to Model Online Community Development
Presenter: Justin Fire Reich, Harvard University
Paper CoAuthors:
Richard J. Murnane, Harvard University; John B. Willett, Harvard University

Background, Research Questions, and Theoretical Frameworks

The data they are looking at are publicly accessible wikis with real-time data easily included.

Research questions include: What is good? How to measure wiki quality? How do wiki quality trajectories correlate with school level SES?

Interesting concept: “Quality would be a time varying quality over time.” The quality isn’t a single point but a trajectory.

Educational Researcher: The State of Wiki Usage in US Schools

The wikis studied range in median life from 6 days (low income schools) to 33 days (median-high income schools).

Theoretical debates in wikis and collaboration in IJCSCL  – Glassman and Kang (2011) – meaningful collaboration vs. Dohn (2009) – just posting in the same place.

If you put files in the same place, is that collaboration?

This is interesting because it comes back to – what is collaboration? What do we mean when we say collaboration? Makes me think of Mark Elliot’s work on Wikipedia and other massive collaboration. He differentiates between coordination, cooperation,and collaboration.

Data collection interesting details: They looked at 179,851 publicly viewable education related wikis on PBworks between 2005 and 2008. Wow!! BIG DATA research. Took a 1% research sample. 255 of the wikis they could identify what school and were able to correlate that to the SES data on that school.

Wiki Quality Instrument

The Wiki Quality Instrument has 24 dichotomous items (is it present) within five categories: information consumption, participation, expert thinking, complex communication/collaboration, new media literacy. The trained researches looked to see if that item exists or not on the wiki.

They looked for those 24 things on the wiki across time – 7 days into it; 14 days into it; etc. all the way up to 400 days. What a lot of work!!

What is Collaboration? Are Wikis Born or Made?

He shared several graphs and statistical details to show how they looked at the data to see if the wikis are born or made – and it seems their quality stays the same for most wikis. If they do grow in quality, it tends to be at the beginning  of the life of the wiki. In addition, the vast majority of wikis aren’t collaborative – they are teachers posting materials or students doing individual pages. Would that be coordination in Elliot’s taxonomy?

How They Start Predicts How They End

It’s incredibly important to impact the genesis of wiki projects – because how they start out tends to be how they interact the rest of the time. Also that how people first experience an online learning community is how they will continue to think that is what you do in that online learning community. This worries me quite a bit… I’m thinking of faculty who start using an LMS such as Moodle to put their syllabus online. Then they want to teach online, and think that all that means is to put “stuff” online vs. designing engaging interactive learning opportunities. This deserves more reflection and planning!

Justin’s second paper:

Just Posting in the Same Place? A Taxonomy of Collaborative Behaviors in U.S. K-12 Wikis Justin Fire Reich, Harvard University; Richard J. Murnane, Harvard University; John B. Willett, Harvard University

This study looked at one piece of the quality indicators:

  • information consumption
  • participation
  • expert thinking
  • complex communication/collaboration
  • new media literacy

This second paper looked closer at complex communication:

Complex Communication – Seven Kinds of Communication on Wikis

  • Concatenation –
  • Copyediting
  • Co-construction
  • Commenting
  • Discussion
  • Scheduling
  • Planning

90% of the wikis they looked at didn’t have an interaction where the students were working on the same page. Does working on the same page mean collaboration?

Ownership of Text

Students have incredibly strong individual ownership of text, which makes it very difficult for them to write collaboratively where the text is truly a combination of everyone. Hmm. Makes me think of a paper we’re working on for a conference next week – where it is currently in the stage where everyone wrote their section; but soon it needs to be massaged to be coherent across everyone.

High Level Collaboration

High level complex communication happens when ALL the other types of communication are happening. Interesting.

Informal co-creation projects also have these same graphs – 2% of projects have more than 10 developers. Clay Shirkey has similar graphs for contributions to Wikipedia and other mass collaboration projects. Is it really just standard human behavior that 20% of the people do 80% of the work?

Scaffolding and Assessment

Work is needed on how to develop strategies for scaffolding online student collaboration.

If a wiki rubric is looking for x number of paragraphs, x number of links, and x images; then the teacher is evaluating students’ ability to follow directions; not the high level 21st century learning skills the teachers might say is why they are using the wiki in the first place. Pretty strong message on thinking through assessment.

In the Q&A, an interesting discussion of what collaboration is and what quality is. Justin thinks that it’s really that two students have text on the same page. Someone questioned that though – could collaboration and quality be much broader than that? He agrees that their instrument misses much context. Another person added that another indicator might be how linking happens. Makes me think of Silvia Tolisano’s recent writing on hyperlinked writing. This may be another piece of wiki quality as well. A practitioner in the room asked, given all this, what is the point of using wikis in my classroom? Flat Classroom came up several times. Justin gave the example of southern all white students who are strongly anti-racist because of their participation in Flat Classroom. That is very powerful learning.