Posts Tagged ‘AERA paper’

AERA paper written!

April 14th, 2010

So our AERA paper has been written (and submitted to the AERA online system). We’re pretty pleased with how it turned out, and of course we’re enormously grateful to all those who have been following the blog and providing thoughts, feedback, suggestions, and challenges along our thinking journey. We’re looking forward to presenting at the conference and getting some further feedback from our AERA colleagues.

In case any readers are going to be in Denver for AERA, here are the details of our presentation slot:

Shifting Thinking About Qualitative Research Methods: Conversations and Co-Construction From the Bottom of the Changing World

Unit: SIG-Qualitative Research
In Session Submission: Transnational Qualitative Research
Scheduled Time: Sun, May 2 – 2:15pm – 3:45pm,Building/Room: Colorado Convention Center / Room 109, 111, 113

If you ARE going to be at AERA, please get in touch as we’d love to meet up with you there!

Everyone else, after the conference we’ll let you know how you can get hold of a copy of the paper, if you are interested in reading it.

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Listening for the silences and absences

March 31st, 2010
Yesterday Jennifer and I met (in person, wow!) to talk about our AERA paper. We’ve yet to start actually writing “the paper”, although we already have many pieces of writing that represent stepping stones towards it. As we said we’d do in our original research announcement, we’ve been blogging little micro-chunks of our data analysis and emerging thinking/questions along the way, hoping that some of our readers and shiftingthinking community members would respond with their own thoughts, responses, questions, challenges, reflections, arguments, anecdotes. We’ve already received a number of very insightful responses and Jennifer and I have really appreciated the additional ideas/perspectives you’ve offered. Soon we’ll decide how we’re going to weave all of these threads, ideas, and conversations together into a paper that bears a decent semblance to the paper plan we originally submitted to AERA last year.

Desert Oasis (c) Rachel Bolstad, 2007

(I actually think we’re pretty close, but it reminds me of something someone once told me about writing a thesis: It’s like a mirage of a desert oasis – the closer you get, the further away it seems….)!! 

Yesterday when we were talking about the exchanges and dialogues between yourselves and us through the blogs and comments, we returned to that old question about who’s not commenting, who’s not participating in these conversations. To illustrate, in her last posting, dark and disruptive methodologies, Jennifer talked about some areas/questions that various of us (within our team of educational researchers) have found the most uneasy and unsettling when it comes to the purposes and implications of this shiftingthinking space (or as she phrased it, “the ways that blog spaces like this one could be a disruptive and potentially frightening innovation in the world of educational research”). 

Jennifer reflected yesterday that when these kinds of issues are raised in the blog, the people who tend to comment are often those who (perhaps like me) tend to take a fairly optimistic/confident stance, which goes something like this: “even if we don’t know for sure exactly what this new thinking and collaboration space will lead to, nor do we yet fully understand it’s implications (either positive, negative, or simply different) for the ways we think about education, learning, research, and so on, well, there are plenty of good theories and research to support the notion that we ought to be at least trying to work in this way, and as long as we keep thinking and talking about what we are doing, we’ll work the tricky things out together along the way, and this is all good learning, and unexpected things may emerge, and that’s all just part of it and it’s nothing to be too afraid of, and that’s just the way a learning community ought to operate”. 

Maurice and Mary’s recent comments also helped to pull us back from becoming overly stuck in a solipsistic “researcher” perspective. Commenting from their own positionings, their comments suggested pulling our focus back to the interactions within a community of learners/educators/researchers – as Maurice suggested “We probably could all learn from sharing narratives as explorations, not positioning ourselves as teachers, learners or researchers, but as all of these.” 

So - back to the conversation that Jennifer and I were having yesterday: We wondered, once again, what do the people who aren’t participating in this online conversation think? What arguments/critiques/theories/evidence is not being presented within our ongoing learning conversation? As researchers we’re used to the idea that the voices we don’t hear are usually the ones that have something different to say. I’ve long been very interested in the silences and absences in this blog/community (longtime readers might remember some of my earlier postings about lurkers). It seems there all kinds of reasons why people don’t comment/participate. Some of the most common ones, I think, include: 

  • I don’t visit shiftingthinking, or don’t check it regularly.
  • I’m not interested in the discussions/ideas here.
  • Blogging is a waste of time. Doing things on the Internet is not real work.
  • I’m too busy/I don’t have enough time (either to read the blog, or to respond to the blog)
  • I can’t see the purpose, I need a more relevant purpose for participating in this site.
  • I like reading the blog but I’m not interested in responding to it.
  • I would like to say something, but don’t quite know how to say it (i.e. composing a response is too hard or time-consuming).
  • I would like to say something, but don’t feel it is worthy of posting (i.e. I don’t think my ideas are well-enough expressed, or I am uncertain about my ideas, or I’m afraid that I might be criticized or held to account for the things I post, or I’d rather not share my ideas publicly at this stage because I haven’t thought them through fully enough).

There are probably other resaons, and for most of our silent/absent friends and colleagues, a combination of these reasons are probably at play. I’m also not saying that everyone has to participate, and I’m certainly not having a go at the lurkers (honest, I still love you, lurkers!). I’m completely aware that it does take time and thought to put together something in writing – much more than, say, participating in a discussion with us at a conference – and that just seems to be part of the territory of this particular medium.  And I can also [grudgingly] accept the fact that perhaps the topics and threads on this blog might not be of interest to that many people in the world! 

Still, we’ve had many occasions where people have chosen to email us, or talk to us at conferences or in the kitchen or tearoom about something from the ShiftingThinking site, rather than posting their thoughts on the site. I can imagine lots of perfectly good reasons why people would opt to take their conversations with us into these more “private” spaces rather than the truly public space of 

However, it is useful (and important) for us to notice the silences and absences here, and we can’t help but speculate as to what those silent and absent voices and perspectives might say in reference to some of the challenging questions and tensions we’ve been discussing?

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Shiftingthinking or Lolcats?

March 25th, 2010

Spoiler: Although this posting discusses LOST and Lolcats, it is actually deep and meaningful, and you will be rewarded with an interesting 16-minute videoclip, so stick with it!

Given the rather serious intentions of this website, I think it’s amusing that some of the most commented-on-and-revisited postings have been our various “Shakespeare or LOST?” conversations. Much of this conversation has been driven by three of us at NZCER (myself, Jim, and David) and we clearly each have quite different perspectives on LOST as either a literary text, a source of cognitive engagement, and/or a social/cultural phenomenon. (If you haven’t been following this debate and want to catch up, I suggest you start by reading this comment, then this posting and associated comments, and finally this posting).

While I’ve enjoyed these debates, does such a thread really belong on this website? Aren’t we supposed to be discussing more deep and meaningful ideas about how to transform education for the 21st century? What purpose, exactly, are the blogpostings and discussion threads on this website supposed to serve, and does an ongoing discussion about the television show LOST take us any closer to achieving our desired purpose?

I’ve been thinking about these questions a lot lately due to the AERA paper that Jennifer and I are currently writing. We’ve been looking to ourselves, our colleagues, and anyone out there in the shiftingthinking community to help us pin down some answers. What I’m coming to realise – particularly through writing Shifting Thinking: The Making of (Part 1) and (Part 2) - is that in one sense, we have (and have always had) a pretty clear idea of what we’re trying to do, and our big-picture intentions around this project/website have been pretty consistent. Yet in another way, we really don’t know exactly where we’re heading, or what might it might look like when we get there, and what else unexpected might emerge along the way. On good days, I find this idea very exciting and inspiring. On bad days, it’s scary and confusing. I’m sure this is something that school leaders, staff, and communities experience when they are undergoing some kind of long-term transformational process! (See Jennifer’s recent posting entitled wondering what’s next )

For me, one of the most interesting possibilities of shiftingthinking is the invitation it extends to you (all of you out there) to participate in, and contribute to shaping, this *thing*, *idea*, this *change* that we’re trying to create. It’s not entirely directionless, and there are some well-thought out, deeply anchored theoretical arguments that underpin our intentions. Thus far our “invitation to participate” is, you might say, a bit limited, because for the most part we are seeking your engagement with us in the form of an online, written conversation through blogs and comments around ideas/threads that we think are worth discussing (don’t forget though, if you have a webcam you can also add video comments to any posting!). We extended this invitation to participate a bit further with the 2009 shiftingthinking conference – where some of you came together with us to go on a two-day journey through some of the most challenging ideas for 21st century education. We asked you to take on some responsibility for shaping the conference, by choosing the dilemmas and tensions that hooked you in the most, and collaborating with us and each other to seek new ways to think about these questions, and new ways to think about changing ourselves and our environments in order to reframe today’s challenges into tomorrow’s new possibilities.

But….are we getting anywhere yet?

With all these thoughts in mind, last week someone I follow on Twitter posted a link to the Clay Shirky video below, which helped  to put all these things into a context that makes sense to me. (I’m a fan – having mentioned Clay Shirky’s book, Here comes everybody, a number of times on this website). In this video clip, Shirky talks about something he refers to as a society’s “cognitive surplus”. Loosely, he seems to mean all the extra cognitive power in a society that isn’t being taken up by our obligations to our existing social institutions (like our work, our schooling, etc). Another way to describe it is “free time”, but measured in terms of thinking capacity. He goes on to discuss the critical technologies in the 19th, 20th, and 21st century that have either sought to absorb/mask/dissipate that cognitive surplus, or those which have actually provided an opportunity to channel that cognitive surplus into something interesting. Rather than me paraphrasing, I now invite you to watch the clip:

There’s plenty of interesting ideas to discuss here, but the point that really sticks out for me is when he says the following:

The interesting thing about a surplus is that at the beginning, you don’t know what to do with it at first. You can’t. Because if you knew what to do with a surplus, with reference to the existing social institutions, it wouldn’t be a surplus would it? It’s precisely when no-one has any idea how to deploy something, until people start experimenting with it and finding new ways of using this, that the surplus gets integrated and in the course of this, transforms society. (Clay Shirky, 2008, Web 2.0 Expo, San Francisco April 22-25)

All this helps me place my/your/our engagement with each other, and with ideas, on shiftingthinking into context. As a huge fan and participant in the social media universe, I’ll be the first to admit that I frequently take up, with glee, the “invitation to participate” that’s offered to me by various social media – Twitter, Facebook, the LOSTpedia, and yes, even Lolcats. But I’m really happy that I can use at least a little bit of my “cognitive surplus” here, with you, on shiftingthinking, where the invitation to participate offers at least some hope of generating an outcome that matters. Even if we don’t know exactly how to get there – yet – I’m inspired to stick with it. Are you?

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