Colin's Sandbox

Happy #seaccr Festivus!

by on Nov.27, 2013, under #seaccr

Research Paper Now Available!

Better late than never, my recent (and overdue) #seaccr paper, “Helping Teachers Learn With Apple iPads in Rural Alaska” is now available via my Dropbox.


I go over in 1000′ detail the process in a Prezi presentation using Screenflow to add the audio overdubbing and some video / audio effects.

So – Now that I’m Done With The Class – What is Action Research?

The hardest part in this project has been the communication aspect as well as the proximity to the work.  I am not physically near any of the participants, nor have I met any of them face-to-face, making me a researcher at distance.  Then it dawned on me: action research requires ACTION by the RESEARCHer; it is not enough to advise some others’ actions through your research as the project continues through your findings.  Without an explicit spelling out of the role of the researcher early on in the process, and some sort of familiarity between yourself and the various participants, the humble researcher-at-a-distance is setting themselves up for frustration and lack of engagement.

The Wheel of Action Research

Let’s view the wheel of Action Research a minute.  The scope of this particular study was small, but at least one trip through these four main stages is required to complete the study.

I view the initial email exchanges as the initial starting point to my knowledge of the process.  The subsequent journey through the literature review process brings categories to light and sets this wheel in motion.  I would think that in a “real” study, you modify the process to look more like this:

Notes Concerning the Literature Review Process

I found the traditional means of searching through articles in the various journal searches to be tedious.  Either that or I’m just accustomed to having search results displayed quicker and the information I want available within a split second.  I got help from my classmates who were working on a similar project and then I spent some time rediscovering Google Scholar.  For an initial run through of articles I love how quick I can find snippets, abstracts, and full papers out there (some available free of charge), and if something looked promising only then would I dive through the library search means.

Going through Google Scholar allowed me to use Diigo to manage some of the initially promising results, and then when I focused on a smaller set of resources I relied heavily on Dropbox to make the articles available on my phone or iPad for later reading.

Getting a Jump on Categorization and Data Analysis

It is at this early stage of the process that I should have had established categories and workflows for analyzing data that was already present, such as the email exchanges between the trainer and myself.  This would assist highlighting areas of interest, identifying where the bulk of time spent planning is consumed, etc., and guided future inquiries into literature and planning with district administration.  This diagram explains this cycle best, except that I believe that data collection in a study such as this can be occurring at different, simultaneous stages of the cycle and thrown into the data analysis grinder.

Organization and Coding Strategies

It may seem a little tedious but I ended up using Google Docs to go through and write comments and code up categories for specific sections of the emailed correspondence.  The next time I go through this process I’ll explore different options, such as a hybrid Evernote / Google Docs system, putting the URLs to separate email threads as individual notes within the Evernote system, utilizing the tagging feature and marking additional notes / snippets.  Compared to the feature sets of the big players in the market, QSR International (nVivo 10) and Atlas.ti, for example, the tagging features don’t compare very favorably to the coding features offered in those commercial packages (costing roughly $100-$120 per student license).  The Coding Analysis Toolkit (CAT), an open source offering, looks to have somewhat of a steep intro, with a hefty 7 page quickstart.  [Looking for suggestions here]


I should have made heavier use of something like Google Calendar to remind me of when to send out surveys, milestones, etc., in addition to the events for things such as meetings and the teleconference.  That may help in keeping me focused on the study even though there was a lot more going on in my job than just that.


Next time seek many alternatives.  Get a better jump on data analysis.  Know the toolchain better. Run ideas by a few different devil’s advocates. Most importantly, make sure you’re in a position to do action before approaching the work as an “action research” study.

2 Comments for this entry

  • colin osterhout

    Thanks Tiffany! Much appreciated.

  • Tiffany Pickrell

    This was great! I really appreciated how your video’s goofiness spoke my language. It helps keep one engaged! Looks like your action research did what it was supposed to. And even though we set out for the ideal situation– life happens, right? Thank you for putting in the hard work… and copyrighting. I know I was there for that class, but I forgot what I’m supposed to put down.

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