M.Ed. Blog Series: Research

This coming Saturday I will be defending my master’s portfolio and I wanted to share some of my hard work with others who won’t attend my defense.  We often spend so much time creating artifacts of our learning, whether it be a document, video, song, web page, etc., to only have it viewed by a relatively small number of people.  I wanted to do something different and share my work with as many people as possible, because I’ve worked hard over the last three years and have grown tremendously as an educator during that time.  So, every day (almost) this week I will post about my experiences and share my reflections, with the hope that some conversation can be created about what I’ve done over the last three years and keep our learning going well past my defense.  Tonight I’ll talk about my research portion of my portfolio.

Research was one of those things that didn’t seem to fit with me when I first started my master’s program.  I knew it was coming eventually in one of my courses, but I didn’t know what to think.  But after I went through the action research course I acquired a taste for research and have made it a part of my career.  For this portfolio, I used my action research project that examined homework completion and using a Facebook group.

As you probably can tell if you follow my blog, I have a passion for social networking software, so it only made sense to examine Facebook further.  I’m always advocating for the use of social networking software so it made sense to research one possibility.  The research was pretty basic.  I met with a teacher who I helped create a Facebook group and then a homework assignment was posted to the events section of the group every week.  I collected data through a group interview prior to the intervention and then observed any interactions online.  After the intervention students and teacher completed a survey.  Data was then coded and compiled to identify themes.

What I found were three big themes.  The first finding was around how students used Facebook.  Most students had a Facebook account and used it regularly.  Only some students had used a group before, mostly to interact with others who had similar interests.  Students were open to the idea of using Facebook in class, but there were a few that had concerns about using technology, because it was another thing they had to learn, which is why I wanted to use Facebook.  Most students in the school I completed the research at were already using Facebook.  Looking at how the Facebook Group was used, it was only being researched to examine the use of the events to help with homework completion.  However, in the first few weeks of the study, some students began posting to the group wall.  But due to low interaction from the teacher and other students, they didn’t keep adding to the wall.  While I’m not drawing any conclusions from this data, I do think there are slight indications that students want to have more social interactions about their courses through social media.  This is certainly a place where I want to investigate further.

The second theme was one that the data really supports, inconsistency.  Due to a variety of reasons, the teacher participating in the research was unable to keep posting events (homework) on a regular basis.  Unforeseen problems arose, such as dual entry of assignments for lesson plan reporting, that limit the generalizations that can be drawn from this research, but one thing that emerges is that there needs to be adequate support for teachers as they implement new initiatives.  This one was no different.  There were technical barriers, administrative barriers, and knowledge barriers that made it more difficult to implement the intervention.  However, students did indicate on the post-intervention survey that they would have liked more interactions on Facebook (67%).

The next theme was homework completion, the focus of the research.  This was one theme where generalizations need to be made cautiously due to the inconsistency.  However, what I found was that even though the amount the Facebook Group was used was inconsistent, 41% of students indicated their habits had changed because they always knew what homework needed to be completed and when.  The teacher also noted that students knew where to look for missing homework and for the assignments that were posted, they didn’t ask for the makeup work if they were gone.

The final theme that emerged from the research was that students and teacher thought that Facebook was a beneficial tool.  The majority of students thought that Facebook was a useful tool for the classroom.  The teacher also thought the tool was useful for her students, but reiterated the need for more support, both technical and administrative, to make the intervention easier to implement.

My research portion of the portfolio wasn’t anything steller, but it is certainly a start and has now hooked me by leaving me with more questions than answers.  What do you think about using Facebook or other social networking software in the classroom?  Do you have any social networking educational research to share?  Do you want to assist with additional research using Facebook and other social media tools?  If so, leave a message or contact me to see if we can work something out!

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