Techtrovert

stumbling through computer science

Category: Research Methods

Fostering Less Fear and Greater Confidence

Past, Present, and Future pathways of First Nations Ways of Knowing Concept Map. (CC: Hayley Atkins, 2019)

“The pedagogical challenge of Canadian education is not just reducing the distance between Eurocentric thinking and Aboriginal ways of knowing, but engaging decolonized minds and hearts.” – Battiste, M. (2002)

Teaching in the 21st Century gives educators the opportunity to extend their teaching beyond their classroom and include the global community. Classrooms should be equipped with technology to connect with professionals, educators, and knowledge keepers who may not be physically in the room. For my classroom next year, I have requested a video conferencing system and microphones for each of my students. This equipment will support computer science volunteers to instruct my students through an introduction to computer science course remotely. There will also be an option for students to complete the course with me, if they choose not to connect via the online platform. Connecting students to professionals in the growing technology industry while they are still in school will make it easier to apply for jobs, decide on a post-secondary path, and understand what opportunities exist in the field of technology. Computer skills, coding, and robotics are part of the prescribed new BC curriculum, and these topics will be explored during this computer science course. Aside from the hard skills required from the Ministry of Education, my intention of this new computer science course is to enrich the soft skills and real-life connections which are needed outside of school in the professional community. Networking, communication skills, and the ability to interact and learn from others, be it in person or online, are the soft skills which will help my students be successful after graduation and outside of school.

The students at our school do not have access to reliable internet outside of school hours. Internet and digital connectivity are an assumed right for individuals living in Canada, and our professional and education institutions have been designed around the assumption that everyone has access to internet all of the time. It is popular for schools use Google classrooms to conduct their courses, so that students can log onto their course outside of school hours to complete their projects or homework. These digital classrooms were designed as a response to the growing demand to have technology in school and reduce the issue of lost paper assignments. Where this technology falls short is for those individuals who do not have access to internet outside of school. Internet is not a right, it is a privilege; teachers need to be aware that many of their students do not have a computer at home where they can access these online platforms. A student may not have internet access due to their geographical location, economic status, cultural background, or level of family support for their learning. We cannot assume, despite which school our students attend, that they will be able to connect to internet at home. As a teacher, it is my responsibility to provide students with an opportunity to connect to the digital learning and networking community while they are in my classroom. Networking, and digital literacy are critical skills which will lead to future success for our students. Many of the jobs our students will have after graduation do not yet exist; it is our responsibility to prepare our students with technological skills to be successful in a rapidly changing global environment (Monroe, 2013).

Since the beginning of this graduate program, my perceptions of acceptable research methods and education structures have been transformed and broadened. I am learning strategies to combine my structured, Western science educated background with my current teaching position in a school which fosters culture, traditional knowledge systems, and an emotional and spiritual connection to learning.  My research project will revolve around the need for co-constructing curriculum for language and culture revitalization, drawing from community contexts to create curriculum, and teach in a way which represents all knowledge systems in BC. These knowledge systems include, but are not limited to First Nations Ways of Knowing and Western Science. I recognize that there are other forms of knowledge from other cultures and perspectives which I have yet to explore or incorporate consciously into my teaching.

Quantitative research has been my preferred method of research throughout my education. This method provides succinct, seemingly unbiased, data in a numerical form, which can be analyzed with statistics to produce a black and white solution to the question. There is a push among Western researchers to conduct quantitative research because it is perceived to be the most valid. Qualitative data encompasses interviews, story, personal connectedness, lived experience and emotions to analyze and provide insight into problems or areas of research. The data collected is not black and white, and every piece of information must be taken in the right context to understand the full meaning behind the data. While reading O’Cathain’s article on mixed methods assessment, I noticed that in order to produce meaningful qualitative research which will make a significant impact on the research community, it is common to have this qualitative data backed up by numerical findings (O’Cathain, 2010). An example of this could be a report on the most desirable neighbourhoods to live in. Researchers will conduct interviews and perspectives from the community members to produce a qualitative representation of which areas are the most desirable; this information, however, will not be as strong without accompanying numerical data such as the frequency of break-ins or proximity to hospitals to support this ranking. As a science and math teacher, I am trained to look at research from a numerical, unbiased stand-point and recognize that I am partial to data which is represented in a numerical way rather than emotion or interviews to support a claim.

A topic that is brought up frequently in educational assessment, is grading and assigning a number or letter to each student’s assignments. The common struggle for teachers is that they spend a large amount of time providing insightful comments and supportive feedback on a students work, but the only focus is the percent or letter grade attached. Students breeze over the comments and go straight to their mark. Trevor Mackenzie has adopted the guided inquiry process in his classroom, which looks at the process of student learning rather than letter grades. His issue with students only caring about what mark they get in the end resonated with me; I struggle with assigning a single letter grade to an assignment when my main focus is on the learning process of the student. How do we change our teaching practice to support the learning process rather than end result?

The new BC curriculum supports qualitative assessment, such as comments or feedback, rather than only a percent. The changing perspective is that education should be about supporting the students learning and guiding them through the learning process, and not the end product or report. The big ideas and core competencies of critical thinking, networking, community engagement and creating life long learners are now the priority for our students (https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/).

As a researcher interested in assessment strategies, it is important to look at the paths our students take after high school graduation. Universities, and other post-secondary institutions base their admissions on a student’s GPA. If students need certain grades to get into their post-secondary institution programs, then it is no wonder that all of their focus is on their numerical mark. Their future depends on the grade tacked onto the end of their work. If we want to make a change to how assessment is perceived, then there needs to be a change at the K-20 level, not just K-12. Trevor Mackenzie’s assessment includes a student digital portfolio, which he discusses with each student throughout the course. How would our assessment at the secondary level change if universities or other post-secondary institutions based their admissions on the wholistic profile of a student’s learning journey, rather than just GPA alone?

Post-secondary admission requirements may be beyond my scope of influence in education, but what I can focus on is changing educators’ perspectives on incorporating First Nations Ways of Knowing, non-quantitative knowledge system, into their teaching practice.

To understand why teachers are hesitant to include First Nations content into their teaching, I have organized my thoughts into a concept map to explore the different branches or rhizomes of each topic involved in this larger research question.
Past, Present, and Future pathways of First Nations Ways of Knowing Concept Map

Approaching research from a qualitative perspective was a difficult transition from the numerical and statistical analysis I have been used to throughout my education career. While reading about Van Manen’s phenomenological and Chambers’ métissage research approach, I was surprised at how fitting these different lenses will be to my research project (Van Manen, 2014), (Chambers, 2008). The First Nations Ways of Knowing is rooted in the 5Rs: reciprocity, respect, relevance, relationship, and responsibility (Restoule, 2018). When incorporating First Nations content into your teaching, it is important that it is done is an authentic way which is respectful and relevant to yourself and your students. Phenomenological research is based on wonder and lived-experience, which aligns with First Nations Principals of Learning. My research methods will be primarily interviews, stories, experiences, and rooted in emotion. It will be important to take into consideration the individual experiences of the people I talk to, and acknowledge the validity in the emotions that are felt. Chambers’ explanation of métissage as a research method demonstrates that research can be collected in a variety of ways including drawings, stories, emotions, and written accounts, which need to be taken into consideration as a whole in order to come to an accurate conclusion. My concept map includes the different rhizomes, or pathways, which are included in this topic. The link is included above and also the image of the map is at the beginning of this post. Broadening my view of what valid research is, incorporating emotion into my analysis, and acknowledging that people have unique lived experiences will be critical when delving into my research project and teaching as a whole.

The big question I have at this point in time is “How will my self-reflection and unconscious biases affect who I talk to, what I hear, and what I take away as important or relevant?”

References

Battiste, M. (2002). Indigenous knowledge and pedagogy in First Nations education: A literature review with recommendations. Prepared for the National Working Group on Education and the Minister of Indian Affairs Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC): Ottawa, ON: National Working Group on Education and the Minister of Indian Affairs Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). Retrieved from http://www.usask.ca/education/people/battistem/ikp_e.pdf

BC’s New Curriculum. (n.d.). Retrieved July 25, 2019, from the Government of British Columbia’s website: https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/

Chambers, C., Hasebe-Ludt, E., Donald, D., Hurren, W., Leggo, C. & Oberg, A. (2008). 12 métissage: a research praxis. In J. G. Knowles & A. L. Cole Handbook of the arts in qualitative research: Perspectives, methodologies, examples, and issues (pp. 142-154). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781452226545.n12

First Nations Principals of Learning. (n.d). Retrieved July 25, 2019, from the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) website: http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/PUB-LFP-POSTER-Principles-of-Learning-First-Peoples-poster-11×17.pdf

Fournier, S. and Crey, E. (1996).  Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: The Child Welfare System.  Stolen from our embrace, (PP 81-114).  Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre. Retrieved from http://www.oacas.org/pubs/oacas/journal/2009Winter/antiopp.html

Monroe, E.A, Lunney-Borden, L.Murray Orr, A., Toney, D, & Meader, J. (2013).  Decolonizing aboriginal education in the 21st century. McGill Journal of Education, 48(2), 317-337. Retrieved from http://mje.mcgill.ca/article/viewFile/8985/6878

O’Cathain, A. (2010). Assessing the quality of mixed methods research: toward a comprehensive framework. In Tashakkori, A., & Teddlie, C. SAGE handbook of mixed methods in social & behavioral research (pp. 531-556). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781506335193

Tessaro, D., Restoule, J.-P., Gaviria, P., Flessa, J., Lindeman, C., & Scully-Stewart, C. (2018). The Five R’s for Indigenizing Online Learning: A Case Study of the First Nations Schools’ Principals Course (Vol. 40), 125-143. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328289320_The_Five_R’s_for_Indigenizing_Online_Learning_A_Case_Study_of_the_First_Nations_Schools’_Principals_Course

Van Manen, M. (2014). Phenomenology of practice: Meaning-giving methods in phenomenological research and writing (pp. 26-71). Walnut Creek, California: Left Coast Press. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WVhDVIsKsHNXwH8iZ9zYXtma-RzpDbyO/view

Suspended Belief

The article by Van Manen examines the effects of phenomenological perspective on the interpretation and structure of our research questions and topics. Phenomenology aims to isolate the exact moment of an event or phenomenon, and interpret the meaning and significance regardless of its existence in the natural world or influence from other events in the past, present, or future (Van Manen, 2014, pp. 26-71).

Phenomenological research occurs at the beginning of the research question, before data or inquiry has begun. It is the curiosity of wanting to explore the research topic and all the avenues which it could take before the research commences. The phenomenological question involves being in the moment, and examining it through a pre-predictive and pre-reflective lens. It focuses on the experience as we are living in it, not before and not after (Van Manen, 2014, pp. 26-71).

Bracketing and phenomenological reduction suspends judgement about the physical world to focus on the analysis of the experience itself (Brann, 1970, pp. 153-155). The experience, it the exact isolated moment, must be explored and interpreted as a singular event, not part or influenced by a larger system. Bracketing does not question whether the experience is real or possible; it simply takes the phenomenon for what it is. Natural sciences are responsible for considering the probability of this event happening or not (Van Manen, 2014, pp. 26-71), (Brann, 1970, pp. 153-155).

Phenomenological research is rooted in experience, regardless of natural occurrence or existence. An example of this is the experience of walking through a forest (Van Manen, 2014, pp. 26-71). The forest walk is bracketed as the experience and the researcher/phenomenologist suspends all investigation regarding if the forest walk actually occurred. The experience, or phenomena, that has occurred, is studied and interpreted, not the objectivity or existence of the object or subject itself. Phenomenological researchers are not concerned if the experience happened or if the object is real; they simply look at the meaning and significance of the event from the user’s perspective (Molina, 2017, pp 77-94).

In phenomenological research, empirical subjectivity, which are observations based on logic and existence, is disregarded. Transcendental subjectivity, focusing on the spiritual, experiential, and subjective experiences of each individual, is valued instead (Brann, 1970, pp. 153-155). An example is two people drinking a cup of hot coffee. They both know what a cup of hot coffee tastes like, but their lived experience will be different in the exact moment they sip. This is because their interpretation of that sip will be influenced by different lived experiences and reaction to the coffee. Empirical evidence will show the experience of drinking this cup of coffee will be the same because of objective observations: two people drinking the exact same cup of coffee will lead to identical results. From a transcendental perspective, these two people will have different experiences based on their backgrounds, mental processing, and emotional past which will lead to a completely different experience during the bracketed moment they are drinking the cup of coffee. Phenomenology is concerned with those isolated moments of experience, regardless of quantitative observations, or objective experience. It isolates the exact moment of the event regardless of context of the past, present, or future (Molina, 2017, pp. 77-94), (Van Manen, 2014, pp. 26-71).

Phenomenology develops theories around the event before it has occurred or been placed into context. While phenomenology is based on examining the experience or phenomenon from an individual’s perspective, regardless of the plausibility of the event in the natural world, grounded research looks at events from the opposite angle. Grounded theory arose from sociologists wanting to explore sociological research from a different angle, and give researchers a method of moving from data points to theories, rather than theories to data. Interpreting data after the event has occurred, and taking context into consideration, allows for new theories to develop and our understanding of events to broaden (Wiesche, 2017, pp. 685-701). Context, pretext, and background knowledge are included when analyzing events from a grounded theory approach, which leads to each theory or interpretation being specific to the context in which they developed and were studied (Buckley, 2019, pp. 965-989). The theories are ‘grounded’ in the data to give a more contextual interpretation of the event. The interpretation takes in the holistic view of the situation and event, rather than isolating and bracketing like in phenomenology. Grounded theory holds the natural world and the objectivity of the situation in high regard, and the plausibility of the findings actually being able to occur is considered (Wiesche, 2017, pp. 685-701). Grounded theory develops conclusions, findings, and ideas using the context of the research, which enables new ideas, perspectives, and contextualized theories to emerge (Bryant, 2002).

In the article by Thornberg, a field study involving school bullying and sense of belonging was examined with a grounded theory approach. 144 students and seven teachers from seven school classes in three Swedish public primary schools participated in a grounded research study to gather data on why bullying occurs and how it affects the students’ group dynamic. Ethnographic research was conducted, where the researcher spent four to six months with each class. Observations of interactions between peers, and between the pupils and teachers, and informal conversations and interviews of the pupils and teachers were the qualitative data that was collected. Field notes and audio transcripts were used to assess short term and long term bullying occurrences. This information was then transcribed into numerical data to record the number of bullying cases and the length of occurrence. This quantitative data was used in conjunction with the qualitative interviews to assess the cause and frequency of bullying. The author then correlated the frequency of bullying to how each student felt about their place, friendships, and sense of belonging at school. When analyzing the data, it was clear there was a strong correlation between the increased frequency and duration of bullying and a decreased sense of belonging in the school community. The author stressed how the theoretical understanding of bullying and a student’s sense of belonging cannot be confined to an individual event or factor. There are multiple factors in the socio-economic framework of school which impact how students are treated on a day-to-day basis. Grounded research and theory is necessary to take into account the multitude of issues relating to bullying. This includes racism, classism, heteronormativity, and a range of other oppressions students have (Thornberg, 2018, pp. 144-158).

If bullying and a student’s feeling of belonging at school were examined from a phenomenological approach, the results would be much different and likely difficult to understand without environmental context. Phenomenological research examines the event or phenomenon exactly as it occurs to that individual, without any outside context or explanation. If a student was yelled at by another student, and they experienced that yelling with a sense of violence, hurt, and betrayal, then that moment would be interpreted as a form of bullying on that individual if it was looked at from a phenomenological lens. Phenomenology is rooted in the act of suspending judgement regarding the true nature of reality; it is a neutralization of belief (Van Manen, 2014, pp. 26-71). This suspension of context becomes difficult, as it is nearly impossible, as humans, to ignore this belief of due to our unconscious subjectivity in every thought or experience we have (Brann, 1970, pp. 153-155). The individual experienced this yelling, felt a negative emotion of bullying, and therefore it will be recorded as an event of bullying. Whether or not this yelling happened in the natural world on the playground from a person intending to hurt the feelings of this person is irrelevant. All that is being focussed on is what the individual experienced and perceived. Where issues would arise is if we wanted to examine what was said, why it was hurtful, who the other student was, and if accusations of bullying are being laid upon another person, did this event actually happen? From a phenomenological perspective, these pieces of information do not matter; context and natural occurrence are not included in analysis. It only matters that this individual perceived they were being yelled at, interpreted this as negative, and therefore this was a case of bullying. We would then derive our theory of the causes of bullying to be from individuals feeling they are yelled at, record the types of emotions they felt, and would include these feelings as effects of bullying on peers in school. Bullying cannot be interpreted as individual events and actions without background context. Human emotions and interactions are complex and require context, motivation, and flexibility based on how each person reacts to each interaction. If we only looked at the immediate phenomenon of the bullying act, we would miss out on recognizing common issues in society such as gender norms, racism, homophobia, and judgement. Without the larger picture, including past, present and future context, we will be unable to identify causes, solutions and preventions for bullying at school and on a global scale (Thornberg, 2018, pp. 144-158).

References

Brann, H. W., & Institute for Scientific Co-operation (1970). Kant’s theory of subjectivity. A systematic analysis of the relation of transcendental and empirical subjectivity in his theoretical philosophy. Philosophy and History, 3(2), 153-155. doi:10.5840/philhist19703264

Bryant, A. (2002). Grounding systems research: Re-establishing grounded theory. Paper presented at the 3446-3455. doi:10.1109/HICSS.2002.994383

Buckley, J. B. (2019). A grounded theory of education for sustainability in the postsecondary classroom. The Review of Higher Education, 42(3), 965-989. doi:10.1353/rhe.2019.0026

Molina, E. (2017). Kant’s Conception of the Subject. CR: The New Centennial Review, 17(2), 77-94. doi:10.14321/crnewcentrevi.17.2.0077

Thornberg, R., Utbildningsvetenskap, Pedagogik och didaktik, Linköpings universitet, & Institutionen för beteendevetenskap och lärande. (2018). School bullying and fitting into the peer landscape: A grounded theory field study. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 39(1), 144-158. doi:10.1080/01425692.2017.1330680

Van Manen, M. (2014). Phenomenology of practice: Meaning-giving methods in phenomenological research and writing (pp. 26-71). Walnut Creek, California: Left Coast Press. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WVhDVIsKsHNXwH8iZ9zYXtma-RzpDbyO/view

Wiesche, M., Jurisch, M. C., Yetton, P. W., Krcmar, H., City of Munich, Deaken University, & Technische Universität München. (2017). Grounded theory methodology in information systems research. MIS Quarterly, 41(3), 685-701. doi:10.25300/MISQ/2017/41.3.02

It’s Only A Matter of Time…

Kitchen Stories is about a research project studying men in the kitchen, which becomes interwoven with layers beyond research involving relationships, wider communities, human interactions, cultural backgrounds, and teaching. This movie examines the complexity of human interactions, and demonstrates how conversations are necessary between the researcher and researched in order to fully comprehend what is being studied.

The Reader/Viewer

This movie is based around the centre of many homes: the kitchen. Family kitchens are an important room for human interaction, bringing together people for conversation, eating, stories, and homework. Of all the rooms in the house, the kitchen is arguably the central room for bringing people together. As the reader/watcher, having the main story happen in the kitchen, it was easy to bring my feelings and experiences of this room into my views of the story. I knew immediately that there would be emotional and personal issues involved in the story because that is what the kitchen meant to me growing up. It was the place where I discussed my hopes and dreams of a career with my parents, had hard conversations in my teenage years, and spent lots of time with my brother loading and unloading the dishwasher. As a reader/viewer, it is impossible to remove context, emotion, and conversation out of any research conducted on human behaviour. As I watched Folke crawl up into that high umpire chair in the corner of the kitchen, and sit silently, I knew that the issue of conversation, context, and qualitative research would be a main theme of the movie.

The Researcher

The observer, or researcher, Folke, in the film tries to maintain a sense of neutrality throughout the film. Unbiased, unemotional, and non-judgemental attitudes are critical when conducting quantitative research. You are merely there to collect data based on what you see, and the numbers will reveal the result, not your opinion. The umpire chair reflected this neutrality, as well as refraining from having conversations with Isak regarding his activities in the house. Folke was determined to follow the scientific method of observation, and only collect data based on what he observed from an outside point of view. Folke is directed to collect data based on Isak’s movements in the kitchen and is not required to consider Isak’s context, history, or circumstances. Folke has been trained in the scientific way and was collecting data as a neutral observer, free from personal bias, opinion, or conversation. He is also directed to restrict his observations only to the kitchen and record only the activities that happen in that room. As the story goes on, Folke finds it increasingly difficult to refrain from satisfying his curiosity of Isak’s actions, and struggles to maintain a neutral, unbiased, observer point of view. A turning point from quantitative, unbiased data collection from Folke occurs when he asks Isak why he never answers the phone when it rings. From observation, numerical data collection and quantitative observation, the answer remains a mystery; but from a simple qualitative conversation, he learns the truth behind Isak’s friendship and reason for letting the phone continue to ring – it was too expensive to answer. The researcher, Folke, is trained as an observer to maintain a stance of neutrality and objectivity. The researcher is to remain unbiased and separate from the researched. This is the main idea behind scientific research; observe as closely as you can while remaining separate from your subjects.

The Researched

Kitchen Stories revolves around the idea that research can be conducted in a sterile and “hands-off” fashion… or so we think. Folke begins the story as the researcher, but quickly becomes the researched when Isak’s curiosity of the man in the umpire chair becomes too much. Each person makes sense of our own world and the experiences of others from the foundation of our own experience. It is impossible to be neutral observers. Scientific research implies that the subjects being researched are not going to be impacted by the act of being observed. This is not the case in the film, as Isak quickly switches his role of observed to observer when he begins to spy on Folke through a hole in the floor. Neutrality and one-sided observations prove to be impossible, as the two men begin to increasingly interact with each other, from sharing food to full on conversations about Isak’s past and reasons for not answering the ringing telephone. As the reader/viewer, I felt emotional about the developing relationship between the men.

The Research

The story of Folke and Isak represents the challenges of conducting purely quantitative data, and also supports the validity and need for qualitative research and data to fully understand the context and depth of the subject being studied. How could data collected on the interactions, behaviours, and activities of humans be purely numerical, when humans themselves are complex creatures with history and personal stories? The movie represented the process of involvement that evolves during qualitative data collection, and the necessity for interaction and conversation between the researcher and researched in order to fully understand the meaning of the topic being studied. Folke accepts that he cannot keep his research to the kitchen alone, and realizes that he needs to ask about Isak’s point-of-view, history, and background in order to fully understand his subject and research question. Isak realizes that he is unable to ignore Folke in his large umpire chair and becomes curious about interacting and studying Folke himself. Through their kitchen dialogue, the two men gain deeper understanding of each other’s experiences and lives. As the story of these two men evolves, the viewer becomes aware of the rich layering that is part and parcel of qualitative research.

Lost in Translation

A large part of my teaching pedagogy involves incorporating First Nations views into my lesson plans, activities, and learning outcomes.

When I was in my PDPP education program, we had an Indigenous Education course that included history, curriculum, and current practices of First Nations ways of knowing. Overall, it is a wholistic view that knowledge should come from people, places, and things and can be from a historical, current, natural, supernatural, spiritual, or scientific background. An example of this is using myths and origin stories to explain natural phenomena such as earthquakes and mountain formations. This knowledge and knowledge keeping is embedded with the notion that information and history is best remembered in a story form, with meaning, emotion, and context.

Western science and knowledge is routed in facts, hypothesis, tests, and data which can be collected in experiments, recorded in textbooks, and studied by anyone who has access to these papers and texts. This data is studied out of written textbooks and papers, which can be compared to the First Nations knowledge which is largely verbal and passed down through sharing circles, ceremony, and conversations between people and communities.

There has been a large push from First Nations researchers to have the validity of their science and ways of knowing acknowledged by the Western World, in order for progress to be made in understanding the world today. It is common for Western Science to dominate our field, with quantitative research, structured experiments, and widely distributed papers; it is no wonder that Western Science is seen as the more valid, and right, way of knowing.

As the Reader

While reading the paper Understanding and Describing Quantitative Data, I focused my reader lens on how this type of research could be transferred to First Nations knowledge and science. Is quantitative information on First Nations knowledge restricted because of the method that information is shared? Respect, conversation, oral sharing, and reciprocity are values carried through when sharing knowledge in First Nations communities. Sharing ideas in exchange for hearing someone else’s is common, and is how culture is maintained in First Nations groups. It is difficult to collect quantitative data when their knowledge is spoken, passed on through song, told through stories, not written in books, or recorded on a numerical scale. As the reader, when most scientific papers focus on quantitative data, and believe it to be the best way of recording findings and information, I can’t help but think about all of the other information that will be lost or unexplored when the qualitative lens or First Nations oral tradition is excluded. How can these interviews, stories, and songs be converted into quantitative information without the value of the ideas and thoughts being compromised? It is similar to taking a photograph on film, copying it to your computer, transferring it onto a hard drive, and then posting it to Facebook or Instagram. While it is relatively the same photograph, the quality of the photo has been lost. If we continue to favour converting our findings to quantitative data, then First Nations knowledge and its quality will be diminished over time. It is important, as the reader, to recognize the prevalent bias in our Western society that Western Science, and research methodologies, are seen as “better” and more credible than other ways of knowing.

The Researcher

Cathy Lewin, the author of this paper, has research and education that includes education technology, digital pedagogy, and innovation. Most of their (I am using the term “their” not in the plural sense, but more as a gender neutral term) articles are centred around including more technology in schools, innovations in education with tech, and explore education from a European perspective. Her thorough, straightforward, universal outline for conducting quantitative research plays very well into the structure of Western Science. As a researcher with a deep sense and recognition of Western Science, I believe they are in strong favour of quantitative methodology being the most sound approach for research, compared to qualitative or First Nations ways of knowing. With her research being based in the UK, out of the Manchester Metropolitan University, it would be easy to access information supporting quantitative research, and Western Science, because First Nations culture and communities are not common in their region.

The Research

The research provides a clear framework for conducting, analyzing, and reporting on an area of study and collecting data that is quantitative, easily documented, and clearly measured. When conducting a study where you would like to analyze your results correctly, it would be tempting to use this quantitative method because it provides a clear guideline and methods to analyze the validity of your findings. The quality of your data and research can be numerically measured through statistics including P-values, lines of best fit, and probability. If the data that is being collected is numerical, and quantifiable, then this method is desirable. If your research involves emotion, differing opinions, conversations, and unwritten historical data, then there can be errors which occur when this information is translated into numbers and quantities.

The Researched

The research and quantitative methods model was used in a UK study to gather information on topics such as shoe size and cigarette consumption. This data is easy to gather, measure, and record using numbers. These numbers can be then inserted into statistical programming to display commonalities, trends, and other information about the UK population. The paper did not go into detail on how to collect non-numerical and qualitative information such as opinions, interviews, or emotional connectedness. The examples used to describe the quantitative process were unemotional, required only one type of numerical information, and was easily translated and statistically analyzed. This method and scaffolding is very useful for individuals collected quantitative information.

What Next?

In BC, First Nations knowledge and ways of knowing are gaining respect and validity in the lens of science and research. I can see that there is a change in perspective, and that Western Science is soon going to meld with other ways of knowing. I am curious to explore effective ways of translating interviews, stories, songs, and other qualitative information into quantitative data without losing the quality and perspective that information has.

The New Value of Education

Admittance: At What Cost?

When it comes to student access, High Tech High took a stand and opened their doors to those students who are classified as being the lowest on the education and economic scale. A school that looks like a top of the line, “Google-esq” establishment, is actually a free public school. The school’s selected students are those who come from rough backgrounds and low-income areas. This helps to reduce the barrier of attending progressive “tech” schools which would normally only be attended by wealthy students from upper class neighbourhoods and backgrounds.

Google Office… or High Tech High Classroom? “” by Marcin Wichary is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As the reader/viewer of this video, I raise a few issues of selecting students only based on their parents’ income:
  • Why should it be based on the salary of parents, when these children who may benefit from attending High Tech high are now not able to attend because they come from a higher income family? Reducing a barrier for those of lower income actually creates a barrier for others.
  • It is common for those higher income families to want their child to be successful in school, no matter what cost. Some wealthy parents are willing to pay for whatever tutoring, laptops, or learning aids their child may need so that they can achieve As and be accepted into their alma matter. While their grades may reflect success, many of these students may not have learned very much because of this sheltered system. What they show in book smarts, they lack in street smarts and perseverance. I wonder who would deliver more grit? A student who has only known how to use the support of others, or the student who has never been able to afford a tutor? It would be interesting to compare the success of each type of student at High Tech High.

As a teacher, we need to think critically and holistically about who our students are and what their backgrounds are. We can’t assume that the students who come from wealthy families are going to be inherently successful. While in the same thought, we can’t assume that the students who come from less-wealthy families will come with grit and determination. I understand that economic status is a common and efficient way to categorize people, but I would be curious if there is another way to assess which students would truly benefit from attending High Tech High.

As the researcher/creator of High Tech High, the main issues this school aims to address are those of social inequality and social differentiation. Social inequality is the unequal distribution of resources within a society. Social differentiation is the idea that people can be categorized based on characteristics including race, income, education and geography. Social differentiation is a key for fuelling social inequality; who you are and where you are from can have a large impact on the privileges that you have. High Tech High is focussing on limiting the social inequality that income and wealth can have on the accessibility to fair and open education, and ultimately lifelong success.

Influence for this analysis came from: https://opentextbc.ca/introductiontosociology2ndedition/chapter/chapter-9-social-inequality-in-canada/

Power Privilege and Oppression – Graduate School of Social Work -DU Licensed under CC

Does Sacrifice Equal Dedication?

Teachers at High Tech High are hired based on subject need and specialization; their contracts expire each year and they are paid less than the average American teacher. As a reader/watcher of this video, I applaud these teachers and have respect for their passion as educators. They are willing to sacrifice their job stability and have a lower wage because they are committed to the work that High Tech High is aiming to accomplish. The teachers see themselves as part of the greater good, rather than how they are being treated individually. As a reader/watcher, I can admit to myself that I would not be comfortable with this uncertainty – but does this mean that I am not as dedicated a teacher? The research does acknowledge this feeling of uncertainty these teachers feel, but its main objective of creating a project-based-learning and needs based school justifies this feeling of professional insecurity.

Behind the Scenes

High Tech High uses a completely self-directed, unstructured approach to learning, which enables full student autonomy. There are no standardized tests, and projects are used to “grade” and assess student learning.

From the researchers point of view, this is a progressive new model focusing on the shortcomings of the traditional way of learning and testing. The researcher highlights how standardized tests can be inaccurate, cater towards one style of learner, and do not reflect a learner’s overall profile. This researcher’s view would correlate strongly with the reading “Teaching for Meaningful Learning,” where Dr. Barron and Darling-Hammond argue that the focus of learning and education should be about knowledge growth for the individual and collective group. From a reader/watcher’s point of view, High Tech High’s unstructured learning approach emphasizes engagement and collaboration to develop collective knowledge. What I noticed is that the content and background knowledge on robotics, woodworking, or other skills needed for these projects, was not included in this film or part of the “researched” content. This challenged my belief and comfort level of a teacher that students need to have the core skills and content to be able to take this project based learning into their own hands and apply these skills to larger ideas and into a broader context. An example of this from High Tech High, is how did the students know how to physically build the large cog wheel, if the teacher did not explicitly show them how to in a traditional way? Was there direct instruction happening between the students and teacher behind the scenes? I wonder if the researcher decided to not focus on the traditional note-taking or direct instruction that may happen at points throughout the day, and instead emphasize the project based learning that happens after those instructions.

Social Butterfly vs. Wallflower

Walking through the hallways of High Tech High, it is easy to get carried away looking at the artwork, robots, and other visually intriguing projects that fill the halls. It was fascinating to watch the students painstakingly piece together the intricate cog, or set up the best lighting system to showcase their play, but is this just an illusion of the success of project based learning? It is no wonder that project based learning gets showcased in social media more, because it is a more interesting process of learning to the audience/reader. People are more interested in watching a class build a robot battle arena then watch them master complex algebraic equations – but which group is learning more? Is the flashier learning more valuable than the intrinsic problem solving?

A “Boring” Perspective of Learning “Home Work” by Sam & Sophie Images is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

P1030079

Flashy, “Social Media” worthy learning! “P1030079” by __andrew is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

In my own classroom, I am hesitant to post on Facebook the “boring” photos of students completing math worksheets, or solving word problems, because I fear I will be labelled the “boring” math teacher. I know that these worksheets are building foundational skills of fractions, long division and algebraic equations so that we can then work on projects dealing with slope and velocity of racecar tracks. Why am I only showcasing the flashy work at the end rather than celebrating the internal process that happens before those projects can even develop?

These thoughts about flashy vs. unflashy lessons and work lead me to want to explore the perception of Project Based Learning from the teachers point of view when it comes to the amount of lesson planning and effort it takes to teach in this way…  Can Project Based Learning Lead to Lazy Teaching? Another blog post to come!

This blog post explores the documentary, Most Likely to Succeed and related readings, Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching by Paul A. Kirschner, John Sweller  & Richard E. Clark (2010), Teaching for Meaningful Learning by Dr. Barron & Darling-Hammond, StanfordU, and https://opentextbc.ca/introductiontosociology2ndedition/chapter/chapter-9-social-inequality-in-canada/ 

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