I read your account carefully several times and consider it to be very illuminating and stimulating for anybody trying to create an online-community by using tools like Moodle.
In the theoretical framework you elaborated three main topics: empowerment, collaboration, and learning organisation. In each subtitle you showed an excellent understanding of important questions and theoretical postulates which are important for the topic of your research. Although I am impressed with your theoretical introduction, I am not sure fits well in this kind of account. Namely, this part along with the introduction and the first part of the Methodology section takes more than 50% of the whole text. In my opinion, it is too much for a practitioner account. I would reduce this part and add something about your own educational context and about your role within it. In that way the paper would be more in accordance with the following presumption:
While the object of the practitionerâ€™s research is the self, the self does not practise in isolation. In engaging with others it is assumed that research is carried out with, as opposed to on, such others. The interconnected nature of ourselves and others gives rise to the epistemological assumption that knowledge does not exist as an external object, but is constructed through a process of social interaction. (p. 24)
I like your sincere and reflective conclusion that you did not manage to undertake everything to improve collaboration in your practice (p. 26). Without understanding oneâ€™s own responsibility and the possibilities to improve something, we merely understand why things are as they are, but nothing would change at all. I especially appreciate your effort to encourage and support collaboration in your work place.
You transparently explained your values that are your living standards of judgement. However, from the paper it is not completely clear why other members of the team decided to participate in this collaborative project, and how they perceived your values. If you have any feedback about that, it could improve comprehensibility of the whole process. By the way, although I appreciate writing from your point of view, I would like to see more feedback from other participants since this was collaborative project and their understandings and experiences are very important for the whole story.
You divided the study into two cycles. The first cycle of your action research focused on the installation of an appropriate online environment. It is very important question not only because of technical and financial preconditions, but also because of the wider educational philosophy you wanted to promote. Although from reading the text and my own experiences I understand why you decided to use a Moodle system, I would suggest that you move the part of the text which tells us about Moodle (mostly on page 15) from the theoretical framework to this section (Cycle 1). In that way you will able better to connect your previous learning and the subsequent efforts you describe and explain in this paper.
It is interesting that you and some other people who tried to use web tools for creating learning communities are actually faced with the same problem â€“ the level of involvement or lack of communication between participants of such communities. I hope we agree that the problem does not lie only in insufficient competence with ICT. In my opinion such way of communication is still strange to members of older generations who belong to â€śdigital immigrantsâ€ť (Prensky, 2001). This question could also be a question of values and lie with the expectations of people who use web technology. It could also stem from a wider social and cultural milieu that could be supportive, indifferent or discouraging to these new approaches. However, changes are always demanding and require personal involvement and effort, and in this the role of facilitator is especially important.
â€śCycle 2â€ť is in my opinion the core part of your study and although it is pretty well elaborated it could be extended with additional explanations and some data (e.g. examples of communication at the Moodle forums) even if that is to the detriment of the theoretical framework. Or more exactly, you could connect some of theoretical assumptions from the theoretical framework with your experiences and conclusions. I also hope that the videos you mentioned will be available in the final version of the paper. They could be an important contribution to the quality and rigour of your account.
I consider your paper as an excellent case study of using web technology in creating collaborative relationships in a school. I am happy that it will be published in the second issue of EJOLTS.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9 (5), 1-6. Retrieved January 12, 2009, from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
This is just a quick response to thank you for your very thoughtful comments. I am getting a clear sense (I hope) of what is required. I will take all the suggestions offered to me and give them the consideration they deserve as I attempt to address the issues raised.
Expanding on good: The essence of the paper starts out early with a sense of the dynamic interaction of empowerment and collaboration. This is an insightful way to frame the paperâ€”with an understanding of the self in the group. Along with this, there is a sense of the obstacles that can occur so as to give a realistic picture of what is unfolding in the study. Overall, there is a helpful exploration of possiblities for the personal in online communicationâ€”where communication is concentualized as learning together. When I think of the politcal communication (giving enough credit at least to use the word) that goes on everyday in the world), I rarely see learning. This paper is a formidable example of this growthful kind of communication.
Thank you very much for taking the time to review my paper. I really appreciate your feedback and your positive comments. I will try to address the two handicaps and your wish:
I will certainly provide a glossary to demystify the many sets of initials that arise, and also the links to Moodle.
Your wish that I would flesh out the story some more â€“ I was very conscious of the length of the paper and I did trim away some of the personal detail from the characters. Itâ€™s a judgment call I guess, about what to take out and what to put in, that all writers have to make. I do have material that fits the bill and will work to see how best I can bring more of it in without making the paper over long. The editors Iâ€™m sure will let me know.
With best regards
Warmest regards, Moira x
I was very interested to read your submission to EJOLTs on supporting collaboration in your workplace through the use of Moodle. As a piece of practitioner research, I would like to celebrate its 'everydayness' and focus on practical issues of school administration and your willingness to share it with others in this open forum. I really do believe that you offer a fine example of what it is to take oneself seriously as a professional educator and that others will benefit from reading it and following your example. Congratulations!
In reading my specific comments on the paper it is probably useful to know that I have a particular concern for the use of story and narrative both as research method and in research accounts so you will find me paying particular attention to those aspects. The paper is clearly structured and apart from a surfeit of acronyms (a point picked up by Jerry Allender) easy to read. I also agree with Jerry's point that the 'up close and personal' story of the actual research process is somewhat masked behind a rather detached account in which your own voice is rather muted and your colleagues' voices relatively absent. The text of the paper refers to several video clips but I could not find any way to access them - could be my technical incompetence of course - and these may well address these concerns.
For me the paper really came alive when you disclosed (let slip?) moments of joy and frustration from your journal e.g. Another frustrating week gone byâ€¦and now it's not even finding the page and when your colleagues voices appeared. The whole discourse of living educational theory can sound quite grandiose when the language of values is used without adequate illustration of what they mean in practice and how one identifies them. In other words, the balance between 'showing' and 'telling' needs to be carefully held. In this sense I felt there were too many places where you have told us about your research process rather than found presentational forms that would have shown us.
In fancy-pants language I am thinking about the distinction John Shotter makes between 'withness writing' and 'aboutness writing' http://pubpages.unh.edu/~jds/ or in plainer language, I found myself wanting more of the inside story. For example Teresa, in four short bullet points you articulate your espoused values as autonomy of the individual, strength of the collective, participation and involvement, personal growth and development. It seems to me that coming to know these in such a way that you were able to articulate them so clearly must have been a significant process which is rather glossed over. I am smiling as I write this as I recall Jack Whitehead making pretty much the same point to me when he supervised my PhD!
To make room for some more of the inside story I wonder if, in the context of a submission to EJOLTS (as opposed to its origins as a research project for a Masters Degree), you might have honed in more tightly on (and amplified) particular occasions when your living educational theory was forged in the heat of practice rather than, for example, giving us an overview of the learning organisation literature.
I hope you find these comment useful Teresa. My object has been to encourage you to allow us to see more closely in the paper what has undoubtedly been an excellent piece of research.
Best wishes. Geoff Mead
Thank you very much for your insightful input and constructive critique. This is a very interesting learning experience for me and Iâ€™m looking forward myself now to how itâ€™s going to turn out!
First off, the video clips are my fault, theyâ€™re not available on a public site just yet.
Iâ€™m a little surprised that you felt that my voice was â€mutedâ€™ â€“ I have to confess that when I was writing it, I was somewhat concerned that there was too much of â€meâ€™ in there. Perhaps I need to re-calibrate my sensibilities!
Of course you are right in that it was originally a piece of research for my Masters and that may have been an influence. I also understand your point about the personal â€“ it is what attracts and holds the reader, so I will endeavour to hone the work in that direction.
I am submitting my revised article for your review. I have tried to address the issues raised, and fixed my links.
Jerry said: â€śI donâ€™t know if itâ€™s appropriate for a journal article, but a glossary at the end would be great (noted when the first time initials are introduced [with ICT]).â€ť
Iâ€™ve attached a glossary of abbreviated terms which will relieve the understandable frustration of dealing with local specifics.
â€śwouldnâ€™t it be great if the four characters (other than you, or five including you), would add some of their own words of introduction after your brief introductory description? â€ś
I have included a little more detail about my colleagues and added audio clips which were recorded before the project got underway. This aligned with the video clips (now available) which were recorded after the project, will flesh out the story from their point of view. I also hope that this addresses Geoffâ€™s comment: â€śI felt there were too many places where you have told us about your research process rather than found presentational forms that would have shown us.â€ť
With regard to my articulated values, Geoff observed: â€śIt seems to me that coming to know these in such a way that you were able to articulate them so clearly must have been a significant process which is rather glossed over.â€ť I suppose it may appear that I glossed over this, but arriving at this very specific articulation of my values in this very specific situation would take entire paper in itself. There was no epiphany moment in arriving at these four statements â€“ it was a long, drawn-out, deliberate process. I engaged with the ideas I had encountered in the literature, and how they related to my own embodied values, and how they might be framed to speak to the particular situation I was dealing with. It also involved frequent and sometimes lengthy exchanges with my class colleagues, who were undergoing the same process. An article â€śChecklist for Personal Valuesâ€ť by Charlotte Roberts in The 5th Discipline Fieldbook (Senge et al 1994) did provide a useful starting point for me.
Branko suggested: â€śthat you move the part of the text which tells us about Moodle (mostly on page 15) from the theoretical framework to this section (Cycle 1). In that way you will able better to connect your previous learning and the subsequent efforts you describe and explain in this paper.â€ť Yes, I agree this works better.
He also said: â€śCycle 2â€ť is in my opinion the core part of your study and although it is pretty well elaborated it could be extended with additional explanations and some data (e.g. examples of communication at the Moodle forums) even if that is to the detriment of the theoretical framework. Or more exactly, you could connect some of theoretical assumptions from the theoretical framework with your experiences and conclusions.
I felt that the ideas of empowerment, collaboration, and the ideal of the learning organisation/school are very much to the fore in the action research cycles, for example, Jimâ€™s experience demonstrates that while we may be in a position to facilitate the empowerment of others, it is they themselves who must grasp that opportunity to self-empower (p45). I feel that there are other examples in the text as well.
This has been an interesting and informative experience for me, and Iâ€™m grateful for the time and effort you have all been willing to devote to this. My sincere thanks.
Senge. P., Roberts, C., Ross, R., Smith, B., & Kleiner, A. (1994). The Fifth Discipline Handbook. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.