Unspoken (But Necessary) Academic Skills, Part 3: Making Obvious Things Sound Really, Really Important and Interesting

The good news? I’m unstuck. Sorta.

I’ve been able to get a little more work done this week, in the form of both visits to the school for interviews and observations and diving into a bit of the data I’ve already collected. Which mainly means more sorting, shifting, labeling, filing, and so on.

In this process, I discovered an academic skill that I hadn’t previously considered: making things that any normal person would say is obvious and morphing them into research findings that convince others your work is important.

A caveat: this post is going to sound snarky and sarcastic. It’s not supposed to be, but I think this was at least somewhat inevitable.

So here’s what happened. I’m currently trying to identify variables for a model that will tell me how teachers select who to consult about digital technologies at the school. To do this, I need to do a number of other things, including:

  1. think a lot about what might make someone go to someone else for help with tech. the fact that I’ve talked to lots of teachers about this helps.
  2. clean up data from the survey and code it so that I actually have variables to analyze.
  3. figure out how to do (2). this has taken hours upon hours.
  4. figure out what of my data might be most meaningful when it comes to selecting people to consult.
  5. get angry at myself for not collecting information that I think might be important.
  6. eat ice cream or similar junk food when frustrated.
  7. run some correlations to see how variables are related to one another, thus what might impact tech use or selection of people to consult.

So I finally got to number 7 this morning, and guess what? I found something really interesting, people.

No REALLY, really, REALLY interesting!

Until I realized it wasn’t interesting at all, because it was pure common sense. Doh. Here it is, folks:

Teachers (at this school) who are high users of digital technologies in their day-to-day lives are also high users of digital technologies in their classrooms. Teacher uses of online digital spaces in their lives outside the classroom are highly and significantly correlated (.72, p<.001) with their uses of online digital technologies in the classroom.

Was your mind just blown? Or did you just say “duh?” Probably the latter.

Why I thought this was really interesting:

Well, this is my diss project, for one, and I’m kinda geeked that I’m working with my own data and that this is based on information I collected in my very own survey. Cool beans.

But also, this excited me because it fits with something I’ve been trying to argue for years, which is that teachers’ lives in the classroom are often extensions of their lives outside the classroom, and vice versa. Teachers draw on knowledge they gain from their lives as parents, graduate students, writers, musicians, and even runners when they walk into the classroom every day, and technology is no exception to this rule.

And yet many teachers get technology “thrown at them” (at least, this happened to me, and if you’re a teacher this has never happened to, you’re lucky) in professional development sessions where other teachers or administrators, who probably have more experience with these technologies in their lives outside the classroom, tout the advantages of this or that new thing, this or that new approach, leaving teachers to sift and sort through which technologies to try and which ones to ignore. This is a HARD PROCESS, folks, and it takes time — especially today, as online technologies are in a state of constant flux. This is time teachers don’t have in systems set up for one-stop-shop PD. So what do teachers do? Probably stick with what they know, or what is least foreign to them from their experiences elsewhere in life, because they have the time and the know-how to figure it out.

What does this mean for teachers, researchers, and professional development folks? That we need to find out more about the technologies teachers already know and work with in their lives outside the walls of their classrooms and draw on that knowledge. That we need to help teachers develop digital literacies that will expand their repertoires so they can make informed decisions as professionals about which technologies will work for their classrooms. That one-shot professional development, one-to-one initiatives, and all the other tech development crap out there isn’t nearly as powerful as what teachers already know and do in their lives — as whole people.

Why this is not interesting at all:

I sat there sort of excited for a few minutes before I realized this isn’t interesting at all. It’s obvious. Or at least, it should be obvious. Of course teachers who use digital tech more in their daily lives are more likely to bring it into their classrooms.

Duh.

So I’m spending today trying to figure out if this is interesting, if this is worth writing about or investigating further, or what other analysis I need to do to give this “finding,” if that’s what it is, more muscle. And also contemplating how other academics feel (or if they ever experience this phenomenon) when a “finding” that looks exciting on the surface might actually be plain old common sense. Which if I’m being honest, is a bit of a wind-out-of-the-sails sort of feeling.