A Re-Blog of Commentary on JPG’s The 12 Learning Principles Video Games Promote ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

The 12 Learning Principles Video Games Promote ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.


DA Mini-Literature Review/Critique

For EDPY 631, we were required to submit a mini-literature review for our upcoming mini-data analysis project. Before you go off to wonder why all my assignments this semester are snack-sized, here’s my paper for your perusal. Enjoy, nerds! 😀


Technology, in its various forms, has transformed the ways schools in the United States operate, at least, in process. School administrators use technological devices to perform an assortment daily functions, including, but certainly not limited to, maintaining school security, accessing databases of student data, documenting disciplinary issues, and communicating with families, staff, students, and stakeholders. Educators use computing technologies for a variety of instructional purposes, from curriculum development to research and networking to project-based or personalized learning, and for their own professional development and engagement with their communities. Schools locate and acquire assistive technologies for students with learning and physical disabilities, and in many districts, funding is being allocated for programs to increase the presence and use of technology in classrooms for e-learning for all students.

But even though access to computing devices and internet in schools has increased rapidly, schools are still tauted as some of the slowest adopters of innovations, and many instructional technology implementation efforts fall miserably flat. Educational leaders speak publicly of aspirations for high-tech, personalized learning environments in future classrooms. However, much of the conversation surrounding instructional technology has not actually translated into action or educational change. For EDPY 631 at the University of Tennessee, I have been tasked with applying discourse analysis to my own area of research interest via a mini-discourse analysis project. In this paper, I will describe my interest in educational technology leadership, propose the rationale for my study, and provide my research questions.  Then, I will offer a mini-literature review of five discourse analysis studies which relate closely to my topic. Lastly, I will discuss conclusions I have drawn from my review of the research and recommend areas for future inquiry.

Statement of the Problem

In relatively few years, computing hardware and internet access have become staples in schools nationwide, to the delight of many ‘educational reformists,’ who have praised innovative technologies as having the capacity to dramatically enhance education and learning; however, much to those same reformists’ chagrin, instructional technology implementations have been vastly problematic and unsuccessful in producing increased rates of student achievement (Greaves, Hayes, Wilson, Gielniak, & Peterson, 2010). Greaves and colleagues (2010) reported nine key elements of establishing an instructional technology program to positively affect student achievement. According to their study, out of all schools surveyed (N = 997), more than 20% (n = 227) of participatory schools had one-to-one policies, requiring that the schools provide a laptop to each learner, yet only 1% of schools met all the researchers’ key elements for successful, effective implementation of instructional technology. The researchers concluded that the mere presence of technological hardware does not guarantee rigorous and successful technology programs.

Additionally, instructional technology implementation has been met with multiple barriers and challenges.  Innovators have faced resistance to technology from both teachers and administrators, and after multiple, misled, or rapidly-changing technology implementation efforts, school staff have reported experiencing “initiative fatigue” and having doubts about the effectiveness and/or sustainability of educational technology initiatives (Goodlad, 175; Wallace, Blasé, Fixsen, & Naoom, 2007). Other studies have demonstrated a lack of pedagogically-meaningful integration of technology into the curriculum or a failure of instructors to utilize available technologies to their full potential (Bosch, 1993; Niess, 1991; Royer, 2002; Trotter, 1997).

While all the scholars cited in this section have each studied a different piece of instructional technology implementation, they all hold one common belief: effective leadership is instrumental to implementing and maintaining successful instructional technology paradigms in schools. Leadership in education has been widely studied in terms of social-cognitive theories; however, analyses of the discourse of educational leadership, specifically that of instructional technology leadership, are far fewer in number. Leadership is largely accomplished through talk of various kinds, and leaders’ identities are continually being negotiated through their interactions with others and through the media. Since successful instructional technology implementations are often contingent upon effective leadership, and since discourse is one of the primary vehicles of leadship, it stands to reason that the study of instructional technology leaders’ discourse could provide some significant insight while filling an obvious gap in the current literature.

Research Questions

For this project, I decided to choose two pieces of discourse from popular public media sources in which educational leaders discuss instructional technology implementation processes. In discourse analysis, to reduce bias, the researcher generally practices what is known as “unmotivated looking”, in which the research questions develop alongside the data analysis rather than being developed beforehand. However, I have penned two general research questions to keep in mind, and further develop, as I proceed through analysis:

1.) How is educational technology constructed in talk?

2.) How is technology leadership constructed in talk?

These two questions will guide my data collection and analysis, but the existing literature also can be viewed with these questions in mind. In the next section, I will review some of the research pertaining to educational technology and technology leadership.

Review of Research

Finding relevant, empirical studies using discourse analysis methods was challenging. I used the following key words in varying combinations to search the major research databases (e.g. Google Scholar, EBSCO, JSTOR, and ERIC) for empirical articles pertaining to instructional technology leadership and discourse analysis: education, educational leadership, principals, school leadership, discursive leadership, conversation analysis, discourse analysis, talk, conversation, instructional technology, technology leadership, innovation, leadership, learning, administrator, implementation, computer, computing, digital, web 2.0, online, virtual, and teacher leaders. EBSCO produced the most results, but even out of 3,400 articles, only a dozen were relevant to my topic. I used the thesaurus functions within the databases to generate some additional key words, such as ICT [Information and Communication Technologies], media, and communication, which yielded additional results.

I collected and perused 30 articles which pertained in some way to instructional technology implementation and discourse analysis, and then, I narrowed that corpus down to five articles for the purposes of this assignment by choosing the five that were closely applicable to educational leadership, which is my concentration. I chose the following five papers to include in this review because they are all empirical studies featuring discourse analysis and are all relevant to instructional technology leadership. In this section, I will describe and critique these articles, including a brief summary of the rationale, methodology, and results of each study and a discussion of each study’s strengths, weaknesses, and implications for future research or suggestions on research design improvements.

Sasseville (2004)

Sasseville (2004) published an article in the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology titled, “Integrating Information and Communication Technology in the Classroom: A Comparative Discourse Analysis.” In his study, he compared two bodies of discourse from opposing sides of what he frames as competing realities regarding Information and Communication Technologies [ICT] inside and outside of schools. The first corpus he studied was a collection of eleven texts on the subject of ICT in the classroom gathered from educational journals and magazines. Sasseville positioned this corpus as representing technology “promoters” and “neo-liberals”. Contrastingly, the second corpus was comprised of eight interviews with teachers about ICT integration in schools, which Sasseville positioned as representing a “restrained” and “pragmatic” ideology in regards to technology. He analyzed his data by close reading and constant comparison and used extracts from the corpora to evidence his argument.

Sasseville’s study was well-written and thoroughly grounded in the larger body of research overall, but his bias against technology in classrooms was so overtly portrayed through his diction that it was distracting and worrisome. Throughout the article, Sasseville repeatedly referred to the increase in ICT as an “invasion”, a word which holds a derogatory denotation, and he positioned technology promoters as out-of-touch with eductors, if not somewhat psychotic, claiming that technology promoters’ discourse is “based on an imaginary world” (p. 8), while the “teacher’s discourse is anchored in reality not in prospective” (p. 8). Sasseville proposed that technology promoters were attempting “to corner the educational system into adopting [new technology]” (p. 6), as if promoters were predators and educators prey, and he expressed surprise at teachers’ lack of resistance and/or negativity toward ICT. Since the original data were translated from French to English by the author, I found myself questioning the credibility of the translations. It would be easy for a biased researcher to pick the most divisive data and/or the most sensational translation of a word to suit his own purposes. Perhaps, a reflexivity statement would have eased my tension as a reviewer, but Sasseville did not include one.

Furthermore, Sasseville’s data selection procedures and presentation of data were weak, which raised some questions for me, as a reviewer. In his methods section, Sasseville described narrowing down his corpora by saying, “the discarded texts were those who could not ‘speak’ to the analyst” (p. 3). Upon further research, this statement may be discovered to be based on a convention taken from Fossion and Laurent, whom Sasseville referenced nearby as primary influencers of his analytic methods; however, I found the statement ethically worrisome (and not just because of the obnoxious refering-to-oneself-in-third-person technique employed). Sasseville did not disclose how many texts were included in the first archive of his first corpus (representative of technology promoters), so we do not know how many pieces of data were discarded, but Sasseville did disclose that from 23 interviews in the second corpus (teachers), only eight were used for the study. The criteria for narrowing the data was only vaguely mentioned, whereas I expected a more transparent explanation. Next, the data were presented as two bulky sections of back-to-back quotes from multiple unidentified sources about educational technology with very little intermediary analysis or context to connect extracts together. Appendices were included with demographic information on interviewees, publishing information of magazines/journals from which text data were collected, and the same extracts from the article, written in the original French, yet still taken out of the context of the respective transcript; nevertheless, apart from the advantage of being able to cross-check the author’s French-English translations (assuming bilingualism), the appendices seemed more like an afterthought than an integral piece of the article. If, throughout the article, Sasseville had artfully and intentionally embedded his data into all the context from the appendices, this paper would have gained greater cohesion and depth.

However, aside from these issues, Sasseville’s study had several strengths. Many of Sasseville’s findings and conclusions were relevant to the groundwork of my current study and research questions. For example, the perspectives of teachers reported by Sasseville reflected a theme that seems to prevail within the body of fieldwork and research I have archived thus far: while most teachers are not resistant to ICT integration in the classroom, per se, many are hesitant and fearful of change. Additionally through the use of the constant comparative method, Sasseville successfully demonstrated a clear variance in two of the primary discourses surrounding educational technology, highlighting some of the contrasts in the ways ICT is constructed in discourse: exploratory/traditional, promotional/pragmatic, economic/expensive, collaborative/exclusive, inevitable/restrained. This article also heightened my awareness to the value-laden (e.g. ICT is good/bad) versus value-neutral (e.g. ICT is means/end) discourses surrounding educational technology, and Sasseville’s own evident biases reminded me that not only do values affect the discourse of educational technology, but they also affect the discourse of the discourse of educational technology!

Lastly, several ideas and implications for future research arose while reviewing Sasseville’s work, as well as some suggestions for improvement on Sasseville’s study design. As this article was published in 2004, I would be curious to know if any of Sasseville’s ideas have changed in the past decade, or similarly, if repeated, would Sasseville’s study yield different findings now or would the discourse be largely the same? Another thought was even though Sasseville provided a picture of educational technology discourse as representing two categories of thinkers, the promoters and the practitioners, perhaps Sasseville himself represents a third category: the cynics. Pitting the technology cynics against the technology promoters might be a very interesting area for future discourse analysis.

Bladergroen, Chigona, Bytheway, Cox, Dumas, & van Zyl (2012)

The second article I reviewed was written by Bladergroen, Chigona, Bytheway, Cox, Dumas, and van Zyl (2012), titled, “Educator Discourses on ICT in Education: A Critical Analysis.” Bladergroen and colleagues performed a critical discourse analysis (CDA), employing principles from Van Dijk’s and Gee’s work and Fairclough’s framework of analysis, on semi-structured interviews from 40 South African teachers who had integrated ICT into their classrooms. Of the 40 participants, half had received ICT training for a year prior to interviewing and half had received the technologies but no training. The researchers analyzed the data with repeated listenings and close readings of the transcripts, which were then coded by the research team using qualitative research software. They, then, described the results at the macro, meso, and micro level, noting that teachers were overwhelmingly positive about ICT, regardless of whether or not they had received training, but that negative attitudes may have been suppressed by cultural or societal norms.

Overall, this article was both fascinating and well-done. The paper was easy to read and progressed logically and clearly. The researchers provided rich context, background, and ample extracts of data, as well as a thorough description of methods of data analysis. Bladergroen and colleagues discussed their findings in a balanced way, showing both negative and positive sides of ICT implementation and integrating ethnographic and cultural aspects into the findings to provide additional understanding of ICT discourses in South African classrooms. Their conclusion section included practical applications, suggestions, and implications for educational leaders and educators to consider when integrating ICT.

The weaknesses in this study were that some of the results seemed a bit contradictory and/or confusing. On page 114, Bladergroen et al. reported that educators from the first group (who received training) “expressed more negative or neutral views regarding technologies than positive ones,” whereas on the next page, the authors noted that “negative voices were in the minority” (p. 115). Also, the authors talk about the major ICT discourses in South Africa as representing a deterministic philosophy, an idea also discussed by Brooks (2011), but I was confused as to whether the term “deterministic” was referencing the same idea in both articles. The only other problem with this article is that the authors did not collect any data from educational leaders, which is my primary interest. Obviously, this is not exactly a weakness with the article, per se, except in terms of my own larger goals.

This study raised some important questions for me as I reviewed it. For one, have similar discourse analyses been done concerning teachers in the United States regarding ICT implementation, and if so, why can I not locate them? Also, Bladergroen et al. pose that a sense of disempowerment leads to failure to fully integrate ICT. If that is so, are there disempowering factors for educators in the US, and how do those factors compare with those in other countries? The authors mentioned needed support from educational leaders in ICT integration, but what kinds of support are needed and/or effective?

Bogotch & Roy (1997)

Bogotch’s and Roy’s (1997) study, entitled “The Contexts of Partial Truths: An Analysis of Principal’s Discourse”, is the first and only study I have been able to find which focuses on how leadership is constructed through talk in schools. The researchers studied the leadership discourse of one principal over the course of a full year, obtaining recorded conversations, interviews, documents, observations, and field notes. These data were analyzed using a socio-linguistic framework (influenced by Hymes, Goffman, and Shultz) for the context of partial-truths, that is, when a speaker does not fully disclose his/her true meaning and/or knowledge in a conversation. The researchers analyzed the immense amount of data, but only reported on a few key incidents in which leadership was being accomplished through distinct decision-making moments.

Bogotch and Roy identify their methodology as a “close discourse analysis”, and their style of writing and reporting data seemed much closer aligned to conversation analysis than any of the other articles reviewed in this paper, as they dissected language, pointing out conventions such as hedging, hesitating, changing intonation, requests, and avoidance tactics. The authors provided a beautiful argument for considering leadership as a discursive practice, constructed through everyday language. Their approach to the study was naturalistic, and they described their own roles as researchers and described how their own personal backgrounds influenced choices made about the setting and topic of study. The most impressive part of this article was certainly the breadth of data the researchers gathered on a single case. Three situations from the data were chosen to highlight the context of partial truths in the principal’s discourse, an idea which at first confused me, but to no fault of Bogotch and Roy.  In their concluding remarks, Bogotch and Roy make a plea for moral leadership and discuss implications of honesty versus partial truths as used in leaders’ discourse.

The only part of Bogotch’s and Roy’s article that was disappointing to me was that there was no connection between leadership discourse and educational technology. Too, the authors referenced and earlier, more comprehensive analysis of the same data, which I wish I also had had the chance to review, but due to time and assignment constraints, I will have to put that reading off until a future time. Otherwise, this article was an excellent example of applying discourse analysis to educational leadership talk. Further recommendations for research might include a comparison of discursive leadership techniques, as Bogotch and Roy only focused on a single principal.

Blackmore & Thorpe (2003)

The fourth article I reviewed for this assignment was by Jill Blackmore and Stephen Thorpe (2003), entitled, “Media/ting Change: The Print Media’s Role in Mediating Education Policy in a Period of Radical Reform in Victoria, Australia.” This article, like Bogotch’s and Roy’s, was a secondary piece of analysis based on an earlier meta-analysis of the media’s effects on education in Australia. Blackmore and Thorpe included interviews with principals and journalists, content from two daily newspapers, national radio broadcasts, and a focus group of educators in their analysis. Analysis was based on techniques used by Fairclough, Falk, and Bernstein, and the findings were presented through long and short extracts from the data embedded in the analysis. Conclusions were then drawn about the relationships, specifically the media/tion, between policy-makers, educators, the public, and the media and implications for integrating educational reforms.

This article, while certainly interesting and well-written, was a fairly weak example of discourse analysis, in my opinion. The background information and history of the media in Victoria, Australia made up the largest part of the text, and even though extracts were scattered throughout the analysis and findings sections, the bulk of the analysis was authors’ commentary and conclusions. No specific speech-acts were described from the data, and by the end of the article, I felt as if I had just read a history term-paper or a short ethnography rather than a true discourse analysis. Similarly, I am disappointed that I found Blackmore’s and Thorpe’s secondary article on the media’s influences on educational policy rather than their primary article, as I am curious to know whether the original data was analyzed through more conventional discourse analysis methods. I chose to keep this paper to review because it was the only discourse analysis I found on the media in regard to educational leadership and/or change, but I had hoped to explore the techniques of analyzing media data rather than just focusing on the different ways the media interacts with the educational system.

The strengths of this article include the breadth of data collected (even though the majority of the data were absent from this analysis) and the depth of information about how the media and educational systems interact and affect each other. While I am not specifically enthused by media research, the history and context Blackmore and Thorpe provided helped me reflect on my own data analysis project, and I will be locating the primary article which contained the same data for future references. In regards to areas of future research based on this article, I would recommend a focus on the media/tion of educational technology implementations or a comparison of how educational leaders talk about issues of school reform inside and outside media discourses.

Brooks (2011)

The final article I reviewed was “Locating Leadership: The Blind Spot in Alberta’s Technology Policy Discourse” by Charmaine Brooks (2011). In this article, Brooks applied Critical Discourse Analysis [CDA] to Alberta Education technology policy documents, publications by the Alberta Teachers’ Association [ATA] and the Alberta School Councils’ Association [ASCA], and texts from the College of Alberta School Superintendents [CASS]. Brooks used Feenberg’s model for philosophically positioning technological discourse, which basically translated into the CDA equivalent of a Punnett Square with characteristics associated with technology– autonomous versus human-controlled along the x-axis, value-laden versus value-neutral along the y-axis– combining to provide four possible categories of philosophy on technology: determinism (ICT is autonomous and value-neutral), instrumentalism (ICT is human-controlled and value-neutral), substantivism (ICT is autonomous and value-laden), and critical theorism (ICT is human-controlled and value-laden). After narrowing down her texts via keyword counts, Brooks aligned each piece of discourse with one of Feenbergs four categories and then correlated these texts with the “nodal discourses”, such as those concerning globalization and the knowledge-based economy, as inspired by Fairclough. She found that the ATA discourse reflected substantivist and critical theorist philosophies (both value-laden), while Alberta Education reflected deterministic and instrumentalistic philosophies (both value-neutral). The ASCA’s documents demonstrated the critical theorists philosophy, also, but the value-neutral texts were found to correlate better with the nodal discourses. Brooks noted that CASS had the least amount of relevant educational technology discourse available for study, and she went on to discuss the absence of superintendents in the technology discourse and the implications thereof. Lastly, Brooks analyzed a 2010 document released by CASS concerning improving educational technology leadership and increasing the superintendents’ involvement in technology leadership, demonstrating how educational leadership is entering the ICT discourse with a seemingly critical theorist philosophy on ICT.

On the whole, Brooks’s article was very informative and interesting to read and had more strengths than weaknesses. This article was the only article of the five which addressed educational policy specifically, and since my studies are overseen through the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, it was invaluable to my mini-literature archive. The background information and literature review Brooks provided gave a rich picture of educational technology in Alberta, allowing me to see clear similarities and differences between ICT in US educational policy and Canadian educational policy. Brooks’s theoretical framework was clear and cohesive, and her methods of analysis were described thoroughly. The application of Feenberg’s model and Fairclough’s nodal discourses to the data were both appropriate and fascinating; however, the finding that value-neutral ICT discourses were more closely correlated with nodal discourses was surprising to me, as I would have expected nodal discourses to be more value-laden. Lastly, her discussion of educational technology leadership and the emerging roles and challenges thereof was extremely insightful and will be worth revisiting as I further research and discuss technology leadership discourse in education.

I noted very few weakness while reviewing Brooks’s study, but I did think her presentation of data could have been more thorough and she could have included more about her role as a researcher. Brooks provided extracts from the policy documents she analyzed, but she only included 1-3 direct quotes from each document. While I’ve critiqued some of the articles in this review for having too many extracts and not enough analysis, this article is nearly the opposite. I would have like to have seen Brooks use additional extracts to back up more of her analytical claims. Similar to many of the authors I’ve reviewed for this class, Brooks also neglected to include a reflexivity statement or a description of her role as the researcher. Since transparency and revealing biases is important to maintaining trustworthiness as a researcher, this article could be improved by adding more information about the author’s role in the research.

Reading Brooks’s study prompted several ideas for future research. For example, a cross-cultural comparison of ICT discourses in educational policy, especially comparing the discourses of educational leaders, might prove interesting. Also, Brooks references ICT professionals who work with schools and districts to implement instructional technology, but where are their voices in the discourse? Has anyone studied the discourse of technology directors/coaches in regards to ICT implementations in schools?


I’ll conclude this paper with a brief synthesis each of the five articles reviewed herein and how they relate to my current data analysis project. Reviewing this research has given me a more complete and complex understanding of the existing discourse analyses concerning educational technology leadership. While Sasseville (2004) did not specifically take principal technology leadership into account, his study did provide a strong context from which to frame ICT discourse in terms of two contrasting ideological bases. Bladergroen, Chigona, Bytheway, Cox, Dumas, & Zyl (2012) contributed interesting insight into teachers’ discourses on ICT and into how leadership and support can affect technology integration, but their article lacked actual discourse from educational leaders. Contrastingly, Bogotch and Roy (1997) focused directly on the discourse of educational leaders and how leadership can be constructed through talk in schools yet did not relate educational leadership to ICT in any way; however, I found Bogotch’s and Roy’s work to be more relevant to my area of research than either Sasseville or Bladergroen et al. because of its distinctive focus on leadership. Blackmore and Thorpe (2003) took on issues of the media and how the media influences educational policies, which is helpful to my study since one of my pieces of data for analysis is a public-radio broadcast.  Lastly, Brooks (2011) laid a strong, albeit Canadian, foundation for future ICT leadership discourse analysts like myself and provided a perspective on the technology discourse within educational policy. All five of these articles have positive and negative points and are more or less related to my area of research interest; however, none of the articles I’ve reviewed analyze, in particular, the discourse of educational technology leadership. This lack of research is representative of the gap in the literature which I tend to fill with my discourse analysis study.


Blackmore, J., & Thorpe, S. (2003). Media/ting change: The print media’s role in mediating education policy in a period of radical reform in Victoria, Australia. Journal of Education Policy, 18(6), 577-595.

Bladergroen, M., Chigona, W., Bytheway, A., Cox, S., Dumas, C., & van Zyl, I. (2012). Educator discourses on ICT in education: A critical analysis. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology, 8(2), 107-119.

Bogotch, I. E., & Roy, C. B. (1997). The contexts of partial truths: An analysis of principal’s discourse. Journal of Educational Administration, 35(3), 234-252.

Bosch, K. A. (1993). Is there a computer crisis in the classroom? Schools in the Middle, 2(4), 7–9.

Brooks, C. (2011). Locating leadership: The blind spot in Alberta’s technology policy discourse. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 19(26).

Goodlad, J. I. (1975). The dynamics of educational change: Toward responsive schools. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Greaves, T., Hayes, J., Wilson, L., Gielniak, M., & Peterson, E. (2010). Project RED key findings. Shelton, CT: MDR. Retrieved from One-to-One Institute at www.one-to-oneinstitute.org/NewsDetail.aspx?id=85

Niess, N. L. (1991). Computer-using teachers in a new decade. Education and Computing, 7(3–4), 151–156.

Royer, R. (2002). Supporting technology integration through action research. The Clearing House , 75(5), 233-237.

Sasseville, B. (2004). Integrating information and communication technology in the classroom: A comparative discourse analysis. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 30(2).

Trotter, A. (1997). Taking technology’s measure. In Technology counts: Schools and reform in the information age. Education Week, 17(11), 6–11.

Wallace, F., Blase, K., Fixsen, D., & Naoom, S. (2007). Implementing Educational Innovations to Benefit Students. Washington, DC: Educational Research Services.

Zorfass, J. (2001). Sustaining a curriculum innovation: cases of Make It Happen! In J. Woodward & L .Cuban (Eds.). Technology, curriculum and professional development: Adapting schools to meet the needs of students with disabilities (pp. 87-114). California: Corwin Press, Inc.

Analyzing the Discourse, Slowly and Steadily

Tomorrow we have a mini literature review due in EDPY 631, and it is my turn to present my data to the research team. My goal was to finish reading and post one catch-up and one regularly scheduled blog post on our most recent reading — James Paul Gee’s (2011) How to do Discourse Analsis: A Toolkit — in addition to the two larger assignments, but that is beginning to look far too optimistic. I’ll see if I can catch up on blogging this weekend and take you, readers, to the fascinating land of unicorns and James Paul Gee…


The unicorn is in the garden…. there is a unicorn in the garden…

However, be warned:

If you, by chance, decide to check the garden at around 11pm– you know, to see if this alleged unicorn is where he is said to be– do NOT take your dog.

It is unlikely that a unicorn is in the garden, but very likely that a skunk is. 

That’s right.



Poor dog.

In other news, I also have many research updates to record here on my blog – but again… priorities…

Stay tuned!


Price and Johnston (Round 2!)

This week’s assignment included reading and posing questions regarding two dissertation proposals:

  • “Dissertation Prospectus: A Discourse Analysis of Beginning Teachers’ Identity Negotiation during a Student-Teaching Internship” by Joshua P. Johnston
  • “Dissertation Proposal: A Discourse Analysis of Individualized Transition Planning Meetings” by Elizabeth Price

We previously read these proposals in EDPY 633 and I blogged with questions in an earlier post. Having reviewed these texts for a second time, and having started a mini-data project of my own, I have come up with a few more questions for Ms. Price and Mr. Johnston.

  • What are the biggest positive/negative surprises you’ve experienced during your research?
  • While collecting, transcribing, analyzing your data, and writing, what strategies do you use to stay organized, focused, and/or timely? (..So tempted to throw in a Doctor Who reference right here…. resisting… the … urge…..)
  • Have you worked on any other papers/publications?
  • What are your other research interests beyond your dissertation topic?
  • Can you describe the process of submitting your study to the school district’s review board? How does it compare to IRB submission at the University?
  • How has working in DA affected your own communication styles, if at all?

I think that’s all I have: fewer technical questions this time around, more big picture/strategic planning.

Looking forward to our meeting with Price/Johnston for Q&A Round 2! 🙂

Hutchby & Wooffitt with a Side of Field Journal

For this week, we read Chapters 4-6 of Hutchby & Wooffitt’s (2008) Conversation Analysis. We were also tasked with setting up a project file (hermeneutic unit – HU) in Atlas.ti and transcribing the half hour of conversational data we collected. In this post, I’ll give you a quick synopsis on the readings and an update on my mini-discourse analysis project.

Hutchby & Wooffitt

This book is not for the faint-hearted, IMHO. It is dense and technical, but it is extremely informative, especially for anyone attempting conversation analysis (CA). There is certainly a big difference in writing style between Rapley and Hutchby / Wooffitt, (–you guys already know my personal preference ^.^), but I actually think of Hutchby / Wooffitt as having the more stereotypical conversation analysts’ ‘voice’, for some reason.

Chapter 4 of the text discussed building collections of instances of talk and identifying phenomena within the data. Hutchby / Wooffitt gave several examples that really illustrated how the conversation analyst works through what Rapley would call his/her ‘archive’, looking carefully and systematically at orientation and deviance. I am curious to know where the term “po-faced” originated… (mentioned in a segment on p. 94 about joking/teasing, in which the speaker of the next turn after a tease gives a ‘po-faced’, or serious, response), but I can Google it.

Chapter 5 of the text discussed extended sequences and single cases of talk. Hutchby / Wooffitt employed two main examples in this chapter. One was a telephone call between ‘Nancy’ and ‘Edna’, which demonstrated the turn-by-turn analysis of a single case of talk; the other was an analysis of a case of storytelling (with ‘Lesley’ and ‘Joyce’). Both example analyses were thorough and well-explained, and I found myself thinking about my own story-telling sequences, since I often think of teaching like storytelling. A summarizing quote that I liked came from page 133:

“For the beginning researcher, thinking in terms of systematic, formal similarities between data extracts which appear to be involved in certain classes of social action is perhaps the most useful starting point. But… a great deal can also be learned simply by sitting down with a transcript, and the associated tape, and trying to describe, turn by turn, what is going on in the talk.”

Chapter 6 was particularly relevant to my own research as it covered the basics of CA in institutional settings. I will be looking more into ‘footing shifts’ and ‘authorship/principalship’, because I can see how important those two features of talk could be when listening to educational administrators. I did have a hard time grasp the ‘bricolage’ bit, but I’ll look it up. The only question I had about this chapter is since news interviews have been a major topic for study of institutional talk, I wonder how many analyses of interviews with educational officials/administrators are out there… more research waits ahead.

Speaking of research…

I have had some frustrations with my own recorded data from a public school meeting I attended. I had hoped to be able to use this data for my mini-data project, but it is looking grim. I used my phone as a recording device, as E. Price suggested. I tested the app, the sound quality and the volume beforehand. I reviewed the recording afterward from my phone, and it sounded fine. Then I downloaded it onto my PC to put into Atlas and it sounds like BUUUUUUUUUZZZZZZZZZZZ. Tried to download it a different way. Still buzz. Went to youtube and tried to figure it out. Still buzz. Downloaded Audacity and tried the ‘noise reduction’ functions. Fail. After several attempts and no success, I figured I couldn’t afford to belabor the process any longer and risk running myself late on the assignment (as I usually do out of stubbornness), so I’ll be resorting to my back-up plan: video data from online media about the tech implementation which I’m interested in studying. That should fit nicely with the news documents I already chose to use for the text portion of the mini-analysis and still contribute to my overall research goals.

I will be uploading an updated HU shortly.

For today’s class, we read the second half of Tim Rapley’s (2007) book, Doing Conversation, Discourse, and Document Analysis. When I wrote about the first five chapters of Rapley’s text, I applauded it for being accessible and succinct; after reading the last five chapters of the text, that praise still stands. I. Love. Rapley. There, I’ve said it. #nerdcrush Lol. So let’s talk about chapters 6-10.

Chapter 6: Exploring conversations

This chapter of Rapley’s text outlined several features of conversation, such as perspective-display and question-answer sequencing and preference structure (i.e. agreeing/accepting, disagreeing/refusing). On page 81, Rapley wrote, “…you can become more sensitive to just how that specific interaction ‘comes off’,” which reminded me of a classmate’s (Heather) comments on becoming increasingly aware of how her talk was accomplishing actions.

Chapter 7: Exploring conversations about and with documents

This chapter described conversations we have with documents, which at first I thought was going to be a chapter on textual analysis. But it was so much more! Rapley beautifully detailed how we engage with documents in different ways, with a variety of purposes, in various contexts. We don’t merely read a document, just as we don’t merely write one. When we make commentary on a piece of text we are not only having a conversation about it, but also with it. Some other notes:

  • I was surprised on page 87 when Rapley said that documents and texts were “under-researched” in CA.
  • The extracts about Anne-Lize on pages 90-92 put me in mind of Gibert & Mulkay’s work on interpretive repertoires.
  • I had never thought much about how text changing during read-aloud was significant as a conversational feature of text. Makes perfect sense though.
  • On page 95, Rapley wrote that texts “do not speak for themselves but rather that they are always spoken for.” But how do documents not speak for themselves? The document, itself, has something to say, which is then expounded upon by the readers’ commentaries, but just because a reader interprets the writing, does that necessarily mean that commentary is necessary for a document to be part of the discourse? That seems bizarre.

Chapter 8: Exploring conversations and discourse: Some debates and dilemmas

This chapter of Rapley discussed debates and dilemmas within CA/DA. Here are some of the notes I made:

  • “The ability to hear or see that a particular gesture or action is doing particular work depends, in part, on your ability to recognize just why they were doing what they were doing at that point,” (p. 103). This quote put me in mind of empathy studies and work with mirror neurons!
  • The reference to “vulgar competence” was fantastic! (p. 104)
  • The example on page 104-105 in which Rapley described talking to a neighbor about his stressful life, where the two people in the conversation (Rapley and his neighbor) made sense of the same conversation in two different ways, only to figure out later how the misunderstanding occurred. This was an interesting example to me because it shows how easy it is to misinterpret conversation.

Chapter 9: Exploring documents

This chapter provided much more of what I expected from a chapter on textual analysis than chapter 7 did. Notes:

  • I loved the dating advertisement example on p. 111-113 on omissions being as important as… submissions? However, on page 112, Rapley states that “lady and gentlemen are often tied to certain behaviors and activities like ‘being civilized’, ‘having good manners’,” etc. Is this claim common knowledge or based on research?
  • P. 113: “My analysis is made possible by both reading with and against the grain of the text and focusing on how the different elements work together.” – Loved that bit.
  • P. 115: “The term ‘epidemic’… is used in quotation marks so as to distance the paper from being the author of this claim.” Doesn’t that statement imply intention that may or may not actually exist? I mean, I know that putting something in quotes has one effect of distancing the author from the claim – but can’t it also have other effects, like adding credibility to the claim? For example, to me, putting quotes around a word says, “Those are the expert’s words, not just a writer’s opinion.”
  • On pages 116-118 – As Rapley describes his analysis of Brief Intervention (BI) research articles, I felt a wave of relief that he asks just as many questions as I do! I’ve always thought of engaging with documents in that critically questioning way as a practice which would distract from my (formerly) predetermined set of research questions. No that I see how research questions develop out of the talk I feel like, why did I ever try to do qualitative research with pre-set research questions? It all seems so backward now. Lol.

Chapter 10: Studying discourse: Some closing comments

Chapter ten was short, but a nice wrap up of the text. I enjoyed how he saved the epistemology bit for the end, and I felt like he made CA/DA seem very humanized. One question that I had was from a quote on page 126, “Your analysis develops until further collection of research materials yields no new themes for your analysis.” How can discourse analysis become saturated like this? Is saturation a requirement for writing a DA dissertation? How does one know if the process has reached saturation?

Doing Discourse Analysis

This week, in preparation for data collection, we read the first five chapters of Doing Conversation, Discourse and Document Analysis, by Tim Rapley (2007) and “Some ‘technical challenges’ of video analysis: Social actions, objects, material realities and the problems of perspective, ” by Paul Luff and Christian Heath (2012). Per usual, in this post I’ll reflect on these readings by offering a general description of the texts and comments or questions which arose while I was reading. I’ll also conclude with an update on my own journey into the wide world of Discourse Analysis. Aside: When I wrote the previous sentence I immediately thought of this clip–


Ok – back to the task at hand…

Rapley (2007)

I am thoroughly enjoying Tim Rapley’s book! If, dear reader, you yearn for an accessible, fun, honest depiction of DA, this is the book for you! In the first five chapters, Rapley gave a thorough yet succinct overview of DA and its various traditions (i.e. discursive psychology, conversation analysis, etc.), described sources and types of data and data collection procedures, outlined ethical considerations for doing discourse work, and detailed the recording and transcribing processes of DA researchers. After this reading, I feel more confident in exploring DA than I have felt previously — less overwhelmed with it all. Rapley ties it all together beautifully.

Since a large part of our readings was about video data – I’m going to throw in some internet-generated video illustrations alongside my reading notes. Here are some of the notes I made about Rapley’s text:

  • On the first page, Rapley made me LOL with this quote: “The term ‘discourse analysis’ is often used to describe the style of work you will see in this book. Unfortunately for you, that term has many meanings.” In my mind that sentence was accomplishing this:
"Unfortunately for YOU!" -Rapley, the Troll

“Unfortunately for YOU!” -Rapley, the Troll

  • But then on page five, Rapley said, “And unfortunately, there are no hard-and-fast rules or methods that are easily translatable into something that may look like ‘a set of hard-and-fast rules or methods’. One writer describes such work as ‘a craft skill, more like bike riding or sexing a chicken than following a recipe for a mild chicken rogan josh’ (Potter, 1997),” which was kinda like…
"Wait...say what?"

“Wait…say what?”

  • On page ten, when Rapley admitted, “I am never quite sure when I am conducting my own research what actually is my ‘data’ and what is not my ‘data’,” I felt like I was being let in on a qualitative researcher’s big secret…


  • When he referenced cyborgs on page 19…


  • And finally on page 43, when Rapley wrote, “…the actual time it takes to gain access to a site can vary dramatically”, all I could think was…
...Gaining access to Knox County schools. LOL

…Gaining access to Knox County schools. LOL

Overall, I didn’t have many questions or deep, philosophical comments about this book because the first five chapters left me with more answers than questions (for once!). I would like to know if students who haven’t been previously exposed to DP/DA as I have (via EDPY633) felt the same way about this book…? I wonder if it was as helpful to them as it has been to me…

Luff & Heath (2012)

Now, I thought Luff’s and Heath’s article was less helpful to me, personally, but I could see how it might be useful in the future. The purpose of the article was to discuss a few of the challenges faced by researchers using video recordings as data. The authors argued that much of the research on the use of video recordings in qualitative research has focused on issues such as ethics and access. Then, they described how technical choices like camera placement, rigging, and lens angle could alter what kind of data can be collected by the researcher. Overall, I found the article to be somewhat tedious, but I’ll save it just in case I ever break into the video-data sphere.

Last, but certainly not least…

I’m going to attempt to gain access to a meeting on September 18 or 19 at Holston Middle School, in which school leaders will be distributing devices (Macbooks, I believe) to all the students and talking to parents about the new Personalized Learning (one-to-one technology) initiative in Knox County. It would be a stellar place to hear school leadership in action – at least, I hope… 😉

Until next time….