Integrating Art and Technology
An Action Research Case Study in a High School

dissertation proposal by temi rose 2/20/02

Table of Contents

A National Perspective
Art in Academia: Valuing Aesthetic Cognition
Technology in Education: Ethical Considerations
Art and ritual.
Learning, Change and Democracy
Rationale for this Study

Introduction: Weaving a Web
Art in Schools: Theory
Justice, Responsibility and Care
Conversational Reality
Motivation and Learning
Adult Education
Action Research: Methodology and Principles
Art in Schools: Practice
Technology in Schools
Conclusion: Seeking an Articulation

The Site
The Participants
Data Sources
Researcher's Role
Data Analysis


Chapter III: Method

This study uses a mixed methods approach to data gathering and analysis. The methods used are action and qualitative research. Although these methodologies have values that overlap but are not contiguous, they do not necessarily follow one another. And, as it is a new methodology, still exploring its own meaning and narrative structure, I can indulge my pleasure in participating in formal, structural, development by contributing to the growing literature of examples of qualitative research.
The reason I used action research as the methodology for participation in the school was that I felt that it would be irresponsible to withhold information needed by individuals or the group to contribute to the integration of technology into the curriculum. Not being capable of denying anyone information, I would not be capable of initiating a primarily ethnographic-style qualitative study requiring me to keep distance and objectivity between my own worldmaking propensities and those of the participants. Instead, I chose a methodology that would encourage me to get as involved as necessary. My choice of methodologies is also due to the simple fact that many educators and psychologists who have worked to develop the philosophies underlying action research are heroes of mine. A dissertation is meant to be the culmination of a researcher following her deepest interests, action and qualitative research made it possible for me to follow my heart.
This chapter will describe the research site, the participants, the data sources, the procedure I chose to follow, my role as a researcher, and data analysis.

According to the fact sheet, given out by the High School in 2002, Captain Dewey High is "located in the heart of [the state capital].. opened in 1953… [The] school population of 1,742 consists of a diverse group of students from all sections of this city of 567,500. While we are one of the smallest of eleven public high schools, the ethnic make-up of our student body is almost an exact microcosm of our city … we have 17% African-American, 24% Hispanic, 58% Anglo, and 1% Other. The size of our school ensures individual attention, widespread athletic and extra-curricular involvement, and a feeling of belonging for all students."

The same document reported that Captain Dewey High "is a comprehensive school, grades 9-12, and is accredited… The school offers a comprehensive college preparatory program and vocational courses for job training and business careers. In addition [Dewey High has] a unit for orthopedically challenged students, and the DELTA program for high risk and drop-out students. The… Fine Arts Academy is our school district's only designated fine arts academy."
The Fine Arts Academy is an additional program of work that a student can elect to pursue. That and the Administrator are the only factors that set the Academy apart from the high school in which it takes its material part. However, there are clear lines of demarcation between those staff who participate in the purposes of the Academy and those staff who do not. My research primarily involved staff and administrators who were involved with the Fine Arts Academy. Art teachers at Capt. Dewey High provided art classes to all students. Students in the Academy were required to take more classes than the rest of the student body but no art class was off limits except on the basis of pre-requisites.

The fact sheet also reported on the curriculum: Capt. Dewey High "provides an education program for all students. Regular, honors, and advanced placement courses (in English, mathematics, social studies, foreign language, and fine arts. Second in the district in the number of students who placed out on AP exams. Received an award as an Outstanding Advanced Placement School from the region." And, finally, the college enrollment information given in the fact sheet was as follows: 1) in the year 2000, the percentage of the student body going on to post-secondary education was 50% (35% to four-year colleges, and 15% to two-year colleges); 2) in the year 2001, the percentage of the student body going on to post-secondary education was 53% (35% to four-year colleges, and 18% to two-year colleges); and 3) the projection for 2002 was that, the percentage of the student body going on to post-secondary education would be 55% (37% to four-year colleges, and 15% to two-year colleges).

There were three primary participants in the study. That is, there were three people who worked closely with me for the entire duration of the project and beyond. They were: 1) the Fine Arts Academy Coordinator; 2) the Chair of the Capt. Dewey Art Department; and 3) the High School English Teacher of the Year for 2000-2001. The Fine Arts Academy Coordinator requested my entrance into the site and that relationship remained throughout the primary connection I had to the high school.
There were twenty-five other participants who contributed significant data and/or participated in relevant communication with me during the course of the study. These participants consisted of: 1) 10 teachers; 2) 8 staff (including administrators and other kinds of staff who were not primarily in the high school as teachers); 3) 4 parents of students; and 4) 3 university professors; 2 in fine arts, 1 in science.

The data sources collected were in the form of: 1) e-mails between myself and the participants as well as emails concerning issues brought about as a result of the research; 2) journals, fieldnotes and photographs I made during the action research; 3) questionnaires concerning technology integration that were formally approved by the district; 4) informal interviews, the only record of these is in my journals and my memory; and 5) a variety of artifacts, such as flyers, and school reports concerning technology. Each of these sources will be discussed briefly in what follows.

This data source consists of approximately 500 e-mails that were sent between myself and the participants as well as to and from people concerned in some way with the action research initiatives, including, but not limited to: teachers, parents, Capt. Dewey staff, and District staff. The nature of these e-mails varies. There are business-like e-mail messages conveying concrete information such as meeting times and resource allocations. There are passionate pleas from myself and participants for aid in achieving goals or meeting deadlines, or commitments. There are introductory e-mails in which participants are introducing themselves to me or vice versa. In short, there are many categories of e-mail messages, ranging from the very personal to the extremely formal.
The first e-mail was sent Friday, November 3rd, 2000. There are elements of initiatives that we continue to work on together, meaning that the e-mails will continue until this document is finished (date to be determined), 2002.

Journals, Fieldnotes, and Photographs
In keeping with qualitative tradition, I kept extensive journal and fieldnotes. These writings are extremely personal in nature and deal both with factual occurrences and with my attempts at understanding what was going on. The journal has drawings I made when words were not expressing the feeling I was hoping to capture. Similarly, there are photographs pasted in the journal, from times when words were just not adequate. In the results chapter, there will be examples of the journal entries; and in the discussion chapter, there will be an attempt to analyze those entries in terms of the growth in my comprehension of what was emerging as a result of the action research initiatives. Initiatives, as mentioned in this context, refers to the specific projects that the core group of participants, myself included, attempted as elements of our overall goal of technology integration into the Fine Arts Academy curriculum. These initiatives will be discussed in great detail in both the results and the discussion chapters.

I developed questionnaires consisting of the following four questions: 1) how would you characterize the technology support system that exists in your school and in your out-of-school environment? Do you feel supported? In what ways do you feel supported? Please also describe ways that you need more support. 2) In your opinion, what role would technology play in your classroom to be most appropriate and effective? Please feel free to describe your ideal. If your ideal is a classroom without technology, please feel free to say so. If your ideal is to participate in a teaching environment that is completely integrated with distance learners and video and computer technology, feel free to say so. If you have a completely different vision from the ones you have read here, please feel free to share it. 3) As far as you are concerned, what limits the use of technology in the curriculum? How do you feel about these limitations? and, 4) Every teacher has their own approach to the enactment of the curriculum, in what ways does (or might) technology support your particular approach to teaching?

The title of the questionnaire was, Technology Use in Your School: Feelings, Thoughts, Opinions and Experiences. The directions included the following statements: 1) This questionnaire seeks to elicit your thoughts, your feelings, your experiences as well as your hopes for and trepidations regarding technology integration into your curricular practice. 2) If any question does not seem pertinent to you, please feel free to interpret the question or ignore it altogether. If you have more to say than the space allows, please feel free to add additional sheets. You may append any additional material you feel is relevant to the discussion. 3) The responses to this questionnaire will be used by myself in a study that is part of my doctoral program at UT Austin. My study will be written as a narrative/analysis. I am hoping to benefit general awareness/understanding regarding staff and teacher responses to the changes they are experiencing in their professional practice because of the introduction of computers into classrooms.

The questions were given to the three core participants, nine of the participant teachers, four of the participant staff, and to all # departments heads at Capt. Dewey High. A total of six questionnaires were returned; five were filled out, one was not. All three core participants filled out questionnaires.
Informal Interviews

There were hundreds of informal interviews in the course of the action research. Teachers, technology staff, and school administrators were most comfortable with this means of conveying information to me concerning their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. It is easy to see why this was the case: this means of communication is the least likely to rebound negatively on the speaker. Throughout the course of my presence at Capt. Dewey High School, I made sure that everyone I spoke to understood that I was there as a researcher, that I intended to write about the experiences, conversations, and events that transpired. My choice is to present here to the reader my version of these informal interviews than put anyone’s job in jeopardy by quoting them directly. All the names used in the study are pseudonyms. Information that might compromise someone will be reported in as neutral a manner as possible. It would be utterly hypocritical for me to assert that this study was for the purpose of helping people to develop themselves through the democratic process of negotiated meaning making, and then to open people’s vulnerability to a public audience. If the reader feels that this in some way compromises the data, so be it. I believe that it will be possible to report the information I gained from these informal interviews without endangering the participants; if it means risking the occasional tendency to generalize, in those instances, I will make sure that I report the reason why.

There are a variety of artifacts used as data in this study. These documents relate high school curricula, information regarding district technology policy, school budgets, documents related to the activities we carried out, and documents given to me by the participants. For instance, an example of documents given to me by a participant is the paperwork the District High School English Teacher of the Year, who was a core participant, sent in to the application committee.

The procedure I followed with regard to data gathering and the action research study consisted of following the classic consultancy phases: 1) initial contact; 2) establishing a helping relationship, formulating a contract; 3) Identifying the problems through diagnostic analysis 4) setting goals and planning action; 5) taking action and cycling feedback; and 6) completing the contract, continuity, support, and termination (Lippitt & Lippitt, 1976).

Initial contact was made by me as a result of an e-mail the Fine Arts Coordinator sent to the coordinator for an arts-based research conference in 2000. The e-mail contained a description of the school and an introduction particularly to the Fine Arts Academy within Capt. Dewey High. The Coordinator was requesting any researchers interested in doing research at the Academy to please contact her (See Appendix 4). I contacted the Coordinator just before Thanksgiving 2000 by telephone. We arranged a meeting. We met several times and I was introduced to a variety of teachers. After several weeks of meetings and telephone conversations, none of this stage was conducted over e-mail, we were able to formulate a verbal contract.

Our verbal contract, made between myself and the Coordinator included the Lippitt’s third and fourth stages. While we were developing an understanding that I was there to help the school, we were identifying the problems the Academy might be facing that I had any ability to ameliorate. And, in the course of these conversations concerning the technical communication levels (my area of expertise as a consultant) at the Academy elicited enough information from the Coordinator that we were able to do some superficial diagnostic analysis and some premature goal setting all at the same time. This action research study, like all others, required a recursive process of goal setting, taking action, resetting goals, and taking more action. In this case, the initial goals were set in the original meetings with the Coordinator. These initial meetings in person and on the telephone lasted # weeks.

My entrance into the school as an active participant began with my meeting with the teacher council the first week in February 2001. This meeting was to confirm the validity of our goals with representatives from all the departments. There were no objections at that meeting, simply requests for more information and my presence at a variety of meetings involving parents and committees overseeing technology use in the school. I began to visit the school more regularly in February 2001 and continued in that manner, taking some actions and receiving some feedback (the Lippitt’s fifth stage) when I was hired by the school as a technology coordinator in May 2001. This shift in my role is a result of a complexity of factors so intermingled that I will ask the reader to wait until the results chapter for a full explication of this turn of events.
I worked from May 2001 until August 2001 as an internal consultant, hired by the district and Capt. Dewey High to integrate their technology programs. The goals that the Coordinator and I had established of improving the Fine Arts Academy’s web site were subsumed into this larger project of technology integration into the general curriculum. There were new actions taken during this phase and many participants received and gave a great deal of feedback.

From September 2001 until December 2001, I returned to my original role as Fine Arts researcher promoting the use and improvement of the school web site. At the end of December 2001, my official data-gathering contract with the district and the university expired. At this point in time I work at the school, tutoring and setting up technological support systems two to three times a week. I am at Capt. Dewey High approximately ten hours a week.

We intend to complete our contract only when the dissertation is complete. The participants will be invited to the dissertation defense and all interested participants will have access to the dissertation itself. The district requires receipt of their own copy of the dissertation. As regards the rest of the Lippitt’s final stage, in several ways we are already in a process of continuity, support, and termination. In order to cover the three goals of consultancy as described by Peter Block (1981), my relationship with the Academy may last even after I have physically left the area. Of the three goals, we have already met the first which is to establish a collaborative relationship that maximizes the talent and skills of the participants; and the third which is to ensure that attention is given to both technical/practical problems and relationship issues. But, in order to meet Block’s second goal, to solve problems so that they stay solved, I will be available to the participants be e-mail for as long as they wish to stay in contact with me.

The procedure I followed with regard to data analysis will be described in the final section of this chapter.

There are two different roles I played in the course of this study. One is as an action researcher and the other is as a qualitative researcher. These two roles were not at odds but neither did they require the same sort of intelligence, or attitude towards data. Each role will be addressed separately below.

As an Action Researcher
During data gathering, I thought of myself as an action researcher. What this way of perceiving meant to me was: 1) People came first at all times, regardless of any temptation to achievement; 2) Participation was mandatory: I was not to excuse myself from active participation, emotional, intellectual, and physical; and 3) I would exercise thematic, self-reflection as often as possible. These three perceptions will be briefly explored in the paragraphs that follow.

People come first at all Times
If I was to be consistent with the set of theories outlined in the literature review, I would have to put the needs of individuals-in-the-living-moment ahead of all other concerns. Although this sounds easy enough, in practice there were tremendous temptations to sacrifice relationships for the sake of strategic goals. The tension between these perceptive-action orientations will be addressed in the discussion chapter.

Participation was Mandatory
A researcher has the ability to escape into an intellectual perspective. This luxury is to be avoided in action research as it is reported to have detrimental effects on the cognitive apprehension of surrounding events. What this meant in practice was that, rather than retreating to a theoretical position when confronted with challenges, I had to discipline myself to participate as an active member of the group. This is also not as easy as it sounds. The issues that confronted us were often highly charged emotionally and I had to choose to allow myself to feel and put those feelings in primacy over my tendency to analyze. I tried to make sure that I was analyzing during self-reflection, not during participation. The theories behind action research propose that an engaged researcher is, in fact, the more effective change agent; and this was something I needed to find out for myself by attempting to practice the method as described.

Exercise Thematic Self-Reflection
To readers of contemporary educational literature, the concept of self-reflection is now familiar. Briefly, self-reflection is an affective-cognitive technique for someone who wishes to increase her awareness of her relationship to the events in which they have taken, or intends to take, part. I define thematic, self-reflection as an affective-cognitive technique for someone who wishes to increase her awareness of her relationship to a specific goal set. For example, in my case, the themes I was interested in were: 1) collaboration; 2) conversation; 3) care; and 4) communication.

Collaboration was a theme of my self-reflection in that I would question repeatedly, how, and to what degree, and in what manner, my actions, emotions, and cognitions were affecting the change effort. Conversation was a theme of my self-reflection, in that I would go over the conversations that had occurred on the phone, in person, or in e-mail that concerned the change effort. What I was looking for in the self-reflections concerning conversations, was more structural than what I was examining in my self-reflection on collaboration. My self-reflection on conversation revolved around communicative patterns that I had noticed emerging. I was looking to understand affective, as well as symbolic, perception, and cognitive patterns emerging from the conversations. This was an extremely challenging aspect to my self-reflections. If I could find a possible pattern, I then needed to examine what role I was playing in maintaining that pattern. Then I would need to question whether or not I wished to continue participating in that manner. And finally, if I did not wish to continue, what my alternatives might be.

My self-reflections on the theme of care were the most personal. I imagine that this was so because the ethic of care has been articulated primarily by women and primarily in the context of nurturing relationships. In my experience, nurturing relationships have been primarily in the realm of the personal. I have had many nurturing teachers, and I have often used my memory of my experiences with those teachers as schema, or models to emulate. But, still, my tendency was to collapse the boundaries between the personal and the professional and I was hoping, in my self-reflections, to remind myself of the parameters I set for myself as appropriate. All of these self-reflections will of course be considered in the discussion chapter.

My self-reflection on the theme of communication was once again, more structural. I am interested in the mechanisms that underlie communication. I am interested in all the mediated forms that have been developed to aid communication. I am also interested in the symbolic apperceptions that undergird those communicative forms. And I am equally fascinated with content forms. My self-reflections on communication concerned also the social formations, the way role definitions were affecting communication. And, finally, I was interested in how the nature and communicative style of the inter-personal relationships was affecting the goals of the action research.
The following subsection will consider the role I was playing as a qualitative researcher during the course of this study.

As a Qualitative Researcher
During data analysis, synthesis of data, and theory development, and in writing this dissertation, my role was that of a qualitative researcher. The primary values I had in playing this role were to be: 1) patient; 2) fair; and 3) accurate.

It required disciplined thought and the exercise of patience, to avoid jumping to conclusions. Sometimes, it took a long time before a pattern in the data emerged; rushing that process always seemed to lead to unacceptable levels of interpretative confusion. My goal was to be as patient as possible with my process of understanding.

Being fair was really the most challenging aspect of this whole process for me. Balancing my personal opinions with those of the group, in order to represent what happened as accurately as possible, meant that I had continuously to search for the broadest possible perspective that I could achieve in relation to the data. Stretching myself this way was an invaluable growing experience for my cognitive abilities but often challenged my emotional self.

The Heart of Accuracy
Accuracy is a myth. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, it is a myth I was trained to uphold. My readings in postmodernist ethics have alerted me to the problems concurrent with an adamant assertion of the need for accuracy. However, I was not entirely able to give up the desire to achieve the kind of clarity of exposition that I think of as accuracy. My solution was to merge my concept of accuracy with my understanding of conversational reality and worldmaking. This merger gave me permission to admit that, no matter how much I would try to be accurate, I would be creating a world of meaning from my interpretation. My goal would then be to capture the heart of the meanings the data held for me, and to convey them to the reader as coherently as possible.
The following, final section of this chapter will describe the intended method of data analysis.

Data analysis will be hermeneutic, recursive and self-reflective. I will use Schallert’s (Schallert, 2002; Reed & Schallert, 1993) methods of conversational flow analysis to interpret the e-mail conversations and informal interviews that took place during the course of the action initiatives. Then, I intend to create a narrative description of my work as an action researcher co-constructing technology integration into Capt. Dewey’s curriculum. The narrative will of necessity embody values and meanings that are in one sense qualitative analysis; however there will be further layers of analysis in the final chapter.

The analytical goals are to describe perceptions of the social forces at work at the school, the level of technological expertise, and the availability of technological resources both cognitive and material. In addition, I will be interested to see if an analysis of conversational flow and interpersonal meaning making in the e-mails and the informal interviews reveals any perceptible patterns. I am also interested in how the conversational flows emerge in relation to events and how events might or might not be seen to have influenced conversational flow.

Further, the analysis will consider whether and how availability of resources did or did not and/or to what extent influenced the previously mentioned social forces and the level of technological expertise among the teaching staff. Finally, there will be an attempt to describe how changing levels of needs affecting participant ability to participate in the integration of technology into the curriculum.

The expected outcomes of the analysis are as yet unknown. My intention is to view the year’s collaborative work through the various theoretical lenses described in this paper in the hope that patterns and connections will emerge that will contribute to our shared understanding of transitions occurring in our schools as we move into the information age.