M.C. Escher Relativity, 1953 www.mcescher.com


Chapter III

This study required a mixed methods approach to data gathering and analysis. The methods I used were qualitative and action research.

By bringing a narrative, discursive, personal view into forms of knowing originally developed to support scientific rationalism, qualitative research has initiated a new era in intellectual history. Because my study focused on interpersonal, conversational dynamics that occurred during a change process, qualitative methods were eminently suitable for the analysis.

The type of research that I used for my field methodology was action research because I needed a method what would allow me to speak spontaneously. A methodology like ethnography would not have been suitable because an ethnographic study would have required me to keep a distance between my own worldmaking propensities and those of the participants. Action research permits researcher involvement and requires the reorganization of activities and premises during the course of the research (Kemmis & McTaggart, 1988; McLean, 1995; Usher, Bryant, & Johnston, 1997).

A constant reorganization of premises is in alignment with Prigogine's (1996) dictum that a description of organic forms must take into consideration change over time. In her study, Teaching with Love (1997), Goldstein reported adjusting her activities in response to her participants and then closely examining her own response to the change as well as the responses of her participants. Another reason that I chose to use action research was that many of the theorists who developed action research were heroes of mine and I anticipated learning a great deal from attempting to walk in their footsteps (Argyris, 1982; Goldstein, 1997; Freire, 1993; Lewin, 1948; Mink, 1998).

This chapter briefly describes the research site, the participants, the data sources, the procedure I chose to follow, my role as a researcher, and the methods I used for data analysis. Pseudonyms are used throughout this study. The only participant whose real name is used is Ilya Prigogine’s.

The Site

According to their 2002 fact sheet, Captain Dewey High School was:

…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 [Captain 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.

My research primarily involved staff and administrators who were involved with the Fine Arts Academy. The Fine Arts Academy was an additional program of work that a student could elect to pursue but otherwise there was no obvious difference between the fine arts students and the regular high school students. Even so, academy staff were perceived (and often reported perceiving themselves) differently than the staff of the general high school. The academy staff worked with students from both the regular high school and the academy. Students in the academy were required to take more classes than the rest of the student body but no art class was off limits to regular students except, as in any discipline, on the basis of satisfying pre-requisites.

The 2002 fact sheet reported that the Captain Dewey High curriculum, "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, [Captain Dewey High} received an award as an Outstanding Advanced Placement School from the region."

The college enrollment information given in the fact sheet was that,

  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)
  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

The Participants

When I began the study, Sable (Fine Arts Academy Administrator), Tower (Head of the Art Department), and Wiser (High School English Teacher of the Year for 2000-2001) were the participants. The Fine Arts Academy Administrator (Sable) had requested a researcher at the site and s/he remained my primary connection to the school throughout the course of the study.

Over the course of the year and a half I spent at Captain Dewey High, 25 people contributed significant data and/or participated in a relevant conversation with me. These 25 participants will be briefly described in this section. The participants played the following roles at the school:

  1. ten teachers
  2. eight staff (including administrators and staff who were not primarily in the high school as teachers)
  3. four parents of students
  4. three university professors (two fine arts professors and Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Laureate chemistry professor)

With the exception of the Nobel Laureate, Ilya Prigogine, I will use pseudonyms for all the participants. The pseudonyms were invented and edited by myself, Wiser (English teacher), Genesis (Head Librarian), and Sable (Fine Arts Administrator). The pseudonyms were chosen to be as gender neutral as possible. In the second half of Chapter Four: Data Analysis, the gender of participants and issues that seemed to have been influenced by gender will be discussed.

I delay the reader's knowledge of participant gender so that each reader will have an opportunity to reflect on her assumptions regarding gender and conversation. It is well-documented that we all make assumptions regarding gender appropriate language, conversation, and activity (Broverman, 1970; Brown & Gilligan, 1992; Coates, 1986, 1988; Gilligan 1977, 1982; Holmes, 1995; Kramarae, 1980, 1988; Rogers, 1993; Smith 1998; Spender 1982a, 1982b; Tannen, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1993a, 1993b, 1994a, 1994b, 1996, 1998, 2001). Perhaps, in the course of reading the data, the reader will find herself surprised at the gender of the participants, perhaps just the opposite. In any case, I wish the reader to engage in the story creatively as well as critically. Another reason I withhold the knowledge of gender is to emphasize the perspective of participants' roles and diminish the tendency to make assumptions regarding personality. My hope is to focus on how teachers, in their role as teachers, perceived a technology initiative. Revealing participants’ gender in the second half of Chapter Four will aid an analysis of whether and how gender affected conversations and activities.

I conclude this section by briefly introducing the participants. The following pronouns will be used to denote participants, regardless of their gender: s/he, his/her, her/him, and her/himself.

Captain Dewey Teachers

Head of the Art Department: Tower - Tower was the teacher with whom I worked most closely and consistently throughout the year and a half that I worked with Captain Dewey High. Tower had been teaching fine art for five years - painting, drawing and art history. S/he was lithe, quiet, and intense. His/her conversational style was direct, personal, complimentary, supportive, and yet there was always a sense with her/him that s/he had more perceptual depth than could ever be verbally articulated. In other words, in his/her presence, I felt a heightened awareness of tacit meaning.

2000-2001 High School English Teacher of the Year: Wiser - Another teacher who worked with me throughout this study was Wiser. Tall and slender, Wiser had taught at Captain Dewey High School for 25 years. S/he had attended Captain Dewey High and was able to work with some of the teachers who had inspired her/him during his/her high school years.

In conversation, Wiser was engaging and personable. S/he laughed often. S/he stood quite near to people with whom s/he was conversing, perhaps because there was usually a line of people waiting to speak with her/him and by standing nearer, s/he could focus his/her attention more closely. However, considering his/her reputation as a trusted and influential member of the teaching community, perhaps physical closeness was an element of his/her ability to listen with a rare attentiveness, physiologically as well as emotionally and intellectually engaged.

Business Technology Teacher: Bryght - Bryght was delicate in appearance. Considerate of others and polite, Bryght's conversation almost always included stated concerns for his/her students' welfare. At the time of this study, s/he had taught at Captain Dewey High for 15 years. Bryght taught in a large room with approximately 35 computers. When I first came to Captain Dewey High, Bryght taught word processing, spreadsheet, and overhead-presentation software.

Head Librarian: Genesis - Genesis was a published, prize-winning poet. S/he seemed to know every student's name. S/he often had time to converse with students and fellow teachers. Conversations with Genesis often included time for laughter and real delight but when it came to running the library, Genesis was focused and professional.

3D Art Teacher: Copley - Copley taught 3D arts in the room adjacent to Tower's. My early conversations with Tower usually included Copley. Copley was physically strong and had a commanding presence that seemed entirely suitable to the technically demanding arts s/he supervised. His/her art room included eight potter’s wheels, a torch station with four gas torches, a kiln, and a jewelry station with a centrifuge. Conversations with Copley were usually to the point. His/her style was direct and compassionate. S/he generally spoke to the emotional state as well as to the facts of the matter and was generous with hugs.

English Teacher and Student Council Sponsor: Westwood - Westwood was an English teacher but my work with her/him was in his/her role as the student council sponsor. Westwood was feisty, witty, insightful, and gentle. S/he seemed to have no excessive love for authority, his/hers or anyone else's, but s/he exhibited a great deal of respect and support for honesty, hard work and kindness.

Computer-Based Design Teacher: Shyer - Shyer was the first teacher I met at Captain Dewey High but we had few further conversations until towards the end of my research. Shyer's conversations were direct and activity-oriented. My year there was his/her first year teaching. S/he took his/her new role seriously, with concentration and commitment. Conversations with Shyer often included a moral component: What was right or wrong to do in particular situations was of intense importance to her/him.

Debate Teacher: Abbott - When I began my research, Abbott was the school webmaster which meant that s/he knew the access codes required to work with the school web site. S/he left the school before the end of my research, the official responsibility for the web site passing to Shyer. Abbott's conversational style was abrupt. In all my interactions with her/him, s/he made sure to let me know how busy s/he was and how very little time s/he could spare.

Business Technology Teacher: Miller - Miller asked me if s/he could fill out a research questionnaire for me because s/he wanted to convey his/her problems with technology support. After I had read his/her answers, we had a conversation about what s/he had written. Miller was a first-year teacher, having come to education from industry. S/he was polite, forthcoming and inquisitive.

Journalism Teacher: Welsh - When I began my research, Welsh's journalism classes were well integrated with technology. Although Welsh and I had many short conversations, I never had the opportunity to converse deeply with her/him. S/he is mentioned here because, even though we did very little talking, I borrowed software and equipment from her, occasionally used her room, and later was able to use some grant money to buy her some new software. Welsh was a careful, considerate speaker who was generous to students and teachers alike and perceptibly sensitive to subtleties of meaning and purpose.

Captain Dewey Staff

Fine Arts Academy Administrator: Sable - Sable was my contact in the school. S/he had sent an e-mail query to the organizer of the 2000 Arts-Based Research conference. The conference organizer had forwarded his/her e-mail onto the conference listserv. Apparently, I was the only researcher who responded. (See Appendix E for Sable’s e-mail requesting a researcher.)

It is difficult for me to describe Sable because I have such a high admiration for his/her abilities and I do not wish to sound unacademic, i.e. uncritical. Sable was the conductor of a semi-professional community choir. Sable was a master of conversational engagement. S/he engaged people deeply. In our many and substantive conversations I experienced the full power of Sable’s conversational abilities to share, discover, explore, consolidate, rejoice, despair, and create with others.

I often had the opportunity to observe Sable in conversation with teachers, students, and parents. The most noticeable characteristics of his/her conversations with others were intensity of focus, attentiveness to detail, and imaginative responsiveness. It was an honor to work with someone who listened thoughtfully to everything I said. Perhaps because s/he was a musician and specifically a conductor, s/he was able to transfer to her administrative responsibilities the ability to hear, and merge into harmony, many voices. In addition, s/he was not given to restricting her enjoyment to simplistic harmonies of uni-culturally-determined intervals.

Principal: Lightyear — Lightyear was always busy. S/he was more often in the halls, in the classrooms, involved in conversations with students, teachers, and parents than in his/her office. Conversations with Lightyear were genial even when the subjects were emotionally charged. Lightyear kept her/himself engaged in conversations as a learner without giving up his/her role as person-in-charge. Lightyear conveyed a warmth and a genuine concern for young people and a profound hopefulness in all his/her conversations.

Assistant Principal: Hunter - I only had one conversational interaction with Hunter and s/he was only at one meeting that I attended. However, I found out later that Hunter had had a significant influence on technology use in the high school throughout the course of my research. I did not interact with Hunter often enough to be able to characterize his/her conversational style. Our one conversational interaction consisted of Hunter telling me that the red pencil we were required to use on grant administration forms reminded her/him of the bible in the church of his/her youth. According to Hunter, births and deaths were recorded in this bible, in red ink, symbolic of the "blood of the lamb.".

Assistant Principal: Mayer - I had no extended conversations with Mayer and yet I mention her/him here because we often exchanged greetings. Mayer was almost always in the halls during breaks and at lunchtime and it was impossible to be in the school without her/him knowing who you were and what you were doing there. I cannot comment on his/her conversational style but his/her bearing was calm and aware, s/he always had a smile and a friendly word to say to me and some days this was welcome support and encouragement.

Building Supervisor: Strong - Strong was the heart of the school. S/he supervised everything to do with acquisitions, resources, and building maintenance. None of our projects or plans could move forward without his/her support and that meant that I had a great many conversations with Strong. S/he was a remarkable person whose conversational style was influenced by whether or not the school was calm or in an uproar. If Strong had the time, s/he could be a lively, insightful, and generous conversationalist. When s/he had to work twenty-hour days with no breaks in sight, Strong's conversation became curt and to-the-point.

Ninth Grade Initiative Coordinator: Quinty — The Ninth Grade Initiative was a summer tutoring program for students scheduled to enter the ninth grade who had not passed all their eighth grade courses. My conversations with Quinty took place while s/he was organizing the summer program. Because Quinty was not told how many students would be in the program or what their needs were until two weeks before the program was to start, conversations with Quinty during that time were extremely odd. Quinty was always polite, but often distracted; and the chaos of the situation made it difficult for her/him to keep track of all the conversations in which s/he participated.

Administration Secretary: Winston — Winston was Principal Lightyear's assistant and, because Lightyear was so busy and rarely in his/her office, Winston was often the person we went to for help. I conversed with Winston many times, the subject was always (school or district) procedure. With regard to explaining the bureaucracy, Winston's conversational style was patient and thorough. Even though there was often a line of people waiting to speak with her/him, s/he did not rush people. S/he gave each one of us respect and our problems due consideration.

Captain Dewey Parents

The parents I worked with were all extraordinary. Perhaps those parents who chose to work with the school in support roles were, by definition, generous, hard working, and concerned. The parent volunteers who worked on the technology initiatives during my research at the high school were heroic in their steadfast commitment, their positive outlooks, and their contributions were significant.

Fine Arts Technology Committee Chairperson: Pierce — Pierce and I had many occasions to converse both in person, in meetings, and through e-mails. Pierce owned his/her own company and sang in a choir (not Sable’s choir). S/he had two children attending Captain Dewey High. With all his/her responsibilities, Pierce found the time to take on a significant role regarding technology use at the school. Pierce's conversational style was fluid and flexible. S/he was a talented organizer, charming and intelligent and able to adjust his/her conversational style to suit a variety of people and circumstances.

Fine Arts Booster Club Parent: Oliphant - Oliphant had been the first Fine Arts Academy Technology Committee Chairperson. S/he had deftly guided the group from 1989 to 1999 with a combination of humor and solid fundraising skills. During his/her tenure as Chairperson, the Fine Arts Technology Committee fund grew from a few thousand dollars to over $30,000 in trust. Oliphant's style was a paradox, both no-nonsense and humorous. The one opportunity I had to converse with Oliphant was in a Fine Arts Booster Club meeting. I found his/her conversation stimulating and inspiring. That particular meeting gave rise to a clarity of purpose that generated significant success for the Fine Arts Department.

Fine Arts Parent and Web Designer: Elvinor — Elvinor and I had more e-mail and online conversations than we did face-to-face interactions. In fact, we only saw each other once and never spoke in person. Our electronically supported conversations were intense, informative, and inspirational. When I began working at the school, Elvinor was the first person connected with the school who spoke to me substantively about education, technology, and the future of the high school. His/her conversational style online was polite, careful, considerate, poetic, and supportive. (See Appendix F for excerpts from my online interviews with Elvinor.)

Fine Arts Parent and Web Designer: Sandragon - Sandragon was a volunteer for the Fine Arts Academy when I began my research. As our plans for the web site evolved, s/he volunteered to coordinate the design of the fine arts web pages. By the spring of 2002, Sandragon had increased his/her commitment to supervising the entire school web site for Shyer.

Sandragon and I had many online and face-to-face conversations. S/he was the manager of a technical publications department for a research facility. S/he was very able and beyond this, s/he was unwavering and seemingly tireless in his/her support for the arts and creativity of any kind. When s/he was working on a problem or a project, s/he wrote long, detailed e-mails to other participants. Amazingly thorough, Sandragon made it a point to create trust in those of us who worked with her/him.

School District Technology Specialists

District Technology Specialist: Carver — Carver was a great friend to me. As soon as we met, s/he wasted no time letting me know his/her view of how the school functioned with regard to its technology. Carver had worked at Captain Dewey High as technology support-person until the district hired her/him away to work for the district as a whole. Conversations with Carver were like a vacation. S/he did not waste time with anything but what s/he considered to be true. S/he took me, the new guy, under his/her wing immediately. The district provided Carver with a headset so that s/he could be available at all times. Constantly receiving emergency phone calls from around the district, s/he managed to keep the thread of our conversations going. Carver’s conversational style was compassionate and competent.

District Director of Instructional Technology: Archer — Archer and I had only one face-to-face conversation but it was significant. Archer had been an English teacher at Captain Dewey High. During the time of this research, Archer was in charge of instructional technology for the school district. Personable and polite, Archer's conversational style was collaboration-in-action. S/he made it clear that s/he was learning during the conversation. S/he engaged in a high degree of give-and-take conversationally.

Captain Dewey High District Technology Leadership Team (DTLT) Chairperson: Gold — Gold was an English teacher. S/he was usually carefully dressed and his/her voice was ringing and clear. I introduce her/him here in his/her role as DTLT Chairperson, rather than as an English teacher because my interactions with her/him had only to do with his/her role as DTLT Chairperson. Gold's conversation was energetic and s/he often used anecdotes to make his/her points.

Middle School Technology Coordinator: Framingham — Framingham met with me once - for five hours. It was his/her idea that we should take this time so that s/he could thoroughly acquaint me with technology issues affecting his/her school and Captain Dewey High. Framingham's conversational style was rhythmical and informative. Considerate, generous and highly knowledgeable, Framingham was an expert technology-support-person, and had been one of Carver’s early technology teachers.

University Professors

Fine Arts Professor and Art Teacher Educator: Verrell — Verrell was forthcoming and eloquent in providing information concerning art education theory. S/he spent several hours with me in his/her studio at the university. S/he subscribed to Ellen Dissanayake’s (1988, 1992) cultural-anthropological view of art. Verrell knew the art teachers at Captain Dewey High and had great respect for the work that they were doing with students. One of Verrell's peer professors at the university had been simultaneously the Head of Captain Dewey Art Department and the Fine Arts Academy Administrator prior to Tower and Sable filling those positions.

Dance and Technology Professor: Aztlan — Aztlan was an innovative choreographer whose work integrated technology with dance. Aztlan had a strong relationship to Sable and the Fine Arts Academy and had delivered a workshop in multimedia prior to, and another one during, this research project.

Professor Prigogine (his real name) became a part of this research project when he granted me a personal interview in May, 2001. Dr. Prigogine won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1977 for his work in thermodynamics. Prigogine has written many books on chaos theory (1979, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1996). His work and the interview I had with him had a significant impact on my understanding of change process, particularly the interactive, interpersonal dynamics involved in this case study. Prigogine’s conversational style was probing, direct, poetic, imaginative, and emotionally vibrant.

Data Sources

The data sources I collected for this study were:

    1. e-mails between myself and participants
    2. online chats
    3. my journals (notes, narratives, poems, drawings, and photographs)
    4. a questionnaire and eight responses
    5. formal, text-based communications (official reports, letters, and memos)
    6. informal interviews, a record of these was kept in my journals
    7. a variety of artifacts: flyers, evaluations of summer technology workshops, brochures, poems written by teachers and students, student and teacher art, and photographs taken by others.

Each of these sources will be discussed briefly in what follows


The first e-mail regarding this study was sent to me on Friday, November 3rd, 2000. I have since collected approximately 500 e-mails that were sent between myself and the teachers, parents, Captain Dewey staff and school district staff concerned with this study.

The content and the conversational style of these e-mails varied considerably. There were business-like e-mail messages, conveying concrete information such as meeting times and resource allocations. There were my passionate pleas and those from participants for aid in achieving goals or meeting deadlines or commitments. There were introductory e-mails in which participants were introducing themselves to me or vice versa. The e-mail messages ranged from sensitive and personal to extremely formal.

As of November, 2002, I am still in e-mail contact with Sable and several other teachers and technologists who are or were involved in this study. I also receive the Fine Arts Academy e-mail-newsletter (an innovation that came about as a result of this study).

Online Chats

I recorded the two online chats I had with Elvinor (parent). (See Appendix F for excerpts from these two chats.) This was the only online chat I participated in for this study.

Journal (notes, narratives, poems, drawings, and photographs)

I kept a personal journal (two large, hard-bound drawing books) that dealt with factual occurrences as well as self-reflections, philosophical explorations, all part of my attempt to understand what was happening onsite, the choices I had made, their effects, and what to do next. The journal contained poems I wrote when my feelings were too strong or too tacit to be contained in prose. The journal also contains drawings I made when words could not capture my thoughts. I pasted photographs in the journal - of participants, the school building, and student art.

A Questionnaire and Eight Responses

I developed a questionnaire called, Technology Use in Your School: Feelings, Thoughts, Opinions and Experiences. The questionnaire consisted 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? 2) In your opinion, what role would technology play in your classroom to be most appropriate and effective? 3) As far as you are concerned, what limits the use of technology in the curriculum? 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 questions were given to ten of the participating teachers, five of the participating staff, and to all department heads (11) at Captain Dewey High (the Campus Leadership Team). Out of 26 questionnaires, a total of eight questionnaires were filled out and returned. (See Appendix G for the full text of the questionnaire and the responses.)

Formal, Text-Based Communications (Official reports, letters, and memos)

I have collected several official reports regarding technology. (See Appendix H for an excerpt from the district technology vision statement, for 2001- 2005; and Appendix A for the state guidelines for technology education. See also Appendix C for the state guidelines for art education.)

I was asked to write a formal introductory letter to the Campus Leadership Team. (See Appendix B for the full text of this letter.) Other formal letters collected concern a technology grant that I co-administered during the study. Fine Arts Administrator Sable's formal letters were all sent to me as e-mails. (See Appendices I and J for Sable’s formal letters.)

Several memos that were sent to Captain Dewey High teachers during this study concerned technology use in the school and were included as data. (See Appendix K for one of these memos.)

Informal Interviews

I participated in many informal interviews during the course of this study. Teachers, technology staff, and school administrators were more comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, and opinions when I did not take notes. The few times I asked whether I could tape an interview, the participants said that they would feel more comfortable if I did not tape our discussions.

Throughout the course of my presence at Captain Dewey High, I made sure that, when I was introduced, I said that I was there as a researcher and that I intended to write about my experiences and conversations. I asked the people I spoke with to refrain from talking to me about anything that they would not want me to use in my study and explained that if they did wish something to remain confidential, to please let me know and I would be sure to keep it the information to myself. During the course of this study, no one asked me to withhold any information.

Artifacts and Documents

A variety of artifacts and documents were used as data for this study. High school curricula, school budgets and documents related to the activities we carried out are some examples of the artifacts and documents collected that fill two average-size storage boxes.

Some documents were given to me by participants, for example, Wiser gave me his/her application for High School English Teacher of the Year award. Carver gave me all his/her Captain Dewey High technology grant paperwork for 1999-2000. Genesis gave me copies of his/her poetry.


I followed the Lippitts' (1976) consultancy phases for gathering data during the action research phase of this study: 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.

I made the initial contact with Fine Arts Administrator, Sable, as a result of an e-mail s/he had sent to the coordinator for an arts-based research conference in 2000. Sable's e-mail contained a description of the school and an introduction to the Fine Arts Academy within Captain Dewey High. Sable requested that researchers interested in doing research at the academy contact her/him. (See Appendix E for the text of Sable's e-mail.)

I contacted Sable by telephone just before Thanksgiving, November, 2000. 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. The verbal contract included the Lippitts' third and fourth stages: We identified some of the problems, set goals, and planned initial actions.

Action research is a recursive process of goal setting, taking action, resetting goals, and taking more action. In this study, the initial goals were set in the original meetings with Sable. These initial meetings took place on the telephone and lasted approximately eight weeks. I was onsite at the Captain Dewey High campus approximately 10-20 hours a week throughout the course of the study.

My entrance into the school as an active participant began with my meeting with the Campus Leadership Team in February, 2001. I began to visit the school more regularly during that month, took some actions and received some feedback (the Lippitts’ fifth stage). Then, I was hired by the school as a technology coordinator in May, 2001. This shifted my role from an external consultant to an internal consultant.

I worked from May, 2001 until August, 2001 as an internal consultant, hired by the school district and Captain Dewey High to administer a technology grant and provide technology support (the job Carver had vacated to work as a district-wide technology support-person in January, 2001). The goals that Sable and I had established of improving the Fine Arts Academy’s web site were then subsumed into a larger project of technology integration into the general high school curriculum. New actions were taken during this phase and participants gave and received feedback.

From September, 2001 until December, 2001, I returned to my original role as an action researcher but with my expanded goal of 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 worked at the school, mentoring, coaching, and setting up technological support systems, two to three times a week. This completion stage, the Lippitts’ final stage, will be discussed in Chapter Four.

Researcher's Role

There were two different roles I played in the course of this study. One was as an action researcher and the other was as a qualitative researcher. These two roles were not at odds with one another but they did require a different sort of intelligence or attitude towards data. Each role will be addressed separately in what follows.

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) My full participation was mandatory: I was not to excuse myself from active participation, emotional, intellectual, or 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 came 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.

My full participation was mandatory. A researcher has the ability to escape from active participation into an intellectual perspective. In an action research study, a purely intellectual perspective can have detrimental effects on the researcher’s apprehension of events. 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 was not always 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 analyze during self-reflection not during participation. The theories behind action research proposed that an engaged researcher was a 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 a familiar one. Briefly, self-reflection is an affective-cognitive technique used to increase awareness of relationships, events, and actions taken or intended. I defined thematic self-reflection as an affective-cognitive technique for increasing my understanding of how a specific set of concepts operated in the research environment. The themes I reflected on in this study were collaboration, conversation, care, and connectivity.

As a Qualitative Researcher

During data analysis, synthesis of data, theory development and in writing this dissertation, my role has been that of a qualitative researcher. The primary values I had in playing this role were patience, fairness, and accuracy.

Sometimes, it took a long time before a pattern in the data emerged; rushing that process always seemed to lead to unacceptable levels of interpretive confusion. Patience was clearly necessary. Being fair was the most challenging aspect of this process: Balancing my personal opinions with those of the group, in order to represent what happened, meant searching continuously for the broadest possible perspective.

My reading in postmodern ethics (Aoki, 2000; Ayers, 1998; Bartolome, 1994; Bateson, 1979; Bauman, 1993, 1995; Berman, 1982; Berners-Lee, 1999; Biederman, 1999; Black, 1997; Bogen, 1999; Brookfield, 1995; Broverman, 1970; Brown & Gilligan, 1992; Buber, 1958; Cissna, 1998; Daloz, 1986; Damon, 1991; Efland, 1996; Ellsworth, 1989; Freire, 1970b, 1998; Fromm, 1941, 1947, 1956; Goodman, 1994; Greene, 1988, 1995; Grice, 1991; Kerber, 1998; Luscombe, 1979; Martusewicz, 1992, 2001; Maslow, 1968a, 1968b; Miller, 1980; Noddings, 1984; Nussbaum, 1990, 1998; Orwell, 1949; Papanek, 1992; Pinar, 1975; Polanyi, 1958; Prigogine, 1985; Ricoeur, 1991; Robertson, 2001; Rogers, 1967; Ruddick, 1989; Schumacher, 1973; Schutz, 1999; Shotter, 1984; Spender, 1980, 1982a; Spinoza, 1677/1883; Swidler, 1979; Talbot, 1991; Tarrant, 1989, 1991, 2000, 2001; Velleman, 1999; Vygotsky, 1993; Warschauer, 2000; Weill, 1992) alerted me to the problems associated with accuracy (Argyris, 1980; Hamilton, 1996, Illich, 1971; Lather, 1986; Luttrell, 2000). I decided to merge a relational (relativist) concept of accuracy with my understanding of the creative collaboration of conversational reality and worldmaking to grant myself permission to create a world of meaning from my interpretations. My goal then became to capture the heart of the meanings that the data held for me and to convey them to the reader as coherently as possible.

Data Analysis

My data analysis was hermeneutic, recursive, and self-reflective. I wrote a 150 page, narrative description of the action research. This narrative was the basis for the descriptive and analysis sections of Chapter Four. I used Schallert’s (2002) method of thematic conversational flow analysis as a basis for interpreting the flow of meaning during the study. I used Mink’s (1979, 1993a, 1993b, 1993c, 1994, 1998, 2000) descriptions of organizational change as the basis for interpreting the change process. I used Ricoeur’s hermeneutic circle applied to conversational reality theory’s description of interactive co-creativity, to conceive of unities underlying the diversity of events, educational paradigms, and personalities. I used Maslow’s (1955, 1968a, 1968b) hierarchy of needs to interpret the need levels of participants in the context of Gilligan’s (1987) formulations regarding the role of gender in conversation and ethical action. Other theories that were used to create and sustain the action research and to qualitatively interpret an analysis were covered in Chapter Two and some of these will be revisited in Chapter Four and Five.

My analytical goals were to describe some participant perceptions and some of the social forces at work that affected technology use at Captain Dewey High. I was interested in identifying attitudes towards technology and the availability of technological resources, both cognitive and material. I felt that it was important to notice how perceptions of the availability of resources were characterized by participants and any social forces that seemed to influence the availability of technological resources (cognitive or material). I was interested in any patterns in interpersonal meaning-making that took place during the change process. I was interested in the way that conversations emerged from and effected particular events.

As we transition into the information age, technology is becoming more ubiquitous in our schools. This case study was done as a contribution to our shared understanding of some of the relational, interpersonal, conversational realities that can influence the integration of technology into the curriculum.


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