Thursday, February 19, 2015

Waiting on the World to Change

This morning, I woke up at an ungodly early time to work on grading my students' writing pieces. As I sat down to start the task, I had the thought, "Wouldn't it be nice if there was a tool I could use that would let me just click a few buttons for their writing rubrics and send them their results?" A Google search later, I found two new tools: Doctopus and Goobric. Doctopus compiles all of my students' writing pieces from Google Docs into one spreadsheet. Then Goobric takes a rubric you've created in a Google Spreadsheet and applies it to the document. You'll see a split-screen with the rubric on top and the student's writing below, and you can just click the box of the descriptor that applies. You can even record audio feedback for your student!

When  you're done, you click "Submit," and that's where the real magic happens. It will automatically paste the appropriately shaded rubric with a link to your audio comments at the bottom of your student's document, AND it will input the rubric scores on your Doctopus spreadsheet. It's amazing, and it made the quality of my feedback far better in much less time than it would normally take me to grade essays.

All because I did a quick Google search to try and solve a problem this morning.

When I then started reading the Markle, West, & Rich (2011) article, I quickly came down from my technology-empowered high and settled back to the real world. The fact that they provided the video clips along with the conversation analysis did so much to emphasize the inadequacy of CA as a stand-alone method, and yet, CA and other types of transcription are standard practices. The tools exist to make the practice better, so that's not the barrier; it's the researchers and gatekeepers who are standing in the way.

Just as I was able to find tools to improve my grading process, so, too, could researchers improve their data process. I know those tools exist. For example, iBooks Author (Mac) allows you to write and publish text with embedded multimedia files. Magazines are moving toward a similar format for their digital editions where they add slideshows, videos, and playlists to enhance the content. Our class readings this week suggested many other tools as well. Scholars could still write traditional texts for hard copy books and journals, but they could have the enhanced digital version available online. In addition, if researchers were concerned about privacy issues for their research subjects, Markle, West, & Rich (2011) suggest that there are tools that could be used to edit the files to protect subjects. The pitch of a subject's voice could be raised or lowered to make it less identifiable to others, and video could be edited to mask a person's face. As long as the researcher was transparent to both the subjects and the research audience about using these tools to alter the data and justified it based on privacy concerns, I don't think it would be a problem. We could at least start heading in that direction.

Markle, West, & Rich (2011) make two arguments that I think are home runs for the move toward multimedia enhanced writing:

1) It frees up writing space so that the research quality improves. When researchers are constrained by word count limits, it's unfortunate to have to dedicate some of those precious words to transcripts that don't even reflect the conversation as authentically as the audio file itself would. The field would improve by more thorough analysis of the interview rather than a transcribed account of it.

2) It improves the teaching of novice researchers. It takes the research process from an abstract concept to a concrete, hands-on experience. Researchers would enter the field better equipped to conduct powerful research, and the quality of research would improve as a result.

These seem like two major benefits that would outweigh any disadvantages advanced by resistors.

But people still need to want to make the shift, and I'm not sure how to convince them to do it. I face this challenge constantly when I find new teaching tools like Doctopus and Goobric that I want my colleagues to try, but they resist for reasons that don't always make sense to me. Exposing the ways that technology improves the process or product is one way to help, which is why I'm grateful that we have this class. Articles like the one by Markle, West, & Rich (2011) are helpful, too, but I always wonder if the people who need to be reading those articles actually are. The fact that their article is being published in FQS over a more traditional research journal makes me wonder if they're already preaching to the choir.

So I guess I'm leaving this week's readings a little bit frustrated because the world is not changing as quickly as I'd like it to. The benefits of using these technology tools seem overwhelming and obvious to me, but I feel like I'm in the minority on that front. I think things will get better as younger people move into academia, but that's still a long time to wait.

And I'm impatient.

1 comment:

  1. Some great insights here. "Articles like the one by Markle, West, & Rich (2011) are helpful, too, but I always wonder if the people who need to be reading those articles actually are." At last year's CAQDAS conference a lot of people talked about how there's the qualitative methods camp and the qualitative technologists camp and the two seem rarely to interact. It's the same way with education/teachers, too. I don't think that we can minimize the differences between people in terms of those who embrace new tools readily and enjoy it vs. those who really dread the time and energy it will take to do so - I think it will always be that way and maybe that's okay - does everyone HAVE to use the new tools, if they are happy with how things already are?