Live Field Notes

This blog is really intended to discuss my teaching practices. However, today I want to point you in the direction of my newest research project in the off-chance that you’re interested in that sort of thing. I just start an ethnography (as of today, only two field visits). It’ll last at least a year and a half.  I’m working with a middle school that has a 1:1 technology initiative. This means that all the students have tablets and internet access. They even have internet access when they leave the building even if their families do not pay for it. This school is in their second year of implementation.

tabletsNormally, I do studies that look at things from the students’ perspectives. I’m generally very interested in how students experience school, and I’m very interested in those students who don’t experience success in school. This might stem from the fact that school was not a place I enjoyed and typically did not do well in. Some of that might have been due to the fact that I often failed to show up for school starting when I was 14. Just saying. I’m not convinced I missed much.

For this study, I want to look at life from the perspective of the teachers. I’m interested in seeing how teachers use technology in their classrooms (both broadly and how they have students use it specifically). I’m curious about what works for them, how they approach it, and where their struggles lie.

Doing Field Notes Differently

I wanted to approach this study different than the ones I have done in the past. Specifically, I wanted to rethink the process of taking field notes. I was interested in thinking about how my field notes could be more public. I spoke to a few people on this, but we couldn’t get our heads around it. Then, I had a doctoral student turn me on to this post on live field notes.


I had my answer. It all clicked for me.

After two visits in the field, I think I have found a system that works. Basically, I show up withinstagram my phone and a laptop. I take pictures on my phone (not of people), and post them to Instagram. These photos also get sent out to twitter. When I have notes to report that don’t have a picture, they simply go to twitter. The laptop is there for times when I need to take extended notes or jot down a bunch of information/ideas/questions at a fact rate before I fall out of my head and lose them forever. If you’ve done qualitative research then you know what I mean.

Of course afterwards I was immediately concerned about how I would keep track of everything. I had some stuff only on twitter, and some stuff on Instagram and twitter. How does one even think about rounding up this mess for analysis? It was a question I had to get on fast.

The answer? Storify it.

Storify is perfect because information from my hashtag (#techteaching) is only accessible on that site for 10 days. On the one hand, this might sound like a nightmare. However, it forces me to get on quick and make my story for that visit (I do it that day or the next). It’s simple to pull together, and then I use notes taken on my laptop to further contextualize the tweets and pictures. I save it and bam! I have a nice record of the day. No more mess. It’s also public.

Finally, as if all of this weren’t enough, I started an account on Medium where I am documenting the project as well as the processes I engage in. The first time around doing all this work was exhausting. The second time I had the hang of it.

Aren’t You Just a Little Bit Curious?

You can find a link to all my accounts here. If you’re interested in following me live, you’ll need to follow me on Twitter. Use #techteaching to see what I’m up to and when I’ll be going live next. And make sure to check out my posts on Medium for all the updates.

One Year Ago Today

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