Thoughts and Tools

Action Research Outline

It’s happening!  I’m growing in my use of Mobile Learning Devices (MLD’s) in my classroom! I’ve had many successes and failures using MLD’s in my classroom.  Trying to use interactive or collaborative tools is completely different in a Bible class than in a Science class. I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit about ways to create an effective Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom when I have a <1:1, mixed device environment.  It takes quite a bit of careful planning to make it work!  I also know that I have a long, long way to go before I understand all the aspects of what I’m trying to do.


One thing that is going to help me improve my classroom is to use Action Research (AR) (Mertler, 2017).  It is a systematic way of examining, reflecting, analyzing and changing what happens inside my classroom.  I’m considering my first crack at a research project using Mertler’s AR methods.  It’s exciting!


Research Topic


I want to use those pocket-super-computers (a.k.a. cell phones, or MLD’s) for something worthwhile in my classroom!  It turns out that there are a variety of frameworks (see Wasko, 2016, for one useful example) for designing the use of mobile learning devices (MLD’s) in the classroom.  And there are a variety of aspects (see Brown, 2016) that can be focused on when using MLD’s. 


I’ve had the most success in using MLD’s in my classroom in Bible, which I approach in a much more constructivist way than, say, trigonometry.  Interestingly, Roberts (2013) reports many of the same ideas and interactions in his “Chalk Talk” paper that I’ve experienced.  His study of a High School Social Studies class confirmed what I’ve already observed: students enjoy using their MLD’s for learning! 


Research Purpose


Even though I’m finding articles that help confirm what I’m already experiencing, there are dynamics that surprise and interest me.  The nature of the conversations and the student-student collaborations seem to change when using MLD’s.  My initial observations indicate that MLD’s are not simply transparent tools but are also involved in changing the nature of the learning environment and interactions themselves!  I want to know more about this.  Indeed, other researchers (Brown, 2016) indicate that this is a needed area of research.


Research Question


Enter Action Research!  Let’s try to focus in on exactly what I’d like to research by condensing it to just one guiding research question. Drum roll please…

What are the effects on teacher and student interactions in classrooms where Mobile Learning Devices and online collaboration tools are integrated into discussions?


Research Design


Since I’m not entirely sure of all the effects of MLD’s in the classroom, I’m going to need to use some sort of qualitative data.  I think a mixture of surveys, questionaires and interviews will help me understand all of what is happening when I say “Okay, now get our your phones and…” I'll be creating a mixed methods project that will hopefully help me explore facets of MLD/BYOD envorinments thoroughly.  Because I'm in a small school district, I won't be able to do highly controlled experiments.  Instead, I will have to compare observations and experiences with the same group of students with and without the use of MLD's in discussions.  I also won't be able to do a study long enough to discover the effects of using those tools over a long period of time, since my AR will need to be done by the end of this year. Still, even with all of these limitations, it will be useful to carefully consider all the effects (both good, bad, and otherwise) that I create. 


Literature Review


As you may have seen, I’ve already been growing in my understanding of the literature.  That’s the first step of AR, after all!  I’ve been reading many papers about BYOD environments, blended learning and the use of MLD’s in the classroom.  It’s been great to see so many reports about the successful use of MLD’s and blended learning models.  You could read my full, formal Literature Review if you really want to!




What do you think?  Any suggestions for me?  I’d love to get your feedback.





Brown, Michael Geoffrey (2016). Blended instructional practice: A review of the empirical literature on instructors' adoption and use of online tools in face-to-face teaching. Internet and Higher Education, 31, 1-10.


Mertler, Craig A. (2017). Action Research: Improving Schools and Empowering Educators (Fifth ed.). London, UK: SAGE Publications, Inc.


Roberts, Scott L. (2013). The “Chalk Talk” 2.0: Using Google Docs to Improve the Silent Discussion in Social Studies. Social Studies, 104(3), 130-136. doi: 10.1080/00377996.2012.703972

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Curtis White, M.S., M.C.E.
High School Faculty
Math, Science, Bible & Computers
Abundant Life Christian School
A Madison Christian School