Why and how to become a teacher researcher

The classroom is a great place to conduct some research. Picture by  Jordan Dreyer

The classroom is a great place to conduct some research. Picture by Jordan Dreyer

In my opinion, every teacher should be a researcher, and I think that especially applies to teachers who have some degree of influence of what education technology is bought and used.


  • It's important to know what's going on in your field. Imagine going to a doctor who last updated his knowledge ten years ago, or even one year ago. 
  • If you hope to convince the powers-that-be to spend more money on technology, you have to be able to prove that it works, or at least that it's likely to work.
  • Research and reflection are good ways to improve one's teaching. The research part helps to avoid the 'echo chamber' situation in which you only know what's going on in your own school.


  • Read the research. This is not always accessible, either because of a paywall or because the language is too abstruse and abstract to be acted on quickly. Solutions:
    • Check whether or not your status as an alumnus (assuming you have a degree) gives you access to academic journals online.
    • Sign up to my newsletter, Digital Education. I often summarise research and review academic books in that, and it's free.
    • Join the Association for IT in Education. Disclosure: I'm on their committee. You receive an academic journal called Technology & Pedagogy in Education, and that's worth a lot more than the subscription fee in my opinion.
  • Attend conferences. A very accessible one in terms of cost, location, and down-to-earthness is Research Ed.
  • Conduct research in your own classroom. You can do this even in a very quick and easy way:
    • Know what the problem is you're trying to solve with the technology.
    • Keep a note on what went well, what didn't go so well, and why.
    • Get the kids' feedback too. I think having kids evaluate the technology is a no-brainer: they're the ones who are going to be using the stuff! I was pleased that John Galloway advocated this in a discussion hosted by the Guardian Teacher Network recently too.
    • Read blogs. Some good ones to start with (apart from mine!) are:

Finally, do share your research and findings, whether from your own research or reading, with other people. If you haven't already done so, start a blog. Or share on Twitter or Facebook. 

You might like my article, Education Technology research, and how it's reported

In case you became sidetracked earlier, here's the sign-up form for my newsletter, Digital Education:



Education Technology Research Focus: Steve Wheeler

Steve WheelerSteve publishes the Learning with E's blog. The articles are not only very thought-provoking, they often also include references so you can follow up the reading for yourself. At the moment, Steve is writing a great series on learning theories. I asked him to tell me about his current research.
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blog readingThe Spectator does it. The Economist does it. Even children’s comics do it. So I thought: Let’s do it. Let’s make a Christmas double issue of the Digital Education newsletter.

I’d like to be able to say I’d planned it that way right from the start, but that would be something of (to use Winston Churchill’s wonderful expression) a terminological inexactitude. In truth, the November edition was delayed due to a family illness, so it made sense to bring out a bumper edition now so people who subscribe have plenty to keep them going until January! I’ve included articles on a wide variety of topics:

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The education research problem

Independent consultant and self-confessed “controversialist” Crispin Weston offers a personal view of the current educational technology landscape, and what needs to be done to transform it.

Modern research still confirms the vital importance of students receiving timely, actionable feedback, the essence of “dialogic” teaching. But the amount of such personalised feedback in most schools and colleges is extremely limited.
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Making the Most of ICT – what the research tells us

Steve Moss looks at what the educational research says about how to maximise the impact of ICT on learning.

FPEX researchIn 1981 the then Conservative government announced that the Department of Trade and Industry would provide funding for one microcomputer in every school. Throughout the ensuing three decades there has hardly ever been a year when there has not been some earmarked or ring-fenced funding for ICT in schools in England. But in 2014 we are in new territory. The Harnessing Technology Grant, which for several years was the main source of devolved funding to support ICT in schools, is no more and many schools will have to make do with the ICT equipment they already have rather than spending on the latest technology. Yet teachers should still aim to make the very best use of the resources available to them and aspire to excellent teaching with ICT.

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Unreliable information is worse than no information

informationI will never understand why so many people think that Wikipedia is OK to use for serious research on the grounds that it is mostly reliable. Mostly? Some years ago I posited the idea of a wiki timetable, in which people get to edit train timetables how they like. Some of the information displayed on the electronic noticeboards would probably be accurate some of the time. Useful, eh?

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Mobile phones in education revisited

cell phoneThe most popular article on the ICT in Education website is one by a 17 year-old student called The Importance Of Mobile Phones In Education. To give you an idea of its popularity, I would estimate that it has been viewed at least 30,000 times since it was published back in July 2010. So the question is, why is it so popular?

Is it because it was written by a student? Well, there is no doubt that student articles receive a lot of attention, but not usually this much.

Is it because it is about mobile phones? I don’t think so: I have written about mobile phones before, and again, the articles haven’t attracted 30,000 views as far as I know.

I think the answer lies in the combination: an article about mobile phones written by a student who appears to be surgically attached to one.

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The importance of research for ICT teachers revisited

What’s the difference between action research, academic research and other types of research? Is it the case that in order to be seen to justify a research grant you have to couch your findings in terms which make them incomprehensible to the very people who might benefit from them? How does academic research “percolate” down into the classroom? And is there a case for saying that research findings should be reported in a “popular” style sometimes?
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The importance of research for ICT teachers

How important is research for teachers in general, and ICT teachers in particular? One might be tempted to say that people learn in the same way now as they did thousands of years ago, so research, apart from keeping abreast of the latest developments in technology, is pretty redundant. I think there are problems with that attitude.
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A Good Example of Bad Conclusions

Unless The Register has missed something out of its report, or I'm not thinking straight, there is a serious flaw in Hitwise's conclusion that Brits' greater use of social networking sites than search engines prove that they are  "more interested in talking about themselves than they are in learning about their world".

How does one reach that  conclusion? Perhaps there is a legitimate chain of logic, but I can't see it, and it hasn't been explained as far as I can see. It's an excellent example of the need to probe beyond the headlines and soundbites, and to teach our pupils to do the same.

Anyway, any true narcissist wouldn't bother to visit social networks to see what people are saying about them: they'd set up a few Google Alerts.

That's what I've done, anyway.

Why I Love The Internet

I think it's easy to take for granted all the information we have at our fingertips, but every so often I have an experience that reminds me of how wonderful it all is.

Take last Wednesday for example. Elaine and I went shopping in the afternoon to a local supermarket, and all of a sudden a good music track started wafting over the airwaves, one which sounded original rather than the usual ersatz rubbish. Neither of us could place it, but when I arrived home I looked up the only snippet of the lyrics I could remember.

I plugged the following into Google:

lyrics: love is kinda crazy

From that I discovered that the song was called Spooky. I looked that up in Spotify, and very quickly found out that the version being played in the supermarket was the one recorded by Dusty Springfield.

Total length of time spent on research? Three minutes. I can't imagine how long that would have taken me in pre-web days.

So what was all the fuss about? Well, here is the YouTube video of Dusty singing it. To be honest, the video is not exactly the most exciting thing you've ever seen, but the tune is nice!