Jeremy O'Shea

Applying Educational Technology in Technology Education

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Joining and Participating in Supportive Professional Online Communities

Blog Post: Evolution of my PLN

In her online blog, Christine Younghusband, shares her experiences in using a professional learning network (PLN) aka #bcedchat (Twitter) initially to find people wanting to develop professionally in her areas of her interest.  Those connections lead to the building of a support structure for her where she could connect, share ideas, and share support with others.

Christine describes meeting her Twitter colleagues in real life as an overall positive experience.  Because of Twitter and her online support group she was able to make quick real-life connections with group members and skip introductory pleasantries.  This allowed her to meet more people and have a deeper relationship with them, allowing for a more enriching professional development experience.

I am a member of a private Facebook collective for Technology Education teachers (members of the BC Technology Education Association aka BCTEA) which works in a very similar way to Christine’s Twitter support group and has seen a very similar evolution.  It started as a place to share project ideas and resources but very quickly grew into an online space to ask questions and professionally support one another in any way we can to better one  another’s teaching practice.  It has taken a rather loose knit community, that only met once a year at the BCTEA annual conference and helped many teachers within the province form strong bonds both professionally and personally.  For me it has been like a mentorship in that I can ask just about any professional question and I know that I will get many well thought out opinions in support of me and often in a very timely manner.

Much like Christine, because of this online group when members get together it is like we already know one another. We can meet as far closer friends than we ever would have when we only interacted once a year.

One thing the #bcedchat offers that the BCTEA Facebook group does not is the opportunity to set up guest online speakers and/or open moderated conversations to address varying topics for anyone who is interested in an online Twitter forum.  This is a great opportunity that allows teachers to professionally develop in a less traditional “professional development day” way and choose what they want to participate in based on their interests.  A fully laid out schedule of up and coming chats can be found here.  If you miss the conversation, they are catalogued here for later review.

I was fortunate enough to meet Christine in class via video chat.  Overall the experience was very pleasant and informative.  It was interesting to here her experiences with #bcedchat and how it had formed a community for her both professionally and personally.  Teachers need to support one another in their journey and #bcedchat is a beautiful way to do that, especially for teachers who may be for rural and secluded from other teachers.  IT also offers an opportunity to share all the differing styles and methods of teaching going on around the Province.

Meeting the Researcher

Public comment sentiment on educational videos: Understanding the effects of presenter gender, video format, threading, and moderation on YouTube TED talk comments by G. Veletsianos, R. Kimmons, R. Larsen, T. A. Dousay & P. R. Lowenthal (2018)

Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse: Self-Protection, Resistance, Acceptance, and Self-Blame by G. Veletsianos, S. Houlden, J. Hodson, &  C. Gosse

In Public comment sentiment on educational videos: Understanding the effects of presenter gender, video format, threading, and moderation on YouTube TED talk comments, G. Veletsianos, R. Kimmons, R. Larsen, T. A. Dousay & P. R. Lowenthal conduct a study on YouTube comment sections of TED talk videos using mostly quantitative research methods.  They explore the positive/neutral/negative connection of the comments section based on the video being presented by a male, female, or animation.  The study found that most comments were neutral.  Furthermore, male presenter’s comment sections were generally more neutral when compared to female presenters whose comment sections were more polarized. It is also suggested that less polarize comment sections could be achieved with the use of animated videos, although this method does put the onus of controlling comments on the presenter and not the commenter.  Interestingly, results assert that negativity in comments begot negativity and the same with positivity.  It is suggested that limiting negative comments may produce a healthier comment section.

Another study, Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse: Self-Protection, Resistance, Acceptance, and Self-Blame by G. Veletsianos, S. Houlden, J. Hodson, &  C. Gosse, uses a qualitative research method, interviewing 14 female scholars about their experiences with online harassment to better understand the coping methods taken by the scholars.  Results found that self protection, resistance, self blame, and/or acceptance of harassment were all used by participants as coping methods.

Both articles assert that harassment of female scholars is more prevalent than it is for their male counterparts.  Implications from the research shows that institutions must take time to warn scholars of the potential hazards of online interaction as they encourage those scholars to have an online presence.  They can do this by providing training for the professional use of social media and demonstrate how they will support faculty being harassed online, both preventatively and otherwise.

It should be noted that neither study explored other potential causes for negative online feedback beyond gender, neglecting factors such as class, ability, religion, or race.  It is entirely possible that one or multiple other factors could have triggered negative responses.  Accounting for this would have greatly improved both studies but also radically expanded their scope and likely would have not been within the studies time frame or budget.  Furthermore, it should be noted that the Women Scholars’ Experience With Online Harassment and Abuse studies participants were all from English speaking countries and were generally affluent.

Both studies appear thoughtful in their approaches despite taking differing methods to reach their conclusions.  I find myself attracted to qualitative research over quantitative as I feel it is more inclusive/equitable and less about turning opinions into numbers.  Qualitative methods appear require more work which can be seen by the 14 interviewees chosen as compared to the Public comment sentiment on educational videos study which uses thousands of anonymous YouTube commenters as their data.

Both articles audiences are post secondary graduate students, academics, and other university/college faculty.  The general message being to both that if they are going to push faculty and online students into a potentially hazardous online space they will need to prepare them for the realities that await them, especially the women.  It is asserted that institutions need to also have female inclusion when addressing online harassment issues in order to make sure that their concerns and needs are met.

In class, we had the pleasure of meeting with a member of both studies, George Veletsianos.  I found meeting the researcher in person to be very interesting.  It is very easy to see researches as faceless people and not recognize the human and humanity behind the research.  One thing that I found very interesting was when George mentioned why they only used 14 interviewees.  I thought the number was exceptionally low but after his explanation that after 14 interviews they were just repeating themselves and not gaining any new knowledge it made a to more sense to me.  George came across as very caring and passionate about his work and I really appreciate his willingness to admit where his weaknesses were and how he would recruit others to help him with his research to make up for those short comings.  Overall the experience was very informative and well worth the time.

Applying Mixed Methodology and Its Effects on Research

History, Biography, Academic Profile:

Alicia O’Cathain (BSc, MSc, MA, PHD) is a professor of health services research at the University of Sheffield where she works to develop and evaluate complex treatments for chronic conditions and lead projects in emergency and urgent care.  O’Cathain’s University of Sheffield’s web page describes here vast catalogue of research journals on methodology in comprehensive detail.  Most of her work has focused on mixed methodological research but has more recently delved into qualitative methods using randomized controlled trials.  This knowledge she shares in workshops and clinics for PhD candidates (“University of Sheffield,” 2018).

The Framework of Mixed Methodology:

In Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework, Alicia O’Cathain outlines the basic framework for using a mixed methodology research method.  O’Cathain demonstrates a comprehensive method of mixing qualitative research methods with quantitative research methods.  This mixed method, although more exhaustive, can potentially lead to stronger results and conclusions.

O’Cathain (2010) breaks down the basic framework for mixed methodology into eight parts:

Planning quality outlines the means and approach to the research which is followed by design quality which defends the chosen methodology. This is in turn followed by data quality which upholds the data collection methods and size to be used.  Next interpretive rigor ensures that conclusions are accurate, consistent, and credible which in turn leads to inference transferability which explores if the research can be applied to other contexts.   Reporting quality outlines if the research met it goals and stayed within its means.  This is in turn followed by synthesizability which demonstrates that the research is all the same quality.  Lastly, the utility of the research is explored.  Utility covers who is using the work and for what purpose.

These eight guiding parts are broken down further to ensure that proper guidelines are met and results will be accurate and usable.

Applying Mixed Methodology:

Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers: Successful Strategies of Female Technology Education Teachers by Ray McCarthy and Joseph Berger sets out to assess why female technology education teachers pursued the career path they did and explore why there is such low female representation within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field of work.  The researchers used a qualitative research method by interviewing ten female participants of varying ages, all technology education (tech ed) teachers, and comparing their overall responses.  The participants were asked questions over two interview sessions focusing on their lives and upbringing and how they decided to pursue the technology education / STEM career path.  They were also tasked with creating a journal over 14 days which documented influences and transition points that may have led them to their career. (McCarthy & Berger, 2008).

The Research

As the Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers article uses a qualitative research method, a quantitative research approach is required to meet the mixed methodology definition as outlined by O’Cathain. An ideal way to meet that goal would be to expand McCarthy and Berger’s research to include a control population of women who did not go into the STEM field or a career as a technology education teacher.  The research would be further strengthened by increasing the number of the interviewed to a group larger than ten.  It should be noted that this would likely add more cost and time to the project.

Now with a control group, the researchers could sample school transcripts of the women who went into STEM/tech ed with an equal sized random sample of women who did not go into STEM/tech ed. The researchers could then compare two things: course selection and grades in math and sciences.  This information would be used to see if:

  1. there are any correlations between elective choice and future career paths.
  2. there are any correlations between success in math and science and future career paths.

This research would (potentially) give the results a stronger and more accurate depiction of women who both did and did not pursue STEM or tech ed jobs. It would be more thorough and have less margin of error.

The Researcher

The two researchers, McCarthy and Berger, would already have their hands full with all the information they gathered from their initial ten interviews.  Adding a second research method will right away add to the researcher’s financial needs, time requirements, and overall work load.  The researchers would need to create and a apply new framework for the newly added quantitative research.  That would be followed by proceeding with collecting, calculating, and reporting the findings found in the provided transcripts. First, they would have to expand their recruitment efforts to find the women to participate as their control group.  Second, they would be required to acquire multiple transcripts from said control group as well as their original interview group which could prove difficult.

When all the new interviews were completed the researchers would have to reorganize and make new conclusions on their amended interview data and make new conclusions based on an updated assessment.

The Researched

It would be important that all the women interviewed for this research felt comfortable with the experience and that they would be willing to share their transcripts with the researchers.  Failure to meet either of these points would mean that they would need to be replaced with someone who is willing and able to meet these requirements.

All women interviewed would need to be interviewed away from the other interviewees.  Furthermore, they must all be asked the same set of well-crafted questions with no leading input from the researchers.

Transcripts provided would need to be clear and not tampered with in any fashion.  Documents would also be either returned to the rightful owner or destroyed after the research process.

The Reader

With the updated research the reader would have a stronger and more compelling argument defending what methods could be taken to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM and technology education.  Additionally, it would help the reader understand the issues and societal pressures women face in their upbringing and when choosing a career.

These findings could encourage future researchers to conduct studies into what changes can be made to encourage women to pursue the STEM/tech ed fields. It could also be beginning to wider research looking into the effects of class, race, and ability and their impact on women pursuing STEM/tech ed career paths.

Questions and Insights:

The research discussed in the article hopes to challenge stereotypes but in doing so could potentially reinforce them based on outcomes.  Furthermore, in the researchers hope to discover why some women go into STEM and tech ed careers their findings could be interpreted in a way that they had not intended.  For example, it is possible for a reader to write the original interviewees off as female anomalies and conclude that their experiences are “other.”

I do question the choices of the two researchers, McCarthy and Berger, to not find a female researcher to join them in the process.  It is likely that a female researcher could have given female insight and voice to the paper that the two original researches do not have as they do not have the lived experience of a woman.

McCarthy and Berger’s research is well done for a small scale sample but the results would have more strength if the overall sample size of interviewees was larger.  It is possible that their work could lead to a more expanded body of research in the future, paving the way for future growth in an area of focus that has seen little change over the last half century.


McCarthy, R. R., & Berger, J. (2008). Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers: Successful Strategies of Female Technology Education Teachers. Journal of Technology Education, 19(1), 65-79.

Ocathain, A. (2010). Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework. SAGE Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research, 531-556.

University of Sheffield. (2018, November 01). Health Services Research. Retrieved July 07, 2019, from

Autoethnography & Research Diaries

Autoethnography: An Overview by C. Ellis, T.  E. Adams & A. P. Bochner (2011)


In Autoethnography: An Overview, C. Ellis, T.  E. Adams & A. P. Bochner assert that Autoethnography is the use of self reflection within research to demonstrate the authors experiences as they relate to the research topic.  Autoethnography could impact the research in presenting a differing opinion beyond the perceived default white religious male’s point of view.  It allows a topic to be addressed using differing experiences of race, gender, sexuality, age, ability, class, education, and/or religion.


This type of research is important as it considers differing experiences beyond the “norm.”  Also, it recognizes the differing experiences which affect research and can alter that researches outcomes.  For example, when I worked as a full-time carpenter, my experience would likely have differed from many of the other, mainly white male, employees.  Overall most employees there would have said it was a fair and equal place to work.  Me, a queer man, and the lone female employee that worked there would have a very different view of our experiences on the site.  What most considered idle banter I saw as sexist and occasionally bigoted or racist.  This negative atmosphere eventually led to me leaving the trade on a full-time basis and moving into education.


I find myself drawn to this form of research for many reasons.  Firstly, it helps the reader of the research understand the researcher better and consider points of view beyond their own.  If research is presented in a quantitative method, it is hard for the reader to know the researcher’s biases.  Also, the research is presented in a way that is more personal and allows for the reader to empathize with the researcher through literary means.  People are far more interested in reading a well crafted story than they are a dry research paper.


Research Diary: A Tool for Scaffolding by M. Engin (2011)


I have written diaries on and off in my life and I always find value in them.  They are a great way to record your thoughts in the moment and to reflect on what you have been doing in a meaningful way.  In the summer courses I am currently taking I am tasked with keeping an online diary (blog) of my reflections on the academic readings and class time.  I feel this is a smart approach to the course as it is extremely condensed, and the blog forces me to reflect daily, helping me articulate my thoughts and challenge my knowledge.

I have used a diary system in the past in my robotics courses to help students keep track of their progress and to help them reflect on what they have accomplished and what they need to accomplish.  I find that, despite initial resistance, students do find them useful and by the end are glad they put in the effort.  I have never considered doing the diaries in a blog format and may employ this method in the coming semester.  It would likely ease the work load and allow other students to see what other groups are doing and respond to it, adding another layer of student critique.

Research diaries allow the researcher and opportunity to reconnect with earlier research in the point of view of the researcher when the observations were made.  This prevents the researcher from retroactively altering the way they perceived their past research and allows them to connect with the research process in a stronger way.

Most Likely to Succeed (2015) Film

The film Most Likely to Succeed (2015), directed by Greg Whiteley, documents High Tech High, a school with an alternative approach to education.  High Tech High operates under the belief that not all students learn the same way and that what students need to know is not the same as it was in previous generations.  They do this by focusing less on work sheets, text books, and testing and present students with bigger projects that encapsulate the learning outcomes.  The film generally depicts the school as forward thinking and leading students to the same or greater levels of success as other institutions.  Overall they depict the school in a very positive light.

It should be noted that the Most Likely to Succeed does have some flaws worth pointing out.  Firstly, the story mainly focuses on two students, one who succeeds and the other who initially does not meet his projects due date but then eventually manages to complete his work.  The school presents all the students as being as equally dedicated to their work but, based on my teaching experience, I find it difficult to believe that all students meet the same success shown in the film.  Secondly, the school is a charter school which may allow them to pick and choose their students which is not the reality of the Canadian schooling system.

In the Technology Education courses I teach (woodwork, electronics, robotics), I already employ many of the teaching methods that High Tech High uses, such as inquiry and project based learning.  Students are presented with a project or goal and then we work towards achieving it.  For example, in grade 9 Woodwork, students are challenged to make a cutting board.  We spend time researching design ideas and each student comes up with their own.  From there we learn about shop safety, machine use, and techniques needed to make the project.  This is all done hands on and with entire class participation.  From their the students work to make their project with guidance when required.  When we reach the end of the project students walk away with a new custom cutting board to bring home and they have learned how to use almost all the wood shops machines.  They might not know it then, but they have learned a great deal in a relatively short project which will come into play for nearly every other project they make.  This knowledge will help them think more critically when attempting future work.

Most Likely to Succeed talks about High Tech High’s focus on the soft skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration, learning from criticism, good work ethic, and how to work on your own.  All these skills are encouraged and developed in my classroom to the best of my ability.  It is extremely important to me that my students can overcome challenges on their own and in groups.   They need to work with respect for themselves, others, and the equipment they work with (which can be extremely dangerous).  A short coming of mine when helping students develop soft skills is that I often give answers too readily instead of allowing students work through the problem.  This is often due to time restraints.  I am getting better at not doing this, but I still catch myself giving students the easy road from time to time.

In the film there is some criticism about what High Tech High is doing.  Many parents are concerned about students doing well on academic tests that open doors to post secondary education.  I don’t believe this is nearly as much a problem in Canada as it is in the USA, but I can understand their worry.  They want their children to do well and go onto a successful career and low-test scores can hold you back.  Personally, I am not a believer in heavily weighted testing.  I have met too many smart people in their field who do terribly on tests to believe them to be a great indicator of knowledge learned.  That is further compounded by students cramming information before a test and then immediately forgetting it almost immediately after.  I have done this myself.  I consider myself lucky to teach a discipline (Technology Education) that rarely requires testing in the traditional sense.  I find that having a student build and work on a project to completion is a test in and of itself and is often far more fun and rewarding for the students and teacher.

One thing that it appears High Tech High does well is cross curricular education.  I have been searching for ways to do that with other teachers in my school, but it has been difficult to do with rotating blocks and a structured bell structure.  This coming school year I hope to team up with my school’s foods/sustainability teacher in making an automated garden with his classes and my robotics/electronics classes.

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