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July 2013: Ethnography in Education

Guest Editor Morgan G. Ames

Guest Editor
Morgan G. Ames

Welcome to this month’s theme on ethnography in education research! From the promise of radio learning nearly a century ago, to the recent hype around One Laptop Per Child, to the current excitement around massive open online courses (MOOCs), education has been a site of constant reform efforts – or, as education researcher Larry Cuban puts it, “tinkering.” While using “big data” to evaluate these reforms has its allure (and can be useful in ethnographic research, as Jenna and Ayman have shown us in previous posts), ethnography is unique in being able to dig below the surface and uncover the complicated processes and contingent effects of education and education reform.

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This month’s authors highlight how ethnography can uncover unexpected results or answer difficult questions about some of the thorniest problems in education reform, especially the persistence of various kinds of inequality. Our first article, by Christo Sims (@christosims), tackled this question head-on in an ethnography of a technology-focused public school in New York that inexplicably had many of its less advantaged students transfer out. With his research, Christo was able to say why this was happening and what it means for other efforts for digital inclusion.

Coming up next, we will hear from Ricarose Roque (@ricarose), who is working to break down some of the stubborn gender, racial, and socioeconomic divides in computer science and bring the programming environment Scratch to a more diverse community. She will talk about some of the unexpected benefits parents experienced in the qualitative focus groups she has been conducting as part of her research.

Later in the month, Sheila Frye (@sheila_frye) will tell us about her research on interactive eBooks, which promote active reading habits – a crucial part of literacy – to children who may not learn this skill otherwise. Sheila uses ethnography to take a close look at both the benefits and the potential drawbacks of interactive eBooks. Her enthusiasm for ethnographic methods is infectious; she is one of the few graduate students we know who LOVES her dissertation work! Read More…

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2013 Themes

calendar1Starting February 2013, Ethnography Matters is starting a thematic monthly enquiry led by each of our team members. Be sure to contact us if you’re interested in contributing to any of these editions!

February 2013 edited by Heather Ford: The Openness Edition

March 2013 edited by Tricia Wang: “Stories to insights to action!” The role of narrative in ethnographic practice

April 2013 edited by Nicolas Nova: Ethnomining: Combining qualitative and quantitative data

May 2013 edited by Jenna Burrell: How to talk to companies and organisations about ethnographic fieldwork

June 2013 edited by Rachelle Annechino: Pseudonyms and pseudonymity

Photo by Joe Lanman CC BY on Flickr