Tag Archives: comprehension

Ethnographic Entanglements: How having multiple roles enriched my research in Nicaragua

Chelsey Hauge

Chelsey Hauge

Editor’s Note: the final guest author for this month’s Ethnography in Education theme, Chelsey Hauge (@chelseyhauge), is finishing her PhD this coming year at the Department of Language and Literacy at the University of British Columbia. Originally from California, Chelsey has spent the last decade cultivating her love of youth and media, from New York to Oakland, Vancouver to Nicaragua. She provides a perspective on ethnography in education outside of the United States with a fascinating account of doing ethnographic research on a youth radio organization in Nicaragua – while also running the program. She shows us that her deep entanglements with the program were an asset, not a liability, and invites us to reflect on the entanglements that any ethnographic research necessarily creates.


An experienced education researcher recently admitted to me that they did not allow their students to conduct dissertation research in spaces where the student was not only a researcher, but also a facilitator, teacher, leader, or producer. It was an admission of curiosity: I have conducted my own dissertation research on a program I am intimately involved with – I led this program’s inception, designed its goals, formed the partnerships necessary to carry out the program, trained its staff, and mentored its youth. In fact, I grew up within the broader auspices of the Amigos de las Americas (www.amigoslink.org) program, and only through years of involvement was I given the opportunity to craft and direct the media program in Nicaragua. I could have never conducted my ethnographic research on how youth come to tell particular social justice stories without these most intimate connections.

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The recognition that this entire project would have been located outside this researcher’s “rules” urged me to consider the possibilities and limitations of such close research and programming work. Certainly, ethnography is always a research practice built upon and muddled by complex relationships between researcher and research subjects. As researchers interested in the personal, the everyday, the experiences of folks, and the way events come together and shift, ethnographers enter into relationships where roles of “researcher” and “subject” are often unclear, where friendship and research grow from each other and even depend on each other.

As a researcher drawing on feminist ethnography, this gets even more complex as I am invested in a research practice that critically engages with the power dynamics in relationships, friendships, communities, between researchers and researched. The experienced researcher’s stance, then, serves to make their student’s lives less complicated, their research just a bit less tangled up with the researcher’s multiple commitments. Yet, the tangles I have encountered as I research civic engagement and youth media in Nicaragua are visible to me only because I inhabit both roles, and those tangles are productive, fascinating, and generative. I have been privileged to engage with a richness that would have been impossible without ebb and flow between both roles.

How I came to AMIGOS as a site – and to ethnography as a research method

I came to my research with youth media producers in rural Nicaragua before I ever called it “research.” Read More…

Interactive eBooks and Reading Comprehension – I’ll Meet You There

Sheila Frye

Sheila Frye

Editor’s Note: Our next author, Sheila Frye (@sheila_frye), wears many hats: she is an educator with fifteen years’ experience, a reading specialist, a literacy innovation researcher, and a doctoral candidate studying the design of learning environments. Her research focuses on the crossroads between interactive eBooks and reading comprehension.  She has teaching certifications in reading, special education, and educational supervision, and blogs at http://teachingliteracy.tumblr.com. We are honored to feature her insights – and, as you will see, her wonderful exuberance – in this month’s theme on ethnography in education.


I have joyful data.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I have AWESOMELY LOVELY and JOYFUL data.

You see, for the past nine months I have been entrenched in my dissertation fieldwork, giddily collecting data on second graders’ responses to reading interactive eBooks on the iPad. Using a repeated measure design, I sat with thirty participants individually for two thirty-minute sessions each and observed what they did while reading the two chosen eBooks in either a “Read-to-Me” or “Read-and-Play” mode. After reading, the participants engaged in several performance tasks to assess their understanding of the stories and to gather information on their personal views of reading interactive eBooks.

In most children’s stories, the reader takes on a more passive role. But I wanted to study what happens when readers become active participants in a story. Luckily, Nosy Crow developed these awesome eBook apps that contain digital enhancements to transform the reading experience into one that requires the user to manipulate and interact with the characters, words, and other textual elements to traverse the plot.  Consequently, users have the option to become active participants in the narratives themselves. You know the Three Little Pigs? Well, users can help the pigs build their houses with the tap of a finger and, diabolically so, blow on the iPad to assist the wolf in huffing and puffing and blowing their houses down. Think Cinderella needs to upstage her mean stepsisters? Users can put the glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot so she can gloat until her heart’s content.

Cinderella Slipper

Genius, right?

Think about it: Children are naturally curious and practically beg to be involved in the environment that surrounds them. Drawing upon this to design eBooks that allow young readers to become part of the story?

Simply brilliant.

My research takes an intimate look at “interactive eBooks,” software applications that provide users with a multimedia literary experience designed especially for a touch screen device. Interactive eBooks go beyond traditional eBooks because they have “hotspots” embedded within the software that allow readers to become actively involved in the experience of reading and, subsequently, may provide learners with new ways to make meaning and increase text comprehension. As you may know, reading comprehension is the ability to make meaning and construct knowledge, an act that stems from the interaction between the reader and the text. In order to comprehend a text successfully, readers must actively reflect on and decode the printed word, combine this with their own prior knowledge, attend to unwritten nuances and inferred purposes of the author, and finally synthesize this information to make new meaning.

Whew!

Read More…