Micro Ethnographic Research as a Method for Informing Educational Technology Design in Practice

Jacob Davidsen, Ruben Vanderlinde

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftKonferenceabstrakt i tidsskriftForskningpeer review


Objectives and purposes. This paper describes research on how micro ethnographic classroom studies (Mehan, 1979) of the integration of technology can inform researchers understanding of teachers and children’s situated acts with technology. Hence, the objective of this paper is to show stories of the integration of technology from the teachers and children’s perspective. The central research question of the study is: how can researchers of educational technology represent the local and situated action of teachers and children to inform future technologies?

Theoretical frameworks. Integrating technology in classrooms can be approached at many different levels. From a curriculum perspective, these levels refer to the macro, meso, micro, and the nano level (Akker, Kuiper, & Hameyer, 2003). At every level there seems to be a gap between researcher and practitioners, even at the nano level. Hence, educational technology researchers discuss how to bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners (Vanderlinde & Van Braak, 2010). Similar, there is also a gap between educational technology developers and practitioners. This gap between developers of technology and the users have been described in the Scandinavian tradition of system development (Greenbaum, 1991) and the holistic perspectives on the integration of technology in to work life (Berg, 1998). As a basic premise the researchers of this paradigm stress that understanding the customs of the local ecology (Nardi & O’Day, 1999) is important when you want to change and integrate technology in practice. Facing this gap, researchers need to become ethnographers of work and inform the world of the technologist and practitioners.

Methods. The methodological approach is shaped by a variety of disciplines, including Scandinavian system development, socio cultural learning theory, and ethnography and interaction analysis. Mehan (1979) and colleagues studied the structure of lessons by conducting what they called constitutive ethnographic using video cameras to capture the activities in the classroom. This approach allowed the researchers to understand the world of the children and teachers. Besides, by showing teachers videos of their own practice the researchers were able to validate their observations. To put differently, if a researcher cannot describe teachers and children’s practice so they can understand it, then their ethnographic work has failed.

Data sources and evidence. Throughout one year researchers participated in the daily life of the classroom and recorded more than 150 hours of video data. Small extracts of the video was shown to the teachers in order to align the perspective of the teachers and researchers. During these meetings the teachers provided important insights of the classroom order and their experience of using technology in classrooms.

Results. Results show that introducing technology into the classroom as a learning tool posed a challenge to the pedagogic approach, the teaching materials and the roles of both teachers and learners. Furthermore results suggest that a micro ethnographic methodology can inform both researchers, technologist and teachers.

Scientific or scholarly significance. The paper provides methodological, theoretical and empirical arguments for how educational technology studies can take departure in the local and situated and inform future educational technology designs.
TidsskriftAmerican Educational Research Association. Annual Meeting Program
StatusUdgivet - 26 apr. 2013
BegivenhedAERA: Annual Meeting - San Francisco, USA
Varighed: 26 maj 201230 maj 2013


BySan Francisco


  • ICT
  • Technology Integration
  • Teachers
  • touch-screens