Psychology 101: Informal Learning and Technology

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Purposes & Expectations:
Participation in writing Field Notes

To learn how to make keen observations of children, produce systematic reports that feed and address your emerging inquiries, and ground them in scientific discourse about learning and technology. Your field notes, along with those of your fellow students, will lead to the development of a data base of evidence that you can draw upon to answer your research question in the final papers.

* Your emerging inquiries will be particular questions that you develop through participating in all class activities (including reading, being at the site, discussions, and your own experiences and concerns). Your inquiries should be rooted in the five core questions of the class.

* Keen observation is a reflective focus on your or other people's (i.e., children's and/or other students') experiences that promotes and/or addresses an inquiry.

* Systematic reports are necessary for synthesizing observations and inquiries, and for communicating observations and inquiries to yourself and other people for further research purposes.

* Scientific discourse is a style of argumentation that revolves around research questions, evidence, and theory. It requires that you prove your case to a community of peers rather than just convincing yourself that something is true. Your claim must be supported by evidence to be strong enough to sustain counter-arguments and/or counter-evidence. Scientific discourse requires that you transform keen observations into evidence and your inquiries into research questions.

* Evidence has been defined as the transformation of an individual's inquiry-based observation into the depersonalized inquiry-free statements of fact that are required by scientific argumentation.

* Research questions have been defined as the transformation of personal inquiries into depersonalized and falsifiable hypotheses.

Our expectations:
We expect that you will develop an understanding of the scientific practice described above through participation in writing field notes leading to the final papers. This process may undergo several phases:

1) at first, your field notes may be a tool for developing your inquiries and your skill at keen observation. At this phase, you may go to Barrios Unidos without a clear idea of what you are going to observe and focus on;

2) then, through exposing field notes via Web discussions and class discussions and by reading the assigned literature, you may begin to focus on development of research questions and begin looking for evidence. At this phase, you may go to Barrios Unidos with some idea of what you are going to observe and focus, however, it be easily altered by an event occurring at the site;

3) finally, your field notes may become driven by your research question, and your keen observation skills will be turned to the task of gathering evidence. At this phase, you may go to Barrios Unidos with a clear idea that guides your observation.

The phases are not stages but overlapping waves. At all points in the process, your field notes might reflect any of these purposes, but throughout the course of the class, we expect that you will find it is useful to change how much of your field note you want to devote to each purpose. Eventually, when you start transitioning from making observations to writing evidence, we expect you to begin making a separation between description of events and your interpretation of them in your field notes.

The only style requirement for your field notes is that the notes should be understandable for all class members.
There are no limitations on field note length.

You will ground your final papers upon data base of evidence coming from field notes collected by you and your fellow students.

We expect you to revise your field notes in response to the comments provided by your fellow students, TAs, and the Instructor because responding to their feedback comments will improve your data base of evidence that will be used by you and other students for the writing of the final papers. Please, try to revise your field notes no later than a week after its original posting. There is no limit on how many revisions you can do to improve your field notes. Although it is up to you to choose how many revisions of your field notes you can do, we want to stress that this process is a logical and communicational response to people's feedback (through re-writing you appreciate people's feedback) and is crucial for developing your observational and academic discourse skills. Also we believe that the mechanics of revising does not take much time using Cut & Paste functions of a word processor.

When you work on second or third draft of your field note, please, do not forget to include acknowledgment to the people who, in your opinion, contributed to providing feedback and helped you think through and see alternatives and unaddressed issues. This acknowledgment should be accompanied with brief critical analysis of what was most helpful in the feedback that other people provided. By doing this, you return courtesy that people give to you by giving feedback on how their feedback was helpful for you.

We expect you to treat all field notes and class and Web discussion as CONFIDENTIAL, which means that you MAY NOT pass information about children (and staff) at Barrios Unidos outside the class. As researchers, we (meaning the entire class) have a responsibility for protecting privacy of the children (and staff) at Barrios Unidos. Also, please, keep in mind that your field notes and Web discussion CAN be available for participants of the UC links project (similar classes at UC campuses) including researchers, instructors, TAs, site coordinators, and students. If you have a concern or question about any aspect of this issue, please, contact the Instructor Eugene Matusov via e-mail or personally.



Source for help

1. You should write a field note within 24 hours of each visit to Barrios Unidos. Field notes should be written in a timely manner because keen observations and meaningful reflection often suffer as memory fades. Your TA
2. You should write a field note using the template provided on our class Web site. The template will guide you to focus on relevant background information, descriptions of what you observed, interpretations and reflections. Your TA, other students
3. You should publish a field note on our class Web site. Field notes are published on our class Web site because it promotes communication among the whole class community that is the key for the scientific practice. Your TA, other students
4. You should publish a field note on our class Web site within 24 hours of each visit to Barrios Unidos The field notes should be accessible for the members of the class community in the timely manner for meaningful discussion and/or investigation. Your TA
5. If you can't write and publish a field note on our class Web site within the 24-hour window, you should immediately contact your TA. You still should write your field note even if it is late; please, include a comment that the note is late. see above. Describing conditions under which the field note was written (e.g., being late) is a part of the data itself. Your TA

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For comments and questions contact the Instructor Eugene Matusov.
1996. Last changed: September 05, 2001