Research and Stuff

Chronicles of research paper in progress...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Trigger...

This is half "justification" and half "question proposal".

The though of any composition class for me always triggers a troubling memory: A certain student who sits quietly in the back, unsure of his place and deeply uncomfortable in his chair, in the classroom, in the building, in the institution. To him the whole experience is new and strange and deeply traumatizing. He is in a place where perhaps he senses that he doesn’t belong, struggling against a language that sometimes still escapes him. He asks himself how he got there and what’s keeping him there and no simple answer comes and no convincing argument arises. I think it’s that memory, as melodramatic as it may sound, that set my eyes on the CAMP students here on campus for my project.

CAMP stands for College Assistant Migrant Program. It’s a university sponsored program that provides special support services to the children of farm workers who are the first in their families to attend college. I will talk more about the program itself in future entries.

I want to research how varying levels of access and knowledge of technology (and by this I mean computers, basic word processing programs, and anything else above that) has affected performance in composition classes of low income, minority students, who learned English as a second language and who are among the first in their families to attend college. (coincidentally, almost everyone in the College Assistance Migrant Program here at Sac State fits this description). I was never in CAMP but I can relate.

I was planning interviewing as many CAMP students as possible. They interviews will be discussions I hope, rather than questioners. The types of questions I would be something like the following, though I probably need to work on the exact language a bit more.

Is English your first language?
How would you describe your experience with technology (computers, word processing programs, etc)?
Have you had previous experience with computers and if so where?How often have you used word processing programs?
When was the first time you used them?
Where did you learn to use them?
What factors, if any, have limited your access to technology?
What composition classes have you taken at Sac State?
To what extent did you use computers and technology in your last composition class?
How did you do in that class? (The student will have the option of not disclosing his grade and simply giving an overall opinion).
What difficulties, if any, did you have in your last composition class?
How would you describe your experience of your first composition class?

Afterwards, I really want to see if I can find any patterns based on correlations (knowledge of and access to technology and final grades and the opinions of students). Assuming that most students have taken at least one composition class at this point, they will be able to share their experience and the extent to which technology did or did not play a part in their ability to do well in a college composition class. I will be surprised if technology is not an issue for a considerable number of these students.

I’m planning to place special attention on how language comes into play. No doubt for most of the student’s language is a barrier and I am curious to see how, if at all, technology was helpful in overcoming this.

4 Comments:

  • At 9:47 AM, Blogger Caron said…

    Wow Antonio, this sounds so awesome. I have worked with many CAMP students throughout my MA program in TESOL, and I'm really interested to see the results that you will get from your interviews. It sounds a lot like Literate Lives from a different perspective. I, like you think that technology has effected CAMP students. I wonder how easy it is for them to use computers, to learn the keyboard. I've been teaching my ESL students how to use the keyboard during our lab time in my class, and they still struggle a lot with it. I'm also interested to see if the language barrier hindered or helped them when it comes to using technology. After all, there are plenty of sites in different languages, but what about explainations on how to use computers and programs? What about access? Most of my students don't have access to a computer at home because of the expense.
    I think that you have some very good questions to start from for your interviews. I am looking forward to finding out which ones you choose to use. I am also going to use interviews/ sureveys for my project, but so far, haven't gotten around to creating questions for it.
    It sounds really good, I didn't even think about doing something in my ESL field, but then again, something new and different for a change. Good luck, and I'll probably check back in from time to time. Caron

     
  • At 10:43 AM, Blogger TWI said…

    Antonio-

    I think your research strategy and questions sound like a great starting point. In fact, I'm glad I get to write responses so I can see how everything unfolds. Based on your description, it seems that many of the students in CAMP could have a lot to tell you about the challenges with language in a composition classroom. But by putting a focus on technology, it will not only tighten the focus, but will also have interesting results. What I mean is I think you'll be able to see some kind of intersection between language and technology, though I'm not exactly sure what it is. But the issue of language and technology, I think, many of us sometimes take for granted - especially those of us who have had a kind of privilege with access, education, and everything else that follows. Again, I believe it goes back to the visibility/invisibility issue, in this case technology, but really that's one of the goals of critical pedagogy is to see beyond what has been taken for granted, call attention to it and make it visible.

    I would be curious as to what the effects have been in having readily available access (tech. at home) vs. having tech. only at campus. This is just one question, but did it make students feel situated, or did it drive them to work harder, did it put some of them off, or make them feel singled out? For some of the students I have in my internship class at Sac City (who do not have readily available access), they greatly dislike changes made to the syllabus, especially when it calls for additional written assignments, because, in effect, they need to rework their schedule so they can have time to get to a computer.

    Keep on plugging and blogging away.

     
  • At 7:24 PM, Blogger Rachael said…

    Hey there Antonio!
    I was just perusing thru everyone's blogs, and I ran across yours and read what you posted. And WOW, what a fabulous idea for your project! I just wanted to say so...let you know that it seems pretty damn cool from where I'm sitting. So here's some kudos to you, man!

     
  • At 9:28 AM, Blogger 081christina said…

    Antonio, I think about your research project everytime I watch the news lately. In light of the demonstrations, protests, and proposed legislation, do you find yourself more motivated in your research or fearful that some people (maybe even students in our class) may reject merely the concept of CAMP? I suppose too I am thinking about that article, about anonymity, and Jeff Rice...and your topic in a sense could be viewed as controversial...yet you approach it boldly. And I admire that. Good for you.

     

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