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Learning to Teach in the Digital Age

New Materialities and Maker Paradigms in Schools


Sean Justice

Learning to Teach in the Digital Age tells the story of a group of K–12 teachers as they began to connect with digital making and learning pedagogies. Guiding questions at the heart of this qualitative case study asked how teaching practices engaged with and responded to the maker movement and digital making and learning tools and materials. Over the course of one school year, Sean Justice attended to the ebb and flow of teaching and learning at an independent K–12 girls school the northeastern United States. Teachers and administrators from across grade levels and academic domains participated in interviews and casual conversations, and opened their classrooms to ad hoc observations. In conducting the study, Justice interwove a sociomaterial disposition with new materialism, posthumanism, and new media theory. Methods were inspired by narrative inquiry and actor-network theory. Findings suggested that digital making and learning pedagogies were stabilizing at the school, but not in a linear way. Further, Justice suggests that the teaching practices that most engaged the ethos of twenty-first-century learning enacted a kind of learning we hear about from artists, writers, scientists, and mathematicians when they talk about what innovation feels like, leading to the proposition that a different kind of language is needed to describe the effects of digital materialities on teaching practice.
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Chapter 4. Methods and Practice


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This chapter describes the design of the study—both the methods and practices I used to collect data, and my process of interpretation and analysis. It also traces an iteration of the inquiry questions that were introduced in Chapter 1, and describes two dispositional sensibilities that guided the research.

General Research Design


This qualitative field study took place at a K–12 private girls school in a major metropolitan area of the northeastern United States; primary participants were the teachers and administrators who shared their work with me. Following Ito (2010), my approach was ethnographic and exploratory; I wanted to describe relationships by “grasping the contours of a new set of cultural categories and practices” (p. 5). That is, rather than analyze behavior at a granular level, my approach targeted digital making technologies across the curriculum. ← 77 | 78 →


In-depth interviews, observations, and conversations occurred from August 2013 through June 2014. Additional conversations and email contact took place until August 2015. Interpretation and writing occurred throughout the study period.


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