… so … what’s the problem?

Pixabay, Creative Commons, CC0One of the main issues that we as budding young researchers seem to have to deal with is first finding out what we we want to find out. And what makes it just so much more interesting is the fact that we don’t seem to realise that we don’t know what we want to find out. A clue here is the fact that our lecturers seem to keep coming back to the issue of “the problem”. This created the suspicion in my mind that maybe this is something serious. And a second suspicion: that maybe I don’t realise just how serious this is. And third suspicion: that we’re not (yet) very good at this.

… you know the way that sometimes someone listens intently to what you’re saying and they are giving all the correct non-verbal cues, but when they start speaking some of what you’ve just said back to you, you realise that they really didn’t “get” what you were trying to bring across. Well. I think that’s we’re mostly at at the moment. We understand that we must identify the problem or gap or whatshamacallit that we have to address during our research … but … good heavens! … isn’t it right that the problem is “teacher’s don’t use tablets for elearning”?

Why not? They don’t!

… [cue a long explanation with elaborate examples given by an incredibly patient lecturer] … oh … so the tool isn’t the problem? …. well, then the problem must be the teacher! [students smile happily at identifying the correct culprit]. So how does this one sound … the problem is “teachers are not willing to be taught to use tablets”

Still not right? How is that possible?? [Patient lecturer’s smile is getting more and more strained. Cue yet another very patient, very detailed explanation.] Students nod, smile and tell each other … “but isn’t that what we said?”


I guess that’s why they pay the lecturers the big bucks! 😉

So … does this one sound anywhere close to something? “Identifying linguistic challenges in professional development training courses for secondary school teachers that contribute to uneven uptake of mobile devices as part of classroom practices.”

(And no, that’s not what I want to do my individual assignment on … more on that doozy in some future blog … I am still trying to figure out what the problem for that one is!)


  1. LOL I think you did a great job with capturing frustrations around identifying the problem. Jolanda Morkel and I spent a lot of time during our webinar series discussing this – edtech students aren’t the only ones who find this hard. It’s probably the hardest part of learning design. Many people think it’s all about the technology, but it’s not. FYI recordings here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/gdt1ooi4ebl91c3/AABS2Jbnxv_avqq-pmZvvgLba?dl=0

    Sometimes the word ‘problem’ is misleading because it makes us think we must be looking for something that’s going wrong so that we can find a solution. I prefer the word ‘challenge’. Jan Herrington also uses the word ‘problem’ but it is meant in the same way as an educational challenge or gap. Also check out:
    http://authenticlearning.info/AuthenticLearning/James_Oldfield.html and http://authenticlearning.info/AuthenticLearning/Research_Students.html

    In research proposal terms, framing a good research question is probably the hardest part of an entire thesis or article. But once you’ve got that, the rest flows. There’s some stuff on framing research questions here: http://www.humanities.uct.ac.za/hum/postgraduate/studies/navigatingthesis/getstarted

    If you’re focusing on teachers, perhaps it is because they struggle making the jump from being a student learning about tablets as part of a professional development course to integrating it in their teaching or designing authentic learning activities for their learners (as an example of something more particular). Similarly, people who have never taken a MOOC or online course struggle with online teaching. When I co-facilitate on the Facilitating Online course, part of the learning experience is moving people from being students on a course to facilitating each another’s learning experiences. How does the professional development course situate them? Are they always passive students being talked at or are they encouraged to play? Do they see the course as a safe space? Lots of factors influencing their engagement which in turn is likely to affect how they use tablets in their classrooms.

    Perhaps using a tablet as part of one’s teaching practice requires a different conception of learning and teaching, not the old-school didactic understanding of it. I see this often. We learn to teach based on how we were taught and then have to relearn things about teaching and learning so that we can engage in more student-centred approaches. This has been my own experience and what I have seen observed to be the experience of some university lecturers. I imagine there might be a similar dynamic at work for your teachers?

    The more questions you ask, the more you are able to refine and reiterate your ‘problem’. Talking to teachers is also key in order to get feedback which helps one identify the ‘problem’. See Jan’s template here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/0kut4fzwtr18d4c/DBRTemplateFull_1.docx?dl=0
    I really like this one because it has more detail than the 2-pager.


  2. Oh touché Lalien!! The problem is…………… finding the problem………which will help us to see the problem………and thus find ways of addressing the problem…….once we have solved the problem…………..of correctly identifying the problem…….. that is the problem!! Hey wait…….. I think I have solved it ………..NOT!! Sometimes I feel like I am at a huge gathering of “ETA” (No, not Estimated Time of Arrival …..of the problem……Educational Technologists Anonymous)…….and I thought I was the only one!! “Hi, I’m and Educational Technologist and I have a problem…..”……if only it was that easy !! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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