Hanging Out in the Cloud (Not the Google Drive Kind)


I’ve spent the last few weeks in the cloud. The cloud is a term used by one of my doc professors to describe the arduous nature of figuring out your study’s place in theory and concept. She positioned us to understand the cloud is good place to be because, despite trying to go from point A to B, we often times come out the other end at point C or even D. C and D are results we usually simply can’t imagine or articulate, but they are also the points that are so important to research–discovering and revealing new questions.

When looking at my fellow doc students, I realize we are all in varying places in our interests and conceptual framework for a study. Thankfully, my course through the cloud has been steady so far. That doesn’t mean it isn’t without its hiccups or bumps, but my research focus hasn’t changed too drastically and the literature I’m finding is mostly helpful. The bigger struggle currently is finding empirical studies that inform my methodology. Another struggle is the nature of not entirely knowing how I should be articulating my research questions. I take some solace in knowing that a qualitative study (which I think I’m destined for at this point) typically has research questions that evolve over the study. My pilot study with zines helped to reinforce this idea. I realized by the end of that study there were answers to questions I hadn’t even thought to ask yet.

This research rabbit hole gets deeper and deeper, but I’m discovering more resources as I go. I’m starting to meet new education professors and becoming informed in their areas of expertise. I think myself and my cohort mates have all realized we’ll need a committee sooner than later. In any case, here is what I think I know so far and where I’m at in the cloud:

  • I’m hyper-interested in what informs student agency and identity. Specifically, I want to understand how agency and identity is formed through non-traditional literacy practices (or, rather, literacy practices typically not sanctioned by schools.) My general feeling is that pulling from students’ more natural literacy practices may enhance how a student identifies him or herself in an English classroom and how in turn that shapes agency.
  • I want to test Henry Jenkins (2009) strong belief in participatory culture and closing the participation gap. I love the ideas presented in his white paper and subsequent literature, but the truth is no one has conducted any real empirical studies to test his theories. I think this is a research gap I can help fill.
  • My study could be quantitative, but I think the richest data will be in a qualitative study. I can see triangulating field notes, video, and interviews as a way to determine important themes in my study. Themes that would potentially reinforce the of use participatory culture in the classroom or reveal a negative piece that I haven’t fathomed yet.
  • Through non-traditional literacies and participatory culture, I am also interested in engagement. Does the involvement of out-of-school literacies and participatory culture change how often a student writes, what he or she writes, the duration a student writes? Do they change how a student perceives him or herself as an active agent in the classroom? Do they inform a student’s identity in such a way that the student perceives or interacts with the English classroom differently than before?

Alright, that’s enough positing and problematizing for one day. Sometimes using this blog just to let off steam and write out ideas is quite cathartic. My apologies to anyone who finds this type of post a bore, but I suppose you wouldn’t have opened it if you weren’t interested. (At least that’s the assumption I’ll use to justify today’s post.) To preview my next post, I intend on reflecting on some very cool lesson plans I encountered in class just yesterday when I got to work with several masters, initial liscensure students. They had some phenomenal lessons that I intend on adapting. I’ll be sharing at least one of them with you soon.


Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. J. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

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