Case Study Research Course- Focus – Research paradigms

Discussion Questions:

Is all educational research case study research? What is a research paradigm? How many different ways are there to conduct educational research?  Why do you suppose there are many controversies over educational research approaches?

I looked back to my original design -based research course to find my online discussion answer to my epistemological and ontological beliefs as a researcher. My answer would not meet the fantasy qualitative classroom nor writing assignment expectations described by Wolgemuth (2016).

“… I was really being asked to describe my epistemological beliefs. I described learning as demonstrating deep empathy. I believe meaningful learning happens when learners share their learning with each other. Sharing includes connecting with other learners or digital content, collaborating with other learners and creating “something” that communicates learning to others. Endelson describes the potential for design based research to develop design domain theories, design frameworks and design methodologies (2002). My epistemological beliefs stem from connectivist and constructivist learning opportunities where teachers guide learners to the nodes of learning found in various mediums that best support personalized and collective student learning pathways (Siemens, 2004; Vygotskiĭ,1978). My research focus in k-12 open learning provides the potential for a design domain theory integrating connectivism and constructivism.

Davis, Sumara and Luce-Kapler (2015), distinguish between four historical movements that are associated with distinctive teaching practices and theories. As a design based researcher, I consider my ontological stance as one that blends two of these movements, democratic citizenship education and systemic sustainability education. I believe Individuals will learn by participating in learning with others and building upon the knowledge of all learners. As such, Barab and Squire best described my ontological epistemological stance when they described the goal of design based research is, “to directly impact practice while advancing theory that will be of use to others” (2004, p. 8)” (Roberts, 2017).

My online discussion answer  from my design based research course, was similar to the student examples Wolgemuth used in her article. While my answer is not inaccurate or incorrect, it could be so much more. It still lacks the breadth and depth case study research can offer.  A research paradigm includes the epistemological and ontological beliefs of a researcher as well as a theoretical framework and methodology. (Patel, 2015) I demonstrated that I was becoming aware of my research paradigm, but what I lacked was opposing views and different perspectives in order to make my research paradigm even stronger. I also gave a very specific answer which could restrict my potential to research my topic of interest from different perspectives. Wolgemuth’s article criticizes forced research paradigm and research frameworks within qualitative research. Instead she supports to, “…seek to create opportunities for students to take up multiple paradigms, methodologies, and methods; to foster paradigm proliferation (Lather, 2006) and creative, ambiguous, and boundary-defying research designs” (Wolgemuth, 2016, p. 518).

In her article, Lincoln’s overview of the historical context and success of qualitative case study research supports Wolgemuth’s views on flexible and unique research paradigms, especially in light of recent emphasis on static positivist scientific inquiry. Lincoln, like Wolgemuth, supports the flexibility, breadth, and depth of case study and qualitative research with a plethora of flexible definitions, perspectives and examples. “We have become, largely because of our methods,lenses, and paradigms, rather awesome purveyors of some of the most profound insights into Western society ever assembled” (Lincoln, 2010, p. 3).

Within the qualitative research world there is debate over the flexibility of interpretivism. There are examples of the ambiguous postmodern lens without a particular research methodology or research direction as opposed to  more pragmatic transformationism, which is based on those who believe research methodologies, theory, processes and approaches connect. Howe’s (1998) article suggests the new debate within interpretivism is not as essential as the old debate between, positivism and interpretivism. In fact, by trying to distinguish interpretivist qualitative research perspectives, quantitative positivist researchers have more ammunition to critique and disseminate all the progress and quality research created by qualitative researchers.

Thomas (2011) has created a choose your own adventure research paradigm to support case study research. His article was not an attempt to validate the potential for case study research in terms of a single framework. However, Thomas understands that case studies need some structure, especially in the planning and organizing stages, regardless of the research paradigm attempts .Thomas provides an opportunity for future case study researchers to consider how research paradigms can be flexible yet pragmatic, open-ended yet credible. He is able to help future researchers identify their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of their own epistemological and ontological beliefs based on purposes and approaches while still integrating theory and methodology into a diverse research framework.

There are controversies over educational research approaches because there is a competitive aspect to research in that one way to do things is the “right way” as it provides the best results. Society will also support research that gives them the answers they want, not necessarily the data to support answers they do not want. It is difficult to accept change and different perspectives. It is always easier to stay the same and provide evidence of why the “same” is the best.

As I look back to my online discussion answer, I am proud of my iterative attempt as a researcher to be flexible enough as a researcher to understand that a research paradigm helps to create my research identity in terms of interest and passion, but does not limit my potential to research similar topics from different methods and perspectives. I do research about open learning and I do not want to limit myself as to how I will continue to research this topic in the future.

Week 2 question for my colleagues: Is flexibility and an iterative process important to you as you consider your own research paradigm?


Davis, B., Sumara, D.,& Luce-Kapler, R. (2015). Engaging minds: cultures of education and practices of teaching (3rd edn.). New York: Routledge.

Edelson, D. C. (2002). Design research: What we learn when we engage in design. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 11(1), 105–121.

Howe, K. (1998). The interpretive turn and the new debate in education, Educational Researcher, 27(8), 13-20.

Lather, P. (2006). Paradigm proliferation as a good thing to think with: Teaching research in education as a wild profusion. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19, 35-57.

Lincoln, Y. S. (2010). “What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been…”: Twenty-Five Years of Qualitative and New Paradigm Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(3), 3-9.

Patel, S. (2015, July 15). The research paradigm – methodology, epistemology and ontology – explained in simple language. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. [online]. Retrieved  from

Thomas, G. (2011). A Typology for the Case Study in Social Science Following a Review of Definition, Discourse, and Structure. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(6), 511-521.

Roberts, V. (2017, January 20). Verena’s Preliminary Position Statement [Online discussion group]. Retrieved from

Wolgemuth, J. R. (2015). Driving the Paradigm: (Failing to Teach) Methodological Ambiguity, Fluidity, and Resistance in Qualitative Research. Qualitative Inquiry 1-8.

Vygotskiĭ, L. S., & Cole, M. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

“Expert” vs “Novice” – Examining the “boundary” concept in informal learning environments

We are examining the idea of research around informal learning opportunities this week in my EdD class. My experiences come from cMOOCs, in particular my experiences as learner in #Change11 and #Moocmooc, lead conspirator of #etmooc lead facilitator of #DigiFoot12 #ceetopen and #oclmooc.

In our course, we are using the science domain to demonstrate how the boundary spaces can create a learning community in which “expert” and “novice” knowledge can come together.

Screenshot 2016-07-20 08.26.52

I am looking for examples, writings, storify’s, digital artifacts – anything – that would demonstrate how learner agency is supported and the idea of “expert” and “novice” meeting and building knowledge with each other in a learning space.


I understand that the boundary layers and objects referred to in the article are within the context of the historical framework of scientific research – but could you help me with my comparison to informal learning in cMooc environments?


Or am I comparing apples and oranges?


Verena 🙂



Shanahan, M.-C. (2011). Science blogs as boundary layers: Creating and understanding new writer and reader interactions through science blogging. Journalism, 12(7), 903-919.
I apologize for anyone who cannot access this article to refer to.

Mozilla All Hands in London England, 2016: Personal Leadership Framework and Toolkit Project – Experience

My usual week…

I am an educator and educational consultant. I spend my days working from home working on reports about how teachers learn about Blended Learning or thinking about the future of the Alberta MoodleHUB or creating course content podcasts about K-12 Open Educational Resources.

When my kids come home, I get their snacks and water and rush them off to the their soccer practices and games. I am the Team Manager for two of my kid’s teams and I am an example of a soccer mom. Being a soccer mom means I leave my “professional life” behind me at my home office, and I connect with other like parents from around city. We talk about the weather, the team, politics, soccer and mostly about our kids

My Mozilla AllHands Week:

From June 12-16 I was a volunteer with the Mozilla participation team. I applied to be considered for the Mozilla Work week, where I was going to help Emma Irwin work on the Personal Leadership Toolkit based on her research and work over the last few months.  This is my post on my goals and expectations of the work week.

And this is the post about what actually happened…..

Unfortunately Emma was unable to make the workweek, so I was given the amazingly enthusiastic and supportive George Roter as a mentor, the head of the Mozilla participation team, to support my work. After the original keynote given by Lorraine Heggessey from BBC1 about her leadership in reinventing Dr Who, I connected with George to get an overview of the volunteer work expectations. From the Dr Who keynote, I was able to ascertain that Mozilla was compared to the Dr Who show because of the show’s reinvention and ability to consistently be different, think outside the box, push barriers and try and save the universe. Apparently Mozilla had been used to doing some things the “old way” (imagine Dr Who in the 1960’s) and now we were being challenged to think about the transformation and success of Dr Who in 2016 (imagine what Mozilla could be if we had no barriers in which to save the universe). I assumed that “the universe” we are trying to save was the Internet – and we are trying to ensure that the Internet remains free.

Saving the Internet Universe? Tardis Boxes?

According to Chris Beard, CEO of Mozilla, during the keynote introductions, I am a Mozillian. And as a Mozillian, I am part of the “force” now trying to ensure freedom on the Internet. I have to admit, I was a little confused…I knew I had signed up as a volunteer for Mozilla, but now I was a Mozillian? Tardis boxes were being flown in with smoke, lots of great videos about Mozilla accomplishments were being shown  – but I was seriously beginning to question where I was and why I was there….

Back to my reality…

Go back to the beginning of this post where I described my usual daily life: a mom who works from a home office and spends her evenings on soccer fields trying to keep her family and soccer team in order. Creating a leadership toolkit seemed like an easy project based on my world of organization & consulting.

Into the future and my beliefs and passions….

However, now I am a Mozillian. I was being encouraged and challenged to push barriers and think beyond the “normal” and the “expected”. Those who know me – know I was in my element! I was being asked to step out of my “soccer mom” role and actually be myself!

I was surrounded by the type of “work” world we as educators speak about as we question how and what students are learning today. As educators, we are constantly being told that we are preparing our students for an unknown future. We are teaching and facilitating the skills, knowledge and behaviours for jobs and careers that don’t exist yet. At Mozilla, these skills, knowledge and behaviours exist already.  

I realized that I was already in my own rocketship sent from Calgary, Alberta, Canada  discovering a new planet in a foreign galaxy. I had stepped out of the Canadian Tardis I didn’t know I was stuck in – and I was exploring a new world – well new to me. My personal challenge was going to be to figure out how to learn as much as possible about this new world then bring this new learning back to my current world.


IMG_0231What a Volunteer Learns at a Mozilla All Hands Event:

Luckily, there were a number of sessions offered at London AllHands to help me figure out what this planet filled with Mozillians had to offer. I spent Wednesday learning about the participation team, “teams” who were reviewing and evaluating the campus campaign, rethinking the Reps program and developing the Reps mentoring and coaching support. Although each team had a Mozillian common vision and goals, they appeared to each speak their own language and do their own thing. They had their own means of communication (like telegraph) and their own “rules”, expectations, history, culture, leadership and world.

In fact, in 24 hours I learned about how the word “leader” can be taken in many ways, that there are many different definitions of open source and my favourite, that Chris Beard (CEO of Mozilla) referred to Mozilla as a chaordic organization  So….this was not “just” a leadership tool kit I was being asked to help support. I was being asked to try and be Dr Who discovering another planet in order to describe  the current Mozilla Universe. I was not being asked to tell anyone what to do, to change anyone or try to set up a new set of rules. I was being asked to explore, listen and translate. I was being asked to try and figure out how to encourage other people to take the plunge and enter their own Tardis, from their “place” and become a Mozillian. A Mozillian, like open source in general, is open to the world without barriers or “skin”. A Mozillian is transparent and lives and breathes for a bigger purpose than just themselves. They are devoted to the bigger picture and one size will never fit all Mozillians. They are their unique while still being part of a whole.

How to Complete a Project at Mozilla All Hands:

So – developing a tool kit, yes that was my project goal…but I was finding the getting there extremely difficult. I decided to use Design Thinking to help me with the project:

Screenshot 2016-07-02 17.38.53

Design Thinking image retrieved from:


Based on listening and observing of the other Mozillians, I learned that I needed another team member. Mikko Kontto is a Finnish elementary school teacher with experience working with the Mozilla web literacy framework and using Mozilla learning tools to encourage his own students to become Mozillians in their own way.  (Side note: As an k-12 Canadian Educator I shook with excitement because I was working with a Finnish teacher!!! And we are all told that the FInnish Education system is “it” right? And after working with Mikko – I can honestly say, all Canadian teachers should have the opportunity to collaborate with Finns!)


Mikko and I took Emma Irwin’s work, the personal leadership framework, Julian Stodd’s work on social leadership and compared other chaordic resources in order to  create a “Version -.0.5” of a personal leadership framework and competencies for Mozilla.

We started by using social leadership as a guide/common definition.

If you want to learn more about social leadership and how we made this connection to Mozillians please click HERE.


We started to integrate the behaviours, skills and knowledge that Emma had filtered into the social leadership competencies developed by Julian Stodd into our own Mozillian context:

Screenshot 2016-06-14 08.10.45

Retrieved from:

Then we created an excel spreadsheet which described the competencies using Mozilla words and vocabulary to ensure that we were translating the common language. We used the behaviours, skills and knowledge described in Emma Irwin’s work to ensure that the competencies connected with Mozillian culture.

Click HERE to see a copy of the Personal Leadership Competencies and descriptions

Prototype 1:

With a basic framework in mind, we were able to present our ideas to some of the Participation Team Leaders to ensure that we were creating something that was usable and others could “see themselves in”.

Prototype 2:

Finally, we presented our findings to Mozilla on Friday and were given feedback in order to take next steps.

Our “presentation display” looked like this:

Panel 1 represented the personal leadership framework – with the social leadership competencies and a description of how Mozillian skills, knowledge and behaviours connected to the competencies:

IMG_0295We used the Reps as an example to try and demonstrate the potential for this personal competency framework.

Panel 2 represented the current leadership framework within the Reps system.



Panel 3 was created to demonstrate the potential for Mozillian growth in terms of personal leadership and numbers. While Panel 2 exemplified  a “closed” system that was not able to sustain itself, Panel 2 exemplifies an open and networked system where there is an unending potential for sustainable growth for current and future Mozillians.


Next Steps? Testing….

As I headed back to Canada in my Calgary based Mozilla Tardis, I began to think about possible next steps. I was delighted to receive an email from Ruben ( @nukeador ) creating a timeline to keep working on the project. We are currently completing a Version 1.0 of the personal leadership framework – by connecting priority Rep skills, behaviours and knowledge to competencies and finding resources to support these prioritized focus areas. This is the link to our current work: Click HERE

I look forward to the next few months to see how/if the personal leadership framework will be prototyped and developed within the Mozilla participation team and beyond…

And until then….I will jump into my Tardis …and see where the future takes me as a Mozillian…


From Lurker, to Follower, to Leader: Mozilla All Hands in London Goals

The “Mozillian Lurker”


Photo by

Sitting next to Sunny Lee and Carla Casilli on on school bus exploring Vancouver during the the “Open Education” Conference in 2012, I discovered that I was already a Mozillian. Although on the fringes of the community, I learned about open badges and realized, that’s what I am doing already!  In late 2012, I collaborated with Laura Hilliger and Pete Rorabaugh (Twitter vs Zombies fame)  as co-conspirators for #ETMOOC. We worked together on a digital storytelling week. The primary reason Pete and Laura were involved in ETMOOC was to learn more about how to facilitate and offer future MOOCs. Pete is a part of the famous #moocmooc community and Laura developed Mozilla’s #TeachTheWeb community. I had no idea I was learning with experts as we collaborated and conspired together. I also managed to meet Laura and other Mozillians like Chad Sansing face to face at EduCon in January 2013. We even managed to be part of the #ETMOOC Lip Dub (Check 1:18)  That year I worked with Alberta Distance Learning Centre and won an Innovation Award for creating the Open Classroom – which would never have happened without the key connections and learning that had occurred throughout the year.

I spent the next year completing my course work for my UBC MET and briefly supported the development of the original web literacy competencies led by Doug Belshaw.  As part of my project work completing my MET with UBC, I presented my research to the mozilla open badges community. By developing my connections within the original open badges and #teachtheweb community I met people who have since become trusted mentors like Ian O’Byrne and  friends like Emma Irwin.

Over the last 4 years, I never really moved from the “fringes” of the Mozilla community – but I was always a Mozillian. I live and breathe openness. I strive for open communication within our school systems and developing digital literacy for all learners. As a Canadian, I work with a lot of American educators and we chat about web safety and privacy regularly – there is a difference. I watched from afar as Mozilla changed leadership, watched as my “heros and leaders” shifted their focus and I watched as Mozilla started new campaigns and directions.

Emma Irwin reconnected with me about 6 months ago – she checked in to see what I was up to. We had met years ago in Victoria when I was considering a PhD program.  Late last year, Emma asked me if I would be interested in volunteering with the Mozilla participation team. I was working with an organization at the time that did not give me the “soul work” I always need, so I said yes. I had no idea what the participation team was or what I was getting myself into. After a failed attempt to get me to Singapore (my fault), the timing was right for London – and I am about to break my pattern and move from the “Mozilla fringes” into the “Mozilla swamp”.

Jumping Into the Mozilla Community:

  1. Communication and Identity -> One of the Mozilla’s main goals is to increase membership. How we go about this will be a hot conversation topic in London. However, one of my goals will be to be an honest and authentic guinea pig who will act as a voice for the “Future” Mozillians. Learning about GitHUb, how to follow the Mozilla project process, how to communicate, Mozilla rhetoric – these are all experiences I can speak to first hand. In London – I will be asking  a lot of questions and asking for a lot of clarification. I will need people to explain things and to repeat things for me.  I have a lot of experience working as an ESL teacher and I know how important it is to remember that a student’s inability to communicate has nothing to do with their cognitive abilities. Just because they can’t answer my questions, doesn’t mean they don;t know the answers. To say I am stepping outside my comfort zone would be an understatement from a technical vocabulary and programming point of view – many Mozillians will be speaking another language to me. However, I hope that by trying to communicate in my fringe language, that I can lead present Mozillians to future Mozillians.
  2. Building community- based on my current network Idea -> Based on goal #1, and my desire to use diversity to increase communication and future Mozillians, I want to use my K12 teacher network to support future volunteer opportunities. Right now I am calling it a “Teachers Without Borders” idea, but I hope to work on this concept and have a viable action plan after spending time in London.
  3. Learning → I am starting my EdD  at UofC this summer. I plan on learning more about Mozilla’s campus campaign to learn how I can better support current Mozilla projects as well as learn more about the research community and finally get some ideas for my future research.

I genuinely have no idea who I want to meet in London, although I am hoping to connect with Chad Sansing because he is cool and Emma Irwin because she was the one who spent the time pulling me from the fringes.

Push me, challenge me, encourage me, hear me….All Hands in London comes at a great time for me – and I am heading into London with my eyes and ears wide open! Let the fun begin!

How to “Teach” Social Presence

This blog post is about “Social Presence” for the #HumanMOOC Course

imageWhat did you learn today?s

Image from:

Learning “How to Learn” Online…..with a focus on Social Presence

When I co-facilitated ED722 with Dr Ian O’Byrne last year….(A course  to introduce you to emerging trends, issues and practices in online learning.) we thought long and hard about developing our digital presence – but also about how to help develop the students’ online presence so students could develop confidence to learn on their own – online.

We wanted to expand on the idea of “open learning” and MOOCs by learning “with” our students and consistently modelling “how” we learn. We wanted the students to realize that we have never stopped learning, and that the way we learn in a “course” is only the first stage of learning online.

So we set up the course in “social presence stages”. After having experienced the lack of learner support in previous MOOcs ourselves we knew we needed to set up the course in stages. We used  “constructivist” pedagogy first as a stage BEFORE attempting to promote connectivist and ultimatley serendipitous learning

So – our “teaching online plan”looked something like this:

12 week course Course Syllabus

Week 1 -2


  • Building relationships
  • Introduction to the course resources and tools

We used Google Sites as the main course page, with a separate closed Google community students were introduced to basic research, literature and the digital tools that the 12 week course would provide.

Week 3:

Objective :

  • How to demonstrate evidence of learning- in the open

Then we introduced (and modelled) Storify – We asked students to examine examples of story’s that we had already made about “What we learned OR a summary of the learning we saw collected – from a facilitator point of view”. We encouraged the students to refer to the set course references, resources and tools.  The instructional design was simple: course content and weekly synchronous google hangouts with Dr. Ian O’Byrne *(and Verena when she remembered to make it).

Week 4


  • Experience Learning in an open networked environment

We joined  a MOOC together. We decided to join DLMOOC – a Mooc about Deeper Learning. I happened to know one of the lead facilitators of the course – so I did mention to Karen Fasimpaur  that we would be joining as a “Learning Cohort”. Most of the course discussion still remained in the private Google Community and students started to transition to Storify – but seemed to prefer to “describe their learning” on their blogs.


Week 5-10


  • Overview emerging trends, issues and practices in online learning – by experiencing them and connecting to your own experiences.

Using the MOOC topics as a guide, Ian and integrated the course topics to connect with the MOOC topics. Students started to expand their “Community of learning” from the set “closed” private community to the Learners within the MOOC. What data did Ian and I have to support this? Each week we asked the students to add their storifies and blog posts (either or) to a google chart.

What I saw evidence of as a facilitator-learner……

At first students tended to add course resources and their own social media posts to their storifies.

For example, a student would comment about the weekly readings then add in their tweet or google post.

Then – With the addition of the MOOC “learners” , which provided a larger community but a more sustainable means for the lead facilitator to give feedback to students posts and comments. We started to see evidence of the addition of different learner’s posts, examples of their tweets or posts (within a ED722 student’s storify). This demonstrated that there was a shift in the perception of how we express our learning” because the resources and “teacher guided” content was not the only content quoted, and we were not the only people  that the students were learning from. “The experts were in the room – the room being the Internet”.

The private google community became a place for questions and feedback about assignments – but the learning was taken “outside” of the private community and transported “back into” the community by the students.

By Week 10 – with the addition of the MOOC “learners” , which provided a larger community but a more sustainable means for the lead facilitator to give feedback to students posts and comments, students were responding to the course topics, the MOOC topics and adding RT’s and replies and answers. Many students were invited to participate in Google+ hangouts for the MOOC – so their social presence was promoted by learning “outside” of the traditional course.

Week 11 and 12 were a time spent completing projects.We had asked that the groups be 2 or 3 people, but many of the groups had connected with other learners outside of the course. By building relationships with other learners in the MOOC, they had a plethora of people to learn with and from.

For me – the best experience was the final blog posts and storifies.

All the “evidence of learning” for the course is found here if you are interested.

What did I learn as a facilitator?

All students need to start a  new project or experience by finding their common cultural border crossing. BY giving the students 2 weeks to figure out what we were up to, we didn’t initiate too much fear. We also focused on developing relationships so the students knew who we were and knew that they could ask us for help and support.

We also started slowly – by starting an online course, then a MOOC, students could see we were starting in stages.

We modelled how we learn. Ian and I gave feedback through social media, we RT’d student tweets, blogs and other forms of online interaction – we supported their development of social presence – and I feel the students knew that they were supported. The students also got to see how the facilitators learn and who we are through our personal interactions and development of our own digital identities.

By the end of the course, I felt that the students knew how to learn by themselves. We transitioned from teacher-directed to serendipitous connected learning – while always maintaining a stable “safety” zone private online community. To this day I Retweet (RT) and connect with the students and consider them my fellow peers.

We continue to learn together.