Intro: I am Margaret Riel and currently the chair of the action research SIG at AERA. I also teach at Pepperdine University and work on projects at SRI-International from time to time. I am starting this blog as way to help build the action research community.
In-Sites: I want to invite all of you to the Center for Collaborative Action Research wiki to share your syllabi for teaching action research. I know that your immediate reaction might be one of concern for intellectual property. But if Harvard and MIT both put all of their courses online, perhaps there is a greater good that comes from sharing these ideas. Please consider it as I think that both faculty and students could learn from sharing ideas. The better courses in action research are constructed, the stronger and more rapid the development of the community which is, I hope, our shared goal.
Cool Tools: My favorite teaching tool is is a collaborative writing pad called an etherpad. There is no need for anyone to join anything or download anything. You open a pad, share the name of the pad with friends, they open it and a group of people can begin to take notes together. It can be used to take notes while a group is working at a distance or in the same room. When used for groups of 8 or less people each person gets a unique color but can be used for groups as large as 18 (two people share a color). Etherpad has become open source and is openly available on the web. One site that features etherpads is ietherpad.com, another is typewith.me. To open a pad, just add a name for a pad after the address– for example– http://typewith.me/mriel
If you follow this link, you will see a pad with the name mriel. You are welcome to play around. But the real fun starts when you invite a group of people to visit an etherpad with you at the same time. I work with my action researcher students on a phone conference and we use the etherpad to keep track of what is being said and to add to the verbal channel as we discuss action research. Anyone who is not talking can be typing. We have gotten pretty skilled at talking and writing at the same time. But it can also be used in face to face meeting with people taking notes that everyone can see. With many people taking notes, there is not only a great record of any verbal discussion (some people can format while others are capturing the content) but there can also be extensions, suggestions, and connections without interrupting the speaker.