Educational Research with the Lacuna Stories Project
For the last two years, I've been privileged to work on the Lacuna Stories Project, a digital humanities platform that allows for collaborative reading, thinking, and writing. Lacuna Stories was developed at Stanford by PhD student Brian Johnsrud, Professor Amir Eshel, and Academic Technology Specialist Mike Widner.
I was first brought onboard in Winter 2013 to work with School of Education PhD student Emily Schneider on classroom observations with the very first class at Stanford to use Lacuna Stories, and since then I have also conducted one-on-one interviews with students to gather their feedback and impressions from their experiences with the site; this feedback has shaped the future of the project. Now in its second year, I am beginning to work directly with faculty to help them implement their courses using the platform to best serve their own learning outcomes for their students.
Through my experience with Lacuna Stories, I have become very interested in the question of collaborative or social reading in the digital age. Because Lacuna Stories allows (and encourages) students to make their annotations on course texts public, students are able to learn from each other and communicate with each other about the reading before they ever set foot in a classroom. This has an array of advantages both for the students (for example, less advanced students are able to learn from more advanced students, and more advanced students push themselves to think more deeply and annotate more interestingly about a text) and the instructor (for example, an instructor can see what about a text has interested students prior to class discussion or if, indeed, students have read the text at all). But how does reading change when it becomes a social activity, rather that a solipsistic one? And is "collaborative reading" perhaps a new form of literacy in the 21st century? These are questions that I hope to continue exploring in the future, as more classes begin using Lacuna Stories.
Lacuna Stories has also exposed me to a very different type of research. Research in the humanities is generally a solitary activity, but as a member of the Lacuna Stories team, I work closely with many different people, including educational researchers, instructional designers, and web developers. I am learning how to do qualitative educational research, such as following protocols for classroom observations and interviews, and I am becoming familiar with an area of scholarly literature that I would never have encountered otherwise.
The chance to do this sort of research, which points toward the type of research I am likely to do in an academic support or consultancy position, has been invaluable to me, and I am excited to see where Lacuna Stories goes in the future.