This post provides my views on how 2 teachers in different countries and time zones have teamed up to research and publish academic writing. It provides an insight into what has been done, how it was done and the benefits of working this way.
I recently worked in Higher Education. In that time, I worked for and with academics. I began to understand the world of academic research, of publishing papers and journals, of collaborating in this process. I became involved in researching and writing papers, co-authoring 2 and being the lead author on 1 publication. In this process of research I felt I learned so much not only about research methods but about writing. I was challenged in many ways and I knew I benefited immensely from the experience. Hence, I wanted to bring something similar with me into the Secondary sector.
My memory is not brilliant so I can’t recall how it first came about but I think I asked @ianinsheffield if he would like to be a co-author on a paper for NAACE Advancing Education Journal to which he agreed. Why did I ask Ian? Well, I guess you could call it intuition but I think there a number of elements to look for in someone you want to write with and I saw them in Ian. I wanted someone who would challenge my assumptions but who ultimately knew most of my background, could empathise and likely would understand my angles. I liked reading his blog posts, liked his writing style and knew he was very interested in research.
So, basically, I already had the idea for the paper and needed to collect data. I put together a questionnaire via a Google form, shared it with Ian and he suggested amendments, challenged some of my questions, asked me to clarify certain areas, etc. The responses from the final questionnaire then provided data that we could both analyse individually, share our thoughts and interpretations. Again Google was used with a doc being shared in which we both wrote freely. Our shared thoughts on this doc provided a loose structure, a number of threads and angles on the area of research
After all these foundations, the actual writing begun. It was clear that Ian was happy for me to take the lead and I recall him asking what role I wanted him to play. I simply replied that I was going to just write an then if he could read and critique then that would be really helpful. He agreed and I began. I wrote at different times, as is normal in my way of working. I had long gaps where I did nothing then suddenly wrote quite a lot. Ian was shared on the doc and I expect he saw alerts in his inbox when I had done something but on most occasions, I would email him and tell him what I had done, sometimes adding reflections on what I had written or thoughts on where it was leading.
Ian commented on the doc. He scrutinized my work in more ways than I could have hoped. His suggestions reworded much of my writing and his research skills provided so many of the references that I doubt I would have ever had time to find on my own. And those really are the key benefits, in my opinion, to this way of working. Research can be time consuming. It can be another ‘thing’ educators have to do but it can be made so much easier. Collaborating in this way allows for greater insight and input, ensuring there is more than one specialist’s eyes on the writing but also reducing the workload in for example, searching for research in related fields.
This has now led Ian and I to produce a second paper that has been recently submitted to ACEC2014 in my home town of Adelaide. During this paper, we worked in similar ways except this time I began to notice a pattern that, to me, worked really well. I would often finish writing something on the shared Gdoc at night. Ian, is on the other side of the world in the UK and the time difference meant he was likely to be at work when I had finished writing. So, it seems he waited until he had free time in the evenings to look over what I had written. By this time, I had often slept, got up and was in to prepare for a days at work. I would switch on my computer and often find Ian editing the document or having just finished editing. I could then have a little general, overview chat with him about the paper and had his comments on the writing to look at then or later. In other words, the flow, the mix of synchronous and asynchronous communications, the one place for meeting and sharing and the timings worked so well for me.
Ian said he now has plans to lead on papers of his own and I can’t wait to provide a service to him and to aide the research process for the good of all.