What are breadcrumbs?
No, not the grain-based type, the data type. In technology, breadcrumbs are the collections of links that step backward through the internet as evidence of where you’ve been. Breadcrumbs help you navigate. They accumulate automatically so the user can easily go back and take a turn in another direction if she finds herself going the wrong way. Breadcrumbs don’t accumulate anywhere else (except my kitchen), but maybe they should.
Teachers have to make an effort to plan and track where they are going. If they discover they’re off track at some point, it’s difficult to step back and take another direction, but sometimes it’s necessary. Intuitively, many teachers know when something isn’t working. Good teachers find ways to re-calibrate on the fly. They unknowingly use action research all the time. If they could somehow capture the teaching-learning process like breadcrumbs, they could know where they got off track and change the plan for next time. Sadly, some of the most important data are being ignored in schools because it is never collected. Action research can help.
Action research is an easy method for teachers to capture that data by intentionally creating a path of breadcrumbs. To see the process in “action” take a look at the action research outline below. Use the questions to prompt your thinking and evaluate what you do. Details about using action research in education are available in the 2017 book by Craig A. Mertler; Action Research: Improving Schools and Empowering Educators; Fifth Edition. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.
This research looks back at a technology integration plan at Prince of Peace Catholic School designed to help teachers use Google Tools in the classroom. A complete action research project can be found in the MY Work #5315 section of this site.