Balancing Process and Product

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Creativity in learning involves both imagination and an ability to work with content knowledge (Hadzigeorgiou et al., 2012). A creative learning process will involve both insight or innovation and application of core content knowledge such as disciplinary frameworks and core skills such as research methods.

Designing an upcoming Collaborative Inquiry unit in which college students in an introductory literature class use digital archives to develop hypotheses about literary texts (see previous post), and to address those hypotheses through contextual documents found in digital archives will involve both me and my colleague and our students in context-focused inquiry as an important piece of the interpretive process, but also in “design thinking.” Design thinking is an iterative process of innovation related to learner-centered solving of either an applied question (as in engineering) or (in the case of the humanities) a knowledge question. In design thinking, “students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovating artifacts or solving authentic problems” (ISTE Standard for Students 4a).

The learning goals for a typical introductory literature class focus on using the skills of textual analysis and critical theory, perhaps supported by basic training in the use of library databases to find and synthesize scholarly perspectives. In my experience, students need time to hone their own analytical skills and instincts, so I tend to de-emphasize the use of theories or scholarly sources that may co-opt student thinking.

Exposure to primary sources from the cultural and historical contexts surrounding literary production may prove to be a better way to extend student interpretive thinking (Nunes, 2015). In addition to affording cross-cultural collaboration into student consideration of the meaning of literary texts, a primary goal of my upcoming Collaborative Inquiry project will be for student work with digitally archived primary sources to support extended questioning about the human problems presented in literature, as well as real-world application of what is learned, both in the sense of sharing an inquiry-based research process and in the sense of producing a meaningful product (ISTE Connects, 2016).

The affordances of the Digital Humanities (DH)—such as the types of information available, the technologies for gathering and analyzing that information, and the ways of asking and investigating questions that DH borrows from the social sciences—also extend the way it is possible to think about the research process in a literature class.

This reality demonstrates the way that teaching and learning core content knowledge, pedagogical approaches, and disciplinary technologies are not only three equally important considerations in course design, but may be significantly merged in Digital Age teaching and learning (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). Koehler and Mishra’s (2009) framework for teaching and learning, now known as TPACK (technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge), demonstrates the complex interaction of these three domains in the “complex, ill-structured” problem solving process of teaching.

This post begins with the TPACK framework as necessarily complex set of considerations for developing and balancing the criteria for choosing a content curation tool for the Global Collaboration project.

For this project, the student inquiry process—involving content knowledge—will merge with a design process—involving pedagogy and technology—that will include: posting references to digital archives, collaboration through feedback, an iterative process of demonstrating and refining answers, and technology-based content sharing via a refined final presentation of the question-and-answer process.

One important consideration for the use of technology tools in the design of this learning process is that the technology tools, research methods, and information systems used in the project not disrupt student learning by going too far beyond the skill set and course objectives for novice college students and novice technology users. Chen and Chen (2010) caution that digital archival material may not be well organized to support information access and retrieval.

Further, because some students who will be involved in this project live in a place where Internet access can be intermittent and technology infrastructure is less developed than in the U.S. mainland, tech tools used in the project need to be appropriate to support non-disruptive learning in those conditions. On the other hand, the technologies chosen for this project should have affordances that enable them to support a process of deeper understanding of a problem, generating ideas, and finding solutions (Kuo, Chen, & Hwang, 2014).

A second tension in the choice of technology tools is the constraints or affordances technology tools offer with respect to emphasizing the learning process versus emphasizing the product that can be produced.

Other criteria to consider in the choice of a content curation tool (or tools) for this project, include:

  • free
  • capacity for curating web links to digital archives
  • a visual element
  • space to post student writing
  • ease of use, including minimal layers of technology (ideally a single tool rather than a tool for creating and another for feedback and/or display)
  • ease of turning in and sharing work
  • support of collaboration and feedback within four-person small groups
  • ease of presentation of finished product to both classes
  • privacy: students should be able to opt out of associating work posted publicly with their names

My initial primary consideration has been to find a tool that supports both process (as would a blog or wiki) and the visual, product-oriented nature of curated archives.

At the latter end of the spectrum is, a tool for curating web links. Here is a prototype for a piece of student work in progress:


  • The app is simple and easy to use.
  • I didn’t have to enter any personal identifying info (though there was an option to do so) although publishing does put the link onto the public Internet. I signed up for with a gmail account.
  • This tool seems to emphasize product over process. It immediately looks like a finished document, which has a motivating element, although editing is easy, so the tool is process-oriented in that sense.
  • Unfortunately, at least at the free level, there is no comments feature. Another app could be used for comments, but I hesitate to add layers of technology.
  • Students will need to share their links easily. With this app, sharing can be done by cutting and pasting into an email, but the app also has some ways you can post a link to Google+. But if a user does that, then his or her name is then associated with the link publicly.

As a second option and at the process-oriented end of the spectrum, I set up a class wiki prototype using Google Sites. Here’s the link:


  • A positive aspect of this set-up is that only one technology is needed. Google Sites provides essentially a self-contained blog site in which all students can see one another’s work. Not having to follow links would likely increase collaboration and sharing over elink
  • There is opportunity for peer feedback directly on student pages; peer comments can be posted in a designated space so they are visible to content creators.
  • Ease of use. This tool seems even easier to use than elink.
  • A con is that there is no way for students to easily include visuals of their archives or visual links. This is a significant impediment
  • Another and an important possible con is that, although the wiki is more conducive to facilitating a writing and reflection process than elink, it still presents a “finished product” appearance, which could have affective influence on how much students persist with inquiry and iteration. In addition, a preset blog format like the one I created in the prototype would allow for student ease of use, but creates a fill-in-the-blank visual presentation that may inadvertently stifle thinking.

The “blogging modalities” that will be important for my literature students’ Collaborative Inquiry project include, on the one hand, the iterative and peer-to-peer aspects of a research and writing process, and, on the other, the “voice to all” and visual presentation aspects of an archival product (Brownstein & Klein, 2006). Although I’ll be investigating Blogger and Weebly, my consideration of how to balance technologies that are open-ended platforms for creation with those that are accessible to novice users and serve the needs of the inquiry project may lead me beyond traditional blog apps.

Barrow, Anderson, and Horner (2017) suggest the use of collaborative content creation tools such as Lino Boards for student curation of primary sources, and emphasize that blog content need not necessarily be created on typical blog sites.

Careful scaffolding—whether present within the chosen technology tools or external to them—will be necessary to support both student learning and student interacting, and to create a bridge between technological affordances and student learning through a design process.



Barrow, E., Anderson, J., & Horner, M. (2017). The role of photoblogs in social studies classroom: Learning about the people of the Civil War. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 17(4). Retrieved from:

Brownstein, E., & Klein, R. (2006). Blogs: Applications in science education. Journal of college science teaching, 53(6).

Chen, C., & Chen, C. (2010). Problem-based learning supported by digital archives: Case study of Taiwan libraries’ history digital library. The electronic library, 28(1), 5-28. Retrieved from:

Hadzigeorgiou, Y., Fokialis, P., & Kabouropoulou, M. (2012). Thinking about creativity in science education. Creative Education 3(5), pp. 603-611. Retrieved from:

Humphrey, M. (2015). Design thinking. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

ISTE Connects. (2016, January 19). Here’s how you teach innovative thinking. International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from

Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge? Contemporary issues in technology and teacher education, 9(1), pp. 60-70. Retrieved from:

Kuo, F.-R., Chen, N.-S., & Hwang, G.-J. (2014). A creative thinking approach to enhancing the web-based problem solving performance of university students. Computers & Education, 72(c), 220–230.

Nunes, C., (2015). Digital archives in the wired world literature classroom in the US, Ariel 46(1/2), 115-141.

Pursel, B.K., & Xie, H., (2014). Patterns and pedagogy: Exploring student blog use in higher education. Contemporary educational technology, 5(2), pp. 96-109. Retrieved from:

2 Replies to “Balancing Process and Product”

  1. Stephanie, this was a very insightful post! I appreciate how it begins with the TPACK theory framework to support your inquiry and tool selection process. From my own experience, this is not an easy task! I enjoyed reading the pros and cons for each of the selected tech solutions. I will be curious to see which of your selected (or any of the recommended above) you end up choosing. I agree with you in your final comments that whichever tech path you choose, careful scaffolding will be necessary to successfully implement your desired outcomes.

  2. Stephanie, I appreciate your willingness to allow your students to “hone their own analytical skills and instincts.” This shows willingness to take risks as a teacher, trust in your students and allows them to be creative. I also appreciate the collaborative aspect of your project. Again, I appreciate your thoughtful consideration of technology tools and your willingness to try new things to meet your students’ needs. Thanks!

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