Week 7 Reflection

  Truly This week has been much better and I feel I have some great data to through together and process.  Now that I read up on what is expected for finishing the class I wish I thought about taking pictures.  Hopefully, I can get some pictures before everything gets tossed.  Anyway, the data collection is over and the real task begins.  From what I have gathered so far it looks favorable for the digital tools used in class.  The kids really enjoyed the tools for the most part and I really got a kick out of using them as well.  

  Even though there was some trouble we worked through it and I really appreciate the kind encouragement and support from people like Karen.

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Thank Heaven…Week 7!

   After implementing some classroom management strategies I was able to get back to the original research.  It appears the new students we had come into the school were experiencing a bit of culture shock.  Things in the village, as well as in the school, are very different than in Anchorage.  It took me a little while to figure out where these kids are coming from and be patient with them as they try to adjust. 

   Back to the research…I was able to incorporate a couple new tools into the lineup this week, such as InstaGrok and Tagxedo.  InstaGrok is similar to VisuWord, but has some interesting features to keep one engaged.  Tagxedo is similar to Wordle, but has the option to arrange your word cloud into very interesting and artful designs.  Tagxedo has been a big hit thus far because of the extra amount of creativity students can put into their word clouds.

   Since this week went so much better than last week I intend to keep my research question the way it was and not change it.  As far as gathering my research data I have been compiling the info on an Excel spreadsheet.  It will be fairly easy to manipulate the data and I didn’t have to rely on students getting on the internet to do a survey through Survey Monkey.  It may be old school, but I do like being able to have tangible information that I can load into a spreadsheet myself.  

References:

http://www.tagxedo.com

http://www.instagrok.com

Week 6 Reflection

This last week sure was something.  New students (unhappy ones at that) shifts in attitude and overwhelming need to get things back in order.  Regardless, the research continues.  My first group may not work out so well now, but that’s OK because another group may be available.  In fact I am thinking of broadening my scope of research from looking at just the 4-6 grade class to adding in the K-2 class.  I think this would be interesting because then I could see the differences between the two classes with such different ages.  Not sure yet, but I think tomorrow will nudge me in either direction.   Whatever the course may be I will continue to gather information, learn and grow.

I am really thankful for the encouragement from Karen and Michelle.  It is nice to know that I am not alone in this and that there are some great teachers who have gone before me who offer their support.

Week 6

    What I have found this week is that some of the dynamics in the classes have changed dramatically.  We have had a new group of 5 students move into the village from Anchorage.  They are siblings who are all in the same class, which has doubled the class sizes for the 4-6 grades.  They have been here for a week and things have been steadily going down hill.  They are not interested in anything I present them with and the worst of all is that it is rubbing off on my original group.  The original group loved the word tools we were using in class, but now there are some bumps in the road.  The indifference is not isolated to the ELA class I’m teaching, but across the board.  Yesterday was the low point as I and the two other teachers I work with had to focus on classroom management.  Needless to say these students are quite unhappy about their situation both at home and at school. 

    I think this week’s data will have to be sifted a bit before I can arrive at a true representation of what is going on with my research because of variables beyond my control.  Things were fine up until Wednesday.  This is when I noticed a downward turn in attitude.  Before this, however, we were moving right along and the use of the technology and tools a fun and meaningful activity for everyone.  I plan to implement some more comprehensive tactics to get things back on track this next week.

    On a positive note, I have been working with our K-2 class teaching phonics, reading and writing.  We have been relying exclusively on the Saxon curriculum for this, which has been going well thus far.  This last week I was able to put an older Mac computer in the classroom and set up a computer station and started using a couple cool websites to enhance the phonics and reading instruction.  The best one I have found so far is Starfall Education (http://www.starfall.com) there are others that we can use as well.  Another website that we have been toying with is ABC Mouse (http://www.abcmouse.com).  Although I have been looking for free digital tools this one has a 30-day free use option.  If it works well the school may be able to purchase a subscription.

    As far as research goes and my original research question I am hoping to salvage the work done with the older kids and stick with my plan.  However, I am thinking of modifying the scope of my research question to add in the K-2 class, but with the same parameters for the research focus put forth at the beginning. 

References:

 Starfall Education. (2002–2012). Retrieved from http://www.starfall.com 

Age of Learning, Inc. (2007-2013). Retrieved from http://www.abcmouse.com

Week 5 Reflection

The students are really excited with the three digital tools introduced so far.  However, as Barbra commented, I too wonder how long they will be interested in these things.  Truthfully, much of it is a lot of fun and I try to be as involved in it as much as I can.  With Wordle the kids experiments with the various patterns until they get the one they like and then print them out.  Hopefully, my own participation and enthusiasm as well as a handful of other websites will keep things going.  I love it that they are reading more, but hope their comprehension doesn’t decrease because they are so busy looking for big words.

This week I intend to gauge if there is any drop in enthusiasm and if so then I will introduce some more of the tools I have up my sleeve.  It is important to keep in mind that I am not looking to grade any one digital tool as better than another.  I do want to measure overall effectiveness of the concept.  One of the things I would like to do is work in some more measures to ensure reading comprehension is not compromised.   I also have been thinking of separating this activity from reading time and have a focus on vocabulary independently.  I will have to feel it out this next week to see what adjustments need to be made.

My plan for the next couple weeks is to continue collecting data on student enthusiasm with the digital tools.  I would also like to document which ones they were bored with and which ones they really like.  My questions will focus on:

  1. How excitement either holds or wanes?
  2. What seems to work well for vocabulary instruction?
  3. How effective these tools are without a loss in reading comprehension?

Week 5 “What Am I Finding As I collect Data?”

This week has been super busy, but I was able to gather some good information for my research question.  I have decided to use previous data on the students in the 4th through 6th grade, which in Chugach School District’s level system is at level 4 for the most part.  For the sake of time I have decided to use their standing vocabulary level as a base.  Since I already know that technology has not been used to instruct vocabulary in the past, introducing it for this research project will be a first for these students.

So far I have used Visual Thesaurus, Wordle, and VisuWord in the classroom during reading/word study.  What I have done is ask the students while they are reading to circle words they come across that they don’t know or are curious about.  At the end of reading time I had them write down their words and then circle the ones that were really hard for them.  As a class we would compile the list of words in Wordle with the circled words being entered in multiple times.  They would print this out and we have begun a really cool word wall with each day’s Wordle printout.  To really make things interesting students worked in pairs with each group using a computer.  Each group uses Visual Thesaurus, or VisuWord to enter in the words from the Wordle Wall anyway they like and see what comes up.  So far we have had the best time and although I have not directly quantified their vocabulary learning to date, I have noticed an increased awareness and use of some of the words we have studied through this method.

Observation has been my main method thus far of collecting data.  Searle (1993) points out  “One way of conducting action research is to engage in participant observation.” I have directly observed an increased excitement with reading and writing.  These students are having so much fun with the technology that they are motivated to read more!  Not only that, but in free writing they delight in using words from previous days to impress each other.  Also, they will skip breaks to plug words into VisuWord just to see what will come up.  They are actively constructing their own vocabulary learning!  Considering this is the first week of this experiment I am pleased that they latched on to the digital tools introduced to them and so far I have observed positive feedback.  In three more weeks I will administer a survey utilizing a Likert-type scale questionnaire (Robertson, 2012) to solidly quantify reaction to the use of digital tools to teach vocabulary.

References:

Robertson, J. (2012). Likert-type Scales, Statistical Methods, and Effect Sizes. Communications of the ACM, 55(5), 6-7. doi:10.1145/2160718.2160721

Searle, J. (1993). Participant Observation: A Way of Conducting Research. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED359259 on 30 September, 2013

Week 4 Reflection

Well, I guess we are half way through this course and I still can’t seem to get the flow of things figured out.  Regardless of this I was quite impressed with the proposals I reviewed over the weekend.  Tracie and Barbra did an amazing job with a ton of supporting information to bolster their direction for research. Karen had a good entry and I believe Lisa also had a solid research question to go after.  It was cool to see waht others were looking to research and the different approaches to gather data that they were going to use.

As far as my own research, I suppose I will stick with what I have and move forward with it just the way it is.  I did drop some of the wordiness of my research question to keep things focused and concise.  Truthfully I just want to get started so I can get done with it as soon as I can.