Sitting in Kaladi Brothers Coffee sucking down something comparable to motor oil but with a lot more kick. I can’t believe its Saturday morning and we are out of the village and still trying to shake the jarring effects of our small plane ride from Tatitlek yesterday. Most of student teaching is over and now I have to relocate my family to Anchorage for the next 36 days. We’re exhausted…I’m exhausted, but it feels good to get out of the hotel. Really not able to think, but I have got to put something in here about my research project.
My triangulation consists of daily survey data collected from each student, which has been compiled by an Excel worksheet. This gives me quantifiable data that is far more objective than the other two sources used. My own observations and one that was kind of last minute, but meaningful none the less is feedback from parents. The feedback from the parents was surprising to me. I didn’t think to ask for it at first, but it was given to me. I met some of the parents at the Halloween carnival at the school and one of the mothers pointed out how she and her daughter enjoyed looking different words up on InstaGrok. Shortly after the introduction of InstaGrok in the classroom the daughter went home and showed her mom how it worked. Out of the 14 kids in the school hardly any have support from home, but I was thrilled to here something positive from this one parent.
Some of the things I learned overall from using these different tools in the classroom is that it would be good to guide the activities with a source word list of sorts and then allow spontaneous ‘tinkering’. Without a source list the rabbit trails are endless making it hard to quantify if the target vocabulary is actually being worked on. Sites like Wordle or Tagxedo were fun to play with and stimulating to have posted up in the class, but the students quickly became bored with them. For instance, we would break them down and have ‘Little Word Day’, ‘Medium Word Day’, and ‘Big Word Day’ to make sure we didn’t focus on just the big words (Which was happening). The greatest return on time spent was to go as deep as possible with VisuWord, Visual Thesaurus, and InstaGrok. I found that using a set word list (Made cool looking with Wordle and Tagxedo) we could tear words apart, find similar words and explore meanings in so much better and useful a way than I had ever seen before. In regard to constructivism this was most rewarding.
I tried many different methods of employing these tools in the classroom, but considering I was student teaching I felt I had some restrictions and had to get the students back ‘on track’ with their original vocabulary program. Needless to say, there was some unhappiness because ‘play time’ was over. I was hoping the use of these tools would be continued by my host teacher, but that does not seem to be the case. Going back to the legacy vocabulary and spelling program was met with a collective sigh. However, I can tell you this, if I had my own classroom and the freedom to make these tools a central part of a word study program I assure you that it would be amazing. Rote memorization would disappear and true learning would emerge. From what I have seen and experienced these various tools fit well in a constructivist classroom and can drive learning potential through the roof!