Sunday, May 29, 2011

Group Leadership Project - Part A (Brainstorm Session)


1.What web conferencing tool did your group use?
Our group decided to use Vyew as our web conferencing tool. Each member of the group has explored Vyew and felt it would work well for our purposes. We attempted to use Jing to record our group session, but found it didn't work well given the length of our web conference. Both Lindsay and I attempted to record our web conference but were only able to get 3-minute recordings using Jing, and we had to record our conference in segments. We are still working on compiling the recording to post to our blogs. Needless to say, for our next web conference we will try to find a different means of recording our session.

The web conference itself went fine, but I was not overly impressed with Vyew. Although we were all able to meet and get the ball rolling on our Group Leadership Project, it was not without some difficulty.

2.What were the advantages to using the web conferencing tool to discuss this project?
Overall, I found Vyew to be fairly user friendly. It's easy enough to create and sign up for an account. Also, the introductory tutorial is brief and to the point, but gives you a great "snap shot" of what you can and cannot do with Vyew. I think the biggest advantage to using Vyew is that is was free. It was also very easy to create a meeting room, invite others, and create a link that all group members could easily access to ensure we were all in the right place on the day of our meeting. From my end, I found it easy enough to use the webcam and talk feature and it was nice to put some of my group members names with faces/voices. Furthermore, I found it beneficial that all group members could upload content, add text and edit our "meeting space", as we could all contribute to the brainstorming that was occurring.

Aside from a few technical glitches, Vyew was easy enough to figure out and use and we accomplished what we needed to.

3.What were the disadvantages to using the web conferencing tool to discuss this project?
I feel the biggest disadvantage was not being able to record our web conference using Vyew. It was quite the inconvenience to try and figure out how we were going to record our web conference (given the issues we had with Jing), while remaining fully engaged in the group conversation. Furthermore, we had a lot of issues with the audio and getting a lot of feedback. It ended up being too difficult to have a conversation using the mics, so we all eventually resorted to using the chat feature instead. I know a couple of my group members had issues with the webcam feature, as well as getting kicked out of our session entirely. Also, because we were all using the chat room feature, the text box seemed to take up much of our work space and it was difficult to add text and content in such limited space. Again, we spent a lot of time focusing on the technological glitches, which made it difficult to remain on-task.

4. What will you do differently for next time?
While it may be easier to use Vyew next time, as we had the opportunity to become familiar with it and use it as a group, we may consider switching to Adobe Connect.

5. How could this tool be useful in your classroom?
Given the age level of my students (first grade), I could see this tool being incredibly difficult for my students to use. However, I could see using this tool for "virtual field trips" of sorts, in terms of web conferencing with other classrooms within the district, the state, across the country, etc. In terms of this technology's usefulness in classrooms in general, I could see this being a great tool for older students to use to work on group projects together, for teachers to use when they are unable to meet in person/over the summer, and again for classrooms to use to connect with other classrooms/schools.Although difficult for my students to use individually, I could see them really enjoying it when used collaboratively, to connect with other first grade classrooms.

Wicked Problem Project - Part B (Application of TPACK)

What is the TP knowledge for the solution?
As stated in Part A, in my classroom I use a program called the Daily 5 as the structure for my literacy block. The students make 3 choices from 5 literacy stations: Read-to-Self, -Read-to-a-Partner, Listening-to-Reading, Word Work and Writing. The students can make any 3 choices, in any order. While the students are engaged in a literacy center, I am working with students one-on-one, or in small groups. For the center, Listening-to-Reading, I have audio books on MP3 players for the students to use. Each student has his or her own pair of headphones and can choose from a large selection of books, which one they want to listen to/follow along with. Because my students are already comfortable using the MP3 players, I thought this would be an excellent technology to use for this project.

Given that there are only two weeks left in the school year, for this project I decided to work with only one student, my lowest student (from a reading-level standpoint). His home and past academic situations have made his experience in my classroom most interesting and it has been very difficult to motivate him to read, or even try to read, independently during literacy centers. He does, however, love to listen to the audio books on the MP3 players. Thus, I thought having him record his own audio books would be a great way to engage and motivate him to be an active participant in his literacy development.

In regards to how this technology supports teaching strategies and methods I have chosen, every day when this particular student makes his Daily 5 choices, I have him make Read-to-Self as one of his choices. During that time, I pull him and we find books at his reading level for him to record on the MP3 players. We practice the books together, discuss different strategies good readers use when they read (as far as word decoding goes as this is his biggest struggle) and when he feels ready, he records the books onto the MP3 player. Then, during his Listening-to-Reading center choice, he is able to listen to the books he has recorded while following along in the book.

What is the TC knowledge for the solution?
As a first year teacher, in a district without a core reading program, teaching first graders how to read has proven to be a huge challenge for me this year. I have had to pull from multiple resources and essentially create my own reading program. I have found, however, several technological resources, including audio books, to be some of the most engaging and motivating resources. I have used multiple websites (including and the MP3 players, as opposed to the traditional leveled books, to use with my students during reader’s workshop and guided group time. The biggest differences I have noticed using the audio books and websites versus the traditional “round robin” approach with leveled books, is the students’ level of engagement, the students’ discovery and acclamation of new vocabulary, and the students fluency development. Listening to the audio books while following along with the words on he page (or screen, in the case of the websites), allows the students to not only hear the fluency, but also spend more time discovering new words and comprehending the texts, as opposed to exerting all of their energy on decoding the words. I have found that by using the audio books in my classroom, the students are less frustrated during guided group time and more excited about reading. Furthermore, given the vast selection of audio books out there, I have been able to find books to go along with the specific phonics concepts we are working on in class, whether it be long or short vowels, digraphs, blends, contractions, etc.

What is the PC knowledge for the solution?
By using the audio books to motivate and engage said student, as well as given the structure of the Daily 5 program, I am able to work one-on-one with my student, as well as let him work independently because of his familiarity with the technology. While it has been incredibly beneficial to work with him one-on-one, I have also seen the sense of pride and accomplishment he gets from overcoming his academic challenges independently. By working with him one-on-one first and helping him to utilize the decoding strategies we have worked on together throughout the year, I can then let him work independently to record the audio books and then listen to them on the MP3 player, where he can spend more time engaged in really thinking about and comprehending the books, as opposed to being frustrated and unmotivated that he is struggling to even decode the words. Thus, I have created a selection of books for my student to choose from to record. First I will have him record books that are slightly below his reading level, because I know he will master them and for the purpose of introducing this project to him, I want him to first see he can be successful with it. After these first recordings, I will let him choose from books at his level, that include phonics concepts he needs additional help with (long vowels, blends and digraphs). Finally, once he has seen he can be successful with books at his reading level, my ultimate hope is to have him record a book slightly above his reading level.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Wicked Problem Project - Part A (Description of Need or Opportunity)

1. What is the important educational need that you are seeking to address? 
The important educational need I am seeking to address is my students’ level of excitement about reading, and their motivation to take control of and be an active participant in their own literacy development. As with every classroom, I have a wide range of academic abilities in my class. Furthermore, while some students do very well with and are very excited about reading, others find it very challenging and/or boring and are less inclined to be an active participant during our daily reader’s workshop sessions. Motivating particular students to read and/or get excited about reading has been a struggle I have faced all year. Now that we are in our last five weeks of school and my students realize that summer is just around the corner, it has become even more difficult to motivate and engage some students during our reader’s workshop sessions. For the structure of my reader’s workshop, I use a program called the Daily 5. At the beginning of each day, the students make 3 literacy center choices which they will participate in during our 60-minute reader’s workshop block (the students choose from Read-to-Self, Writing, Word Work, Listening to Reading and Read-to-a-Partner). While the students are participating in their centers, I am pulling guided reading groups to work with. Recently, I have noticed particular students who are very off-task and unmotivated to work during their Read-to-Self choice and/or our guided group time. Many of these students are considered low in terms of their reading level, and some of them are right on the edge of moving up to the next reading level. With only three weeks left in the school year, it is my goal to find a way to motivate and engage these students, and with any luck, help some of them to move up to the next reading level before the end of the school year.

2. How you plan to address this educational issue with technology?  
To address this educational issue, I plan on having 1-3 students (who have the hardest time focusing and staying on-task during independent reading time), record themselves reading books at their current reading level to then listen to as audio books, as one of their Daily 5 choices. I purchased 8 MP3 players at the beginning of the year to use for the Daily 5 choice Listen-to-Reading, but did not have the funds to purchase audio books for the MP3 players, nor all of the hard copies to go along with the audio files. Although I did purchase a few with my own funds, I eventually just decided to leave out the Listening-to-Reading choice during Daily 5. However, I did allow every student, at one point during the year, to use the MP3 players to listen to what few audio books I did have and it was a huge success. The students brought in their own headphones and were able to listen to the audio books, while following along in a hard copy of the book. The students were excited and engaged. Thus, my hope is to take 1-3 students (those who seem to have the hardest time focusing and are always off-task during independent reading time) and let them record a few audio books to listen to during independent reading time, with the hope of motivating and engaging them as readers.

3. Logistics of Solution:
The technological tools I will need for this project will include the MP3 players (which I have purchased), a microphone, and Audacity (which I have access to on my computer at school). My plan is to begin the project this week (May 23rd-27th) and continue it through the last week of school (June 6th-10th). Although three weeks isn’t a long span of time, I feel it will give me a good idea as to whether or not this would be a project I would want to implement at the beginning of the upcoming school year. While I would love to try out this project with many of my students, I will choose my lowest 1-3 readers, who seem to have the hardest time staying on-task during independent reading time.

4. Relevant Research and Resources: 
Much of the research/resources that guided my project was past experiences with  and observations of the Daily 5 program in action. Specifically, the level of engagement of students during the Listening-to-Reading center. I’ve observed the program in 3 different classrooms, as well as successfully implemented the program in two classrooms of my own. Furthermore, I also researched the use of audio books and the impact on student reading achievement. Much of the information I found cited the direct link between the use of audio books and students’ reading fluency. Google Scholar was the main search engine I used. I found several articles on podcasting and MP3 Players as emerging technologies in today’s classrooms. I also found several articles regarding the use of technology in the classroom to increase students’ level of motivation and engagement. One theme that I continuously came across during my research was that while technology can be used to motivate and engage students, what is most important is that the tasks being performed need to be meaningful for students. This recurring theme is what helped me to decide to have the students record their own audio books, as opposed to just having them listening to audio books that I could purchase. I want this project to be meaningful for my students; I want them to take control of and be invested in their literacy development. I feel that by having the students create their own audio books, they are engaging in a meaningful project where they have to be responsible for their own learning. Furthermore, by the end of the project, they will have a finished product that will give them a sense of pride and accomplishment.

5. A plan for the portion you will implement during this course and the portion you will implement after this course completes. 
In my classroom, we have a full 90-minute reading block 3 days a week. As we only have one full week left of school and two four-day weeks, I will have about 7 reader’s workshops left in the school year to implement this project. Thus, my plan is to introduce the project to my students this upcoming Monday (May 23rd), have them pick out 2-3 books at their independent reading level, practice the books with me and then record the audio files on Tuesday (May 24th), during our computer lab time. They can then begin using the audio books on Wednesday (May 25th) during our reader’s workshop time, as one of their Daily 5 choices. I will continue to let them listen to the audio books during the remaining 5 reader’s workshops (as one of their Daily 5 choices), as well as let them record new audio files (should time allow).
6. How would you know you were successful?  
I think the easiest way for me to know if I was successful or not, would be based on my students’ level of engagement. If my students are motivated, engaged and able to stay on-task during independent reading time (or for one, 15 minute Daily 5 choice), I would feel it was a huge success, at least for the given students. This is also the time of the year when I am in the process of completing end of the year running records, to see how the students have grown as readers over the past couple of months. Although I know this project would not be fully responsible for their progression to the next reading level, this could be another indicator of the project’s impact on student achievement.