Sunday, June 19, 2011

Group Leadership Project - Final Project

Click HERE to view our final Google Docs tutorial.

What tool did your group use to deliver the PD tutorial?  Why? 
Our group chose to do a tutorial of Google Docs. We chose Google Docs because we were all fairly familiar with Google Docs and felt confident enough to do a tutorial on it for others. We decided that each of us would create a mini-tutorial on one of the tools available through Google Docs (Documents, Presentation, Spreadsheet, and Drawing), and put them all together to make one tutorial of the entire Google Docs Suite.

To deliver the PD tutorial, we each recorded our mini-tutorials using Screecast-o-Matic and then use Windows Movie Maker to put the entire tutorial together. We chose Screencast-o-Matic because, as opposed to Jing, you could record more than 3-minute segments. It is also a very user-friendly program. We also chose Windows Movie Maker because it is a fairly straight forward, user-friendly program that we had experience with and knew we could create a quality project with.

What did you learn during the development process of the final product?
During the development process of the final project I learned that while it was fairly simple to record my own mini-tutorial, it was more difficult to have the final project be a group effort. Ultimately, one of us had to collect everyone's files and create the final project (THANKS, LAURA!!!). We also learned that when we combined all of our mini-tutorials, we ended up with a 20 minute project. Because the project was so lengthy and large, it was virtually impossible to upload it to a web space such as YouTube. First, we cut our project into two parts so we could upload both parts to the web for viewing. Eventually, however, we ended up cutting down our project drastically, and only creating a PD tutorial on creating a Google Document. I have, however, included the videos (Part I and II), from our original Google Docs tutorial.

What would you do differently if you had to develop a similar product again?
If we were to develop a similar product again, I think we would only choose one of the tools in Google Docs to do a tutorial on, as when presenting on all four tools our tutorial was 20 minutes as opposed to 10.  Also, as we did experience some issues with using Windows Movie Maker, I may try using iMovie or another program to create our final product. Overall, however, I was really happy with how well our group worked together, how willing everyone was to pitch in, and how smoothly things went!  :-) 

Parts I and II of our Original Google Docs Tutorial

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wicked Problem Project - Final Project

Wicked Problem Final Project

1. What is the important educational need you are seeking to address?
Motivating and engaging my most at-risk readers during independent reading time.  

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). The students can do the centers in any order they wish, my only rule is that Read-to-Self must be one of their three choices.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 five 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 do you plan to address this educational issue with technology? 
Have my most at-risk reader record his own audio books to use during independent reading time, as well as to track his progress. 

To address this educational issue, I plan on having my most at-risk reader, record himself reading books at his current reading level to then listen to as audiobooks, as one of his 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 audiobooks 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 audiobooks I did have and it was a huge success. The students brought in their own headphones and were able to listen to the audiobooks, while following along in a hard copy of the book. The students were excited and engaged. Thus, my hope is to take my most at-risk reader and let him record a few audiobooks to listen to during independent reading time, with the hope of motivating and engaging him as a reader.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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. Also, I will have him use the MP3 players for multiple practice sessions with the same book to help him improve his fluency. As Susan informed me, "Studies indicate that when students read a passage or short story several times in a row - fluency improves. Becoming a fluent reader in the younger grades is crucial. Statistics indicate that students who have fluency issues in the first grade, grow up to be non-fluent readers in later elementary. Multiple readings is a strategy is a part of both the Read Naturally program and the Six Minute Solution. "

Research to Support Project (Revised from Part A Blog Post)
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. After reviewing Sue's comments, I also took some time to explore some different reading programs such as Read Naturally, which notes that, "Repeated reading is another strategy that research has shown improves fluency." I also reviewed my Daily 5 book and the research based lesson on the "Listening to Reading" center, where it was noted, "Hearing good examples of literature and fluent reading expands your vocabulary, builds stamina and helps you become a better reader." 

For additional research,  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.

Articles and Websites that Support Project:
  1. Learning Through Listening 
  2. MP3 Audiobooks: A New Library Medium? 
  3. Supplemental Instruction in Early Reading: Does it Matter for Struggling Readers?
  4. The Daily Cafe: Listening-To-Reading

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wicked Problem project - Part D (Findings and Implications)

1. Formative: Did the project get implemented as planned?

With the exception of some adjustments and bumps in the road, the project was implemented as planned. When I first proposed my idea for the project, I had intended on involving multiple students. With the end of the school year rapidly approaching, however, I realized this would be incredibly difficult to do, given the amount of end-of-the-year work and assessments I still needed to do with each student. Thus, I decided to take my most at-risk reader and focus the project entirely on him. This way I could really devote a lot of time and energy to the project and my student. Another bump in the road was the student’s lack of attendance. As noted in my podcast, this has been an issue all year, so it wasn’t a great surprise, however, it did make full implementation of my project difficult. Out of the 15 days I had devoted to the project, he was absent for 6. Thus, we didn’t get to record as many audio books as I had hoped, nor did we get to move on to record books at the next reading level (which was one of my main goals for him, as he has barley made progress as a reader this year). Overall, I really had to adjust the project to math his attendance. When he was there, we’d find time to work together and record books. When he didn’t come to school, I would use the time I would have spent with him to assess and work with other students. Again, with the exception of some adjustments, the project was implemented as planned.

2. Summative: Evidence of success in addressing the problem of practice

My initial reason for implementing this project was to motivate and engage struggling readers. Now uncommon, my most at-risk readers have the most difficult time staying focused and on-task during independent reading time. Thus, it was my hope to take my most at-risk readers and give them the opportunity to record their own audio books to listen to during independent reading time, to keep them engaged. As stated above, I only ended up having time to implement the project with one student, my most at-risk reader. Although we only worked together on this project for a total of 9 days, I noticed his increased motivation and level of engagement during independent, among other things. The most exciting result I saw from this project was the student's increased level of engagement during reader's workshop, his excitement and enthusiasm for recording books and then having the opportunity to listen to them, his motivation to participate during guided group time and when working with me one-on-one, and most importantly, a complete change in his attitude towards reading. These were all huge successes for him.

3. How would you approach another project of this type differently given what you’ve learned here?

The biggest change I would make is starting the project earlier in the year. This is definitely something I would want to start as soon as my reader's workshop has been established, the students are used to the rules and routines, and I know my students as literacy learners. I would start with my most at-risk readers, but ultimately I would like to have all of the students create their own audio books at some point throughout the year. I think it would also be great to allow students to listen to each other's audio books during their Listening-to-Reading center time.

4. What are the lessons learned that others might benefit from knowing about?

The biggest lesson I learned while doing this project, and the lesson that was continuously reiterated throughout my first year of teaching, is that you have to be flexible. Teaching is full of surprises and, as type-A as I may be, I really had to learn to go with the flow this year and adjust things accordingly. This was especially true during this project. Even though I had it all mapped out, I didn't plan for my student's lack of attendance, and I had to be flexible and adjust the project to fit his attendance. 

5. In what ways will you endeavor to do the same project again, and what will you change or not do?

The biggest change I will make when implementing this project next year is attempting it with all of my students, at some point throughout the year. Initially, I will start with my most at-risk readers, and those students who seem the least excited/motivated about reading (typically these are the same student). Because of the overwhelming success I had with one student, I think this would be an incredible project to use with all of my students. Moreover, once the other students saw student X getting to record his own audio books, they all wanted to do it (who wouldn't want to record their own audio book?). I think it'd be great for every student to record an audio book, at their reading level, immediately at the beginning of the year. Then, I'd love to have each of them record a final one, at the end of the year with their ending reading level, and for them and their families to see their growth!



Friday, June 10, 2011

Group Leadership Project: Part B - Storyboard and Script

For our Group Leadership Project, we decided to teach about Google Docs. In our first web conference it was decided that I would present Google Documents, Laura would present Google Spreadsheets, Kevin would present Google Presenter, and Lindsay would present Google Drawing. For our storyboard, each of us worked on the parts previously mentioned. We also decided we would each record our own part and then put them all together in a movie file. So far, everything is on track and going great, and we will be meeting again via web conference, next week, to start pulling our final project together.  Below is a link to our storyboard.

Group 3 Storyboard

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mobile Learning Lab

Below is a screen capture of the poll I created for the parents/guardians of my students to take via cell phone.

I really like the idea of students being able to use cell phones at school, for educational purposes. I think it's a great way to help resolve the constant battle of teachers trying to eliminate cell phones in the classroom. I think, if, instead of trying to ban cell phones from classrooms, teachers tryed to embrace the idea and teach students how to use them for educational purposes, it could really cut down on the time teachers spend fighting with students about the issue. I realize there would be some students who would abuse the privilege, but overall I really think most students (and teachers) would love it, and it would increase the level of student engagement and motivation to complete assignments. I know this is something I would have loved as a teenager.

As a first grade teacher, however, I don't really see the need for students to use cell phones in my classroom, nor do many of my students have cell phones (both due to age and the socioeconomic status of many of the families). I actually have yet to see one of my students with a cell phone (aside from the toy ones they love to bring to school). 

On the other hand, I do know that many of my students' parents/guardians do have cell phones and I think this may be a GREAT way to increase parent-teacher communication. In fact, I notice that many of my parents even e-mail from their cell phones throughout the day. Thus, I thought using Poll Everywhere, may be a great way to get feedback from my parents. I could post the polls in my weekly newsletters or on the webpage and get their feedback. For example, the poll I created asks parents how they feel about their child having homework on the weekend. This is a battle I fought at the beginning of the year. Having parent/guardian input on issues like this would be great for the upcoming school years. Again, this is definitely something I can see myself using in the upcoming years to improve parent-teacher communication.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wicked Problem Project - Part C (Implementation)

My Wicked Problem Project - Part C (Implementation) Podcast

One of the Student's Original Recording

This is a slideshow of the student who is recording the audio books. I have been unable to take photos of him recording/listening to his audio books because of his inconsistent attendance.

Regarding the podcast, I was also having issues finding my podcast using iTunes, so I followed in Laura's footsteps (Thanks for the idea, Laura!), and downloaded Juice. I also added in a screenshot of my subscription and podcast.