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.