Colin's Sandbox


SEACCR Week 6 Reflection

by on Oct.21, 2013, under #seaccr

Steady Study Progress

At the beginning of week 6 I was bemoaning a bit the lack of data that I had received.  By the time Friday had come, turns out I actually had 6 responses to the survey, and could start drawing a picture of the audience!  I’ve sent the data to the trainer along with some follow up questions regarding the data:

  • Does anything stands out from the data as surprising?
  • Is there anything that would make you change anything you plan on doing?
  • Are there any further ideas for next steps that the district may consider after the training is over [based on what data we’ve received]?

The next phase of the training is a one day onsite professional development inservice with the trainer at the beginning of November.  The superintendent sent us a proposed training agenda based on a meeting with his staff following the WebEx conference and a few things stood out:

  • Much of the requested attention was to the nuts and bolts of the iPads.  While I think an initial quick run through of a few features that may be used during the training may be good, the data gathered so far indicates that the staff already has a decent familiarity with the use of iOS devices.
  • There wasn’t an explicit mention of trainer to teacher 1:1 time to examine ways in which using a mobile tablet device could help benefit their class (differentiated instruction). This could be a silver lining given the small class size – the ability to connect individually with the participants.
  • I’ve seen many examples in trainings of quality apps that teachers may use in their classes.  While I think this could / will be useful in this upcoming training, one thing that I haven’t seen mentioned in the literature I reviewed (or in most trainings I’ve been a part of) is how to answer the questions: How do I search for quality apps?  How do I evaluate their effectiveness / scalability?  This would be empowering for the staff.

Contributions to Others

I spent a good portion of time between sessions as well as this morning commenting on others’ work around the #seaccr blog-o-sphere.  In particular, I was taken aback by the constraints placed upon Chris Carlson’s study efforts regarding training other teachers.  If we as a culture are interested in improving the effectiveness of our teaching styles, why aren’t we more open to research in the classroom?

Other Notes

  • I took part in the Alaska Math and Science Conference this past weekend and had a great experience.  Gave me a strong sense of things that I’d like to try out in the near term if I can just get the time: especially ArcGIS and digital design / electronics programming with Arduino boards.
  • This marked the first week of the EDET670 class, so I’ve been busy out there reviewing tech plans, ideas for what constitutes a quality tech plan, and the like.
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Survey Data Analysis

by on Oct.17, 2013, under #seaccr

I received back my results from the survey which sought to measure the participants previous experience, their preferred learning methods and avenues for help, and the perceived roadblocks to implementation.

Response Overview

Marianne, the trainer, sent out a link on my behalf to the respondents immediately following the initial WebEx conference where she answered the participants’ previously submitted questions.

Responses recorded from 10/14/2013 9:31:37 through 10/15/2013 10:03:28. I closed the form for further submissions on 10/17/2013. A total of 6 responses were recorded through the Google Forms interface.

I used the “Summary of Responses” tool within the Google Forms interface to get an overview of the teachers’ responses.

Data Analysis

In the survey I was first interested in the respondents’ experience level with mobile devices, particularly iPads and iPhones. It seems as this pool of teachers has had substantial exposure to the iOS platform, with 4, 3, and 3 respondents having “substantial” experience with iPhones, iPads, and iPods respectively. There was markedly less experience with Android-based tablets and phones, however one source of error could be a possible lack of recognition that the “Android” operating system is installed on many of the Apple iPod, iPad, and iPhone’s competitors in the mobile device marketplace.

The participants all appear eager to integrate the iPads in their curriculum. Half of the respondents rated themselves a “5” on a scale of 1-5 when asked “How would you rate your own comfort level with adopting new technology in the classroom?”. No one ranked themselves below the midpoint of 3.

Next I wanted to know more about their formal and informal learning styles with regards to technology. When learning about software, new technology, or for questions concerning integration of technology in the classroom, teachers primarily expressed a desire to communicate directly with other teachers, either through face to face interaction (very strong correlation) or through email. Following closely behind was performing web searches, and consulting the school tech staff. No participants opted for the options “Staff meeting”, “Twitter”, or “Facebook / Other social networking site”, from which I infer two things: first, teachers seem to prefer to engage one on one directly with their peers, and that their personal learning networks are very local in scope. When issues regarding hardware arise, staff is most likely to contact school technology staff first.

The following set of questions was geared to understand the participants’ individual learning preferences. Overall, participants were most inclined to learning through YouTube videos and screenshots, and most surprisingly, paper handouts. “Wiki”-style web page documentation received very little support.

In the survey I next wanted to know more about the educators’ concerns with using iPads in the classroom. To find out more I constructed the questions so that the respondents could answer one of either “Unconcerned”, “Somewhat concerned”, or “Needs to be addressed before I use them”. The strongest concern that emerged was in the area of finding apps relevant to their subject area, the management of student data, classroom management, funds for app purchases, and availability of formal development. Teachers seemed mostly unconcerned about incompatibilities with existing equipment, workflows, or their pedagogy. They also expressed a moderate degree of confidence in their technology staff in this area, with 3 respondents answering “Somewhat concerned”, while 2 respondents answered “Unconcerned”. The remaining respondent chose not to answer.

Closing out the survey was an open ended question inviting the participants to share their ideas for implementing iPads in the classroom. One respondent took the time to fill in the space with their ideas, which I’ll include in full:
“I would like to see my students using these A LOT! – to use practice games for math facts, sight words, spelling, & cursive. – have student use personal whiteboards for math warm-up daily and want a “whiteboard” type app for them to do this on. – to see assessment become more project and performance based with presentation/project/book making/ etc/ apps. I want to teach them how their iPad is a tool that we will integrate all throughout the day to support their learning with reference materials (dictionary, thesaurus, rhyming dictionary), tools (calculator, ruler, voice recorder, note taking), online math and reading text books, Discovery Ed TechBook (Science). In time I know I will be able to enhance my instruction with added content, but this I will need to develop over time.”

Emerging Themes

Based on the survey submissions, the participants appear, on average, comfortable using mobile devices although they do have a few concerns to be addressed prior to being comfortable integrating them into their classrooms, mostly involving the purchase and use of apps coupled with managing both students’ use of the iPads and their resulting data.

As a whole, the respondents seemed more inclined to exchange information in a face to face fashion with other teachers as well as searching the web on their own. When provided information for asynchronous dissemination, teachers expressed a strong preference for both short YouTube-style videos, documentation using screenshots, and perhaps most surprisingly, paper handouts.

No preference was indicated for using Twitter, Facebook, or other social networking tools to extend their personal learning network (PLN) outside of the local school. If this is a priority for the district and this training program, great effort will have to be made to demonstrate the benefits of these tools.

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Week 5 reflections

by on Oct.13, 2013, under #seaccr

A little bit of a tough week for me, academic-wise. I participated in the Wednesday WebEx conference where I observed the trainer working with the teachers for about 45 minutes, but I felt like I missed out on a lot of the stuff behind the scenes. The teachers sent in a list of questions just ahead of time to the trainer which is great, but it feels like much more information could have been obtained along with those questions. I’ve sent along a survey for the participants to complete but so far have not received a response yet. I’ve sent along a humble reminder, but I’m left wondering if for trainings such as this if you only really get one good shot at collecting information. Too many requests may feel like spam.

Having the study sample go from 10 teachers down to 3 teachers seems to be a mixed blessing. On one hand the trainer will get a greater amount of time with each teacher individually, and the study will be have less breadth, thus making it more manageable. On the other hand the reduced sample size would seem to detract from validity.

So at the end of the week I spent some more time commenting on others’ blogs as a way of stepping outside of my shell. I am trying to comment on a couple different classmates’ blogs every week and that’s an interesting way to figure out the different ways people approach learning for themselves and educating others. A couple blogs stand out for me for my own nostalgia’s sake. For the forgotten smell of tin-lead solder I’m thankful for Carrolea Hubbard’s blog and for the remembrance of my staying up late nights in middle school reading informational texts concerning topics as varied as warplanes and medical self-diagnosis books (which I would only recommended for exploring anxiety), I appreciate Lenore Swanson’s blog.

This week I’m getting prepared for the Alaska Math and Science Conference in Anchorage three professors from UAS will be presenting ways to incorporate STEM in the K-8 classroom. I’ll be giving a quick overview of some ways that Minecraft can be used as a tool to model real world terrain and problems, essentially demonstrating that which I worked on as part of the #diffimooc class. Exciting!

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Beginning data collection

by on Oct.12, 2013, under #seaccr

This week the scope of the project narrowed somewhat as we learned that the contract included only the three Elementary school teachers along with the principal only. These teachers would then go on and train the other teachers in the future.

This past week I participated and observed in the initial training session, a conference call via WebEx between the trainer, the three teachers, and the principal. The WebEx conference was set up as to allow phone dial-in only.

K-1 teacher
2-3 teacher
4-5 teacher

The WebEx conference lasted approximately 30 minutes. At the start of the conference we went through introductions of both the trainer and myself, and our respective rolls. A brief description of the host school’s attending staff were then introduced. The conversation then segued into an approximately 30 minute session whereby the trainer answered previously submitted questions from the participants. These questions were mainly centered around questions concerning educational apps, with some additional concerns raised about the ability to print, covers for protecting the iPads, use of wireless (Bluetooth) keyboards. Having a set of questions presubmitted appeared to keep the session moving along, with the trainer answering many of the questions outright, and after finding out more information as needed from the requestor, some responses were deferred to a later date pending some more research into a solution. Interestingly, many of the app questions asked were concerning either textbook manufacturers (Pearson, Scholastic in particular), logistics of app purchasing and installation, as well as discussions of keyboards / covers that could be purchased in order to better protect the iPad devices as well as allow for keyboarding lessons to be given with the help of keyboards paired via a Bluetooth wireless connection.

Ryan Stanley, program manager, SERRC TechOps, joined in briefly during the overview of app purchasing and device management.

There wasn’t enough interaction between the individual participants and the trainer, in my opinion, to be able to assess the teachers against the Observation Rubric. The teachers were prompted to submit responses to the iPad Training Needs survey, hopefully that helps to fill the needs of the group in aggregate if not individual prior to the trainer going onsite.

I haven’t yet received any responses back to the iPad Training Needs survey. Early next week I intend to send out a reminder to the teachers mainly in order to help get a better feel of where they’re at comfort-level wise and things they’d like to get out of the class.

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Thoughts on research proposal process

by on Oct.07, 2013, under #seaccr

I am constantly reminded that I am dependent upon others in order to be successful in any undertaking more substantial than making my breakfast. And even in that instance I’m dependent on the good folks at the Quaker Oats company for obtaining their raw source product, producing a healthy product, performing due diligence with quality control day in, day out. Not to mention the good folks at my local supermarket for being able to work with their suppliers and their employees to get that familiar friendly cylindrical box on the shelf for me to gobble up.

Accepting that your best work is dependent upon others. It’s the right thing to do, indeed.

This past week’s work depended on a lot of people up the chain: a school district that expressed an interest to train a set of teachers on the use of iPads (and their attendant ecosystem), a supervisor and coworker willing to let me study the process, fellow students to encourage me when I was in the doldrums, a professor to guide me along, and most lately, a few reviewers to read my work and provide substantive feedback on changes that would make my work more compelling. As part of my modus operandi, I submitted my work at the last minute (almost literally). I had a chance in that process to view the work of some of the others that they put together for their research proposal and it made me spend more time on my own project; they really raised the bar. That sort of thing spurs me on.

I had a chance this past week to help facilitate the Twitter conversation on Thursday which was pretty useful for me in a couple ways. Primarily, as opposed to just “showing up” for the discussion, I had to actively think of questions that were applicable to the week’s work and items that might be presenting challenges to some participants. Answers that people provided for the questions took me outside of my own bubble and led me to think about the material more deeply. For instance, one big thing that stuck with me were responses to a seemingly innocuous ice-breaker question I threw out there at the start of the session about the effects of the federal government shutdown (which I consider a minor nuisance in the short-term, with potential theoretical longer-term effects). One teacher (@GwichinTeacher) mentioned the amplified impacts upon the village community, which I had not considered at all:

Followed by:

As part of the course requirements I was obligated to review two others’ proposals. Again – stepping out from the bubble. This exercise so far is quite instructive: questions I asked of the authors could very well be applied to my own work. Mainly centering around: how do you relate this research question and review of the literature to the reader, who may or may not have a similar background as yourself? How do you present questions in such a way as to minimize the “expected” answer and perception of bias?

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