Sunday, November 11, 2012

Part A: Description of Need or Opportunity

An Educational Need or Opportunity: 
One problem I’ve been struggling with is the fact the students do not have u:/ drives or a place to save their work. We recently switched over to a new server and student accounts have not been created. They can log into the computer to use the Internet and type papers, but there is no way for them to save and re-access work they complete. It’s become extremely frustrating, especially in an English classroom where students are constantly writing and need to type their finished products. There is no way for them to edit and revise their work (which is an essential part of the Common Core Standards), without re-typing the whole thing. A lot of my students are from low socioeconomic backgrounds so they don’t have computers at home. I’ve tried using flash drives, but students still struggle to save it correctly and they often don’t have the right version saved on it. Some students have also tried to save it to the desktop, but then any other student who logs on has access to the file.

The Proposed Solution:

I have been researching some possible solutions online ways for students to complete papers and assignments. Students can use them at home or school and still be able access them with little problem. I've looked at the following tools to help
  • Google Drive has become a place students can save various types of files. I have been working with this tool with my students and since they have to share it with me, I have gotten more essays.It has also cut down on the excuses of, "I left it at home" or "It didn't save correctly." I also have less problems with compatibility (like if a students has Word 2010 at home and we only have 2007). Since Google Docs has become Drive I want to try saving other documents and files to it. That way students have everything at their fingertips and can access it from anywhere.
  • Prezi is a cloud-based presentation software consists of making slides to present information. This is something this is online and is completely free. Students make accounts and then have access to their Power-Point like project from anywhere. They can easily add images and text and present it in a unique way. I like this because it's free, but in a format students are used to. They can save it right to Prezi and anyone can search their project and find it.
  • Mixbook allows students to create a scrapbook like presentation. Students love working with images and text to make an artistic scrapbook. I was having students make these electronically, but they needed somewhere to save everything. By using Mixbook, they can save the project right to the web. They can add me as a collaborator and I have instant access to their project. This is also free. 

  • Audacity allows students to record and edit a podcast. They can send their files as an MP3 attachment or even save it to their Google Drive. For their Great Gatsby project I was going to offer students a chance to write an original song for the book and record it using this program. Instead of using a tape recorder or burning it onto a CD, the file will be electronic and can be shared in multiple ways. Students can also edit it and re-record.
  • Glogster is an e-poster website that allows students to imbed voice and video into there 'glogs' and then e-mail the files to me.  It allows students to create posters and access them from anywhere. They can use images, text, and videos to show their understanding.
  • Edmodo is a site that allows students to collaborate and share content. It gives students a chance to respond to posts and collaborate together. Students can also post assignments and see teacher comments. It would be a good place for students to submit things and also get more information about class.

The Logistics:
For now, just my Senior level students will engage in these tools. I have three sections that are Seniors and I want to start with them before trying it on my other class. I plan to continue to use Google Docs for the remainder of the year. Even if students get u:/ drives, Google Docs seems to be an easier way to make sure students are completing their work (when Flash is working). I've run into some issues with Google Docs, but overall I like it. The other activities I'm researching, I will use as needed. For now, I'm focusing on it for my Gatsby project. I'll see how kids respond to the new tools and how well they work.

Relevant Resources and Research:
Since I'm talking about using ways for students to complete projects online, I did find several studies that looked at the use of Internet resources on student performance. The first article caught my attention because it talked about students struggling with understanding the content. Although my problem is a little different, I still feel like not having the proper resources in class is a similar battle. Ryan Lytle says, "students were routinely stupefied by the traditional classroom lecture and often left class with more questions than answers." Like him, I want to make sure my students are able to get the necessary work done when they are with me. According to the Edutopia staff, "Research also indicates that students are more likely to retain the knowledge gained through this approach far more readily than through traditional textbook-centered learning." It's an interesting fact how much more students took away when they felt the project was engaging and interactive. Students were able to work with the information in a more meaningful way and were invested in the assignment. Another thing I didn't think too much about before doing my research was that students do a better job when they feel their project is public. They audience is bigger and they aren't just "turning it into the teacher". According to the "Using the Technology of Today, in the Classroom Today" article, "these technologies don’t just help us teach the old stuff in new ways – they can also help us teach new stuff in new ways." The research also found students embrace the flexibility of projects. This is just a general overview of the research I've been working on (see partial Works Cited at the end).

The Plan:
I plan to introduce students to these tools in the near future. Since students are also frustrated with the lack of u:/ drives and ability to do work on the computers, this project will a welcome change. I want to create a project where students have choices, so they can pick the type of activity they want to work on. I think if students pick something different, but that they still feel comfortable with, they will become more invested in the process. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to assign students the project and give them a chance to use engage with the technology. I'm not going to teach them very much about either one, just give them the chance to work hands-on with the tool. Since they are using a book we have finished reading, students will know the content and be able to play around with the technology. After seeing how well the technology part is going, I can adjust the length of time they need to work on it as needed. After this initial trial, I will be able to adjust things as necessary. I will also be able to see which tools work and which don't for future assignments. Eventually, I'll want to order some extra supplies like headphones, so more students can work on each thing in class. The trimester will be ending soon and then I really want to work on implementing these tools with my blended class. They will have to use these tools as their only choice since part of the class is online.

I will know my project is a success if I can get students to use the tools effectively. The whole not being able to save to the computer problem will no longer be an issue because students will be using the online Internet resources. I will also have to evaluate how well my students worked with the technology. Were they able to use it easily, did it help them accomplish their goal, did the technology enhance their understanding of the content, etc. I plan to create a survey to ask students these questions. Obviously how well they do on the project will give me initial results, but won't tell me how they feel about it. A survey will allow me to have concrete feedback from students. It will also help me focus and adapt the project for future classes. If all goes well, I’m hoping to incorporate more of this into my teaching and successful solving this problem will also benefit my teaching and my students.

Works Cited:

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