Description of Problem:
The problem that’s been a huge inconvenience and a major setback is the fact that my 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. So I needed to come up with a solution that allowed them to save, but also still do projects and essays. I specifically wanted to focus on their upcoming The Great Gatsby project. I wanted to differentiate instruction and give students multiple ways to show their understanding of the novel. Since students were also frustrated with the lack of u:/ drives and ability to do work on the computers, this project was a welcome change. I created the project so students had choices and could pick the type of activity they felt comfortable with. That way they will hopefully enjoy it and become more invested in the process. I didn’t teach students about any of the technologies except Google Docs. Instead I just gave them the chance to work hands-on with the tools. Since they were using The Great Gatsby, which we read in class, students knew the going in and were able to play around with the technology.
Solution to the Problem:
I decided to start by implementing Google Docs. 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). I had students create Google Drive accounts. There were other parts of the project were students needed to use other technology like Audacity, Mixbook, Publisher, Moviemaker etc. 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. 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. They were able to upload their files directly to Google Drive and share them with me.By using these online tools, students still got to work creatively with a novel we read, but didn't have the added stress of nowhere to save.
Edmodo is a site that allows students to collaborate and share content. It had the look of Facebook, so students find it easy to use. It gives students a chance to respond to posts and collaborate together. Students can also post comments and see teacher notes and assignments. It is a good place for students to submit things and also get more information about class. I created an Edmodo account so students could get announcements from me and share their progress along the way. They could also chat with each other for help or questions.They liked visiting the site and were able to see notes from me and also post anything they learned.
The pedagogical tool TPaCK helped guide much of my planning for this project.
TP: Since it was a project based assignment and I was incorporating tools that differentiated learning and made the content applicable, students were much more willing to embrace it. Using different technologies where students could save to the cloud was an essential component. The technology needed to allow students to access their work from anywhere. They also need to revise and edit their work, according to the Common Core Standards. My students use computers, their phones, a tablet, and their iPods to access the internet. Using cloud technology allows them to not have to send and save multiple drafts. Another perk of using cloud technology is that students can easily edit their content. It's often a challenge to get students to revisit their work and revise it. If I have students work on things by hand or save and can only access it from a set place, they rarely go back and make changes. If they can view their work on multiple devices and their work updates instantly, they are more likely to complete it and do a better job editing.
TC: I wanted to make sure that even though students were working largely with technology that they were also able to work with the novel and show that they've gotten a thorough understanding of the story. They are able to look up credible sources and other information if they need it to compliment their project. Students had to evaluate what tool would work best and then find ways to relate it to the novel. They had to work through the process of learning a new tool, which teachers them critical thinking skills. This forced them to analyze the novel in a new way. It also was appealing because it allowed them to use technology instead of a typical paper and pen assignment. Students put in more time and effort because they felt their work was validated. Their finished products required a high level of analysis, interpretation, and real-life application. Since they were able to use tools that felt relevant to them, they worked much more efficiently and authentically.
PC: The main pedagogy I used was Project Based Learning. This pedagogy helps the learner user higher order thinking skills and helps incorporates the concepts of The Great Gatsby. This type of project allows the student to use the knowledge they learned and apply it in order to complete the project. Using tools like multimedia instruction and pod-casting makes it so students have different mediums to present their project. The students are able to create projects that show their comprehension and application of concepts from the novel. By having multiple choices and differentiating instruction, students were able to pick the project that best met their interests making the project meaningful. Every student was required to use Google Docs to complete the typed portion of their project. Aside from the Google Docs, students had other creative options for their project. Having multiple options was a pedagogical choice in creating this project. I wanted students to have multiple avenues for completing the project and displaying their knowledge of the novel.
Because of my solution, students were able to complete the project in a meaningful way. Instead of making them do the project by hand, they were able to complete the project using technology. The technology allows students to feel they are creating something real like a movie, scrapbook, or podcast which they can use in other aspects of their lives. I had to get creative and find ways for students to still have access to technology. It would have been a huge disservice for students to omit technology from the class because of this problem.
This video is a great example of why students need to engage with technology and not be reverted back to pen and paper assignment because to technology setbacks:
Evidence of Success:
My Wicked Problem Project (WPP) did go according to plan. I had some minor setbacks, but overall my goal was met. I was looking for a way for students to save their work without having any type of u:/ drive or hard place to save, especially in regards to their The Great Gatsby project. Almost all the projects were tried out by multiple students. There were some technological issues, like Internet Explorer not working correctly and the correct version of Flash not being installed, which both prevented Google Docs and Mixbook from opening. However, after we worked through the ssues like having an IT person update Flash on all the computers and installing Google Chrome, the process worked fairly well. I had to be flexible as all these issues came up and also more laid back about the due date, so students had time to work.
As the project wrapped up, I felt it had gone well for the first time. The options I presented seemed to be viable and provide students with realistic options. I feel students were more apt to embrace the project because it felt authentic. I had all but three students complete one (three students who were already not passing the class). The rest of the students seemed invested and proud of their final project. I gave a student survey at the end to find out how they felt about the technology component and received feedback from about thirty students. The idea of having no u:/ drive was new to them and I wanted some feedback about the new technology usage. It felt like it worked well, but I could only really know if I heard it from them. According to the survey, 93% of students said Google Docs was easy to set up and use. Twenty-five out of thirty students or 83% said the process of using their online technology (in all cases) was successful. When asked if they would use Google Docs and their online technology again, 90% of the students said they would. When I asked students if they would like to see the technology again in other projects, I got positive answers. Ashley from my third hour said, "Yes, I would like to see more of it in class." Emily from my first hour also felt strongly with and stated, "Yes, it was fun!" Rose felt it was beneficial for future technology interactions, "I enjoyed it. We get to use real tools that we might have to use in college and how classes could be similar to that." And Lucas felt it allowed more room for choices, "Yes, because it gives people with different strengths the option to do what they like or are interested in." This feedback gave me concrete evidence that the process worked well. Not only did students find it effective, but it met my project goal of having students complete a project without a u:/ drive.
What I Learned:
One of the biggest lessons I learned was that it's okay for students to know more about the technology than I did. Also, that it's good for them to see the teacher working through the process of using technology. I had so many students not want to try a new tool because they didn't know how to use it. As I struggled with setting up Edmodo and working through some of the online tools, they started to realize that it is possible to figure it out. It may be time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but they were very proud when they did accomplish it. I had to learn to let them be frustrated sometimes and work through the process or have another student show them how to do it. I didn't always have the answers and that was okay. The next biggest lesson I learned was that technology fails and it fails when you need it to work the most. Several days in the lab computers wouldn't open Google Docs or wouldn't load pictures on Mixbook. Students would be frustrated and also would be sitting around with nothing to do. I needed to be flexible and patient and remember it wasn't their fault that we had the wrong version of Flash. Finally, it was important to have somewhere to go to like Edmodo, so students felt supported when working on their project. It gave them a space to ask questions, get feedback, and help others. They felt like their skills were being validated and that they weren't an island trying to complete this project. I just had to be careful to monitor it, so students were only using it for class related topics. One thing I would do next time is have a way for students to title their files. It became a challenge to stay organized when I was getting so many files shared with me. Titling them with their last name and project name would have made my life a lot easier.
Overall, my project was a success and with some small adaptions, I would definitely do it again. With 93% of the students saying it would be worth doing again, it sounds like they enjoyed it. Twenty-five students said they felt Google Docs and the project was fairly easy to use and logical choice for not having a u:/ drive. Even after all the work of doing the project and completing the class without a u:/ drive, 83% of students felt the project was beneficial. I am glad I met my students where they were, helped them effectively complete assignments; all while accomplishing my goal of finding a way for them to successfully save their work.
Some resources that guided my thinking:
- "Effects Of Technology On Classrooms And Students." Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/EdReformStudies/EdTech/effectsstudents.html>
- "Flipping The Classroom: A Goldmine of Research and Resources To Keep You On Your Feet." 21 St Century Educational Technology and Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Nov. 2012. <;http://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/flipping-the-classroom-a-goldmine-of-research-and-resources-to-keep-you-on-your-feet/>
- Lytle, Ryan. "Study: Emerging Technology Has Positive Impact in Classroom." US News. U.S.News & World Report, 14 July 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <;http://www.usnews.com/education/high-schools/articles/2011/07/14/study-emerging-technology-has-positive-impact-in-classroom>
- "Why Teach with Project-Based Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience." Edutopia. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Nov. 2012.<;http://www.edutopia.org/project-learning-introduction>
- Wilding, Amy. "Technology in the English Classroom." Lesson Planet. N.p., 22 Apr. 2010. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <;http://www.lessonplanet.com/article/english/technology-in-the-english-classroom>