"The teacher is the chief learner in the classroom."
- Donald Graves

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Action Research Report

Paul Stolt
This research project addresses the efficacy of remediating phonemic awareness and phonics skills in elementary students through the use of Apple iPad technology and a McGuffey’s Reader app. Participants in this project were identified based on standardized test scores and teacher recommendations from the 2nd grade student population at Central Park Elementary School in Bentonville, Arkansas. Many students labeled “at risk” prior to 3rd grade have poor skills in these critical areas of reading development. Traditional methods of remediation require disproportional amounts of teacher time and effort relative to the results of the interventions and do little to promote student self-esteem – a critical component of student success. Students were given an initial assessment of nonsense words to gauge their level of phonemic awareness and phonics skills. An identical assessment was used at the conclusion of the project. Students spent six weeks using McGuffey’s Reader app under the supervision of an instructional aide who supported their learning. The participants met twice a week for 20 minutes outside the classroom setting. Results of this study concluded that participants’ skills improved in the areas addressed as well as in self-esteem and engagement in learning.

Full text of action research report can be found here.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

So Much Learning - So Little Time

5397_Internship for Leadership - reflection

After completing the ISTE NETS-A and Reflection on Practice of Leadership Skills, I have identified areas of strength and where further study and practice is necessary to continue my development as an administrator and technology instructional leader.
Areas of Strength
 My strengths are in creating tech-infused learning environments, modeling appropriate tech use with students, faculty and stakeholders and in promoting the inclusion of technology in pedagogy. During the course of my internship, I have stepped up my advocacy for using tech with elementary students not only as a tool for learning, but also as a means to connect with learners across the globe to share information and enhance learning opportunities. I have increased my own “connectedness” and have developed learning relationships with a diverse personal learning network. I have been a proponent and go-to person for the district’s BYOD initiative and helped facilitate implementation in various classrooms by collaborating to create teacher/student agreements, lessons, and digital citizenship awareness. I have developed a vision for technology on a small-scale in my own classroom and shared that vision with as many people as possible. I recently began to work with district administration to develop a new school focused on 21st century skills, project-based learning, and ubiquitous technology. This gives me an opportunity to show my strengths and work on areas of weakness.
I had to draw on a variety of internship experiences as I worked through the questions aligned with the 12 Major Skills outlined in School Leader Internship. After working through these assessments, I see strengths as developing trusting relationships, making quality decisions, motivating and developing others, supporting others with appropriate leadership style, using power ethically and initiating change. I have really worked to create effective working relationships with people, even those who hold different philosophies. I’m finding that I can learn more from diversity than through adversity. I know I have become more aware of how decisions affect others and considerate of their opinions. One thing I have added to my decision making process is to consciously think of the big picture. I have been working more closely with colleagues to work on motivating and developing others and have had some success in leading a change in their pedagogical practices. Adopting a coaching and collaborative style has helped to develop trusting relationships with these people. I take pride in leading with ethics. Even in limited leadership roles it is paramount to be ethical. A leader may not always be liked, but and ethical leader will always be respected. I try to keep this in mind when thinking about leadership and the choices leaders make.
Areas of Study and Continued Practice
While reviewing the NETS-A standards I identified strategic vision as an area needing improvement largely due to the fact that I don’t have a lot of opportunity as a self-contained classroom teacher to develop a vision for a building. I feel that I have realized my vision in my own room and continue to work to scale-up the vision to the building as a whole. I speak with my site supervisor often and realize the challenges faced when attempting to change the way things have always been. Developing strategies for leading change are priorities for me as I continue learning the tasks of administration. Systemic improvement of information and technology resources continues to be an area of weakness for me. I am fortunate to be literally on the ground floor in the development of a new school model for our district that will provide many opportunities to practice this skill. Working on this project will also provide me with opportunities to advocate for change in education as well as for technology inclusion for the benefit of learners.
I identified areas for improvement and personal growth while reviewing the 12 Major Skills in School Leader Internship and found that those needing the most improvement aligned with leading the realization of a vision, managing a positive culture and climate and evaluating others. I see these skills as the most difficult to practice without being in a building leadership role. To practice these skills, I think about what I would do in a given situation. I speak with my site supervisor daily and she has been helpful in sharing information which affords me the opportunity to practice applying management, decision-making and leadership skills. The other areas identified for improvement are those that I believe can always be improved upon – communicating effectively, resolving conflict and issues, and managing group processes. I doubt there will ever be a time when absolute proficiency can be attained in these areas. Each communication, interaction, and collaboration has its own particular issue and no two are alike.

I conclude this reflection with a plan for continuing to practice proficient skills and address those in which I feel proficiency is still to come. I have been fortunate during the course of this internship to be able to work with experienced administrators on real problems with real consequences. Each opportunity has provided me with meaningful learning experiences. For example, while working on the budget review committee, I was involved in a strategic decision-making process, communicating results, building consensus, leading change, using power ethically, and dealing with conflict and issues. As I continue on with my internship, I am fortunate to have another opportunity to take leadership during the development of a new charter school. Reviewing the NETS-A and 12 Major Skills refocuses my attention to the skills in need of further practice and awareness of the importance of taking advantage of the opportunities present for practice and personal growth

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Reflections on EDLD_5363

how I learned to stop obsessing and love collaboration

In this post I am going to reflect on a couple of things having to do with my continued studies in Lamar University's masters program. First, I want to talk about the web conferences and secondly, I want to talk a bit about how the program has helped me to become more connected to people and aware of how to communicate with them.

I attended a roughly half the web conferences during this class and found them generally helpful. During the discussions I was able to get some clarifying information and, hopefully, on occasion provide some myself. I could tell there were a number of new students this time and I think I was able to help them better understand the program in a limited way. The give and take of the discussions allowed the participants to get to know each other at some level. Much of the discussion centered on how to complete assignments and sharing links to information to help each other complete assignments. 

However, I also became somewhat disillusioned with the conferences as they would often quickly become, in my opinion, too focused on what had to be done to earn points and not about the learning that was taking place. I understand the need for many people to get the best grade, we live in a society where an A on anything equates with competency. But, at times, the discussions became so focused on semantic details over exactly how to get maximum points, that the learning just couldn't happen. Instead of sharing information and collaborating to solve problems, the main focus became how to get an A. I really believe that we need to move past this what do I have to do mentality and wrap our minds around what can I make or create that will help someone else learn as a measure of competency. Doing the work will get you an A without actually learning anything new. This obsession over the grade detracts from the learning.

I also found the conferences a way to connect with other students and in fact made some valuable connections to a few students who I now follow on twitter. We have continued to share and even establish a professional relationship due to the introduction provided by the weekly web conferences. This, for me, is the essence of why I'm in this program. I'm at a stage in my career, where I need to look at the next phase, perhaps outside of the classroom, but definitely connected to other educators regardless of where I am in the next few years. In this class, as well as the other ed tech classes I have taken at Lamar, the opportunity to connect, learn and collaborate with other professionals with similar interests has been the most valuable aspect of the experience.

reflection on collaborating to produce the video Fraction Ma'am

By collaborating with a group of professionals I was able to be a part of the video embedded below. We used gotomeeting.com for our initial meeting and were able to not only get to know each other, we arrived at many decisions during this face to face meeting. We used this format on two other occasions to meet and discuss our progress and solve problems during the production. We also used our Google doc to keep each other informed of changes and meet the requirements of the course outline. This document served as a clearing house for our ideas as well as a running record of changes and additions to our project. Throughout the project we used email to communicate with each other and set up meeting times. We also shared documents through this vehicle. 

I was fortunate to be able to join a wonderful group of young professionals. We had a great energy and collaborating with them was easy. While we didn't always see the project in the same way, we grew to trust each other with our parts of the project. The deadlines were met and I think we created something that has value outside of this course. As someone who generally preferred to work alone prior to being involved in these collaborative efforts, I appreciate the opportunities made available to practice and learn the art of collaboration. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

No Man is an Island

how I learned to tell a story

I approached this week's assignment in EDLD_5363 Multimedia and Video Technology with some trepidation. Tell a personal story? You mean a personal story about myself? Are your kidding me? What am I going to find in my life interesting enough for someone else to want to watch? More importantly, how far do I want to go with this before I need therapy. (Or the viewers need therapy, there is a distinct risk of that.)

Then I watched some of the examples. And I was blown away. The stories were so powerful. But I still didn't think I could produce anything nearly as concise and meaningful, certainly nothing about my life has ever been worthy of a movie.

I thought about what to write for a couple of days and read some of the scripts posted by colleagues. And then the pressure started. The scripts I read were absolutely fantastic. There was no way I could ever do anything like that.

I've always considered myself a creative person, I like to think I have a vision - an eye - if you will for design, composition and writing that conveys meaning. I was a journalism and mass communications major. I worked for awhile as a free-lance writer after leaving a job in a printing company. I pride myself on being able to "get it" when someone else is being clever.

But that doesn't mean I could ever actually create a meaningful story. I posted my script on the discussion board and got some good feedback. Then something happened. I starting thinking about all the other stories I could tell. And I changed my mind. I wrote a new script, posted it, and had it reviewed. Again the feedback was positive. I began to think that I could actually produce a short video that had meaning. The video is posted here. I'll let you decide.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Technology Plan

The task this week was to present a school district technology plan. Fortunately, I was on the committee that developed the plan; however, that didn't make the assignment any easier. I retrieved the final plan as submitted to the Arkansas State Department of Education and read through it. As I was reading, I remembered that Dr. Abernathy had said that the presentation should be tailored for a Rotary Club, Kiawanis Club or other meeting, not just an outline of what the plan entails. I decided to create a presentation without all the technical information; but rather I focused on a synthesis of the plan and how it is focused on meeting the requirements of NETP and especially the needs of students, teachers, administrators and parents in the district.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Blueprint for a Connected Classroom

A Blueprint for Connecting Students to Learning
Advances in technology create unique opportunities for education. At the speed of light, students, teachers and parents are connecting via the web to collaborate, communicate and create learning opportunities that did not exist a few years ago. While physical space occupied by a classroom may remain the same, the evolution of the virtual space continues to change. This paper will attempt to draw a blueprint for an elementary classroom in five years.
Classroom in the Cloud
Few technological advances have had more affect on the classroom environment than the cloud – an interconnected web of servers holding a wealth of information. Innovations in content delivery, progress reporting and monitoring, and stakeholder communication brought about by the economy of scale derived from cloud-based systems will continue to connect students to content, parents to their child’s educational experience, and teachers to data, resources, and students. Software resources once prohibitively expensive are now available to teachers to aid in differentiating instruction, creating collaborative environments, promoting inquiry, and developing student-centered environments where “the most resilient and effective forms of learning happen(s) when there's motivation, engagement, social support, and when the learning is real-world, intergenerational, and connected to young people's lives in a meaningful way.” (Ito, 2013)  In five years differentiated, self-paced, inquiry-driven student classrooms enabled by cloud computing will be the rule and not the exception.
Open Content
Open access to web resources and content via apps, web 2.0 tools, wikis and blogs creates the necessity for ubiquitous and diverse web-enabled devices. In this future classroom wireless connectivity with sufficient bandwidth enables teachers and “students opportunities to take advantage of the most up-to-date technologies in the classroom.” (Nelson, 2007) While some would argue for standardization i.e. teachers and students all using an identical device, (Piehler, 2013) which does have distinct advantages for professional development and lesson planning, a more likely scenario is one where a variety of devices – tablets, laptops, and mobile devices – coexist in the same environment at least until districts implement standard device environments. (Piehler, 2013)  It would seem more likely that diverse device environments born from BYOD initiatives will become the norm, requiring educators to rethink digital literacy and move from device dependent skills to a broader concept of web-enabled skills that are device independent. In five years, having a web-enabled device – any device – will be standard in all elementary classrooms as pedagogy becomes more reliant on web-based content.
Game Based Learning
Games, whether apps, web 2.0 or proprietary, offer students immediate feedback, opportunities to think critically and problem-solve, experiment, and experience failure in a virtual world. (Gee, n.d., Barab, n.d., Raymer, 2011) Games played across a wifi network also provide opportunities for collaboration, goal-setting, strategic planning, and communicating with a high level of user engagement. (Raymer, 2011, Chatfield, 2010) Educators have known for years that games engage students. What technology has brought to educational gaming is the ability to differentiate instruction and provide opportunities for higher-level thinking that engages each student. Games also provide glimpses into how students think, providing educators with a valuable assessment piece. (Parisi, 2012) When coupled with project-based learning, gaming immerses students in content providing opportunities to become experts in their fields. Furthermore, many Common Core State Standards are predicated on providing tech-rich content to develop mastery in 21st Century skills. Games facilitate these skills, target areas for enrichment and intervention, and personalize the learning experience. In five years, an elementary classroom without some degree of “gamification” will not provide the best environment for meeting the needs of diverse student populations.
Diversity will be found not only in student populations. Creating technology-infused classrooms, especially 1:1 device to student classrooms, is prohibitively expensive for many districts. Even with the development of inexpensive, durable internet enabled tablets, (Bonnington, 2013) the cost of providing each student with a device is an obstacle to creating the connected elementary classroom. For many districts the investment in infrastructure alone will require considerable capital. One solution is already in the pockets of many students – cellular phones. (Higgins, 2013) Increasingly elementary students are receiving hand-me-down cell phones from parents to use for entertainment. In many cases, these devices no longer have cellular service, yet can connect to district password protected wifi networks allowing for filtered access to web-based content. These essentially free devices provide a viable option to creating the 1:1 classroom environment found in many district’s technology plans. In five years, students will connect to the web via a variety of mobile devices to collaborate on lesson, discover content and for assessments.
Learning Analytics
Big data and learning analytics have become ingrained in the culture of education as governmental officials, administrators, parents and teachers incorporate data to inform instruction. Technology tools simplify data collection and analysis; however, current reliance on computer labs to administer assessments strains the capacity of these labs and leaves them available for little else than assessment data collection. Contrary to these standardized, corporate, proprietary applications, a significant number of web apps have been created in the past few years to assess students and collect data. Many of these apps are game-based and more engaging for students than the electronic bubble tests they are subject to in computer labs. Student information is readily accessible and available in “real time.” In five years, there will be a movement away from formal, standardized lab-based assessments and toward more “on-demand” assessments of learning.
Personal Learning Environments
Education is experiential. The experiences of students in connected environments engage them in learning on a personal level allowing them to construct knowledge in a way that is meaningful. (Siemans, n.d.) Educators will facilitate learning between 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., but the physical space of school will no longer define learning. Organized around connected learning theory, schools will “leverage various experiences, interests, communities, and contexts in which learners participate - both in and out of school - as potential learning opportunities.” (McCrea, 2013)  Student assessment will center on what a student can create or curate – providing artifacts that illustrate learning has occurred though the production of a product. (Blending High and Low Tech, n.d.) Learning will become more cooperative. Teachers and students will of necessity learn from each other in a connected environment. An elementary classroom in five years will be a diversified, personalized, and engaging learning space where students and teachers are connected to content, each other and the world through digital media.

Barab, S., (Edutopia.org., n.d.)  Big Thinkers: Sasha Barab on New-Media Engagement. [video]  Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-sasha-barab-video
Blending High- and Low-Tech Worlds with a Maker-Driven Agenda: A Few Moments with Kylie Peppler (n.d.) Retrieved on November 2, 2013 from http://dmlhub.net/newsroom/expert-interviews/blending-high-and-low-tech-worlds-maker-driven-agenda
Bonnington, C. (January, 2013). A Cheap, Rugged Tablet Is Your Kid’s Next Fixation. Retrieved on November 2, 2013 from http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2013/01/kids-tablets-ipad/
McCrea, B. (2013, January 15).  5 K-12 Technology Trends to Watch in 2013. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/01/15/5-k12-technology-trends-to-watch-in-2013.aspx#OiA0h1DdUkPweyqo.99
Nelson, S. (2013, February 7). McAllen ISD Distributes 22,000 Mobile Devices to Students And Teachers.Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/02/07/mcallen-isd-distributes-22000-mobile-devices-to-students-and-teachers.aspx#mJycaQF6MhMp7lJs.99
Parisi, L. (2012, May 12). Teaching with Games: GLPC Case Study: Lisa  [video] Retreived from http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/publication/national-survey-and-video-case-studies-teacher-attitudes-about-digital-games-in-the-classroom/
Piehler, C. (2013, January 28). Is BYOT Just a Bridge to 1-to-1? Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/01/28/is-byot-just-a-bridge-to-1-to-1.aspx#ajezhQH6c81OtkXM.99
Raymer, R. (2011, September). Gamification: Using Game Mechanics to Enhance eLearning Retrieved from http://elearnmag.acm.org/archive.cfm?aid=2031772
Siemens, G. (Edutopia.org n.d.) The Changing Nature of Knowledge [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMcTHndpzYg
Gee, J.P., (Edutopia.org n.d). Big thinkers: James Paul Gee on grading with games. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-james-gee-video
Higgins, J. (2013, August 7). More schools use cellphones as learning tools. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/personal/2013/08/07/views-shift-on-cell-phones-in-schools/2607381/
Ito, M. (2013, January).  Connected Learning: An Agenda for Social Change. Retrieved from  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mimi-ito/connected-learning_b_2478940.html