"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