It has been a fascinating process to begin a Research Action project for my masters program. The first thing we were asked to do was a Literature Review, to find other researchers scholarly papers and see what others have done so far to answer similar questions to mine. After spending quite a bit of time researching and reading what seems like a TON of scholarly papers, I've decided to change my original question from "How can I foster reading stamina in my classroom?" to "What affect does the use of digital tools in the classroom have on reading comprehension, engagement and stamina?"
My Game Design class is about to embark on the reading of a book by Ernest Cline called "Ready, Player One!" Interestingly enough, it is the class themselves who requested that we read this book, so I believe that there is already a bias toward engagement by using this book. However, isn't that what we want in a classroom? I'll go with that bias any day of the week!
Interestingly, when I put together the SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory) scores for each of my students in that class, totalling 38 students, I found that most of my students in this class are reading at proficient or advanced levels already. I wonder if the content of the class "Game Design and Visual Effects" has anything to do with this class self-selecting and attracting those students who already have a love of reading. I also wonder if students with lower SRI scores can not gain access to my upper level Digital Media classes because they are busy in support classes or credit recovery for other classes in order to graduate. I also wonder if there is a common theme here. Are gamers also readers? That's a great question for another Action Research project!
In my study, I am going to use the book we have chosen as a means for trying different digital tools to help the students further engage with the text, either before we read, or after we read a chapter. I will use video, online chatting and podcasts to extend the reading and then test the students on comprehension and reading speed. I will have to figure out a separate way to test stamina. A baseline survey will be done about reading aptitude and attitudes as well as how often and for how long students access reading texts through social media, online articles, texting, online and printed books, magazines, and newspapers. I will ask students to self-asses with regards to reading and compare that to existing SRI data about each student.
I'm really excited to implement this action research and have the box of books ready and waiting for an unveiling tomorrow! We will be begin reading silently this week, with no data collected as I collect parent permission slips and put together the tests for comprehension. The amazing thing is that there are quite a few resources online for the book, including pre-done comprehension and discussion questions. And the great thing about this book is that there is NO MOVIE yet, which allows us to really explore this novel, without the influence of other media!
I just got off a Skype call with a friend of mine and two teachers from Vietnam who are exploring ways that they can get their students to showcase their learning to employers. The request to speak with the teachers couldn't have come at a more perfect time as we are about to roll out a new portfolio process at New Tech High. We have revamped our portfolio requirements to better meet the needs of the students, so that they have a real, usable tool to showcase what they know and what they are interested in.
When talking with the teachers in Vietnam, it became clear that for those students, a portfolio is a way to get students to reflect on their learning, so that they get more comfortable writing and speaking about their learning. I know that the biggest complaint at New Tech is that students believe the portfolio is just a hoop to jump through and does not produce a usable end product. They say that after their portfolio is created, no one every looks at it again. However, after talking with my friends in Vietnam, it is clear that the process of creating a portfolio does allow students to make their learning visible and that in turn helps them to go confidently into interviews . They have the words and ideas in their heads about what they have learned and are very forthcoming and clear when speaking about their experiences at New Tech. Some of that confidence comes from having to create a portfolio.
We have decided to move on to a more Blog oriented portfolio that allows for students to reflect all the way through their learning process and is focused more on process and less on end product. The social aspect of blogging provides an incredible opportunity to be seen in professional circles, as an emerging expert in fields of student interest. It also provides a way to network with professionals and like-minded people. It can also be used as a way to share information and teach others what the student knows, thereby cementing that information in the students minds as they teach. Blogging is an exciting arena to move toward and as it unfolds, students are already seeing benefits to developing a blog.
So, we are moving on to the next iteration of portfolio at our school, but as we move, I think it's important to realize that, even though students feel that portfolio used to be a waste of time, it was not. Speaking with the teachers in Vietnam, and seeing where they are headed, I am excited for them. I'm also more appreciative of where we've been and and what we've done so far at New Tech. We forget that we once were beginners as well. We forget to appreciate where we have come from. We are constantly dissatisfied with the status quo, and that is what moves us forward, but we also have done some tremendous work and need to acknowledge that.
In my own teaching practice, I have often wrestled with the question "Am I asking enough of my students?" After watching Dalton Sherman's, "Do you believe?" and then reading about the incredible inequities in California from the book The Flat World of Education by Darling-Hammond, I am convinced that we can do better for our students.
I know that at New Tech High, we are a 1:1 school and have some great resources, including two computer labs, large format printers, promethean boards in every classroom, and a beautiful building in which to learn. I also know that down the road in Vallejo, the situation is much more grim with decaying buildings, lack of good teachers and lack of resources. And why is that? Why is there such inequity across different school districts?
I know that it is important for us to get more vocal with our desires for things to be better in education in this state. I am moved by reading the book in seeing that there is a direct correlation between how well we pay and support teachers through professional development, pre-training and mentorship, and student achievement.
More than any other strategy that is put into place, when we invest in hiring and creating experienced and well-qualified teachers, we raise achievement scores. I am appalled by the stories of low-income students, particularly of minorities, that deal with the rotating door of teachers that are untrained, unprepared and inadequate. Some students have as many as 5 different teachers in the course of one year in one subject. Often they have substitutes that come for a few months and then leave due to low pay and poor teaching conditions. No wonder achievement scores are so low in these communities.
What can I do in my classroom to address this? I would like, very much to address this issue in an upcoming project for my Digital Media 1 class. I was going to introduce the idea of Inequity, as a general concept to the students so that they could create their own video addressing whichever unequal situation they would like to research. I will be introducing the inequity in our schools as one option for students to explore and will be researching media, resources and readings to introduce students to the situation.
I believe that my students can rise to the occasion, if asked to make a clear statement and call to action around a very real, very pressing issue that affects every one of them as students. I've been thinking about how to have students take a more social action approach to some of my projects and I think this would be a perfect fit. I can not wait to see what they come up with and how we can explore this topic together as a learning community! Anyone know a lobbyist in Sacramento that we can meet with about this issue? Any bills that are up for a vote that we can learn more about? I think it's time to spring into action and do something that could help the cause of inequity in education.
If we want to make America great again, perhaps it's time to turn our attention away from the size of a candidate's hands and back toward education. If we want things to change in our country, I believe the best thing I can do is prepare the students in my class to be able to speak their minds through video, art, writing, games, and to think of themselves as agents of change as they bring their whole minds and bodies to a real-world problem.
Let's look at what other teachers are doing in the classroom. I will use three different case studies to explore ways in which other teachers are successfully engaging students in learning through the use of technology. All three case studies are live-linked. Take a look at them yourself if you'd like to learn more!
AccorEpic Fail or Win? Gamifying Learning in My Classroom
A professor in Teacher Education used a series of game-based learning strategies to help students master skills and processes. She used the 3Dgamelab and Gradecraft to help implement her strategies. Students could choose "quests" that took 20-25 minutes each to earn badges and experience points. I was drawn to this case study because I currently use a game-based learning app, Classcraft to work on classroom behavior issues, but do not use it to teach and track learning.
The piece I am most interested in pursuing in terms of augmenting my own use of classcraft has to do with how to use the software to personalize learning.
According to the article: "Personalizing Learning
The software provided large amounts of data on each student, allowing me to identify skills they were working on, how long they spent on a quest, badges earned, and standards met, as well as reading their feedback on each quest. All this data was used to further personalize and scaffold learning paths."
I know that Classcraft has a quest function and I would like to explore that option further. I like the idea of taking the attention off of grades and more on learning and this approach seems to help with this. The professor knew that students were learning when they completed the quests set forth for them.
Per the professor's own words, "I gamified my classroom in the hopes that students would no longer ask about their grades. Ultimately, students did focus more on academic and grit skills (especially when I began returning quests instead of simply assigning low grades to mediocre submissions). "
I found this article to be very helpful with tips, tricks and very specific recommendations on how to gamify the classroom. I rate this article 4 out of 5 even though it was more of an article than a case study.
Social Media: Making Connections Through Twitter
In this video, there were many different ways that social media was used to create connections, from teacher to teacher within a school district, students to student within the district, connecting students globally and locally, and connecting students to experts in their fields of study.
There is clear evidence of learning happening on so many levels with social media. For example, one student tweeted a question to an astronaut and to NASA.
"Can you see the night and day line from space?" a student asked Thornton when they were studying night and day. They both responded. They answered not only that question but others as well, and tweeted back a picture."
Students are excited to see that people are engaging with them, and that they can get responses from experts, like NASA. "They do appreciate the fact that people are responding to what they do," one teacher says.
When a teachers's class was studying simple machines a few years ago, one of his students asked, "What about a straw? Would a straw be like one of the simple machines?"
To aid their class discussion about the materials they were using, on teacher called attention to the drinking straw by tweeting out, "Would the straw be an example of one of the six simple machines?" This sparked an online debate between scientists around the globe and the students in that class were able to see that online conversation unfold.
I think the most exciting piece of this process has to do with students' questions being valued, heard and answered so quickly from a variety of experts. It lends a sense of authenticity and reward that is often missing when questions arise in class. I know that, in my Digital Media classes, we often have technical questions that come up.
Just last week, as students were submitting their game board projects to thegamecrafter.com to send the game to print, a handful of them encountered problems with uploading their files. The sizing of the files was off by a pixel and no matter how they tried to fix it, they were not getting results. Frustration was clearly mounting. I went on with a few students and entered the chat room on thegamecrafter and asked for help. Not only did we get our questions answered within seconds, but, about five professional board game designers became very curious as to what we were doing in class. It opened up conversations in ways that seem to blow the walls off of schools and I'm very excited to try more of this with Twitter.
Next time an interesting question pops up, I am going to stop what we are doing and open up the discussion to the rest of the world through social media. I like the idea of deepening the discussion, lending credibility to the original question and creating outside relationships with experts in their industries. This can be implemented tomorrow in my classroom and I think that will be my plan!
I rate this case study 5 out of 5!
In this study, not only where students asked to teach the class an important concept, but they were also asked to make sure that they addressed many different learners buy presenting a slide show, coupling that with handouts or notes that require some fill-in-blank spots to keep students engaged and creating a place for students to process the information through pencil and paper. Then students were asked to create some kind of engaging activity such as a crossword puzzle, word search, game or other interactive approach.
I personally love when my students are asked to bring something new to the class to learn and share that knowledge with us all. Last week I had one student teach about Bartyl's Taxonomy in Game play and one student teach about how the brain learns when we play video games. Both of these talks were highly engaging and seemed to keep the attention of ALL of my game design students.
After looking at this case study, I think I would like to more formally introduce this idea of students bringing their own lessons to the class and have them think through their presentation more deeply. I did notice that after both presentations, there was a lively discussion about the subject matter that seemed to engage most of the students in the class. It was a pleasant reminder that we ALL can benefit from taking on the teacher role and that asking a student to do more than just get up and talk asks them to stretch themselves as teachers and learners. I know I can put more structure in place in my classes to support this concept and allow students to shine. It's a very authentic way of assessing and practicing Oral Communication. I just wish I had videotaped both presentations. They were so good and shared information that I knew nothing about! It's so awesome to learn something new from my students!
I give this case study as 4 out of 5.
As a part of my Masters program in Innovative Learning I am being asked to create an Action Research Question. Here are the preliminary thoughts I have and where I think I'm headed with a question I would like to further explore through data collection and inquiry-based learning.
I can't wait to investigate further and will share my process here on my blog as I go!
Research Question: How can I foster reading stamina in my classroom?
Subquestions: What obstacles do students face with reading? What cultural or socioeconomic factors come into play when students are presented with reading opportunities? What role does community expectation play in fostering reading stamina? Are we concentrating less on reading stamina at the high school level than we did before the internet? Does the 1:1 environment decrease reading stamina? Does moving to more screen work and to less book work decrease reading stamina?
What I plan to do: I’m interested in reading about how others foster reading stamina and then I would like to try to apply those techniques in my own classroom. I would also like to investigate the phenomenon of lowered reading stamina to see if this is actually the case for 1:1 classrooms and how that might effect what I do in my classroom.
Context/background for my question: I have a sneaking suspicion that as we move more and more toward screens, and more and more toward getting our information through video and audio, that reading levels and stamina are declining. I believe that this decline leads to students who can not access information on a deep level and that we are raising a whole generation of scanners, who only read for surface understanding.
I believe that when we limit our reading to surface level reading, we lose all sorts of access to complex thinking, reasoning and discernment. With more and more information available to students through the internet, the ability to discern pertinent information on any given topic is more important now, more than ever. It is not enough to let others curate our information. We must be willing to curate our own points of view on a given topic, read all supporting documentation on a topic and be able to analyze and synthesize all that written information.
Personal Biases: I have altered my own reading habits over the last few years due to the kindle, Facebook, Twitter and websites. I used to be able to sit with a book for hours at a time, reading until my heart’s content, but now, I find myself gravitating toward shorter articles, getting my news from Facebook, reading more and more about public opinion, opinion that is not necessarily backed up by facts and evidence.
I find myself having a harder time sitting down with a book for long periods of time and read a lot fewer novels and more FB posts, and I used to consider myself to be an avid reader. I AM reading more current events, which feels good, but maybe not much of substance regarding those current events. I also have a personal bias toward reading in general and have very high expectations for myself for reading. My own three children are not that into reading and that alarms me as a parent.
Lisa Gottfried is a CTE teacher with 20 years experience as CEO of her own Video and Motion Graphics Production house. She currently teaches Intro to Digital Media, Video Production and Game/3D Design. She loves her job and her students!