There are a number of tools I will be leveraging in my Action Research project for my graduate work. I am exploring the question, "What affect does the use of digital tools in the classroom have on reading comprehension, engagement and stamina?" There are two ways that I will use technology for this research, the first is to introduce new technology to the students and then measure it's effects. The second is to use technology as a tool for recording observation. In the first case, the technology I am testing is the Nearpod application, an interactive digital response system for students. I was first introduced to Nearpod last year at a Northbay CUE (Computer Using Educators) conference at American Canyon High School. I was immediately impressed and began experimenting with the free version of the software.
A Nearpod representative got in touch with me when I requested pricing for my school. I mentioned that was about the teach a workshop on practical tech in the classroom for the Napa County Office of Ed. and they quickly comped me a premium version of the software so I could really get the most out of all they offered. As a teacher, it is tough to spend much time exploring new tech while teaching at the same time, but I did continue to present the software and use it sporadically in my Digital Media 1 class. I continued to like it, but knew I was underutilizing the functions.
So, when it came time to think about my Action Research question, I knew that I wanted to really explore what using Nearpod was really accomplishing in my classroom. I wanted to take a closer look at how using the tool to it's fullest could help with reading engagement and whether or not could I see evidence that contributes to increasing reading engagement. In this way, Nearpod is at the center of the research testing. What is its effect? How can I measure it's effect in a valid way?
What I am finding, as I continue to experiment with Nearpod, is that I can look back at each class session and review the answers that each student typed in during the session. I can ask both open-ended and multiple choice questions, I can take polls and use fill-in-the-blank questions. I can see student answers in real time, making on-the-spot adjustments as I teach. Students can also get immediate feedback as to which answer was correct as I share correct answers with the whole class as we proceed through the presentation. The answers are shared anonymously so those students who are more quiet, can participate and have their work shown, without embarrassment. I can see immediately, who is participating in the discussion and presentation and who is not. I can show individual answers, or the whole community's response to a poll. I am wondering that the effect is of being able to combine the elements of visuals and text questions to create a powerpoint/quiz combination that makes engaging with the material easier for all involved. I can control the advancing slides on each screen and all students don't need to see the SMART board, they only need to see their own screens. In this way, everyone is able to access the slides but we do so communally. I'm eager to see if I can record any differences in engagement from this learning tool.
The data I will be collecting with be triangulated through both qualitative and quantitative data. I will be using Google forms to ask students to rate their level of engagement using a Likert scale both before and after they read and answer questions about the text. I will have them use a more traditional classroom method of engaging in text by having the students read and then answer a series of written questions first. I will than have them do the same thing after reading a new chapter, but rather than just answer the questions traditionally, they will answer the questions through the use of Nearpod.
In addition to having them self-assess their levels of engagement, I will also keep a journal of structured and unstructured observations of the class from the moment they enter the class to the moment they end the reading assignment. I will make notes on what students say that pertain to the reading assignment, body language, interactions with me and between students, and then look for patterns in my observed data. In this case, the technology of choice to record these observations includes tools that make note-taking most accessible such as pen and paper and Evernote to jot down observations that happen in the moment.
I also, will be accessing pre-existing data from our school data backpack including SRI data collected in the fall of 2016. It would be extremely beneficial to look at SRI data in the fall, then make a concerted effort to use SSR and Nearpod in a classroom, and then look at SRI data in the spring. I am hoping that next year, when I have more time, I can use that much under-utilized data to inform practices and see if I can find a correlation between the data and classroom practices around SSR and use of technology. I did, however, use the pre-existing data this year to get a clear picture of who my students are, where they stand in their reading levels and used that data to establish a baseline understanding of each individual student.
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!