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AR Final Research Paper


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AR Final Research Paper

  1. 1. How could a classroom blog reinforce curriculum comprehension and strengthen student voice within the classroom? Jesse Gilbertson MAT Community April 27, 2010 1
  2. 2. Table of Contents 1. Abstract p. 3 2. Section 1: Introduction p. 3-5 3. Section 2: Annotated Bibliography p. 6-15 4. Section 3: Data Collection and Analysis Plan p. 16 - 20 5. Section 4: Results (Analytical Memos) p. 21 -42 6. Section 5: Conclusions and Discussions p. 43 - 51 7. Bibliography p. 52 8. Appendix p. 53 - 54 The Gilbertson Experiment Jesse Gilbertson Action Research Portfolio Abstract 2
  3. 3. Technology, primarily the use of the internet, is increasingly becoming more important in the modern day classroom. It is becoming important because the internet, if utilized correctly, can be a learning tool for students, even after the final school bell has rung. I wanted to see if there was a way to connect to my students in the virtual realm by providing them with a place to further their learning as well as have open dialogue and discussion about material that was covered inside the classroom. This led me to create a classroom blog. Once the blog was up and running it became very elastic and able to change to adapt for the needs of the 8th grade science class I taught. By providing extra credit opportunities, external links and eventually classroom notes, I observed the students using the blog and adapted it to suit their needs better. By surveying the students, I was also able to see specifically how they used the internet and how they felt about self expression in the digital world. Although my blog was rooted in strong ideas I did not spend sufficient time updating the blog or asking the students how the blog could suit them best. The blog was a place for students to continue learning and to share their voice but because of insufficient time on my part, the blog never lived up to its foreseen potential. Introduction My action research project materialized the day I got my student teaching placements. I decided to create an 8th grade science classroom blog for one hundred and thirty five students. This blog’s initial purpose was to provide a place for extended learning outside of the classroom while opening up a place for students to be able to express their opinions and personalities. Directly, I wanted to find out how could a classroom blog reinforce curriculum comprehension and strengthen student voice within the classroom. During the three month span that the blog was implemented, its structure and function changed from solely being a place to post comments for extra credit to a blog that offered test review, course updates, a parent letter and classroom notes. My blog was initially planned to be a question & answer style blog that would be used for extra credit but it began and eventually ended differently than I ever expected. When I was given the task to create an action research project I had originally planned on creating a classroom management strategy that I would try to implement in my 3
  4. 4. classroom, however, as soon as I got my placement I realized that this might be more difficult that I imagined. I had been placed with my old 8th grade science teacher, who I have stayed in contact with since I left his classroom eleven years ago. This teacher has a reputation of having a no nonsense class, meaning highly disciplined, so my classroom management idea started to fade quickly. Luckily I was inspired by a friend, a helpful librarian and my cohort leader and came up with the idea of implementing a classroom blog for students to use as a way of extending their learning outside of the classroom and to give them an opportunity to express their voice in the digital realm. My thoughts when I started the blog were that some students would want to know more about the subject in class but wouldn’t know where to start. I also thought that the students who rarely speak up in class had opinions and ideas about the subject, but never spoke up, so I wanted to provide them with an outlet to express themselves. The blog, with its posting and comment features, quickly started to become a reality where both these things could happen and when I pitched the idea to my cooperating teacher (CT) he was actually glad to hear of my plans. The idea to create a blog for my CT’s class seemed to only get positive feedback. I attribute this to an increase in the incorporation of technology into the modern classroom. Growing up in the 1990’s, I was introduced to personal computers (PC) at an early age. Watching them evolve and adapt to the needs of people, I was inducted into using technology in the school system as part of our curriculum, specifically the access and use of the internet. As I grew, so did the importance of the PC and the internet. When I went to college every student that I knew had their own computer, so the daily use of computers became as common as watching a television. When I shifted roles in the 4
  5. 5. classroom by becoming a teacher I realized that computers and the internet were so common that students weren’t even taught how to use them anymore. With these foundations laid I was given students who knew how to use the internet as a tool but who were not using it currently using within the classroom I was in. Utilization of this amazing tool just seemed to be an obvious way for an action research to move. My thoughts were confirmed by the principal who was pushing for all of his teachers to add an online component to their classrooms. Many of the teachers in the building are in their fifties and somewhat hesitant to introduce this piece into their class. For my CT, who was one of the hesitant, the problem of getting an online component was temporarily solved, so he gave me the green light. The research on the subject of adding an online component to the class was overwhelmingly in my favor as well. I saw the use of web pages in the class to post missing assignments and updates for the students and their parents (Luehmann & Frink , 2009), a blog that gave students a safe haven to express their knowledge and opinions about issues in their social studies class (Redekopp & Bourbonniere, 2009), as well as having a classroom blog that each student was eventually responsible for checking and updating two to three times per semester (Luehmann & MacBride, 2009). Using an online component has become something that I truly believe will be standard within the next five years so learning the basics and some of the snares that come with it in this early stage in becoming a teacher is something that I felt was worthwhile and beneficial to my teaching career. Annotated Bibliography 5
  6. 6. While conducting this research project I found myself involved with literature that dealt extensively with information about students, their internet access & use, and their voice in the learning environment. These components seemed to be vital when creating an online piece for a classroom. After further research the themes I found were confirmed i.e. I) online components are increasingly becoming more important to the classroom, II) customization in using this online component is the key to success and III) student voice is important in the online format. When I had the idea to create a blog for my classroom I imagined it would just be a fun side project to have going while I taught. To my surprise, most of the teachers in the building had been using blogs as a way to teach and communicate with students for quite some time. As I looked into the research I found my surprise dwindle further. In my early articles I was focused on finding a web 2.0 technology that I could use for my class and I eventually chose a blog as my medium. However, there are many other ways to incorporate online components in the classroom depending on what class you teach. In the article by Harris and Rea, 2.0 and virtual world technologies: a growing impact on IS education (2009), that I read I found multiple reasons that the internet is currently being used in the classroom such as a way to do assignments and homework or content help. This article, as well as Rosen & Nelson’s (2009) article, discussed the change in education because of the new roles that learners are taking on. These articles stress the fact that the internet is not just a tool but an integral part of an average student’s life. By using the internet a teacher can extend their influence to a student but in a more passive manner than in the classroom, which is what some students want and what others need. 6
  7. 7. The second theme that the research brought up was one of the most helpful things to consider while conducting this project. Being able to customize the online component of ones classroom was something that didn’t cross my mind until I read the literature. I assumed that creating a blog and implementing it into the class would be easy. The students would figure out the structure and components of the blog and use it like I designed it. The literature (Lehmann & MacBride, 2009) spoke otherwise and stressed that a blog must be able to be elastic. This flexibility would give the blog room to adjust if a problem arose or be able to add a new component if another was not being used or working correctly. This is important because if students are going to deem the blog important they need to have reasons to use it. Customization gives the students a clear reason and a clear purpose for what the blog is and how it should be used. The final theme that the literature brought up was the importance of student voice. A blog is an ideal way to extend a hand to students after the final school bell has rung. Providing a place where a student can come at their own leisure to ask questions or post comments (opinions, thoughts, and concerns) gives the students who are reluctant to speak up in class a venue to do so. Giving students an open forum to speak their mind and share what they have actually learned is no less valid than having a student doing so in class, it’s just different. A teacher who utilizes a blog to capture student’s voice will be able to get a better bearing on where that student lies in curriculum goals, gives the teacher a starting point for conversation and even gives the teacher insight to the students thought process and how to best reach that student while in the actual classroom. 7
  8. 8. Duplichan, S. (2009). Using web logs in the science classroom. Science Scope, 33(1), 33- 37. a. What you learned In this article I learned more about web blogs in the context of a classroom 2.0 setting. I saw many examples of how a blog could be used to increase student collaboration, give writing prompts for assignments, and even have debates online. I also learned more of the legalistic aspects of a classroom blog in a school setting. Students would need permission from their parents as well as the teacher needing permission from the district and the school’s principal b. How it informs your own research This informs my research in that it gives me another tool to use in the web 2.0 classroom. Blogs could be the communication portion of the site, while other aspects of the site could serve other functions (calendar, announcements, pictures, videos of lab set ups). c. How did they collect data The research was done with classroom and website observation. d. How you hope to use the information in designing or interpreting your own data. I plan on using this article quite often as a foundational piece. This article has a permission slip template, a blog grading rubric, and many other ideas for customizing a blog to your ideal specifications. It also provides the basic legal outlook about the subject. Harris, A., & Rea, A. (2009). Web 2.0 and virtual world technologies: A growing impact on IS education. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(2), 137-144. a. What you learned I feel like this article is another foundational piece for my action research project. This article provides pros and cons for five different kinds of web 2.0 tools in relation to a classroom, as well as a list of pros and cons for using web 2.0 technologies in the classroom as a whole. The five tools they listed were wikis, blogs, podcasts, social networks, and virtual worlds. I learned that they all have a place, but I’m not sure they all have a place on a website I would create for class. b. How it informs your own research This article informs my research by providing an unbiased view of each tool, that is currently being used in web 2.0 classrooms. It also gives my research a better idea of what I will want to include in a website. This article also informs me of potential pitfalls. This will be useful so that I can avoid any unwanted or unnecessary problems while conducting this project. c. How did they collect data The authors of this article collected data by conducting longitudinal research on how the web 2.0 tools worked in the classroom. d. How you hope to use the information in designing or interpreting your own data. This article will help the design of my project by giving me and objective light on each available tool that is at my disposal, and how it could be utilized to the best of its ability. 8
  9. 9. Luehmann, A., & Frink, J. (2009). How can blogging help teachers realize the goals of reform-based science instruction? A study of nine classroom blogs. Journal of Science Education & Technology, 18(3), 275-290. a. What you learned This article wasn’t as clear as the one above because it dealt with nine blogs instead of getting more in depth with two. There were a lot of good things that I took from this article though because there is a focus on science. One major idea I pulled away from this article was that blogs are a tool to take science standards and combine them with blogs to create a hybrid where blogs are used to achieve the standards. There was a table in the article that was really great in showing standards (which in this case are the learning affordances), blog learning outcomes, and then their hybrid form. This idea was shown in all of the blogs. Each teacher interpreted how to get to these goals in a different manner and it was shown throughout these blogs. It was interesting though because this article would specifically refer to one of the nine blogs, but never broke each one down besides showing the number of lines and responses that were written. This article also took the idea that a blog can be expressed in multiple ways to another level. There were common themes among many of the blogs such as scribe posts, sharing recourses, and open solicitations (debatable issues), but there were also other uses for the blogs that some had individually or shared with only one other blog. These were classroom reminders, reflections, research results, outsider questions (talks with scientists, questions to the public), how-to instructions, and projects. As far as results go, the researchers used the six standards that I mentioned above (the ones on the table) and found how the hybrid form (standard+blog) yielded results. Most examples were still cryptic on what students exactly learned but most gave examples that if a teacher used one of those standards (affordances) in mind, the students produced work within that realm. If the students were having trouble, the teacher could just modify the activity and blog eventually getting the student to where they wanted them to go. It was pretty interesting. b. How it informs your own research This informs my research by showing me that a teacher can have a specific goal in mind and that they can modify the blog to reach that goal more effectively. It also affects my research in that it shows me that a blog is just another tool to reach a learning objective or goal. It is a more fluid and modern tool, but at the root of it, it is just a different way to get students from a place of not understanding to a place of comprehension. This affects my research in that I can see where in the course there are places of confusion or problems and hopefully remedy them online. c. How did they collect data Data was collected by doing a three month examination of public classroom blogs as well as a five question survey that the teachers participated in. This survey consisted of four open ended questions and a fifth question that had teachers order statements about the potential of blogging from least to greatest importance for them. d. How you hope to use the information in designing or interpreting your own data I hope to use this information, primarily the idea of using standards (affordances) along 9
  10. 10. with the blog, to personalize my future blog specifically to the class that I am running the project in. I also hope to use multiple ideas from these blogs. My favorite idea from this article was open solicitations for the students to debate issues. I think it will be interesting to see what the shy students have to say about the issues behind the safety of the keyboard. Luehmann, A., & MacBride, R. (2009). Classroom blogging in the service of student- centered pedagogy: Two high school teachers' use of blogs. THEN: Technology, Humanities, Education & Narrative, (6), 5-36. a. What you learned This article was very interesting and informative for me. Within this article I found a study of two teachers within the same school that were both using blogs for the first time. One teacher was a freshman biology teacher and the other was a upper level (junior senior) math teacher. This study wanted to find out how the blogs were used in the classroom, how they were structured, and the outcomes of the blog usage. It was interesting because the freshman biology teacher had a similar blog to the one I was creating in my mind, which is basically an extend forum of the classroom. Within this first structure we find a teacher who posts prompts for her students which are questions, videos, and writing prompts accompanied by student responses to these prompts. In the second blog we find much more structure and room to expand for even more learning. This second blog included all of the elements from blog one, but also had a daily recap of the class, created by a different student in that class, each day (called a scribe post), weekly learning challenges (in the form of games), test review, and a chat box feature to encourage live dialogue about the course. On top of these features, this second blog was a public blog, meaning that it was open to the public to view, meaning teachers, parents, and anyone else could access this blog. The rest of the article dealt with the outcomes of the blogs from the view of the teacher and also from the students. It was interesting because the blogs were able to adjust to the students. The teacher of the second blog was able to see that students were using the class blog to chat about the class, sending him an email for each posting. To limit of these and to open up a quicker form of dialogue the teacher opened up a chat box, eliminating unneeded posts and opening up a faster mode of communication. b. How it informs your own research I wanted to write more above because I learned a lot from this article, but the biggest thing I learned is that blogs are all unique. Some teachers have their blog to just be there as a secondary resource and to post things but others use them as a mode to completely teach but in a different medium, bringing the students into the process as well. The idea of a student scribe (different student posting the daily recap every day) gives the class a different kind of perspective each day. From this point students can comment, correct, and discuss these recaps and clarify anything that they need. When reading this article I was thinking of a realistic way to create a blog for an 8th grade class. It would have to be more like the first blog, basic & prompt/response oriented. However, it would be good to have other aspects included. I would like to make the blog public, so as to avoid any 10
  11. 11. suspicion and unnecessary fallout and to give the class opportunities to connect with the scientific community. Having the blog being public also reinforces behavior because student’s parents, peers, and teachers can all read it. This article also showed outcomes of the blogs. The thing that I thought was most interesting was that it gave students an equal voice. Students who didn’t participate as much in class now had a chance to say what they thought and express their feelings. This brought a better sense of community to the class as well. There are a lot of good ideas and ways to use blogs that I plan to use in my project. c. How did they collect data The authors of the article collected data by following and examining the two teachers blogs and then giving the teachers an interview on their experience with using a blog for the first time. The study was focused on the learning opportunities that students were able to experiences (called affordances) and had six guidelines based on previous research of blogs in the classroom (Sharing resources, eliciting and publishing students' responses to teacher prompts, recording lesson highlights, posting learning challenges, reflecting on what was learned, engaging in online conversations). d. How you hope to use the information in designing or interpreting your own data. To be honest I will probably just lift ideas directly from these two teachers. It has showed me a lot of different ways that a blog can be used and how to adapt a blog once it is in motion. It is nice to know that a blog is in constant evolution because if a strategy isn’t working, a new one can be implemented. Having backup plans for prompts or postings could be very beneficial if something goes wrong. There was also a questionnaire that the students took for this article that helped clarify what they took away from this experience. Having that is something that I think would be interesting and fun to show at the research symposium. Raman, M., Ryan, T., & Olfman, L. (2005). Designing knowledge management systems for teaching and learning with wiki technology. Journal of Information Systems Education, 16(3), 311-320. a. What you learned This article gave me a more in depth look at wiki technology. I had an idea of what it was, but this article provided a case study about the use of wiki technology and its effects on learning. I learned that wikis aren’t just for editing information but can be used for group projects, having each student add in their portion and then the entire group edit the final product together. b. How it informs your own research This informs my research by providing me with a bigger picture of what wikis are and what they can be utilized for. This article showed me that wikis are simple, accessible, and easy to pick up and that they are part of a larger picture. This larger picture is knowledge management systems, which are systems that are put in place to help organize and further learning outside of the classroom. Looking more into that subject will be beneficial. c. How did they collect data The authors collected data by case study and longitudinal research on wikis 11
  12. 12. d. How you hope to use the information in designing or interpreting your own data. I can use this information in my own project by deciding how to best utilize wiki technology. Redekopp, R., & Bourbonniere, E. (2009). Giving reluctant students a voice. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(7), 34-35. a. What you learned This article showed me examples of a topic I was interested in when researching the uses of blogs in the classroom. Encouraging student voice was one of the reoccurring themes in the past two articles I read and I found that intriguing. I have never been one of the really shy students, but I have noticed that dynamic in the classroom since high school. There were always the students that never gave feedback but that I knew were extremely smart but just never spoke up in class. This article made me reflect on how different class could have been if those students would have shared their thoughts with everyone. The article itself took a 10th grade advanced placement English course of twenty students who were categorized by their normal participation, by number. A 1 represented a high level of participation, a 2 represented moderate level, followed by 3’s and 4’s on the low end of the participation spectrum. The students used a blog to respond to teacher prompts, and nothing more as far as the article explains, and adheres to a list of guidelines in their posts. Among these guidelines lies respect for others, constructive criticism, appropriate language, and not referring to yourself or others by name but instead using a randomly assigned number as an alias. I find this interesting only because it seems that it would be hard to tell who did what. The study identified four students as being in the level three category of participation, four more being in the level 4 category of participation, and followed those student’s responses in the blog more thoroughly. The responses that these students gave were really great work. They understood all of the concepts and information from the class; they just didn’t have the same level of participation in class. b. How it informs your own research This article informs my research by giving me better focus on an objective that my blog could aim its focus at. I wanted to have student voice be a secondary outcome from this blog but now I am starting to see that it might be important enough to focus more energy into. If I chose to do so I would have to identify the students in a similar fashion, categorizing them by their participation level (CT might offer better insight into that than I will be able to). I also never thought of the random assigned number concept for some reason. That would be a really easy way to keep things anonymous but still keep track of what students were doing. c. How did they collect data This study was done by examining the 10th grade advanced placement English course and its blog about the class material. The blog itself consisted of twelve questions that students were supposed to answer four of. The study then basically followed the blog and analyzed the responses of the students who rarely participate in class. d. How you hope to use the information in designing or interpreting your own data. 12
  13. 13. I think that I will use this information to help myself identify which students could really benefit from this project. I’m not sure if these students have ever used a blog before but it would really be interesting to see students who never talk in class having really profound insights on the subject, in the online format. After identifying these students, possibly having a separate findings section of the project that focuses specifically on their interaction on the blog could be interesting Riddle, J. (2009). These lessons pop!. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 16(5), 24-26. a. What you learned This article didn’t exactly influence what I wanted to do but it did shine some light on an issue I didn’t think about. I learned that when students learn how to use technology correctly a stronger, more concrete collaboration begins to take place, in this case a classroom 2.0 website. Students start viewing their ideas as more flexible and able to change with a group’s idea for a project. Students also begin to understand that their work needs to be accurate and appropriate if it is going out to a worldwide audience. b. How it informs your own research This article informs my research in the area of student accountability. If I am going to set up a classroom Ning, then I am going to have to establish high expectations of legitimate and appropriate work. c. How did they collect data They collected data by observation, recorded video, and the planning process of creating a video. d. How you hope to use the information in designing or interpreting your own data. I will use this information to strengthen my expectations of the students and their activity upon a classroom website. Rosen, D., & Nelson, C. (2008). Web 2.0: A new generation of learners and education. Computers in the Schools, 25(3/4), 211-225. a. What you learned In this article I learned the difference between web 1.0 and the new generation of the internet, web 2.0. I learned how web 1.0 was primarily text based information that was just there to read and nothing else. Web 2.0 is a dynamic interactive way to use the internet. b. How it informs your own research This informs my research in that it separates my options for what I can do. Using a simple website will probably not appeal to an 8th grade audience as much as an interactive social media site. c. How did they collect data The authors of this article collected their data by research and longitudinal study. 13
  14. 14. d. How you hope to use the information in designing or interpreting your own data. This article helps the design of my project by separating web 1.0 and web 2.0 into two separate entities, giving me more focus on where to spend my time researching. Selwyn, N. (2006). Exploring the ‘digital disconnect’ between net savvy students and their schools. Learning, Media, & Technology, 31(1), 5-17 a. What you learned This article informed me about the idea of the use of the internet in a school setting from a students perspective. It was interesting because for the majority of the students the internet was an underutilized tool. An example in this study was when a 7-year-old described their home internet use but also described how she was not allowed to use the internet at school. More examples similar to this riddled this article. Overall this article brings up the issue that the internet is not utilized nearly enough in schools and that students desire more online activities in their instruction. b. How it informs your own research This information informs my research by giving my project more validity. The fact that students were interviewed about their online participation and how they desired more of it gives me, a teacher who wants to implement a blog, a lot more solid ground to stand on when conducting my research. c. How did they collect data In this specific study they interviewed approximately ninety students about their use of the internet at their home, at school, how they feel about their internet access at school and what they would like to see in regards to online usage in school. d. How you hope to use the information in designing or interpreting your own data. I think that this information will be useful to my research by providing me with specific areas in where my students feelings and attitudes may be negative towards the use of the internet in school. From this point I will be able to hopefully negate these feelings by providing a rich internet experience for them. Schwartz, H. (2010). FACEBOOK: The new classroom commons?. Education Digest, 75(5), 39-42. a. What you learned This article was very informative about the perils and positives that the website can bring to the classroom. In this article, Schwartz describes her experience with using facebook and how her use of the site started off passively but quickly became more complex when more and more people began to find her profile. Suddenly old friends from the past began to appear and write unprofessional material on her public wall. The remainder of the article was about her fine tuning of privacy settings as well as how she dealt with using the site as an educational tool instead of a recreational social network. b. How it informs your own research 14
  15. 15. This article informs my research in regards to me wanting to explore the educational value of facebook. The blog that I have created has a lot of functions that can be used in the classroom but facebook has all of those things plus a lot more. Learning some of the ways that Schwartz kept her facebook profile so low key is also an aspect that I want to remember in case I am ever presented with the opportunity to use facebook in my class. c. How did they collect data This article was done in an interview style setting. Schwartz uses specific detailing when describing her facebook use but it is all told by her point of view. d. How you hope to use the information in designing or interpreting your own data. Knowing the hazards of using a facebook page in an educational light will be very useful if I am ever able to use facebook as an educational tool. The idea of creating an organization facebook page instead of a personal profile was one of the greatest ideas that came to me when reading this article. The high use of students using facebook, as well as my own use, makes creating a facebook page for an educational purpose an idea worth following. 15
  16. 16. Data Collection and Analysis Plan My action research project was, at the heart of the study, a creative way to implement an online component into an 8th grade science course to promote further learning and dialogue outside of the walls of the classroom. Because of the increasing use of computers and the internet in modern society, the need for these tools to become part of the classroom is vital for student’s achievement and understanding of the curriculum. Using a blog as my medium, I wanted to see how I could use this online tool to help students learn science concepts. Hopefully this would also bring out a voice in students that didn’t feel like theirs was heard in the classroom. This idea was further strengthened when the principal of the school was supportive in my desire to create this online component for my hesitant cooperating teacher. My research highly suggests that the push for teachers to have this piece in their classroom is part of a larger nationwide trend. Helping my CT get on board with it now is something I am proud to have helped accomplish The blog that I created was customized to meet the specific audience that I was creating it for. This audience was a group of one hundred and thirty-five students that span across five different periods throughout my day. These students are 8th graders, ages twelve through fourteen, that attend Mt. View Middle School in Newberg, Oregon. The student’s ability in the different school wide subjects varies significantly; the most prominent subject being mathematics, with high and low level students present in every period. These students are also ideal for implementation of a new online component because of their familiarity with the internet, their high level of internet access (only six students of the one hundred thirty-five not having internet access at home), and the high 16
  17. 17. percentage of their free time spent using the internet in a given day (30 minutes to 2 hours on average). The introduction of the blog was the simple part, but keeping the students engaged and using the blog ended up being my hardest task. When I started the creation of my blog I ran into three problems. The first problem was the phenomenon of cyber bullying. I wanted my blog to be a safe haven for students to come and be themselves and having a bully present was not going to be tolerated. I was able to remedy this problem with having students using their names, last name initial (e.g. Jesse G, instead of Jesse Gilbertson) and their period number, when they posted any kind of comment on the blog. In an interview with a teacher in my building with an accomplished blog, he informed me that having this type of setup would insure accountability to the students and their parents. Issues involving privacy were the next problem I faced. I wanted this blog to be able to be accessed by students and their parents but not the public. I decided to head to the top for advice on this issue and consulted the principal on the matter. He explained to me how every online component needed to be run through a service called edline which is a website/service that teachers use to post grades of their students. He also said that my blog would most likely have a privacy setting that I could customize so that it wasn’t searchable through search engines. That afternoon I changed my privacy settings and had my CT take my URL address and put it on his edline page. My students were protected from problems within (bullying) and potential problems from outside (random people finding the blog). The final piece missing was receiving parental permission. I wrote up a draft of a parent letter with a permission slip on the back side of it and had the principal and my CT approve it. Once it 17
  18. 18. was approved I sent it home with all one hundred thirty-five students. Over the course of the next three weeks I received nearly sixty-five of them back (48%). When I had all of my necessary pieces in place I began by seeing if students were familiar with the blog by taking a sample group of students to the library computer lab and having them complete a normal warm up question which would usually be done in the classroom. I gave them written instructions on how to access the blog and briefly explained the process to them. While this wasn’t a complete success, the majority of the students didn’t have any major problems accessing the blog and leaving a comment. That same day I approached the blog differently to the other classes and showed them the web page via the projector. I explained what I had available to them and what I was hoping they would use it for. From this point I had a grasp on where my student’s ability with blog use was. I then began normal postings on the blog. Each week, generally on Wednesdays, I would post a new question that dealt with the current classroom subject and then wait for student responses. Later the blog began to evolve with the class. I began to post updates on my progress in the classroom on the blog. At one point posted a test review guide for the electricity unit final test. The blog was becoming more multi faceted each week but I still wanted it to take it in different directions. I later added a parent letter and a weeks worth of classroom notes for students who were having an early or extended spring break week. I wanted to do more with the blog but by the time my work sample came around I was limited with the time I had to cultivate it. After the blog was up and running I wanted to continue assessing the students use of the blog and what they thought about it. To collect this information I used a few 18
  19. 19. different kinds of data collection. My first and most used data collection method was surveys. I conducted two surveys in the three month period that my blog was under way. My first survey (APENDIX A), given after my second observation, was focused on the students opinions on blog use in the classroom and how they felt about self expression online. The second survey (APENDIX B), was given after a quiz to my 4th period class. This survey was all about basic internet use in the student’s daily life. The second way that I collected data was by observation of my students actually using the blog. My first experience with this was mentioned earlier, when I took my first period class to the library to see if they knew the basic structure of a blog and how to post a comment. My second experience with this kind of collection was when I took a group of seven volunteering students to the computer lab at lunch and had them leave a comment on the blog. This second observation was to provide a structured time for the students to use their voice to leave a comment that answered the prompt and also showed their knowledge and personality. Once the blog was in place and operational, data collection and analysis began. To analyze this data I separated it into two categories; observations and surveys. I analyzed the observations by looking at the students actual blog comments. These comments were dated, including the time when they were posted and were connected to a specific student. The frequency of a students posts and which students actually posted were able to be seen very clearly. I was able to view students self expression including their opinions, their creativity, their sense of humor as well as their content knowledge in 19
  20. 20. these posts. The analysis of these posts was at times difficult to decipher but was very interesting to read. When analyzing the data of the surveys I was able to get a clearer picture of where my students were as far as their thoughts on online participation, feelings of self expression and their actual internet use in their daily life. The data was fairly simple to analyze because the questions on the surveys were straight forward. These surveys were also useful because each question could be separated from the rest and analyzed by itself. This clear data genuinely helped me pinpoint where my students were in their process of using the blog and how I could assist them better. 20
  21. 21. Results: Analytical Memorandums Action Research Memo of Analysis – I Critical Question: How could a classroom blog reinforce curriculum comprehension and strengthen student voice within the classroom? Part One: Data Collection Summary My first data collection set for my action research project wasn’t what I would call ideal. In an alternate reality I would have taken my first period science class (7:45 AM – 8:45 AM) of twenty two eight grade students, fourteen males and eight females, down the hallway of Mt. View Middle School from our room that lies on the Southern wall of the gymnasium to the library halfway across the school. I would have sat them down in the computer lab, full of third generation Imac computers from the early 2000’s, each student a seat apart from each other, and would have walked them through the process of logging into the computer, finding the blog I had created, and then guiding them to the exact spot on the blog where I wanted their comment. From there the students would be watched, recorded, noted, and quoted by my CT and myself, then returned to the classroom for the remainder of the period. Instead I live in this reality. This reality, along with my CT, gave me roughly fifteen minutes to get the students across the school, into the computer lab, have them commenting on my blog, and then returning to class to begin their new motor lab. Needless to say I felt somewhat rushed. To get my first data set I needed to watch a sample group of students actually using my blog. Since the blog is an optional part of the classroom work I didn’t see how I was going to be able to get any kind of observation without interfering with the flow of the current electricity unit. My solution was to take period one, the smallest and most docile of all the classes I teach, to the computer lab to do their daily warm up, generally a synthesis question from the previous lesson which is usually on the overhead projector), on the blog. The blog itself is composed of video posts, synthesis posts that involve more narrative writing, and external links to further the students learning. My CT thought that doing the warm up in the computer would be alright, but I still felt like I was intruding on his lesson. I printed up directions on how to reach the blog and what to do once they were at the blog post where I wanted them to comment and hoped it would be clear enough for them to understand. I also typed a new blog post (post 3 of 3 at that point) that morning, based off of material they had learned the week before, with the daily question that read: Current on house circuits ranges from 15 amps to 100 amps, but the voltage is limited to the values: _______________________ for regular circuits 21
  22. 22. _______________________ for high wattage circuits. (The answers to this question are 120 Volts, and 240 Volts.) When the students arrived I made the announcement that we were going to the computer lab to do their warm up on the blog and was met with confused looks from many of the students. I thought that I better just be real with them and I explained that I needed to watch a sample group of students using the blog for my project. I feel like this made me somewhat vulnerable but the students responded to this by shrugging their shoulders and heading out the door. Once we got to the library I handed them the instructions I had created and ushered them into the computer lab. At this point my CT was looking at me with a strange look, I’m not exactly sure what he was thinking, but I got the impression that he wanted to be back in the room and not in the computer lab. At this point student’s hands started shooting up. I began to help different students and realized that their problems were sounding similar, all relating to logging into the blog. I decided to make an announcement to the class on how to get onto the correct website and where to go once they were there to complete the assignment. Once the logging on began to happen I heard “Oh Sweet! That’s a cool picture”, “lots of lightning”, “Ha Ha Ha, that looks like the blaster in Halo 3!” (A video game)(these comments are mainly coming from a picture of lightning on the blog) , and still more “Mr. G…. How do you do this?” I apparently hadn’t given clear enough directions verbally or written. I went to individual students and helped remedy their problems, most being as simple as clicking on the wrong blog post. As I helped students post comments on my blog I noticed that my time was dwindling quickly. As I realized this, my CT came over to me, after helping a student, and told me “I’m really wanting to get back to start the motor lab… but the blog is looking sharp. Pretty cool”. I then announced that the class had two minutes to finish their blog post and log off. Out of twenty two students, seventeen were logged off quickly and heading back to the class with my CT. The other five stayed with me and wrapped up for another two to three minutes. As I walked over to one student I noticed that he had never even made it into logging into the computer as a user. When I asked him what happened he replied “I didn’t remember my password so…” to which I replied “Dude… you should have raised your hand.” This was frustrating but almost amusing at the same time. I sent the remaining five students back and made sure the class had all logged off and tidied up, and then I returned to the class. When I got back I found my CT going over the daily question again so I took the time to actually see the students work from my laptop. From here I was able to see all sorts of things. Students that had taken the work seriously, students who made it to the right place but didn’t know the answer, three students who had posted back to back that had the exact same answer… who had conveniently been sitting next to each other, and also a few random things such as a student referring to himself as Bob Marley and another writing the band *Foo Fighters* at the end of his post. It was an interesting first observation in the computer lab and thankfully now I understand a realistic time frame and set of guidelines to implement for my second observation. Part II: Themes 22
  23. 23. Theme 1: Participation From my first observation I have seen a high participation rate in the students being able to comment on a blog post (18 out of 22, 81%, with one student repeating). I would have liked to have had twenty two student’s comments on the blog post but because of a lack of clear instruction mixed with some inability to log onto the computer, I was only able to get eighteen students to comment. These comments, however, were great to see. There were six students that understood the question on the blog because they gave the correct answer (students 4, 16, 9, 19, 20, and 5), eight students who tried the question but did not get the answer correct (students 18, 12, 15, 17, 8, 22, 1, and a mystery student who left the bizarre pseudo name *Ch!v45*), and a group of five students who commented on the blog but didn’t understand the question ( students 15- commented twice, 11, 21, 10, and 3) summarized best by the comment left by student 21 “I don't get it...haha.”. There were four students that did not leave comments on the blog, however there is a fifth student unaccounted for because of the pseudo name. Students 2, 6, and 7 are for sure excluded from this list because I helped them individually, so the pseudo name belongs to either student 13 or 14. Now when I first read through the data I was upset to find that not all of the students knew the answer but then I realized that the answers were not really important in this case, at least not to this project. What was important is that eighteen out of twenty two students, 81%, logged into the blog and left a comment. This is exactly what I want students to be doing when they are using the blog outside of class. This data shows me that most students know how to use a blog interface, which doesn’t surprise me in the least, considering that I have heard multiple students in my classes talking about their facebook or other social networking sites that they use. Logging onto the blog and leaving a comment was simple for most of them, but what about those other four students who never left a comment. Two of them, Student 2 and 6, never even logged into the computer at all, and when asked why they replied to me that it was because they forgot their user password all together. Not even being able to log onto the computer makes it impossible to log into a blog, so a pattern of not remembering personal passwords emerged as something that I need to remedy for the next observation. The other two students who did not leave comments were both working the entire time, or so it seemed. As a researcher and teacher I should have made my rounds and figured out where my students stood, but because of time restrictions I was not able to make sure that all of the students had made it to the blog and commented. In the future I will be doing these observational periods either at lunch or after school so that the students have ample time to complete their comment. Besides that, the high level of participation excited me. The only thing that leaves me apprehensive about these results is that in all of my research I have only found teachers that use blogs outside of class. In an article I read by Luehmann & MacBride (2009), the teacher only used the blog outside of the class to enforce the material that was taught in class. Although I had a high level of participation, it was because it was a part of class, not a homework assignment. My data excites me, but the intention of my guiding question was if the blog could reinforce class curriculum and give students a voice, while outside class, that they could bring back into class. This project doesn’t lend itself to any other form of observation, at least that I have thought of yet. Maybe scheming up a new kind of observation would be useful. 23
  24. 24. Theme 2: Clarity (or lack of it) I was going to label this theme confusion, but I felt that since the majority of the students were able to get to the blog and leave a comment, but only six with the correct response, it meant that the students comprehended the assignment but their expectations and direction were not clear enough, first, in getting to the blog and second, leaving the correct answer. The first kind lack of clarity I saw in this observation was confusion when logging into the blog. These students varied quite a bit. Some students who had trouble logging on got the answer correct, but others who had trouble never even made it to the internet. The two specific points that students had trouble in were a) logging onto the computer itself and b) finding the correct link on the blog to comment on. The first point, logging onto the computer, I had no control over because students are suppose to have an assigned user name and password that they get each year and if students forgot theirs I had no way of accessing it from their brains. If students were able to get point b, it was easy to guide them to the correct post. I had five to seven students ask me where on the blog they were suppose to go (point b) and they all ended up leaving a response, not all correct, but a response none the less. I think that something beneficial to the next observation would be to get on a computer hooked to an overhead and to walk with the students through the process of getting to the blog and where to go once you were there. After that they could strike out on their own. Also revising my written directions and giving them to the students earlier than the morning of might be a help to them. I don’t think you could get any clearer than that. Another kind of confusion emerged while this observation took place. This is another factor that I had little control over. A lot of students who left comments left incorrect answers or statements that stated that they didn’t understand the question. Since the question was a daily warm up question that my teacher created that morning I assumed that the students would get it, but without the guidance and further clarity that a teacher can administer to the entire class, a lot of students had problems with the question. Again, guiding the students through the question while using a projector would have been beneficial but I wanted to see if the students could do it on their own. This is an easy fix for the next observation in which I plan to use an original question. The use of an original will leave more room for student elaboration which will show extended learning (Luehmann & MacBride, 2009) E. What the students left on the blog, who didn’t get the question, are as follows: “don't get the question :/ ”, “I'm a little confused at to what the question is...”, “I don't get it...haha”, and “love the lightning puct. :) but i dont really understand how to answer the question.” (All copied and pasted directly from blog). Eight other students left answers that were incorrect, which I interpret as a lack of clarity on subject material, not blogging ability. This second theme seems to be easily patched up with scaffolding, which stems from Vygotsky. With this first observation I assumed that the student’s zone of proximal development (ZPD) included social networking, comment leaving ability, and knowledge of how to navigate websites with instruction. I also assumed that they knew the subject matter better. My assumption on the students ZPD will need to be readjusted and worked to get all of the students on the right page. Guiding the students using oral direction and visual steps will leave much less room for error and most likely improve student’s answers. 24
  25. 25. Theme 3: Names and Randomness When I was getting this project organized there were a few options I had the choice of using when it came to students responding to my blog posts. When I first pictured a blog I assumed that a student would just leave their name after the blog post but then the phenomenon of cyber bullying reared its head. I didn’t think about students who have a quiet voice in class not wanting to leave their name because of possible bullying continuing into the cyber realm. Then I thought about students being able to leave anonymous comments. This also had its drawbacks, specifically noting on vulgarity and again bullying. I thought of it like graffiti or vandalism, having faceless presence that can cause problems for the students who want to use the blog for academics. I decided to turn to the research for a possible solution. One of the articles, “Giving Reluctant Students a Voice” (Redekopp & Bourbonniere, 2009), had the suggestion of assigning each student a random number and having them leave that as their pseudo name. I thought that that was a really good idea but that it had its flaws. First, I thought that assigning a number would be good for a sample section of students (period 1) but I had already announced the blog as an extra credit assignment to all five periods. Technically having one hundred and fifty, or less, numbers assigned to students wouldn’t be that hard to keep track of with an excel spreadsheet, but the idea of bullying and remaining somewhat anonymous gave me enough doubt to not implement a number system. Another factor of this decision was my interview of Andy Byerly. Mr. Byrely is a math teacher at Mt. View Middle School that has an established blog that he has been using every year for three years now. He posts fun videos, an extra credit question, a course calendar, and everything else that my blog has and a whole lot more (he actually posts daily notes/assignments as word documents or pdf files). I asked him about giving students a random number for their postings, but he suggested that if the students had parental permission, leaving their first and last name was easier and also made students more accountable. I asked him to explain further and he said “there will be a lot of random things on your blog Jesse, and by having the student leave their name they are held not only accountable to their teacher, but to their peers, other faculty, and their parents (who also have access to edline and the blog). It will keep their randomness in check.” I decided to do what he suggested and requested parent permission for blog postings. Mr. Byrely was correct. Randomness was present in the blog but was in relative check. The first example of randomness is found in the posts themselves. The best examples of this were when a student referred to himself as his real name / Bob Marley and when another student randomly wrote the band name *Foo Fighters* at the end of their post. I didn’t get the reason for either but they didn’t pose any harm. There was one area of randomness that gave me problems though. Nicknames were at times hard to decipher. Some girls who are all friends used their own personal nicknames for each other and it was hard to determine who was who. Although all of the randomness will never stop, and I think its good that it doesn’t, having the students being accountable for their comments on the blog makes the blog more valid and respectable to the students themselves and the other adults who may be observing in the background. Part III: Conclusions 25
  26. 26. My conclusion to my first data set was that the overall goal of seeing if students knew how to successfully use a blog was successful. Although not every student left a blog comment, a high percentage did participate. Out of the four who didn’t participate, only two students have unaccounted reasons for not making a comment. I also learned that clarity, coming from scaffolding, is something that was important that was neglected too much in this first data set, primarily the observation piece. The importance of names when it came to posting really wasn’t shown in my data set other than my interview; however, it was a topic of great importance that I discussed with many peers and reviewed in my literature quite a bit before I came to a decision. I learned that randomness is something that will happen regardless of whether you want it or not, but being able to manage that randomness with accountability was something that I learned works quite well. My decision to have students comment with their full names is one I plan to stick with unless it proves to bring up problems. My critical question is, at the moment, something that I do not want to change. The problem with my observations and my guiding question is that my observations are forced, while my question is something that that would happen naturally, outside of the class. My observation does show that students can grasp the concept of blog posting even with not optimal clarity, but what it doesn’t show is how student’s voices can be heard and how their understanding is being stretched. I learned that my next data collection needs to be more organized. First, giving directions, written and orally, will need to become clearer. Guiding students to where they need to go on a projector for the next observation will be a definite change as well. The thing that will dramatically change this next data set will be the question asked on the blog. I will have to discuss it with my teacher and possibly come up with different drafts to meet student’s needs and levels or comprehension. I will also make this question more open ended so that students can actually use their knowledge and voice in their response, touching on both aspects of the guiding question. These questions will have to deal with the classroom material and will most likely be in the format of a synthesis paragraph with multiple points in it followed by a one or two part question that has students using their own funds of knowledge with the new material to answer the question. Overall I thought it was somewhat rough but went well. Action Research Memo of Analysis – II Critical Question: How could a classroom blog reinforce curriculum comprehension and strengthen student voice within the classroom? Part I: Data Collection Summary My second data collection sample took place from the date February 10th , 2010 to February 24th , 2010. This collection of data was very different from my last sample in 26
  27. 27. that the data’s “meat” comes from the interview and the artifact as opposed to the observation. In my last data collection set I was very focused on whether or not students could actually use the blog and if I needed to redesign the structure of the blog to meet the needs of my students. The observation was the easiest way to see that, so naturally, I deemed that more important in that first data set. This data set was a different experience completely. Not only was the observation a much easier task to control and regulate (primarily because of the smaller group size), but the interview questionnaire I gave the students had great feedback as well. Another thing that I decided to use in this data set was multiple artifacts. In my last data set I used comments from a posting on my blog that was essentially a warm up question that the students would normally do within the classroom. For this data set I used the comments from a posting that I created specifically for the observation as well as another two sets of comments from completely different postings. These other postings are extra credit options that I have been providing to the class since I created the blog. I decided to use these postings because they have responses that not only have an answer to a question but also opinions and personal reflections of my students, showing extended understanding and reflection. I will begin with the observation. My second observation took place on February 18th , 2010. Since the sex education unit was in progress during this week, the male and females students were separated, leaving me the option of trying to organize a time for a group of male and female students to meet or just choosing a gender and getting a sample from them. I decided that it would be easier to ask the male students because I had been in and out of their classes for the past week. With the schedule of this unit, I was not able to get a time from my cooperating teacher that I could take a whole class of students to the library so I decided to take a small sample of students during the second half of their lunch. I wanted to do my observation on the 19th but because of the computer lab schedule, I was only left with one open slot to use the school’s set of Macbook laptops on the 18th . To wrangle up enough students (I wanted at least six) I knew I had better have something to make it worth their while, and luckily chocolate is something at this age that makes anything worth while. I came into my CT’s fourth period class (10:50 AM – 11:45 AM) and near the end of the period presented the idea of coming down to the library after they ate their lunch to comment on a blog and get some candy out of it. I had to plead slightly, but six students finally volunteered. I told them to meet me at noon by the office and that we would walk to the library together, complete a posting and be done before fifth period, giving us approx. twenty min. This happened without any problems and somehow we even gained a student from period five, making the total of students seven. I had the laptops set up for the students already and when they got to their seats I told them to log into the blog, if they knew how. I told the students who didn’t know how to raise their hand or to read a set of instructions that I had left for them. This is where things started to come together. One student asked me “which posting do we comment on? Obsv. II or the one below it?” to which I replied “The first one”, showing that he knew how the blog worked already. After I made that response I saw three other students who had been listening, clicking on the link and beginning their comment, also showing they knew how to use the blog. The remaining three students began to ask their neighbor how to find the blog and they, except for one, got there within a few seconds. The only student who had a problem with logging on was a student whose mother had changed his Edline account password. Edline is a program students can use to check their grades and 27
  28. 28. assignments and has the link to the blog within it, and this student’s mother wanted sole access to this. To my surprise he found a solution quicker than I did. He suggested that he simply copy the URL address for the blog homepage and type it into the internet address bar. It worked perfectly and all of the students posted comments successfully, even though the same student whose password was changed commented in the wrong posting. The students, being on their lunch, were very talkative and goofy but since it was their lunch I decided to let them relax and post however they felt necessary. For this observation I didn’t want to focus primarily on whether the students knew how to use the blog, but rather, if they felt comfortable with its structure and could produce rich detailed responses just from a prompt online. The question I gave them this time was a question I borrowed from a classmate of mine named Sam Pierce. The material in the question, being the basic components of an atom, have been taught in the electricity unit so the material wasn’t unfamiliar to the students. The question was: “Think about atoms. They are a million times smaller than the thickest human hair. When you consider how small they really are it is pretty amazing to know that scientists have been able to identify them and their structure. An atom's size may seem mind boggling but try to think abstractly for this one... Imagine you could shrink to the size of an atom at will. Describe what you would do and see in that state.” While the detail wasn’t as rich as I would have hoped, the context of being at lunch and the twenty minute time limit played a big factor in that. The students did seem comfortable using the blog at this point, especially one student who asked me what posting he was suppose to be commenting on before I had even given instructions, showing he already knew how the blog worked and was ready to participate. After the students began telling me they were done I gave them a four question questionnaire (the interview). They complete their blog postings at different times so not all of them had time to complete their interview form. When the bell rang at 12:19 PM I had to let them go, but before I did, I gave them two bags of candy to split up and then sent them off for their fifth period class. This observation was a lot easier to manage because it was much smaller (fifteen students smaller), a majority of the students were familiar with the blog, and the others who weren’t familiar were computer savvy and able to reach the blog with minimal complication, even when a changed password presented itself as a problem. I wish I wouldn’t have had to bribe my students with candy, but it was an easy way to lure them in. Once they were participating they were having an enjoyable time socializing while working on the blog posting. The interview in this data set comes from a questionnaire that I gave the students that asked specifically about online learning and how they felt about the subject. The questionnaire is as follows: Questionnaire. February 18th , 2010 ________________________ Name 28
  29. 29. • Question 1) What do you think about the use of blogs in education? Are they practical or do they have much value? • Question 2) If every class at school had a blog, what things would you find useful for your teachers to post? • Question 3) Do you find it easier to express yourself online? Or do you prefer in class interaction? • Question 4) Consider the idea of having “blog based homework”. This would mean that homework would all be online and that you would have daily assignments that you would complete over the internet instead of having assignments in class that you take home. Would this be something you would enjoy or not? Why? Thank you very much for your time! These questions had space below them to actually write, but for the sake of space, I condensed it for this memo. The students responses to these questions were pretty interesting most of them being very practical. The question I really wanted the students to ponder was the fourth question that asks about blog based homework. I assumed since students liked being online that they would be 100% for blog based homework but their answers said otherwise. Some answers I received were “It would be nice not to carry home (like in math ) but it might cause people to forget”, “No I have limited internet time” , and “I wouldn’t enjoy it, and some people don’t have internet… I like trying to finish homework in class…”. Three of the other students didn’t have enough time to leave a response to that question and the last student didn’t leave much detail in his comment. Question three was also another point I wanted to have my students ponder. In this data set I wanted to answer the second half of my guiding question about student voice. Four of the students agreed that it was easier to express themselves online, one was neutral, one found it easier to express himself in class, and the final student didn’t have time to answer. Question one was basically an opinion question that asked them what they thought about blogs in the realm of education and the second question was basically just a feedback question for me to see what kind of materials and resources I could add to my blog in the future. Question one was answered with the majority of students (six) agreeing that blogs were good, specifically for students who missed class and for keeping the class current with what is going on while question two suggested that notes, homework, and assignments were the best use of a blog. My artifact for this data set was comments from multiple blog postings. The one I have discussed so far has been a blog posting that was posted on the evening of February 17th and commented on on February 18th . The other two postings that I am using for this data set are a posting from February 10th and another from February 17th . These other postings are the extra credit posts that I put up on a weekly basis that ask a question to the students that they comment on for extra credit. The posting on February 10th ran from the 10th to the 17th , while the posting on the 17th ran from the 17th to the 24th . The posting on the 10th is as follows: For this weeks extra credit I want you to stretch your brain. As Mr. Canaday mentioned last week there is one factor about sex and the issues that surround it that superseded (take higher importance) the others. This factor is the ability to create another life. While sex is glamorized in television, cinema, and our culture the reality of sex is that it is a 29
  30. 30. natural part of life that isn't always glamorous. A child is not only a huge responsibility physically, it is also a huge responsibility emotionally and financially($). I looked up the average cost of raising a child who was born in 2009 and found that the price was above $200,000... and that doesn't include sending that child to college (which could be another $10,000 to $20,000 depending on the school). Now think about that for a minute... These Next questions are separated by gender, just like class right now. Ladies, comment on the question for you, gentlemen, comment on the question for you. Ladies: If you found out that you were going to become a teenage mother, how do you think your life would change? What issues would you have to deal with at home, at school with your peers, and with the father of the baby? How would you handle the added stress of a child as a teenager? Gentleman: If you found out that you were going to become a teenage father, how do you think your life would change? What issues would you have to deal with at home, at school with your peers, and with the mother of the baby? How would you deal with the added responsibility of parenthood a teenager? And the posting on the 17th is as follows: Hello students, this week's extra credit is not going to be about the Sex Ed. unit. Instead, I am going to get you thinking about the beginnings of the chemistry unit that I get to teach. To start out I want you to think about atoms and their structure. Part I) Name the three parts of an atom as well as their charge and where in an atom you could find each piece. Part II) Imagine they could shrink to the size of an atom at will. Describe what you would do and see in that state. That is it for this week. Have a good time blogging! As you can see the posting on the 17th is basically a longer version of the posting I used for the observation while the posting on the 10th deals with the sex ed unit and a much more sensitive topic (which I cleared with my CT). Both of these postings had a lot more student reflection and writing which I will discuss in the next section of this memo. Part II: Themes Theme 1: The internet is mainly used as a recreational tool for my students. This theme comes as a surprise to me because of a lack of perspective that I took in consideration of my own students and their free time. This theme is derived from two different parts of my project. The first reason that I started to think that this might be a theme in my research was the amount of students who post on the blog for extra credit. There are a few students who post ever week, but there are a large number, nearly sixty students (approx. 83%), who have turned in the permission slip, received the instructions 30
  31. 31. to the blog, and have not posted once yet. I wondered why that was and I assumed it was because students didn’t need the extra credit or just didn’t care. My answer finally came in the interview portion of this data set. In the interview questionnaire I asked the question “Consider the idea of having “blog based homework”. This would mean that homework would all be online and that you would have daily assignments that you would complete over the internet instead of having assignments in class that you take home. Would this be something you would enjoy or not? Why?”, assuming that the students would be enthusiastic about their homework being available to them whenever they chose. However I did not take into account that at the age of thirteen and fourteen, the internet, much like driving a car, is a privilege, not a right. In the interview the one response that sums it up bluntly, yet the best, is “No, I have limited computer time.”(Student EC). As soon as I read that I realized that even though the students who were interviewed all thought that blogs are a good tool to have in class, they aren’t the first thing that a student is wanting to go to spend their time online. When I was researching how to use blogs in the classroom I read about having student scribes who would take notes and post them online as an assignment and every week an new student would step in, as well as having student led discussions and debates that would take the place of in class assignments (Duplichan, 2009). However, implementing a blog in the middle of the year as a student teacher did not lend itself to be able to do these things, so instead of having really engaging activities online I tried to lure students in with extra credit. It has worked for a few students, but not the vast majority. I see why though, and the fact that I never looked at the internet through the eyes of an 8th grade student, really helps explain the lack of participation on the blog. A good question to ask on the next interview would be about the internet in general. What students use it for, how long they have access to it, etc. would be good questions to gain a better understanding of how students want and actually do spend their time online so that I can incorporate that into my blog more effectively. Another question that would help my blog out would be a question about student’s attitudes about the use of internet at school and at home, primarily on restricted time and use of the web. In a study by Selwyn (2006), the findings of students being discontent but understanding of their situation with rules and regulations regarding the internet, specifically in the area of under engagement and teachers filling a requirement for technology use, really help me focus on making my blog an external optional resource that is engaging enough to capture students interest and time. Soon, I begin my work sample and will have complete control of the class which can be utilized well with my blog. Having my class notes and extra links on the blog, while being able to promote its use daily, will help this blog evolve into something bigger and more effective at getting students to learn in and outside of the classroom. Theme 2: Emerging Student Voice & Comprehension This theme is finally touching the purpose of this project. The students who have been commenting on the blog have left some interesting things, specifically the responses on the post I left on February 10th . This question dealt with a hypothetical scenario involving teenage pregnancy. I asked two questions, one targeted at each gender, that were mostly the same, but had slightly different questions and wording (e.g. How would you handle the added stress of a child as a teenager? (Females) vs. How would you deal with the added responsibility of parenthood a teenager? (Males)) The first post I read 31
  32. 32. started like this “Well first if i found out that i was pregnat while i was in HS i would probably take an abortion pill ( i know some of you other people might think thats cruel, but i wouldn't want my life to be over by the age of at least 14)! But to answer the 1st question”. To be honest I was taken back but at the same time impressed that she was able to express her opinion that openly about such a sensitive subject. Finally some student voice was emerging in the posts. Another male student started his commented by saying “If I found out I was a dad, I would freak out and I would not know what to do.” He then continued by saying “Unless the mother decided to get an abortion (which I don't believe in), I'd do everything I could to support the baby.” I wasn’t sure if the topic of abortion had come up as a result from the first female students comment, but regardless, he stated his opinion civilly and rationally and also touched on an extremely controversial subject. This is a topic that I think could end negatively, in class, because at the ages of thirteen and fourteen it isn’t a topic that all students have a non biased opinion on. Being able to express personal believes in class is important for students because it lets them know that they can indeed express themselves even if that doesn’t match up with the rest of the students in the class (Redekopp & Bourbonniere, 2009). The posting on February 17th wasn’t a question that had a lot of room for creative liberties with my students but it did show me that comprehension outside of class was happening. I am going to group the posting on February 17th with the posting that was used for the observation because they were essentially the same question. Students were asked to name the parts of an atom and their charge, which was review, but then asked what they would do at the size of an atom. Students responded with “I would try to sneak somewhere, but I would get exhausted before I moved an inch” (showing that he understands how small an atom really is), “I would probobly be crushed by a electron, but if I didn't, I would run around the atom and jump from atom to atom. WEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!” (showing that he understands that electrons are the moving part of the atom and that they are able to move between atoms), and “i would see atoms and stuffs... and probabally get lost with my luck... so yah...” (showing that he understands that being that small wouldn’t be easy to navigate). These also show students senses of humor and voice as well as showing their comprehension of the subject. Throughout my research on blogs I have seen that comprehension, above all, is the main purpose of the blog. Every blog is different and has different ways of meeting their specific students, but every blog’s main purpose is to further the students learning. In the article by Luehmann, and MacBride (2009) they compare two teachers using their first year blogs and show that they are both different in their purpose and structure, however, they both reach that same goal of furthering learning outside of the classroom. Even though my blog is not the same as other teachers blogs, it is trying to mold to my students specifically. As I mentioned before I think a survey about student’s use of the internet would be a great thing to have so that I can modify this blog to get to my students better. I also need to put some more time into creating questions that have room for student voice as well as extended learning outside of the class. Questions that can let students share their opinion but also show that they are learning the material of the class will be my goal from now on. Theme 3: Randomness = Students Interests 32
  33. 33. I decided to stick with the theme of random comments and postings of students, but now specifically to show me how their random thoughts can be interpreted as their voice. I put this theme in my second data set because I feel that it is a concept that, if cultivated, could improve student’s use of my blog. In my data set I didn’t see this theme as something that could be used, but rather as something that was just present in the data. After reviewing the second artifacts as well as listening and watching the students in the second observation, I am seeing randomness as something that is a part of a young teenagers life. My challenge is now figuring out how to use it. During my second observation I heard students talking about things such as the new Apple brand Ipad (a new technological tool), a website called (a website that I have gone to myself), video games (specifically a game called Halo 3), the television show South Park, and “your mom” jokes. The more I have analyzed these statements the more I am thinking that these random statements are really the thing that students think about when they aren’t doing class work. Basically what I am seeing is that randomness represents their interests and hobbies. Students leave little traces of randomness on the blog itself, but not nearly as much as when you observe them in person and also things that are a lot harder to interpret. On the second observation, an example of randomness was shown like this: “oh idk i can think of a lot of things but i rather not say them here teeheee oh and i would go places i couldent go befor like under doors wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOttttttttttt” (in response to the writing prompt). This sort of randomness is hard to sift through to gain a grasp of what a student is really thinking. This is literally just randomness from a student. An example of randomness while observing came from a student, “The Ipad is stupid! Oh cool lets make a giant iPod Touch and make it huge and don’t so anything else to it! Blah Blah!”. This quote really helps me see an aspect of my student’s interest. He is keeping current with technological trends and has an opinion on them. Now, not all of the students talked about technology or things that would be simple to integrate into the class, but enough of them discussed things that interested them. My flaw as a researcher was that I didn’t capture these quotes with a recording device but rather just wrote some of them down. Using a recording device can get tricky though with multiple voices layering the track, so the positioning of the device would be something to be very aware of. I think that this observation would have been ideal for students to be recorded but I did not think ahead far enough to get a recording device set up. In my next observation, given that it is near the same size in the number of students, I will use a recording device to capture student randomness more accurately. This affects my project in that it gives me more focus on what to listen and look for when students are talking with their peers or to themselves. I want to be able to get students commenting on things that actually interest them in their lives, but again, to do this I would need more information on how students use their time online. The teacher I modeled my blog off of named Mr. B showed me that he puts anything that he thinks is “cool” meaning pictures, videos, or articles, as long as they are relevant to the class and lets the students go from their. A survey about online usage will be a definite piece for my next data set. I am glad that the random things that students say and do have more to them than just being words and comments, at least for the most part, but if I want to utilize these more I am going to have to be more observant and make sure I capture these on a digital recording, so that they can be listened to and examine later. This theme is 33
  34. 34. tricky to analyze because I want to use these students’ random ideas and thoughts and interpret this as their voice in connection to classroom material. Some students have that connection going already, shown in the example of the student going under a door if he were the size of an atom, but other random statements outside of the blog had very little to do with the blog or school for that matter. I want to utilize these random words and thoughts, outside of the blog, to capture student’s interest on the blog, so that they feel more engaged and that it has more significance for them. I want to use these random thoughts as bait to lure the students to come to the blog and then have the blog be engaging enough to have them stay and participate in discussion and activities. Part III: Conclusions What have I learned? What do I need to learn in the next data set? What have I learned about my critical question? What have I learned about my data collection plan? What changes need to be made to my data collection plan? What changes need to be made to my practice? The conclusions that I have came up with in this data set were that my project is slowly making progress, slowly being the key word. I have seen that my guiding question is making headway with students starting to emerge with their own opinions and thoughts on the topics of teenage pregnancy and atomic structure. Students, while using the blog, began to express themselves by stating their values and opinions about teenage pregnancy. It was the first glimpse into student voice being expressed online. This went further with the questionnaire that was given at the end of the second observation. The majority of students, four of them out of seven, agreed that self expression was easier online, making me believe that if I was to conjure up a prompt that was good enough that I could have students leaving not only their knowledge, but their beliefs and opinions as well. I also began to see randomness as something more than just scattered words and thoughts. Although sometimes randomness is just random things, a lot of other random things that students say have to do with what students are interested in. For this data set I saw the trend of students being interested in technology and gaming. If I want to make my blog better I should probably figure out ways to incorporate these topics into my blog as well as my lessons within the classroom. That might mean researching current technology as well as staying current with gaming systems (which won’t be a problem). I also learned that the internet is not a right to my students. I have had unrestricted access to the web for nearly seven years so I never considered that my students had restricted access and restricted time limits for internet use. This shows me that my students need a very good reason to come to my blog if it is going to compete with their leisure time on the web. What I need to learn in my next data set is how I can connect student’s random thoughts and statements to create more thought provoking questions for my blog. Not only that, I also need to create other, more appealing, aspects for my blog so that I can lure more students to use their internet time to browse the blog as well. To do this I will need to most likely take a survey that has to deal with students and their free time on the internet as well as their interests in technology and the web as well. I think that giving this survey before the next observation would be beneficial so that I can modify the blog to get more students hooked in. The survey itself needs to focus on student’s specific 34
  35. 35. internet use and how the students use their online time so that I can take that into account when creating posts for the blog or actually modifying the structure of the blog. The survey would be the next data set’s interview but as for the next observation it is something I am trying to decide whether to change or not. Observing students use the blog is the easiest way to do it, but not the most effective if I want genuine student participation that isn’t extrinsically based on candy or another reward. The only other options I would have would be somehow monitoring students use on the blog while they were at home but to do that I would need students to create a Google account to log into the blog. I don’t want to have to have my students do this because of the issue of them having to create another account and the fact that they could find my personal email as well, so another alternative must be reached. One option that would work, granted the fact that I had my own class to teach, would be setting aside time specifically for blogging, or having the blog available for students who finish their assignments early. However, until I get my own class I don’t think that this will be able to happen with the limited amount of time I have. My critical question is still on the right track, and seeing students voice and outside comprehension emerging has given me more hope that this question is legitimate but still needs some work. I will need to use student interest (or randomness) to get students to use their limited time online to come onto my blog, and to do that I will need to revamp my blog so that students find it worthwhile. To figure out what they deem is worthwhile in using their online time for and to do that I will have to administer a questionnaire to figure that out and from there I can begin the process of revamping. The question needs a few tweaks but for now I am going to leave it where it is. It was a more complex data set to analyze but it offered a lot more information on practical things I should actually move my blog towards so that I can effectively get my students using it, not just for getting extra credit, but because they think it is worthwhile and useful to their learning. Works Cited • Duplichan, S. (2009). Using web logs in the science classroom. Science Scope, 33(1), 33-37. • Luehmann, A., & MacBride, R. (2009). Classroom blogging in the service of student-centered pedagogy: Two high school teachers' use of blogs. THEN: Technology, Humanities, Education & Narrative, 2(6), 5-36. • Selwyn, N. (2006). Exploring the ‘digital disconnect’ between net‐savvy students and their schools. Learning, Media, & Technology, 31(1), 5-17. 35
  36. 36. Action Research Memo of Analysis – III Critical Question: How could a classroom blog reinforce curriculum comprehension and strengthen student voice within the classroom? Part I: Data Collection Summary This data collection sample came at a very inopportune time as far as student teaching as a whole is concerned. I was mid way through my work sample on chemistry when I realized that I needed another observation, interview, and an artifact and felt somewhat rushed to figure something out. I was most concerned with an observation but realized that my blog posts themselves are actually dated (including the time of day when the comment was posted) meaning that I could use the posts themselves as an artifact and the time that was attached to them as an observation. I was also very fortunate to have a fourth period class who is more than willing to participate in anything that I ask them. Even though the due date for my third data set had passed by one day, I still had a number of students in period four fill out a survey that had to do with internet usage at home. I didn’t select these students so the feedback on this survey was varied and after further investigation very helpful to me. For my observation in this data set I decided to use the blog comments that my students left on the blog. I would have done this before but I wasn’t aware until this data set, don’t ask me why, that all of the postings and comments on the blog have dates which include times when the information was posted. In my last few data sets I was under the assumption that I needed to watch my students physically putting in comments to the blog, which wasn’t a bad way to do an observation but it was difficult at times to really pick out things in the students interactions that I could use as sufficient data. When the students got together to comment on a posting in the blog, the post they were to comment on was one I had created specifically for that observation, as opposed to a normal blog post that had the students commenting on it at their own leisure. At times I felt these observation posts were a little forced, specifically in the area of time. When the observations were taking place there was a time limit restriction because of classes but with my third observation I have found a way to circumvent that and just use the posts themselves as an observed event. In this case I used the time and date of the posted comment as the observation while the post’s content would be the artifact. The one unfortunate thing about my observation in this third data set is that there are so few comments to work with and collect data from (only three in this data set). My artifact in this data set is going to be the same as the previous two with my blog postings and the student’s comments being the artifact. This data set has two different kinds of postings. One was a normal posting, normal in the fact that I have been doing this from the time I started the blog, and the other being a new kind of posting that I was trying out so that I could possibly reach the students in another way. The first posting (the normal one), was another extra credit question that had to do with the discovery of a new element. My feedback on that was, what I consider low, but it was early on in the chemistry unit and the students might not have had enough time to soak in enough of the information that they learned about chemistry. I also wasn’t remembering to promote my blog as much while I was in my full time student teaching period, mainly 36
  37. 37. because of other, more important, assignments and due dates that I needed to complete. My second post had only one comment, which I would usually consider low, but this comment came at an opportune time and my posting was actually directed towards this specific student. This second posting was a post where I uploaded lecture notes from class directly to the blog for students who were absent. I had been tossing this idea around for the past few weeks but when a student told me she was going to be gone the three days before spring break started I realized that it would be a perfect opportunity to try it out. The first day that student was gone I uploaded the notes and then completely forgot to upload the next two day’s worth of notes until the Wednesday during spring break. I was somewhat concerned that she might be upset or worried about not having the rest of the notes but waited to see what happened. The day before spring break was over I checked the blog again to see if she had found the notes without any problems and found that she had, that morning in fact. On my blog I read, Anonymous said... “thanks!” as well as “see you on monday!”. I was excited to see that the posting actually helped one student by providing them with the necessary class notes, but I kept thinking about how I could do this kind of posting better (class note posting) A possible daily posting of the notes would be perfect, as long as I was diligent and able to do this. Another way to do these notes would be by using the student scribe method. This method is when a different student posts the class notes each night. In the article by Luehmann and MacBride (2009), we see a teacher using this method with success. “Mr. K. required one student each day to document the lesson's highlights on the class blog. He described the assignment of daily scribing as a way to co-construct a pre-calculus textbook in student language, which will benefit more than their own class as other people all around the world would be able to access their work.” (Luehmann & MacBride, 2009, 23). Utilizing technology and students together to create a note set would be a very interesting project to attempt. Regardless to if I use this method of not, this blog is going to be a great tool for future blogs in my classroom. The interview in this data set was probably the most informative thus far. My first interview was an actual interview with another teacher, my second was a small survey that I asked the students that I was observing, but where this survey differs is how broad of an audience I was able to get in participating. For this interview I did a survey that had questions that were targeted at students and their internet usage at home. This is the exact survey I used: Q1) How much time do you use the internet in a given day? Q2) Is your internet access restricted by your parents? If so, how is it restricted? (time, specific websites, etc.) Q3) While using the internet, what websites do you visit most often? Why? Q4) Do you use social networking sites? (facebook, twitter, myspace) Y / N Q5) The whole purpose of my blog was to create an online place where you (the student) could go to learn more about the material covered in class as well as open up a place for students to express themselves in a way they might not be able to in class. • If you have seen the blog I created, how do you think I did? Be honest. 37