May Your Journey be Your Destination!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Action Research

An action research class does not sound like a warm and fuzzy course that will allow for creative input and flexibility; however, I found this particular course to exhibit these two qualities. It was interesting to see the product unfold as we worked on the assignments and geared our action research project toward our "wonderings". The readings were relevant and useful. I am currently in the process of progressing with the rigorous guidelines Klein ISD has in place, so that I may conduct my action research project.
I have acquired help from many individuals along the way and I attribute the final plan to be a product of collaboration. I will continue to post updates on my research as it unfolds.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

You Mean a Force Field Can Help My Action Plan?

Force Field Analysis. When I first read this, I envisioned Dr. Spock analyzing my action research data on the Enterprise. It may seem like a strange name chosen for this tool; on the contrary, it is quite fitting. The idea behind a Force Field Analysis is described by Sandra Harris from our textbook: Examining What We Do to Improve our Schools: Eight Steps from Analysis to Action, is this:  “…the driving forces of the change must exceed the resisting forces of the change,” (Harris, pg.94). Sounds much like a physics lesson! But if you really delve into what Kurt Lewin, social scientist, was saying, one realizes how essential his points are to consider prior to making a change or to even decide whether change is needed. Essentially, if change is to occur, the need for change must exceed the resisting forces against change (Harris,pg. 94). It really does sound very scientific, but it makes perfect sense. Consider this example to help explain this concept:
It reminds me of Dr. Seus's Star-Bellied Sneetches with the "stars upon thars..." and how they had to overcome the general consensus that having stars on their bellies was a necessary trend. Once they decided that it was ok to have both star-bellies and non-star bellies (after a great expense), they had surpassed the resistance of change. It took a while to arrive to this consensus, but arrive they did!
We come upon so many obstacles when change is iminent. This is because humans are creatures of habit, as we prefer the coziness of our routines, homes, places, and knowing how things have been and must remain. So when our version of a "Sylvester McMonkey McBean" and his "fix-it-up chappie" show up at our door with a solution to a problem that we were hoping would just fix itself, we need to remind ourselves that change is essential to improvement in our schools, and that we need to research the need for change. 
If one looks at where we have been and where we are heading in education, the largest ingredient in the "Salad Bowl" change. As an educator, change is ever-present in our lives. It is in how we approach the need and evaluation for change that will foster an environment for improvement. 
As you can see, Force Field Analysis is not rocket science, but does have a valid and useful purpose. Of couse, having Dr. Spock read our analyses for us is quite appealing; however, quite an impossibility.

Harris, Sandra, Edmonson, Stacey, & Combs, Julie. (2009). Examining what we do to improve our schools. 2009.

Seuss, Dr., Blumenthal, Bob, & Emery, Francenia. (2002). That. Trafford.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pond? Stones? Ripples?

What do these things all have to do with an action research project, you might ask? Nancy Fichtman Dana, author of Leading with Passion and Knowledge The Principal as Action Researcher, provided a story with these words to describe how essential it is to share one's action research project with colleagues, district administrators, and beyond. The story goes like this: 
Imagine you notice a large pond that is stagnant and that you are enticed to create some type of movement or change in the water. As you near the edge, you notice that the pond is surrounded by numerous stones. You reach down, pick up a stone, and toss it as far out into the center of the pond as your strength allows. While lying beside the pond, the stone had no impact on the water, but once tossed in, it disturbs not only the stillness of the water where it lands but also emanates ripples from its landing place that eventually reach the perimeter of the pond.
Dana continued by likening, our action research projects as the rocks on the shore. If we do not throw them into the pond they will create no ripples. Once thrown in, there is no telling how sharing your project could impact those around you. I believe this to be true with educators in general. Sharing is what we do, or so, that is what we should be doing. It is how we improve our teaching practices- both through the use of others' ideas or through collaboration. Our projects will set in motion a catalyst that will make changes both large-scale and small-scale, as well as create a need for additional action research projects as a result of our findings.
It may begin small-scale like the ripples; eventually, we will begin to see some pretty big waves. 
She continues by stating that without this change, action, movement, ripples, there is very little need to do an action research project.
Rocks sitting on the shoreline create no movement, no change, no ripples. Once thrown in the pond, wow! So with that, test the waters. Throw that stone in, you might even want to jump into that pond yourself! Be prepared, however, a storm's a brewing!
Dana, Nancy. (2009). Leading with passion and knowledge (pg 135). Corwin Press.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

THE Plan!

This action research plan has evolved and changed from the onset of this course. I was given tools to help me determine my wonderings, narrow down the topic, and construct a workable and realistic plan. Included in the plan is a clause which states that monitoring of each outcome will be ongoing and necessary adjustments will be made as needed.
This is my plan (click on the plan for a larger view):

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Three Heads are Better Than One!

"What is collaboration? Really. Why bother? I like to do things my way and don't have time to deal with other people."
I suppose this individual does not quite understand the old adage: "Two heads are better than one!" I had my Aha! moment last week while trying to narrow down the topic of my action research project. I thought it was pretty good. Today, I had the opportunity to meet with my mentor and another individual from the Technology team in my district. They listened and gave input, shared, and offered solutions to the "domino effect" questions I had mentioned last week. With their help, I now have a research project that is useful, doable, and exciting. Mark recommended that I focus on my students' performance prior to my using technology in the classroom, then compare it to student performance after having impelmented the use of technology in my classroom. In the interum, I will also work with educators from three other campuses- campus one has some technology accesible to them, campus two is a one-to-one campus, and campus three has very little technology in the classroom until this coming school year, to compare student performance based on the use of technology usage in teaching practices. This will allow for additional data as to the advantages of integrating technology into a foreign language setting.
After having facilitated the Google Earth for Foreign Language Teachers classes, and having spoken with many regarding the advantages of using these types of tools available to us, the teachers present were very excited at the possibilities. I will confess, I was surprised to see how many were so willing to learn how to use this tool. Originally, I formulated my wondering based on the assumption that most of these teachers would be quite resistant to technology implementation in the classroom. I could not have been more incorrect! Google Earth is a resource that can take students to places they could only dream of! They can create PhotoStory projects in the target language or use Google Sketch to create 3-D buildings and place them in the correct coordinates in Google Earth. They can do scavenger hunts and experience culture in ways they could never do with a textbook. Most importantly, they too can post and create on Google Earth. It creates such a buzz with students when they can take part in the real world.
I have always found tremendous value in what could be learned from others. Today, once again, the value of collaborating with others to create the best possible output became evident. For those who have the mindset of the teacher quoted at the beginning of this post, look back on your learning. Those educators in your life that created a positive environment for learning, made it fun, and showed that he/she cared about you, empowered you as a student. Do the same for your students, but be sure to speak their language in the process. 
Two heads are better than one- in my case, Three Heads are Better Than One!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Aha! Moment

There comes a time where making a choice can- and will- cause a domino effect. Well, I see this project doing exactly that. I have narrowed my topic down to one that involves technology for the primary reason that I am a student in the Instruction Technology Leadership program as mentioned by Mona (thanks, btw). I realized where my direction needed to focus. My aha! moment came to me while working on my "En Busca de Profe Cam U. Flar" activity which is essentially Google Earth meets Carmen San Diego, but for Spanish language learners. I realized how awesome it will be for my students to partake in such a rich experience and how sad it made me to think that many students out there would never experience this in a language classroom due primarily to the fact that the teacher could not, would not, integrate technology into his/her teaching.
My question came from this Aha! moment: Can the successful integration of technology in the foreign language classroom increase student learning of the language (fluency) and culture?
The domino effect I spoke of, came from the sub-questions to define "successful" in my original question: Will providing additional support and ongoing opportunities to integrate technology improve teaching practices? Which pieces of technology will yield the most fluency and cultural awareness from language students? What methods would best support teacher learning while integrating technology into his/her teaching? Domino effect. You see, it is no longer good enough to search for the answer to the Aha! moment question; it would seem that this barrage of questions should also be researched.
This action research project has put things into perspective for me in the sense that we educators want so much so to be the best we can be for our students so we jump in feet first without "checking the water" first. As we know, this can have a "crippling" effect on our purpose. By "checking the waters out" before we make decisions creates a safety net that will allow us to improve using data and scientifically-proven information customized for that entity's needs.
So there you have it. My Aha! moment. I have narrowed down my search and have chosen a multi-faceted project. Off to the next leg of this trek!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Narrowing Down the Topic

As I sit here contemplating what the focus of my project will be, I sadly realize there is such a need for research and so many topics I would love to delve into, but there is never enough time. So I will have to choose. Yesterday, I facilitated a professional development course for foreign language teachers and I realized the strong need for the implementation of technology in the foreign language classroom. My dilemma has been trying to decide if I want to focus my study on technology implementation and how to motivate, support, integrate, and reinforce its use in the classroom for all educators in the district; or if I should focus specifically on the integration, etc., in the foreign language classroom. Yesterday’s class clearly indicated that they want this technology and they want to integrate it, but they need help. They need help in support, patience, collaboration, and resources. These educators were excited, motivated, and thrilled to be able to take templates with them to use in their classrooms. It was really very satisfying to see that many of the educators I thought would be resistant to technology integration- were not! They were having fun and really attempting to learn all they could.

I gave them some insight on Web 2.0 tools and they were so energized! Thrilled- would be a more appropriate word. They were introduced to wikis and Voicethread. I would love to teach a class for foreign language teachers on Web 2.0 tools and how to use these tools in their classrooms.

Next week I am facilitating two classes of Google Earth for Foreign Language Teachers! I see such potential in this tool that I have been working on my own lesson that is a webquest meets Carmen San Diego activity. I think it will be a great lesson.

Is it possible that I just talked myself into my own action research project? Well, that is always a possibility with me! I suppose the biggest question I have brewing is, "Which study will impact the most individuals?" If I base it on this question, then obviously I will need to go with technology integration for all teachers and how to create programs and professional development where they will continue to grow with each tool used. I suppose I will need to research a little further to get data to support my crazy ideas.

There is just so much room for trial and error in a foreign language classroom without the focus of TAKS. It's not to say that we do not have standards; however, we have more freedom to explore and modify. If it bombs, well, try to fix it or throw it out.