May Your Journey be Your Destination!

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.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sharing, Collaborating, and Improving

I am an advocate of collaborative settings. From my experience with these classes, I have found that my best work comes from the times I have collaborated with others. Blogs allow educators to share their ideas and have those ideas critiqued. The recommendations and support educators receive by way of comments on one's blog can be a growing experience; not to mention, it allows all those involved to have a "sneak peek" into your plans, ideas, etc. Have you ever noticed how the energy begins to flow when educators put their minds together? It is envigorating to say the least, so the next time you read a blog that inspires you or causes you to think, leave a comment; two heads are better than one.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Action Research, Change, and Leadership

Change is something we humans have a strong aversion to. However, there are times when change is necessary not only to growth but for survival as well. If leaders choose a road of successes, change is an integral part of their professional lives. I rant today about change as I have found that it is the key component for a successful leadership role. For my master's degree in Instructional Educational Technology course entitled, Research, I am required to reflect and describe what I have learned about Action Research, also known as Administrative Inquiry. I do believe the most valuable piece of information I absorbed this week had to do with the difference between Action Research and traditional Educational Research. That valuable component that differentiates the two is change. Once the data is collected and analyzed, change must occur so that the professional development can be considered Action Research. Something has to happen to improve that topic researched, hence the "action" portion of its name.
As I read our textbook, Leading with Passion and Knowledge, by Nancy Fichtman Dana, the importance of sharing has its advantages. Feedback is an essential part of growth and many of these tools allow for social interaction of some sort. I found that she was so correct when she stated that " educators in charge of facilitating the thinking and learning of others, we have not been socialized to think that our own thinking and learning matters!" I could not agree with her more! I also noted that leaders have a tendency to put this by the wayside because they feel this is not as important as many of the other things on their "lists". This is exactly why leaders should take advantage of the Web 2.0 tools available to us such as blogging. This online journal provides a medium to share ideas, successes, new information, as well as pitfalls and setbacks.

1. Dana Fichtman, Nancy (2009). Leading with passion and knowledge: The principal as action researcher. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
2. Harris, S., Edmonson, S., and Combs, J. (2010). Examining what we do to improve our schools: 8 steps to improve our schools. Eye on Education Press.