EDCI 515 – Starting to Play in the Sandbox!

As our research project begins to unfold and our ideas are starting to flow, I can’t help but feel an excitement around what Tracey Thorne and myself will be creating. We definitely feel that there is a need in our district for some kind of online community among teachers where we can share ideas and resources.

At this point in our project I am beginning to research my area of interest in order to construct a literary review. This leg of it can seem overwhelming. Where should I begin this process? How do I start systematically looking to see what other researchers have found? Our professor, Dr. V. Irvine had a great analogy of how the process starts. She suggested, “The beginning is like sitting in a sandbox where you are picking up handfuls of sand and letting the sand granules fall away through your fingers.” This analogy helped me to put in perspective the anxiety I felt towards the amount of research available to sift through. It is okay to allow myself time to play in the sandbox, to browse and search for my niche. I am taking the time right now to peruse through the various research articles looking for an opening, an area that is in need of filling.sandbox

 

I have found Chapter 3 in Creswall to be very helpful in how to develop a systematic approach to gathering research on a topic. In this chapter Creswall identifies 5 steps to a literature review. The first step is to, “Identify key terms to use in your search for literature” (Creswall, 2012) This is where I have begun. I started with the following keywords, professional development, professional learning community, and computer supported collaborative learning. I have only search the UVic library database looking for peer-reviewed journal articles from 2009 and on. I soon realized that this was a very vast area with many articles to wade through. I soon started to narrow my search even further by including the words online and virtual to my list of keywords. This seem to have created a much more defined search that was more relevant to the project I want to create. From here I curated citations of articles with abstracts that looked interesting into RefWorks. I ended up with about 10 articles that seemed to fit the profile I was looking for. I then printed those and read about 5 of them more thoroughly. There were about 3 that seemed to really pertain to the online collaborative community I want to create with teachers in the district. I was also able to find other articles that were referenced from within these three articles. This led me to a few more specific articles that were of interest.

When I find an article that is specific to my needs, reading it can be very interesting. One article in particular went into detail about how professional development is far more effective in improving instruction when it occurs over a long period of time rather than a one-day workshop (McConnell, 2013). As I read through this article it became apparent to me that creating a virtual place where teachers could collaborate throughout the year would be much more valuable than a one day workshop.

My next step will be to expand my list of keywords to define my project even further. By creating a much more specific list of keywords I will be able to start to hone my ideas in. This in turn will result in finding even more specific research that has already been done in my area of interest. I will also move outside the UVic Library to include Google Scholar as well as other reputable databases.

A few weeks ago we had a guest speaker, Stacey Johnson, join our Tiegrad class. During the class she spoke about the process that was involved in completing her Masters of Education. It was extremely helpful to have her recount the process she underwent as a graduate student and to be able to ask her specific questions about her journey. She had many helpful ideas and was able to give specific examples from her project.

As I move forward in my project I begin to see it taking shape and this is reassuring! As the grains of sand fall through my fingers I feel a sense of accomplishment with the vast amount of information I have learned so far!

 

References

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research : Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed ed.). Boston: Pearson.


McConnell, T. J., Parker, J. M., Eberhardt, J., Koehler, M. J., & Lundeberg, M. A. (2013; 2012). Virtual professional learning communities: Teachers’ perceptions of virtual versus face-to-face professional development. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 22(3), 267-277. doi:10.1007/s10956-012-9391-y

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Google Classroom! A Multimedia Reflection

So I will begin by giving you a little background behind my decision for the choice I made on which multimedia resource to evaluate. This year I have taken on teaching Grade 10 Science and Math. This should be a simple, easy gig to put together, after all I taught it a few years back so what’s the big deal? Well to put it frankly, I haven’t quite got a handle on how to most effectively teach this class. We initially had devised a plan that students would attend classes three days a week. This would include Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, giving me 6 hours a week with them. We also decided that Mondays would be multi-access where students could choose to be on site at school or could tune in from home via webcam. In order to accommodate this we ordered a Swivl iPad base that moves around the room following my every move and recording my lesson. I would then upload this to YouTube where students could watch at a later date if need be.

My class composition is very diverse. Some students are actors, some are athletes and others suffer from severe anxiety which prevents them from attending class. This has resulted in a large number of absences from my class at any given day. This has become a huge challenge for me. I am fully aware that there is a provincial exam at the end of this and Math is one of those linear courses that builds on itself. I am feeling overwhelmed that some of them might miss the Math bus as it goes by! A week ago in Science I assigned a poster project in which I divided students into groups of 2 and had them research and create a poster of a biome. Due to the large number of absent students this has been a bit of a disaster as group members are always missing and students are finding it frustrating to complete the assignment.

So I have been on a quest to try to figure out how to create a space where students could collaborate virtually and not be bound by the walls of our classroom. I have tried to find a place that students could access materials and videoclips from class, a kind of one stop shop so to speak. In the past I have used Weebly, a blog site, where I would post student’s work and create a homework page where students could access their homework for the week. This has worked well but lacks the feel of a community. I have recently been intrigued by Google Classroom that interfaces with Google Apps for Education. It is a place where you can create a virtual classroom with a running stream where you can post announcements and assignments. Student’s are able to retrieve assignments virtually, complete them, and submit them back, all paperlessly. On the teacher side of it you are able to make comments on the completed assignment and return it to the student for review. I love the fact that it creates an area where all your students’ work is stored in one place. In the past my students have emailed assignments, filling up my inbox as well as getting mixed in with other emails. I also love the ability for students to collaborate on an assignment with each other as a Google Doc. There is the option of using the Assignment or Announcement stream to post the assignment, where students can easily pick up the Google doc to edit on their own iPad.

As I delve deeper into the world of Google Classroom, I will explore how other Google Apps for Education tools integrate into it. I am also interested in how YouTube videos will embed in the stream as this would be a very beneficial tool to post the videos created during the lecture.

I will keep you posted on my progress!                                                                                                                                                   Google 2 image

EDCI 515 – Where do I Begin?

I am not going to sugar coat it, I feel like I might be slipping under, only barely just keeping my head above water. There have been a more than few times in the last couple of weeks that I have thought of quitting the master’s, that it might not be possible to find enough hours in the day to complete the work needed. As we begin our Master’s journey, I feel like a fish out of water. I am not sure of the process, what I am suppose to be researching, and the uncertainty of the amount of work that will be required of me. Breathe, just breathe!

The learning curve in my life right now feels less curve like and more of a straight up climb. This year I have been granted the opportunity to teach Grade 10 Science and Math, both of which I have taught in the past but several years ago. As this is the first year our school has offered Grade 10, we are trying to create a program that is outside of the box, offering a multi-access classroom, where students can participate from home or in the classroom. We are also trying to incorporate collaborative tech options and field study days, where students can put their learned knowledge into action. Right now I am spending copious amounts of time creating materials from scratch, sourcing out good online resources, and developing curriculum ideas. All the time wishing I could collaborate with someone else in the district who has taught this area before. Wishing I could share ideas and resources with other teachers who have been in my spot in the past! Why am I reinventing the wheel? In our district most teacher collaboration occurs on pro-d days. Why couldn’t we have some sort of virtual community where I could source out help and ideas from others in the district? This is where the idea became apparent to Tracey Thorne and myself, why don’t we start one? We could create some kind of learning community for teachers in Langley to connect with one another.

Somewhere along the way I began to feel some clarity as to how this process works. After reading a few chapters into Creswell’s “Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research“, I have begun to understand how a Master’s project will unfold. I have begun by determining my area of interest and assessing whether or not there is a lack of research in that area. I have identified that there seems to be a need in our district to provide some kind of virtual collaborative community for teachers. Creswell (2012) indicates that, “You should research a problem if the study of it potentially contributes to educational knowledge or adds to the effectiveness of practice.” I believe at this moment in time that there is a need to create a platform for teachers to share their best practices.

Recently I have put some thought into whether my project will require quantitative or qualitative research. The type of project I want to create will likely require qualitative research. Creswell (2012) suggests that “to use qualitative research if your research problem requires you to: learn about the view of individuals, assess a process over time, generate theories based on participant perspectives, obtain detailed information about a few people or research sites.” It is likely that I will have to collect information and feedback from teachers on how to best create this virtual learning community, making it more of a qualitative rather than quantitative study.

As I move ahead with a better understanding of where I should begin my journey, I am now in the process of justifying my research problem. Creswell (2012) states  that “justifying a research problem means presenting reasons for the importance of studying the issue or concern”  He also indicates that “You can justify your research problem based on evidence from your workplace or your personal experiences”. Part of creating a justification for continuing with this project will involve reviewing literature from others with past experiences in this area.

As my journey unfolds I feel a wave of relief pass over me. I think being able to identify where my interests lie and seeing a need for my project has helped to calm the storm within!

 

References

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research : Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed ed.). Boston: Pearson.