Action Research Project Web Log

This log records my progress through the Pepperdine OMAET Action Research Project.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2001
 
I had another office meeting with Linda today. Although it was during lunch, my room suddenly turned into Grand Central Station with all sorts of people dropping in and swinging through. It was doubly difficult because we were doing it by phone instead of TI. She sees the ARP as big, but thinks it is doable since we have all year. Several key points came out of the meeting. One was the reflection log. She mentioned that the problem many people have is they log as a travelogue (something like this, I think) detailing a series of actions but not reflecting on them. However, the reflection on what happened is more important as it is the tool for thinking about what happened and then moving forward from there. Another was to make sure I talked to the kids and got their feedback, especially if I could find a couple of trusted students who would be honest. A third is that Middle School is unique unto itself and that I needed to start researching more about middle school. We did discuss the issue of culture here, but in many ways it is not as big of an issue as it is in California.

We did discuss the issue of chat and community and, as she pointed out, she runs hot and cold on the idea. The best interactions occur after a group spontaneously starts doing the goofy stuff.

In summation:

  • REFLECT on my actions

  • RESEARCH the literature

  • TALK to critical friends

  • TALK to students


Sunday, October 14, 2001
 
I had a brainflash yesterday as I was trying to think about ways to approach this. I should use the MS web page as a way to gather input from students by conducting polls. It would be a good way to get the kids involved and, even though the results would be self-selected, it would give me insight into their thinking. Poll Mentor would be good software to read.

I also need to do a search on ERIC as a start for the project and to see what others have done for on-line communities.


Sunday, October 07, 2001
 
Well, I had my office meeting with Linda on October 3. (See the TI transcript). We bounced ideas around a bit. She was suggesting a cross-age ARP with my seventh and eighth grade Exploring Programming and Invent & Engineer students and my sixth grade Math students using Lego Logo. Although interesting, I am not very keen on that as an ARP. First, I have very limited time with the EP students (44 minutes every other day) and I have them second semester only. Second, because it is an exploratory, I don't expect the kids to spend much time on it out of class because they see their "core" subjects of math, languge arts, social studies, and science coming first. In short, I don't see the effort as an ARP. It's an interesting idea and I am thinking of doing it just for fun, but it's not really what I want to do as an ARP. (Many of the projects that I do in the classroom I do because they interest me. I've found if I'm interested, the students tend to be also.)

Back to the ARP.

My main goal is to help create a sense of community among students and dimish the role of the teacher as the focal point. Subsidiary goals are to jointly track and manage projects on the web and to improve communication with students. I've become more interested in the main goal because I am seeing that students have a whole society around technology about which we know very little. For example, students routinely use chat and email to communicate with others. Others journal. One of my students showed me her journal on Livejournal and I noticed that many other of our students also had journals there. (Reading her journal was enlightening, but I wonder if she and the others have thought through the ramifications of their journals being public?) Others have their own web pages. One fellow last year had a very popular site he had created, but you had to be a member and he had to invite you in. It was very chi-chi to be invited.

They are developing a whole community through school that is outside of "school". Can some of that community be harnessed for "school". Maybe it's because I'm a relative newbie to the teaching scene, but I am fascinated by what the kids are doing--and learning. I had an inkling of this last year when I watched them chat.

It's obvious that most have a sense of community, but the question then becomes how to help them transfer some of that sense of community to what we consider to be "learning". Pardon the quotes around those, but I'm becoming more convinced our curriculum does not have as large of effect on what the students are learning as we think. Our school goal for the year is "Focus on Learning" and seeing if our curriculum is aligned with our Student Learning Outcomes. In light of recent readings, the SLOs show some shortcomings in that they focus very heavily on the person with just some emphasis on interaction in society. By the way, this ARP fits in well with that school goal. Studying what our students are really learning will fit in well with my 633 assignment.

I'm still confused! I will try to talk to my committee at ASIJ tomorrow since it is a work day.


Tuesday, October 02, 2001
 
I've been thinking about the ARP in the context of school. I talked briefly with the principal about what I'm planning and he gave his nod. I will go over it in more detail with him as I firm up my plans.
My thoughts continue:
  1. Improve communication with students and maintain it in a format with history accessible by both of us. This will be my learning blueprint for 664. (Done)

  2. Jointly track and manage projects on the web so that progress is visible to both parties or all parties. This is similar to Genyes.

  3. Create a sense of community among students and diminish the role of the teacher as the focal point.

So, questions that come to mind, and my thoughts on those questions are:

What's the need?

The need is to give students other ways they can create a sense of community and engage in situated learning without it having to be in the classroom. Also, they can engage with other learners and learn from them.

Where is the "I" in the project? How will it improve my practice?

Good question! I've noticed that in math, the less I talk the more the students seem to learn. I've had positive comments from students about the fact that they share and discuss their work with their group. Now, some students are still having difficulty with the concept and quickly go off task, but the others really get deep into the discussions of their homework. They like the fact that I don't give them answers. So, how do I get them to do that more than just in my classroom or in school? That's where I'm trying to take this.

How is this praxis rather than practice?

That's another way of asking what knowledge will I produce? Well, I liken it to the time on the OFA when I convinced the VP we had to redesign. Basically, I was using theory that sounded good, but that I had never used and had no guidance other than previous semars, books, research papers, phone calls, and e-mail. Oh, and my engineers kept telling me I was going about it wrong. We were a community in conflict. (I was really lonely!) Lo and behold, the end result was incredibly successful from my point of view and the engineers were pleased as well because they delivered on our goal. We achieved our goals and I had much more knowledge about successful product development.

It's similar here. I can do a literature search to find techniques and methods, but I really won't know how it works in my situation unless I try it and tweak it.

This seems to fit in with McNiff, where the whole point of researching is to find out something I didn't already know. Phew. I think I have a decent start to chat with Linda about. (Oh, and expect to see another entry in a few days with my corrections and amplifications!)


Sunday, September 23, 2001
 
We had our Tapped-In session on Monday (9/17) to begin the discussion as a group about our ARPs. I started to get a better feel for what my ARP will be and how it will tie in with ED664. I'm still looking at:
  1. Move more communications from paper and email to a database application so that it is easier for my students and me to have conversations and projects tracked through the year.

  2. Develop a deeper sense of community amoung my students so that they don't perceive "learning" as just the short time they spend with me each day.

Note that the first is really just a subset of the second. It's time for me to expand on this and post it to the 638 newsgroup for feedback.

Bridgette and I had dinner with the Piccottos last night and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Chris had set up his own Linux box with Apache server at his home over DSL. Since he was using NAT and not fixed IP, he had a couple of neat tricks to periodically check his IP and update the authoritative DNS for his domain. He offered me space on the server since he has a gigaherz processor but is hardly using it. There may be advantages here since he does this "just for fun" and can provide some tech expertise that I can't find here. He has set up message boards and sendmail, so he is familiar with that.


Tuesday, September 11, 2001
 
Today I had the first meeting with Dan Smith and Glenn Hoskins. I have asked both of them to be on my ARP/Plan B committee because they both provide unique insights into the classroom and into what technology can do for them. I'm excited about the opportunities of the collaboration as well as what we can do with it. I'll look at what Glenn did last year and see if it's possible to continue or expand it the work. Three main points came up:


  1. Whatever I do, it needs to be student-centered, not teacher-centered.

  2. Technology is most useful when it expand or extends what can be done, not when it merely replaces good things that are already being done.

  3. I need to make the project my own, which will involve a shift of focus two or three times during the initial phase.



     
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