Posts Tagged 'research'

Action plan for independent study, Fall 2007

After a recent consultation with my supervising professor, I have altered the subject and scope of my independent study on teacher mentoring and induction with 21st century tools. By “21st century tools” I mean free (possibly opensource), web-based products that facilitate teaching and learning through information sharing and production — what many in ed tech circles call “Web 2.0,” although I am going to try to avoid such jargon.

Here is my new focus: Rather than trying to match a tool or platform to the needs of an as-of-yet-unidentified pilot group of novice teachers, I will conduct an “environmental scan” or feasibility study of the best information and communication technologies available to support the creation of learning networks. What tools will enhance the reflective practice and growth of pre-service and new teachers? Which of these tools might assist building-level mentoring teams who plan and facilitate year-long induction of novice teachers?

These are the technologies I will evaluate (with specific examples in parentheses):

  • RSS and readers/aggregators (Bloglines, Google Reader)
  • tags/socialbookmarking (
  • social networks (such as those built on the Ning platform)
  • content management systems and blogs (such as WordPress or Edublogs)
  • file sharing and collaboration (Google Docs,
  • wikis (PB Wiki)

As I review each kind of technology, I will try to answer these questions:

  • First, what is it? How does it work? What does it do?
  • How could this technology support quality professional development? How does it align with quality indicators for professional development as outlined by the National Staff Development Council?
  • What enabling conditions must exist before teacher-to-teacher mentoring can take flight with this technology? (This is the most important part of the inquiry, getting close to what Ben Wilkoff calls The Ripe Environment. What kinds of change must occur in our attitudes to create institutional cultures that encourage innovation and collaboration? Wilkoff maintains talking about the tools is not the answer.)
  • What are the possible barriers or obstacles to consider when trying to integrate this technology for purposes of mentoring?
  • And for specific tools I will ask: How does this stand up to basic software evaluation criteria, such as user features, user interface, and help desk support? I will use Kathy Schrock’s Software Evaluation Form as a start, but ultimately I hope to compile a specific list of criteria for assessing tools that support learning communities.

And, if available, I will share outcomes and evidence of impact in professional learning communities that have already integrated these technologies.

An overriding theme, the “super glue,” if you will, that will hold all this together rests on my ability to relate in first-person narrative the impact these technologies have had on my own personal and professional growth as a teacher/learner.

The final inquiry will be packaged in wiki form, with the first installment due next week.

How’s that for accountability and transparency?

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Teachers: please take this survey!

I am collecting data for a mini-project in descriptive statistics. If you are a preservice or practicing teacher, I need your help.

Simply watch this short, six-minute video in which Dr. Richard Elmore of Harvard University discusses patterns of instructional practice in the United States. Then, click on the link below to complete a brief online survey.

I am ready to complete the online survey.
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My new "textbook"

One of my delights as an undergrad was the twice annual visit to the campus bookstore to buy my texts. My fellow English majors probably have similar fond memories: armloads of paperbacks with a few Norton anthologies thrown in for good measure. As a financial aid recipient, my checking account was always fat at the beginning of each new semester, and money seemed to be no object as I piled blue books, spiral-topped notebooks, and highlighters onto the checkout counter along with the semester’s readings.

Now, as a graduate student with a kid and a mortgage, the book-buying ritual isn’t nearly as fun, but thanks to a recent post at Weblogg-ed, I have a new way of thinking about my required reading for this semester and beyond.

To borrow Will Richardson’s metaphor, one of my “textbooks” this fall will be my RSS aggregator.

As described in my previous post, I will soon begin an independent study on best practices for computer-mediated, peer-to-peer mentoring for new and novice teachers. In addition to poring over traditional, “scholarly” resources, I plan to use RSS to channel the best-of-the-best blog posts on the subject. The aggregate is indeed a text to be studied, with the added benefits of being totally topical, customizable, and (the best part) free.

This means tweaking my RSS aggregator to regain some much needed focus. I’m in the process of dropping some feeds (if only temporarily) to make room for others that may be more fruitful.

For example, I’ve recently added subscriptions to blogs by Christopher D. Sessums and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.

Who/what am I missing?

Independent study, fall 2007

This fall I will begin an independent study/inquiry under the supervision of Dr. Mary Anne Blank in the department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education, University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

The topic of inquiry is how to use 21st century skills and applications to support/enhance/facilitate Knox County Schools’ new teacher induction and mentoring program here in East Tennessee. The program, which just completed its first full year of systemwide implementation, has received resounding endorsement from participants as well as suggestions and feedback for growth and improvement in 2007-08.

What follows is a statement of the problem with questions, arranged using the classic K-W-L format.

What is Known or Agreed Upon:

  • On mid-year and end-of-year program assessments, some novice teachers in special areas (such as art, music, etc.) indicated that their mentoring experience would have been more meaningful had they been matched with an experienced teacher in that same area. However, some campuses simply do not have building-level staff to support one-on-one mentoring in special areas. When mentors and novices cannot be in close proximity to one another, e-Mentoring may be a possible solution, such as the ENDAPT model used for interns and alumnae of the William and Mary teacher preparation program.
  • Teachers of color have also indicated an interest in mentoring activities adjusted to meet their needs. Again, this may be a problem addressed through some sort of computer-mediated communication, such as a networked learning community that transcends classroom walls and even campus borders.
  • Through my own experience as a mentor and mentoring team leader at Fulton High School, I know that our meetings were critical for successful implementation of our building-level action plan. I also recall that our busy schedules did not permit numerous after-school meetings, so we limited ourselves to monthly face-to-face sessions, which were not always sufficient for effective administration of the program on a day-to-day basis. In between meetings, we stayed connected with email. Email, however, does not afford the level of connectivity currently available through networking sites like Classroom 2.0 and TappedIn. In these online communities multiple users form special interest groups that collaborate and problem solve through threaded discussions, forums, and virtual “meeting rooms.”

What I Want to Know:

  • Clearly, there is much potential for enhancing Knox County Schools’ mentoring and induction program with the integration of 21st century tools and applications. Each of the aforementioned groups might benefit from a computer-mediated intervention. Which group would be a good starting point?
  • Once a focus group of mentors and/or novices is identified, what tools, applications, resources/best practices will best suit their needs?
  • What issues, in terms of technical support and buy-in, have to be addressed before a viable prototype can be developed and piloted?
  • What issues can be addressed through training? What will the training component look like?
  • How will my own virtual professional development activities (TappedIn, Classroom 2.0, EdTechTalk, EdubloggerWorld) inform this inquiry?

What I Learned:
This section of the inquiry will become more transparent as I begin my research. Look for more installments in the coming weeks and months!

"Circuits of Cool/Digital Playground"

MTV, Nickelodeon, and Microsoft commissioned an international study of youth and technology, and with 18,000 surveyed, it is being heralded as the largest study of its kind. The report is titled “Circuits of Cool/Digital Playground.”

I haven’t seen or read the actual study. I learned about it through a United Business Media wire story posted at and elsewhere. Judging by the companies involved with the study and the general tenor of the wire article (big emphasis on data’s marketing value), I am surprised more folks in the edtech arena haven’t picked it up.

The statistics and cultural insights generated by the study are really interesting, but it’s a little discomforting when big business and media giants are the ones generating the data for their own use.

There is one quote by an MTV veep that I keep turning over and over in my head: “For kids and young people, ‘tech’ isn’t a separate entity now, it’s organic to their lives,” said Fahey Rush. “They are completely focused on functionality.”

Is this just a carefully crafted way of commercializing “web 2.0”? Does that diminish the value of the study’s findings?


Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn

"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:

These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy