Miss Ash's Learning Journey

My personal reflections of teaching and learning today

Reflection Questions

October11

The main focus of our PARTS project was to see if publishing online improved student learning.

Did you achieve the intended purpose and how do you know? If not, why not?

I don’t think that we have come up with a definitive answer for various reasons. As discussed throughout the PARTs project on my Blog I believe that while student writing has definitely improved it isn’t necessarily because it was published online. Using the AuthorThink process showed a much greater improvement in the students work and in their learning. The Author Circle in particular helped student develop a vocabulary to give both warm and cool feedback to their peers.

Some teachers had lots of students who asked for their work not to be improved because they had just found a mistake and wanted it to be perfect. I only had this happen three or four times but even if I had had this happen, this only relates to the students improving their editing and doesn’t cover all the other areas that the AuthorThink process does.

I did notice that student writing on the blog improved but I put this down to having set high expectations rather than because people could see it online. We also didn’t get a lot of people commenting on our blogs other than the students when they were actually at school.

What I did find is that the blog provided a way for teachers to actively view each child’s writing as an administrator needed to approve the post. We were able to do individually conferencing by working through the students work with them in order to approve it and where they needed to do more editing and revising, they could write a short list of changes to make then resubmit. They were definitely more enthusiastic about editing and revising doing it this way. A lot of this is because it is a lot less strenuous to edit and revise typed work. They also have trouble rereading their own work especially once it has been edited (as do I).

I don’t think our research actually answers the research question so I would say one of the most important things I’ve learnt is that the research question does need to be carefully constructed so that it can be clearly answered. As someone with a very scientific approach, I found having no ‘control’ group made it frustrating and difficult to actually say that it was in fact online publishing that improved the students learning. Also, we complicated the research by explicitly teaching the AuthorThink process at the same time. I’m more than happy to conclude that the AuthorThink process improved students learning and that be able to type rather than really on their own handwriting both improved student productivity and encouraged them to return to the same piece of writing for editing and revising.

What were the most important things you learned…

This research project reinforced my own preference for having a scientific approach to research where clear, unbiased, data specific to the research focus can be collected and analysed.

I am certainly more enthusiastic about including a blog as part of my teaching repertoire particularly to encourage students with poor handwriting to be more engaged in writing and more productive. However, I would certainly not recommend students never needing to write by hand and I think the AuthorCircle was much more effective when students met and gave feedback in groups rather than giving written feedback via the blob. Having the author write down the feedback they were given was more effective in them understanding what the peer was saying about their ideas where as students tended to only give secretarial feedback via the blog.

How often did you read blogs of other members of your team?

Rarely, mainly because we discussed our findings as we were writing our blogs as well as throughout the week in general. Plus at the start sometimes we even wrote one blog and posted on both because it was what we intended to do for the project.

To be honest I rarely read other teachers PARTs blogs. I have read them when directed and I have made an effort to leave a comprehensive response. It’s all well and good to say in only takes a few minutes each night to have a look at one teachers blog but when you then have a class blog to read, comments to approve and respond to plus a level blog plus individual children’s blogs it is a big ask. I tend to read blogs from other teachers around the world who are writing about something I’m specifically interested in at that point in time.

How did you find the process of documenting your actions, learnings and reflections on the blog?

I didn’t really like the process of documenting on my own blog because it was separate from others. I think a group blog would have improved our ‘online discussions’ where as we did do a lot of professional discussion that we then all had to individual document (not an effective use of time) and potentially a lot of what we discussed didn’t make it to the blog. The logistics of the blog also didn’t work very well. Having to do a new post each time broke up the flow of the project and often comments left on one post had already been answered in another post so there was a lot of doubling up as well meaning the feedback from others was not always very effective (having already been reflected upon on another post but not seen by the person commenting).

I would have preferred to actually just keep a journal (in Word) and emailed it to people for feedback because then it would have flowed from start to finish.

Another problem was that the majority of the time I couldn’t use my iPad to do any blogging (still can’t).

I also don’t like the nature of presenting written work without any drafting and editing first. We warn the students that there are some things you don’t tell people by email or text because they can be easily misinterpreted so easily (especially without the expression you use in an oral presentation and without the ability to clarify on the spot). I am already aware that some of what I have written has been misinterpreted and I think that this happens even more so for typed work and especially for a blog than it does for general conversation. For me that’s a big concern and I do worry about how people will judge me based on what I’ve written which is essentially my own personal reflection on MY teaching and learning and what I have noticed about MY students during the process.

What new professional learning needs emerged for you from the experience of this action research?

Mainly how to use and manage a blog. Learning about this was much more effective when we worked with just our own level rather than when we tried to do it as a whole staff and having a class blog rather than a level blog was also much more supportive and effective.

 

Reflect on changes to PARTs

I have only used the Considering Evidence Protocol (CEP) during 2012 so I don’t feel that I’ve completely seen whether or not it was effective. When I did do it, I felt it was a bit tedious and inflexible however I liked that all teachers had to make some response. Certainly by swapping to an individual blog the breadth and depth of feedback was lost. Yes, we all could have read and commented on more but as I’ve already said, there are time constraints that can’t be ignored. Another issue was the inconsistently between teachers when they did read and comment on other teachers blogs. Some people read all the posts and left detailed comments, others didn’t. The people who did read all the posts and leave detailed comments, particularly Bec and Chris, spent a considerable amount of time doing so (a lot more time was needed to do this than when using CEP) as they had to do it individually for each teacher’s blog.

Improvements?

I think the first thing I would do to in improve the PARTs project would be to allow teachers to individually choose a research question or choose a research question relevant to their level/cohort or relevant to their ARMs. Ideally at the end of the year ARMs some drafted research questions could be posed that the individual teacher would like to address the following year so that before PARTs starts more thought can go into the structure of the research question itself.

Our question was developed because of the Contemporary School Research Project and because we work in communities and professional learning teams it was pretty much an expectation that we work in levels. While this wasn’t necessarily a problem this year, I believe the PARTs project could be more effective if teachers were really able to research what they are interested in professionally or even present it in a way that suits their own learning and teaching style rather than be all expected to present their work in the same format (a blog). If we are pushing Walker Learning which basically says learning happens when students research something that relates to a person interest they already have then it holds that as teachers we should also be linking our professional learning to our own interests in some way.

For example, blogging was basically what we were researching but I don’t feel that a blog was the best way to present our findings especially since it only really encouraged reflection and teacher judgement. Being a much more logically analytical person I would have been interested in presenting samples of students work before and after. Yes these could have been imbedded into the blog but that’s another expectation for time and teacher skill development. Having started learning how to use Prezi last year I would have loved an opportunity to further develop those skills especially since I could learnt the things I didn’t master last year.

I also would have been interested in choosing an app or a couple of apps and seeing how learning was improved when students used iPads as a learning tool since there is so much learning happening for both teachers and students with the iPad program.

Perhaps if we continue to think on what we are endorsing with Walker Learning Approach we need to consider that if having an Expo is important for the students to showcase their learning – even if they had a blog – then don’t we need to provide some kind of expo for teacher learning. I certainly feel like presenting work last year to the staff, although stressful, allowed a sense of achievement and closure. Not that the learning about online publishing won’t continue but that the ‘formal’ research project does.

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PARTs

September9

Spent time reviewing and commenting on students posts on the blog.

The quality of the students comments continues to improve and even though their leraning intention this week were very broad (as we are finishing off a lot of projects and doing independent revision) most have been able to set their own specific learning goal based on their own refelctions on their learning. Even those who struggle with literacy in general are now commenting with more clarity and improved writing skills.

We may not have covered all our ERP learning intentions as well as we would have liked to, but the teaching we have done and the learning the children have done outside of the ERP project has been significant. It is more important to me that my students are now informed about politics and when they go to vote in 6 years time, they will be able to investigate the policies of a party, research politicians to decide whether they believe they can lead Australia well, understand that they have a vote and even just one vote is important than how laws being made relates to soccer!

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Our Class Blog

August14

Having their own blog has indeed made our students more interested in reading and commenting on the blog. Unfortunately the are still not using it at home or sharing it with their parents and friends but we will keep encouraging them to do so and perhaps when they post their own blogs their sense of ownership of this will help.

Nan mentioned meditation at briefing tonight and I’d research inking of modifying how we do the three c’s to perhaps incorporate what some Catholic high schools do with the ‘Minute of Gratitude’. Now I’m thinking this might bc’s something we could add to the blog using ‘moving art’.

The idea would be for students to watch a short artistic video or ‘Moving Art’ (instead of meditating with closed eyes which i personally don’t find useful) and reflect on what they are grateful for. I remember a friend talking about a strategy used by counselor’s to help people with depression where for 30 days they have to right at the end of the day three things thy are grateful or thankful for in order to build positive thinking skills. The students could post the things they are grateful for on the blog.

I’d love them to be doing this with their weekly learning intentions because I think that knowing that we will read their work in order to approve it would ensure that student do think about what they personally  need to be learning. Posting and commenting certainly allows teachers some convenience in being able to access students work in one place rather than having to cart 25 books around.

Using the blog for our Local to Global issues has allowed students who don’t share their ideas in our actual meetings an opportunity to share ideas without having to speak up in front of 25 people. I don’t believe it has significantly improved their ability to write their ideas and opinions, their posts reflect what i would expect if i had asked them to write it on a piece of paper, but it has encouraged them to share their ideas.

We also had the idea of invoting our parents to come to school one afternoon and spend time with us learning how to blog to encourage them to be more involved and we need to set a time aside for this, make sure we have some interesting posts up to read. It would be nice for the students to write a story or have use this as the expo of our ERPs.

So, our next steps are

to continue developing the blog with posts in different curriculum areas

to demonstrate how to make a post and perhaps encourage some students to start posting posts

to develop and decide on the best way  to share our ERPs via the blog

to invite patients to the school for a blogging session and an a expo of our ERPs

 

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PARTs

July31

At the moment I think the eagerness of the students is not to go on the blog but to use their iPads however I think giving more ownership to the students would improve this so, as mentioned in an earlier blog, I’d like to see the students having their own blogs or their own websites. That might be a bit ambitious for myself to macurt currently but today I’m going to look at creating a blog for 4VA so that maybe I will be more likely to encourage students to upload more of their own learning even if its not learning that occurred at school!

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PARTs Update

July24

We have reminded our students that they were asked to go and read another students story and leave a comment but very few have done this. We really don’t have any evidence that publishing online improves learning so we need to publish a piece of work again. This time we will do less focus on the AuthorThink process and start out with telling students the intention is to publish an information report (for teacher and class) and again after that is done ask them to publish online on the blog. If publishing online (which is basically about having a wider audience) makes a difference to student learning there should be change between the word published version and the online version.

We also need to make blank AuthorThink sheets available (and tell students well before this activity where they will be located for the rest of the year and that they are welcome to use them whenever they are publishing).

I worry a bit about the idea that publishling online makes writing purposeful.

We decided we need to create a survey together so that we have some general data and this will also help as develop better questions to interview individual students.

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Publishing Online

June17

Today students are publishing their powerful paragraphs on the blog. The idea was to see if they chose to change their work at all once they found out that their work was being published online. Initially no students said they needed to change their work however we have asked them to comment on their own work if they did make any changes before upload it.

http://56steps.global2.vic.edu.au/

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New Research Activity

May29

Students are still working on the AuthorThink process for their Snapshot Writing pieces so we spent our time looking at other ways students could present work online.

Our best idea was to combine PARTs with our science unit and ask students to prepare an ‘invitation’ for their team inviting the staff to the three course lunch they will be organising. They could introduce their team, their theme, what the entree will be, the main and the dessert and explain what changes in states of matter their meal will include. Students will be allowed to present their ‘invitation’ however they like; it could be a video, a poster, a letter, a newsreport….

So far, I’m finding that the student learning is not directly improved by the ‘online’ requirement (although we haven’t actually told them they will be publishing online). Instead it’s the AuthorThink process that is improving student learning especially the way students are encourage to go back to ‘working copy’ regularly and the involvement of their peers before the teacher individually gives feedback.

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