Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wicked Problem Project - Final

The Need or Opportunity
The important educational need that I am seeking to address is that due to financial restrictions, my school district will be searching for a MS Office compatible free ware program to replace the more pricey (over $45 per computer) MS Office that we have had in the past. Since the district has already piloted Open Office and has not cared for what it can provide for its students and teachers, they are still on the lookout for what to use when the new Macs and PCs are installed this summer. This need for an Office compatible freeware program is what has driven me to find a solution to this problem with the growingly popular Google Docs.

Technology used to Address the Need
The technology I have chosen to address this need is Google Docs. Google Docs is an online word processor, spreadsheet, form, drawing, and presentation tool that allows the user to “Create and share your work online and access your documents from anywhere. Manage documents, spreadsheets, presentations, surveys, and more all in one easy location” (Google). The reason I chose Google Docs is because of its user friendly interface, accessibility to teachers, students, and parents, as well as, and probably most importantly, the fact that it is free. The only thing it requires is that the users have a Google account. The Google account can be created through Gmail (Google’s email client) or through another email linked to Google.

Greenville Public Schools, if they chose to implement the use of Google Docs would begin implementation in the 2011-2012 school year. There would need to be several supports in place in order to make using Google Docs in the classroom a success. First of all, students would need to register for a Google account. This could pose some problems, because from what my research tells me, users need to be 13 years of age before they have access to a Google account. This could be different for educational settings, however, I would need to continue my research to solve this problem. Students could then potentially have the same Google account for their entire high school and middle school career. Classroom teachers and/or technology teachers in the building would need to provide instruction to students on how to use Google docs, as it is different from MS Office in a few ways. They would especially need explicit training on how to use the peer editing functions and share functions. In the past, my district has used My Access, an online writing prompt scoring and editing tool. Again, due to financial restrictions, this will be taken away, so Google Docs would (and could easily) replace this program with proper instruction on its use. With the variety of uses, Google Docs would be used across the district in multiple grade levels, buildings, classrooms and computer labs.

What is the TP knowledge for the solution? (i.e., how does the technology you have chosen support the teaching strategies and methods you have chosen?)

The technology I have chosen, Google Docs, supports the teaching strategies and methods I have chosen by making document sharing easy. Some great teaching and learning strategies that could lend well to document sharing are teacher-student edits and commenting, as well as peer editing. A teacher could easily upload a document such as a writing prompt. The student could then write his or her paper, and then share that document with both the teacher, and any peers that are willing to help edit.

This allows for meaningful and timely feedback from both the instructor and the peer.

What is the TC knowledge for the solution? (i.e., how specifically does this technology make the content in your problem more intellectually accessible? Be sure to think about representation.)

The Technological Content knowledge makes teacher and peer editing of documents, and document sharing easier because anyone with a Google account can access the created documents with a simple invite by the creator. Students can also create their own documents easily, and then enter their peers’ email addresses to peer edit. Once they “share back” the creator receives back a document that has clear, meaningful feedback.

What is the PC knowledge for the solution? (i.e., how specifically do your pedagogical choices make the content in your problem more intellectually accessible? Be sure to think about how the student will experience the content given these instructional strategies.

Pedagogical Content knowledge “includes knowing what teaching approaches fit the content, and likewise, knowing what teaching content can be arranged for better teaching” (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

The pedagogical choices I have made concerning teacher and student edititing processes are made more accessible by the technology of Google docs because of the program’s ease of use, accessibility, sharing functions, and cost effectiveness. The students at the middle school level have not had a wide variety of experiences with word processing programs. However, the extremely simple interface of Google docs will allow them to complete their word processing tasks easily and without much distraction of extra tools that they do not need or know how to use at this point.

Watch, listen, and learn. View my Wicked Problem Project videocast for more details about the trials, tribulations, and successes of my project. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Professional Learning Plan

I will look forward to a lifetime of learning! On to the Masters program!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Group Leadership Project

For the group leadership project, our group chose to publish our tutorial using YouTube. We completed the project using many different tools, including Vyew, Google docs, Google Presentation, and iMovie. All these tools together were able to help us create a project that we all were able to access and edit when we needed to, and see changes that others had made.

During the development of the final product, it was imperative, and I feel we were successful due to the amount of communication my group had with one another. The chat feature in Google docs, as well as consistent communication via email made things go very smoothly. I did learn that it takes a long time to upload a video to YouTube. Lisa completed this portion of the project, and she said it took 6 hours to do. I had no idea it would take that long! I am also not very familiar with iMovie, but it produced a very polished product I feel. I would like to gain more experience with it in the future.

If I had to develop a similar product again, I might try to make it more interactive, allowing for the user to create the product as they go through the tutorial. I tend to learn best this way, and I think others would do well with it also.

All in all, I was very pleased with the outcome and efforts of this project. It isn't often that everyone in a group pulls his or her own weight, and I can honestly say this project was equal efforts of all of us.

See the Wiki Tutorial

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wicked Problem Project - Part D

My Wicked Problem Project unfortunately did not get implemented as planned, largely due to the amount of time left to do so. I did (or thought I did) all the background work on my end to get it set up (including uploading the document, changing the formatting (MS Word to Google docs does create some formatting differences) and setting up time in the computer lab to show my team members through the process of creating accounts and editing the document for the first time. However, we ran into some major road blocks, the most major of that being that the log in/create your own account portion of Google docs is blocked at my school. (Alternate email sources other than Groupwise are currently blocked.)

Next year, it is my plan to ask for this to be unblocked for teachers (and perhaps for students) so that we can implement this more readily. It will also be crucial since our team planning time has been taken away this year due to budget cuts.

Due to the fact that I was not able to fully implement my project, the greatest success I had was the enthusiasm of the people I was planning to share this with. They were very excited to streamline a process that we already complete, and allow everyone to take a more active role in the editing process.

I think that once I work out the kinks of the blocked content, I will be able to find these successes easy to come by (with guidance and proper training of the people using it).

I would approach this project differently next time by trying the technology both at home and at school before I plan to implement it with others. So often, different programs and settings do not allow for the same things to happen in both locations. It many times takes days, even weeks to get all the necessary “blocked” portions unblocked. It will also be different when I go to a Mac computer next year, having been a PC user before. This might make the transition easier however, since Google docs is online and there is no difference between the Mac and PC interface. I definitely learned the age old technology lesson of “try it before you need it”. Others should abide by this always!

I will definitely try to do this project again next year. Not only will I try to use Google docs for team agendas, but I plan to use it with my curriculum partner (the other 6th grade science teacher) to revise lesson plans and create materials for students, rather than emailing different versions back and forth.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mobie Learning Lab

This was my first time trying the website Poll Everywhere. What a cool way to implement something that students already have! The results of the text message I sent took less than one minute to update on the website (I tried it myself since I no longer have students this year.) and it was neat to see the bar graph instantly materialize. I know for a fact that a HUGE majority of my students have texting capabilities on their cell phones, and would easily be able to do this. One worry I do have is relying on the service strength of students' cell phones to complete this task. I can see them now...all huddling by the one window in my classroom with cell phones in the air trying to get service!

I also really enjoyed the article "10 Ideas for Using Cell Phones in Education". These were very simple ways that almost any teacher, with any ability level could implement in his or her classroom, especially because the kids are the experts in how to use the technology! The two most popular uses that I can see are as response systems (using sites such as Poll Everywhere, Google Forms, etc) and as simple research. After watching Digital Nation, and the enthusiasm and ease at which students use Blogging sites, that could be a cool idea too using an RSS reader.

The challenge I can really foresee has to do with school policy. (This is actually an ongoing project/discussion on Classroom 2.0 that I look forward to investigating more thoroughly.) Cell phones are currently not allowed in classrooms because of the distraction they are to the students' learning. It would be extremely difficult to monitor which kids have their cell phones for socializing (texting, online chats, Facebook, etc)and which students just came from a class that was using cell phones for mobile learning. Policies would have to be changed, and much thought would have to be involved to develop an appropriate plan of action to keep the use focused on education.

The other difficulty I can anticipate is the "touch and go" service that we have at our building, especially in interior classrooms with no windows. In these locations, service is virtually non-existent, where classrooms with windows have some service.

Group Leadership Project - Part B

Our group spent a significant amount of time developing the storyboard for our Group Leadership project, a tutorial on wikis and using them to collaborate in the classroom.

The portion of the project that I completed was a portion of the slides used in the presentation. Although I was responsible for the content in slides 4-19 (with suggestions for the script), the rest of the group did an excellent job helping to give suggestions for additional information needed, teaching me how to use Diigo to take professional looking screenshots, and breaking down/rearranging some slides to make the presentation flow better. I largely used screenshots from the wiki I use for my student council group, but also used them from a wiki I use to collaborate with other teachers in the district. This familiarity with the wiki made it easy for me to "teach" others how to get started themselves.

As far as the final project goes, we have all put in significant amounts of time to helping one another with their portions of the project, dividing up the work evenly, and providing continual feedback in order to ensure the best final project. (Although we used Vyew originally, the chat window in Google docs has been our main source of communication.) I am certain that after we continue to add the final touches to the project, we will continue to do the same.

To view our group's storyboard, click here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wicked Problem Project - Part C Implementation

Here is an image of the Google doc I tried to share with my team mates.

To hear more about my Google docs experience, listen to my Podcast!