Chinook’s Edge School Division Team 7

Team Members: Teri Patterson, Jody Watson, Cherra-Lynne Olthof, and Kim Gramlich
Community: Canadian Community Year 1, 2010-2011

Our project focused on the question, “Is the use of Web 2.0 tools in an elementary classroom setting effective in improving student literacy skills?” Since each team member teaches in an elementary classroom, the goal was for each of us to choose a variety of Web 2.0 tools to use with our students, focusing specifically on tools that best fit with our own curricular objectives. It was important for both the students and teachers to keep in mind that the purpose of this particular use of technology was to monitor the development of student reading and writing skills.

Setting a context: As a group, we had researched previous action research projects completed by educators and found several that focused on the use of Web 2.0 tools with students. However, our specific focus on the improvement of literacy skills through the use of Web 2.0 tools separated us more from the rest of the projects. Also, since the use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom is a relatively new idea, there has not been a lot of research done on how their use can directly impact literacy skills.

Mini implementation: Although we put together a complete and well-developed action research plan, we felt that a large project such as this would gain the most results and be most effective if used over the course of an entire school year. As such, we considered this 3-month action research project to be a mini implementation. Only so much improvement in student reading and writing skills can occur over this short time period, so we picked and chose specific parts of the project to implement. This will be detailed further in the Objectives and Assessment section.

Our main objective was to use Web 2.0 tools effectively and with a focus on developing literacy skills so that we could see definite improvement in student reading and writing skills. Using the reading skills rubric and writing skills rubric, we could monitor the students’ skills before, during, and after the action research project. Also, we could use an online survey (Google Docs Form), do student interviews, record videos, analyze samples of student work, and record anecdotal notes to further document and gather data relating to the development of student literacy skills.

Student engagement plays a large role in the effective use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, so we also had to be sure that the assignments and projects were engaging, enjoyable, and made the students want to work hard on their reading and writing skills. We knew that ensuring that student work would be shared with an audience, whether it was their classmates, friends and family, pen pals, school division, or the world, would play an important part in how much focus and effort they put into their work.

Documentation and gathering data: As mentioned above, we had to use well-formed reading and writing skills rubrics to monitor and evaluate student literacy skills throughout the project. Both the teachers and the students could fill out these rubrics before, during, and after the action research project. An online survey created using a Google Docs Form could also gather information from students about their own literacy skills and the level of engagement attained through the use of Web 2.0 tools. Interviewing students (specifically ones who we thought would benefit greatly from the use of Web 2.0 tools and ones who we thought may not show much change in their literacy skills), recording videos and taking pictures of students while they worked, recording anecdotal notes, and closely analyzing samples of student work from before, during, and after the action research project could be further methods of data collection.

Mini implementation: The main goal of our mini implementation was for each of us to use in our classrooms several Web 2.0 tools that would promote the development of student reading and writing skills. Rather than implementing all of the documentation methods listed above (as they are quite overwhelming for a 3-month project), we chose to focus on our overall impressions of literacy development, student surveys completed by a fraction of our students, student interviews, videos and pictures, and anecdotal notes. Analyzing samples of student work was also considered important in determining if there was an improvement in student reading and writing skills.

Success in implementation: As a group, we worked together to adapt our project as needed throughout the implementation period. We determined our success in implementation by asking ourselves if we used Web 2.0 tools effectively with our students, while keeping the goal of improving student literacy skills in mind. Also, we needed to document appropriately and gather our overall impressions to come to a conclusion on whether or not there was improvement in students’ reading and writing skills.

The timeline for a full implementation and mini implementation of our action research plan varies slightly. The timeline below is the one we worked on following (keeping in mind that slight adaptations were made to accommodate the timeframe).

January 19 to February 1: prepare for the beginning of the project, create reading and writing skills rubrics to use with the students (for both self and teacher evaluation), create survey questions for the Google Form that the students will fill out, select 4 students from each class to interview in more detail throughout the project

February 1 to Mid-April: project work. Beginning: complete the pre-rubric for literacy skills for each student (self and teacher), have the students complete the pre-survey on Google Forms, perhaps do a beginning interview with the 4 students chosen. Throughout: use Web 2.0 tools with your class in meaningful ways that are related to the curriculum, monitor student literacy skills during this time, record observations and anecdotal notes, use a Flip camera or digital camera to document student use of Web 2.0 tools. Middle: perhaps do a mid-survey or mid-interview. End: complete the post-rubric for literacy skills for each student (self and teacher), have the students complete the post-survey on Google Forms, do a final interview with the 4 students chosen from each class

Mid-April to May 12: gather data, put together presentation, present presentation on the culmination day

Completion: As a group working at a variety of grade levels and in all different schools across divisions, it was difficult to meet face-to-face and regularly update each other on our progress. However, we did not lose sight of our goal to use Web 2.0 tools effectively in the classroom to help further develop student literacy skills. Each of us chose our own ways to implement and document the use of Web 2.0 tools. Now that we are at the end of our project, we are able to come together to share our own overall impressions and examples of student work.

Web 2.0 tools that were used: Kidblog, WordPress, Glogster, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sites, instant chat, Voice Thread, YouTube, Wikispaces, Fakebook

Impressions:

  • This project allowed each of us to research a wide variety of Web 2.0 tools and brainstorm ways that the tools could be integrated effectively into our curricular units of study
  • The students, overall, enjoy working on computers, so they were very receptive to getting to try new tools and experiment with different ways of demonstrating their learning.
  • Some students enjoyed certain tools more than others, but since there was a wide variety of tools used, all students seemed to find at least one tool that they were very much drawn to.
  • Knowing that they had an audience made a huge difference in the students’ work regarding the reading and writing skills they demonstrated. The bigger the audience, the more concerned the students were about ensuring their work was well-written, thorough, and accurate.
  • Smaller projects, rather than larger projects, were better received by students. For example, a Glogster assignment that took only 80 minutes to complete was liked more than a Google Sites project that took several weeks to complete.
  • Students preferred working either individually or with partners when using Web 2.0 tools rather than working in small groups. They were more focused when working independently and as such, were better able to concentrate on their reading and writing skills.
  • It was quite easy to analyze students’ work to determine the level of their writing skills, but it was more difficult to analyze students’ reading skills through the use of Web 2.0 tools. We found that more Web 2.0 tools seemed to help and focus on writing skills, while the reading skills side of it needed to be brought forward in the projects detailed and outlined by the teachers.

In conclusion:

  • Based on the results of our mini implementation, we can conclude that the use of Web 2.0 tools in an elementary classroom setting can lead to an improvement in student literacy skills.
  • Knowing that they had an audience played a huge role in how much effort and time the students spent on their work. The bigger the audience, the more they wanted to ensure their work was well done. This included having accurate information, demonstrating higher level thinking, and writing with proper sentences, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Students were very open to admitting that they did not care about demonstrating strong literacy skills (i.e. proper sentences and spelling) when using instant chat. They worked a bit more on literacy skills when emailing someone (i.e. pen pals), but since that was still quite a limited audience, there was definite room for improvement. Creating a blog, Glogster, website, wiki, or video that could be viewed by anyone clearly led the students to focus more on demonstrating strong literacy skills.
  • Using smaller and shorter time-framed projects were more well received by the students and kept them focused on their reading and writing skills, whereas more complex and longer time-framed projects were found to be overwhelming and thus, focus on literacy skills seemed to be lost.
  • It is crucial that a wide variety of Web 2.0 tools are used in the classroom so that students with a variety of learning styles can be accommodated. For example, blogs and Google Docs may be well-liked by students who enjoy writing, whereas Glogster and Voice Thread may be well-liked by students who are more visual and auditory learners.
  • Overall, students enjoyed using the computers and experimenting with Web 2.0 tools. Many said that, “Technology makes learning more fun.” When asked, the students communicated that they would like to use computers even more in their learning.

Next year: Now that we have an entire action research plan put together, along with the reading and writing rubrics, Google Docs Form, interview questions, etc., this is something that could be fully implemented in our classrooms next year. At the beginning of the year, students and teachers could fill out the literacy skills rubrics and complete the survey. Throughout the year, teachers could integrate Web 2.0 tools effectively into their classrooms and monitor the development of students’ reading and writing skills. At the end of the year, the final rubrics and surveys could be compared to those that were done at the beginning of the year. A more solid conclusion would also be reached after completing a year-long project on this topic.

The team has a wealth of resources on its team wiki page, including copies of all surveys used throughout the project. A few of the teams videos and samples of student work are listed below.

Videos:

  • Mid student interview #1 – http://youtu.be/PRBzk9SIczQ
  • Mid student interview #2 – http://youtu.be/WqNFtXPW7KM
  • End student interview #1 – http://youtu.be/vnhSOELXKug
  • End student interview #2 – http://youtu.be/UFTVz79ByS0
  • End student interview #3 – http://youtu.be/EIB1Onx5nb8
  • Students using Web 2.0 tools – http://youtu.be/XXEfiriiWZc

 

Samples of student work:

  • Glogster – assignment given to Grade 6 students, http://spruceview6.edu.glogster.com/glogster-assignment/
  • Kidblog – poetry blogs written by Grade 6 students, http://kidblog.org/MsPattersonsClass/
  • WordPress – blog used by students and teacher in a Grade 8 class, http://tinyurl.com/3ztebb4
  • YouTube – video tutorial created by a student, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxHR12x_efw
  • Wikispaces – online student portfolios, http://cremonagrade8.wikispaces.com/
  • Google Sites – website created by Grade 6 students, http://tinyurl.com/4xh3eb9
  • Fakebook – students created online profiles for historical figures, http://www.classtools.net/fb/28/Sc634Z

 

About Action Research Projects

Action research is a process in which Powerful Learning Team members collaboratively examine their own educational practice systematically and carefully. Action research is:

  • Disciplined inquiry into a problem or possibility within the school or classroom
  • Collaborative and usually takes place in a community of practice
  • Meaningful, positive, and reflective
  • Data-driven, action-based, improvement-focused
  • Transformative

View all Action Research
 

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Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice. She works with schools and districts from around the world helping them to infuse technology into their curriculums and by leading other digital conversion efforts. Sheryl also consults with governments, educational organizations and non-profits in development of their various professional learning initiatives. Sheryl is a sought-after presenter at national and international events, speaking on topics related to digital and online learning, teacher and educational leadership, online community building, and other educational issues impacting children of poverty. Sheryl served on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Board of Directors for six years. She co-authored The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age with Lani Ritter Hall. Sheryl has four children and four grandsons, Luke, Logan, Levi and Tanner and a trio of dachshunds. You can find out more on her blog and on Twitter @snbeach.
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