What inspired this project?
Since the beginning of my public school teaching career, I had always tried to figure out how to help my struggling readers and writers so they could eventually become grade level readers and writers. During 2016, my 4th grade students and I together decided to use Edmodo to determine whether or not they would become engaged and motivated readers and writers to better their academic achievement. This was an exciting undertaking for us because they had never used Edmodo before; and, I had only used it to access information that was being distributed to the various groups within my professional learning network (PLN). Ultimately, the results were amazing!
Before making the final decision to use student blogging through Edmodo, my action research included various phases, which, in hindsight, I recognize culminated from several significant a-ha moments. Those observations and reflections helped me realize what the project must encompass
First, I tried an action research project years ago, which essentially was a study to determine if the lack of sleep was an aggravating factor that contributed to students' academic struggles. The results of that study demonstrated that students who self-monitored their sleep tended to increase their number of sleep hours; which, in turn, increased their reading comprehension scores. More importantly, the results also suggested that even when students (and parents) were explicitly and directly instructed about the importance of sleep, there were students who were still struggling not only with sleep but also with academic achievement (that is, not increasing their reading comprehension scores). Therefore, a-ha, I realized something else, a different piece, was still missing in the puzzle of achievement.
Next, a few years after that action research study about student achievement, I watched Dan Pink's TedTalk, "The Puzzle of Motivation." A-ha! It gave me the spark I was looking for and needed to get beyond my befuddlement and self-doubt as a teacher of how to possibly increase my students’ achievement in 2016--especially for my English Language Learners. That video in addition to the action research literature helped me to iteratively think/rethink outside of my box: Students needed to be motivated--not extrinsically, but intrinsically instead--and engaged in what they’re doing in order to succeed. Pink's message was "People were going to be motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose." After reading the research literature, couple with Pink's message, I realized students (my ELLs and ALL of them) needed to
(1) self-select their books to read for pleasure;
(2) be able to share about what they read because of the social nature of learning; and
(3) use technology as the initial extrinsic novelty as well as the means for sharing their reflections and responses!
I used this SAMR Model to help the students and me determine how best to use technology to hone in on the transformative portions of creating, analysing, and evaluating (Modification and Redefinition):
Then, I read the book, The Innovator’s Mindset, by George Couros because of a graduate class homework assignment in this Touro University-California Innovative Learning Program. A-ha! Its message was powerful in solidifying and verifying the importance of student blogging because the blogging process not only motivated and engaged students into reading and writing more than they had before, but also more importantly, it empowered students into being agents of their learning. They read and wrote more because they knew they were going to have an authentic audience, a growing audience of classmates--and potentially parents, too--who were going to read about their reading experiences through the blog posts. That intentional iterative cycle of using technology to read-reflect-respond and present to an authentic audience was a wonderful instructional approach (a TPACK approach) for empowered learning and empowered students!
Just as Couros stated in his book, “Empowerment is more than a single event,” my inspiration for this empowering project included several a-ha events over time.
Inspiration transformed into Empowerment . . .
Excerpts from my research paper
Analyzing the Needs of the Learner
In spite of multiple measures to improve reading, the neediest students still lagged far behind. Since the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, the teacher/researcher informally observed that more than half of the fourth- and fifth-grade students--that is, those who were in the regular homeroom class and those who were in the ELA replacement class--were not engaged during independent reading opportunities, which included the Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) period as well as the Scholastic System 44/Read 180 curriculum protocol of 20- to 25-minute daily Library time.
During the end of the 2015-2016 school year’s second trimester, it was brought to the attention of our school site's Leadership Team (Principal, Assistant Principal, Academic Specialist, and Grade-Level Lead Teachers) that students who were in the ELA core-replacement classes were not being exposed or taught grade level curriculum; therefore, it would be necessary to stop teaching in that manner. Instead, it was suggested and immediately implemented to have students with Below Basic and Far Below Basic scores remain in their own homeroom classes so they could participate in ELA core curriculum for two hours, then later in the school day, those students would attend an hour of intervention in a System 44/Read 180 combo class.
Also, because most of the students in the System 44/Read 180 core-replacement class were students who have limited English proficiency and/or have been participating in the Free/Reduced Lunch program, it appeared--although not intended--that there was an equity/social justice/civil rights concern to be considered. Those students were not receiving grade level ELA instruction. To remedy those concerns, the fourth-grade teachers decided to have all of the students attend core ELA instruction in addition to designated separate times for both ELA intervention and English Language Development (ELD). Since March 2016, a major shift in ELA, ELA intervention, and ELD instruction has occurred at our school.
Ultimately, the use of Edmodo helped the teacher/researcher better understand how to motivate students in reading engagement in order to counteract the “Matthew Effects” that has occurred with the Room 16 fourth graders prior to the 2015-2016 school year. The “Matthew Effects” refers to the idea that in reading (as in other areas of life), the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. According to Keith Stanovich’s 1986 seminal research, children who fail at reading and writing during primary school will begin to dislike reading. They will read less than their classmates who are stronger readers; and, as a consequence, they do not gain academic vocabulary, background knowledge, or information about how reading material is structured. Therefore, students who are word-rich get richer, while the word-poor get poorer.
Please click on the blue Blog button to read more about my transformative learning journey through this Innovative Learning Program of the Touro University-California Graduate School of Education. My blog can be found at http://letsinnovatetogether.weebly.com.