AR Focus Statement: I will use technology in the classroom to combat the combined problems of student apathy and lack of motivation to learn.
Target Audience: My target audience consisted of 19 students ranging in age from 14-18, both boys and girls. Ability levels of this group range from gifted students to students with learning disabilities. There is one student with Asberger’s Syndrome and two students are on an occupational diploma. Nine students are male, ten are female. Ten students self-identify as African American, seven as Caucasian and two as other. The target class is the second period of the day, before lunch but after the mid-morning break. This class lasted a total of 18 weeks, Cycle 1 covered a six week period at the beginning of the semester.
Summary of Cycle 1: During Cycle 1 students were given assignments that involved using technology to learn major concepts in biology. At the beginning of the course, I explain to my target audience that this class is going to be a little “different.” That we are going to incorporate technology into our learning in ways that other classes are not using technology. But, this privilege comes with some added responsibility. They have to behave appropriately with the technology, or we will have to go back to the “old” way of learning. I was not surprised that this prompted a pretty large buy-in from my students. Of course, teenagers love to buck the system, so in a school where cell phones and iPods are outlawed they now see themselves as rebels! I did not bring out the class set of iPod Touches until week four, after we had established our procedures and some ground rules. I did, however, use the student response system for our first vocabulary quiz during week two. The students responses were very enthusiastic. The most common comment, “I wish all of my teachers used these.”
During week two we also began our weekly rotations that have small groups of students at the Interactive White Board, and at a separate Internet station. The other four groups are doing a variety of activities during this time, including laboratory activities, worksheets and games. Each rotation lasts approximately 30 minutes, we complete six rotations per week.
Week three I brought out the iPad for the first time. Our vocabulary for week three was very difficult, so one rotation this week had students brainstorming how the vocabulary were related in Popplet. This was a fun activity, I thought that I would have to spend a great deal of time instructing students “how” to use Popplet and the iPad, but I did not! By the time I got the other groups started with their rotations, the iPad group had already figured it out and were well on their way to finishing the rotation.
Week four was a busy week, I added the iPod Touches and a rotation that had the students creating their own songs with lyrics from our key concepts for the week. Each student had to write and sing a song, then publish it (to me.) Also during this week, I introduced my original song about the pH Scale (Cover Your Acids & Bases) and taught them the words and movements for the song. It was a ton of fun! We had to publish it to YouTube, students couldn’t wait to go home and show their parents. I still get requests from them to play that song, or create another one.
Another rotation during week six had students creating a comic strip with the title: A Cell is Like Our School…They completed a detailed worksheet in class with their group, dividing up the cell organelles and deciding which school “part” was analogous to the organelle, then set out with the iPods to take pictures. Upon returning to class, they imported their pictures into the comic app and added titles and descriptions. They then published their comics (again, to me.) I printed them and displayed them for everyone to see. This was a favorite activity, students still ask me when they will get to use the comic app again.
If I had to identify my students favorite activity, the Cell Analogy would win. It was very clear from their reactions that using the pictures to complete their analogy made the concept real for them, which is exactly what I hoped my Action Research Project would accomplish.
- weekly vocabulary tests using a student response system,
- brain storming and concept mapping using the iPad and Popplet,
- cell analogy projects using the iPod Touch to create a comic strip,
- original songs with music using the iPod Touch and a music app,
- weekly flashcards downloaded to Smartphones,
- weekly rotations using the interactive whiteboard,
- teacher website with interactive flash cards and multimedia links,
- multimedia used to hook students, and
- interactive books on the iPad.
Overall, the reaction to my use of technology was very positive. Students reported that they were more interested in the activities, and had “fun” learning in my class. On many occasions, students would ask me if I would talk to their other teachers about including technology in their classes. On their post-surveys and in their personal interviews, students report that they enjoy classes with technology the most, and that being able to use their phones, iPod Touches and the iPad in class made learning more enjoyable. Students from my first semester class (Cycle 1) come by my room every day now to see what we’re doing and tell me how much they miss my class. They remember the activities that we did, and I hope the concepts that went along with the activities.
According to my pre- and post- surveys, students reported preferring classes that used technology, group activities and interactive content. But when pressed for specific examples of classes that used this technology, eighteen out of nineteen students listed teachers using presentations and projectors. The post-surveys were much more detailed in their preference for technology, every student specifically listed at least one activity they preferred, and all of them included the iPad, laptop, whiteboard, etc. Likewise, more students reported being very motivated to attend school at the end of Cycle 1. This data seems to support the literature, showing that students prefer to learn using the tools that they are most comfortable with, namely electronic devices and computers, and being able to use them in class helps increase their motivation to attend school and to learn.
Insights & Surprises:
An unexpected result of my first cycle was not apparent until our state test scores came back in the middle of February. The class that I ran Cycle 1 on had an average score on the state test that was higher than the other six biology classes in our school. They also had a much higher QDI, which is the growth index, than any other group in our county school system! The gains were not insignificant, the county average was 178, the average of my target audience was 210. This proves that something different happened with this group of students. I believe that it was a result of my research and the implementation of my action research project.
My Cycle 1 implementation was very successful, though I did make a few mistakes in some of the lesson planning. I changed a few of the instructions, and added self-check steps on some of the activities before running Cycle 2. I chose my second target audience from my three classes this semester, I picked the one that is closest in make-up to the class in Cycle 1.
Evalutation & Reflection:
My fellow teachers, as well as my administration, are very anxious to see if I get similar results after Cycle 2. It’s easy to say you want to use technology in class, but having solid numbers to prove why you need to use technology is an entirely different thing.
Using Popplet on the iPad for Concept Mapping:
Cell Analogy Comic Strips:
Comic Strip Designer:
Using the Classroom Response System: