Another crazy-busy week has come to an end...and after a few brief hours of sleep, another will begin. EDET 636 took a backseat to professional responsibilities this week, resulting in a jam-packed weekend of research and reading. Wednesday had me thinking about the course as I sat in a full-day EED workshop in Anchorage with educators from across Alaska as we reviewed and discussed "ALDs" (Achievement Level Descriptors) for the new AMP assessment. During our working lunch, AAI staff provided a demo of the new technology practice test...the one designed to help Alaskan students learn the technology they will use to answer questions on the new standardized assessment next spring. Wow...what an advantage students who have tech skills will have over those who sit down to take the assessment with limited experience with computers, keyboards, maneuvering a mouse, etc. So...on Wednesday I was definitely thinking about the "Impact of Technology on Student Learning." On Thursday and Friday, I participated in two days of in-service with colleagues from a neighboring district. As rural districts, we are both looking at ways to expand opportunities for our students and those across rural Alaska, so a team of CRSD educators and I hung out with the neighboring district for a couple days as they led their own staff through a variable-term "phase" at their Anchorage facility. Much of our conversation centered around the tremendous value of these in-depth hands-on experiences coupled with customized learning in an online environment for rural students. Again, I spent two more days considering the "Impact of Technology on Student Learning." It was not until Saturday, however, that I was able to buckle down and get to work on the nuts and bolts for the class itself. I read a number of my colleagues' posts but am not sure I contributed much more than pats on the back. I completely forgot about the tweet-meet on Thursday evening, as I was still completely engrossed in an in-service at 5:00 p.m. However, I did read through the tweets and tried to piece together the conversation that occurred...though I must admit I'm still trying to figure out the best way to follow a Twitter conversation that involves a number of people and lots of questions. Feels a bit like trying to complete a 500-piece puzzle without the picture on the box to guide the efforts. The knot in my stomach tonight is related to my research question itself: WHAT in the world is it?!?! Articulating one single question will be my goal for the coming week...along with the understanding that the question itself will not determine the future of the universe. It's a question that is important to me and that has relevance in my professional realm. It's one of those times when I need to loosen up and let a "good" question guide me without agonizing over what the "PERFECT" question with a potential world-wide impact might be.
After a summer of all work and no play, and a LOT of hours in the office, I wasn't sure if I should enroll in a course this fall or not. At the last minute, I decided it would be foolish not to, so...here I am. What an awesome surprise to dig into the course Wordpress site, watch the recorded Hangout, and start reading...and to discover the semester will be so heavily focused on action research. Undoubtedly some of the most rewarding years of my professional life were when I was involved in classroom research with my students at Kenny Lake School and a partner classroom in Idalia, Colorado. I learned so much during those years, and every bit of influenced the educator I became in the years that followed.
This week's assigned reading, the texts and resources I located in my own research, and reading initial blog posts by my colleagues in the course created a new excitement to accompany the beginning of a new school school year. There is so much to be learned as we look closely at what is happening in our classrooms...especially as it relates to the impact of technology. As I walk the halls of our schools in the CRSD this fall, I realize that technology isn't just a cool oddity anymore; it is everywhere. Promethean boards in every classroom, document cameras all over the place, 1:1 with either iPads or laptops (or both, in some cases!), digital curriculum, online resources used by teachers in myriad ways, a new Blackboard license, and lots of enthusiasm for our Digital Teaching Initiative grant project. So, what's the problem? Figuring out where to focus my inquiry! That is truly where I'm struggling right now: When there is a question presenting itself at every turn, which one should become the focus?
As I read my colleagues' blog posts this week, I was reminded what it feels like to again be part of a brand new group where we don't all know each other. I intentionally focused my comments in response to colleagues I don't know from previous courses. I hope that my comments/responses to the blog posts by Sunshine, Bobbie Ann, and Lindsey G. were helpful. There was definitely a theme in their posts, and in what I shared: Classroom research results in greater learning for both the educator and the students...which is why it can be so powerful for all involved.
Again this semester, I am struck by how different it is getting to know people in an online environment where one doesn't have the benefit of classmate's gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc., to help tell the story of who that person is. I appreciated being able to watch the recorded Hangout and to see Sunshine, Thomas, Scott, and to hear the voices of Lindsey and a couple of others I haven't met before. Thomas and I were in a class together last semester, but I don't think I ever actually saw him "live" on a single Hangout...so it was fun to put a face to the name! I look forward to getting to know these folks more over the course of the coming semester, and I can only imagine how powerful the learning will be...for all of us.
Tammy Van Wyhe: rural Alaskan educator, leader, learner, writer.