Friday, December 11, 2009

The project and its outcomes

Initial Project Goals
The project as proposed sought to implement technology through a constructivist approach in an 8th grade Waldorf inspired educational setting through the Waldorf 8th grade project. The 8th grade project is a year-long project that is inquiry based and self-propelled by the learner. Early on the fall of the 8th grade year the students write about area of interest for a project and then research feasibility of doing the project. Integral to the 8th grade project is an adult mentor and portfolio development. It was my hope to offer support to the students as they began their projects and create a PowerPoint presentation about their selected topic. It was my hope to integrate technology in this real-world way to be truly constructivist. I envisioned these highly learner centered projects would be highly compatible with the Waldorf pedagogy and using web searches and PowerPoint would meet technology content standards.
Challenges and Changes
In reality, the tech projects did not encompass the 8th grade projects at all. Unfortunately curriculum must be approved by faculty and the principal in the summer before instruction begins. This detail was not revealed to me until I was in the classroom ready to implement my project after spending a month jumping hurdles to gain access to the classroom.
Goal 1: Implementing Constructivist Approaches Use constructivist approaches to make learning meaningful
The constructivist approaches I selected to focus on in my own teaching were 1) teacher serves as coach and guide 2) learning is controlled by learner 3) teacher stresses interrelatedness of skills learned to other settings/perspectives 4) reflective analysis as part of assessment 5) provide environment for extended learning 5) support the learner at their level (Murphy, 1997).
I strived to stay true to my constructivist vision and asked the students reflective questions during each session to get them to think about what they were learning or how they were not learning by their choices. At first I did not receive serious responses, only shoulder shrugs and sarcastic answers like “computers.” As each week passed and I continued to ask them reflective questions their answer became more introspective and serious. “Well, I am learning how to insert pictures into the slide,” “I have been working on researching my bird the hawk; I am going to make a video at home.” I remained available for support to guide students to answers rather than just show them, helping them to problem solve through technology difficulties.
Goal 2: Meet 8th grade tech standards Language Arts: 1.4
There are not separate technology standards for California State education standards; rather they are embedded into other content area. To plan and conduct multiple-step information searches by using computer networks and modems, is found in the 8th grade Language arts content standards. I worked with the students to meet this standard by conducting web and database searches to build knowledge about the subject. Beyond just acquiring information from Internet searches, the student takes notes, observes key word phrases, makes new searches.
What I learned/confirmed
I did not so much learn new things as I did confirm what I know to be true. Students of any age greatly benefit from the opportunity to “play” and get comfortable with technology at their own pace. Students with access to computers in the home already had good to advanced technology skills from leisure time spent exploring computer applications. These same students were more likely to have their technology assignment complete before coming to class. Children without computers in the home more likely to not stay on task or have work done and were often in trouble for “playing” on the internet. Due to this need to explore, socially connect and learn what they wanted to learn, students were often the subject of disciplinary actions such as students loosing computers use for checking email, MySpace etc.. I did not agree with the approach as I felt it was an equity issue of fair access to technology; however I am not the teacher.
In the end, there were more positive than negative outcomes for my learning and the students learning in this technology project. Learners received more support with an extra teacher in the classroom and less time waiting for help. Learners were offered an opportunity to apply tech skills on a history project and further develop their skills. Finally, learners were able to share their perspectives for improvement.