Category Archives: Publications

Undertaking some action research

Teachers undertaking some area of action research, maybe as part of a course or CPD session, can further develop their skills

According to Guiding School Improvement with Action Research

by Richard Sagor, Action research can be defined as

“A succinct definition of action research appears in the workshop materials we use at the Institute for the Study of Inquiry in Education. That definition states that action research is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by and for those taking the action. The primary reason for engaging in action research is to assist the “actor” in improving and/or refining his or her actions.”

Practitioners who engage in action research inevitably find it to be an empowering experience. Action research has this positive effect for many reasons. Obviously, the most important is that action research is always relevant to the participants. Relevance is guaranteed because the focus of each research project is determined by the researchers, who are also the primary consumers of the findings.

Perhaps even more important is the fact that action research helps educators be more effective at what they care most about—their teaching and the development of their students. Seeing students grow is probably the greatest joy educators can experience. When teachers have convincing evidence that their work has made a real difference in their students’ lives, the countless hours and endless efforts of teaching seem worthwhile.

The Action Research Process

Educational action research can be engaged in by a single teacher, by a group of colleagues who share an interest in a common problem, or by the entire faculty of a school. Whatever the scenario, action research always involves the same seven-step process. These seven steps, which become an endless cycle for the inquiring teacher, are the following:

  1. Selecting a focus
  2. Clarifying theories
  3. Identifying research questions
  4. Collecting data
  5. Analyzing data
  6. Reporting results
  7. Taking informed action

Step 1—Selecting a Focus

The action research process begins with serious reflection directed toward identifying a topic or topics worthy of a busy teacher’s time. Considering the incredible demands on today’s classroom teachers, no activity is worth doing unless it promises to make the central part of a teacher’s work more successful and satisfying. Thus, selecting a focus, the first step in the process, is vitally important. Selecting a focus begins with the teacher researcher or the team of action researchers asking:

What element(s) of our practice or what aspect of student learning do we wish to investigate?

Step 2—Clarifying Theories

The second step involves identifying the values, beliefs, and theoretical perspectives the researchers hold relating to their focus. For example, if teachers are concerned about increasing responsible classroom behavior, it will be helpful for them to begin by clarifying which approach—using punishments and rewards, allowing students to experience the natural consequences of their behaviors, or some other strategy—they feel will work best in helping students acquire responsible classroom behavior habits.

Step 3—Identifying Research Questions

Once a focus area has been selected and the researcher’s perspectives and beliefs about that focus have been clarified, the next step is to generate a set of personally meaningful research questions to guide the inquiry.

Step 4—Collecting Data

Professional educators always want their instructional decisions to be based on the best possible data. Action researchers can accomplish this by making sure that the data used to justify their actions are valid(meaning the information represents what the researchers say it does) and reliable (meaning the researchers are confident about the accuracy of their data). Lastly, before data are used to make teaching decisions, teachers must be confident that the lessons drawn from the data align with any unique characteristics of their classroom or school.

To ensure reasonable validity and reliability, action researchers should avoid relying on any single source of data. Most teacher researchers use a process called triangulation to enhance the validity and reliability of their findings. Basically, triangulation means using multiple independent sources of data to answer one’s questions. Triangulation is like studying an object located inside a box by viewing it through various windows cut into the sides of the box. Observing a phenomenon through multiple “windows” can help a single researcher compare and contrast what is being seen through a variety of lenses.

When planning instruction, teachers want the techniques they choose to be appropriate for the unique qualities of their students. All teachers have had the experience of implementing a “research-proven” strategy only to have it fail with their students. The desire of teachers to use approaches that “fit” their particular students is not dissimilar to a doctor’s concern that the specific medicine being prescribed be the correct one for the individual patient. The ability of the action research process to satisfy an educator’s need for “fit” may be its most powerful attribute. Because the data being collected come from the very students and teachers who are engaged with the treatment, the relevance of the findings is assured.

For the harried and overworked teacher, “data collection” can appear to be the most intimidating aspect of the entire seven-step action research process. The question I am repeatedly asked, “Where will I find the time and expertise to develop valid and reliable instruments for data collection?”, gives voice to a realistic fear regarding time management. Fortunately, classrooms and schools are, by their nature, data-rich environments. Each day a child is in class, he or she is producing or not producing work, is interacting productively with classmates or experiencing difficulties in social situations, and is completing assignments proficiently or poorly. Teachers not only see these events transpiring before their eyes, they generally record these events in their grade books. The key to managing triangulated data collection is, first, to be effective and efficient in collecting the material that is already swirling around the classroom, and, second, to identify other sources of data that might be effectively surfaced with tests, classroom discussions, or questionnaires.

Step 5—Analyzing Data

Although data analysis often brings to mind the use of complex statistical calculations, this is rarely the case for the action researcher. A number of relatively user-friendly procedures can help a practitioner identify the trends and patterns in action research data. During this portion of the seven-step process, teacher researchers will methodically sort, sift, rank, and examine their data to answer two generic questions:

  • What is the story told by these data?
  • Why did the story play itself out this way?

By answering these two questions, the teacher researcher can acquire a better understanding of the phenomenon under investigation and as a result can end up producing grounded theory regarding what might be done to improve the situation.

Step 6—Reporting Results

It is often said that teaching is a lonely endeavor. It is doubly sad that so many teachers are left alone in their classrooms to reinvent the wheel on a daily basis. The loneliness of teaching is unfortunate not only because of its inefficiency, but also because when dealing with complex problems the wisdom of several minds is inevitably better than one.

The sad history of teacher isolation may explain why the very act of reporting on their action research has proven so powerful for both the researchers and their colleagues. The reporting of action research most often occurs in informal settings that are far less intimidating than the venues where scholarly research has traditionally been shared. Faculty meetings, brown bag lunch seminars, and teacher conferences are among the most common venues for sharing action research with peers. However, each year more and more teacher researchers are writing up their work for publication or to help fulfill requirements in graduate programs. Regardless of which venue or technique educators select for reporting on research, the simple knowledge that they are making a contribution to a collective knowledge base regarding teaching and learning frequently proves to be among the most rewarding aspects of this work.

Step 7—Taking Informed Action

Taking informed action, or “action planning,” the last step in the action research process, is very familiar to most teachers. When teachers write lesson plans or develop academic programs, they are engaged in the action planning process. What makes action planning particularly satisfying for the teacher researcher is that with each piece of data uncovered (about teaching or student learning) the educator will feel greater confidence in the wisdom of the next steps. Although all teaching can be classified as trial and error, action researchers find that the research process liberates them from continuously repeating their past mistakes. More important, with each refinement of practice, action researchers gain valid and reliable data on their developing virtuosity.

http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100047/chapters/What-Is-Action-Research%C2%A2.aspx

For more research and educational based books, check out out theelearningsite.com bookshop

A “Must Have” Guide for eLearning Instructional Design!

Marina Arshavskiy (2013) Instructional Design for ELearning: Essential guide to creating successful eLearning courses

If you are designing eLearning courses, you will find many informative texts on the subject out there. However, there is currently none as authoritative a guide as Marina Arshavskiy’s Instructional Design for ELearning: Essential guide to creating successful eLearning courses. The guide has been penned by a professional instructional designer who has many years of real life field experience.  The book offers readers theoretical concepts in eLearning design as well as practical approaches and industry best practices to making the theory work successfully in the real world.

HOW THE BOOK IS ORGANIZED

The author has done an excellent job of taking a complex subject like instructional design for eLearning, and decomposed it into logical parts so readers can progressively learn to crawl, walk and then sprint through the subject matter. Each part covers specific elements of the subject, neatly divided into appropriate chapters. The four parts of the book include:

Part I – Basic Elements of Instructional Design

Part II – Designing Instructionally Sound ELearning courses

Part III – Interactive Elements in ELearning Courses

Part IV – Advancing Your Skills

Although beginners to this subject are encouraged to review each part sequentially, there is nothing to stop you from horning in directly into the Part or Chapter that perks your interest most. Because of the way the author has laid out the text, you can glean as much benefit from the materials by diving right into the topics you want to learn more about.

WHO THE BOOK IS MEANT FOR

Those aspiring to embrace instructional design and those that have recently embarked into the subject will equally find great value in the book. However, savvy professional instructional designers will also find its contents extremely helpful and insightful – especially as a handy desk guide or quick review reference resource.

STYLE

While an authoritative text, the materials are delivered in a non-authoritarian style. The author speaks to the readers in a very informal, personable way that makes reading through the text easy and simple to follow. It approaches each topic in a non-academic tone, which is what makes the content so relevant to the real world.

STRENGTHS OF THE BOOK

A picture truly paints a thousand words! True to the essence of the subject being discussed, the author makes liberal use of visual aids, including graphs, tables and diagrams throughout the book. The book contains plenty of resources – including questionnaires and checklists – that readers will find extremely useful in building instructionally sound eLearning course materials. This single characteristic makes it a guide worth reading, even if you are unfamiliar with the subject and just starting off into the grand world of instructional design.

WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT THE BOOK

Unlike many other texts on the subject available today, Instructional Design for ELearning: Essential guide to creating successful eLearning courses has been written with the “real world” in mind. Packed with examples from real-life, mostly based on the author’s extensive professional experiences, this book literally guides you step-by-step through the complex process of creating powerful, engaging and impactful eLearning course materials.  Each chapter starts out with a set of realistic learning objectives, giving you a primer of what to expect, and ends with exercises meant to reinforce the learning objectives.

RECOMMENDATION

Whether you are aspiring to become an instructional designer, a novice instructional designer struggling with the basics of the subject, a veteran looking for a handy desk reference guide, or a human resources professional designing professional development training programs for employees, you will find everything you need to know about eLearning course development within the covers of this book.

Instructional Design for ELearning: Essential guide to creating successful eLearning courses is a “must have” guide for eLearning instructional design that you can’t do without!


Kate Oslansky is an eLearning project manager at a major eLearning corporation in the Washington Metropolitan area. She has been involved in the field of instructional design and eLearning for over 20 years. Kate is constantly searching for new and innovative eLearning and leadership ideas, and is especially interested in improving organizational performance.

131 Tips on Graphics and Animations for eLearning – Free Download

* 131 Tips

Are your graphics and animations effective? Are you engaging your learners?

This complimentary eBook, 131 Tips on Graphics and Animations for eLearning, from The eLearning Guild, will teach you the importance of knowing your audience—including knowing how to meet the needs of learners with disabilities, why visual consistency is important to learning, and when (and when not) to use graphics and animations. You’ll learn about basic and advanced graphic and animation tools, how to save time with templates, how to use fonts as graphics, how to use Flash for animations even if you plan to deliver animations in HTML5, and much, much more.

The topics covered include:
• Graphics, animations, and instructional design
• Selecting graphics
• Designing or modifying graphics
• Designing animations
• Fonts and colors
• Tools for graphics
• Tools for animations

Download your complimentary copy today at: http://bit.ly/1gZcHFn

K-12 Education Technology Trends to Watch

Six different kinds of technology and tech practics—some of them familiar to most educators, others not as much—are likely to become increasingly important in K-12 systems over the next few years, a new report predicts.

The Horizon Report’s 2013 K-12 Edition, the fifth in a series focused on pre-college education, discusses those tech tools, which include those meant for use by individual students and those designed to change the digital makeup of entire schools and districts. It also describes barriers that are likely get in the way of effective use of technology.

Read more: K-12 Education Technology Trends to Watch – Digital Education – Education Week.

Students Prioritize Mobile Devices over Internet Access

Mobile Learning DevicesStudents prioritize the use of “a variety of digital learning tools such as mobile devices” over Internet access, according to From Chalkboards to Tablets: The Emergence of the K-12 Learner, a new report from Project Tomorrow.

The report also found that students increasingly see benefits to online learning, with 57 percent of respondents in high school saying that it would put them in control of their learning, up from 40 percent in 2009, and 56 percent saying that it would allow them to work at their own pace, a five percent increase over the same period. Students also said that it would provide other benefits, such as improved ability to review materials, a greater sense of independence, and an improved opportunity to succeed in class, in greater numbers than they did in 2009, though they are still not in the majority.

Part of the organization’s national Speak Up initiative, the report marks the 10th anniversary of the data collection project and returned to the students, now in grade 12, interviewed in the 2003 sample.

Read more: Report: Students Prioritize Devices, Variety over Internet Access — THE Journal.

How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms

Feb 28, 2013

Overview

A survey of teachers who instruct American middle and secondary school students finds that digital technologies have become central to their teaching and professionalization. At the same time, the internet, mobile phones, and social media have brought new challenges to teachers, and they report striking differences in access to the latest digital technologies between lower and higher income students and school districts.

Asked about the impact of the internet and digital tools in their role as middle and high school educators, these teachers say the following about the overall impact on their teaching and their classroom work:

92% of these teachers say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to access content, resources, and materials for their teaching

69% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to share ideas with other teachers

67% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to interact with parents and 57% say it has had such an impact on enabling their interaction with students

The survey finds that digital tools are widely used in classrooms and assignments, and a majority of these teachers are satisfied with the support and resources they receive from their school in this area. However, it also indicates that teachers of the lowest income students face more challenges in bringing these tools to their classrooms:

  • Mobile technology has become central to the learning process, with 73% of AP and NWP teachers saying that they and/or their students use their cell phones in the classroom or to complete assignments
  • More than four in ten teachers report the use of e-readers (45%) and tablet computers (43%) in their classrooms or to complete assignments
  • 62% say their school does a “good job” supporting teachers’ efforts to bring digital tools into the learning process, and 68% say their school provides formal training in this area
  • Teachers of low income students, however, are much less likely than teachers of the highest income students to use tablet computers (37% v. 56%) or e-readers (41% v. 55%) in their classrooms and assignments
  • Similarly, just over half (52%) of teachers of upper and upper-middle income students say their students use cell phones to look up information in class, compared with 35% of teachers of the lowest income students
  • Just 15% of AP and NWP teachers whose students are from upper income households say their school is “behind the curve” in effectively using digital tools in the learning process; 39% who teach students from low income households describe their school as “behind the curve”
  • 70% of teachers of the highest income students say their school does a “good job” providing the resources needed to bring digital tools into the classroom; the same is true of 50% of teachers working in low income areas
  • Teachers of the lowest income students are more than twice as likely as teachers of the highest income students (56% v. 21%) to say that students’ lack of access to digital technologies is a “major challenge” to incorporating more digital tools into their teaching

View Online | Download

Read more: How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms | Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Effectiveness of learning with iPads in school

* child with iPad
A student at El Camino Creek puts together a presentation using an iPad. Every third through six-grader in the Encinitas Union School District has an iPad. New research, including a thesis and a study from the University of San Diego, is looking at how the iPads impact student learning. Photo by Jared Whitlock

In Lindsay Duncan’s class at El Camino Creek, one fourth grade student looked up the definition of “blubber.” One girl found a suitable picture of a whale and attached it to her presentation about marine life.

Books, paper and pencils weren’t in the hands of any of Duncan’s students — only iPads. These days, it’s a common sight in classrooms throughout the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD). Every third through six-grader at EUSD has an iPad, and the district is looking at rolling out more iPads for younger students. Meanwhile, researchers are looking at how the rapidly growing technology is impacting learning.

Duncan is among those researchers. She recently wrote a thesis on iPads in schools after surveying 120 fourth-graders and their parents last school year, when the pilot program debuted. Further, the University of San Diego is slated to release a study this summer on the use of iPads in the district.

“Most people think all technology is great,” Duncan said. “Without rushing to that conclusion, my question was: How might this affect kids? Are they (the iPads) motivational? And I was interested in how students and parents perceive the iPads.”

Duncan’s research indicates students largely believe the iPads are a valuable tool. Parents also see the iPads as beneficial, but some have some reservations with the technology.

Notably, 90 percent of students said the iPad aided their learning. For one, they liked the instant feedback that comes with iPads. Students no longer have to wait days for test results — now it’s a matter of minutes.

Read more: The Coast News | Making Waves in Your Neighborhood.

Using Social Media Technologies to Enhance Online Learning

Linda Weiser Friedman, Ph.D. Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, CUNY
Hershey H. Friedman, Ph.D. School of Business Brooklyn College, CUNY

ABSTRACT
Models of distance education have evolved over decades, just in time to collide with modern pedagogies in which communication, interaction, student engagement, and active learning are of critical importance. The number of college students taking online classes continues to grow. Today, nearly 30% of college students are taking at least one online class. The social media technologies encompass a wide variety of Web-based technologies such as blogs, wikis, online social networking, and virtual worlds. This paper examines the relevant published literature, looking at online learning activities through the prism of the defining characteristics of today’s new communication technologies.

Full Article (PDF)

New Sloan-C Study: Over 6.7 million Students Learning Online

Most institutions remain undecided about MOOCs

Changing Course
Credit: Sloan-C

The 2012 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group reveals the number of students taking at least one online course has now surpassed 6.7 million. Higher education adoption of Massive Open Online Courses remains low, with most institutions still on the sidelines.

“The rate of growth in online enrolments remains extremely robust, even as overall higher education enrolments have shown a decline,” said study co-author Jeff Seaman, Co-Director of the Babson Survey Research Group. “Institutional opinions on MOOCs are mixed,” added co-author I. Elaine Allen. “Some praise them for their ability to learn about online pedagogy and attract new students, but concerns remain about whether they are a sustainable method for offering courses.”

Todd Hitchcock, Senior Vice President of Online Solutions, Pearson Learning Solutions, stated, “Learning is no longer limited to four walls – learning can happen anywhere – and it already is happening everywhere, everyday. The growth of online learning underscores this need for quality, flexible education programs that meet the demands of our 21st-century workforce.”

Frank Mayadas, Senior Advisor to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and founding President of the Sloan Consortium noted “As in past years, the survey demonstrates the continuing robust growth in a wide range of institutions. It underscores the importance of online learning in higher education in the U.S. What a remarkable ten year period the survey has captured.”

Key report findings include:

  • Over 6.7 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2011 term, an increase of 570,000 students over the previous year.
  • Thirty-two percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.
  • Only 2.6 percent of higher education institutions currently have a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), another 9.4 percent report MOOCs are in the planning stages.
  • Academic leaders remain unconvinced that MOOCs represent a sustainable method for offering online courses, but do believe they provide an important means for institutions to learn about online pedagogy.
  • Seventy-seven percent of academic leaders rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face classes.
  • The proportion of chief academic officers who believe their faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education has not increased – it now stands at only 30.2 percent.
  • The proportion of chief academic leaders who say online learning is critical to their long-term strategy is at a new high of 69.1 percent.
  • The perception of a majority of chief academic officers at all types of institutions is lower retention rates for online courses remain a barrier to the growth of online instruction.

The tenth annual survey, a collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board, is the leading barometer of online learning in the United States. Based on responses from over 2,800 academic leaders, the complete survey report, “Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States” is available at

http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/changing_course_2012

mLearn 2012: International Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning 2012 Proceedings

The proceedings from mLearn 2012: Mobile and Contextual Learning Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning 2012: Helsinki, Finland, October 16 -18, 2012, are now available online in full text for free.

Edited by Marcus SpechtMike SharplesJari Multisilta

Table of Contents

Full Papers

Short Papers

Showcases

Posters

Doctoral Consortium

Preconference Workshops

Via: CEUR-WS.org/Vol-955 – International Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning 2012.

NMC Horizon Report 2013 Higher Ed Edition

NMC Horizon Report 2013 Higher Ed Edition

The NMC Horizon Report > 2013 Higher Education Edition is a collaborative effort between the NMC and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), an EDUCAUSE Program, and is slated to be released in February 2013.

The tenth edition will describe annual findings from the NMC Horizon Project, a decade-long research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in higher education. Six emerging technologies are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, as well as key trends and challenges expected to continue over the same period, giving campus leaders and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning.

The 2013 Horizon Project Higher Education Advisory Board initially voted on the top 12 emerging technologies — the result of which is documented in this a interim report: the NMC Horizon Project Short List > 2013 Higher Education Edition. This Short List then helped the advisory board narrow down the 12 technologies to six for the full publication. Those results are available in the official Preview. View the work that produced these findings at www.horizon.wiki.nmc.org.

Download the Short List PDF
Download the Preview PDF

Book Review: “Essentials of Online Course Design”

Book cover

The book “Essentials of Online Course Design” from Majorie Vai and Kristen Sosulski is one I have heard about from a few people recently, and one I felt would be worth reading, and at a reasonable £22 from Routledge it’s a fair investment … not to mention the accompanying companion website.

The book is described as a “fresh, thoughtfully designed, step-by-step approach to online course development.” The core of the book is a set of standards that are based on ‘best’ practices (I prefer the term ‘good practice’ as ‘best practice’ implies there is no room for improvement) in the field of online learning and teaching. “Pedagogical, organizational and visual design principles are presented and modeled throughout the book and users will quickly learn from the guide’s hands-on approach. The course design process begins with the elements of a classroom syllabus which, after a series of guided steps, easily evolve into an online course outline” (this last bit was taken from the promotional text).

Read More: Book Review: “Essentials of Online Course Design” – Technology Enhanced Learning Blog.

Buy the Book: Essentials of Online Course Design: A Standards-Based Guide