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Teacher Research Teacher Research: A Study of Literacy and Technology Elizabeth S.

Moeller Introduction to the Teacher Research Project A glimpse around a public park, library, or college campus will allow one to realize that

the world in which we live is forever changed due to emerging technologies. The students in my class this year were born in the year that I graduated from high school. Reflecting on this fact, I was able to identify a vast amount of digital technologies that have been introduced into our lives in just a few short years. For example, in the year 2005, Apple had yet to release the iPhone or the iPad, two devices that have changed the way individuals communicate and collaborate. In elementary classrooms and beyond, eBooks, Kindles, and Nooks were foreign and futuristic. Moreover, online communication technologies, such as Facebook, Blogs, and Twitter, were just beginning to transpire as platforms for individuals to express their thoughts. Over the past few years, these technologies have emerged into the educational setting and beyond. In current times, one can enter a classroom and find that these digital technologies are valuable instructional tools that encourage student interaction and inspire student learning. Reflecting on my professional knowledge, it is clear that I understand the impact of digital technologies and new literacies on classroom instruction. As presented by Larson (2008), "today's students encounter and interact with new literacies, including electronic books, Internet based reading and writing, and online communication experiences" in the classroom and beyond (p. 121). Thus, it is increasingly evident that "schools need to prepare students for these new literacies by integrating them into the curriculum," in ways that are meaningful, relevant, and rigorous (Zawilinski, 2009, p. 652). As an educator, I can not ignore the value and significance of digital technologies as instructional tools. Moreover, I must "respond to the changing array of media technologies and resources used both within and outside the classroom to make education

Teacher Research more responsive to today's learners" (Larson, 2008, p.121). Equipped with this knowledge, I began to reflect on the number of digital technologies that are relevant to the content areas that I

teach. Additionally, I began to question my current classroom instruction in order to identify one content area that I would like to improve. My reflection led me to my research question: What happens when my students share their thinking and understanding of literacy concepts and skills on a classroom blog? The classroom blog would serve as a digital platform for my students to publish their writing and share their thinking while collaborating and communicating with their peers. It was my hope that by integrating technology into my literacy instruction in the form of a literature response blog, my students would be encouraged to express their critical thinking and thus extend their understanding of literacy concepts and skills. My research began in my second grade classroom. I teach second grade at Coopers Elementary School in the Nash - Rocky Mount Public School district. This is my fourth consecutive year teaching second grade, and my fourth year as a public school teacher in the state of North Carolina. Currently, I have twenty - one students in my classroom. There are fourteen white students, five African American students, and two Hispanic students. On a daily basis, my students are actively engaged in learning new literacy concepts and skills, related to the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts. For example, my students ask and answer questions such as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate their understanding of key details in a text. Additionally, my students identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe. These examples of the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts are evidence that my students are engaged in relevant and rigorous learning experiences.

Teacher Research Methodology Each week throughout the research process, I posted a discussion question on the literature response blog for my students to respond to. On a weekly basis, I provided a question or prompt for my students to respond to on the literature response blog that was centered on a specific literacy concept or skill. During our daily literacy block, my students had the opportunity to use one of the three classroom computers to post their response on the literacy response blog. It is important to note that I required all of my students, regardless of academic ability, to complete this task. I found that all of my students were interested in the task and were motivated to share their thinking with their peers. To guide their response, I created a simple checklist for my students to reference. The checklist included reminders about checking their

writing for capitalization and mechanics, as well as making sure that their response was friendly, appropriate, and related to the topic. My students were actively engaged in drafting and publishing their responses to the literature response blog over a five week period. Throughout the five week period, I witnessed my students develop and mature as readers, writers, and twenty - first century learners. On a daily basis, teachers collect data when they grade a standards based assessment, record anecdotal notes, and reflect on their observations. As educators, we are "surrounded, immersed, and inundated" in data (MacLean & Mohr, 1999, p. 36). While this data is meaningful and significant, teacher researchers must change their focus to include "a more analytical and interpretive lens" in order to aid in the reliability and validity of their data (Mills, 2001, p. 124). There are a number of data collection strategies available for teacher researchers, such as quick surveys, student interviews, and student work samples. While the options may seem endless to others, teacher researchers understand that it is important to select data collection strategies that will lead to evidence of their students learning. For my research

Teacher Research

purposes, I chose to collect data in the form of student surveys, student interviews, and a teacher research journal. This range of qualitative data collection techniques allowed me to view my research from multiple perspectives, and thus contribute to my overall understanding of the significance of my study. To begin my data collection, I created a Technology Survey that included multiple choice and free response questions for my students to answer based on their use and understanding of technology. Following the administration of the survey, I read through the responses of each student. This allowed me to identify several categories based on my students responses. I created a chart to group and sort the responses of my students. The results of the Technology Survey allowed me to identify my students opinions and attitudes regarding technology as a vehicle for instruction. Throughout the five week research process, I asked my students to complete a Blog Questionnaire each week. The Blog Questionnaire had four different free response questions for my students to answer based on their use of the literature response blog. After my students completed the questionnaire, I read through the responses of each student. This allowed me to identify how my students felt about using the literature response blog, as well as how I could improve the blog to meet the diverse learning needs of my students. After reflecting on my students answers each week, I was able to categorize and sort the data, allowing me to identify common themes. Throughout my research, I spent quality time reading and reflecting upon the reading responses that my students posted to the literature response blog. It is important to note that I completed this data collection method at the end of each school day as a means to provide quality feedback to my students and inform my future instruction. While reviewing each of my

Teacher Research

students blog posts, I recorded my observations in my research journal. I recorded the strengths and challenges that I noted in my students blog posts, as well as surprises that I encountered while reading their blog posts. Reflecting upon the strengths and challenges of my students allowed me to plan and implement further instruction based on their learning needs. After my research was complete, I reviewed my research journal and created categories based on the data that I had collected. First, I chose to organize my data chronologically. Next, I organized my data by importance and relevance to my study. By organizing my data in this way, I was able to identify the assumptions that I had related to the blogging process, as well as identify recurring themes about student learning. Another essential component to my data collection process was the student interviews that I conducted. The interview questions were open - ended, and if needed, I asked my students follow - up questions for further clarification or elaboration. I found that the student interviews were simple to complete, as my students were eager to orally share their thoughts and opinions regarding the blogging process. I was interested in recording my students comments because I wanted my students to be involved in my research, and I wanted to learn from their responses. Moreover, I felt that their insight would contribute to the reliability and validity of my research. Throughout the research process, I was particularly interested in comparing the interview responses of the five students that I selected, as each student has different academic strengths and challenges. It is important to note that I selected a focus group of five students to interview at various dates and times throughout the research process. The student interviews were conducted informally over the five week research period. During each interview, I recorded the student responses and observations in my research journal for reference.

Teacher Research After my research was complete, I began the process of organizing my data as a whole. This proved to be a time consuming and difficult process, as I was initially overwhelmed with the vast amount of data that I had collected. However, I was able to categorize and sort my data

in a number of ways that allowed me to accurately analyze my data and thus present my findings in a succinct manner. Findings In analyzing the qualitative data that I collected from the surveys and questionnaires that I gave my students, as well as that data that I collected from student interviews and my research journal, I was able to identify the common trends and themes throughout my data. Although each student in my class participated in my research, my findings are a result of my data collection and analysis of a focus group of five students. My focus group consisted of three female students and two males students, all of varying academic achievement levels. In the initial Technology Survey, I found that the majority of my students agreed that technology is very important to their learning. Moreover, I found that the majority of my students expressed that they would like to use technology more often in the classroom to demonstrate their learning and understanding. These students also identified that technology helps make learning more interesting and exciting. I found that the majority of my students have access to a computer and the Internet at home, and that they often use their computer for educational purposes. In the initial survey, I found that my students were divided on their belief of how often I use technology as a teacher. I found this very interesting, as I effectively use a variety of technology resources and tools on a daily basis to engage my students in meaningful learning experiences. I also found that my students were divided on their opinion about using technology to complete classwork and homework assignments. I wrongfully assumed that all of

Teacher Research my students would prefer to use technology as opposed to traditional methods, such as worksheets. The Technology Survey was the ideal data collection strategy for the beginning of

my research process, as it provided me with general information regarding my students attitudes and opinions about technology.
Technology Survey Question How often does your teacher use technology for classroom instruction? How important is technology to your learning? Do you think learning is more interesting and exciting when technology is used? Would you like to use technology more often to complete classwork and homework assignments? What type of technology do you have at home? Student A Often Student B Often Student C Sometimes Student D Not Very Often Student E Not Very Often

Very Important

Very Important

Pretty Important

Very Important

Very Important






No Computer and Internet

Yes Computer and Internet

Yes Computer and Internet

Yes Computer and Internet



In the weekly Blog Survey, my students provided me with quality feedback related to the literature response blog. Through these surveys, I found that my students enjoyed using the classroom blog for a variety of reasons. Specifically, I found that my students liked typing their responses, as they found typing easier than the traditional method of writing using pencil and paper. I found that my students had a difficult time identifying reasons why they didn't like the blog. I believe that this is because my students were afraid of being honest, that perhaps I would be offended or upset with their response. Another trend that I found while analyzing the student Blog Surveys was that my students would have liked the discussion questions to include multimedia, such as videos or images related to the content of the discussion. Through my analysis, it was increasingly clear that my students engagement in the task at hand would have

Teacher Research increased if I had incorporated multimedia into each discussion prompt. Another trend that I found through my close analysis was that my students believed the literature response blog helped them become more engaged readers, due to the fact that they were responsible for providing textual evidence in their post. Throughout my research, I found that my students

gradually developed into analytical readers. Prior to my research, my students would answer my discussion questions in simple sentences that lacked depth, reasoning, and evidence of higher order thinking. In their traditional reading response journals, I would have been shocked if I had found explicit evidence of their thinking and understanding. This changed when my students began using the literature response blog as a platform to present their thinking and reasoning. Now, my students use specific details from the reading to support their thinking, often including specific page numbers and quotes. It is increasingly clear that the use of a literature response blog transformed my literacy instruction, and led my students to develop and grow as readers and writers. Blog Survey Sample: Week of November 4, 2012
Question Why do you like the blog? Why do you not like the blog? Student A "I can type." "I like everything about the blog." "Can you add pictures?" Student B "I like to type instead of write with a pencil." "I don't like how it takes so long to type." "You said you would add videos." "It helps me learn how to type and show what I learned." Student C "I like to type. I can fix my mistakes easier." "I like the blog." Student D "I like to type. I don't like to write." "I can't type very well." Student E "I like to type." "I like the blog and I wouldn't change anything." "Can you add pictures, or sound? It is boring." "The blog helps me show what I learned."

How can I make the blog better?

"I would like to post more often."

"It would be nice to see pictures." "It helps me pay attention to what we read in class because I know I will have to talk about it.

How do you think the blog helps you?

"I read better now."

"It helps me pay attention to what we read."

Teacher Research Throughout the teacher research process, I often reflected on my observations and my students learning in my teacher research journal. In my journal, I kept detailed notes that indicated my students successes and challenges with the literature response blog. From my reflections, I found that my students responses developed in depth throughout the five week research process. In the beginning, their responses were short, choppy, and lacked evidence of higher order thinking. Over the course of the research process, however, I found that my students slowly began to add relevant and specific details to their posts, including quotes from the text. I also found that my students began to pay close attention to the grammar and mechanics in their writing. An example of this finding can be seen in Appendix D. Through my analysis, I found that the literature response blog served as a creative outlet for those that are

often hesitant to participate orally during class discussions. I found that my shy students enjoyed posting on the literature response blog because it allowed them to share their thinking and understanding with their peers. In an oral discussion, these students are quiet and reserved, but on the literature response blog, they can easily and freely share their thoughts with others. As I reflect on my teacher research, I am thankful that I took the time to record my thoughts and observations regarding my research and my students, as my notes allowed me to identify significant trends in my data. In analyzing the data that I collected from conducting individual interviews with my focus group, I found many trends among my students. I began my interviews by asking the students to express what they liked about the literature response blog. Each student interviewed agreed that they liked the literature response blog because they got the chance to use the computer. According to Student A, I like that I get to use the computer more often. Student C agreed, stating I like that we are learning using the computer. Each student interviewed

Teacher Research expressed that they liked the literature response blog because they could type instead of write.


Student C said, I think it is fun to type in information instead of writing it. His peer, Student B agreed, Its fun and it is so much better than writing because writing on paper takes long. Another common trend that I found among my students was their desire to use the literature response blog for other subject areas. This was a very exciting finding, as it illustrated that my students were actively engaged in the blogging process and eager to utilize the digital technology tool for educational purposes. Student B expressed that, I would like to write about other things, like Math and Science. Student D agreed, saying, I wish we could write about other things on the blog, like other subjects. From the student interviews that I conducted, I learned valuable information about my students attitudes and opinions regarding the blogging process. Discussion As a result of engaging in the teacher research process in my classroom, I have learned valuable information about myself as an educator, my instruction, and my students. Although I was hesitant to modify my literacy instruction from traditional practices, I now realize that in order to actively engage my students, I must incorporate new literacies, like online communication experiences, into my instruction. The impact my research has had on my classroom instruction and my students learning has been rewarding and powerful. My research has inspired me to continue my quest as a lifelong learner in order to ensure that my instruction is rigorous, relevant, and innovative. As a result of my research, I have learned the importance of engaging my students in meaningful learning experiences that are centered on the use of technology. Over the past few years, digital technologies have emerged into the educational setting to be used as vehicles for instruction and tools to inspire student learning. In the past, I have been quick to integrate a digital technology tool into my instruction, often embracing the excitement of the tool, but

Teacher Research unaware of how the tool could help my students learn the curriculum. However, my teacher


research has allowed me to identify the importance of analyzing a new digital technology for its educational value and significance prior to allowing my students to interact with it. After reflecting on the value of the technology, I can then design and plan my instruction accordingly, ensuring that my students are using the tool to develop their understanding of concepts and skills. My classroom literature response blog is a prime example of this. As I look forward to my future as an educator, I know that I will now spend quality time selecting the most appropriate digital technology to integrate into my instruction. Reflecting on my research, I can also identify how I can utilize my classroom literature response blog as a platform to differentiate my instruction through technology. Throughout my research process, each of my twenty - one students drafted and posted a response to our literature response blog each week. It is important to note that each student posted a response to the same question. As I reflect on my research, it is clear that due to the diverse academic levels of my students, I should have had at least three levels of questions for my students to respond to based on their learning level. This would have allowed me to differentiate my instruction in a simple, yet effective manner through the literature response blog. As I look forward to my future instruction, I plan to differentiate my literacy instruction through the literature response blog, ensuring academic success for each student. With my research complete, I can now share what I have learned with others, with the hope that they will learn from my challenges and celebrate my successes. As I look forward to sharing my research experience with others, I would like to emphasize the value of utilizing a classroom blog for discussion purposes. I have found that blogging can offer opportunities for students to develop their communication skills through meaningful writing experiences.

Teacher Research Additionally, I have found that by using a literature response blog in my classroom, I have encouraged my students to think critically about their reading, thus resulting in more evidence


based reflections. As a result of my research, I have found that I can provide formative feedback to my students on the literature response blog in a timely fashion. Reviewing reading response journal entries is no longer cumbersome and time consuming, as I can simply log on to the classroom blog to review my students posts and comment on their work. Throughout my research, I discovered the importance of ensuring that students share their writing with more than just their teacher and their classmates. When students know that their writing is going to be read by others, including other teachers and school staff members, I found that they are excited to write and motivated to try their best. I firmly believe that when I share my findings with my peers, they will be able to see that a literature response blog is an effective instructional vehicle, one that allows students to illustrate their understanding of concepts and skills. Moreover, I believe that my peers will recognize that a blog is a simple, yet effective digital technology tool that can be integrated into their content area instruction seamlessly. I am eager to share my findings with others in the hopes that they will be inspired to modify their current instructional in order to better meet the diverse learning needs of the twenty - first century learners in their classrooms. In conclusion, my teacher research was a rewarding process, as it encouraged me to learn about myself, my instruction, and my students. I am eager to celebrate my successes and embrace the challenges that I encountered throughout the research process. As I look forward to my future as an educator, I know that I will continue to observe my classroom with an analytical lens, always questioning what I can change to improve my instruction and thus the learning of my students.

Teacher Research References Hungerford Kresser, H., Wiggins, J., & Amaro Jimenez, C. (2011). Learning from our mistakes: What matters when incorporating blogging in the content area literacy classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(4), 326-335. MacLean, M. S., & Mohr, M. M. (1999). Teacher researchers at work. Berkeley: National Writing Project.


McKeown, M. G., & Beck, I. L. (1999). Getting the discussion started. Educational Leadership, 57(3), 25-28. Zawilinski, L. (2009). Hot blogging: A framework for blogging to promote higher order thinking. The Reading Teacher, 62(8), 650-661.

Teacher Research Appendix A: Parent Letter


Read All About It! What is Kidblog?

Dear Parents, You may be asking yourself, what is a blog? This week, your child is going to start participating in a class blog located on Kidblog. Kidblog is a forum specifically designed for elementary and middle school students. Kidblog is the perfect tool for young students to use to post their writing online. Kidblog is safe, monitored, and free of advertisements. Each week, I will post a writing prompt that the students will answer. The prompts will be based on the texts that we read in class. Occasionally, we will have a fun prompt! When we do not have time in class to "dig" into a topic, students can use the blog to extend their thinking. Please note that posts can be seen by other students, so the prompts will be opinion based. Our class blog is only accessible with a valid user name and password. I am the administrator of the blog, therefore I can accept, delete, or suggest edits on posts and comments. Your child is encouraged to read the responses of their peers and comment on their work. The students and I are currently discussing example comments, positive responses, and the importance of higher level thinking. As administrator, I will comment on your child's posts as well. I am very excited about this opportunity, and I know that the students will enjoy reading my feedback. I am looking forward to beginning this technology adventure with your child. By using the classroom blog to demonstrate their understanding, your child will be engaging in higher order thinking that are essential to their success in second grade and beyond. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. In the meantime, take a look at our class blog. You are welcome to log in to your child's page at any time. Sincerely, Mrs. Godwin

Teacher Research Appendix B: Class Bulletin Board


I can create, edit, and post a response to the classroom blog. Standard W.2.5: With guidance and support from adults and peers, focus on a topic and strengthen writing as needed by revising and editing. Standard W.2.6: With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

Teacher Research Appendix B: Class Bulletin Board


How can I get to our classroom blog to post my response?

1. Go to www.kidblog.com 2. Login using Mrs. Godwin's email address, emgodwin@nrms.k12.nc.us 3. Click the class link at the bottom of the page. 4. Click on the question that you would like to respond to. 5. Login using your username and password.

Teacher Research Appendix D: Sample Blog Posts