Friday, July 11, 2014

Collaborative Action Research: Empower Your Teachers (Part II)

My last post looked at  the power of CAR and why the library should be integral to the process, beyond the obvious research reasons.  Here, we'll look at how we implemented the process at my school.

Our CAR team consisted of our tech integrator, me, the IT manager and my über-organized assistant, who set up all the check-out procedures and worked with the IT manager to decide the process for requesting/loading apps.

Cataloguing the sets in Destiny Asset Manager
Between the school and our parent group, we had a set of  36  16gb iPads, which we broke into sets of 6 by department area.  A few generally useful apps such as Explain Everything, were on all the iPads; otherwise, we kept a list of which apps were on which set.  We were going to run out of room fast, if we tried to have every app on every device.  The library made a rule from the start that the iPad sets  had to be checked out by the teacher, and could only be checked out as a set.  We broke that  last rule occasionally, when a student needed an iPad to finish a project.  We catalogued the set itself in Destiny, making it easier to check out.   Each set had a different colored cover, making them easy to identify.  Each set also had a subject-based (e.g. science/math) desktop image.

In addition, the school bought an iPad for each teacher's personal use (I work at a GREAT school!).  Half came from the teacher's personal PD money, and the school paid for the rest.  Each teacher had the option of buying an iPad retina or an iPad mini; in return, teachers had to commit to completing the CAR cycle (including their final iBooks chapter write-up).  Teachers who did not finish for some reason had to reimburse the school for the iPad.

Once we knew what we had to work with, we had to decide what we were going to do, especially since none of us knew much about action research.  Of course, that meant doing some research of our own:  we wanted to know what was being done, and how people were doing it.  We collected our research here, and quickly realized we had two very basic questions at this point: Can iPads improve student learning?   Can they replace a MacBook Pro (we're 1:1 laptop)?

With those guiding questions in mind, we met to design the study.  Teachers had to apply to be part of the study (though, really, I don't think we turned anyone down) and commit to completion. We ended up with about 17 teachers the first year  (a similar number this year), from Science, Math, Languages, PE, Music, English, ESOL and admin--a good cross study.  They also had a varying range of technology ability/phobia.  We had to dedicate the first few sessions to just familiarizing them with the iPad.

You can see the notes from our brainstorming session here.  It includes our outcomes as well as a tentative schedule of courses and content.  We also knew we definitely wanted to publish our findings to a global audience, having learned the power of going "public and permanent"  with the  WW II: Illustrated Histories project with the grade 10s.  Thus, we decided teachers would need to document their study and findings in an iBooks chapter, which we would collect into a book and publish. (We hope those will go live by the end of the summer!)

We also thought the best way to organized the course was through iTunes U, which would be easy for teachers to access using their iPads.  You can download the cycle 2 course here, and cycle 3 here (FYI, cycle 1 was the WW II book with the students.  We have that process documented here.) It's actually pretty cool that we have several schools following the course--and Apple's keeping an eye on it, too.  The teachers know this, and it honors and values their efforts when they know the world is watching!

Finally, we needed to adapt an easy action research process to our needs.

That's quite enough to look at for now!  My new post will look more specifically at a few of the process elements, the action research planner, and how we tried to structure the sessions.

If you have any questions you want answered, please post them in the comments!

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