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Inquiry Scan Assignment! Melissa Whyman! Laredo Middle School#

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ABSTRACT! Special Education students and general education Language Arts teachers were observed to determine areas of concern for my students over all achievement. Concerns about teachers instruction, students home life and race, and students internal operations were all called into question. The end result being, How can I help my students success academically? !

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I teach Language Arts to students with Learning Disabilities at Laredo Middle School in Aurora. The students I work with have on average IQs in the 70s. This means that most of my students struggle with reading and writing. They tend to be 2 or more grade levels behind academically. I also work with a large population of minority students. I absolutely love my school and the diversity my students bring to me. !

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After hearing about our CSAP results my number one priority is to nd a way to help my students achieve at a higher level. I want to be the force that motivated them to strive for success. Students with Learning Disabilities can achieve but often times lose the drive and determination to obtain their educational goals.! Introduction Laredo Middle School is a public school in the Cherry Creek School District located in Aurora, CO. Laredos population is just under 1200 students. LMS has a high population of African American students. We are not a Title 1 school, but we are very close to reaching that level. Our school prides itself on being an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Progamme school (IBMYP). We also are an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) certified school.

This is my sixth year teaching Language Arts to students with Learning Disabilities. The students I work with have on average IQs in the 70s. This means that most of my students struggle with

ACTION RESEARCH! reading and writing. They tend to be 2 or more grade levels behind academically. I also work with a large population of minority students. I absolutely love my school and the diversity my students bring to my life as an individual and as an educator.

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I teach three reading intervention classes using a new researched based program called Phonics Boost and Phonics Blitz. I also team teach with a general education Language Arts teacher in both seventh and eighth grade. These classes have been restructured this year and have fewer Special Education students and a great mix of ability levels. This team-taught approach is benefiting some but not all of the Special Education students.

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After hearing about our schools Colorado State Assessment Program (CSAP) results at a faculty meeting my number one priority is to find a way to help my students achieve at a higher level. I want to be the force that motivated them to strive for success. Students with Learning Disabilities can achieve but often times lose the drive and determination to obtain their educational goals. Our school dropped significantly in all areas as recorded on the CSAP for 2011. The school wide focus is reading. We have implemented mandatory reading blocks two times a day for every student. My fear is that with all the emphasis on reading writing will be put on the wayside. Only two years ago our writing scores had dropped and therefore our school wide focus was writing instruction. We need to find the happy medium for our students to grow and succeed within all areas of education.

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Current Problem By just focusing on reading instruction students will lose out on improving writing skills. Without a focus on writing instruction we will be losing all that we have gained or tried to gain over the last two years. Our scores have dropped in all areas yet we are only planning on focusing our efforts into the area of greatest concern.

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I believe that students in Special Education (SpEd) need to be exposed to both reading and writing interventions on a regular basis. The use of technology can play a very important role in this process of instruction. Students are now required to write very little in class. The rigor is diminished with our focus on reading. Writing can be very time consuming for SpEd students. The lack of motivation and determination that also face these students affects this time management in writing. Students who struggle want to get done fast. When their skills are weak it makes their motivation to produce quality work minimal.

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I have access in my classroom of allowing each student the use of an Alpha Smart or Acer to complete written tasks on. My inquiry has driven me to see if using technology will increase student completion and increase student ability in the area of written expression.

ACTION RESEARCH! Many of my students receive failing grades in multiple classes because of work completion issues. They are not determined enough to get their work completed because the time it takes a student with a Learning Disability to complete tasks can be twice that of a non-disabled peer. Will the use of technology improve writing completion assignments?

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Purpose of Action Research Inquiry This inquiry will evaluate the use of assistive technology in the form of an Alpha Smart or Acer to assist students with Specific Learning Disabilities in becoming more successful writers in the classroom.

Research Questions The following questions will guide this inquiry:

! Does the use of an Alpha Smart improve student homework completion? ! Can students improve their writing with details when they use technology? ! Will spelling and punctuation be improved with the use of an Alpha Smart/Acer? !
Action ResearchData Collection Methods Melissa Whyman INTE 6720, Fall 2011

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Introduction Laredo Middle School is a public school in the Cherry Creek School District located in Aurora, CO. Laredos population is just under 1200 students. LMS has a high population of African American students. We are not a Title 1 school, but we are very close to reaching that level. Our school prides itself on being an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Progamme school (IBMYP). We also are an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) certified school.

This is my sixth year teaching Language Arts to students with Learning Disabilities. The students I work with have on average IQs in the 70s. This means that most of my students struggle with reading and writing. They tend to be 2 or more grade levels behind academically. I also work with a large population of minority students. I absolutely love my school and the diversity my students bring to my life as an individual and as an educator.

I teach three reading intervention classes using a new researched based program called Phonics Boost and Phonics Blitz. I also team teach with a general education Language Arts teacher in both seventh and eighth grade. These classes have been restructured this year and have fewer Special Education students and a great mix of ability levels. This team-taught approach is benefiting some but not all of the Special Education students.

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After hearing about our schools Colorado State Assessment Program (CSAP) results at a faculty meeting, my number one priority is to find a way to help my students achieve at a higher level. I want to be the force that motivated them to strive for success. Students with Learning Disabilities can achieve, but often times lose the drive and determination to obtain their educational goals. Our school dropped significantly in all areas as recorded on the CSAP for 2011. The school wide focus is reading. We have implemented mandatory reading blocks two times a day for every student. My fear is that with all the emphasis on reading writing will be put on the wayside. Only two years ago our writing scores had dropped and therefore our school wide focus was writing instruction. We need to find the happy medium for our students to grow and succeed within all areas of education.

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Current Problem By just focusing on reading instruction students will lose out on improving writing skills. Without a focus on writing instruction we will be losing all that we have gained or tried to gain over the last two years. Our scores have dropped in all areas yet we are only planning on focusing our efforts into the area of greatest concern.

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I believe that students in Special Education (SpEd) need to be exposed to both reading and writing interventions on a regular basis. The use of technology can play a very important role in this process of instruction. Students are now required to write very little in class. The rigor is diminished with our focus on reading. Writing can be very time consuming for SpEd students. The lack of motivation and determination that also face these students affects this time management in writing. Students who struggle want to get done fast. When their skills are weak it makes their motivation to produce quality work minimal.

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I have access in my classroom of allowing each student the use of an Alpha Smart or Acer to complete written tasks on. My inquiry has driven me to see if using technology will increase student completion and increase student ability in the area of written expression. Many of my students receive failing grades in multiple classes because of work completion issues. They are not determined enough to get their work completed because the time it takes a student with a Learning Disability to complete tasks can be twice that of a non-disabled peer. Will the use of technology improve writing completion assignments? Purpose of Action Research Inquiry This inquiry will evaluate the use of assistive technology in the form of an Alpha Smart or Acer to assist students with Specific Learning Disabilities in becoming more successful writers in the classroom.

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Research Questions The following questions will guide this inquiry:

! Does the use of an Alpha Smart/Acer improve student homework completion? ! Can students improve their writing with details when they use technology? ! Will spelling and punctuation be improved with the use of an Alpha Smart/Acer? ! !

Methods My initial thoughts on this inquiry are that students will be receptive to the use of technology and this will propel the instruction in writing. Kids love to use technology and they are always looking for the next cool tool. Many students arent familiar with an Alpha Smart of an Acer. This might peak their interests.

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Participants The key players in my research are the students and the core teachers. The students are the ones using the technology and the teachers are the ones that are grading the work. These two key players are ready and willing to see how the use of technology helps them. My focus is going to be on my Eighth Grade Language Arts Lab class. I see the greatest struggle with grades in Eighth Grade with regards to work completion. The workloads are harder and more rigorous. I have direct contact with all involved. I teach 8 students in a Language Arts Lab class. These are the students that have been selected in the research. I also Team Teach with an 8th grade Language Arts teacher who has all of the students in the research in a core class. Therefore my control will be my mixed level lab class as well as my team taught students that are SpEd.

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Data Collection! I have a baseline on the students who are on my caseload for writing. I have given them five minutes to write a fictional story of their choice using a sentence starter. They are graded on correct word sequence. This means that for every word they spell and is grammatically correct they get a point and for every mistake they make they lose two points. They are always given a minute to think before they write and then they are told to write as much as they can.

I gave the students a survey on how well they believe their typing skills are, how much they type, would they like to type, and how much access they have to technology at home. I feel like knowing the background of my students in regards to technology will be a great asset to the action research I will be conducting. Appendix A

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I have found typing speed scores as a baseline for the students selected for this inquiry. Knowing how fast they can type in regards to how fast they write will be valuable information in the conclusion results of this research. Appendix B I have also had the students hand write a similar paragraph to the one they typed to give a reference on how the speeds compare. This will be important when determining if the use of Alpha Smarts increases student work completion. Appendix C. I will also be doing weekly grade checks to determine if the students are completing all assignments and to what level those assignments are completed in. The grading scale is A-F. The percent breakdown is ten percent between each grade until 50% or below, which is an F. Data Analysis I have tested the students handwriting and typing speeds to get a baseline of performance at the beginning of the study. This will help me to determine if it will be beneficial to have the students type their work. It will also play a factor in whether they complete assignments on time. In order to determine if the students are completing work on time I will be checking their grades on PowerSchool, our schools grade reporting system. I have access to all classes of all the students in the study. Classwork assessment will also be taken from each assignment listed in PowerSchool. The over all grade and the daily assignment grades will be taken into account. I have also given the students a survey to get some background information on how much access and use they have with technology. I also wanted to know if they would prefer to use technology over basic hand writing. This information will be a basis to assess which students were the most successful and what might have been a factor in that success. In order to get a baseline on the students actual writing abilities I gave them a Correct Word Sequence (CWS) task. The CWS task is a 5 minute sentence starter writing task. The students are given a sentence starter and are then asked to write for 5 minutes making a fictitious story about the prompt. The scores are nationally norm referenced on the AIMSweb.com progress monitoring site. All of the assessments have been research based for norm based scores. The mean score for an 8th grade student is 49 on CWS written expression assessments.

Questions X Table
Research Question 1. Does the use of an Alpha Smart/Acer improve student homework completion? Primary Data Source Backup Source

Grades

Student Survey

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2. Can students improve their writing with details when they use technology? 3. Will spelling and punctuation be improved with the use of an Alpha Smart/ Acer? 4. Will students grades improve with the use of an Alpha Smart?

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Correct Writing Sequence Progress Monitoring

Classwork assessment

Classwork assessment

Student Survey

Grades

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Schedule Week Ending Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 9/25/11 10/2/11 10/9/11 10/16/11 10/23/11 10/30/11 11/6/11 11/13/11 11/27/11 12/4/11

Topic Data Collection Methods Doing a Literature Review Analyzing Qualitative Data Reasoning About Data Inquiry as Narrative Testing/Evaluating Knowledge From Inquiry to Action Coherence and Reasoned Persuasion Achieving an Impact Conclusions

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Ethics/Stakeholder Impacts All of the staff and students involved are very excited to participate and see what the results are. The Pros are that they students could increase work production and improve overall academic success. The Cons are that they students will either not use the technology or it will not improve work completion. Having such a close relationship with all parties involved, I dont see any outside issues arising at this time.

Check For Rigor

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I am using many different outlets for inquiry. I am using students opinions, students scores in class, and students ability levels. All of these areas will help me to see the issue from all sides. I can tell if they students are engaged, if the scores in class are improving, and if their academic ability is improving with the use of technology.

Methods Initial Thoughts My initial thoughts on this inquiry are that students will be receptive to the use of technology and this will propel the instruction in writing. Kids love to use technology and they are always looking for the next cool tool. Many students arent familiar with an Alpha Smart of an Acer. This might peak their interests.

I already have a baseline on the students on my caseload for writing. I give them five minutes to write a fictional story of their choice using a sentence starter. They are graded on correct word sequence. This means that for every word they spell and is grammatically correct they get a point and for every mistake they make they lose two points. They are always given a minute to think before they write and then they are told to write as much as they can.

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I would like to give the students a survey on how well they believe their typing skills are and how much access they have to technology at home. I feel like knowing the background of my students in regards to technology will be a great asset to the action research I will be conducting. I would also like to find typing speed scores as a baseline for the students selected for this inquiry. Knowing how fast they can type in regards to how fast they write will be valuable information in the conclusion results of this research. I, also, am planning on giving some quick mini lessons on how to use the computers to type as well as spell check. The surveys will be able to help me guide this instruction because on student knowledge. My focus is going to be on my eighth grade Language Arts Lab class. I see the greatest struggle with grades in eighth grade. The workloads are harder and more rigorous. Therefore my control will be my mixed level lab class as well as my team taught students that are SpEd.

Search Procedures! As a Special Education teacher, I have become a member of the Student Council for Exceptional Children. Along with my membership to this organization, I receive monthly journals and magazines pertaining to education issues around students with disabilities. This was my rst step in the Literature Review. I looked at issues of Teaching Exceptional Children, Learning Disabilities, and Exceptional Children. I found that Teaching Exceptional Children has the most useful journal articles. I then moved onto

ACTION RESEARCH! textbooks related to students with disabilities as well as Web Literacy. I found these books to be useful in the law aspect of technology for students with disabilities. I then went to the internet to further my research. I searched through articles on Google Scholar. I found two excellent articles. My initial Google search produced the AlphaSmart website which had important information on how the device is used. !

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Literature Review! Paper made life easier. Centuries later, a new and even more powerful technology emerged that started to replace paper (November, 2010). This technology has had amazing transformations in the way students and the world operate. The technology related assistance to individuals with disabilities act of 1988, often called the Tech Act, authorizes federal funds to be granted to the states to help create statewide systems for delivering assistive technology and technology services to people with disabilities. (Turnbull, 2002) It is because of this Act that my current school has had the access to 15 AlphaSmarts. These assistive technology devices are any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modied, or customized, that is used to increase maintain, promote the functional capacities of children with disabilities (Turnbull, 2002).!

Assistive technology has, of course, had the biggest impact on students with disabilities. Many students who were previously thought to be unteachable have been able to access curricula, including the general curriculum, by using these tools(Teaching, 2006). It is this idea of giving students access to learning that they previously couldnt achieve that has brought me to my action research. Does the use of technology really help students? In our classrooms, it is not unusual to see students who struggle to produce legible print. In actuality, many students have difculty with the physical printing and writing process (which will henceforth be referred to as handwriting)- difculty that is signicant enough to interfere with their academic performance (Teaching, 2009). If this is the case then, does technology make it easier for students with disabilities? !

As early as 1984, computers were considered as a writing medium for students with learning disabilities and research has been continuing to address the use of the computer for the writing needs of students with learning disabilities (Teaching. 2009). As a Special Education teacher federal law mandates the consideration of AT when writing a students IEP. They must identify available accommodations, modications, and AT that promote access to the general education curriculum (Teaching, 2006). Because of this law I need to make sure that I include all things that will assist students in their academic and future endeavors. !

Keyboarding is a critical life skill, and in education, the focus must be on the skills that will serve our students well now and in their future.(Teaching, 2009) Writing is a difcult and demanding task requiring attention to multiple processes. Data from the national assessment of educational progress shows three out of every four 4th, 8th and 12th grade students demonstrated only partial master of necessary writing skills and

ACTION RESEARCH! knowledge at their respective grade levels. (Exceptional Children) This data shows that students need to be given another avenue to express their knowledge.!

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For many students with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and other developmental disabilities, intellectual or cognitive processing takes a backseat to the effort involved in the motor planning that must go on in order to put pencil to paper. Thus, the students quality and quantity of response is diminished (Teaching, 2009). Technology can change all of this for students. The use of an AlphaSmart can assist students in their ability to produce more and higher quality work. Some might argue that the cost is too high to be able to get technology into the hands of all students with Learning Disabilities. All that is needed is a word processing program. The student will not need access to the internet or any other programs, nor will the students need a new computer (Teaching, 2009). This will make it affordable for schools to get technology into the hands of students that need it. !

A research study by Russell, Corbell, and Cowan in 2003 showed that When each student was given an AlphaSmart, a high percentage of students saw word processors as a primary tool for writing. Having unfettered access to an AlphaSmart also changed the way they approached writing, according to their teachers, nearly universally improved the quality of their work (Russell, 2003). I hope that the use of AlphaSmarts with my students also increases their quantity. Beside that I just hope to see if it improves their ability to complete the task. Perhaps more importantly, all three participating teachers reported that the increased technology led to higher quality student work. The teachers elaborated that students were more willing to write longer drafts of their papers for all subject areas and they were more apt to remember about paragraphs and quotation and punctuation marks (Russell, 2003). I feel like this proves that technology does improve student work. Individuals with communication, physical, learning, and sensory disabilities use assistive devices to gain greater control over their lives and environment.(Teaching, 2005) As a teacher this is my primary goal for students. If they are able to gain greater control over their lives then they will be more motivated to work and achieve. !

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Conclusions! After compiling all the information on the topic of AlphaSmart use for students with disabilities, I found that the research by Russell and Teaching Exceptional Children states students who use assistive technology can produce more detailed, expressive writing than if they used the standard pencil and paper. The use of this Assistive technology assists students whom have motor issues as well as expressive difculties. I didnt nd much research on the idea of work completion increasing with the use of the technology. However, the research did show that the quantity of work was increased. My action research will give me a greater sense of how successful assistive technology is for students in regards to work completion. !

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Findings!

ACTION RESEARCH! This section reports on the ndings of my action research using the AlphaSmart technology for students with Learning Disabilities in 8th grade. !

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References! Brown, L. (2009). Take the pencil out of the process. Teaching Exceptional Children, 42(1), 14-21.! Cramer, M. M., & Turnbull, R. (2002). Student study guide to accompany Exceptional lives, special education in today's schools, 3rd edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.! Marino, M., Marino, E., & Shaw, S. (2006). Making informed assistive technology decisions for students with high incidence disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 38 (6), 19-24.! NEO Direct - Perfect for All Writing Needs. (n.d.). NEO Direct - perfect for all writing needs. Retrieved October 10, 2011, from http://www.alphasmart.com! November, A. C. (2010). Web Literacy. Empowering students with technology (2nd ed., pp. 1-2). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.! Russell, M., Bebell, D., Cowan, J., & Corbell, M. (2003). An AlphaSmart for each student: Do teaching and learning change with full access to word processors?. Computers and Composition, 20 (1), 51-76. Retrieved October 9, 2011, from http://0-www.sciencedirect.com.skyline.ucdenver.edu/science/article/pii/ S8755461502001755! Salend, S. (2005). Using technology to teach about individual differences related to disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 38 (2), 32-38.#

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