Research Update – February

Better late than never, right?

I am feeling a little stalled with my Masters Research and upcoming Literature Review.

My activity:

  • I’ve downloaded about 15 articles
  • I’ve read a few articles and skimmed many others
  • I selected a citation tool! (That’s one for the “WIN” column!) Mendeley: free, easy, friendly, and shareable.

My inactivity:

  • I am not even sure which articles have any value for my project or my Literature Review
  • I have not been excited or inspired by any of the articles so far, except for a Lit Review from Great Britain from 2009. Too old.
  • I feel like I am reading FOR something, but I am not sure exactly what it is
  • Leftover from the summer sessions where I felt blindsided when I learned that the articles I had specifically selected from the University Library were not actually Peer Reviewed – although the Library had listed them as Peer Reviewed. I learned about this bizarre grey area where peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed articles cohabitate.
  • I struggle with formulaic writing. I know that I can do it, no one my age can make it through high school without learning how to slap together an essay, but I need a formula that works for me. I don’t know what I am doing or how to start.
  • My topic is still fuzzy. How can I start writing without a topic?

I’ve done everything to kick-start my process: web my ideas, journal informally, list ideas, re-list ideas, web my listed ideas, talk with people, read for more information, etc. I met with our professor earlier this month and she gave me great advice about telling my own story as part of this Masters project, and then looking for research to substantiate the actions or decisions that I made. Narrative writing makes me happy, and seems like a nice place to start. The most difficult thing about this is that I lost my “journals” about my process of initiating BYOD in my classroom last year when our blogs hosted at UVic were lost. Some of my most authentic reflections are gone. Those “in the moment” reflections are difficult to recreate.

I am excited about using Mendeley as a citation tool. A few of us got together to learn about it and will be blogging about it soon.

I’m not sure what to do next. Do I continue to read and hope something sparks? Do I continue to write sweet nothings on my so-called Lit Review? I know that I need to refine my keywords and pick a clear direction for selecting more articles to add to the pile. I also think that it is time to contact the UVic Research Librarian for help.

I also need to organize the articles I have printed. How much information do I need to keep with these articles? I believe that I need to have the location they were retrieved from and the search terms used. Anything else?

Taking some advice from Tracey Thorne means that my next step is to read, read, read and look for themes. It’s nice to have a plan.



Reflective Teaching – Day 16

Te@chThought‘s Day 16 Challenge is: “If you could have one superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?”

My original response to this was the ability to clone myself – to be everywhere at once, to be present wherever I was needed, to be able to meet the needs to all students as they arose. But, I think that Superpower would actually be a negative. If I was cloned, no one would get all of me. Everyone would only be entitled to a piece, and no matter how effective that Superpower was, my attention and care would still be divided. And everyone would know.

I think that I would like to be able to manipulate time. Childhood goes by so quickly! I would love for those exciting moments to last much longer, and to speed up the painful ones.

I don’t even think that this needs to be a Superpower. When we give our students more choice in their learning experiences, those exciting, joyful moments can become the bulk of their day. The more painful or tedious moments can be done in a supportive, collaborative fashion. I wouldn’t like to think  of our learners rushing through unpleasant tasks, so maybe the tasks change to reflect the needs of the learners? I don’t have an answer for how this can be done in a classroom of 30 students, but I believe that even small changes can impact the perception of how time flows in our classrooms.

Now, if only I can apply the same sense of flow to my own organization and task list!

Reflective Teaching – Day 8

Te@chThought‘s Day 8 challenge is “What’s in your desk drawer, and what can you infer from those contents?

My desk drawer is usually very untidy! I always want it to be neater, and I reorganize it as often as I can. Some of the things of value to me include: my “special” pen, sticky notes of all sizes, notepads, calligraphy pen, cords, and chocolate.

My special pen is not unique. It is a blue Pilot pen, and it is my favourite pen to write with. I usually mark my pen with a strip of tape and try to keep track of that single pen all year! I love how smoothly this pen writes, but I also enjoy how the ink level drops through the year. My attachment to this pen is a little silly, and I don’t really like to think about what I can infer about that! The dropping ink level reminds me of an hour glass. As the ink is used I am reminded to appreciate my time. I am reminded to write words of value. I am reminded about the importance of feedback, and being generous with my words and actions.

Sticky notes are so versatile! Students can record their thinking as they read, marking pages with sticky notes without deeply disrupting their thinking. I can infer that I enjoy the idea of organizing-on-the-go, and that keeping your ideas on placeholders can be a helpful thing. It is easy to remove a sticky note, which allows my students to temporarily post an idea and refine it as they go along.

I love notepads! I love technology, but I still think best on paper. I can infer that I may be a “lister”: someone who enjoys drafting lists. I do make lists, constantly. But, I also use the notepads to pass notes in class. I love the surprise of a hand-written note. I try to post short, appreciative notes in my students’s desks, so that they know that I see their efforts, and care about them.

I might infer that a calligraphy pen would indicate a person who enjoys flowery script and is somewhat artistic. Neither is true! I wish that I had neater writing. I have difficulty creating art. I did learn some calligraphy a few years ago, and love to write this way, especially when I am trying to create something meaningful.

The cords tell me that the desk may be used by someone who uses a lot of technology. I am someone who ends up with many cords and items in various states of repair. The tangled mess can be a problem.

The chocolate is self-explanatory!

The clutter tells me that I need to develop a few more organizational strategies. When I consider how few items that I actually use from my desk I realize that my desk is primarily a surface upon which things pile up. I’d like to remove the student desks in my classroom, and it might be a good idea to look at an alternate working space for myself, as well.

Reflective Teaching – Day 5

Te@chthought‘s Day 5 Challenge is “Post a picture of your classroom, and describe what you see–and what you don’t see that you’d like to.”

I’m sorry. I looked, and I do not have a picture of my classroom from this year! I was very excited last year to learn that my classroom was the next in line to receive the furniture budget. I met with the Vice-Principal and she listened to my vision for my room. That year I had worked hard to meet the varying needs of my students to provide self-regulated, self-selected work spaces. We had desks that were extremely old and we used that as an excuse to work anywhere! We had yoga mats, weights, pillows and various cubbies for students to sit in. We had an agreement about how our class could look during working times when people needed to focus on their own jobs, and during “listening” times when it may look different, but we still needed to show respect to whoever was speaking. During working times, students could be anywhere, conversations were welcomed at a respectful volume, and activities were self-selected. During listening times, students could be anywhere, but needed to find a space where they could maintain eye-contact with whoever was speaking during the discussion. 

When I learned that I would receive funding, I was desperate to get rid of our desks. All desks! I call my students a “family” and I pictured a learning environment that worked well for a family. I envisioned a couple of used dining room tables (at two heights – regular and bar stool height), a few bean bag chairs, foam flooring area, a couch or two, and multiple gaming chairs. I wanted to hold off on funding this change until I met my students in September 2013, so that we could co-create this space together. The vice-principal agreed. Later in the summer I received a phone call from my principal announcing that my new desks had been ordered. So, that is how my classroom looks. Traditional, new desks with pockets for storing textbooks. One desk and chair for each child. I have gained some flexibility in moving these desks around as they are much smaller than my previous desks, but my room still looks more like a classroom than a family space. 

Maybe one day I can renovate this space!

Reflective Teaching – Day 3

Te@chthought‘s Day 3 blogging challenge is: “Discuss one “observation” area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.”

There are a few areas that I would like to improve in this year, but one that is most obvious to me (and keeps me up at night) is my most embarrassing bad habit. I have a tendency to allow clutter and chaos to reign when I get busy. So, the area that I would like to immediately improve on is managing my work flow for efficiency and organization. I am somewhat organized, but it does not translate well! I find myself in a panic when I get snowed in at home and I think about the chaos on my desk! My planning is done, but actually finding everything. . . that is another story! I stack the papers that I don’t know what to do with on my desk (I plan on dealing with them later), notes, and the endless administrative paperwork also end up in these piles. At the end of this school year, I finally excavated to the bottom of one of these piles and found stuff from October. Embarrassing. 

I am not sure how to improve in this area. I have tried several ideas: 

  • deal with the paper clutter immediately: file it, recycle it, respond to it, just do something!
  • tidy once a week – completely
  • tape my mailbox shut so that nothing new can be delivered until the old stuff has been processed

None of these worked for me! Dealing with the paper that my school produces could consume my entire work day. This was not an efficient tactic. Tidying once a week really helped – as long as nothing got scheduled or interfered. Once I left my pattern, I had difficulty getting back. And taping my mailbox did not work at all. The office had scissors. 

Having a teaching partner made me try a lot harder last year. But, you can see from above that I did not manage to deal with my piles completely last year! 

I think that the best strategy for me has been to schedule my time/work more efficiently – and stick to it! Acknowledge when I am off schedule and make an immediate correction.