Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wicked Problem Findings and Implications

For the final part of my wicked problem, I will be reflecting and assessing the solutions that I have implemented over the past few weeks.  I have began to implement the use of pen-pal emails, VoiceThread, and Skype to help increase the confidence of communication in a world language classroom.  I will also be considering implications for future wicked problems that I may encounter in my years of teaching.  

I began looking into pen-pal emails to increasing the confidence in communication with writing and reading skills.  I thought that it was going to be really easy to find websites to interact with native Spanish speaking students.  I discovered that the websites provided by my textbook were not very resourceful and that I was going to have to find another website.  I ended up using ePals and it was very user friendly and safe for students.  I have found a reliable website, but I am still waiting to hear back from a few teachers that I have contacted.  It is hard being in this waiting zone and I feel stuck because I have to rely on another teacher communicating with me.  While I am waiting, it will allow my students time to practice their writing skills in class and hopefully make them really prepared so we can send emails as soon as we get in contact with another classroom.

I researched using VoiceThread to increase confidence in my students' speaking and listening skills.  VoiceThread ended up costing money, so I had to find out if we had an account at my school.  Unfortunately we did not, so this part of my implementation was not going as planned.  I don't want to invest the money in the program this year because there's only about a month a of school left.  In the future, I would like to seek out a possible grant from the technology department or the PTA in the beginning of the year so I can use the program all year long.

Lastly, I wanted to look into the benefits of Skype to increase the communication in students' speaking and listening skills.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to research the use of Skype, but I will look into in the upcoming weeks especially because VoiceThread is not going to work out this year.  If Skype doesn't work out, there are other tools I can use such as Google Voice, Google Hangout, Audiboo, CLEAR, and GarageBand.

Overall, I believe that these tools will work well to increase students' confidence in communication.  A few weeks is not much time to see a significant increase, but I did have students practice writing to a pen-pal.  As I was walking around, I asked students about their writing.  Many were very excited to be writing to an actual person!  I had students send me their emails because I wanted to check them before we send them off.  After looking at the students' emails, I could see that they were very well thought out and that students were writing more than they would have if I had given them a list of things to write.  Also, students seemed to be encouraged to look up new vocabulary to describe themselves whereas if they were writing it to me on a test, they would have just used the vocabulary that they know.  I am sure these good effects will carry over once we use VoiceThread and Skype.  I am excited to continue to see all the benefits that web tools have to offer.

In the future, I will continue to have a well thought out plan, but I will look into the programs/tools  before I commit to using them.  The reason why I will do this is because I didn't know VoiceThread was going to cost money.  I just decided to use that automatically because I heard great things about it, just not the cost part.  Also, I will seek ideas from other colleagues.  I didn't do this throughout this project, but realize in the future my colleagues are facing many of the same problems as I am.  It would be great to attack the problem as a team!  Another good idea would be giving students a survey at the beginning and end of the trimester.  It would be good to have students assess their growth and confidence in their communication skills. Plus it will help me know which areas are working out well and what areas still needs some help.  Lastly, I would begin to implement my strategies in the beginning of the year or the start of the a new trimester.  This would be more beneficial because students will start off the year using these tools and will learn how to use them throughout the year.  I can use scaffolding by starting at the beginning of the year and work towards a final project at the end of the trimester.  I believe this will be encouraging for students because they will be able to see a final product of all of their hard work from the trimester. 

I still feel that students will still struggle with this in the future, hence why it is a wicked problem!  The main thing I would change is implementing the problem in the beginning of the year.  This way students don't feel like I am just forcing them to do something, it will be more natural through the use of scaffolding.  Also, I will apply for grants through the PTA or other resources.  This way I can use online tools that may cost money. 

One conclusion that I can make is that there are solutions to these wicked problems that we face as teachers, administrators, or technology specialist.  With a well thought out plan, you can begin to implement strategies using web based tools and technology to help solve problems.  The other conclusion that I can make is that others have really helpful and great ideas about resources that you may not know about.  After giving my survey, I received great ideas on tools to increase my students' communication.  I learned about tools that I had never heard of.  It is great to stay in communication with classmates and colleagues. 

A recommendation that I have for the future problem solvers would be to narrow your ideas from the beginning.  If you have too many ideas of things that you want to do, you will not have time to implement them all.  The next recommendation that I have is to have an open ended question on the survey that gives you the opportunity to get ideas from others such as which technology tools they use.  If a person has used a tool and knows it's good, then you know it's worth a try! Lastly, I would recommend the use of Evernote to record information while you are implementing your project.  It is a great tool that stores all of your information (emails, notes, screenshots, and more) in one place.  Using Evernote was a tremendous help when I was writing out the implementation part of my project. 

Overall, it has been a very good experience to try and fix a wicked problem that I have in my classroom.  It is motivating to know that there are strategies and tools worth implementing that can improve problems while using technology.  In the future I will continue my work as a problem solver! 

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