Leap and the Net Will Appear

Sometimes you just gotta believe.

The givens:

I have decided my action research question will focus on the circumstances and beliefs that lead to student engagement in learning. I really want to use blogging or digital storytelling as the lens through which to explore engagement. I also want to build my own skills in integrating technology so I can help my colleagues do the same.

The challenge:

At this point we are struggling for lab time. We have 500 + students with one 30 person lab. My students may not get enough time for these tech-intensive tasks. We may get a new lab sometime in the spring.

The fall-back position:

I could go to plan B (which was my plan A): investigate the effectiveness of action (drama) strategies such as hot-seating, role plays, and mantle of the expert in promoting student engagement in the content areas. I have been knocked out by Jeffrey Wilhelm’s excellent book Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension. I know his techniques grab and engage kids.


I really get excited by using technology to create, communicate, and collaborate. I just don’t want irregular or limited access to the lab to frustrate my students or me to the point of giving up on technology.


I started blogging with my students anyway. I was able to do a lot of the teaching part in class (yeah, laptop + data projector!), so the students could really use lab time for writing.

And then!

I got a call on Friday: we are going to have a 30-laptop cart in three weeks! I am not sure what kind yet (Dells? Asus EEE?) but they are wireless and have long battery life. I know there will be a steep learing curve, but I am game. It will double our access opportunities, which means I have a green light for the action research.

The moral of the story: Just do it.

Image by carbonated under a Creative Commons license.

5 thoughts on “Leap and the Net Will Appear

  1. A cup of tea and some time read a few good blogs…a lovely Saturday morning…

    Your action research question sounds great – a very rich topic which could take many directions the further you go! Are you going to share research sources (articles, authors, etc.) somewhere on your blog? I’d be interested to do some reading on that topic too!

    Student engagement is key. I believe that because our society ‘forces’ children to go to school, we as educators should do our very best to ensure that they are engaged. If they aren’t engaged, or can’t engage for some reason, they won’t be motivated to participate in the learning atmosphere of the classroom.

    Congrats on the laptop cart! It’s funny how things just work out sometimes. My school (300 students) received a second lab full of new computers this summer. What a difference! I constantly integrate technology to enhance the learning in my classes/my school and access has not been an issue this year. There are two teachers that I’m collaborating with on a blogging project. We are going to set up our first blogs (very exciting!) next month and I’m thankful that we don’t have to worry about lab access.

    One thing I have heard about laptop carts – ensure everything is charged up in advance!

  2. Errin, think I’ll join you in that cup of tea…

    Yes, I will be bookmarking digital resources on Diigo, and pointing out valuable print resources as I go. Every time I think I have an understanding of engagement, I find something new that challenges my thinking.

    Via the typical hair-pin turns that the network gives you (Twitter to blog post to YouTube to website to magazine article to Amazon), I found a book that may be both challenge and inspiration: Daniel T. Willingham’s Why Students Don’t Like School. It’s not published yet, but looks like it will be fascinating.

    I just saw his video re-framing (debunking?) the concept of learning styles–oh, the things that make you go “hmmm”.

    And, about the laptop cart: well, I may have been too hasty in my excitement. After a great, perspective giving chat with our district IT leader, I see the challenges with a cart (you have alluded to one). It may be our best worst choice. I am just going to have to get creative. The kids are motivated to blog, having had a wee taste, and that is half the battle.

    Tell me more about your blogging project–I am curious!

  3. Congratulations! I like the moral of your story – it is so true.

    Picture this – we have a 30 person lab for 1200 students! Some of our classrooms have computers, mine has 3. Only 1 works, and it runs windows 2000. I bring in my laptop but because it runs linux, the techs are afraid of it and won’t let it on the network.

    But I have my kids rotate on our one stinky box and we grab the lab when we can.

    Your research focus is interesting. I plan on looking at something similar on a systemic level. (I’m a PhD student in educational technology) I’m interested in the circumstances and beliefs that lead to engagement in learning on an organizational level as well as in the classroom, and how each impact the other.

    And you know what? This is the first time I’ve been able to concisely put into words what I want to research. Thanks!

    Are you going to continue blogging about your research here? I hope so.

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  5. Hi Jan:
    I stopped by to tag you with a Wordle meme that is going around (if you are interested).

    I really enjoyed your post. My school is in a similar situation. I have the luxury of being in the school’s computer lab as I am the teacher of that subject. We have 16 desktops and 6 laptops on the first floor of the building. I can support 22 learners at a time. We won 20 wireless tablet PCs and as of Monday, they will be available on a cart on the second floor of the building.

    In each class, I have struggled to get at least two Macs with Internet access. They are older than the ones in the lab. When I was teaching math on the second floor, I really had to plan to include technology in my lessons. It was a great lesson for me over four years. I lived on the other side of the technology gap for those classes.

    It is worth whatever machinations you have to go through to work in the technology parts of your lessons. Those complicated schemes will work to your benefit. It’s not the same as having a lab full of computers but it can work. We had some really creative math classes using technology over the years, but they only happened once or twice per quarter.


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