Monday, October 29, 2012

I'm now Dr. Barb!   Wow.... this feels good.  I still have to go through the UMI process of getting the dissertation turned into a digital academic document, but I'm Dr. B!... Long years of work  (10 years time wise, but only 6 of those were really hard work).  Two years I took off for personal reasons, and two were spent spinning wheels without an advisor, but the university and I both finally got our acts together to get it done.

Advice for others?   Keep plowing away, keep reading other dissertations, keep believing in yourself, and keep up in your field!  Even when I was spinning wheels and getting my feet back on the ground after having the wind knocked out of me, I kept watching my Google alerts on topics I was interested in.  This kept me current so that when things did align  (getting the right advisor,topic, and time) it all fell into place, and moved along at a constant pace.

What's next?  Still thinking about this one.  My research methodology was one that is just starting to be accepted in my field, and my work validates its potential in that field, so hopefully I'll be able to do more research.  Doing  a phenomenology in virtual schools (my original topic that an advisor had a bias against so never was successful - and I probably wasn't ready then either), online learning,  the new Common Core, teacher evaluations, and many more topics is feasible, doable, and would probably make changes happen more easily.  This methodology digs deep into the essence of the phenomenon, thus finding the underlying challenges keeping change from happening.  Hopefully digging deep into the experiences of those going through change will make it easier to find solutions to the challenges that come with change.  But this opens up many avenues for future research.  Hopefully I'll find a way to do that research.

Moving onward....

Dr. B.

Friday, August 03, 2012

It's in!   Turned in the final report to my advisor.  Now all I have to do is wait for the critiques from her and my committee,  fly to Florida to defend it, and go through the publishing process.  Whew! Even those steps sound daunting.  But at least the extended writing has come to an end. 

Or has it?  I keep thinking of things that I could put in there,  and figuring out how to turn it into a presentation for the defense.   But enough is enough, I think!  We'll see what my committee says.

The other thing is now I keep thinking about other things that I'd like to research.  For example, the methodology I used would be perfect for looking at the life of virtual teachers in online schools... and students there as well. But to convince others of the doing it .... that's another story.

And of course, now that I researched all those tools, I want to find ways to use them in the classroom and in presentations.   So I'm off to play with Prezi, Cartoon maker, Voki and Animoto.  I'm sure I can wow my committee and others during my defense!.

Happy playing..

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'm still plowing along.. and making good progress!  The formal proposal was accepted in March this year, and I've gathered my data, and am working on my results now. So the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned on!!  Yahoo!... can't wait.. more later. :-)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

On the research path again... and a fork in the path....

After a two year hiatus during which I moved back across country, got divorced and remarried, as well as was caretaking mom, and settling back into a K-12 teaching environment,  I'm back on the research trail. 

I'm getting to the end of my ten year time limit, so it's time to put the pedal to the medal if I'm going to accomplish this thing.  The dean is also watching closely and back in October gave the ultimatum that I need to have an idea paper approved by June, or they are dropping me from the program. 

At first I was afraid that I'd have the same problem that I'd have the last 8 years in not finding an advisor in my department that had interest in any of the topics that I was interested in, OR able to do in my district which still resides in the dark ages where technology is concerned.  But luckily, I was able to hit on a topic and found a professor willing to work with me.

So I hustled and wrote a preliminary idea paper (5-6 pages) about the topic, had to submit it twice and it was accepted in January.  I proceeded to write the Idea Paper (30 pages) with the intensive research that goes with it, and was able to submit it at the end of March.  My advisor came back with some good suggestions for making it better, and I worked hard on getting those all done and back to her.
The revision took until Mid-May, and I was just ready to do a final check on the reference list and resubmit it. However, I had been trying all winter to meet with the Accountability Supervisor for my district (the person who would have to approve my research in the district).  We had set up times to meet 3 times, but 2 were cancelled due to snow days, and the third she broke her wrist and couldn't meet with me. We finally connected in mid-May and she had a concern about the topic being tough to do as it would involve K-12 students in the study.  In addition, the study would need the cooperation of teachers using technology in the district and since technology is so limited in my district, it may have been hard to find enough teachers to have a good sample size.  so we discussed changing the study to look at it from a teacher professional development viewpoint. 

When I approached my advisor about it, she felt it was probably a good idea to change the topic.  So she suggested writing a new pre-ID paper and submitting it.  Since I had to simulate all my past research articles, and find new ones, to write the new topic, I had to hustle again.  Whew!  I've reviewed 80 articles in the last two weeks and gathered 24 more from my past library, and got a pre-lim paper done (turned out to be 15 pages - more than was needed).  My advisor gave some more good suggestions that I suspected I was weak on, so it came back to me this last week to redo again. 

So here I sit Memorial Day weekend, bustling to get the 2nd rewrite into her, hoping that I've found the focus needed to proceed with this study. I think I did what is needed, but we'll see.

The good part is that this study will be a phenomenological (I have a hard time spelling that word, let alone pronouncing it when I go to defend my dissertation) :-)  one which I've felt all along I needed to be doing.  My topics have all been ones that are ahead of where mainstream research lies, and dealing with "phenonmena", but my previous advisor felt that new researchers should not be looking at a study that hard to interpret.

However, I feel the timing is perfect for this one, and so far the existing research backs me up... so hopefully I'm on the way to being a researcher (and eventually a Ph.D.)! 

Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Slowly making progress

Am finally making progress on that illusive topic.  Last October, the dean made a statement that I had to get an idea paper approved by late June of this year or I would be dropped out of the program.  My first reaction was ... so what.. I hadn't had the support of ANY faculty member in the last 6 years, paid tuition for most of that time, and had no one to talk over ideas with.

However, I silenced my negatives, and realizing that this was my last chance, I approached a new faculty member with an idea.  To my surprise, she was interested in the topic, and I was off and running.  I submitted a preliminary Idea paper, had that accepted, and am presently working on the formal version.  I've submitted that as well and gotten feedback from the advisor, and am working on the second version of it.  It's going to be close, but I think I can do it by June.

My topic is much easier this time around as the topic has more research behind it,  is no longer a phenomena, and it starting to be the focus of major researchers, so timing is good.

So... I'm back onto the research trail...

Monday, August 17, 2009

LearningByts Blog: Higher Ed Vs. K-12

LearningByts Blog: Higher Ed Vs. K-12

I'm Back! After reading the flurry of responses to Sarah Fine's Blog on why she was leaving teaching, I decided to look back at my own blog of when I left teaching, and then returned. I had originally left because I felt stifled in the classroom, and that I couldn't grow as a learner with my district's permission. The original blog was started when I had returned to the classroom after a 4 year stint in higher education. That particular classroom position only lasted a year due to the fact that it was a one year contract. I then went to a large district as an Educational Technology Specialist, working with 14 schools to infuse technology into the regular classrooms. That position was heavy on politics, and wound up being another one year position. The timing was good for the end of that position, as I needed to return to my home state for family reasons. After 6 months of collecting unemployment and moving across country, I worked for an online school at the coporate level, as well as teaching for them. I also taught for an additional online school part-time when I finally returned to my old district.

I'm feeling much of what Will Richardson stated in his latest post about schools that have been around for the last century (my district) and how they will make changes and move into the new millenium to meet the needs of today's students. He talks about redefining what they do and how most schools are just "tinkering on the edges" making changes to technology to meet the old curriculum. He makes the analogy of whiteboards being new wine bottles for the old wine. How apropo for my district! That's just what has happened during my 7 year hiatus.

And now that I'm back, what can I do to make a difference? At first, I thought I would just stay under the radar, and enjoy the teaching experience, not making waves, and getting through the next ten years until retirement. I had to earn my tenure back again, and adjusting to the middle school classroom, was not as challenging as adjusting to a new district had been 3 years earlier. They had changed all the acronyms (typical educators - give it a new acronym and it's a new education :-) ), and some of the positions, but the philosophy and administration was basically the same. Last year our superintendent passed away suddenly, and this year we'll have a new one. Hopefully, since he came from a district that is more tech savvy than ours, he'll be making changes that bode well for technology in the classroom.

The challenge is that with all my various experiences I also know what's out there, the potential for students, and the benefits for the district. In addition, with all my research towards that ellusive Ph.D., I continue to keep abreast of the latest and best. What do I do with the knowledge? I have so much that sometimes I feel that just my presence and sharing scares others. I've had to have my hand slapped already for "trying new things" that haven't been approved by the district (a wikkispace!) . And when I give academic reasons, and research to back up my efforts, the hand slapping stops, but the only approval is that my ideas get shared at PLC's later as their idea. Oh well, I've often thought of myself as a seed planter. Plant the seeds of change, step back and watch them grow in the minds of others until they own them, and then change happens. I just wish sometimes I'd get the credit.

So what do I think of Sarah Fine's post? I don't agree that she's self-centered as one person put it. Teaching is a VERY demanding job, and she could have quit much earlier on. However, she did stick it out for 4 years. When I left to go to higher ed, I thought that education should allow teachers sabbaticals as professors in college get. The years I spent in higher ed were validating to me as a teacher. I was reminded of the research that was behind what I instinctively was doing in the classroom. In addition, it allowed me to interface with education proffessors and keep up with the latest and best research on the educational topics. If I had not already had my masters degree, that would have been the perfect time to pursue it without burning me out. As it is, I was inspired to go for the Ph.D.

Think about this..... if we allow teachers a sabbatical every so many years, and have administrators rotating back to the classroom during those times, it will keep everyone up to date, and valued as learners. I believe I came back fresher each time to the classroom with more openness to trying new things with students. I think the biggest plus was that I felt that I have continued to grow, and now through blogs, tweets, etc. can still keep up with my field. The question becomes how can I best share my expertise in a system that hasn't quite caught on to "redefining" itself yet?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Getting Closer

Ok... it's getting a little bit clearer now. As I watch the discussions taking place within ISTE concerning the U.S. Department of Education's Technology Plan and future plans for Education through the new politcal administration, I become more convinced that the blending of face to face schools with online learning curriclums, is about to happen in the next 5 years, maybe sooner. I can see it happening in theory, yet while looking at the realities in school districts, we still have may obstacles to surmount before we can focus on individualized learning for students. That's the ISTE dream, and if it's going to come true, technology will be a big piece of it

So... that reinforces my thoughts that utilizing online tools for individualizing learning is a viable dissertation topic. However, seeing that happen in real districts still may be another 5 years away. But can I be instrumental in making that happen by doing action research on how online Web 2.0 tools can be utilized to impact student learning? I'm thinking particularly of using tools like Wikispaces, and iGoogle tools which hopefully won't be locked out in a classroom lab. I still have the challenge that my district doesn't fully approve of using Web 2.0 tools, but have the reassurance of those in charge that those tools will be at the top of their lists for September. That probably means it won't be unlocked until at least January and maybe not until June. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to research the topic in order to give those in charge some fodder for their arguments with the administration and OTIS (Office of Technology). I may even approach the system's head of assessment to see if I can get details from her.

So it looks like I need to focus on this research... now how should I approach it???? I'm thinking the topic should be something like Using Asynchronous Web 2.0 tools to Improve Middle School Student's Reading Comprehension. And that the problem is that Middle School students' comprehension skills are challenged and will improve through the us of online Web 2.0 tools. Then if I'd set up several classes with Language Arts teachers ..... or can I just compare the scores of my students in my technology classes both before and after the use of the tools? Would I be able to find a trend? Or maybe some statistical data to back up my theory?

I don't know.. but I'm off to find out how to do this..