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Dissertation Blog
admin | 08 February, 2010 11:47

Monday, August 17, 2009" title="external link">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..

Friday, June 19, 2009" title="external link">Narrowing down "The Topic"

In responding to another disseration student, I wrote this reply which is helping me narrow down my focus:

I’ve since taught at several different virtual schools and higher ed online programs during the last couple of years, as well as brick and mortar middle schools, and know that when we can find ways to use online learning to help all students, we’ll be on the way to making some positive changes in education.
Therefore, I’m hoping to add to the research base by studying the effects that using Wikki’s, online chats, discussion boards, and blogs with face to face students has on reading comprehension. Of course, my problem statement is that reading comprehesion in middle school students needs improvement, and I’m hoping that I can have several classes of students with the same teachers using online asynchronous tools with traditional students, and the same teachers using online tools with similar students. Then I’ll run the numbers, and see what effects (hopefully positive) it has on their comprehension scores.
Now I just have to find a professor in my institution willing to back my topic. Then find a way to state the goal of the dissertation so that it’s worthy of being “dissertation material”.
Best wishes for success with your topic!">Reply" title="Permanent Link to this Comment">1">Final Stages of Rob’s Dissertation Topic Journey « Virtual High School Meanderings Trackback on" title="4 days, 5 hours ago.">June 14, 2009 at 8:01 pm

So now I've got to focus my research on comprehension of Middle School students, as well as any research to date on asynchronous tools either in higher ed or K-12.

I'm off to the research trail agan..

Thursday, March 29, 2007

One last try...

Ok... I've given myself one last semester to get this thing accomplished. After 2 years of trying to communicate with an advisor on a topic that is so innovative that it would be considered a "phenomena" study, and 1 year of spinning my wheels trying to get myself interested in topics other advisors might find doable, I've got limited time and funding to complete this process.

On the bright side, right now this semester is looking like one in which I'll have the most time to write, as my full-time job has turned to part-time online. So I have extra time on my hands for writing.

The challenge is overcoming my own feelings of inadequacy about not knowing what a dissertation is supposed to be (my advisor's words). So I'm going to sign up with that discussion group that has been e-mailing me for a year or two. Maybe I'll be able to get the insight from them on what a proper topic is, and can get this thing completed.

So I'm off to committing myself to that group, and writing in this blog on a daily basis. Look for more action on this blog.


Labels:">...,">Dissertation blues,">dusting off my boots

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Case Study Research

Now I've progressed to writing a case study on virtual schools as a new phenomenon. So I'll be looking for resources on case study research, as wells as on online programs in K-12 schools.

Please add to my list of resources below, if you have anything to share....


Thursday, February 10, 2005

What's a Dissertation Anyway??

In stumbling through the dissertation process, my friends and I are researching exactly what goes into writing a dissertation. We've found the following helpful sites.... Please add to them by clicking on the comment link below, and typing in your link, as well as your thoughts about what you found.

Useful Dissertation Links:">Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Dissertation by Dr. Joseph Levine">Dissertation Tips of the Month">Dissertation Glossary

So if you find any resources to add, please do! And if you have thoughts on the above sites, please add them here..... You can do that by clicking on the Comments link below. Looking forward to hearing from everyone! Barb

Friday, January 21, 2005

Writing a Dissertation

Welcome to the Dissertation Blog! This is a place to share your thoughts, concerns, triumphs, and resources during the dissertation process.

If you would like to join this blog, but have trouble accessing it, send an email to

Happy Researching!

Click on the Comment link below, then on Add a Comment ... you can post a comment as anonymous, or get your own blogger account.


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