Most districts begin their use of TIM Tools with the TUPS to capture a snapshot of their technology and professional development needs. They then begin implementing the TIM-O with their teachers. And then, well, they often don’t get to the equally useful action research tool that is also a part of the TIM Tools suite. ARTI (Action Research for Technology Integration) helps teachers to structure and record AR projects while it helps TIM Tools clients to access and make use of the research findings from classrooms across their school or district. Neglecting ARTI means missing out on opportunities to empower teachers, extend professional development, support continuous improvement and collaboration, and ultimately increase student success.
In this brief post, I’d like to sketch out how and why ARTI can be implemented in a variety of situations.
Scenario 1: Your district currently embeds action research (AR) into professional development. AR is an established part of the district culture and you wonder why an AR tool is needed when so many teachers are already conducting action research on their own.
First of all, Congratulations! You’ve already discovered that action (or participant) research leads to a continuous cycle of professional growth among your faculty. Your teachers feel empowered in their professional practice. They identify areas of improvement on their own and are constantly improving their own classroom practice. You can count on your teachers to address issues with technology integration in their own classrooms and modify their practices to increase student success.
But are you are fully leveraging what your individual teachers are discovering? Most AR discoveries stay in the original classroom or, at best, are shared with a study group or occasionally an entire school. Since your teachers already understand the AR process, consider introducing them to ARTI. Tracking their action research in ARTI is no more difficult or time-consuming than keeping a journal, field notes, or other method of record-keeping. In fact, your teachers may very well appreciate the structural support and the ability just to click checkboxes for some of the factors that they will record.
Benefit of a central database of projects. Once you have hundreds or thousands of completed AR projects in the ARTI database, it’s a simple process to download the complete dataset or any designated subset of the data by school, district, or date range. You can then work with it in Excel or import it into your favorite data analytics program. Since ARTI has structured your teachers’ input, it is easy to sort by grade level, subject area, classroom context, intervention, etc. You could easily, for example, pull up all AR projects conducted in middle school using digital video, compare projects using smart phones across various SES populations, or gather findings from elementary classrooms implementing project-based learning strategies. Without reducing the effectiveness of AR in individual classrooms, you are adding the ability to analyze and share what was learned across an entire district. By combining many studies that were originally done solely for self-transformation, you are moving toward more formal research into evidence-based practice.
Scenario 2: You’ve administered the TUPS and are using the data gathered to target PD and inform tech decisions. You’ve also done several rounds of observations with the TIM-O and realize that using the results for coaching will be a cyclical process that you will want to continue for several years. You would like to take it to the next level, or want to more systematically build reflection and continuous improvement into your technology integration efforts.
Although you may be concerned that adding ARTI will be One More Thing To Do for teachers, you’ll find that gradually introducing action research into your professional development will enrich the experience. Once teachers see the value of action research as a part of their professional development, then ARTI can be introduced, not as One MoreThing To Do, but rather as a tool to facilitate capturing and highlighting the action research teachers are already doing.
You will know best when your teachers are ready to set out on their own with AR. It’s not unusual for new TIM Tools clients to tell us that in the first year they plan to implement only the TUPS, study the results, and introduce their teachers to the Technology Integration Matrix. Then in year two, they will start using the TIM-O. And not until the third year do they plan to introduce ARTI.
Scenario 3: Your district has not had the opportunity to utilize much technology in the past or, even worse, the district entered into a large tech initiative without appropriate preparation for their teachers, so the initiative crashed and burned.
Sad to say, we’ve seen too many instances of the ill-conceived dumping of technology into classrooms without adequate preparation for the teachers. As the FCIT Director frequently says, “A tablet computer by itself is not an academic intervention.” Basically, at this point, you’re doing damage control and have miles to go in rudimentary PD. Adding action research across the board may be out of the question for the time being.
However, just because it would be unreasonable to expect your entire faculty to begin a journey into action research, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few teachers here and there across the district who are already capable of integrating technology well and are candidates for more. You could consider making ARTI an option for those teachers who are ready for it. They could be invited to share their AR projects with their school’s faculty. Increasing teacher professionalism and leadership are never bad choices. Perhaps some of these teachers will move into coaching or district roles in the future. You’ll need to marshal all possible resources, and these teachers might just become your most effective asset.
If you are a TIM Tools client and still unsure about implementing ARTI in your school or district, please contact us at TIM@fcit.us for assistance. Remember, we are always available via email or scheduled phone calls to assist you with any aspect of TIM Tools. And if you are not currently a TIM Tools client, but are curious about how the Tools can be used in your school or district, please contact us at TIM@fcit.us as well. We’d love to set up a time for a phone call or a video conference to walk you through the Tools or just to answer any questions you might have.
Roy Winkelman is a 40+ year veteran teacher of students from every level kindergarten through graduate school. As the former Director of FCIT, he began the Center's focus on providing students with rich content collections from which to build their understanding. When not glued to his keyboard, Dr. Winkelman can usually be found puttering around his tomato garden in Pittsburgh.