Sharing My Practice * Linda Kroll * Mills College

Reflections on the use of QUEST materials

What observations have you made about your students' engagement with the websites and impact on their learning to teach?

My students were both interested and frustrated with the video viewing exercise. At the end of the three weeks of viewing, I did a mid semester evaluation which included comments regarding the videos. They were guardedly enthusiastic. They said they enjoyed looking at the sites and that they learned a lot from looking at other people´┐Ż€™s classrooms. They found looking at the sites in class in groups frustrating because it was so difficult to hear what was being said when everyone else was also listening. A third criticism they had was that they found it repetitive to look at the sites again after they had viewed them at home.

In observing them working, some groups discussed what they had individually found in doing the homework before coming to class. They referred to the notes they had made and, if necessary, looked at the video again together. That was the process I had envisioned. Other groups used the time to look at the videos again, and experienced the frustrations mentioned in the evaluations.

Using these videos as a pedagogical tool has technological glitches that I am gradually overcoming as I use them. Next year, I'll have earphone outlets that will allow them to listen to the same video together while watching on one computer screen without interfering with one another's experience.

I was struck with how the videos did, in fact, help my students get better at being astute observers, at how having that visual text to compare to descriptive written text was an excellent way for them to think about how teaching practices get enacted in different settings. Many of the text materials I use (such as Routman and Calkins for example) come with dvds of examples of practice. They are useful for modeling practice. These QUEST videos of actual classroom practice with all the messiness that entails allowed my students to make sense of the practices they were learning about in a setting that was real, more real than the packaged dvds.

How is your practice changing?

I will use these materials again. Now that I know the sites better and I am more familiar with the possible technological glitches, I can make my use of the sites more efficient. There is always the challenge of having too many wonderful activities to do for the myriad of goals and purposes in teaching our students to teach literacy. One particular aspect of my practice that I hope to continue that is only peripherally related to the QUEST materials is the video taping of particular class sessions. Watching what my students did in small groups and in the larger discussion is really valuable for me as their instructor. I can see what they are learning together--which is not always reflected in what they write about individually or in groups. I can see what is of interest and importance to them as they talk and work together. This way, I can get better at helping them and us (as instructors) make the best use of our time together.

What effect are multimedia materials having on your practice?

Using video and websites has allowed us to reflect together in different ways. It has allowed us to visit different classrooms, repeatedly, and to raise more specific questions about teaching literacy, working with English learners, and managing difficult classrooms. I am also experimenting with a website where students themselves can post comments and questions. Next year, I will try to use that forum more, to extend the discussion in class to between classes as well.

What issues are you dealing with?

Time and technology!

At Carnegie, several of us worked together thinking about how best to use these K-12 sites in our teaching. One way we have helped one another is to respond to each other's websites. Here is one response to my site:

Dear Linda,

I think you have done a terrific job integrating websites into your practice as a teacher educator. I plan to draw on how you have used the various websites to support your students' ability to observe and assess youngsters' literacy development in my own teaching. In viewing and thinking about your website, I was particularly struck by how the structure and emphases of our teacher education programs are implicated in our work as Quest fellows. It seems to me that because you have relationships with teacher education students that extend beyond a semester or even a single course you were able to support students' use and reading of their websites in many important ways. For instance, you were able to help students try out practices that they observed on teachers' websites in their student teaching due in part to your relationships with your students' supervisors and your participation in student teaching seminars. This has inspired me to engage in similar kinds of efforts to make sure that websites are actual teaching resources for our students once they leave my course and embark on their student teaching. In addition, I resonate with your frustrations with the technological aspect of our work as Quest fellows. My students also struggled to hear video snippets on teachers' websites. Moreover, because many didn't have easy access to the needed computer technology or to cds of websites, I worried that they had inadequate time to engage with these texts outside of class. Finally, like you I found video taping classroom activities related to the Quest websites to be extremely useful. I learned a great deal as I viewed tapes of my classroom practices that contributed to my own learning about how teacher education students learn and to my practice as a teacher educator.



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