Crafting an Inclusive
School Tech Club
Redesign of the Elementary School Technology Club
About Josh Burker
Josh has been teaching for 21 years and is currently a teacher at an independent day school where he works with students and teachers in grades 6-8. Josh enjoys leading maker workshops exploring the intersection of technology and crafting. Josh lives in Connecticut with his wife and son. He holds a Master of Arts in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University and a Bachelors of Arts from Colby College.
Josh Burker, 2021
During the 2006-2007 school year, I participated in an online graduate program through Pepperdine University in order to earn an online Master's degree in Educational Technology. An integral part of my work was engaging in an action research project. Action research is a method of examining one's own actions and investigating how those actions can influence others to learn. It is primarily a study of the way that I work with others. I chose as my project a study of how I could increase student participation in the elementary school Tech Club I facilitated. I wanted more girls and students on the Autism Spectrum to take part in the technology projects Tech Club worked on. I hoped to increase the digital literacy of Tech Club students. I wanted to increase the school community's understanding of Tech Club's work. I also wanted to increase student leadership potential through student-lead projects. While this project took place some time ago, the issues that are embedded in it remain current. I also include links to projects, blog, and books that I have created over the years since my time at Pepperdine.
Summary of My Action Research
The purpose of my Action Research is to increase participation in Tech Club. I started this club, which meets during recess for about forty minutes a week (with many extra sessions snuck in) three years ago. While I have had a few girls participate in the past, their role in Tech Club had completely fallen off by the end of last year. Therefore, I want to create projects that are engaging for girls. Additionally, I wish to incorporate some students on the Autism Spectrum into the program to help them refine an already passionate interest in technology.
My first cycle has been about encouraging participation in Tech Club. I started with an information session in the library to get students excited about past projects and projects for this year. I chose to use digital photography as the first unit because it fit with the ubiquitous technology project on which I worked for Professor Solomon's course last term. Turnout was exceptional, and I created a more free-form, constructivist learning situation in which students captured abstract and concrete images of their school and peers. We are currently finishing the project by building web pages and will mount an exhibit of the photographs for students. I will be presenting my findings and a selection of the students 1600 photographs for the parents.
The second cycle will start next week and is an attempt to continue participation by students who have worked on the digital photography project. Additionally, I would like to take the opportunity to incorporate another student on the Autism Spectrum into the project. Of course, any student who has seen our work and who is interested may join. We are going to be making podcasts about our school. I hope to work with the school counselor's lunch clubs to have them produce short segments about the issues they discuss in club. Another student on the Autism Spectrum is going to produce MIDI music sequences for the intro, transitions, and conclusions. A few will be recording engineers. Poetry, short stories, and jokes are welcome! I will be seeking to create another project that de-emphasizes the technology part of the activity but emphasizes what we can do with the technology. These students come from a privileged community and many have iPods of their own. It will be interesting to see if this format is approachable by these younger students, and whether news of the show spreads. I see part of the second cycle as working to retain the core group of students who I have attracted to Tech Club and to create new learning opportunities for them. However, in working to continue participation, I hope to incorporate additional students into the Club.
The third cycle will be to publicize our efforts. This will coincide with movie making, and one student already has a finale to a trilogy of space epic films on which he has worked for the past three years. It promises to be brilliant. However, I want other students to make other films, and I see this as the perfect opportunity for documentary efforts by one student in particular, but also in conjunction with other students. We will attempt to explain what we have done in Tech Club this year, why participation in Tech Club is fun, and why the school district ought to consider better funding and better establishing such clubs in other elementary schools in the district. The third cycle will be a complete documentation of the efforts I have made in my action research.
By the end of my action research, I hope to have developed a framework for developing an inclusive, equitable, and constructivist technology curriculum. I will have modified the way I instruct elementary school students in technology use, better encouraging play, experimentation, and personal vision and interpretation. I am looking forward to the work involved along the way and in publicizing my efforts at the final exhibition.