Summary

Capstone Trailer by Josh Neill

This Action Research project was developed to determine if an increased focus on student’s computers at the beginning of System Support class, would improve student engagement and understanding of the overall class material. System Support is a class at the Los Angeles Recording School that contains very technical elements related to the students’ computers and studio electronics. Recently, the class had suffered from lack of interest, student anxieties, spotty attendance, and high failure rates. Broadening in student demographics and student frustration with the curriculum that had developed through the schools ever-changing Associate Degree program had led to these overall lower outcomes. It was easy to blame the quality of students, but that was lazy and uncreative. Instead, through thorough development using the ADDIE process, solutions were considered and implemented based on past experience, industry insight, and a few ideas from literature reviews.

It was tempting to make the project research very wide sweeping, and many changes were implemented in the class. The focus of the research was narrowed down to a few factors. First it was decided that students needed to be shown how to better navigate their computers and the Internet in order to optimize their operating Mac OSX operating systems and their online activities. Second it was hypothesized that by starting the class with the thorough investigation of their computers, that they would become more connected and interested, and therefore more engaged. More engagement hopefully would mean better attendance. Shapiro (2009) discussed the advantages from a simple technology integrated into the classroom. Shapiro used the iClicker personal response systems (PRS). According to Shapiro the iClicker PRS engaged the students in the classroom, encouraged participation, and improved the attentiveness of the students as well.

The literature review suggested that by allowing students to use technology more in the classroom, that they could become more engaged and connected. Halligan (2009) observed the effectiveness of well-implemented system wide technology at Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County Community College (MCCC). When MCCC openly adopted and displayed new technologies and made them available for students to freely use in and out of class, student participation, learning, and communication improved. As Halligan discussed, when information technology (IT) focused on education and serving the students at MCCC, technologies were readily tested and installed across the whole IT system when they were found to be successful.

Technology was shown to be effective in different ways, for taking tests, attendance, and making connections. It seemed technology was most effective when it was up to date and relevant. During System Support, students would install Pro Tools recording software on their school issued MacBook Pro laptops. There was one day in lab when they would be guided through the installation and system settings for optimizations. They would also register their software and create user IDs online. It was about the only thing that they were spending much time on their computers doing in class. There was quite a bit of class time dedicated to analog tape machine alignments and signal flow. It was noticed that students were struggling with a lot of the analog theory, and were leaving class with limited understanding of their computers. Much of the analog tape machine material was streamlined, removed, or chalked up as history, and it was decided to add several more days devoted to developing stronger relationships and connections between the students and their computers and useful and professional Internet resources.

According to the data collected the students’ grades improved, their attendance improved, and the overall failures declined for both cycle 1 and cycle 2. Feedback from the students showed that they were experiencing far less anxiety in the class, and that they were learning many things about their computers that we assumed they knew in the past. Students came to the instructors for more help, and expressed a greater level of interest in the class overall. There are still anxieties with the math related elements of the class, and students are still losing some of their interest in the more theoretical second half of the class. So we have been working on developing more online tools, resources, and activities for the students in order to engage them even more through their computers. We had noticed how much they used their computers to get onto Facebook, so we knew they enjoyed the technology. We wanted to make a push away from Facebook, yet still have them spend as much time on their computers, but with more relevant resources. According to student feedback, they have been connecting with many professional resources discussed in class. They are connecting with organizations and educational websites.

The next step is developing an online learning management system which we are planning in phases. The school has Moodle and in the last 2 months we have been organizing the course material in order to provide a thorough online experience through Moodle. By doing this we hope to have an online portion of the class that the student will do as homework, which will allow us to dedicate the class to more open discussion and focus on the areas students are having the most difficulties with.

Halligan, T. (2009). Lessons in high technology. Community College Journal, 80(1), 26-31. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete.

Shapiro, A. (2009). An empirical study of personal response technology for improving attendance and learning in a large class. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 9(1), 13-26. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

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