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Implementing Lesson Study in an Elementary SchoolResearch Paper

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¶ … Teachers of Reading With Technology and Internet-Based Collaboration

Although the fundamental principles of professional educator development involve face-to-face as well as online platforms, online learning opportunities are becoming more prevalent, making the need for teachers to improve their knowledge and skills in the use of these tools more important than in the past (Hunt-Barron & Tracy, 2015). To this end, this paper examines how an elementary school reading leader can better engage teachers of reading with technology- and Internet-based collaboration to gain a better understanding how to integrate digital technologies for reading and literacy achievement. A discussion of the lesson study, technology and Internet collaboration for teachers and digital technology for reading and literacy achievement is followed by a summary of the research and important findings concerning these issues in the conclusion.

What is the degree of comfort that exists with this tool [lesson study] at your school?

Originating in Japan and now increasingly popular in the U.S. (Lewis & Fischman, 2013), lesson study is a type of long-term professional development wherein educators plan, research, and study their lesson instruction in a collaborative fashion in order to determine how students learn best (Lessons study, 2015). In most cases, teachers select the problem of interest and spend an extended period of time (frequently several months) studying the problem and developing potential solutions. The changed lesson is then taught by one teacher while other participating teachers evaluate student response (Lewis & Fischman, 2013).

Although lesson study activities have not yet been introduced in my school, the method has demonstrated effectiveness and offers significant promise for improving curricular offerings. For instance, according to Watanabe (2007), "Lesson study may fundamentally change the structure and culture of schools in the United States. Lesson study is a culture as much as a professional development activity. Lesson study is inherently collaborative" (p. 181). The lesson study approach therefore involves active collaborative planning, observation and reflection on a given lesson on the part of participating teachers as well as administrators and experts from colleges and universities (Watanabe, 2007).

Therefore, additional professional development will be needed in order to create a satisfactory comfort level with this tool, but the process will be facilitated by the fact that reading teachers in my school are already using various digital tools for collaboration within and outside of school. Besides additional professional development, there are some other challenges to blending lesson study with Internet-based collaboration, including most especially time constraints, but there are some other obstacles that must be taken into account as well. For instance, a recent study by Hunt-Barron and Tracy (2015) found that although the overwhelming constraints for most teachers was a lack of time, some teachers were unfamiliar with the digital tools that were in place while others felt the exercise was superfluous to their needs. In this regard, one teacher's response was highly indicative: "I have not been blogging regularly because there is so much to do with planning, teaching, searching for materials, accessing materials, and assessing that there is little time for anything else" (cited in Hunt-Barron & Tracy, 2015, p. 3).

In addition, a number of teachers reported they did not enjoy blogging while others were not comfortable with the tool. For instance, one teacher explained in her blog that, "At the risk of sounding like I'm of a remedial level of intelligence, I would like to mention that I have never blogged before. I'm sorry if I'm not doing this correctly or posting in the right place" (cited in Hunt-Barron & Tracy, 2015, p. 4). Nevertheless, more than one-quarter of the respondent teachers (27%) reporting "enjoying connecting with other English teachers or reading what is working for other people in their classrooms as reasons to use the blog" (Hunt-Barron & Tracy, 2015, p. 4).

A survey of the teachers who did not participate in blogging reported that they were already enjoying a small, close-knit group that provides them with all of the guidance and ideas they required (Hunt-Barron & Tracy, 2015). Another non-blogging teacher also indicated that she felt the exercise was repetitive and did not add to in-service or in-class professional development sessions (Hunt-Barron & Tracy, 2015). Notwithstanding the challenges and obstacles to implementation, a successful lesson study initiative would be a welcome addition for online collaboration that could improve the quality of instruction in valuable ways.

How ready is your school's culture to implement this tool [lesson study]?

The type of school culture that is in place will likely spell the difference between success and failure in implementing a lesson study approach. For example, Yendol-Hoppey and Dana report that, "If your school has been successful in cultivating a professional disposition toward learning and can provide the necessary supports for teachers to be successful, then the culture is ripe for introducing this tool" (p. 103). Although the culture at my school is currently receptive to the implementation of a lesson study approach, it will be vitally important to provide participating teachers with the professional development opportunities they will need to use the lesson study approach effectively. In this regard, Yendol-Hoppey and Dana emphasize that, "Although book studies are more familiar to teachers, feeling comfortable with using the technology associated with an online library, Webinars, book-study discussion blogs, and podcasts will be critical to gaining participation" (2010, p. 65).

In addition, as with any type of change, there may be some reluctance on the part of some teachers to actively participate in lesson study. Fortunately, there are some steps that can be taken to minimize this type of reluctance, including: (a) providing convenient access to technology, (b) time for teachers to become comfortable with the technology, and (c) "just in time" coaching for teachers as they begin using the new tools (Yendol-Hoppey & Dana, 2010, p. 65).

Given the proliferation of online-based educational offerings, it is not surprising that a wide array of digital technology tools is available to teachers and students both inside and outside of school, including the following:

BenchPrep: This study site offers practice tests for the GMAT, GRE, MCAT, as well as subject areas such as accounting and biology. Learning is facilitated through the use of games and flashcards.

Smarterer: This site assesses students' learning deficits to provide benchmarks that can be used to evaluate academic progress.

Course Hero: This site offers study documents, video lectures, online tutors and flashcards which can be used alone or in groups, and students can take these flashcards to school on their phones for study sessions.

Edvento: This site helps students prepare for the GMAT and GRE, including practice tests. This site also tracks students' progress and identifies learning deficits that can be targeted.

Grockit: This site helps students prepare for the GRE and LSAT using practice exams, video courses, online tutoring, and an online group study feature (24 digital tools, 2015).

In addition, there are literally dozens if not hundreds of additional online resources that are specifically designed to help students study inside and outside of school (pers. obs.). Fortunately, some digital technologies are already installed in my school, but system security remains a concern. According to Bjerede (2015), it is important for school districts to ensure that identity and access-management technologies are installed as part of an integrated educational network. In this regard, Bjerede (2015) cites the following advantages of including identity and access-management technologies:

Instructional value with safe, secure and efficient access to digital content;

Improved risk management with password security and heightened control of student data;

Automation and efficiency with consolidated user accounts and access routes to digital content; and,

Transparency for parents who want to know how student information is used (p. 6).

Even though teachers of reading may or may not be sensitive to digital technologies for reading and literacy instruction and achievement, the lesson study approach can be used to create a sensitive and responsive school culture by ensuring that all teachers understand the purpose of lesson study, how the approach can benefit their students and perhaps most importantly, the "what's in it for them" aspects. For instance, the use of blogs has become an increasingly popular tool for sharing idea views and providing feedback in an efficient fashion.

Not all teachers, though, regard blogging as being as useful as it can be because they have not participated in a lesson study using this tool, or because they remain uncomfortable or unknowledgeable concerning what is expected of them or how to use the too properly (Hunt-Barron & Tracy, 2015). Obtaining the sustained support from building and school administrators is therefore also an essential part of ensuring that the school culture embraces these digital technologies (Hunt-Barron & Tracy, 2015). Given the need to ensure that all curricular offerings provide students with the best learning opportunities possible, the successful use of digital technology has assumed new relevance and importance and would represent a valuable addition to my school notwithstanding the challenges and obstacles that will likely be encountered during its implementation and initial use.

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