Monday, September 6, 2010

First Day Plan.....

Okay I'm on the two day countdown and I'm trying to figure out the best way to smoothly incorporate all of my knew knowledge into my curriculum. I've decided that all my ninth grade students will all create their own personal blogs this year. These sites will serve as personal portfolios, but will also be a place for peer review and discussion.
Here in lies my i have them create blogs prior to teaching any content? Will that set a misleading foundation that technology application will take precedence over the science? This makes me nervous......Any thoughts? Has anyone else done something similar before? I'd love to hear some feedback.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Guidelines Revisited and a Few Final Thoughts.

Wow, so much has been covered in the past seven weeks. My perspective on teaching and learning has expanded so much. One of the first assignments in this class was to come up with a list of guiding principles for technology use in the classroom. In my final post for this class I will revisit them. In bold is the list of criteria I came up with during week #1. Beneath them is my "enlightened" week #7 commentary.....

1. Make sure technology is fully understood before incorporating it into the classroom.

I can feel the apprehension in this statement.....Using something that is not "fully understood" is scary. Especially when you're a teacher and you need to present to a group of young, impressionable students. This class, however, has stretched my comfort zone. I think I'd be okay incorporating a tool without complete comprehension. Thinking back over the past few weeks, I learned more from the process than the final output at times. I think there are benefits to including students in this process at times....

2. Make sure this technology is standardized (i.e. compatible on all types of machines).

Still agree with this one.

3. Students must be given clear directions, goals, and expectations for all projects incorporating new technology.

Agree with this still. Looking over many final project blogs for this class, many incorporated a "tips on commenting page". Info on these types of pages included suggestions on how to start a comment; what types of info to include; appropriate etiquette of blogging; and also grading criteria. I think this baseline is very important to work off of. This type of framework allows for a common jumping off place. I like this.

4. Technology use should enrich material being covered, and not just be incorporated because it’s available.


5. Use technology to help better explain processes/material (videos and simulations can be highly affective).

I feel like this is just another way of stating principle time I would condense them. I would however emphasize the importance of this principle when talking about blog posts. Use of technology in this case can be very helpful!

6. Technology use should be interactive and allow for creative thought.

Yes, yes, yes!!!!

7. Technology should be used to supply data sets and incorporate a real-world/current events component to material being covered.

And thanks to this class my resources in this area have expanded exponentially!!!

8. Technology should be used to make material covered more “relatable” or “relevant” to students.

I feel that this relevance can usually be achieved through online collaboration and discussion.

I am still in the midst of planning out an assignment for one of my older classes this coming fall using a similar format to the one we just completed. Here's how it shapes up so far:

To introduce the class blog and the year-long assignment of up-keeping their own blogs, I plan on showing them a series of videos (most likely a few of the ones we've been exposed to in class....) and then asking them to come up with their own principles for how they plan to use the their blog he upcoming year. It might then be nice to revisit this post at the end of the year (sound familiar?!?)

In summary......

Creating my own set up principles really helped me take ownership of my experience in this class. With the help of a variety of reading supplements, online examples, and a newly established PLN I have feel refreshed and renewed as a teacher.

Though I hate to think ahead now (a need to enjoy this last little bit of summer!) I am very excited about the upcoming school year. I think that the guiding principles outlined above will truly enhance my teaching; I am also excited to share my new toolbox with my colleagues!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A New View: D2L Discussion Summary

The D2L discussion that took place last week summarized up this class experience quite well. There was much talk of the abundance of knowledge that they feel they've gained in the past 7 weeks. For many, with this new knowledge has come a new perspective/approach to teaching. Many doors have opened. And (pardon the cheesy cliche), as a result, the view outside looks a little bit different.....

Here's what people are now "seeing":
  • Many expressed their hope to be more creative in the classroom; incorporating more collaboration, and student-driven discussion.
  • Everyone is in agreement that the web 2.0 tools we have been exposed to will benefit our teaching. The specific tools that people hope to take advantage of seem to vary.
  • Everyone also seemed to agree that teaching science in a 21st century classroom has a continuous learning curve.
  • Because of this PLNs and social networking forums are essential. Teachers have a lot to teach each other.

Speaking of social networking, while surfing twitter today I came upon a blog post that really hit home to me. The post was entitled "10 Ways My Thinking Has Changed". Judging from our D2L discussion, I feel this reflection could have been written by anyone who took this class (and the comments are worth reading through as well). I think it tells the story pretty effectively.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Final Project

For my final project I decided to create a blog for my 8th grade physical science class as well as my 9th biology class. I teach 2 sections of 8th grade, so I have a total of 28 students. In 9th grade I teach a selective honors section of only 14. Because of this difference in numbers, my approach to the class blog varied from grade to grade.

It should also be noted that we are lucky enough at my school to have all of our student email accounts linked to google and gmail (even though they are private). Therefore all google tools are accessible through these accounts. This makes this process much easier!!!

Here's the breakdown:

8th Grade
I decided to create one blog for all students in my two classes to use. I will use this space to make announcements, post information on assignments (we already have a class website provided by the school, so this function may vary a bit depending on the necessary explanation for each assignment...), share and discuss lab results, and also to write weekly reflections or post links to current event articles. This last type of post will typed up in red. Students are responsible for making two comments on these red posts each month. Each comment will be graded on a scale from 1-5. A total of 10 points will be given out each month. These points will be totaled at the end of each trimester and account for 15% of students overall grades. (info on this grading scale can be found in more detail under the tab at the tab of the blog)

Here is a link to the class blog: State What Matters

9th Grade
These students are more advanced and there are less of them. For these two reasons I decided to give the students in this class a bit more independence and ownership over their blogging. I have created a class blog that will be used by me to post announcements, assignments, lab report info/results, and an occasional reflection. Each student in the class will spend the first week of school putting together their own blog that will be linked to the class blog. Assignments posted on the class blog will be completed on personal blogs. Students will be expected to comment on each other's work as well (specifics of this will vary and will be clarified on the class blog when an assignment is presented).

Here is a link to the class blog: The Bio Hub.

Also, if you are thinking about making a class blog or having students create blogs, this article from the edublogger is very useful and thought provoking.....just thought I'd share. It helped me a lot while going through this process.

Google Forms Rocks!

Okay, so this is a bit belated. My school work took a bit of a back seat last week as I was helping my sister get ready for her wedding this past weekend. As she heads off to "relax" on her honeymoon, I'm trying to play catch-up.......

Last week I set up a trial run using google forms (an application option in google docs). I created a few questions and inserted them into my blog. I asked classmates to take my assessment to see how this tool might be incorporated into my future classes.

I will start by saying simply: Google forms Rocks! It is very user friendly and I can see it being incorporated into so many different aspects of my class.

Here's how it works: You create a set of questions (see my blog post below) and then all the answers to those questions are sent directly to your google docs account and tracked in a spreadsheet. Each set of answers is time stamped so you can see exactly when it was sent. You can then at any point go in and view results. You can also look at a summary of all of the results. The only glitch I had initially was I wasn't sure how to keep track of who was sending in the results. The first two sets of answers came through, but there was no way to see who sent them. How you fix this is to simply make question number one of the form say "what is your name". I made a quick Jing video to give people a more in depth look at how this tool works.

Here are just a few ways I see myself using this tool next year:
  1. As a "check in" after a reading/video viewing assignment. It's a great paper-free way to make sure that everyone is doing their homework.
  2. This would be an awesome way to collect lab results. Because results are collected in an excel spreadsheet form. I could easily take all of the results and run any necessary statistics.
  3. Collect discussion questions. Sometimes students have great thoughts that for whatever reason they do not want to share with the class as a whole. A discussion via blog commenting would publicize everyone's thoughts. A form would send their thoughts right to me...
  4. Class feedback/evaluation. A great way to see how people like the class and find out what's working/what's not.
  5. Self evaluation. You could create a rubric and get student input on have them grade themselves. I feel that this is always a great way to have students truly understand assessment expectations.

Anyone else have any thoughts? I think as most of us are creating class blogs, this will be a very useful tool!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Need Your Help.

Please help me test out a new tool. I want to test out google forms and see what kind of capabilities this tool may hold in regards to online assessment (I'm envisioning it as a great tool for quick homework "check-up" quizzes and such) please, if you'd be so kind, take 3 minutes to complete the following assignment for me (and don't worry, I won't really grade you!). I will post feedback for this tool later in the week. Thanks in advance for your help!

Here is your assignment: Watch the 2 videos embedded below about blogging and answers the questions that follow. Your answers to these questions will be sent directly to my google account.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

So Much More than a "Shiny Object": A stream of consciousness reflection on the benefits of blogging in the classroom

Reading through this weeks content on wikis and blogs, I was really excited to see how so many teachers at so many grade levels were able to successfully incorporate these types of tools into their classrooms. It made me excited (just for a second...) to get back to school soon and try out some of forums tools with my own students. I know that I want to incorporate blogs into each of my classes this coming school year. The "how" part of this statement is still a work in may vary a bit by class size and grade level. We'll see.....

I also really appreciated the persuasive argument that Eric presented in favor of these types of tools in both the powerpoint presentation that he shared with us via slideshare as well as in the journal article he co-authored entitled "Investigating the Impact of Weekly Weblog Assignments on the Learning Environment of a Secondary Biology Course".
Here are my thoughts on these two pieces of media (again, I apologize that some of this is just stream of conscious thinking...I'm really still just trying to work it all out in my head). Comments/thoughts/reflections are appreciated!

Blogging is so "much more than a shiny object"; I loved the imagery behind this statement. So much of my apprehension about using too many web tools in my class have to do with the bells and whistles of technology being prioritized above of content. In fact, I think this is a fear that many of us shared. Looking back to the guidelines that we were asked to create during the first week of class, many people hit upon this point and emphasized that technology should only be used when it enhanced content and not just displayed the same material in a "fancy" new way. My time in this course, and especially the research on blogs and wikis in the classroom this past week, has reaffirmed for me that blogging is way more than "shiny" and cool; it is an incredibly useful tool in the classroom. Here are the some of the biggest benefits of blogging that I can see. This is still a work in progress, and I am sure the list will grow along with the application of this tool in my own classroom.
  1. Commenting on a Blog Makes Participation Mandatory. So many times in class discussions can become "teacher-talk" heavy and or they are run by a few assertive students. When commenting is a requirement, all students are given an equal opportunity to speak their mind. I think this could really take discussions to the next level.
  2. Blogging Cultivates Collaboration. Through commenting as well as posting students are building on the thoughts/inputs of one another. Everyone has a say. In the journal article mentioned above, E. Brunsell and C. Cimino talk about a blog as a "collaborative space within a traditional classroom structure". I like this a lot.
  3. Working together on a Class Blog Fosters a Feeling of Community. Students get to take an active role in their own learning. Their comments and posts drive the discussion and help steer the curriculum. They are "co-creating knowledge" (to steal a line from Eric's journal article...) So many times I have written in comments at the end of a marking period that a student needs to take a more pro-active role in his or her own learning. I think this is the perfect forum for students to do this.
  4. A Blog Helps Keeps Thoughts Organized. Everything you need is at easy access. Students can quickly look back at content covered/reflected on and also review feedback/comments from fellow classmates.
  5. A Class Blog is a Great Way to Share the Opinions of that Class with Others.'s all right there. Everyone's posts and comments are easily accessible and at the fingertips of the reader. Sharing this type of consolidated information might be a great means of initiating collaboration with an outside source (parents? an expert in the field that is being discussed? another science class??)
Okay, now to put some of these thoughts into action.......