Saturday, April 30, 2011

Technology can Always be Incorporated

As this semester comes to a close, I find myself immersed with a huge assorment of new technology to use. From new software, applications, and web tools, I am loaded with a bunch of ideas I want to enact in the classroom all at once! However, I know this is not practical and also not smart. What I have come to realize with technology tools is one must first truly mess around with the application, learn the ins and outs, and master it's function before implementing it full fledge into the classroom. I believe applications such as blogging are wonderful for the classroom, but I know there is work that must be done before implementing it. For example, in order to get successful, positive results from blogging, students must know where, how, and why they are doing it. Once students and teachers over come the "how to" aspect of an application, it truly can serve it's purpose. As an educator that specializes in technology, it is my goal to introduce at least one new program/application to my students each year that they have never been exposed to. I want to continue to educate my students so they can be the tech literates of tomorrow.
One of my favorite finds this past week is Puppy Cam. Just so happens we were learning about conduction as a way of transferring thermal heat energy. Now, is this not an example of conduction at it's finest!?
Puppy Cam

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Video Games and Learning

After reading the article, "Good Video Games and Good Learning" by James Paul Gee, I could not help but relate to everything Gee said. Literally, everything. I got into gaming two years ago, my junior year of college. I used to watch my boyfriend and his friends as they intently played ranked matches in Halo and Call of Duty. After a few months just watching, I wanted to try. What could possibly be so fun, frustrating, and enticing in ten minutes? Well, I quickly caught on. My boyfriend would play "socials" with me so he would not mess up his character's rank, and the more and more I played, the more I realized how much I loved it. I realized why it was so catching and also how important it was for me to think about how I was playing.
The first game I fell in love with was Halo. I would not play any other game other than Halo. I bought myself an Xbox 360, got my gamer tag, and played whenever I had free time. My roommates (7 girls) thought I was nuts, but I just loved playing the game than watching movies. I began to play ranked matches and my gaming changed. I began to realize that I needed to think out scenarios, plan ahead, expect the unexpected and plan for what was ahead. All this thinking needed to be done to succeed, to win.
People that don't understand the impact of gaming probably have never played a video game that they really enjoyed. The article emphasizes the similarities and differences between learning at school and learning through a video game. One part of the article really stuck with me, the idea of taking risks. Gee states,"Good video games lower the consequences of failure; players can start from the last-saved game when they fail. Players are thereby encouraged to take risks, explore, and try new things. In fact, in a game, failure is a good thing." Gee further states that schools too often do not allow much room for students to take risks. I do not agree with this statement. There are many things that go into students taking risks, whether its the classroom environment, fear of failure, feeling comfortable, the teacher. I tell my students continuously that it's okay to make a mistake! I often use the line, "What's the worst thing that can happen?" and even after the student weighs the outcomes, he or she is afraid to take the risk.
I believe somewhere at a much younger age when students enter school it is instilled in them that a grade is everything. It's not. The learning experience is everything. If you fail at something and reflect on what went wrong, you have learned why you failed. I believe you learn the most when you make a mistake because you will always remember what you had done wrong.
Gaming is a great way to take students through the thought process. This article has really inspired me to expose students to gaming in school. I often hear the talk of "360" and "parties" so I know students can relate to this topic. I wish there were more games out there that could be implemented into school that are just as cool to play outside of school.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SMART exchange lesson plan review

First off, let me start off by saying that SMART exchange is such a cool website! I wish I had known about this website in the beginning of the year because I definitely would have utilized this resource!

One of the ways I utilize my SMART board for presentations is by having my notes from a PowerPoint presentation on the SMART board. Sometimes I will use the activity tools in that come with the SMART board, but I like using PowerPoint for my notes because the typing I feel is much easier in PowerPoint then in the SMART board software.

At the SMART exchange site, I decided to do a search on the forms of energy since that is what I am covering in the next couple of days at school. I came across many lessons on potential and kinetic energy which were interesting, but what I was really looking for more specific forms, such as nuclear, and chemical. I came across the energy form of Sound and I immediately previewed the lesson.

The format of the lesson was sensible. First, the lesson introduced the parts of the ear that are essential to a person's hearing. Right from the start, the lesson was loaded with images to accompany text. (This is one of the reasons I love this lesson so much). The images really allow students to "see" sound waves.

The subtopics covered on sound waves are important: frequency, speed, loudness, pitch, as well as interactions of sound waves such as sonar and echolocation. In all, these topics are essential when covering the topic of sound energy.

One thing I would probably change is the order of the slides. I do not think it makes sense to have hearing loss and deafness as one of the beginning slides. I would like to see this slide when the discussion turns to loudness and how loud noises such as music can be damaging. All in all, I think some tweaking of the slides and the notations on the slides would make this presentation even more successful.

The second thing I loved about this lesson activity so much was it's application to every day interactions with sound. Students will be able to understand things like echolocation or an ultrasound due to the explanation of waves and the visuals that accompany these descriptions.

This is such a great website and I encourage you to take a look at the lesson I am describing by following this link: Sound Energy

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Open Source

This week for the open source discovery I have to say I am very disappointed. My understanding of open source is to provide every day individuals with the opportunity to utilize free programs/projects of specific categories. However, these "projects" that I have searched under the general category of science have not returned any valuable resources to me, in my opinion. I began downloading Avogado, which is a science visualization project. However, I immediately realized that the download would take forever. I stopped the project and found another seemingly interesting project called GrADS that also offered pictures to enhance learning in the classroom. After downloading the program, I am loaded with a bunch of computer programmer style procedures I have to run through in order to make the project work. For example, I completed the 5 minute download, and now I am left with a "Getting Started" screen that says: grads-2.0.x-win32_superpack.exe . In which I need to find the file and download it, or "unzip" the file in order to make my way towards this "project".
Now, as I digress, this is something that is completely unappealing to me. This to me is not an "Open Source", it is an even more time consuming way to find a project that may or may not be beneficial in the classroom.
One Open Source app I did find to be amazing is iTALC. I think this program is so great because it allows teachers to monitor students during the computer lab. Teachers will know at all time what students are doing behind their monitors. Whether it is work, surfing the Net, or nothing, a teacher has the access to monitor,guide, or even control student computer screens. This is definitely something I would utilize in a computer lab to ensure students are working to their best ability at all times.
I'm sorry about my negative view of Open Source apps, but after an hour of searching for something applicable to the classroom and retrieving nothing, I happen to be frustrated. I am eager to hear about your success and/or failures.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Here is the link to the discussion article on Virtual and Personal Learning Environments.

When I first began reading this discussion article, I did not know what VLE stood for. We recently learned about a PLE (Personal Learning Environment), but VLE was foreign to me. Turns out, a VLE is a Virtual Learning Environment; a learning platform such as Blackboard that we all use for this class. The author of the article described the VLE and PLE as such, "A VLE is composed of a number of tools that are organized around units of instruction delivered through an institution or by an individual instructor. These tools may be strongly coupled (e.g. as inside of Blackboard Learn ® or Moodle) or loosely coupled and collected together from a variety of existing tool sets).The PLE is always loosely coupled and organized by the learner." When I saw this quote, I immediately thought back to the essential question for this week in regards to our web tools being "tightly connected or loosely aligned". My personal opinion is that in order for a virtual learning environment to truly exist and provide instruction, there must be some foundation. Blackboard creates a tightly aligned foundation so students can access information about the course, and have guided instruction. Without the one - to - one contact a classroom normally offers, a VLE could successfully exist because students would not know what to do! With this said, I also believe that a tightly aligned VLE allows for a loosely aligned PLE. For example, I believe this class is tightly aligned so students can understand the ultimate goal of each weeks' learning experience. However, I also believe because the successful structure, I can choose what areas I want to learn about. In essence, I am creating my own PLE along with the VLE. No one else might have found this article I am responding to, but that is the freedom associated with a PLE.
In conclusion, in order to establish a PLE that is student driven, there must be a tightly aligned VLE. There has to be some order or place that a student can refer back to, or their PLE may not be a "Learning Environment".

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How Do We Inspire Habits?

Informal Science Learning

I came across an interesting blog entitled "Informal Science Learning and the Makers Movement" by Eric Siegel on Celebration of Teaching & Learning. The blog immediately caught my attention because the author posed every day, simple questions concerning our learning habits, such as, "How do people start getting engaged in something that becomes a life long interest, hobby, or passion?" The blog highlights education's impact on creating these passions.

I like to think that my students enjoy science. I try to do captivating demos when applicable, and they are continuously doing experiments along with notes because they enjoy the hands-on application. The question that sparked my concern after reading this blog is, "Am I making students love science enough to make it a habit?" Do students want to go home and pull up a scientific article, or find out why the sky is blue (there is a scientific reasoning for this).

I do not believe my passion for science was fostered by my academic experiences. I believe this passion grew out of my own personal love for nature, the outdoors, and wanting to know "how" instead of "why". In retrospect, isn't this what we want our students to obtain - an understanding of what they want to be when they grow up. I remember my junior year of college as being one of the toughest years for me because I did not know if I found my true passion. Fortunately, I stuck through the hard time and realized the hard work at the time was what really was getting to me.

After reading this blog, I think it is also our duty as educators to instill passions and/or hobbies in our students. This will ultimately help them determine where they want to go or what jobs they want to seek when they make their plans for college. Bottom line, people who love their jobs, are doing what they love. We need to help students find what they love so we can help them thrive and flourish in their true callings.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Food We Eat and Academic Performance

In responding to an edublog I found this interesting post by Bill Z. Tan. I figured I'd share the blog with you all. You can see my response to it if you would like. Bill focuses on how food affects academic performance and the research studies that have been done to prove this. It is very interesting and I hope you enjoy the reading!

Food Choices and Academic Performance