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6th, 7th, 8th - Science, Education -

August 5, 2009

Webtools Course Reflection

The past eight weeks have been a crazy adventure into the world of technology. Although at times the class has been overwhelming with content, I think this has been a necessary evil because of the sheer number of new classroom applications. I appreciated having to actually explore and create products of these technologies as part of our class work. I learn best by doing and this course had plenty of that! What I have found most powerful is the repository we have all created of our thoughts, ideas and projects – the blog. My blog will help me sort through and remember many of the new ideas that have been introduced during this course. I tried to be as detail oriented as possible with each of my blog entries to help document all we have learned. There are so many great ways to incorporate technology into my classroom. One of my favorite technologies is how to create ScreenCasts and upload them onto the web. I plan to use ScreenCasts to help me document for students how to navigate to certain Websites or presentations. Hopefully this will help save time because I will not have to explain the directions over and over.
I also thought it was very important to create and re-visit our guiding principles for using technology. These principles will help guide me as I further explore the technology applications we learned during this course. I now have a template from which to judge the relevance and value of each application I may want to share with my students. Most importantly, I have learned not to do technology just for the sake of doing technology.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this course was the development of my personal learning network. My PLN has given me the ability to effectively communicate with other science educators. We can easily share lesson plans, new technologies, and out thoughts as we navigate through the world of science education. I hope my PLN continues to grow throughout my teaching career.

August 3, 2009

Final Projects

For my final Webtools class project, I have designed a Wiki site that will serve the following purposes:
1. Connect teachers with valuable resources that focus on technology and inquiry-based science.
2. Provide a safe platform onto which students can build an online portfolio that will include their class work, thoughts, opinions and discussions.
3. Enable me to organize and make accessible my lesson plans, homework assignments, state standards, expectations, class calendars and other links of interest.

My Wiki page contains a Technology Page onto which I have placed all of the information we have learned in this class along with ideas from another MSSE course I took earlier this summer: EDCI 580, Teaching Technology in the Science Classroom. Topics addressed include Wiki pages, Social Education Networks, Educational Videos, Images for Science, Computer Simulations, Blogs, Google Earth, Online Data Collections, Web-Based Science Inquiry Projects, PowerPoint Presentations, Screencasting, Voicethreads, and a section on the importance of technology.

The Inquiry-Resource Page includes freely downloadable books, websites, videos, PowerPoint presentations, and sections that discuss constructivism, the 5E Learning Cycle, and misconceptions. This page is a collaboration of information I gained from this course in addition to another MSSE course I took this summer: EDCI 580,Teaching Inquiry in the Science Classroom. There is also another page that contains Video Podcasts of discrepant events that apply to the engage phase of the 5E Learning Cycle. Video topics include the sponge canon, inertia, flame vortex, transfer of energy, carbonation, the crushed can, the firemill explosion, super-cooled water and poppers.
The Wiki also includes a separate page for each of the students in all of my classes (over 80 separate pages total). Each student page will be used as an online portfolio, where students can upload class projects, videos, presentations and journal entries. In order to protect student confidentiality and prevent students from sabotaging each other’s Wiki page, I plan on giving my students clear guidelines and rules to follow regarding acceptable Wiki behavior. One great feature of Wiki pages is that they allow you (as the administrator) to see who edited what page and when it happened. In addition, if someone's Wiki page gets screwed up or deleted, you have the power to see all of the changes and revert back to a previous version of the page before it was edited. I will be able to see who sabotaged the page, prevent that student from having editing privileges in the future, and fix the page that was sabotaged. In regards to student confidentiality, I have the power (as the administrator) to decide who can view the pages and who can edit the pages. At the beginning of the year, I will invite all students and parents to view the Wiki pages. To do this, they will have to send me an email and then I will have to confirm each person. I can also create Wiki pages that are password protected. Although the system has really been created to address all of these concerns, I am sure more will arise during the upcoming school year. Click here to see an example of a student portfolio page.
As mentioned above, the Wiki will also help me to organize my courses. There is a class calendar that will be updated weekly to communicate homework assignments and science topics we are studying. There are also course pages (for each of the four science classes I teach) that include lesson plans, video clips, links to animations, and downloadable documents of unpacked state standards for each topic. Each document contains the standard, evidence outcomes, inquiry questions, how to apply the scientific concept in society using technology, and how to incorporate the nature of science. The course pages will be open to the general public (viewable, not editable) so that everyone can utilize these resources.
In addition to this Wiki page, I plan to incorporate a blog for my vegetable garden class onto which students will document everything we do as we design and create our school vegetable garden. The blog will also give students a place to journal about growing plants and incorporate pictures of the garden and other resources. The blog has already been started and can be found here: Garden Blog.
Finally, I plan to have students create a database of water quality data we have been collecting for numerous years on the nearby Crystal River. The program, known as RiverWatch allows students from all over Colorado to monitor local stream quality data by measuring temperature, pH, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen content, and hardness. Students will test the water on a monthly basis and the data will be entered onto an online database found here: This data base allows students to contribute to scientific data and help to make a difference! The program also involves them in authentic inquiry-based investigations.

Revisiting My Guiding Principles

Ultimate Goal: enhance student learning. Do not focus on technology just for the sake of doing technology!

Technology should be used to:
1. Address worthwhile science in ways that are pedagogically appropriate. An example would be using online data sets or simulations to teach abstract concepts.
2. Make scientific views more accessible.
3. Enhance another teaching strategy. Technology becomes another tool in my bag of tricks.
4. Provide tools that facilitate and enhance instruction through improving data collection, visualization of abstract phenomena, and simulations of experiments that would otherwise be impossible in school classrooms. This goes along with teaching abstract science concepts and inquiry-based learning.
5. Help students explore topics in more depth and in more interactive ways. Personal Learning Networks work well here because they will help students collaborate with other students.
6. To promote more student-centered, inquiry-based learning. This will be my primary focus for the upcoming school year and will be teamed up with technology through the use of online data sets and online inquiry-based explorations, such as project Wise.
7. Facilitate communication and collaboration.
8. Allow students to explore data, make predictions, and form conclusions.
9. Guide student discovery.
10. Transform the ways that teachers teach and students learn.
11. Enhance scientific understandings through imagery and visualization.
12. Stretch the boundaries of what is possible in the science classroom.
13. Engage student participation and interest.

Examples of how to use technology to create new and different learning experiences for our students:
• Allow students to learn from people they never would have been able to without the technology.
• Allow students to interact with information in a way that is meaningful and could not have happened otherwise.
• Allow students to create and share their knowledge with an audience they never would have had access to without the technology.
• Push students and the teacher to new heights, new learning, and new knowledge.

Week 6 in Review

During the past couple of weeks, we focused on Presentations, Screencasts and VoiceThreads. I learned some key ideas on how to make presentations more effective. Some useful hints include:
Keep it simple!
Use graphics to replace text.
Have an outline near the beginning of the talk that is repeated or re-emphasized later.
Reference the screen briefly to illustrate your point.
Say things like, “What I hope you can see here is…”
Some of the main problems that are regularly found in presentations include having too much text, misspelled words, excessive bullets, bad color schemes, too long, too much data, and too many animations.
After creating my own PowerPoint Presentation following these guidelines, I uploaded it onto and then embedded it onto my blog page. Next, I created a ScreenCast of my presentation. A ScreenCast is an online tool that allows you to create a video of what is happening on your computer’s desktop. Making a ScreenCast was fairly simple, yet to get good at it I had to practice capturing the correct portion of my screen and it also helped to have all of my dialogue written down before I started. The most useful tool I learned about this week was VoiceThread. This program allows you to upload your slideshow (as images) onto which you can add audio comments, or written notes. For example, I placed key questions next to each slide that my students should focus on. VoiceThread also allows different people to comment on each slide of the presentation. I will definitely be able to use this in my science classroom. All three examples are listed below in this blog.