November 22, 2006

Catching Up!

I seem to have missed two blogs so I'm playing catch up today!

SCHOOLING AND LEARNING IN AN INFORMATION SOCIETY

Technology has changed the way we live - could you imagine living without email or a cell phone? Probably not. I overheard a conversation with a couple teachers who were teasing one about still not having a cell phone. It's unheard of these days. But I digress, the article made some interesting points about schools such as the expansion of knowledge. Having gone through curriculum review last year it is really difficult to pick what is taught in school. However, since high school is deemed as college prep my thoughts lean towards teaching as much as possible so that students can make their life/career decisions when they get to higher education - college. There seems to be more and more responsibility being placed on schools outside of simply teaching the content.

I agree with the article's opinon that technology is needed but technology requires money and people trained to fix the technology as well as train teachers on how to use that technology etc, etc, etc. Not everyone is as receptive to technology as one might think. Plus, there are research studies coming out that conclude use of technology is not always good for student learning. I actually do not use my projector much at all anymore. I notice a distinct difference between the way students react with the projector versus the overhead. We're missing something here - I don't know what - but something seems too impersonal and cold when a classroom should be welcoming and comforting. It's all too much to think about!

THE COMPUTER DELUSION

It's undeniably true that teachers are responsible for the success of students and I'm thankful this article pointed that fact out. However, without proper training teachers can limit the success of their students. This is the same principle behind the technology craze we are currently seeing (and have been going through for some time now). If teachers are not properly trained on how to use software or other instructional programs, how can they be expected to adeqately teach students on these same programs? We have all these great options for new software, new projectors, new SMART boards and other technologies, but why isn't any money going into teaching teachers how to use this stuff?

Reading other posts I got the impression that some people feel technology in the classroom should be an individual choice so they are not required to do something out of their comfort zone (or subject area). I understand that teaching methods are different but technology is not trying to change that - it's just providing supplemental things to assist in teaching. Biology programs are being designed to enhance the labs we currently do but one step further - doing something which time and money does not allow us to do regularly. It's up to the teacher to use these and there is nothing wrong with doing things the "old" way (I do all the time). However, we need to be open to the possibility of new technology and at least try it. If you don't like it then you don't have to use it - I love trial software for that fact alone. That said, I do have a hard time defining the line between just enough technology and too much technology. We can't depend on it to do things for us but sometimes it does help. It's finding the balance that works for you and sticking with your gut feelings when it comes to using technology or not.

Online Learning

I have taken several online courses and noticed stark differences between them. The best course was through CalState-Fullerton for Evolution. As the article points out online courses should not have a "read-this-and-respond" setup. The Evolution course provided assignments to work on individually through the reading of our text and through the use of the PBS website for teaching Evolution. Here we watched videos, read hyperlinked articles and much more. We were also required to work with another student in our class on a final project consisting of a lesson plan, presentation and paper. Since about half of the class was out of state, we gave our presentation over the phone while the power point was going in California. Posting reflections was a daily requirement, as was responding to other classmates posts. The course was very well organized and segmented so that each task flowed nicely to the next and finally to the culmination of our final project. My Evolution course included all of the features the article points our - resources, threaded discussions where students are assessed on quality, clear rubrics, activities and projects, and instructors. It was clearly evident that the professor had put a great deal of effort into the course design and made the online experience very worthwhile. If all online courses could present themselves as the Evolution course did - I'd take most of my classes online! Where else can you do all your schoolwork in your pajamas? It was authentic, it was real and it gave me some great insight into teaching Evolution in my Biology classes.

November 15, 2006

Google Earth

Google Earth is an amazing technology - how I wish I taught Geography or other subject where it could be put to more use. Though limited, I can use Google Earth in Biology to map diseases throughout history, focusing on regions of the world and following the path of transmission. I can also use Google Earth during Ecology to focus on Biomes of the world and show students exactly where they are found. Students could also incorporate this technology into their Biome projects. I wish I had more uses for Google Earth so I could utilize the software more. It's very very neat!

October 26, 2006

Public School Teachers Using Machines in the Next Decade

As with any new technology - I think the idea of a technology dependent world is pretty wild (remember when you got your first computer). It would be neat to see the scenarios described in the article in real life and actually be the person in the scenario. But let's be realistic - who is paying for these technologies and how are we going to train every teacher to implement them? Plus, isn't that taking away from everything schools were designed to be? With so much technology there will be problems for which districts will need more tech staff, which costs more. Are taxpayers really going to front that kind of money? I have a hard time believing the world will come to that, but with all the new technology lately, who knows what will happen. To say the least, it was a very interesting and eye opening article. As I've read other blogs I agree that we can't be too dependent on technology and need to learn to do things ourselves. I feel students are far to dependent already - my sophmore biology students are terrible writers and I owe it all to spell check. I can't imagine how they passed basic english courses already with the grammatical errors I have seen. If they can't write in high school, how on earth will they be able to fill out a blue book in college? While I'm not the world's greatest writer, I did survive the pre-spell check era and made it out just fine. Schools should focus on the important issues (class sizes, quality teachers and staff, support staff to name a few) and less on getting every new bit of technology available.

October 12, 2006

Constructivism in the Classroom

The examples in this article were pretty extreme. The article is set up to exemplify the constructivist approach in an "ideal" situation. No teacher teaches in an "ideal" classroom. While I agree with the constructivist approach, I do not always feel this approach works. There will always be some units or some days when traditional approaches may work better. However, I do believe that technology helps teachers implement constructivism especially in higher grade levels. In addition, I think parents are more receptive to constructivism as they see their child engaged, interested and succeeding in class. I would love to carry around a PDA to make notes and observe students to assess them informally, but that technology is costly for many districts.

October 8, 2006

Exploring the Blogsphere

I went to edit my blog for last week and realized, when I couldn't see it, that I must have not saved it! So I apologize for not posting on time.

My thoughts on Exploring the Blogsphere:

I've never blogged before this class and, while I've read other blogs while aimlessly searching the internet for things, I've never thought of the uses for blogging. Until now, I assumed blogging was for sharing your thoughts/ideas, like a diary, for millions of people to view. After reading the Blogsphere article I realize the numerous ways in which a school could use blogs. I'm not in a foreign language, nor do I teach one, but I understand the need for communication between different countries and langauges. I think back to my high school German class and wonder if I would have liked it better had I been able to communicate with students from Germany about their culture and experiences. Blogging then seems to take on a more educational role. The last week or so after reading this article, I've been trying to think of ways to incorporate blogging into my Biology classroom. I think it would be quite useful to speak with biologists about their studies or experiences without having to leave the classroom. Blogging could also be useful when researching information for projects. Of course, this is where a problem arises - the same problem that was brought up in the article. Since blogs are rather personal the content and language may not always be appropriate for high school students (or certain age groups). I'm wondering if there are "educational" blogs that eliminate this problem and are specifically designed for school age students. I suppose I'll have to do some research myself to figure this out and to find appropriate sites to guide students to on the web.

September 28, 2006

Learning with Technology - Using Computers as Cognitive Tools

After reading this really long article I didn't feel as though I really took anything away from it. I had more information on various technologies that were described in our very first course reading, but beyond that I didn't find much in the way of new or thought provoking material. I agree that students should construct their own learning and try to incorporate that into my lessons as often as possible. All of my teaching courses here at the University drove that point home countless times. Constructivism, constructivism, constructivism....I have nightmares about it sometimes :) I use semantic tools almost every week in class (not on the computer but it still works) and try to incorporate as much hypermedia and multimedia as humanly possible. While I support the use of technology in the classroom, much of the article's content does not apply to science nor would I even attempt to understand the computer programming portion of technology. I'm not that savvy! After reading a couple other posts about this article I have to agree that there are many other technologies available for students to construct knowledge with - that may not have been available when this article was published. I was also disappointed with the negativitiy towards other approaches to learning (mainly the instructivist approach). While I don't recommend instructivist teaching, I do feel there are certain times and concepts that work best under this approach - realistically it may not be possible to always be a "constructivist".

September 21, 2006

Hypertext and the Changing Role of Readers

While I am more prone to read actual print, I do understand the intrigue and usefulness of hypertext. I know myself or my students have used hypertexts to explore concepts further. I feel it is a valuable resource at that moment because, rather than stopping reading to look up an unfamiliar or unknown word in a dictionary or online, the reader has the opportunity to use the links in the hypertext, or visit other sites, to explore further and gain a better understanding of the word or concept. In Biology, I have urged students to use hypertext many times to clarify questions or research a topic further (and have even registered my class for the online version of our textbook). From personal experience, hypertext has brought about many great discussions of related topics to the unit we are studying. The strategies Patterson gives for helping students reflect on the differences between hypertext and traditional text are quite useful and will hopefully implement that at some point in my classroom.

I do think hypertext is useful but after reading many of my students' writings, I can't help but think hypertext is not as good as it is sounds. We are getting away from basic English and language/sentence structure. Students recently forgot how to write apparently! They rely too much on spell check and cut-and-paste methods rather than learning how to spell and write grammatically correct papers etc. Maybe using some of Patterson's strategies will help to alleviate that problem, or at least make students understand they can use hypertext but still need to know proper and basic English. At any rate, I'm torn between using hypertext and regular text.

September 12, 2006

First Blog

Well this is my very first blog ever! Not too difficult to set up and kind of neat to have my own space on the web. Here are my thoughts on the first week:

Inspiration - I've used it before in other tech classes and did not learn nearly enough about it until last Thursday. I found the outline feature which is very useful and now know how to add images to make the concept map more meaningful and relevant to my subject - science. Concept maps are a great tool for determining prior knowledge, summarizing lessons and as a "getting-to-know-you" activity. I have my students do concept maps from time to time but would utilize this strategy more if Inspiration was readily available. That's something to think about asking for.

Blogging - Not hard, not really sure who's going to read this or come across this, but I like it so far.

Technology in my classroom - Students are so computer savvy anymore so having technology available is a wonderful resource. Our school is part of a program called "classrooms of the future" where we incorporate all this new technology into our lessons to enhance learning and achievement. So far we have projectors in every room, subscriptions to Google Earth, United Streaming videos and SMART boards (those are the neatest things). Students respond well to using technology in their work and to having technologies in class. Incorporating technology into the classroom is the logical progression of things in this day and age. With differing ability levels and learning styles, using various technologies reaches all students and all learning styles. It takes my job so much further if I can pause to show a quick video clip, link to the internet to find a website to show an example of the lecture material, show animations on a big screen (rather than showing my artistic inability) and the list goes on. I feel students take more from my classroom now than ever before. I can enhance labs by using animations to show lab procedures or project the screens of our palm pilots during a palms lab to show students how to graph their results or set their equipment up etc. I'm excited to learn more about technologies in this course in hopes of transfering that knowledge to my classroom and my students.