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Computers as Mindtools

As I read this article, it seemed to be talking about me, and my experience with this class. As we were designing the concept maps in class on Thursday, I was not only learning the technology and how I might use it to help my students, I was thinking about how I used technology in my classroom in new ways. As I read the statement: "By comparing semantic networks created at different points in time, they can also be used as evaluation tools for assessing changes in thinking by learners" I realized that that was exactly what we were doing by creating a concept map at this early stage in the class and another final one that will be due at the end. The final maps will reflect what we have learned in this class and will represent the changes that have taken place in the way we think about information and are able to design a representation.
I thought the SimCalc project looked like a program that some of my students would get very excited about. Many of my students love to play video games and can discuss endlessly the various levels of the games they play. The discussion of the Visualization tools that are especially useful in chemistry sounded like something that would have helped me. Chemistry was really not my best class.
I got really excited about the Hypermedia. I would really like to create links that my students could follow for additional information about a subject, and the idea that they could add to those links when they found new sites was very appealing. Although I did have a moment's pause thinking about the kinds of links they might add. I wondered if it would be possible to block inappropriate things, links or images from being added to a site. Since I teach senior English some of my 18-year-old boys might try some very inappropriate tricks. I would have to have some way to monitor who was adding what, so that there could be some level of identification and accountability. That may sound overly cautious, but my students do some pretty strange things sometimes.
The conversation tools are the most familiar to me. While I have never blogged before today, I certainly love e-mail and instant messages. I would love to create a sit
uation where my students were required to formulate coherent and cogent contributions to a discussion. I have my students write at least one paragraph per day to me. I grade it and always return it the very next day. (Not exactly instant messages but dialogue nevertheless.) They tell me things and contribute ideas SO much more readily in writing than they ever do in discussion. I think it is partly because it feels safer. They know that I will be the only one reading their writing, and if they were in a communication environment where other students would be reading what they wrote, I am sure that some of the frankness would be lost, but I still think that they would be far more willing to "talk" if they could do by typing their responses. I would even like to see that kind of dialogue happening while we were all sitting in the same room. If all the kids were on a computer and could type their responses to questions or discussion issued, I wonder how they would respond.
I asked the tech consultant in my building if the district owned Inspiration and if it could be loaded on my laptop and my classroom computer. She said she would come and do it in the morning. It was just that easy. I was so excited. After we had worked on our mind maps in class I wanted to do more and continue to "play" with the program, but it is not on my home computer….. So here we all go. I am excited about this class.