For this project, I created a screencast in which the learners go through a worked example of drawing a Lewis structure. Because the video is a flash video, I had trouble embedding it on this blog. So, I created a Learning Log on Blogger that allows the interactive part to work. Here is a link to that post.
The content of that post is below:
This screen cast is a worked example for drawing a Lewis structure in Chemistry class. The video takes a Chemistry student through a review of how to draw a Lewis Structure. It then gives the learner a chance to do an example on their own. I wanted to create an interactive experience for the learner in which they are able to pace the work on their own. Unfortunately, I ran into a slew of issues with this. In the end, I needed to place the video here in Blogger rather than WordPress. I know there are better workarounds to accomplish what I was looking for, but time was an issue. I do plan to explore the technology needed to make links within videos a bit more in the future.
Here is the worked example (note, to click “Continue” the video must be watched in full screen format, otherwise the progress bar masks it.) (This is where the interactive video should go, but it doesn’t work in WordPress.
For this worked example, I wanted to begin by giving the the learners a look at what a Lewis structure is to to familiarize them with the vocabulary and the symbols involved. This pre-training would allow them to focus on the procedure, rather than wondering about the symbols. I then proceeded to work through the example step by step. At each step, the learner has the control of whether they feel confidence enough to continue or if they needed to review that step again. Using the segmenting principle puts control of the learning in the users hands. At the end, the learner’s are given a summary of the steps and the option to replay the lesson as a whole or to move on to try an example on their own. The example ends with the option of seeing the actual solution. This example, would help a learner achieve far transfer for the material covered.
One thing to note is that I had some trouble deciding who the learner actually was. I decided to create a video that I could share with my Chemistry class after this material had been presented. It is not meant to be a replacement lecture, but rather a step-by-step worked example of something they should be somewhat familiar with.
For this project, we reviewed some of the elements that make for a good digital story and then set to work in creating our own. My story is about a local legend surrounding a a lost stash of gold. It is a story of the desire to push into a world of adventure and the difficulties we have in doing that. I found this project challenging in the very best sense of the word. Technically I struggled at times (especially when it comes to the so-called “Ken Burns” effect), but it all came together eventually. Even as I finished, I felt that I really wanted to spend more time smoothing out some of the wrinkles that I see in the finished project. I can see how filmmakers can get lost in their work. For me, I simply ran out of time. Maybe I’ll work on it again someday…
It was fun to develop a story that is personal. Having looked through a number of the examples given, I was struck by the fact that so many has a sad theme. In developing my own story, I wanted to be positive and see if I could create a compelling story that still had meaning. In the end, I was happy with the story as it turned out. Because it was so personal and real, the application of the personalization principle was quite natural to use. Using a natural, conversational tone allows viewers to get a bit lost, hopefully, in the story being told. It allows for a deeper connection with the message of the story.
As far as the use of digital storytelling goes, I see a great deal of potential for its use in a classroom. While I did have some difficulty with the technical aspects of the story, with some practice, it seems easy enough to pass the “how-to’s” along to students. I can envision English classes analyzing novels or making short pieces about Shakespearean soliloquies. Foreign Language classes could easily make use of this concept by having students create stories in the language they are studying. Overall, this seems like a fairly versatile type of project.
For this assignment, I created a podcast called “Science/Fiction” (or perhaps Science-Slash-Fiction” to add emphasis to the slash). The idea behind this podcast was to spark the imagination of the listeners. As a Science teacher, all too often I see student that become disenchanted with science because so much of it seems to be fact memorization. While I can sit back and be amazed by the work of Charles Darwin or Gregor Mendel, student don’t see it that way. So, I wanted to create a podcast that reminded listeners that there is a connection between real-world science and science fiction. Through this series, listeners will see connections between dreams of the past and the realities of the future (or present).
In the pilot episode, the four topics I chose to look at were the possibility of bringing extinct species back to life using their DNA, parasites that infect the brain of their hosts turning them into zombies, the ins and outs of time travel and science fiction devices that will soon be a reality.
This was a very enjoyable assignment. While I can’t say I am natural at podcasting, I do feel like the process is a great learning experience that helps you delve deeply into topics that are interesting. I would love to make this particular podcast a series in which my students are the contributors.
Looking back at the history of information sharing, it seems that we have gone from a somewhat personal form of communicating relevant information (think relying on your neighbors to learn of town news) to broadcast based communication (newspapers, TV news, Web 1.0). But that seems to be changing once again. RSS feeds are a simple way to get the news feeds you want and trust. Although there is a bit more work by the reader on the front end (deciding what is worth your time and subscribing), the news becomes much more personalized and tailored to you interests and needs. (Although this is a great positive in many ways, it does raise some concern with becoming a bit too protected from ideas that are contrary to your own or that challenge you.) Even better, the news comes to you! The information you feel you want or need shows up where you need it. It’s like having a personalized newspaper dropped on your doorstep every day (actually all day long as new news comes in). News, sports, lessons or whatever else deemed worthy is included. What a world.
It certainly seems like this can be used in the classroom by teacher and student alike. At the most basic level, a teacher can blog assignments and have students subscribe so that they always know what they should be working on. Teachers can subscribe to sources of material relevant to their subject and have students subscribe as well. Opportunities for learning and ongoing professional development abound.
On a different level, there is an opportunity to replace clunky, static textbooks with a more dynamic source. Feeds that provide lectures on subjects of interest, challenges to to test knowledge and skill and invitations to conversations with others interested in the same topic could change the way students approach their own learning. Like many other aspects of the modern internet, flexibility and interaction are key elements of RSS feeds.
While it is still a work in progress, here is a link to my Google Reader Shared items page. Enjoy.
“At a deeper level, when we challenge schools to incorporate place-based learning in the natural world, we will help students realize that school isn’t supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world.” -Richard Louv
Although Richard Louv was talking more explicitly about reconnecting children with nature, this quote seems very apt as we begin to fully embrace a world in which people carry the entirety of the world’s digital knowledge in their pockets. For well over a decade now, teachers and students have been able to connect with the rest of the world and see exactly what it could bring into the classrooms. Now, with the proliferation of mobile devices that are capable of connecting to that digital world from just about anywhere, teachers and students can head out into the world and make that same connection.
One way to think of mobile learning is “as the use of a wireless handheld device; a cell phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), mini-computer, or iPod to engage in some form of meaningful learning.” (Stevens & Kitchenham, 2011, p.3). Essentially, learners today have access to internet resources through technology they tend to carry with them all the time. In practice, the uses for this are hugely varied and will depend on the needs of each particular instructor and, more importantly, each particular student. While the power to connect via a mobile device is exciting in itself, the connection is, in some ways, overshadowing the fact that learning is now widely available outside of the classroom.
On any given day in my classroom, I will have students access the internet through a handful of devices. I have a class set of laptops, five desktop computers, student owned computers and a variety of smartphones or iPods all searching for information. While this is certainly a marvel to behold, it does not constitute mobile learning, because, frankly, there is nothing mobile about it. The most important distinction between a ‘wired’ classroom and a ‘mobile’ classroom has to be the same as the age old cardinal rule for real estate- location, location, location!
As I let my mind drift and dream up uses of mobile technology for learning, I see a world where the classroom itself is not the center of the learning universe. It is a meeting place. A spot to regroup and prepare for the next adventure outside of the classroom. Perhaps a place to reflect on what was learned. It is not, however, as integral to learning as it used to be. More importantly, it may someday be seen as an obstacle to learning.
So what exactly can be done with mobile technology in the hands of motivated and interested learners. Here are a handful of ideas.
Nature or History Trail
The school I work at, Solebury School, happens to be located a only 15 minutes upriver from where Washington crossed the Delaware River so many years ago. The area is rife with history. The area is also a wonderfully rural area that boasts a plethora of indigenous flora and fauna. Both of these aspects of my school create a wonderful opportunity. Armed with mobile technology, a class of History or Science students could collaborate on the production of a History Trail or Nature Trail app. For a History Trail app students would research various historical sites, take photos, visit the sites and even record interviews of people that have more intimate knowledge of the area. Once compiled, all of this could be woven, once again by the students, into an app that brings history to life for anyone with a mobile device. The same could be done for a Nature Trail app. Imagine exploring a local natural area identifying trees, flowers and animals along the way.
Such a project brings so many aspects of the so-called 21st Century Skills that students should be gaining experience in. “Learning and innovation skills…digital literacy skills…[and] life and career skills” are listed in the book 21st Century Skills as skills that will be essential for students to master as they head out into the modern world. (Trilling & Fadel, p. 48) Production of a history or nature app certainly fits the bill. Students would learn the content, rely on classmates with other specialties (such as an understanding of the technology vs. a penchant for researching), collaborate and produce a real and useable product. Although a challenge to complete, the gains of such a project seem well worth the effort.
Although not a tool for the learner in a class, an app developed specifically for a self-guided tour of the campus seems to be a wonderful application of this technology. Utilizing the same GPS and interactivity seen in the Nature or History Trail app, families of prospective students could wander campus and learn about the history of a building, the departments it houses and basic information about the classes and faculty that could be such a big part of the student’s life. Such an app would also be available for all students-not to mention faculty- to allow them to connect a little bit more with their everyday surroundings.
One area that has been on the rise in recent years is the use of podcasts for sharing lecture materials. Whether the source is MIT’s Open Course Materials, iTunes U or simply a teacher’s own recorded class lectures, podcasting provides a chance for students to learn at their own pace. Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, Chemistry teachers and pioneers in the podcasting world, have even created a place for teachers to learn from each other as they begin to use this technology.
I began experimenting with podcasts lectures over the past school year and will continue to do so in my upcoming Biology class. Providing podcast lectures has allowed my students to have access to material that can be used to learn to take better class notes, catch up on material missed from an absence or review material for tests or exams. The fact is that students can watch lectures on their schedule and wherever they happen to be. This certainly put the power into the learner’s hands.
Anywhere, Anytime Learning
Even if students are not personally developing an app or listening to their teacher lecture while riding the bus to a soccer game, having access to the world’s knowledge sitting in their pocket allows for easy access to information. “What type of tree is that?” and “Why is the Liberty Bell cracked?” are questions that can be easily answered nowadays. More importantly, learners can explore more in depth topics such as “How does photosynthesis work?” or “What causes global warming?”. (Recently, I took a lesson on proper onion chopping from Jamie Oliver himself…via his 20 Minute Meals App.) And, of course, students can also reach out to the world and say “here is my opinion, what is yours?” via any number of web 2.0 tools. In many ways, it is this on-demand knowledge that may have the greatest impact on the shaping of future classrooms.
This small sampling is just the beginning of mobile technology in learning. Interestingly, more and more students seem to be utilizing mobile technology for learning on their own, while their classrooms lag behind. This will, no doubt, change over time as opportunities for learning become more more more available on mobile devices.
Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., & Haywood, K., (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.
Louv, R. “Leave No Child Inside.” Orion (March/April 2007): 54–61.
Trilling, B. and Fadel, C. (2009). 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times. San Francisco, CA USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Stevens, D. & Kitchenham, A. (2011). An Analysis of Mobile Learning in Education, Business, and Medicine. In Kitchenham, A., Models for Interdisciplinary Mobile Learning: Delivering Information to Students (pp. 1-25). DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-511-7