Category Archives: 2.4 Integrated Technologies

Science/Fiction Podcast- Episode 1: Extinct Species, Zombies, Time Travel and Tricorders

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.

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Integrating Technology into the Teaching of Science

One of the best parts of being a Science teacher is that my students get to investigate the world on a regular basis.  So much of science is based on observing the world around you, asking questions about that world, investigating your questions and drawing conclusions from those investigations.  It is formal inquiry at it’s best.  For most students, however, there is a limit to what they can see.  Even now, in the 21st century, most of the world we experience is fairly limited in scope.  We know our houses and families, our schools and friends, but only rarely get to peek to the world beyond.

Assuming one has a curious and inquisitive mind, this is where technology can step in and pay huge dividends in the science classroom.  While I am a firm believer that the bulk of science that our students do should be hands-on work, there are many ways that technology adds to that experience.

Looking into Other Worlds

As stated, our view of the world is fairly limited.  Technology allows students to look into the heart of an atom or out into the unknown reaches of the galaxy through experiences like Absorb Learning’s atom tutorial or the Hubble Deep Field Academy.  The fact is that resources are being developed all the time that broaden students world and what becomes observable.  This broader view leads to more interest and investigation on the part of the students.

Learning from Others at Your Own Pace

Another wonderful aspect of technology integration is the fact that students learning is no longer limited to the teacher’s experiences.  Nowadays, students can learn from MIT professors or experts on subjects from around the world.  They need only reach out (with guidance) and follow their path at their pace.  Unlike any other time in history, students can truly follow their passions as far as they desire.

Using Inquiry to Learn

All science education should be inquiry based to some degree.  Technology integration supports such learning by allowing students to learn through experience as they tweak conditions in simulations, design and run experiments online or use tech-based data collecting in their own in-class experiments.   Technology supports a number of various ways for students to both gather information about their world and to visualize that information as they work to draw conclusions.

The fact is that the list goes on and on.  Students can utilize tutorials to gain better understandings of concepts, make connections and develop learning projects with partners around the world or simply track their own learning through the keeping of a blog.  Technology has always played an important role in the teaching and learning of science and that connection is growing deeper every day.

Resources

Haury, D. L. (1993). Teaching Science Through Inquiry. ERIC CSMEE Digest (March Ed 359 048).

Roblyer, M.D. & Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

An Integrated Curriculum- Worth the Effort

What is the daily experience of most teachers?  Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it is, sadly, a fairly isolated experience.  I plan my lessons on my own, I prep them on my own, I deliver them on my own and evaluate their effectiveness on my own.  Do I do a good job?  I like to think so.  I also work hard to stay innovative and to make the work and learning interesting for my students.  When push comes to shove, however, my students are working in isolation much the same as I am.  They are studying Biology (or Chemistry, or whatever subject I happen to be teaching) in isolation from other disciplines.  Sure, I like to slip in historical context when I can and I certainly help them through math skills, but the reality is that this type of isolation just isn’t real…except in school.

What happens when the students toss their caps and head off into the real world?  They are asked to complete projects for work that integrate all of the subjects they learned separately in school.  In some ways it seems like learning to hit a golf ball by learning small parts of the golf swing, the initial takeaway, taking the club up, starting the downswing, etc., from different coaches, only to ever take a full swing when it really counts- on the course.  Chances are the first few times you try that full swing, it will be awkward and not so successful.  The same goes for those first integrated, real-world projects.  Awkward and, perhaps, unsuccessful.

What would serve the students better?  An integrated curriculum.  A curriculum in which they develop English skills, Math skills, Science skills and all of their other skills through work on the same project.  A chance to see how the world connects outside the classroom walls.  Imagine a student who spent their time in school in this fashion as they attack that new, but familiar real-world project when they get their first job.  To say the least, they will be better off for the experience thay had in school.

So how does a school deliver such an experience?  To be honest, I don’t know.  It seems to take dedicated teachers, hard work and long hours.  What I do see, however, is that the first step is to create a culture of collaboration.  Administrations must make this a priority.  Creating lines of communication between faculty members is the essential first step to building an integrated curriculum.  Perhaps replacing faculty meetings with grade-level check-ins is a start.  Simply getting teachers together to talk about what they are teaching and how they are teaching it.  Can’t you just imagine the conversation as teachers begin to see the overlap in their subject matter.  It seems to me, it wouldn’t take much for that conversation to turn into an idea for small-scale collaboration, which could lead to…who knows.

The reality is that such conversation would not likely turn into a fully integrated curriculum.  That type of teaching is just too complex to come by through sheer enthusiasm.  But, the conversation is the starting point.  The communication between the people students spend their day with.  The realization that there are common goals and ways to make every subject more relevant, real and meaningful.

I like the sound of that.

Acceptable Use Policies

While many in the education world debate how large of a role technology, specifically the internet, should play in the education of today’s students, few argue that connection to the world at large should be eliminated.  The fact that we now are encouraging and even teaching our students to access and leverage information on the Internet for their personal learning, mean that we must also take the time to create safeguards for the students and for the educational institutions providing the access. The standard method of accomplishing the latter is for the institution to develop an Acceptable Use Policy or AUP.

Not every AUP is identical.  Lisa Nielsen encourages schools to create AUP’s that take into account and address each communities needs by encouraging input from all users of the technology.  On the other hand, many schools and school districts put such decisions and policy making in the hands of lawyers and those less involved in the on the ground use of the technology.

Whatever the method of arriving at a school’s AUP, Education World encourages schools to include the following aspects in an AUP:

  1. Preamble- Sets the tone for the AUP and establishes the purpose, process of development and the goals of the AUP.
  2. Definitions- Helps create clarity by defining any specific terms that have the potential for creating misunderstanding.
  3. Policy Statement- Provides an overview of what the AUP covers and the services that fall under it’s policies.
  4. Acceptable Use Section- Outlines what the institution deems appropriate and acceptable  in terms of student and employee use of school networks.
  5. Unacceptable Use Section- Delineates what students uses are not appropriate for use on school networks and provides examples of such uses.
  6. Violations/Sanctions Section- Describes the outcomes of unacceptable use of the computer network.  Outcomes may be specific or simply refer violations to other school disciplinary systems.

While this set of guidelines are a great start in terms of establishing an AUP, care must be taken to provide each educational community with a set of rules that protect the students and the school and encourage appropriate use.  It is important to listen to the stakeholders and to adapt the policy over time as needed.  While they may not be integral to drafting such a document, getting feedback from school attorneys on the document is a key step.  Once established, introducing the policy to the school community should be done in a thoughtful manner.

Below are examples of Acceptable Use Policies from a variety of educational institutions

References:

EducationWorld. (2011).  Getting Started on the Internet:  Developing an acceptable use policy (AUP).  Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

Edutopia. (2012). How to Create Social Media Guidelines for Your School. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/how-to-create-social-media-guidelines-school

The Innovative Educator. (2012). Looking to createa  social media or BYOD policy? Look no further. Retrieved from http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2012/06/looking-to-create-social-media-or-byod.html

Vision Statement

Image Credit: Lisa Andres

There has been a shift in the world of education that has created both new needs and new opportunities.  The fact that many students now live their lives in a world in which technology is so pervasive has created a reality to which our educational systems must adapt.  While, as Collins and Halverson note, “the school system has evolved to adapt to incremental changes,” (62) the world has been changing at an incredible pace.  The time has come for students to be prepared for a new world and it is up to the educational systems to adapt and meet this need.

Edutopia points out that “The acceptance of change is a major requirement for technology integration.”  Our educational system must begin to understand that change is not only inevitable, it also can be seen as an enormous opportunity.  There is no doubt that many can see the need for our students to improve in order to keep pace with their peers from other nations.  The National Education Technology Plan 2010 (NETP) makes clear reference to this point.  Technology integration, when done properly, helps students to develop the skills they will need in their ever-changing world.

Moreover, technology goes well beyond need to opportunity.  The rapid evolution of means of connecting with people from around the world has opened up possibilities that students and teachers of previous generation could not have imagined.  Students today can play the role of learner and teacher.  Their work can be shared globally, just as they can tap into resources of experts and peers throughout the world.  Bonk points out that this “sudden trend towards sharing educational resources…is fueling change in education and opening new doors to optimism and human potential” (15).

Making technology an integral part of the learning process serves everyone.  Students are able to learn to effectively and responsibly utilize various forms of technology in their lives to enrich their world experience.  Teachers are able to better meet individual needs and to keep focus on learning rather than the plethora of tasks that pull them away from that objective.  As a whole, the nation and the world become better able to connect and to learn from one another.  The time to embrace the opportunity at our feet has come.

Resources:

Bonk, Curtis J. The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.

Collins, Allan, and Richard Halverson. Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America. New York: Teachers College Press, 2009. Print.

Edutopia. (n.d.). What is technology integration? Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-guide-importance

Edutopia. (n.d.). Why do we need technology integration? Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-guide-description

U.S. Department of Education. (2010) National Education Technology Plan 2010 Executive Summary. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010

Ed Tech 504- Module 3 Reflection

“In your Module 3 Reflection extend your linkages between theories of learning, theories of educational technology and your own classroom instruction or professional practice.”

As I look back at the past unit and reflect upon how what I am learning is being utilized or seen in my classroom teaching, I must admit that I am struggling to make the connections.  When I say that, I mean that, while I am getting a better and better understanding of constructivist theory and how students may best learn, I am struggling to incorporate some of this in my classroom.  On aspect that i have used is the Jigsaw Activity.  I had in fact assigned such an assignment just before being assigned this one myself.  Students were to go out and become experts on a topic and then report back to their primary team.  As the unit progressed, it became clear that this was both an excellent tool for learning and a difficult tool for some high school students to embrace.  In the end, some people became experts and others did not.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am becoming a better educator through exploring various learning theories and methods for teaching.  There does come, however, a time when the theories must be applied.  It is in this area that I struggle.  How to actually get the students to engage fully is troubling.  So many students I teach, and I teach at a private school where motivation is relatively high, have become jaded and are not willing to embrace new methods.  As the year as progressed and I have included technology in what I hope are meaningful ways, many students have expressed there own frustration.  Many want to have me at the board telling them what they should know, rather than constructing their own knowledge.  In this is a great conflict that I am still trying to resolve.

With all this said, I do think that it is very important to acknowledge the place theory has in my journey.  This knowledge is forming a foundation upon which I will be able to build the lessons that students will engage in and get the most out of.  I very much look forward to learning how to apply the theories.

Ed Tech 504- Module 2 Reflection

At the end of each school year, once I take a breath and have a chance to catch up with my family, I get truly excited about the coming year.  The plans seem to blossom in my head.  Ideas pop up

Photo Credit: Anton Novoselov

constantly about how I can change my class to what I truly want: a student-centered, experiential classroom.  As I learn more about epistemology and the application of different learning theories in education, I realize that I lean towards the constructivist way of thinking.  In my ideal classroom, students would engage daily in learning experiences that gave them core pieces of knowledge in Biology.  They would then run with their passions to explore their own individual areas of Biology.  I would be at hand for guidance and explanation as needed.  Technology would be integral to what we were doing.  Students would blog to help further ingrain their understanding and share their ideas with the world.  They would connect with scientists in the areas they find most interesting.  They would use various forms of multimedia to create projects that enhance their learning and help teach their classmates.
That’s my vision at a time of the year when anything goes.
When fall rolls around once again, the pressures of the real world being to weigh on me.  How do I build such a curriculum?  How do I deal with unmotivated students?  How can I break students out of the mold that has them creating such poorly designed and shallow projects?  How do I grade anything they do?  How do I explain my vision to doubtful parents who are wondering if the grades will be good enough to get their child into college?  The questions go on and on.  The path to my goal seems like a very challenging one.
Sadly, this tends to lead me back to where I have been for a decade and a half.  Lecturing, assigning classic homework and testing knowledge that the majority of students will lose within months if not sooner.

This year has been different.  We are a few weeks in and I have yet to lecture.  While we are moving along at a slower pace, the students have been allowed to be active in their own learning.  They aren’t off exploring the world every period, but they seem to appreciate the fact that they are in control.  Technology is creeping in, but slowly.  I am working towards a class blog, but find myself so busy that it is hard to feel that it is ready for launch.

The good, no great news is that I still believe.  I am plowing ahead.  looking back, it was just two years ago that my idea of technology in my classroom was a digital thermometer.  I have changed as a teacher in the past two years.  At least in how I look at my classes.  The shift to a discovery learning model has been slow, but I have worked towards that end and will continue to do so.  Technology is becoming an everyday component in my class.  Students collaborate and share notes and their first multimedia “test” is on the horizon.

So, while I am gaining a better and better appreciation for the philosophy  and psychology of education, the road to my dream becomes a bit clearer.  As long as I keep moving, someday the road will seem less unsure and  my vision will be realized.

Photo Credit: Scott Marlowe