Sunday, April 15, 2012

Digital Citizenship

     Three things that I would want my students to understand about being good digital citizens are as follows:  1 - there are consequences for every action taken, be it good or bad;  2 - they need to understand completely the district's acceptable use policy that they sign at the beginning of each school year and maybe even review its parameters periodically; and 3 - that "they" are in control of "their" actions...no one else.
     In my classroom, I plan to use the "Acceptable Use Policy" and the "Student Blogging Guidelines".  To teach digital citizenship, I plan on monitoring student use, have a student sign-out sheet for the classroom technology devices so there is a paper trail back to each unit, and by keeping the lessons and activities motivating and timed so that there isn't any downtime for foolishness or off-task behavior (hopefully).  And, I think that if I were to share the student's work with their families or invite them to participate, it would definitely be a deterrent to situations where the student was inappropriate or off task with their work.

Incorporating Classroom Based Devices in the Curriculum

     It is important to tie technology to the objective because the learner of today is surrounded by technology and if you incorporate it into the lesson, the learner will not only learn by using the technology, they will learn the technology itself.  By holding the students responsible and accountable they learn to respect the devices and behavior problems should be kept to a minimum.
     After visiting some of the sites, I found that many of them could be used as stations for individual lessons and for completing connections and linking ideas.  Some that were especially interesting were PhETInteractive, and Thinkfinity.  I believe that I could use these sites and their activities and interactive applications to introduce, reinforce, or review a variety of science concepts that are necessary in my curriculum.  I believe you could set up each activity as a timed station with some quality questions to answer at each station, therefore holding the students accountable for the information at each station.
     Some of these websites will have to be accessed by students on the NetBooks because iPads do not have a Flash player and will not show the tutorial or interactive lesson.
     Some iPad applications that could be used include Science specific podcasts on iTunes such as "Brainstuff" from the people at How Stuff Works and "60 Second Science" from the publishers of Scientific American.  Another good app is PhysicalSci, which is an interactive glossary from CPO (Cambridge Physics Outlet) which is the publisher of the textbook that we use in class.  One more to try is "Video Science" from the Science House Foundation.  This app plays videos on specific science subjects and gives the student a very detailed explanation and backs it up with video.  To make students accountable at stations like this, I would have some questions prepared for them to answer while interacting with the apps.  Other possible ways to make the students accountable would be for them to blog about the topic on what they learned or what questions they may still have about the topic.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Devices in the Classroom

     After completing the 11 Tools requirements, I will receive 4 Dell Netbooks and 4 iPads.  I learned that the Netbooks had webcams and microphone inputs.  I already knew that the iPads had video applications but did not know the Netbooks were capable of video, as well.  This will make reaching outside the classroom much simpler.  It will allow the upstairs team to communicate with the downstairs team where ever they are located.  We could even transmit real time video of the labs and share them with the other team.
     As far as management of the devices, I would like to label them so that they do not get mixed up with other devices from other teachers.  I assume the when I check them out, I am fully responsible for their security.  I also  plan revisiting the district's technology honor code agreement with my students to remind them of their responsibilities for technology software and hardware.  I think that we have pretty good kids here at CSA but it is always the case that if you didn't pay for something with your own money, then you don't seem to respect it as much as if you did.  The laptops got trashed soon after the students started moving them around the room.  I cannot let that happen to these devices.  I think tracking 8 devices will be much more manageable than keeping tabs on 20 or 30 devices.
     Also, limiting the devices use to curriculum content will keep the abuse to a minimum.  I used them the other day and the students enjoyed the accessibility and portability.
     If I would add anything to the package, it would be headphone splitters, so that two students who are sharing a device could listen at the same time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Flat Classroom

I think that I can first link my different classrooms together and then bring in the upstairs groups.  We could start by posting physics lab data on a Google Doc and comparing data for accuracy and repetitive results.  Because we have 7 different lab stations with CPO equipment, I think it would be interesting to see the data collected by different students at the same lab station and the differences between the lab stations themselves.  For example, why does the car accelerate so much more at station 2 than at 5 when all of the equipment is virtually identical?  Or, why do students from my COB class get so different of results from my TDC class?
I think I could use asynchronous learning to see differences and to get my students to achieve more repeatable results in their physics lab experiments.  As of now, none of the students see the data or calculations of other students, even in the same laboratory group.  We verbally share results that are inferred through questions over the data, but no one actually compares their data side by side.
The linking could be expanded to other middle schools in the district that are using the same equipment and procedures.  Of course, some correspondence would be in order to get everyone on the same page, as far as, procedures go...everyone would have to do the experiment exactly the same way.  For example, we would have to agree how high to set the ramp for the speed lab, where to put the photogates, make sure everyone used the ramp foot, etc...
I think it would be easy to do.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Using Web Tools to Promote Discussion In The Classroom

In my classroom, along with the other 8th grade science classroom, we have used Web Tools such as Google Docs and Today's Meet to promote the sharing of opinions between the students.  Earlier in the year, during the Astronomy Unit, we used Today's Meet to share and discuss a big question that everyone in the world probably has an opinion on and would love to share and discuss.  We put pairs of students on computers on both science classes and asked the students this question:  "What does life need to exist?".  The students really enjoyed sharing their opinions with each other.  It was very exciting to go around the computer lab and read the comments, opinions, and rebuttals from the students in the room and what was being said from upstairs.  The discussions were thought provoking, insightful, silly at times, but for the most part, the students stayed on task and focused and were very into the activity.
During physics, we plan on using Google Docs to share lab data for comparison and critique.  I believe that students can learn a lot from their peers and are not usually intimidated by the criticisms from fellow students.  The students are also very sympathetic at times to other students mistakes.  The sharing of lab data will allow them to better their data collecting and analysis techniques.  It will also allow them to double check their own data to look for bad data or incorrect calculations and observations.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Web 2.0 Tools...

I am already using Web 2.0 tools in my classroom.  At the beginning of the year, my principal informed us of some of the Web 2.0 tools available and she used them during our meetings and in-service sessions.
My students used have used Prezi and Xtranormal in class to do presentations.  In fact, for one project, they were required to use either a Web 2.0 tool or a Google App to complete their project.  The best ones were chosen to be showcased at our school's annual open house event.  It was really exciting to see how creative and how comfortable the students were with the technology.  It was as if it were second nature to some of them.  I think others that were "forced" to use it found a new tool to help them in their studies.  The learning curve for most of the Web 2.0 tools is literally minutes long.  You simply have to play with it briefly, learn the tricks, and boom, you are producing a product that looks professional and stylish.
My Xtranormal video was brief and kind of silly, but it was fun to make.  I don't really care for Xtranormal's pricing schedule.  I probably will not use it again.  And, to top off my issues with their pricing, I just found out that they deactivated my account.  So, I guess I am an ex-Xtranormal user.
Prezi is really popular with the students.  Here is a Prezi that I created that explains the concepts of weight, how gravity affects objects to give them weight, and friction.  It is called Weight Force, Gravity, and Friction.  I will have my students access this Prezi and review the concepts discussed already in class.  I will also have them add the Weight Force equation to their Physics Phormula Chart project.

Using Google Apps in the Classroom...

In my last blog, I embedded a quiz on Dimensional Analysis that I created using Google Forms.  I think this is a really useful tool.  I also shared it with the other Science teacher for her to use with her class.  It is a really simple 5 question quiz and the form will collect the answers from each student and you can view it like an Excel file and assign grades very easily and quickly.
I think that these tools will be especially helpful between our teaching team members and other 8th grade team members for things like interdisciplinary activities and lessons, classroom management, extracurricular activities, class lists, and field trips.  It would also make it easier for all of us to communicate electronically and stay in the loop.  However, I do feel that it may lead to a small amount of alienation if one or two team members decide not to participate or cooperate.
I am excited the most by using form tools with my students...because I already have and it was really easy.  It is very useful for checking for understanding of concepts.  By having my students take the quiz mentioned above, I was able to see who was still struggling with DA, who was comfortable with it, and who is excelling at it.