Sunday, September 20, 2009

Post #3

I teach 7th grade Life Science, and use technology often in my classroom as a teaching tool, as well as a helpful resource. While teaching a unit on genetics, I wanted to ensure that students had a sound understanding of probability before delving into Mendelian genetics. So, I had students work in groups of 3-4 students per group. The task was simple. They used ten 3 x 5 cards and wrote washed on five cards, and unwashed on five remaining cards. The cards were place in a paper bag and mixed up well. Then a student reached into the paper bag and randomly selected one 3 x 5 card and read the word. Then the card was placed back in the bag and mixed up. This was done 100 times, and recorded on a table. Then they had to switch the probability situation to three “washed” and seven “unwashed” whereby they collected the data and wrote their results on a table. Again, the probability situation is switched to six “washed” and four “unwashed” cards, and the same procedure is followed as the previous steps. On the fourth situation, groups are allowed to make up their own probability situation. In all cases, the cards are randomly selected and placed back in the bag, and recorded on a table manually for each drawing. So, by the end of the probability lab, the students will have 400 data sets recorded. The groups were required to create a table in Microsoft Excel, and then generate a chart that showed the outcome for each probability situation. Then we discussed each group’s outcome. I generated a table in Excel and projected on the screen using my LCD overhead projector that is directly wired to my classroom computer. The students are able to see the table that I created, which I can then input the data for each group. Then I generated a chart based on the entire class’ data results. The chart allowed students to see that their hypotheses paralleled the expected outcome of each probability situation. The final part of the lab required that the groups submit a group lab report containing a title page, the data tables, charts, and a summation about what they observed and learned from doing this lab experiment. So, this gave them the opportunity to work with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. I did have to teach my students how to create charts from their data tables, which included adding a title to the chart and defining each part of the pie chart. I also showed my class how to create different charts using their same data, and discussed how charts can give a nice snapshot of data in an easy to understand format rather than looking at a cumbersome data table chocked full of numbers. Having 12 laptop computers for this lab allowed each group to work together and afforded me the opportunity to walk around the classroom observing how the students worked together, as well as answer questions if they were confused about something. I can tell you that the students loved this experiment and using the computers, which made the lesson meaningful and fun.
Aside from using Microsoft Word and Excel, I also give my 7th grade students the opportunity to conduct research using the internet for a unit on cells. The assignment requires that students work together in groups of 3 – 4, and they have to use Microsoft PowerPoint to create a presentation that shows an analogy of a cell. I give them 5 days in the computer lab to work together trying to plan out their presentation and use the internet to find the required information covering the cell membrane, nucleus, and organelles. I try the best I can to group students with a blend of skill levels so that they can work together helping each other on this project. To avoid problems with students googing off or not being productive, the computer lab is set up in a horse shoe position so that I can easily have visual access to everything that the students are working on while in the computer lab. I make it very clear that they are to be working solely on their project and that consequences will occur for students who are using the internet to play games or to view other inappropriate material. This project is such a time demanding assignment that I have not had any student group misuse the time allotted for them in the computer lab. Nonetheless, my concerns, which were previously mentioned, are that they not access inappropriate internet sites or check their personal e-mails during class. The school has an excellent firewall that prevents them from accessing popular sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, or various e-mail accounts like Yahoo. All in all, this project gives them ample opportunities to use their creativity to design each PowerPoint slide, and makes the presentations fun and interesting to view.
Apart from using various Microsoft programs in the classroom, I also utilize excellent websites for students to view that I list on my personal website. If you check my personal work website,, you will be able to visit any of the sites by clicking on the hyperlinks located on the right side of the webpage. I also use United Streaming Videos to show various educational videos that align with the topics that we will cover throughout the year. The videos add another layer for keeping students engaged and involved because many of them have video quizzes that follow, which I could use for grades, or generate discussions about what they watched. The website for United Streaming is , and requires a subscription or license, which our school has paid for so that teachers can use this resource in the classroom. Again, it is an excellent source of educational videos that I can show as an introduction to a unit, or as a way to reinforce a topic we are learning about in a unit. The site allows you to categorize the videos based on grade level, subject matter, or both, which makes searching very easy. I make an extra effort to find videos that are newer so as to avoid distractions such as horrible acting, corny music, and terrible fashion. This may seem odd, but 7th graders are easily distracted by these simple things. Anyway, take a look at some of the websites I listed on mine and let me know what you think.

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