Friday, December 4, 2009

Mark's Extra Credit Podcast

This is my extra credit podcast which discusses whether a color can drag down test scores or set a person up for failure.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blog # 5

I used a fun website that students can go and learn about all aspects of science from any discipline. The website is called Science Spot, and is found at What I like about this website is that it offers various ways of learning about big topics in science besides just reading. There are games, challenges, flip books, puzzles and many other formats for learning about science in a fun and engaging manner. Having students who are scientifically literate is an important skill in the world today. With many socio-scientific issues impacting our world today, it is crucial that students to be knowledgeable about what is good science versus pseudo-science, and becoming conscientious citizens about what political agendas being thrown at them should be voted for or against is vital the country's future. I see that my job as a teacher is to provide the basis of that learning, and I choose to implement many technologies in the classroom to bring my goal of creating scientifically literate students to fruition.

I remember as a student I loved trivia, and I know maybe not all students may like it, but it is a great way to learning some facts that may be topics in my classroom. The students can go on this site and learn so much about American History, which I find important because the history of America needs to be learned by every student in the country. Knowing our history and understanding it, helps students relate to why the country is the way it is today. Also, the teens can post their own trivia about the topics we covered in class that day.

I think that presentation software can be very beneficial tool in the classroom, however there are some advantages and disadvantages. An advantage is that presentation software allows the presenter to get ideas out to an audience in a succinct way and then discuss it further. The presenter can use many techniques to create a presentation that can be visually and audibly engaging. One can use many graphics, designs, animations, and sound effects. And although these are pretty cool there can be some drawbacks to using this kind of technology. For example, a presenter should not rely solely on the presentation as a way to teach or share ideas. If one just reads the information to the students, or audience, then teaching is ineffective, in my opinion. Also, all technology has the potential of being problematic. If the LCD presenter should fail, or a computer problem arise, then what? One must be able to have a "backup" plan in order to be prepared because no matter how wonderful technology is, it has the potential to fail. One last disadvantage would be that students have grown accustom to PowerPoint presentations, and sit through them constantly fighting fatigue and sleep awaiting the next slide and drone presentation. So, I think a better strategy that is advantageous would be to offer a few slides and then discuss why it all matters, and try to make the presentation more interactive with the students. Having students listen, take notes, and watch the teacher can be somewhat daunting and should be minimized as much as possible in my opinion. I believe that having this approach will make the class more effective.

As a teacher, I use PowerPoint (PP) quite often to create presentations that cover the scientific content within my curriculum. What I enjoy about PP is that I get highlight the main objectives in a way that is concise, which can then be added to my school web page. I will post the PP notes on my website prior to going over the material so that students can print them off and bring to class and make additional notes. This prevents me "losing" students who are just focused on writing down everything they see instead of being engaged in discussion. Furthermore, it allows me to show videos that can be a demonstration or a reinforcement about the day's topic, which certainly helps my visual learners. There are so many aspects about PP that I can use to help instruct my students from mere lecture notes to cool story boards with animations. It can also be a great way to create review games that are fun and engaging as well.

Blog # 4

Since I am a teacher, I often have my students outline reading assignments so that they can organize the main points into succinct notes to use as a quiz or test review. I have them actually type up their outlines, but before I could assign this task I had to take a day to teach a lesson on how to use MS Word. In that lesson, I showed how to use the basic tab functions under the "home", "page layout", and "review" options. I tell the students what font size, and font type I want when they submit their outline for a grade, so that it is standardized. I also implement idea maps or concept maps as a tool to help teach ideas. For example, when I teach about plant and animal cells, I have the students compare and contrast the two types of cells by using Venn Diagrams, which give a quick visual snapshot of the main points. These methods help to keep notes organized in a concise way for a quick review prior to an assessment. I think that I will implement a lesson on the Inspiration software next year so that students can create their own concept maps to help with learning a topic such as taxonomy.

Developing an outline, idea map, and story boarding skills (I haven't used this one yet) are great ways to help organize ideas and place them in one location. By helping students get organized, I know that their stress level will be reduced. If they have good notes to review then they do not have to refer to the daunting textbook to reread mulitple pages. So, I take time at the beginning of the school year to talk about outlining and notetaking in my class to ulimately help them become better students with stronger academic skills that will better prepare them for higher academic courses.

I really was impressed with learning about mail merge for writing letters with multiple names, which can be inserted in a letter template. I thought this was a very useful skill to learn since teachers deal with all kinds of correspondence. If I can write ONE letter and use mail merge to personalize it for my students then I will definitely use it to save time.

Blog # 8

With the focus of education increasingly being turned to differentiated instruction, teachers are using WeQuests more frequently. Since students are so drawn to the internet, they will easily be motivated to perform an educational task on the internet. Thus, the idea of WebQuests was conceived. WebQuests are a great tool to help address the different learning styles of each students. In fact, the number of activities associated with a WebQuest can reach almost any student. As I read about webquests and looked over the internet for various examples, it quickly became apparent that many are created by educators. If I were to create a webquest, I think I would need additonal instructional time with a software program such as DreamWeaver or Microsoft Frontpage. I am not comfortable enough to do that just yet, but I am always eager to learn a new technology skill to bring into the classroom. I teach science, and there are some topics that are really tough for students to comprehend. For example, genetics is challenging for middle school students to learn. When I teach on DNA replication and all that it entails, I have to scale it back compared to high school or college level because I don't believe their cognitive skills are as developed to handle the comprehension of such difficult concepts. I believe that Webquests would be very beneficial in helping to teach such a difficult topic because it would allow students to work at their own pace if I give them a specific webquest to visit. If I can become saavy enough to understand how to create a webquest, then I could easily create a cooperative group project for my students. I already do cooperative learning projects in my class whereby I place students in groups of four and have each person responsible for researching a specific topic and then bring it back and share with their group members what they learned. I could extend this activity by having the group create a webquest, which would be a great way to demonstrate student learning.

I just finished teaching the students about plant and animal cells and I actually used a cell webquest to assist in teaching about the different cellular organelles, where they are located, and, of course, their functions. I used The Great Cell Web Quest site at This was created by an educator who did a phenomenal job of packing all kinds of interesting videos and tasks within the web quest. It starts out with an introduction and then it takes the student step by step into the various tasks that will help teach them about the specific topic. It not only provided great information about cells, but it was comical and entertaining. The kids loved doing the various tasks within the computer lab and really looked forward to class during that week. So, I know that this is something I shall definitely put in my educator toolbox for future use!!!

The new things that I have learned during this particular week was creating a crossword puzzle, which I never did before, and also using excel to create formulas for calculating. I know that using excel formulas will definitely be more useful to me than the crossword puzzle. It's not that I didn't enjoy the crossword puzzle, it's just that they are demand so much time to create that I can use free online programs that can generate crossword puzzles instantly, and all I have to do is type in the word and the definition is the specific spots. As for the excel formulas, I have used and will continue to use this skill frequently in my teaching career. I had to use it to calculate the number of students who have paid for the fieldtrip and also how many boys were attending versus girls in order to calculate the number of hotel rooms, and busses to reserve. So, this is something that I will use frequently. I wouldn't use it very much to calculate grades because we already use a grading software program to do all of that for me.

Blog #10

One of the main positive benefits for taking this course, aside from fulfilling a requirement towards my teaching certification, is that this course provided useful information about technology that I could actually use in the classroom. This course taught me new software that I never knew existed such as Jing and Inspiration, which I have continued to use for my classes. I was also shown new "tricks" with Excel and Microsoft Word that I never knew prior to taking this course. For example, if I want to make a letter that has each student's name, or their parent's name in the actual letter, I do not need to write multiple letters. Instead, I can use just one letter and create an excel file with all of the names written in it. Then I can print the letter with instructions that pull the names from the excel file so that I have individual letters. I thought that was a great technique that will save time when sending out letters about upcoming trips or events, which personalizes it. I have also learned how to create a newsletter, which I still use each nine weeks. I actually have students help write it and then post it to my blog. The students like it and it provides great information for the parents.

The project was a great assignment because it allowed me to collaborate with other classmates to create something new and innovative that I can use with my students in the classroom. My group lost one student leaving only Samantha and I to complete the task, but we shared the workload equally to complete the assignment, and I am proud of what we did. I will actually get to use our product in January upon returning from the Christmas break. I think that this assignment should be given each semester because it allows students to create a product using the various technologies learned in the course.

I will continue to use Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint as the main technology staples in my educational toolbox. However, I want to extend beyond the more traditional boundaries of those technologies and imbue my class curriculum with some of the more "modern" technologies that I learned in this course such as creating and maintaining a blog about science, as well as dabble with podcasts. Those are two very new technologies that I would like to explore and bring into my classroom environment. I would like to bring current issues to the forefront for my students to discuss the debates surrounding global warming, renewable energy sources, and explore the environmental impacts caused by offshore drilling in hopes of becoming independent on oil. These issues and the decisions about them will affect my students' lives in a profound way. I want to use what I learned in this class to help get the information out to them in a more interactive way than just a boring old lecture.

Most of my classmates' blogs were similar in that they answered the questions provided by the instructor in the blog. I was impressed by how creative some of the students made their blog pages. As I play around more with my blog page, I am confident that I will be able to make it more personable, but for now, I am satisfied with just being able to post a blog. This is the first time that I ever blogged and I really think it is a great forum for exchanging ideas.