Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Observation Notes: How one Science teacher is integrating technology

I began my official observation hours this month and this entry begins a series of observation notes from the 100 hours I will eventually accumulate.

This entry concerns several 9th grade science classes at MS 202 - the Robert H Goddard school taught by Mr. Exume, with the help of the technology specialist, Ms. Deninn. The Robert H. Goddard is primarily a middle school covering grades 6-8, however they are expanding to become a high school beginning with 9th grade in the 2008-2009 school year. Every classroom has a SmartBoard and the school is part of the 1-1 laptop program.

I spent several periods with Mr. Exume’s classes and I could see wide variation among the students. One of the biggest differences I noticed was that the 9th graders were able to carry on real conversations (one girl walked me to the teacher cafeteria, asked if I was student teaching and what school I went to and told me she wants to go to NYU) and engage in thoughtful discussion. The subject that Mr. Exume was discussing that day was about classification of species. The general format was that Mr. Exume presented his notes on the SmartBoard including some pictures and videos while students took notes on their laptops. He also had the students break out into groups to work on classifications. The students print, save to a Flash drive or email their notes at the end of the period. One girl was asking a lot of questions and in particular consistently brought up issues of testing on animals. After several minutes of this, Mr. Exume suggested to the girl that she meet with the “newspaper committee” to write an opinion piece on the issue. He explained to me after that this topic had come up several other times throughout the year and it was a sore topic for some of the girls. The girl commented that there are no more newspapers this year. In my conversation with Mr. Exume, I suggested that he might want to encourage the girls to write a blog on the topic which he thought was an excellent idea for next year. Mr. Exume ensures that all his lessons and presentations are available on a shared network drive at the beginning of the year and students can download any or all of them at any time for use as a study guide.

Mr. Exume spent his free period providing me with resources that he uses in his classroom. Here is a snapshot of some of these resources.
  • The Review Game Zone - Because of the time of year, Regents review is a big part of the curriculum. This site is a review site for Regents questions and it also allows the teacher to input their own questions. For example, here is a soccer game with review questions on classification.
  • Power Media Plus - This is a subscription service that Mr. Exume uses to embed videos and other media into his Powerpoint presentations. He finds this helps to clarify complex subjects. The site lets you save videos to your hard drive for use in other applications.
  • Virtual Labs: Utah Genetics Lab - Contains virtual labs on genetics. Frog Dissection - Virtual Frog Dissection. Mr. Exume is going to allow the use of this latter one for the students who choose not to dissect a real frog. InnerBody - Used to teach and study about human anatomy.
  • YouTube & TeacherTube – TeacherTube is allowed in the school but YouTube is blocked. However, sometimes there are useful videos on YouTube that Mr. Exume will use in his classroom. He does this by loading the video at home and playing the cached version at school.
  • – Used to share large files between students and teachers.
  • Engrade - A free service used by Mr. Exume to record grades, among other things.
  • Lesson Planet - Mr. Exume uses lesson plans from this site to help enhance his own curriculum. Requires a subscription. I told him about Curriki which contains free and open lesson plans.
  • Enchanted Learning - A compendium of worksheets for teachers. Subscription required.
  • Classroom Performance System – Mr. Exume is going to be using these CPS Clickers to do Regents review preparation throughout the month of June. I will be going to observe this in a few weeks.

Friday, May 8, 2009

This Week in Social Media: YouTube Delivery, Sext-Ed and more...

This week's topics cover the gamet from picking wedding dresses online to sneaking through government firewalls just to get online. I'll start with the YouTube delivery. It's not what you think!

I'm not talking about delivering a video to the YouTube platform. I'm talking about a man who had to deliver his own wife's baby with no help from anyone but YouTube video's! Yes, there are actually videos about that. In Can't Get Midwife? YouTube Will Assist, a British man explains that his wife's history of speedy deliveries meant that getting to a hospital was not happening and the midwife they planned to use was unavailable. YouTube to the rescue! You really can find just about anything on the Web today. What are the implications for YouTube in education? Especially when YouTube is often blocked? Is that good or bad? On the one hand, students will access YouTube online at home and learn anything they want to (and maybe more than we want them to!) but shouldn't we, as educators, be able to find useful videos for the classroom and show them as appropriate?

The internet is all about being open and available to all, right? Well, not quite. Many countries block websites containing content that they do not want accessible to their citizens. In Iranians and Others Outwit Net Censors we see that organizations exist that focus on helping everyone have equal access to the internet - but it's often at their own risk. I bring this up because it's important to remember that though we sometimes view the internet as a democracy for all people and our students probably are growing up believing this, we have not overcome censorship around the world. What does it mean to be a digital citizen? Does it depend on where you live?

Remember the Prom? Well, now there is a way for girls to ensure that nobody else comes dressed in their Prom dress. Online Photo Says "It's My Dress, Pick Another" explains that many boutique stores are creating a registry of which girl purchased which dress for which school's Prom and won't let anyway else buy the same dress. What's more, Facebook groups have been set up to let the girls post their dresses online so that others will be discouraged from buying the same or similar dresses. Why is the relevant? Because it's just another way that teens today are making use of Social Networking tools to meet their needs. These trends will continue and as educators we should be tapping into them also.

Lastly, sex ed has a whole new twist: When the Cell Phone Teaches Sex Education. Services have been popping up around the country to answer teens questions about sex and relationships. Many of these are canned questions that they can choose from but several new services are providing 1-1 personalized answers anonymously through texting. In some states this is designed to overcome school mandated limitations of abstinence-only curriculums. How do you feel about this service? What are the implications for families and students themselves. As educators, curriculum matters and we have to realize that if we are not teaching students what they need or want to know (sex ed or otherwise) they will find out from other places. Today, it's easy to do on the Social Web.