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.

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