Sunday, May 2, 2010

Final Reflection

As I reflect on the 2009-10 school year, technology has played a key part in my teaching. This was particularly true in the first semester when science 7 worked on Populations and Ecosystems, and at the start of the second semester with the Rice-Hunger unit. The obvious technology links for chemestry are not so evident, resultingly, with the exception of Panthernet (some genuine, some mandated), technology has recently taken a back-seat in my day-to-day classsroom practice. And the kids have never been more engaged - far from enraged!

Looking ahead to next year, I already forsee cutting some of the tech add-ons that seemed like great applications at the time. But is more than curious to realize that with the completion of the COETAIL classes, so too ended my embedding of tech learning tools.

The question that emerges from this reflection process is one that has surely been arrived at by many tech-savy educators in the past decade. Did I get carried away in the excitement of a new toy? Was I changing my lesson for them, or for me? Or my course requirements? Or my resume?

ISB is definitely on the cutting edge of technology in the classroom. As we charge forward to a one-to-one middle school, we must ensure a good starting point is established for our pilot group for next year. Students and teachers need to be realistic about expectations- making sure that technology is only used when it is in fact the best practice for learning.

And just to tie it all back together, technology, as it was employed in Mr. McGovern's January Rice Unit for Science 7, was best possible practice and truly raised the level of learning above that which would have otherwise been possible. Amongst those in the scrap pile, this unit will most definitly be retained and highlighted for next year's groups.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rice Growth: Day 12

When the date was set to upload the images, the number of groups that arrived without their USB cables or had ran out of battery life on their camera grounded the day’s activity to a screeching halt. The class time was used instead to better develop the script and search the internet for appropriate photographs to include in the introduction and conclusion.
This turned out to be time well spent, as all groups were well busy developing a variety of aspects of their projects. By observing how engaged the class was on refining the story board and image selections, it became clear that this was a necessary step in process, and needed to be formalized with guidelines and a checklist.
The following check list was developed as a way to keep students on track.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rice Growth Day 9

At this stage of the science lab, students have taken photographs of the first several days of rice germination, and they been able to witness which of the two samples of rice seeds has shown more growth: the test pot or the control pot. In most cases, and particularly at this early stage, the results were varied, and still inconclusive.

By now, each group had collected anywhere from 10-20 photographs of their lab, and were ready to start planning their digital story. The specifics of the rubric were outlined, and the groups began writing their script for photostory3. As a tech-focused international school, I was surprised by the level of confusion that developed amongst the students. As photostory3 was new to many of the students, some showed apprehension to using a new simple movie-making program, and wanted to stick to programs that they were familiar with. Others remained unclear that they were in fact making a simple movie at all. Exemplars were needed to help clear up the confusion, and demystify the new program.

Another ‘new technology’ pitfall was students not knowing how to transfer images from their various devices ( to computers. Or in some cases, students lost their cameras altogether.

This could be overcome by reserving the school’s supplies of digital camera for the duration of the four week unit, establishing a standard for the cameras, or by collecting and storing cameras for each group at the end of each class.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Start of the Digital Lab

The digital science lab
Seventh Grade Science has begun the second semester with a four week mini unit titled Soil and Rice: How to Feed a Hungry Planet. The focus of the unit is to explore the issues of global equity and access to food, and the role that science plays in developing ways to grow more food on a finite amount of land.
The students have been given the challenge to find a technique that will cause rice seeds to germinate and begin to grow at a faster rate. Each group independently indentified and tested different independent variables against a standardized control pot containing eight rice seeds planted in potting soil.
Some of the variables students researched and tested included: florescent lighting, loamy clay, concentrated levels of CO2, yeast, and competition with other plant species (bean plant).
With a previous class, the final product was a written report including data charts with results and a conclusion. This year, I wanted to students to make real world connections by giving them a more authentic role as a research scientist making a recommendation to a genuine audience of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
By taking digital pictures of the materials, the lab set up, and the rice growth observations, students were able to document their lab. For the final production, the photographs were loaded onto Photostory3 and became the framework for their recommendation.
A story board was used to assist students as they developed strategies to report their findings and make their recommendation. When asked to reflect on how scientists communicate their findings, students effortlessly created outlines for their recommendation that very closely matched each step of the scientific method.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Peripheral Blog

This litterally is a peripheral blog -I almost missed this last assignment!
I am very excited to use some of the extra tech toys in next year's newly designed Rice Unit. Particularly the Flip Cam. It is really so easy to use, and so simple to incorporate into some many types of files and applications.
I've been using several differnt cameras and tools to tell stories in my I.T. class thus far, and have met with limited success. In part because of the nature of the sixth grade brain, but also in the defining of the parameters of the assignment.
In making a story with digital media, the story board needs to be used as an integral part of the process. I am sure that many of the mishaps with the peripheral devices could have been avoided if the students went in with a greater sense of purpose with them.
I will definintely take my own advice on this when building the documents and lessons for my final assessment. Thanks, Matt.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Teachers ensuring Good Learning

I see this as the course's BIG question. How can teachers in today's schools ensure that good learning is happening in the classroom.

Lots of answers surface with this question, and certainly the picture would not be complete without the inclusion - if not the center-piece of, yes, technology. A productive learning community, has many facets and never before have teachers needed to be practicing what they preach about life long learning and intellectual risk-taking.

However, while technology tightens its grip on the keys to learning, it in-and-of itself is not the answer.

Now while I cannot claim even double digit tenyer in the profession, there are some old addages that work in the classroom just as well as they do in the lunch room, or the family room, or the bar.

One such example is the idea that I always try to hold on to of "meeting people where they are". When applied to learning at ISB, it can direct assignments, interventions, and open new possibilities.

Not all students are going to be great at reading. Not all students are going to be great at math. And not all students are going to be challenged by even some of the more demanding computer assignments. But if we can meet them where they are, at least we will know what they can do, and what they are capable of.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Lap Top Management (AKA Effective use of the 'MicroComputer' in the Classroom)

I just saw four groups of seventh graders back to back (to back to back). The purpose of each class was to be a work period where all students could work toward their final semester's end project and ask clarifying questions.
In each class, the computer was used for word processing, and for graphic design features.
Some of the recommendations from the class discussions most definitely surfaced in the course of these 45 minute blocks of time. In the wiki artcle "Classroom Management" the idea of gaining and refocusing attention is brought up. Lowering the laptop screan to me is as close to an industry standard as there is. Students can do it, and they are accustomed to the request.
What I find to be the challenge, and having shared my classroom with other teachers, I know I am not alone in this; is the management of the carts. Too often the studnets do not put the computer in the right place or in the right cart or the carts end up not gettign plugged in when they reach the next class room or storage room. What ends up happening is the next group of students ends up not being able to work through the period without running out of battery power.
Assigning moniters ahead of time works well, but ultimately the responsibility ends up back with the teacher.
Hardware or software? Which one do we spend our time worrying about more? Which should we spend our teaching time focusing on?
Without the hardware, there is no software...