Monday, April 28, 2008

Done...for now



The reflective piece is done.
The links are all active.
The webquest is webquesty.

One thing I find amazing about doing web development and other on-line work (like blogging)is the deception of time. A task that seems should be alloted a mere hour ends up needing 3 or more. A ten minute blog post or 15 minute glimpse of the aggregator turns into over an hour. My TV viewing is suffering! But, I must say I am satisfied with the current progress of my eportfolio. Much of the design aspect still needs a bit of work. The colors are pleasant and the links work.

My webquest is a bit more of a work in progress. I had about ten ideas around the same premise and forced myself to start on one. If I had not I'd still be pondering which one to do. In hindsight one of the other options may have been easier to develop. Oh well. I'll be pressing the fingers this week.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

(real) Webquests

Tom March and Bernie Dodge have very specific requirements for webquests. Tom summarizes it as:

"A WebQuest is a scaffolded learning structure that uses links to essential resources on the World Wide Web and an authentic task to motivate students’ investigation of a central, open-ended question, development of individual expertise and participation in a final group process that attempts to transform newly acquired information into a more sophisticated understanding. The best WebQuests do this in a way that inspires students to see richer thematic relationships, facilitate a contribution to the real world of learning and reflect on their own metacognitive processes." from here.

Tom and Bernie separate "real" webquests from other web based activities by insisting that scaffolding and knowledge transformation occur. This is all well and good, but development of webquests to meet such requirements is daunting. Tom later states:

"...it’s taken the Web and related communications technologies to chip away at the Berlin Wall of traditional education to make the above strategies not just good ideas, but essential."

He then goes on to jab at what must be horrible teachers that still incorporate "traditional education" into classrooms. We know here that Tom is a technoelitist. I believe most teachers now use an inquiry approach to teaching, especially science teachers. We develop and deploy differentiated inquiry instruction without the use of technology. Teachers aren't programmers, and they are not going to spend days developing the wonderful webquests Tom expects them to. Teachers who do use technology in the classroom to do lessons that make brochures or plan a vacation should be commended on their efforts and not ridiculed as being "traditionalist". This is a starting point for teachers. Teachers need to develop technology skills just as students do. Through later refinement and risk-taking the teacher may later develop more constructivist methods in their use of technology. Yes, Tom, many of us teachers are not technoconstructivists, but many of us are technotraditionalists working hard to use technology to teach better.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Energy and the Environment Simulation

Ben Rimes in his blog mentioned Electrocity, a game from New Zealand with great potential for use in the classroom. Tonight I'll download and play the game at home to get a feel for what its like. Like Ben, I spent days playing Sim City as a youngster. I also enjoyed Sim Earth and Sim Ant. I hope Electrocity ends up being a great option for expanding my curriculum of energy resources. Currently, I have only a poster project that I do on the topic. Students research in groups solar, geothermal, fossil fuels, and all the rest. Doing this after the projects could really drive home the concepts.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Digital Native



My daughter the digital native.
She has recently discovered the joys of noggin.com.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Video Blog Post

I say the video will be 10 to 15 seconds, but the ticker says 22 total.

video

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

how we learn



There seem to be more and more videos like those above. The basic message is the same "You must teach us (digital natives) differently because we learn differently." I agree and disagree with the whole premise. I agree that technology should be incorporated into classrooms to a greater degree. But do even a majority of teachers need to use a wiki? Do all teachers need to blog? The answer to this is an absolute NO! There should, however, be more of it in schools. Social constructivism is a strong pedagogical method, that when fostered with computer technologies, can lead to great student success.

My major disagreement with this video and others of its ilk is that learning has not changed. Genetically, humans are no different now than they were thousands of years ago. We have not undergone some fantastic punctuated equilibrium of the mind. The mind therefore learns the same now as it did thousands of years ago. The way we teach and present material has indeed changed. My major concern is that we throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is no need to replace good teaching practices with questionable new ones. The goal needs to be to discard the poor teaching practices and replace them with new; possibly using new technology. Can the use of a wiki be shown to increase understanding? Can a class social network boost test scores? Until there is data to support change, teachers will continue teach as they have been. Students will continue to learn just as students in the previous hundred years have.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Class Videos

Showed a few videos in class today.





I also showed several videos of planes breaking the sound barrier.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Flickr Search


(Image by Scott Adams)
Did a quick search of flickr for "Instructional Technology" and this was the first image I found.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Progress: Slow and Steady

When we moved into our new building not much worked. The Starboards (Hitachi brand Interactive White Board) we mounted, but the software wasn't on the computers. The document cameras were still in boxes that were slid under desks or deposited in a corner. The majority of rooms with projectors didn't have them wired up yet. Myself and a few others have toiled away since the move in January to get everything up and running. At the moment the software for the Starboards is being reinstalled. There was a bug in the program that didn't let it work correctly with the dual display mode that we use. The document cameras are also finally getting put together and used. The main issue I've found with the document cameras is the power cord length. The old overhead projects either used a long cord or were attached to a portable cart with a long cord. You also have the added difficulty of having to not only plug it into the wall outlet, but also into the projector. Until the makers of document cameras figure out these cord problems I don't see them becoming as ubiquitous as the overhead was (is?).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Breaking Ranks

I came across this piece of news this morning. I've posted on discussions at several sites that schools would begin breaking ranks with the federal government either at the state or local level. Ridding them of all the federal moneys with it's sticky strings. I hope Virginia does pull out of NCLB. The proper funding and writing of NCLB would be welcomed as an alternative. Push is coming to shove, and Virginia is getting the ball rolling in NCLB reform.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Crapware

I use both Spybot Search and Destroy and Lavasoft’s Ad-aware. The pundits suggest using multiple scanners to get more of the baddies. None of the scanners get all the gunk. Getting rid of Adware is like washing off tree sap; it never seems to come clean. Nefarious uses of this type of technology are bad enough, but when corporations we should trust start using it I get really steamed.
Microsoft’s Genuine Advantage is one such program. Adobe has been regarded as dispersing adware/malware by many users (the google toolbar is one example) as well. What I hate almost as much as malware, adware, and spyware is Crapware! These are all the extra needless applications that come with hardware or software. When you bought your last PC it more than likely came with a whole bunch of stuff you didn’t want. AOL always seemed the worst. I could never seem to fully destroy the tentacles it spread through my computers. I think we’ve all wondered over the additional icons/features we didn’t want loaded, magically appearing on our computers after installing a program. Problems like this are why computers and technology are not consumer friendly.
People don’t help themselves either. Internet users flock to new Beta’s to try them out. I think this pushes programmers to finish a product faster to make final releases. After the initial release of a program there is the almost immediate release of a patch to plug holes and vulnerabilities. Isn’t that why there was a Beta version!? Having to constantly patch programs is another form of Crapware to me. If I don’t use one of my computers for a week I know it will take me about an hour to download all the new versions and patches for the programs I use when I turn it on. Do Mac users have this problem?

--As a side, I heard Dell recently enabled buyers to choose not to have trail-ware preloaded on their computers.

Web resources I choose for students must have very limited advertisements. Ads can be extremely distracting to already distractible middle schoolers. The ad designers purposely make them eye-catching and distracting. I have witnessed web pages instantly grab attention and keep it. Time on task is a valuable resource.
Most web-pages I use in class are government sponsored or very content oriented (i.e. howstuffworks.com). The focus of the web site should be the same as mine: to educate. Generally, government and university web sites do not have the advertisements that dot other sites. Free or trail versions of other sites often have advertisements, but the paid versions do not. Encyclopedia Britannica On-Line, for instance, has small inconspicuous ads toward the top of each article in the free version. These are not distracting and I have students use some on-line encyclopedias when doing research.
Your library probably has even better options. Our library media specialist recently introduced me to the on-line library database. Students and teachers can log in from home or school and have access to an enormous volume of material. The material is also searchable and organized by subject and grade level. Let’s not get so wrapped up in web-based resources that we forget our own libraries and what they have to offer. Oh, and there isn’t a single advertisement.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Educational Computing 526

On Thursday Carol LaRow will be visiting our school for some professional development time. We'll be training 2 day before break and three days after. The technology committee has put together sessions on power point, Starboard, and teaching with the internet. She's great at what she does: teaching how to integrate technologies into instruction. Here's a sample of what she's done. She always provides the best handouts and works great with faculty. Teachers, I feel, are always best taught by other teachers. We could bring in a rep to train us on how to use Starboards or someone else to teach power point. Unless they're seasoned teachers they really don't know our needs.