Saturday, October 07, 2006

Podcasting and Skype in the Classroom
Personally, the number of podcasts that pique my interests is overwhelming. I understand the strength of podcasts as a means delivery.
I am also in awe of teachers who have successfully developed strategies to use podcasts as products to assess student mastery. e.g. content reports, oral histories, spoken word poetry to name a few.
Realizing that the number of students entering into post secondary science instruction appears to be at a national low, I would like to have my students suggest a project to find out how scientists became scientists. and how (or if) they apply the "scientific method" they learned in high school to what they do each day.
Most high school science courses introduce the scientific method early on as a series of logical steps a scientist uses to determine the cause for some observable phenomenon. Abductive reasoning produces competing hypotheses, one is tested by a controlled experiment, data is collected, analyzed, results are reported and conclusions are drawn. (You remember, don't you?)
Do scientists remember being taught the scientific method?
Do practicing scientists follow this method in their daily pursuits?
What, if anything, in their high school experiences lead them to become a scientist?
My plan is to have the students identify a number of prominent , practicing scientists in the field of biology today, people they read about in the news, award winners, people listed in their text. Then, try to develop contacts with them in order to set-up skype conversations to answer a set of questions like the ones above.. The conversations can then be mixed into podcasts for publishing.
Maybe they will realize that scientists are people. And while it may take work and desire, anyone of them can develop the skillset necessary to be a scientist.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Monday, September 11, 2006

Teachers Not Using Technology Must See This!
I know I have neglected my blog for a number of weeks now (I have the entries in my non-digital journal), but I could not let this go without sharing this with anyone who may stumble across this blog. Did you Know? is a fantastic powerpoint presentation on an equally fantastic blog called The Fischbowl. Please link over to this site, watch the slide show and as soon as you pick your jaw off of the floor, leave a comment.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

AP Biology Wiki
ISTE provides a series of podcasts from NECC. One of the speakers, Dan McDowell of West Hill High School, addressed creativity in the use of WEB 2.0. Dan really focussed on exploiting the strength of of wiki pages , i.e., collaboration. One of the things he does is to develop a wiki for the essential questions provided by the College Board for his AP curriculum. This is something I also plan to do with my AP Biology class this year.
I'm not sure how Dan organized his wiki, but my plans are to generate one page devoted to each topic. The relevant essential questions will be listed on each page. The questions will be divided among the members of the class. Each student will be required to provide the primary entry for a certain number of questions and review and revise a certain number of entries. Points will be awarded according to schedule similar to the one mentioned in the previous post.
Access to the wiki will be restricted, at first, to my students. After the assigned topic is "complete" (never in a wiki), it may be opened for public revision. My hope is that this will produce a permanent set of review "sheets" which will lessen the need for cram sessions as the May test date approaches.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday, July 21, 2006

AP Biology, Blog or Wiki?
I was listening to a podcast of Alan November speaking at NECC. Several things he said resonated my own thoughts as I decide how to effectively integrate the Web 2.0 with my curriculum. Because the medium is different, the assignment that utilizes the medium has to be different as well. If pencil and paper could be used to complete the assignment, why use the computer? If the assignment can be cut and pasted to completion in a few minutes, of what value is the exercise to the student?
For example, this will be my first year teaching AP Biology. I understand the time constraints will require that a lot of the work on the part of the student to be completed outside of class . One idea I had was to post an essay question online and have the students collaboratively develop an answer. There were a few things I needed to be able to do with this assignment.
First, make it a true collaborative effort. Not the usual group project where one person does most of the work and the rest of the group sits back and takes credit. Therefore, my second need was to verify student input and award credit. Maybe 3-points for an original and correct content contribution, 2-points for a content correction or clarification and 1-point for grammar/syntax correction.
The dilemma then, do I use a blog or a wiki? I understand the collaborative nature of wiki pages and originally had thought ot employ this tool. But, after reading FAQ's at the PB wiki site, I decided to use a blog instead.
The PB wiki does allow for verifying which student modifies the page and when, but unless I search back through the various permutations of the developing page, I won't know what content the student contributes.
So, I've decided to use a blog. It will be a restricted one, accessed only by my students with an assigned username. The comment section will be used to verify what content was actually contributed. I would also like to set up the blog with an "I'm on-line" indicator in the sidebar so that students may chat as they develop content.
Next post, an idea for a wiki!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blog Facelift.
I've revamped the blog a bit as I learn a little more about CSS. The basic template has been changed, for better or worse. I like the look of this one.
I've copied a few lines of code to add a some functionality. Like tags. Also methods of contacting me; Yahoo mail as well as Skype and Yahoo Messenger status buttons. There is also a subscribe button ala Feedburner. (That is a little scarry. Thinking that someone may actually find this blog and read it!)
Of course, the goal is to use these skills to affect more efficient communication about what is going on in my classroom. As the school year starts, I will need to set up a separate blog for my students and parents and keep this one for my own professional development saga.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Student Assessments in Science
Okay! Enough already! The results of student performance on various assessment instruments for science is not so good. In fact, it is poor by most standards.
I'm not going to spend kilobytes defending the (science) teaching community and education in general, there are several capable voices at this already.I'm not going to make excuses fro myself, effective or not, I work diligently at my classroom responsibilities (and more) all year.

What I am going to do is investigate and reflect on strategies that might make more effective use of:
1. My time.
2. My time (50 mins) each day in contact with my students.
3. My students time spent engaged with the curriculum.

My time. As it stands, 7:15 - 2:45 five days a week. Each day divided into five 50 minute teaching periods, two 50 minute planning periods, 25 minutes for lunch and a total of some 45 minutes for announcements and general mayhem in the hallways.

My time each day with students. Directly, each student sees me for 50 minutes each day. Divide that time among an average of 31 students in the classroom, well, you get the point.

My students time spent engaged with the curriculum. Your guess is as good as mine. From very little (for most) to a great deal (for a few).

To this end I will employ the following:
Learning Theory . As a science teacher, to disregard the information from valid, systematic research on learning and the brain, would be somewhat hypocritical.
Effective teaching models - research based strategies for instruction.
This thing we cll Web 2.0. As much as anything, I believe, while not a panacea, digital technology will unite my objectives for time management with my goal of increasing student achievement in science.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Legislation That Would Not Die!
Sorry, but this time of year I keep one ear open for legislative action on educational issues.
It looks like I spoke to soon. Even though the Senate defeated legislation for gutting the class size ammendment, the House narrowly passed a bill to put a new ammendment on the ballot.
Then, as per title, Senate republicans pulled a fast one to reintroduce voucher legislation already voted down earlier. Democrats, in response, began stalling the session by having bills read into the record (What if they call for a reading of the budget?). It's alive! It's alive!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

..And Then There's the A++ Plan
It appears that the democrats, and more than a few moderate Republicans, were able to fend off another of the Governor's "devious" plans to weaken the class size ammendment.
Several legislative issues still remain unsettled; a voucher ammendment; funding for the Technology Tools for Teachers (currently unfunded); and the A++ plan which includes Middle and High School reforms.
The Florida DOE's Committee for High School Reform Task Force has sent to Gov. Bush a list of recommendations to "change high school as we know it." The recommendations rely heavily on two two reports. One a 1997 phone survey by Public Agenda and the other, an on-line survey of high school students conducted by the National Governors Association. Summaries of the reports say students would work harder if the course work were more challenging and they were allowed to take courses that interested them.
The recomendations and the A++ plan call for more rigorous course requirements for graduation, including 4 years of math, level 2 or above; offering students the opportunity to graduate with a major or minor area of study; providing for a differentiated diploma recognizing various levels of proficiency.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Welcome Teachers!
A few teachers have expressed interest in establishing a dialog which can move beyond the confines of departments and disciplines. A dialog that does not have to be constrained by lack of a quorum or confined to the last few seconds of an already overlong faculty gathering. We hope you find this venue open and encouraging, A place to teach and a place to learn. Most of all, a place for supporting a positive environment for professionals and the profession.