Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Web Tools Refections

My motivation for taking the web tools class was purely for professional development that I cannot seem to find time for during the regular school year.  I have spent countless hours this summer exploring sites and learning about what types of technological applications are out there for classroom use, how to navigate them, and how to implement them in the classroom.  I am still a web tools/technology novice who is constantly challenged to rethink and reprogram.  Although it has been difficult, I really feel that I am moving in the right direction.  This course has provided a great networking forum through Edmodo for interacting with fellow teachers. Discussions have provided numerous links to websites, activities and articles - which I have bookmarked on my Diigo site for future reference.  Thanks to all for that.  It has been a great learning experience and has really changed my perspective regarding how I need to proceed in the future.
This school year, I hope to climb out of the trenches and up to new heights regarding technological applications in my classes, facilitating the creation of a more modern learning environment and a positive attitude for change.  What inspires learning?  I have learned from this class and my explorations that rethinking the paradigm of classroom teaching is essential.  Students today engage in a much different world than I grew up in.  I stumbled across this article - literally - and it was an eye opener and a source for real reflection in light of what we have been learning in this class and where, as educators, we should be heading in the future - starting now.  Check it out!

There is an African proverb that states "A small hill takes you to a bigger one." This is the way with life long learning. Once we open up a door to learning, we realize that there is so much more out there to grasp and it continues in this manner - hopefully throughout our lives - as long as we continue to engage in the process. It is about getting out of our comfort zone and exploring the edges, broadening the scope of our knowledge and abilities.

So, I will begin over the next two weeks to not just prepare my "To Do" list for the new school year, but to implement and build upon the technological appications that will be used in my classes.  For starters... Edmodo as an asynchronous discussion forum; my module projects incorporated into respective units; and, a Live Binder of site references for my students so that they can explore various ways to present their learning.  The challenge to myself is to teach the students, not just the content; to be an effective facilitator focused on instruction that reflects current changes in society and promotes relevant and meaningful learning for my students.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rethinking the Classroom - Blending Social media, Pop culture, and Gaming with classroom learning goals

This week in class, I have been exploring a variety of sites and experiences that blend classroom work with online opportunities for sharing.  As usual, my explorations have taken me on tangents - most of them welcome - that have lead me to rethink the role of social media and pop culture in the classroom.  These are additional tools for engaging students.

I listened to a podcast on Skype and Goolge hangouts in the classroom.  Teachers were describing their experiences using Skype in the classroom as a way to introduce students to professional presenters.  One of the presenters in the podcast discussed connecting with potential presenters on twitter and making the skype arrangements.  This type of first hand interaction with a scientist would provide a motivating learning experience.

The second part of the podcast discussed using google hangouts for collaborative projects.  The google hangout allows screen sharing.  Students could view a youtube video and share comments about it.  I think the potential for "plus" type learning is incredible. 

Here is an idea for a Module 3 project.  Last year, students kept asking me about watching "Contagion" when we started studying viruses.  With the increase in media coverage at the time (March/April) about bird flu, it really was a timely release.  For this activity, students would join a Google Hangout.  In the hangout session, they would watch the official movie trailer for Contagion  Athough some students may not have seen the movie, there is enough information in the trailer to bring about some very interesting discussion.  Additional prompts for discussion would include:
     * What factors allow viruses to be transmitted so quickly?
     * Discuss the relationship between the potential spread of viruses and exponential growth.  How
        does the growth curve change?  Why?
     * Is this scenario comparable to any situations in the past?  Explain.
     * What were the origins of this virus?  Discuss other species and their potential involvement.
     * How would you prepare for this type of epidemic/pandemic?  What kind of preparedness plans
        are in place in our community?
     * Is the scenario accurate/realistic?  Why or why not?  Be specific about what parts may be realistic or not.

During this type of hangout discussion, students will be able to access other internet sites and complete concurrent research during the discussion adding to their knowledge of the topic and compounding the group knowledge.

Finally, students will be directed to what scientists think of the movie depiction.  The following is a link is from Marcel Salathe, and Assistant professor of Biology at Penn State.  

This activity can be used as a springboard for other popular culture connections in the classroom.  The Hunger Games was/is a wildly popular set up books, and more recently a movie, that included an interesting result of science gone wrong with genetically modified organisms - the "jabberjays" was an unintended consequence. 

The NY times Learning Network has an interesting lesson investigating genetically engineered organisms - using the "Hunger Games" as a starting point.
This lesson provides an opportunity for online collaboration as students prepare for group presentations in specific stakeholder roles.  The component about this activity that is great is that it combines current NY times articles with the activity - combining the real potential of garage or do-it- yourself amateur biologists to compromise public safety with respect to viral transmissions.  Students can search and review current articles concurrent to their online discussion - sharing articles and thoughts on the ideas - in order to formulate a final presentation for their group.

A final site that I explored that would also fit as a classroom application is an interactive game about proteins.  This game has people using real criteria to investigate the ins and outs of protein structure and is seen as a tool with the potential to unlock the secrets of real health problems like cancer and AIDS.  What a unique way of tapping collective intelligence!!   Check out this article on it.

Speaking their Language - Using an online game to teach content

I am in no way a video gamer - never have been - and don't have much interest now, though I really did enjoy some of the features and information I explored on Game for Science.  This is a Canadian game site with many options for interactive learning and play involving topics like disease epidemics, genetics and environmental pollution.  In some cases in the "more information" prompts, I was forwarded to articles and documents in French and I could't get to the English equivalent, but for the most part it was really good.  Oh well.  Canada is bilingual after all.

As part of our introduction to biology, we spend time delving into the scientific process, the importance of research that is peer reviewed, ethical conduct and ethical treatment of specimens and other nature of science type of content.  Although there are a multitude of activities on this site, I spent my time on quests in the "Science Cafe" regarding safety and human rights, science and money, ethics and innovation, and science and society.  The game prompts you to listen to and comment on a debate between characters.  Throughout the activity there are questions asked, connections made to scientists which include descriptions of their backgrounds and contributions, and opportunities to engage in additional games or point earning activities.  You end up on a search for a parcel containing a portrait of one of the scientists and on this search travel to other "islands" where other learning opportunities also present themselves.  Though it may prove to be slow for some, the information was quite relevant and and interesting in its anecdotes and format.  I also appreciated the equitable nature of the site and programs with respect to diveristy.

"Create" and "Blend" assignment - Students would participate in one of the quests in the science cafe - 1, 2, 3, or 4.  (Safety and human rights; Science and Money; Caution with Innovation - Ethics and Science; Science and Society). Work through the quest would be independent; however, following the quest, all of the participants would meet in their respective Edmodo discussion group to share their thoughts on the nature of science.  Groups would combine students from each of the gaming cafe areas so that discussion is broad based. 

In the online Edmodo discussion groups, each student must include:

1.  Overview of debate topic from game quest - to share with group members

2.  Definition of Relevant Terms

3.  An example of the topics relates to learning science in the high school setting

4.  Description of at least one scientist, his/her contribution to science, and how his background, experiences or work relate to the topic.

5.  Connection of thier quest topic to another quest topic

6.  Interaction/discussion on each quest topic with other students

Group Assignment

Create a visual presentation of your understanding of the nature of science, incorporating relevant unit vocabulary and clear examples of concepts outlined in your objectives.  The format for this presentation is flexible.  Included below are some links to web tools that may assist in your presentation.   These are simply a place to start.  You decide where to go with it.
Create word collage
Good for Vocabulary development - examples/non-examples
Easy to create - cartoon video discussion
Easy to create videos
Science images

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Flipping the classroom

I have been looking at some examples of how the flipped classroom might look and there are some excellent guide videos from  There have most definitely been times in my high school level classes where students have not been engaged in what I consider to be pretty interesting stuff - imagine that.  Anyway, the flipped classroom idea provides a forum to "pre-load" content through video-based instruction and information cards that are watched at home before the class.  The recommendation is to condense lecture type material into short video segments, and use the classroom time to engage students in application.  This format encourages the use of classroom time for collaborating and meaningful application that is appropriate to the level of each student.  It provides a setting where facilitation of differentiated instruction and learning can truely happen.

Utilizing Web Resources & Creating meaning - Module 2

During this last week or so of the course, I have visited and explored numerous websites and have found some great applications for the classroom.  For the Module 2 project I would like to use a variety of web resources and media to allow students to supplement unit content and knowledge in order to build a better understanding of concepts while hopefully providing the motivation for students to create products that express this undertanding.   To address the energy and metabolism part of our chemistry of life unit in Biology, I would like students to listen to and read the lyrics of "Don't Change".  This activity adresses changes in matter and laws of conservation of mass and conservation of energy.  Students analyze the lyrics to build content background covered in class.

To supplement our look at chemical reactions and how they procede, I would supplement with an interactive web-based lesson.   The TEDEd lesson - Chemical reactions - is a fun analogy (high school dating) for understanding the nature of chemical reactions and the conditions necessary for chemical reactions to occur.  I modified or "flipped" the original by incorporating questions that would refer to our Catalase lab and the role of enzymes in biochemical reactions.    The intent is to have students complete the first three sections of the activity - Watch, Quiz, and Think - before participating the the Catalase lab.  Our biology Catalase lab looks at the rates of chemical reactions and the factors that influence rates of reactions in biological systems.

Students will complete the Catalase lab, and a visual record (photographs) of the results will be shared via Voice Thread  Because results among groups typically vary, this format would provide a discussion forum for group members and classmates to share, compare, and evaluate the validity of their results as well as dicuss potential sources of error.  Results, discussion, and research should provide a clear indication of factors influencing chemical enzyme activity.

The final question - "Dig Deeper" from the TEDEd assignment - asks students to create a sequel or next chapter of Harriett's date and dance story as an analogy of how biochemical reactions proceed at faster rates and the factors that affect the rates of chemical reactions.  I think students could come up with some really creative scenarios.  Though latitude would be given regarding presentation format, students would be encouraged to present their final product as a creative parallel to the original TEDEd video using a paper slide video, a music video, , or a comic creation using or

Here is a quick example of how easy it is to create a cartoon with xtranormal.  This is my first attempt and it was pretty straight forward.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Music & Biology

I love the idea of combining the arts with science teaching.  There are so many great resources out there that are incredibly relevant to introducing a topic or illustrating a concept.  The Symphony of Science videos are an amazing combination of input from a variety of professional scientists from diverse fields of study that illustrate that science - whatever the topic may be - is a collaborative, applied, and continually evolving effort to understand aspects of this planet and universe.  The information is then combined with amazing images and music that speaks to or awakens other parts of the brain.  I have some favorites that I use during different units in Biology - The Poetry of Reality, In the Beginning, The Unbroken Thread, We are all connected... and more 
My own children, who are in elementary and - soon to be - middle school can sing the lyrics - the scientific presentations - from the Unbroken Thread.  The tunes and phasing of the music are catchy and the lyrics are excellent content.  It is enjoyable anyway, but for class use, it can be used with specific purpose - ie. have student identify the contributing scientists noting their specific fields of study and identify the connections of that field of study to the topic at hand; identify elements of scientific process that are evident in the video.

There are many other applications for using music in the classroom.  I think this combination is appealing to many students. has some excellent science songs that cover content.  There is even a video to explain how to create a music video or paper slide music video.   This is definitely something I would like to incorporate into my classroom. has Biology Karaoke - students can use the lyrics and background music to create their own music video - though some of the tunes may note be so appealing to some students. is another site with biology related songs. is a site that has royalty free music that allows fair use for schools.  Students can use the background music to beef up their own content relevant videos.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

TED fan ... now TEDed fan

TED talks are so inspiring - combining current ideas, creativity, in many cases humor, humanity, and not just relevant problems we face in this world, but solutions and hope.  What an amazing forum and platform fo sharing on such a broad basis.  So - don't know how I missed this, but I just stumbled onto the TEDEd link.

This site allows you to search by series or by subject to find an engaging video to introduce or exemplify a specific topic.  Along with the video, there is a quick quiz to check for understanding, a section that asks open ended questions to which students can respond, and "dig deeper" section that suggests that extends the lesson.  As if that wasn't cool enough.... if the lesson does not specifically fit your needs, you can "flip" the lesson to customize for your own class - create your own link to it for students to engage in the lesson.  You can also revise open ended questions in your flip. 

To make this even better, this site provides direction for taking any educational You Tube video and designing a lesson around it.  Lots of possibilities here.

While I was browsing, I came across this one about how to speed up a chemical reaction (and get a date).  I think this would be a great addition to my first unit in biology - it adds high school relevant humor and gets the point across.