Thing #8 – Wikis

I’ve had a little bit of experience using Google Docs which is a bit like wikis in that any member of the page can edit the document.  I’ve only utilized it a few times, but it was a really useful tool.  I really should use it more often.  Perusing through some of the wiki websites gave me some insight into how I might use wikis in my classroom, but I come to the same questions every time I try to think of how to use this stuff.  How does a discussion based technology lend itself to physics and math?  And, if I can find a way to use it, how can students post things in the wiki involving equations that are well formatted?  I may have found an answer to the second question in LaTex, but it requires some further research on my part.

I found about LaTex on Math 12V Outcomes Portfolio where Mr. Lee asked students to each write a page on a specific goal that the state (or province in this case) wanted them to meet.  The fact that this was centered around outcomes that some bureaucrat came up with bothered me, but the pages that the students made seemed useful.  One thing I didn’t like about the pages was that there was one student assigned to each one, so there wasn’t any collaboration going on.  However, I can see doing something like this where two students collaborate to write a page that goes over what we’ve been discussing in class for the last few days.

After reading Joel’s blog post I looked at the Kindergarten Counting Book.  It really was neat to see how kindergartners could use a technology so easily.  I was trying to think about how I could change this project to suit high schoolers and I though about maybe a Physics Alphabet Book or something where students, or pairs of students, work on creating a page about a physics topic that starts with an assigned letter.  Obviously it would be more involved than the kindergarten version, but I think it would be a nice learning experience.

The Great Debate 2008 was a perfect use of wikis.  It was collaborative and it was informative.  There was so much information on that site that I would have read the whole thing had the election been in a few months, rather than 8 months ago.  Unfortunately, it was not really a debate at all.  There was almost no discussion involved and nobody voiced his or her own opinion.  That would have made it a much more useful classroom tool as debate gets you thinking whereas regurgitating information does not.

Thing #7a – RSS

After a few days of reading my RSS feed I must say that I’m kind of annoyed.  I have to be honest.  I’m getting finding that there’s really only one things of interest for every 10 things I have to spend time skimming through.  I have lots of time to do this now, but what about during the school year.  Not only that, but what happens when these edublogs update even more often during the school year?  I’m probably being pessimistic.

Now, on a more positive note.  Some of the things that I’ve found interesting.  I found a really neat lesson plan at this website.  It is a great lesson plan because it really exemplifies student thought before being told what’s going on.  Read through it if you’re interested.  It’s a math lesson, but I could definitely see using it at the beginning of the year in physics.

I’m hoping that spending more time on this and narrowing down a few more blogs that I might actually find useful will make it a better tool for me.  I’ll give it a chance.

Thing #5 – RSS Reflection

I was reading through my RSS feed today when I came across this interesting website on the uses of Google Earth in the classroom.  While many of the resources in the blog post are meant for students in elementary classes who are just learning about geographic features, it would be quite easy to adjust the resources for more thought provoking purposes for a high school class.  This isn’t particularly useful to me in physics or math, but what a great resource for my wife or for an Earth Science teacher.  I’m absolutely in love with geography and I need a way to try to integrate that into my math or physics courses in a meaningful way.  That’s one of my challenges this summer.  Let me know if you have any ideas.

Thing #4 – Exploring Blogs

The five blogs I read varied in topic and style quite a bit.  I wanted to get an idea of a few of the things that were out there.  The blogs that I read are Why I Don’t Assign HomeworkBoeun’s Scribe for December 4thTeaching BrevityPowerPoint Reform – A First Chapter, and An Open Letter About Cyberbullying.  I will refer to them by homework, scribe, brevity, powerpoint, and cyberbullying.

The most surprising thing I found in the blogs was the fact that the writing, at most times, was actually well done.  I was expecting to find a lot of writing with incomplete thoughts and poor grammar.  Being the pessimist that I am, I’m going to believe this is because these are good examples of blogs.  I know I’ve seen a lot our there that are poorly written.  I found that it was much easier to concentrate on the topics at hand when I wasn’t distracted by poor grammar or bad writing.

One thing that most of the blogs had in common was the style.  It was rather informal in nature.  I think this is useful when you want to discuss ideas openly with people.  Especially if those people come from a wide variety of backgrounds (students, teachers,…).  The commenting system worked quite well in most cases, though I found that many of the comments did not add anything to the discussion, they just agreed or disagreed with the posts.  I didn’t like that aspect since it did not aid the dialogue.  It was interesting to read the long list of comments (not all of them) in the homework blog.  The most interesting thing is that something actually came of the comments when Dan decided that no homework wasn’t the best, but limited homework was a good thing.  It showed the power of collaboration.

The scribe post was interesting because it was written by a student and written for the purpose of conveying the knowledge he gained in the unit.  While there were a few errors in the material, it was a great overview of the unit and a good resource for other students in the class.  The idea that all other students in the class will have access to his work, and that his work will help them study, clearly made this student work hard to produce his best.  The style of the blog also showed that the student had to learn about technology to create images that would help understanding.  It was a great learning tool not only for math, but for literacy and technology.