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.

Thing #2 – Reflections on Web 2.0

Upon watching the video entitled “A Vision of Students Today,” my first reaction was disgust.  The part that disgusted me was the sign that said, we are multitaskers, and then the one that said, we have to be.  I think it is utterly ridiculous that students feel that they have so much to do, and that they allow themselves to have so much to do, that they can’t concentrate on one task at a time.  Students (and regular people) today often have way too much on their plates to actually enjoy life.  I have noticed both in and out of school that people are less responsive and thoughtful when they are ‘concentrating’ on multiple tasks at the same time.  This is for the simple reason that they aren’t actually concentrating.

I had a much better reaction to the article “A Day in the Life of Web 2.0.”  There were many things in the article that I felt were good, a few things that I think are bad, and a few things that I’m not quite sure of yet.  I can honestly say that I haven’t used any web 2.0 technology in my classroom.  I have a class website where I post information and assignments, but nothing that is interactive.  I’m hoping that I’ll be able to integrate some web 2.0 technology into my classroom come the fall.

One thing that I think I might be able to use is the wiki study guides that were discussed in the article.  I like the idea of engaging the students in creating a guide of what to study since that alone is studying.  I often find that students do no use study guides I create, but I think if they (or their classmates) create the study guides they will find them more accessible.  Another thing that I’m sure will not happen is podcasts and videocasts.  I think it would be incredible to have a videocast of each class I teach available online a few days after each lesson.  I don’t think I’ll have a video setup like that any time soon, but it would be great for students who are absent, for ESL students, and for parents who want to engage with their kids more.

One of the things that I did not like was the story about a girl texting her group partner during school.  Texting is the last thing that we should be promoting in school.  I cannot think of a good reason for it to be acceptable.  I was also questioning just how long all of this takes to set up each week.  Posting plans and looking at other teachers plans would take a good chunk of time that I’m not sure many teachers have.  It would produce great results, but at what time cost?

I like the idea that students are able to think about topics through blogging and that it gets them interacting with the material, but I hate the fact that this thinking is never put into a formal report.  I don’t think we should be actively trying to destroy tradition just because it’s easier.  Kids need to know how to formally present their thinking even if the thinking does not occur formally.  Let me know what you think about this.

I can’t say how I’m going to use web 2.0 in the classroom just yet, but once I discover more of the options available to me, I’m sure I’ll think some are great, and some are really bad.  I hope I’ll be able to use some of this technology for my own education (other than videos which I already use).  Again, I’m not sure how yet.

23 Places

I’ve decided to play around with something else I love which is geography and travelling.  Check out the page at the top title 23 Places.  In it you’ll find a list of 24 places to which I’d love to go.  I might change the page as things progress to include other geographical things.  Enjoy.

Thing #1 – Reflections on Lifelong Learning

For my first blog post in 7 years (things have changed a bit since then) I will reflect on the fifteen halves (math teachers don’t like mixed numbers) habits of effective lifelong learners.  I found the video to be interesting and found that most of the habits are things that either come naturally to me, or things that I already keep in mind.  However, there were a few habits that I picked out that I thought would be more important for me to keep in mind than others.  I found the comments from my colleagues to be particularly interesting.  I look forward to reading their reflections and commenting on them.

The habit I will find most challenging in this course is to “Begin With the End in Mind.”  During my student teaching at the University of Michigan several of my instructors stressed the point of this habit.  In designing lesson plans this came in handy as I always knew the final goal that I and the students had to reach.  It was incredibly useful in lesson planning because I always knew how to shape individual lesson plans to meet the final goal.  The only problem I had with it was that it sometimes streamlined the process a bit too much which is not the best way to learn (I find that people need a little chaos to keep things interesting).

Since coming to Fryeburg Academy and teaching a full load every day of the school year, this habit has gone by the wayside.  I often find myself living day to day, with only a vague idea of what the end goal is.  I have been working on improving it and it has slowly gotten better.  In terms of this class I think that I need to sit down and think what I really want to accomplish.  I need to know what I want to end with so I can work toward that goal (or those goals).  If I happen to learn other things on the way, maybe I can integrate them.  An end goal will keep me organized, something I have found to be completely lacking during the first few days of summer.

The habit I will find least challenging is “Play.”  I have always liked playing around with technology and figuring things out, unless something is completely illogical and non-intuitive.  I can usually figure things out and learn things on the way.  I hope everyone else is able to enjoy this aspect of learning as much as I do.  I know it’s not the case though from observations I have made of my mother and technology.  To her credit, her ability to play around with technology has grown rapidly over the last few years.

The habit that I think is most important is to “View Problems as Challenges.”  I think it is incredibly important to learn the process of problem solving.  Working hard to overcome an obstacle is one of the most rewarding experiences of learning.  I don’t know if I’ll be challenged with anything technological in this course, but I am sure that I will be challenged to think about and accept ideas that I don’t subscribe to (I’ll get to this in Thing #2).  I think that thinking about these problems and collaborating with others will allow me to grow in ways that I can’t yet forsee.

One of my hopes for this course is that I will be able to find ways of using technology to engage my future students.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even ask them to create blogs, not for the purpose of blogging, but simply to make them play around with the technology and problem solve.  Of course, if you have any ideas about how I might use technology to facilitate problem solving, I’m all ears (or eyes).  Please leave your comments below.