ETEC 533

Final Thoughts

As the semester draws to a close I look back and am amazed at the personal professional growth I have undergone in such a very short time. I have always considered myself a good, solid teacher. I am very familiar with my curricula,  very creative, understand my students’ individual differences and needs and love to use technology. And yet….something has been bothering me all semester…..it took almost 3 months and a 51 page paper to figure out that I often have not connected  technological goals to pedagogical goals. This class has made me realized that although technology offers many opportunities in the classroom it is not to be taken lightly.

Previous classes have given me insight into learning theories and a vast array of technologies available but this semester I have begun to see the whole picture not just the pieces that create it. i have become a more critical consumer of technological products available for the classroom. I’m no longer caught up in the “wow” factor. I find myself asking “How will this technology help me to achieve my goals? Will this really help student learning? How will it help student learning?”

My classroom and my practices are changing for the better.

Diving into Complexity

For me, a middle years science and math teacher, Resnick and Wilensky’s paper on diving into complexity was just the paper I needed to read-midway through a long winter semester with creative, adventurous students and all of us suffering from cabin fever.

Resnick and Wilensky believe that role playing activities can play a powerful role in both math and science classes helping the students to better understand (intuition is a critical condition here, I think) how complex phenomena can arise from simple interactions and how predictable patterns also develop from seemingly random events. This building of intuitions in students is a powerful idea and warrants more research. I plan to try StarPeople activities in my own math and science classes. the concept of order emerging from randomness is intriguing and connections to personal experiences are emphasized in this paper. These are good frameworks for student understanding and hopefully students will become engaged participants in complex systems about which they are learning. For me, this paper was thought provoking, creative and is offering another way to help my students better understand how to make sense of the complexity of life.

 

Role Playing in Math and Science

For me, a middle years science and math teacher, Resnick and Wilensky’spaper on diving into complexity was just the paper I needed to read-midway through a long winter semester with creative, adventurous students and all of us suffering from cabin fever.

Resnick and Wilensky believe that role playing activities can play a powerful role in both math and science classes helping the students to better understand (intuition is a critical condition here, I think) how complex phenomena can arise from simple interactions and how predictable patterns also develop from seemingly random events. This building of intuitions in students is a powerful idea and warrants more research. I plan to try StarPeople activities in my own math and science classes. the concept of order emerging from randomness is intriguing and connections to personalexperiences are emphasized in this paper. These are good frameworks for student understanding and hopefully students will become engaged participants in complex systems about which they are learning. For me, this paper was thought provoking, creative and is offering another way to help my students better understand how to make sense of the complexity of life.

ILN

When looking for a hook in science I can’t imagine anything better than a good old fashioned “Who Dunnit”. The ILN combines the drama of a CSI episode with the intricacies and rigour of lab work. The ability to use expensive equipment such as the mass spectrometer in a real situation was exhilarating. In a curricular area where we try to promote real life implications of course work this would be  a hit.

I found I was nervous getting started on the lab. I had done my homework and decided who I thought the culprit was and went through the tutorials several times. I also kept them open for reference. Once in I became fully engrossed in the lab itself. The camera was integral to the whole effect. After the hair was analyzed I was ready to put forth extreme effort to prove my hunches correct. I’m not sure the same effort would have been there if this had been a textbook only assignment.

After the lab was complete my thoughts turned immediately to telling my colleagues about this opportunity. How would students react to this? What would need to be different to make this successful? I’m still convinced that having the traditional lab partner would have been an effective method. This belief is backed by fellow course mates who accidently entered the lab together and worked through the lab together. I might have students read the preamble and then pick their suspect. Based on that information they could get together in partners and solve the mystery. The possibilities are endless really and after completing the last of the readings I would even suggest some role playing at the end.

 

Froguts

Froguts.com is a dissection simulation program. Not so profound on the surface but it offers more than just the opportunity to dissect a frog or a newt. This program allows us to create an atmosphere in the science classroom where we can all talk about the duties of science and scientists. PETA and other animal rights organizations often purchase the simulation programs for school districts. What impact on education does this have?Why is visualization necessary?

Many students are taking a more active role as stewards of the land. The idea of using realanimals in a laboratory setting is often unappealing or considered unethical for many. Biology 30 in Sask. covers human body systems and for many years it was considered good practice to let students get hands on experience seeing these systems in a real setting. The Froguts simulation is another option for such hands on activities. Dissections at our school have always been optional and therefore many opt out. A simulation as real as Froguts without the questionable ethics or “gross” factor may be the answer to the problem.

Social/Cognitive Affordances (or not)

  • Allows students to opt in
  • Is largely an independent endeavor although students could work together.
  • Tutorials students may access to build on concepts or review prior knowledge.
  • Several different organisms to study and dissect. Students can compare and contrast

Is the visualization necessary for student understanding?.

This is arguable but I would land on the side of yes. 

Class discussion

I enjoyed this forum very much. It was an excellent way to build up a library of simulations and virtual manipulatives. The discussion around Froguts was mostly do to with ethics which I think is exactly what I intended the post to do. Students,  through the use of technology, are true global members.  

World Watcher

What are several challenges students have with understanding earth science?
It was established by Edelson et althat students arriveat a science teacher’s door with misconceptions around scientific facts. There should be a great deal of concern around these innacurate notions. Often teachers assume that students will come “full” of the necessary facts to continue along the science program.  Even more frightening is the curriculum which skips about from year to year touching on the different strands of science with complete disregard for continuity. The Edelson article was, for me, an emphatic reminder of the importance of testing for prior knowledge and then allowing students to correct their misconceptions.

Further to this issue is the need to be able to create, through hands on labs and computer based investigations,    a true understanding of the concepts.  The ability to construct and reevaluate prior understanding. Time to discuss with peers and an expert about what is the reality.  

In what ways would you teach the Planetary Forecaster curriculum- differently or the same?
Key to the success of a program like Planetary Forecaster is the attitude of the teacher such as displayed by “Martha”. The students were already familiar with the environment in which they were expected to create knowledge for themselves. “I’m not going to tell you all of the answers , you’ll have to come up with them yourselves.” The constructivist atmosphere had already been established. 

I agree with listing  the three driving questions before the investigations begin. The continued monitoring of student understanding is paramount. When undertaking a project such as this there is the risk that further misconception might take place.

All teachers, students and classrooms are unique. The basic premise of the Planetary Forecaster is solid.

WISE

The readings and links provided for the WISE online seminar were indeed food for thought. As a science teacher I try to make my classes as relevant as possible and try to create a hands on environment in which students can learn. I have come to understand that many of them know science as a text book only subject and I try to rectify this situation and breathe new life into a subject I am very passionate about. Having said that my journey through the WISE website and readings has made it quite clear to me that I have a long way to go and I must truly analyze the pedagogy on which I base my science teachings. Although I may do less direct teaching and aim to make science an enjoyable experience I am missing the mark on how students create knowledge and investigate what is currently an unknown for them. I need to focus less on covering the curriculum and more on creating opportunities for discovery.

The questions generated from the material were:

1. Was there a particular moment or a catalyst that drove the creation of WISE?

2. With technological change becoming so rapid will WISE need revamping or is it a project that will adapt easily to the changes in technology?

3. Will this type of knowledge building in science transfer to other subject areas?

4. Are there plans to create a project similar to WISE for other subject areas?

5. How long will projects like WISE be necessary? Will this type of learning become the norm in classrooms every where?

JASPER Series Videos

My initial reaction to the videos was one of relief. I had imagined videos of a much longer length with extraneous information. My concern with using this type of medium is that the students would be overwhelmed with the information given and lose sight of the problem itself. I was quite impressed with the delivery. The videos were succinct and very easy to follow. Pre teaching and post teaching would be easily added elements to enrich this process as students first began the journey. The series definitely fits into the theory of the Constructivist style of learning.

To enrich this experience for students I would suggest adding an interdisciplinary element to the project. As the videos also deal with endangered species and human effects on the environment this would fit into many other curricular areas such as science and Canadian studies and even perhaps physical education. As I type this I am thinking of how this design could appeal to Multiple Intelligences.

I would like to do more research into the Jasper series but initially I think the program works. To increase the effectiveness of this program it would be interesting to customize videos to meet the needs and concerns of the local student population. With the use of digital cameras and the drama class (another interdisciplinary move) students could write scripts and introduce problems to their peers.

Allowing students to directly control their learning can be very powerful.

 It would seem that curriculum materials used in anchored instruction, such as that found in the Jasper Series, are often technology based. If this is the case then what is occuring to get teachers up to speed on the required technology? Is the IT support in place after the Jasper Series is purchased and introduced to teachers? What happens to the teacher who buys into the idea of Anchored Instruction but is hesitant about the technology? Is technology necessary for an Anchored Instruction approach to learning? 

Pedagogical Design of a Learning Environment

I see the ideal technologically enhanced learning environment as including a large social component. The ability to interact in both synchronous and asynchronous situations and create their own learning groups with individuals who share the same interests and passions.  An environment which allows its users to connect globally and create for themselves a personal learning network, from which to learn and reflect, that has no borders. True global citizenry.

What technologies do I see as necessary? It differs from class to class and from year to year. It depends on my students needs and expectations and capabilities. Sadly, as of late, it has also become a time issue. As prep time disappears and paper work increases my desire to conquer new technologies and incorporate them into my lessons decreases. Time has become an overwhelming obstacle in many cases.

Technology Definition

The definition which best appeals to me is that of  David Jonassen.  “He believes that technology can support meaning making by students and that this happens when students learn with rather than from technology.” This appeals to the Constructivist in me, the idea that students use technology as a tool to build  knowledge.  Technology as a tool to build the social networks necessary to discuss, create and reflect on what we know and want to know.  Learning for me is a social activity and technology is a tool which allows us to expand our social network.

Thoughts on Framing Issues Paper

The research I have done for this paper began by leaving me with more questions than it answered. I struggled with many of the ideas I had around PD for the math and science classroom. I have spent most of my career thinking that subject specific PD was the best approach. What could a grade one teacher possibly have in common with me? Quite a bit in fact. We are both teaching in a world where our clientele are surrounded by technology. It has become part of our culture, our daily lives.

I’m taking a closer look at the technology PD I have been delivered and I can see that much of it is all wrong. It’s not about being subject specific but about how to embed technology in a way which mirrors how technology has embedded itself in our world. 

The way that technology will become an effective tool in the math and science classroom is when the teacher is confident, supported and part of a professional learning network.

Characteristics of sound professional development;

  • teachers’ needs, concerns and views are paramount
  • professional development learning needs to be in context
  • a support network is essential
  • professional development must be based on sound pedagogy
  • teachers’ belief systems must be honoured 

 I am becoming concerned about where my beliefs are heading. I am no longer sure that math and science can separate themselves from other disciplines when it comes to the understanding and integration of technology in a sound pedagogical manner.

 Reflections:

  • How is your understanding of this issue changing?  It is becoming more clear to me as we discuss the issues around technology in the classroom that much more discussion is necessary. There are many stakeholders involved and all must haveavoice in the discussion around the role of technology in the classroom. It is not simply a question of funding. The issue runs much deeper than that. It is a question of what is viable, what is necessary and what is effective.
  • What more would you like to learn or know? I am becoming more data driven than I have been in the past. If technology is to play a major role in my classroom (and I hope that it does) then I want to ensure that my students are benefitting in the best way possible.
  • In what ways was your interview unique or similar to others? There were many common threads among all of the interviews. The issue that concerns me most is the use of technology simply for the sake of using technology.
  • What does this say about the context/place or the issue? There is a trend or a push in education to increase the amount of technology being used in classrooms. We must take a step back and evaluate what we are doing. Are we being effective? Are the technologies we are introducing truly increasing student achievement? Are we meeting the needs of educators who are trying to implement these technologies?
  • Which issue do you want to explore further and why? There are two issues which I consider important to further explore. The first is the need for empirical evidence that students truly benefit from the technologies being used in classrooms. The other important issue for me is the need to determine how best to deliver professional development to teachers in the area of technology. If this issue is not addressed then all other issues become moot.
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    Questions and Responses

    Analysis

    1. In your opinion has the use of technology in your math class improved student learning? Do you feel you could have covered all SLOs if none of the technology was available to you?

    This question is hard for me to answer because I use technology all the time and feel very confident doing so but, every so often  I feel compelled to ask myself this very question. The response I often give myself is no- I don’t think the actual learning is measurably better and I’m not sure students are really more engaged in the learning process. What does the research say on that? Have we ever looked into this?

    I am beginning to wonder if much if any research is done on the technology we introduce to our classrooms. Often the technology we use is chosen for us at board level. There is quite a bit of research out there on technology and its impact in the classroom. How much of this is accessed or considered?

    1. What do you consider technology in your classroom?

    Well…my PC, Smartboard, Laptop, Graphing calculators, the slate for my Smartboard, and the clickers. I know some people would getall specific and say the overhead and even the pencil sharpener but the list I just gave is what I consider technology. I don’t want to get into the discussion…it’s just my list.

    Technology means so many things to so many people. Imagine if two people cannot agree on the definition of technology what happens when a board is making purchasing decisions for 1500 teachers. This seemingly innocent question has opened a can of worms. CONSULTATION with all key players is necessary.

    1. Is the technology you currently use interactive or largely for teacher use only?

    There is a bit of a mix as the students use the Smartboard. However, I will admit that the technology I use has been largely to aid in the delivery of my program and would be mostly for teacher use.

    If technology is simply for teacher use then it’s just a teacher tool. An amazing piece of chalk. The impact happens when you get that tool into the hands of the student.

    1. Do you ever feel you have become too reliant on technology in your classroom?

    No I do not. I like my whiteboard, my markers and spend most of my time either teaching to the class, groups or individual students. If you were to take away my toys (big smile) I would still be able to teach the curriculum and meet the SLOs. You’ve got me thinking that technology is just a way for me to  streamline my teaching. Although, it grabs the kids attention…they’re engaged…more eager to participate when I’m using it.

    This was an interesting question. There was a long pause before the answer actually occurred. I think we are too reliant.

    1. Do you feel confident in trouble shooting most problems that arise with the technology that you use?

    Most of the time yes, but I get a little frustrated when I’m doing things that aren’t really in my job description. Like when we hooked up our own Smartboards and ran the wires and all that so that we could use them before the year was over waiting for them to do it. I’m 5 out of 5 and I have prepping, tutorials and all of that. It seems to me that if you can troubleshoot then they leave you to it. I worry about the teachers who are not that sure of themselves in this area. Are they not using stuff because they can’t set it up or fix it? We need way more help that we are getting. We kind of have an unfair advantage because we’re not scared to mess around.

    This question had so many underlying issues attached to it. Time being the big one. We are stretched to the max to begin with. If you want technology to function properly you must use your own time to get it running or you have to wait until someone else finds the time to fix it. If you are quite adept at troubleshooting then other people request your time to assist them. Those of us who are technologically inclined are sought after and often run ragged.

    This question also brings up another underlying issue which is support and PD. If a technology is going to be introduced or there is an expectation that it should be used teachers need to be shown (properly) how to use it and be given support to get things rolling.

    1. If you had to give one reason why you use technology in the classroom what would it be?

    If I could only give one reason then it would be because I love using it. But if I had to give two reasons (laughing) then the other would be that there is pressure from above. Introducing and using technology is one of the new pressures in education. One some teachers just don’t need right now and some definitely just can’t handle. It worries me. It’s policy driven but not necessarily data driven.

    The reasons must be legitimate and must be student centered. In other words the technology must have a positive impact on student learning. This has to be the bottom line.

    1. If given unlimited resources what would you purchase for your classroom and why?

    Oh laptops for every student. How great would that be? One for every kid, no fighting for lab time, everyone could check the blog at home. A level playing field.

    This begs the question does technology level the playing field?

    Auto E-ography:

     

    Computers In the Classroom

    My first memory of computers in the classroom was back in 1982 in my first high school computer class. I can not for the life of me remember the make or model of the computers we were using but I do remember the experience was an unpleasant one.

    The class consisted of 25 grade nine pupils. There were only 2 girls including myself. Most of the class was devoted to textbook work which involved reading chapters and answering questions individually. The computer time was also individual. The computers were located in cubicles and we were each assigned one.

    Without going into any further detail I will just say that this experience left me with the perception that computers were a lonely and isolating technology. I did not take any other computer classes in high school and also avoided them as much as possible during my university days.

    My first years of teaching did not involve using a great deal of technology. It was not until my fifth year in the classroom that I became aware of the possibilities that computers and related technologies might hold for my students and me.

    I began by piloting a math program called TLEandwas quite impressed by the positive impact it had on some of my traditionally disengaged learners. These students were perhaps examples of what Prenskydescribes as the Digital Natives. I began looking into other opportunities involving computers to enhance my math program. The more I explored the more I became aware of the term “globalcitizen” and what it might mean for my students. I was determined to create an atmosphere in which technology was a means of creating a collaborative learning experience both inside and outside the classroom.

    I believe that my own grade nine experience has shaped the way I use computers in the classroom. My students work together in groups created through like interests. We use wikis to create projects with counterparts in New Zealand, Colorado, Winnipeg and Florida. We are wiki buddies with younger students in elementary schools across town. Pre-service math and science teachers are required to mentor my students as part of a University of Regina education class.

    What I once thought of as a lonely, isolating technology has now become one of my most important classroom tools.

     

    Unpacking Assumptions

     

    Good use of technology in the classroom is simply one component of good teaching practice. We talk (incessantly, it would seem to some) about 21st Century technology as though technology did not exist before we “made it”. The abacus, the slide-rule, the compass etc were all technologies that managed to fit seamlessly into Math and Science classrooms. They did not change the classroom; they were there to aid and enhance learning pure and simple. It is, or should be, all about student learning and engagement.

    Technology is only useful in the classroom if it helps make the student a more active, engaged and committed learner. Today’s learner, through the wonders of 21st Century technology must also be committed to becoming part of the global learning community.

    A good use of technology in a math or science classroom is SmartBoards. They are a fairly straight forward piece of technology that, if used properly can be totally interactive between teacher, student and content.

    The use of digital cameras to film science labs allows students to look back on previous work, discover errors and to critique the work of peers. These labs are posted to wikis and shared. This opportunity for students to share their work with an authentic world wide audience is one of the main reasons why I use technology.

    Technology can be used to help students learn good solid basic skills. For example, I allow students to use calculators in math 9 and 10 but I also insist that they master basic skills such as times tables. The use of calculators allows them to continue tackle other concepts. I subscribe to the philosophy of Sherry Mantyka who believes that mastering basic skills such as times tables increases self esteem and builds overall math confidence. ( Her book is called The Math Plague)

    Poor use of technology  does not advance education or student learning in any way. Student learning ultimately rests on timeless good teaching.

    Video Cases

     

     

    Professionally speaking, I see the number one assumption being made in education today is that our student body is technologically literate, our under 30 teaching body is tech savvy and our older teaching staff is never really going to learn the new reality of 21st Century technology. Of course, none of above is true. What is a “truth” is that technology is now embedded in our lives and we need to use it to create students who are motivated, able to work collaboratively and reach higher levels of thinking.

    The use of technology in the classroom must complement the learning objectives of the course as well as engage them.

    Video One: Teacher F (Math Graphing Calculators)

    This teacher was very skilled in the technology used in his classroom. Higher level thinking and increased participation were apparent in this classroom. Students were prepared to spend many extra hours on a problem for one bonus mark. The use of good grouping was important. Groups contained at least one member who had good leadership and technological skills (a peer who was willing to guide his fellow classmates).

    Questions that come to mind:

    1.Would this teacher have achieved the same results without the use of the graphing calculators? I believe he would have.

    2. Was achievement increased? Even Teacher F himself could not determine if the technology increased achievement. The students were engaged and from the videos seemed to enjoy the project. It is a very difficult thing to prove.

    Video 2: Teacher D (Science Secondary Preservice Teacher Ed)

    Teacher D also reiterated the importance of good grouping being critical for motivation and collaboration. He also stressed the importance of tech support for teachers. Although he himself was comfortable working through any problems he understood the anxiety and frustrations many teachers would encounter when the technology did not run smoothly. The preservice teachers had a wide range of abilities in the use of technology. It was obvious that some were very comfortable introducing new software while others were “just worried about getting through the lesson”.

    Questions that come to mind:

    1. What kind of training and/or PD are teachers receiving to help them introduce technology into the classroom?

    2. What kind of tech support is available to the teacher?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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