Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Journal 5: Lego robotics: stem sport of the mind

This article meets NETS1-3.
Article Link
In this article, Gura describes how to excite students about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by using robotics. Teachers have been using "Lego Robotics" to teach science and math curricula to students in a new and innovative way. Instead of the traditional method of teaching through lectures, homework, and tests, some schools have adopted a project-based approach by using robotics in the classroom. Students get excited about math and science by focusing on building robots to dance, travel down a hallway, or even take measurements. In order to successfully build their robots, students must understand and apply basic math skills, physics, and other curriculum standards. Because students are so engaged in the hands-on activities, the learning comes naturally. In addition, they are exposed to integration of various subjects, such as science, engineering and math. Also, there is a valid connection to the real-world since engineers currently build robots using similar approaches. Robots are being used more and more in our mainstream society for medicine, research, and other fields as well. This means that students are exposed to possible future career paths as well.

How could I use this in my classroom?

I could potentially use robotics to integrate physics, math, and biology in a fun and exciting way. For instance, students might have to design a robot to enter an environment inhospitable for humans and collect temperature readings and soil samples for further analysis. I could connect this to a real-life setting by discussing how robots are currently being used on Mars to explore whether life may have once existed there. Then, the students could pick a local, environmental, restorative project to try their robots out on. For instance, we could volunteer to restore chaparral in Rose Canyon by takin soil samples at measured intervals with our robots to evaluate pH and metal contaminants. There are a myriad of ways robots could be used to engage and excite students as well as integrate several core subjects and apply them to real-life situations.

I don't have access to robots. How can I use this idea to excite and engage students in my classroom?

You don't necessarily have to use robots to engage students with hands-on activities, excite them about real-life problems, and integrate varied curricula. The bigger picture is valuable: use a project-based approach to teach curricula in a new and exciting way. As a future biology teacher, I love the idea of teaching by doing. For instance, I can envision teaching a "Biotechnology" course to high school students where they could learn about biology, using techniques that real scientists use. As an example, students pick a human disease to research. They clone a mutant piece of DNA into a plasmid using restriction enzymes and PCR (polymerase-chain reaction). Then, they tranform the DNA into bacteria, isolate the DNA, and check the DNA to make sure it's correct, using electrophoresis and DNA sequencing. They then can report their findings to the class. There are a myriad of ways teachers can use this project-based approach in the classroom. The advantages to this way of teaching are endless. The biggest advantage, in my opinion, is that students are excited about what they are learning. If they're passionate about what they're learning, the learning happens naturally, and students push themselves harder. This paves the way to creating life-long learners, my ultimate future goal as a teacher.

An example of a class of student-built robots dancing in unison!

Gura, M. (2012, August). Lego robotics: Stem sport of the mind. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/learning-and-leading/issues/Lego_Robotics_STEM_Sport_of_the_Mind.aspx

Links to learn more:
Lego Mindstorms

Friday, July 20, 2012

Journal 4: "Join the Flock" and "Enhance your Twitter Experience"

'Twitter activity as flock of pigeons' photo (c) 2009, Patrick Dinnen - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/  

Ferguson, H. (June/July, 2010). Join the flock!. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/learning-and-leading/issues/Join_the_Flock.aspx

McClintock Miller, S. (June/July, 2010). Enhance your twitter experience.. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/Libraries/Leading_and_Learning_Docs/June_July_2010_Join_the_Flock.sflb.ashx 

These 2 articles pertain to NETS 5: “Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership”.

Article Link
These 2, short articles explain how teachers can develop their PLNs (professional learning networks) by learning how to effectively use Twitter to network with other educators from around the world. Twitter can be an overwhelming tool to navigate but both of these articles are packed with information to make it easier to effectively use Twitter. Twitter can be used to connect to other educators with similar interests, follow subjects and topics of interests by using hashtags (#), and learn from others by examining lists they’ve created and asking questions (either directly to a specific person or just the general Twitter community).

How will I use this information to help me develop a PLN?
I’ve already created my profile in Twitter, which is important, because it describes my specific interests as a high school biology teacher. This allows other educators with similar interests to find me and follow me. I’ve also searched for other educators in this field, using hashtags, such as #biology, and am following them. I’ve created lists to help organize who I’m following by topic. For instance, I’ve created an EDUC422 class so I can look at all the Tweets from only members of my class. I can then share and “retweet” topics of particular interest to me.

The 2nd article goes into further detail about how to use Twitter. Organizing my Twitter account is very important in order to manage and sort through all the information way in an efficient manner. McClintock Miller suggests using HootSuite or TweetDeck on your desktop. I also will manage Twitter and my other social networking sites on Symbaloo. Resources can be shared via a bookmarklet in HootSuite to send to a specific list (like a class that I’m teaching). I’m very interested in exchanging ideas, resources, and information with other biology educators using Twitter. What attracts me most to this resource is the potential to get a specific question answered in a timely fashion from a huge network of knowledgeable people. It also seems like a great idea to enrich the classroom with creative, innovative, and exciting activities and projects.

What are some of the disadvantages to Twitter?
The biggest disadvantage is that it takes time to effectively manage all the information coming into Twitter. It takes time to build up relationships within your PLN. The payoffs seem huge but it does take a conscious effort on the teacher’s part to manage her Twitter account on a regular basis. The 2nd drawback, perhaps, is privacy. Anyone has access to my tweets. Because of this, I’ve created a separate account, distinct from my personal Twitter account which I use more for social and recreational purposes. In addition, I’m very professional about the nature of my tweets. My rule of thumb is, if my mom can read it, it’s okay to publish on the internet.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Journal 3: "Upside down and inside out"

Fulton, K. (2012, June/July). Upside down and inside out. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/learning-and-leading/issues/Upside_Down_and_Inside_Out.aspx

This article corresponds to NETS-T #1, "facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity".

Article Link

In this article, a new strategy for teaching, the "flipped classroom" is described. Instead of lecturing content in the classroom and assigning independent work for homework, teachers assign the lecture for homework and then have the students work on their projects and assignments in class. Lectures are on-line or available as a DVD to students. This technique may have been generated in response to recent findings that lecturing is the least effective way to learn (see links below). The idea is that learning in class is more effective since students are more engaged in group discussions, projects, and activities. Teachers mediate these discussions and project and assist individuals with help on material.

Question 1:
How can I use the "flipped classroom" in my classroom?
High school biology is ideal for utilizing the flipped classroom model. For instance, I might send students home with an assignment to watch my lecture on DNA replication. To ensure they watch the video and understood the content, they would also fill out a worksheet based on the lecture. During class, we might start with a discussion of the lecture, where I ask them questions to check for understanding. Then, I would break the class into groups to work on a project where they have to build a model of a DNA strand undergoing replication. Each group would get a rubric to outline the directions and requirements for the project. At the end of the class, each group gets to present their model.

Question 2:
What are the cons to a flipped classroom?
Not all students have access to a computer at home. I have to ensure that each student is equipped with the necessary tools to watch the lectures and complete the assignments at home. Students without a computer or internet access can be provided with a DVD. Perhaps, low income students can be set up in a computer lab at the school library.
A second draw-back to the flipped classroom is that it may be more difficult to keep all students on the same page. Without a face-to-face presentation, the instructor must develop other techniques to make sure all students actually understand the material presented in the virtual lecture. Another way to address this would be to leave an area for e-mails and comments in the url where the lecture is available.

Links to Articles assessing how well students learn from lectures:

Journal 2: School 2.0 Reflection Tool

This journal article meets NETS 4.
"I provide students with multiple and varied opportunities to demonstrate their learning, and I make data-based decisions to customize and adapt future learning opportunities aligned with content and technology standards."

Article Link

I investigated how teachers and schools use data-based assessments to meet their overall teaching goals and objectives (NETS-T #2). To summarize, this article discusses using a variety of assessments, analysis, and then coordinating to discuss results. The hope is that by streamlining a data-mining technique, teachers and schools can bridge the gap between where they want students to be, and where they currently are. The article then examines three schools that are examples of "success stories", where such data-driven assessments have been used to transform the schools and help their students achieve higher standards.

How can assessments help teachers to teach their students more effectively?
After the tests are administered, teachers must be instructed on how to analyze the results. These results are instrumental in identifying what standards have not been adequately taught, which students are struggling with specific skills (e.g. identifying a student with a learning disability, or helping a student catch up to her appropriate reading level). Teachers can meet to discuss results and plan how to revise their lesson plans and teaching strategies to help struggling students. It can also help teachers group students together based on proficiency (such as reading) levels.

What are the potential pitfalls?
There is a lot of time and effort involved to administer tests, analyze results, and then meet as a school to interpret results and decide how to act. For instance, Thompson Elementary School (Houston, Texas) has weekly faculty meetings just to review data and plan strategies to decide how to proceed. The data that results from school-wide assessments are not very helpful if teachers and administrators don't take the time to interpret them and decide how to adjust their curricula and teaching styles accordingly. In addition, for assessments to be useful, they must be administered several times a year, a time-consuming process. Many teachers and students are already overwhelmed by the number of standardized tests given throughout the year. Schools must be in agreement of how to use and analyze the data. Teachers and administrators may not be willing (or may not know how) to put the extra time in to use the results yielded from the tests.

Personally, data-driven assessments seem very useful in assessing how well the students are learning from the teacher. The school where I currently teach (Fusion Academy) uses MAP testing to individually assess each students' strengths and weaknesses. We have regular staff meetings to train teachers how to use the data from the tests to adapt our teaching style to each student's unique needs. It's been a time-consuming process but will ultimately be very useful in customizing our lesson plans to each students' ideal learning style. For instance, I've discovered some of my students in my science classes are below their grade level in reading proficiency. This explains why some may not do readings I assign for homework. I have since been able to adjust by giving them alternative texts or supplementary handouts, which both help them understand the concepts I'm trying to teach. In addition, I might focus on integrating reading comprehension and vocabulary skills in my science classes in order to help bridge the gap for my students.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Journal 1--100 Things That Make Me Happy

'Happy Face ' photo (c) 2009, Anthony Easton - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

       1.       Low gas prices
2.       No traffic

3.       A gorgeous day at the beach, and I have it all to myself

4.       My dog

5.       My boyfriend

6.       My little sister

7.       Teaching

8.       Biology (especially cell bio)

9.       My bunny

10.   Running

11.   Swimming

12.   Biking

13.   Horse-back riding

14.   Volunteering at the animal shelter

15.   Animals

16.   Painting and drawing

17.   Writing in my journal

18.   Sleeping in

19.   Pancakes

20.   Chocolate chip cookies

21.   Sushi

22.   Red wine

23.   Hiking

24.   Camping

25.   Kayaking

26.   Yoga

27.   Gardening

28.   The color blue

29.   The ocean

30.   Scuba diving

31.   Oregon

32.   California

33.   San Francisco

34.   Barcelona

35.   Compliments

36.   Good hair days

37.   Skinny days

38.   The Walking Dead

39.   When my dog gives me kisses

40.   When my students tell me they will miss me when I’m gone

41.   My sister’s upcoming wedding

42.   Listening to The White Stripes or The Black Keys

43.   Not caring about what other people think

44.   Smiles

45.   When a stranger says, “hello”

46.   My bed

47.   Nighttime

48.   Crickets chirping

49.   Waterfalls

50.   Flowers

51.   Chocolate

52.   A day with no plans

53.   Vacation

54.   Studying the human body and human diseases

55.   Reading

56.   Memoirs

57.   Watching documentaries

58.   Long walks

59.   Sales, refunds, and raises

60.   When all my chores are done

61.   Sunshine

62.   Summer thunderstorms

63.   Rainbows

64.   Butterflies

65.   Clich├ęs (this is a joke—see #64-65)

66.   The smell of salt by the ocean

67.   Torrey Pines State Park

68.   San Elijo Lagoon

69.   Idyllwild

70.   Silver Falls State Park

71.   Being on time

72.   Crossing things off my list

73.   Mountain biking

74.   Skiing

75.   Sledding

76.   Snow

77.   My friends

78.   Impromptu happy hour with colleagues

79.   Secret admirers

80.   Accomplishing my goals

81.   Overcoming obstacles

82.   Trees

83.   Springtime

84.   Birds singing

85.   Winters in San Diego

86.   Meeting new people

87.   The countryside

88.   Wide, open spaces untouched by man

89.   Honeybees

90.   When dolphins swim up to me in the ocean

91.   Sea turtles

92.   Seahorses

93.   Playing fetch with my dog

94.   Eating a home-cooked meal with my folks

95.   Road trips

96.   Hawaii

97.   Paddleboarding

98.   Playing guitar

99.   Playing piano

100.                        Learning about technology ;)