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I have had the opportunity to play around with Voicethread and would like to share my maiden attempt of creating a thread for my Chemistry class. I did say maiden correct? This is what I have so far…please feel free to leave a comment on the Voicethread.

Online privacy issues should be a big concern for all of us as we try to navigate safely on the Internet. As an educator and a newbie parent, I cringe at how trusting most of us are online. As far as navigating safely in our virtual worlds I propose the following tips:

  • As educators I find that we need to work constructively to enhance the first line of knowledge by parents and educate our students about the etiquettes and privacy issues that can arise online throughout social networks. Also we need to create a safe network of social learning for students by restricting the amount of people that can view these sites and not have it open to the public.
  • Shop safely – don’t surrender your credit card # or any personal information.
  • While you are typing, guard any of your messages, pin numbers and personal information. There are “screen hiders” that can be installed on iphones and laptops that prevents onlookers from reading any of your emails or private information.
  • Password protection – longer, more complex the password the better. Try to use a mix of numbers and letters.
  • If you don’t recognize the email sender then don’t answer it.
  • The following video demonstrates how to stay safe while using your Facebook account by modifying your personal preferences.
  • Use common sense! If something sounds to good to be true then it probably is.

As far as filtering procedures are concerned in our schools, I would rather have the option of filtering sites in my classroom than having youtube,  facebook, or other social networking sites blocked as I find that using social networks could be adapted to constructively use these sites as part of student learning within the classroom. Besides, if we are not teaching students how to effectively use these sites, who is?

The best WebQuests inspire students to see richer thematic relationships, to contribute to the real world of learning, and to reflect on their own metacognitive processes.” (Tom March, “The Learning Power of Webquests”, 2004)

Webquests essentially provide student directed, real life scenarios where students inquire, engage themselves and apply higher, critical thinking skills that are applied to authentic problems. Students are expected to transform their research into a socially constructed end product that warrants feedback and further transformations of knowledge from a wider audience. Students develop key technological skills that aid students in feeling their ideas and thoughts are valued. The best part of these quests is that they can lift restrictions on when and where students need to learn. Learning should be ongoing and intrinsically motivated and doesn’t have to take place in a designated room at a designated time to make the learning real.

Dan Pink’s take on Motivation:

Creating Webquests in a Chemistry class of 32 students will be a bit of a challenge for me as most of my curriculum is heavily theory based with an expectation to incorporate at least 20 hours of practical (lab) work intermixed within each unit. Longer webquests require students to have  strong working skill sets which incorporates, prerequisite knowledge, strong work ethic, thinking and organizational skills. With the blend of students that I get in my classes every semester, I am curious as to how I could use Webquests effectively to tap into the variety of multiple intelligences of my students but then again, these Webquests might bring out creativity in some students that struggle with scientific theory.

As far as applicability of Webquests which are essentially subsets of Problem Based Learning, my School Board’s new initiative is to incorporate “Structural Innovation” (problem based learning) into our teaching strategies. The only problem with this is that outcomes need to be addressed clearly and requires a bit of a paradigm shift in order for real learning to take place as the curriculum should serve as a guide rather than gospel.

Both problem based learning and Webquests are deeply entrenched in (Social) Constructivist learning theories presented by Dewey, Piaget and Vygotsky. The central idea behind these theories is that human learning is constructed and that learners build new knowledge upon the foundation of previous learning. http://www.sedl.org/pubs/sedletter/v09n03/practice.html where each new conception of the world is mediated by prior-constructed realities that we take for granted. http://carbon.cudenver.edu/~mryder/savage.html#def_constructivism.

As far as the amount of time and guidance that is needed for each of my 32 students presents a bit of a challenge as I need to be well versed in interdisciplinary knowledge and I need daily access to technology in a school of 1400 students.

The outline of a structured Webquest could include: an introduction, separate tasks to intice the learner into project, a variety of informational sources, a description of the process (clear steps to follow), guidance on how to organize information and a conclusion which brings closure and summary of what they learned. (Dodge).

What a great era to be teaching in. On one hand we have an all access pass to any and all information we could ever want, we can use word processing tools as well as Web2.0 tools to facilitate our daily teachings which empower us to cater to multiple intelligences within our classrooms. Our primary objective needs to be to teach kids life skills to learn for themselves. Lifelong learning has been made easier as we have the opportunity to access and to contribute to the growing amount of knowledge online via collaboration and communication in our personal learning networks and as a collective consciousness as seen with Wikipedia for example.

As educators, I feel it is our responsibility to stay current with the changing landscapes in technological practices. Not only does it make our jobs easier and allows us to present curricular material in a creative, up-to-date manner but it also provides a connection between what students are using and what they require in today’s society in order to become successful.

The need for educators to relinquish some control in the classroom is a must. All too often we race to complete curricular objectives and ignore what education should be about and that is to teach students how to learn and to problem solve issues that we face in society today. The transformation from teacher driven classrooms into student centered, activity based (problem solving) activities parallels a real life outlook on learning and teaches our students important social, independent and vocational skills while maintaining a degree of consistency with today’s exponential technological growth. We shouldn’t fear the unknown instead we should create and incorporate knowledge that will ultimately allow us to overcome the challenges of the unknown.

Hello all and welcome to my blog created for ECI834.
I am in my 3rd class of graduate studies at the University of Regina and I am eager to learn how I can make technology work for me while expanding my personal learning networks with experienced teachers around the world.

At the present, I teach I.B. Chemistry in Regina, Saskatchewan where I have been teaching for the past 6 years. My wife Jill and my sons Noah and Grady are my biggest motivators to complete my Masters. Noah is 2 years old and Grady is 2 months old so life is really exciting for me right now.

I coach  soccer and badminton at my high school and I try to keep fit by playing hockey and Ultimate frisbee. I am nearing the end of a basement renovation which has been going on for a good part of two years now and am in the process of planning for my next major construction project, a garage. I have never taken on a tasks as large as these before so many thanks to my wife for being so patient and reassuring even if she does have a variety of contractors on speed dial.

As far as my education career is concerned, I finished High School outside of Ottawa and moved to Regina shortly after. I wasn’t too fond of school until I enrolled at the UofR. I am not sure what flicked the switch but I ended up with a Science and Education Degree. I have internalized how important it is for me, to further my studies. I enjoy teaching Chemistry, as it lends itself well to blowing up gummy bears and sending rockets across my room but I feel that I have come to a crossroad in my life where my family is being started and my interests are becoming varied. I have always considered myself computer savvy but still realize I have so much to learn (thanks to my students who continually correct me).

What an exciting time it is in my life. Not only do I get to experience the business of family, work and renovations, I also get to tie in a learning component that will hopefully quench my thirst for further educational practices and tools.

I have participated with a few colleagues in this class and I am continually blown away by the the experience and knowledge that exists within the members of this ECI834 class. I am definitely the young buck of the group and I have come to realize that the more I know, the more I know I know very little. Everyday seems to be a steep learning curve in the world of education, social relationships and the Web 2.0 and Web 3.0.  I have a lot to learn about with the power of technology and how I can get it working for me in my classroom.

I have created an account with gmail, google reader, delicious, twitter, and here at wordpress. As far as how I use these to my potential is still beyond me, in fact, I am not sure I can even remember my passwords for each of the sites! Whatever the case is, I am extremely excited to be in such a social network as the one that has been created for me via this class. I get such a positive vibe from those in this class and how knowledgeable they are and how eager they are to share experiences with others. I welcome any and all experiences that people wish to share with me.

Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to share with you.

The purpose of ECI832 was to provide an opportunity to explore and critically evaluate Internet tools and resources to support student achievement of curriculum outcomes and professional learning and this is what I received. It is definitely still a work in progress but I hope someday to create that masterpiece in the sand.

Uploaded on April 18, 2009 by David Reber's Hammer Photography

By taking this class, I am excited to teach Chemistry in a different context by employing Connectivism and Constructivism learning styles; I just hope that my shared enthusiasm will spill over to my students and other colleagues throughout my school.

Over the past four months, I have immersed myself in a considerable amount of learning about technology and ways to incorporate it into my classroom. Not only do I have a functioning Moodle site and Google site, I now have gained a Ning site to be used as collaborating, communicating and providing tutorials for my students by students. Mixing a Ning site with Google and Moodle will prove to be a welcomed addition in that I now have a triad of sites for my students to learn Chemistry and more importantly technological skills to be used in all facets life.

My Ning site has enriched my experience with my students and it has been great! Many of the students appreciate the safety and privacy they got by being a member of this club. So far, they have discussed current topics in Chemistry and they have had a chance to collaborate as a member in a PLN in an online virtual world.  I mentioned to the students that I wanted them to treat the site as their own to do with what they wanted but obviously stipulating that it had to be about Chemistry and it had to enhance the learning of others. I gave my students a survey to fill out to get some feedback from them and with this I will modify and tweak a few areas to make it a place where future students can learn about Chemistry while enhancing their technological skills.

I have also experienced playing around with other tech tools that will add some flavor to my videos, songs and animations that I already employ in my daily teachings.  This was perhaps my favourite part of the class as I was able to try new tools  and find ways to use these in my classroom. The difficult challenge for me is to find out how to use these tools as a medium to engage students in an activity based, student centered  classroom. The time and effort required to create activities and assessments will take a considerable amount of trial and error as does playing with the vast amounts of web tools at my disposal. Even though I have enriched my teaching practices and my students appetite for learning, my journey has just begun.

I feel that I still need to work on trying to find ways to get other colleagues to actively incorporate technology into their daily practices as I feel the need to recognize that technology is here to stay if we like it or not. I think that each of us needs to, at a base minimum, investigate how our students are affected by and how could they benefit from the use of technology in the classroom. Not only are our students counting on us to guide them in a fast moving technological world, the need to consistently enrich our teaching should parallel a requirement to stay consistent with technology and to try to keep a connection with our students. It is frustrating to get colleagues to see that change is imminent and that it needs to be embraced instead of resisted as we will be subjected to these short comings every day for the rest of our teaching careers.

I don’t believe that we have to incorporate technology in every class or even all the time, but we do need to be aware of it and how it affects our choices that we make these days, we don’t want to be left behind without maintaining current skills, providing educators an avenue for empowerment and success in today’s consistently changing society. If new information is changing every 72 hours, we really have the liberty to sit back and create a divide between society and the skills students require to succeed in their future endeavours.

I found this video which gives some insight in to what today’s classroom should look like:

As a parent, I see the need to participate in using technology and how to make it work as an educator and as a father. I want my kids to “understand” how to navigate themselves in an ever changing world safely. My kids are going to be the ones making the decisions and leading the reforms so we best ought to provide them with the tools they need to stay competitive in today’s market. Having said this, I personally still feel overwhelmed in today’s day and age. I am a family man who wants to be the best father I can be, while trying to maintain a continually evolving teaching paradigm as well as trying to enhance my teaching strategies but I am finding the time required for each event requires a huge amount of focused time and  my biggest challenge is finding a way to balance my personal life with my career by allotting appropriate time for each event when required. However, I am enjoying my journey so I know that I am doing something right.

I have benefitted from this class and I was impressed by how prepared and organized each Block was. For me, I still need a healthy dose of face to face discussions rather than exclusively collaborating online. I find the time it takes me to cover ground with online discussions takes more time and effort and by the time I have finished floating around in a vast sea of information I have already been subjected to many digressions which I find difficult to impact my understanding of the technological world around me. I have learned so much over the past 8 months of classes but I am not sure who with. I haven’t had a chance to meet anyone in either of my two online classes besides accidently running into a colleague one night at a birthday party. I appreciate that creating online networks are crucial in providing a connectivist approach to learning and I desperately want to continue this style of learning and sharing with others but sometimes I feel isolated from the big discussions that go on and as a result I find it difficult to put the pieces together without face to face dialogues with my colleagues in my classes. Having said this, I feel that it has willingly forced me to actively engage in daily dialogues with colleagues and my personal learning network which will ultimately lead me to something great in my future teaching practices.

Where do I go from here? I will be continuing my journey through ECI830 in the spring which will undoubtedly strengthen my understanding and will enhance my teaching and learning practices in hopes of better equipping me to handle the challenges faced in today’s classroom. I will continue to use my triad of sites in my classroom as  I find that I am more organized throughout my day and my students, as a result, receive a huge amount of learning that most desire. I am finding a way to stay current with today’s technological practices in my classroom and I hope someday to further my understanding by conducting in-services at my school to share and learn from others but that will have to wait a little while longer until I get more versed in the technological practices that surround teaching and today’s classrooms.

I know that I am progressing in my quest to understand how technology can be used in an educational setting as I have seen a slight shift in my LoTi and NETS. I started the class with the following “compass direction” whereas now I am made up of parts from each of the 5 standards in particular:

My teachers NETS:

– Promote creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness.

– Engaging students in exploring real-world issues and digital tools and resources.

– promoting student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, creative processes in Chemistry.

– model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students, colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments.

– designing relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.

– develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants

– collaborate with students and peers using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation.

– communicate relevant information and ideas to students, and peers using a variety of digital-age media and formats (playing in the sand).

– model and facilitate effective use of current and emerging digital tools to locate, analyze, evaluate, and use information resources to support research and learning.

– advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources.

– promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information.

– participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.

– evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning.

–  contribute to the effectiveness, vitality, and self-renewal of the teaching profession and of their school and community.

As far as my LoTi is concerned, I feel that I am at a Level 4a of Integration: Mechanical but slowly moving to a Level 4b – Integration: Routine. For me to get to a Level 5 – Expansion where “collaborations extending beyond the classroom are employed for authentic student problem-solving and issues resolution where emphasis is placed on learner-centered strategies to promote personal goal setting and self-monitoring, student action, and collaborations with other diverse groups (e.g., another school, different cultures, business establishments, governmental agencies) using the available digital assets”, I need to attend more professional development opportunities both online and face to face and to try enrich my exploration with more Masters classes and networking with the vast amounts of people in the field.

I have enjoyed sharing information and resources with others in the class and in the educational community. I have always been regarded as a strong reflective practitioner and pride myself on staying current and up to date; I love to learn! I feel rejuvenated to teach Chemistry for the rest of the year as now I will have some extra time to focus on playing with the concepts that I have gained by taking ECI832.