Archive for November, 2009

Project Perspective

I have been working on my final project and asking myself if Moodle is the tool to use for my online Chemistry course. I love how it acts as a reservoir of resources that I can access from anywhere on the globe and the best thing about it is the privacy perspective, as only certain people that I allow can access my virtual classroom but the more I use Moodle the more I prefer Google Apps. With Google I can create separate pages linked together as in a wiki, I can use a Google calendar to act as an informative sequence of events and I can embed videos directly on my pages to make it a little more attractive and not to mention, a bit more interactive with other Chemistry teachers.

Some of my other frustrations lie within Moodle’s options. For example, I can’t find a way to edit my files once they are uploaded to my site. If I want to change content on the page, I have to do it on my computer, save a new version and upload it again so that my students can access it. Seems a bit archaic for all of the potential on the web these days. Also, every once in a while I get a 4 headed arrow to move files around between units but it seems to only appear once a week; moving files around otherwise is a pain in the butt and it takes longer to do.

This ECI831 class has focussed on helping me create a social network and has helped me see the vast amounts of online tools that I can use to facilitate my daily teachings but then I resort to creating an online course that allows very few individuals to interact with me in sharing Chemistry content. Not a desirable result but as I write this I realize that for now, size does matter and that the smaller my online world is the better as I need to find out how to make this virtual world work for me. Besides, I still have my blog and Google Apps to help supplement working with my social network, as small as it is. It just seems a little backwards.

Overall, my main concern is privacy. I don’t use Google Apps because I don’t know how to keep the “walled garden” secure like I can with Moodle. Don’t get me wrong, I like how Moodle has helped me organize my notes, activities and tutorials and I especially like having my students informed about what is due and when but I think my ambition is to find out how to supplement my Moodle site with Google Apps as Google can provide me with all of these options too.

A few questions I need help with:

  1. Can anyone suggest a way to use Google and keep it private where I can select certain people to view my site but I am not interested in having students edited my pages once I have created them. I am guessing there must be a way.
  2. On a different strand of thought…I have been using screenr to send tutorials but I have seen people using a bubble magnifier to pinpoint key information but I don’t know which download it is. Does anyone know which tool to use?


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Wordle: Eci831 Tools Used
I was sitting here working on my final project for ECI831 and I thought that I would use Wordle to create a visual to show every tool that I have played around with since the start of this class in Sept. 09. I didn’t include Twitter because even though I have created an account, I haven’t really played around with it much.

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Site Searching

I have been playing around with a few of the sites mentioned in the presentation by (Brian Lamb and Scott Leslie). I have successfully set up a customized search engine specific to Chemistry and it works like a charm. The first site from a “Chemistry Website” search took me on a 6 hour perusal of the links and some I have added as my favourites. I find that this can be a powerful tool if you use specific websites that cater to your subject area. I initially incorporated google, bing, yahoo and 6 others into one search engine but found it almost too much as my search engine was bringing in content from too many sites and as a result, ridiculous to search through the hundreds of pages of search results. Instead, I have included only specific Chemistry webpages into my engine and now I can access my favourites that I once had saved as bookmarks but forgot what they were. This is an great tool that I have added to my arsenal that should definitely save me some time searching.

Through my searches, I found the following site which provides a few boolean suggestions to further focus any search.

Another site I played around with was Jing. It is a free download that allows an individual to edit a page or portion of a page. Text boxes, pointer arrows and highlighting text to an existing document, provide a few options for collaboration between colleagues and students. This can be beneficial my goal is to use Jing when students email me with questions about content that I have saved online. A question though: can I use Jing to edit other’s work and share the editions with my students?

Leap was another site thrown into the mix. Leap is the “UBC Learning Enhancement Academic Partnership Program is an online portal for all things academic designed to help you learn smart and more quickly” (taken from http://leap.ubc.ca/). As far as I can tell, it is another search engine but I am not sure what the added benefits are.

Lijit claims to be a “search powered web application for publishers”. I tried to check a few tutorials on youtube but didn’t really get much about what lijit does besides being another custom search engine. I got this explanation from a search I did, “It will give you stats on what people are searching and where they are coming from and it allows people to put in several of the social networking sites that they visit, like twitter, digg, etc…and that’s where the searches are being pulled from. You can also put in your blogs or sites RSS feeds to pull the searches as well”. Did anyone else use this site? I am still a little unclear of the potential of this site as well.

The last site that I poked around with was clipmarks and thought that this could benefit my teaching as it is a bunch of “clips” taken from random pages about certain topics and then saved into files. I searched Chemistry but didn’t get too many results back. My understanding is that this site is a copy and paste deposit for people to share their online searches. My question then becomes, does clipmarks use only creative commons stuff or is all information fair game?

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For my class project, I have decided to stick it out with Moodle. I find Moodle a great spot as a repository of notes, links and online activities and my students can access them at any time from anywhere around the world. There is another Chemistry teacher at my school that is starting to use Moodle who is coming to me for help. I have to smile because I see the same struggles and frustrations that I had when I first started a few short weeks ago. I smile again because I still have so much to learn.

We have found a way to work collaboratively on generating one Chemistry site for our Science Core but at the moment we both are trying to find ways to make all of this work for our individual classes and we feel it is a little less daunting to stick with creating our own site while sharing the ideas from our site.

I have come a long way in this project. I have uploaded some of my notes and I have most of my students enrolled in the course who are now following me online. It feels a little strange to be in this relationship as I have this great learning tool up and running but not sure exactly how to manage it yet and as a consequence, I need to find out how to make it meaningful for my students.

Over the past few months I have taken in so much that my whole paradigm of teaching is now changing. I am actively converting my teacher centered approach into a student led, activity based experience. This paradigm switch is revolutionary as I honestly believe that I am finding out what teaching actually means to me.
 Organizing my classroom to where it needs to be to incorporate this activity based approach has its challenges as I now face a lack of Chemistry equipment, computers, activities and assessments to carry out my new found teaching practice. Regardless of resources, I am on my way to what I feel teaching should be; it should be engaging and complement the learning that must take place in the community and on a global scale. As far as making Moodle work for me, that is just going to take a bit more time. Thanks to all who have helped along the way so far, my students thank you!

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Social Media

Last week we looked at Social Media and the potential impact that it can have on our high school students. Bud Hunt’s blog suggests that student responsibility must play into the equation when using computers in the classroom and that students not using the expected sites in class is not a technological issue rather a student’s behavioural issue.

The question proposed by Alec was, “what do you find to be offensive online”. Racism, degrading comments, pornography and hate sites were the overlapping areas of concern to which I would have to agree. My concern is with my kids at home accessing these sites; in addition, to my students accessing these sites at school. Parents/teachers must remember that when tell kids to stay off these sites that we are sparking ideas of curiosity as to why these sites are forbidden but exist in society. Personally, I feel that we need to educate students as to why these sites are off limits as they exist but generate negative behaviours as seen through the eyes of society. Is this our role?

Kids see their teachers from 8:30am to about 3:30pm, that is about 7 hours out of their day which is more than some see their parents. Our role as educators is crucial to instil moral and ethical values in our students. I believe in the idea of “community living” where everyone of us to takes an acting role in educating the students of the next generation as to what is right and what is wrong. My objective in education is to teach students a set of skills that can be used throughout many facets of life. How to “think”, how to problem solve, how react in stressful situations, how to communicate effectively and how to analyze with underlying moral development as the underlying objective. Of course, these are just a few interwoven skills that students need to succeed in life. In today’s day and age where it becomes increasingly difficult to monitor what our kids are accessing online, we perhaps need to change our focus away from avoiding the facts and teach students why these “negative” sites exist and conversely teach kids to foster positive behaviours and ideas.

One question I struggle with is, shouldn’t parents/teachers be incorporating racism, sexuality, bullying, etc…ongoing throughout their conversations even though these ideas are hush hush. Knowledge is power! Should we explain what exists online and then help kids form opinions as to why some of these sites exist or do we open up pandora’s box by presenting them experiences that they may not normally encounter.

With so many backgrounds in our schools today, I can see parents being up in arms about this content being presented to their child when so many try to hide these realities from their kids. I simply feel that if we are given the opportunity first to put these ideas into context instead of kids stumbling across the sites and forming their own opinions, it could be more proactive than reactive. I have met a few people who don’t drink, don’t do drugs or look at porn because these were issues that were not hidden at home and were taught to avoid the “mysterious” nature of the topics.

Many music videos and T.V. commercials have a lot of sexuality inuendos to which kids pick up on. If they see their role models acting in this way it tells them that it is an acceptable behaviour without knowing the consequences involved. Lately, some days, it feels like we are swimming upstream against the rapids. We know that we can’t stop kids from accessing these websites but we pretend that they don’t exist so not to bring attention to these ideas. I don’t know what direction we need to go but I do feel that the more open and educated students are with these types of sites, the more empowerment they can possess and the less “mysterious” these ideas become.

So…the million dollar question is how do we “filter” the exchange of ideas over the Internet? I don’t know if we can. According to Jonathan Zittrain: The Web as random acts of kindness http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jonathan_zittrain_the_web_is_a_random_act_of_kindness.html

he suggests that there are normal lay people monitoring the net for disruptive behaviour and that these people will take it upon themselves “make things right” to which I  found some inspiration. I am an optimist and feel that there is more good than negative out there to tap into. I do honestly feel that people are born good and that we inherit negative behaviours as we go through life. I feel that by raising awareness to some of these negative behaviours and teaching alternative, more positive behaviours, it would be a good place to start.  A lot of this lies with parents teaching their kids at home but also spills over into the schools. Teachers and parents need to work as a unit to instil moral education and to act as one large community in rearing our offspring. To radical?

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Google vs Moodle?

I was originally using Google apps as my site for setting up an online course but switched my direction to using Moodle because I under went an inservice that laid out how to get started with Moodle. I started playing around with Moodle and spent a considerable amount of time getting sites/notes/worksheets uploaded and in place on the site. I like using Moodle but find it a little slow to use compared to Google and besides Google seems to have more variety of applications to use.

I ended up watching a Google tutorial http://edu.googleapps.com/tutorials-and-tips (29 min) that takes you through a Google apps tutorial. I should state that the focus of my major project is to have an online course set up with a calendar that students can access the month/semester all at once and when they click on a day, it pops open with attachments to download and access. Collaboration on my docs isn’t a need for me .

I am back and forth these days between Moodle and Google apps but now I am leaning back to Google apps because of how easy it “feels” to navigate around but I am not sure how it is used as an online course management site. If I didn’t want collaboration on my materials is Google the way to go  in creating my OCM site? Any thoughts?

How does it all fit together in Google? Do I create a site and students can visit the site to get notes and handouts or do I share calendars to the class every time I create an event? Basically, I am not sure how all my information gets viewed in google.

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Word of Wisdom

I had to laugh out loud tonight…literally! After deciding to change sites for my major project AGAIN, I just found an easy way to upload my files into my online class sites. Unlike google apps which allows an individual to select many files to upload without having to do it one by one, my Moodle site doesn’t allow that privledge as it is one…at…a…time…or so it seems…GOOD GRIEF! It seems a little archeic but boy will it be nice when it is ready to go :). I have been spending most of my time lately uploading files and links that I use in my Chemistry classes and I just found out that I can actually upload a whole directory of notes at once but mind you I still have to load each file one…at…a…time into those directory folders first. That is my problem with some of this stuff…not sure how it works or what the potentials are; therefore, not sure what questions to pose to get answers to. Does anybody have any tricks of the trade that they stumbled on that they would care to share as far as Moodle is concerned? I appreciate that is all a matter of preference but I would be happy to hear any suggestions.

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