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Archive for December, 2009

Reflection Blog for ECI831

“Things seems a little more harmonious since the first day of ECI831”

ECI831 is my first class that I took in hopes of achieving a Masters degree in Education Curriculum and Instruction. I entered the program to learn new technology practices and strategies to employ in my daily teachings. What I feel that I have gained is a whole new paradigm of how teaching Chemistry should be; a student centered, activity based and technology based classroom to connect and share knowledge and resources. I feel rejuvenated to teach Chemistry in a different context and I hope that I can share my enthusiasm with other colleagues throughout my school.

I am learning how to make technology work for me because over the past four months I have actively engaged myself in dialogues with colleagues and people who I met online about current, technological practices. I interact daily with our teacher librarian (Terrence Pon), our computer technician (Ed Adolph) and our IT consultant (Stu Harris) about issues surrounding technology in schools. I collaborate to understand school board policy, privacy issues surrounding technology in the classroom and how to incorporate technology into our curriculum. My conversations never seem to lead me to an endpoint but rather to another interesting avenue of query.

While analyzing both sides of many technology issues I wonder why there is a disconnect between our teachings and the issues that face our students. I honestly feel that we need to upgrade outdated school policies to incorporate technology issues into high school curriculum. Currently, my school does not have courses set up for students to investigate the issues of technology but hopefully that could change soon as I have sent a proposal to the Principal of my school requesting permission to teach kids how to use the Internet effectively and safely. Kids will learn it one way or another and I would feel better knowing that we were teaching them how to safely use technology instead of stumbling their way through it.

There is an aging staff population at my school, most of which, are reluctant to use technology to supplement their face to face instruction. I realize their frustrations and hope to alleviate their fears by organizing technology workshops. I have already organized two in-services on using Moodle and overwhelmingly, we had 20 teachers participated in taking the next step. Stu Harris graciously walked us through the initial steps of setting up classes in our Moodle site. He calls it a “walled garden” and he loves it. He wishes that everyone could see the power in using Moodle and is adiment that it will save teachers time in the long run.

Lately, it seems there are always students missing due to illness or early holidays.  Having Moodle acting as a repository of my class notes I have noticed students are showing up to class with a print out of my notes which they appreciate because they can listen in class to what is being discussed instead of writing notes for half the time.  This way – it gives us time to have more meaningful discussions, investigate, and learn from one another. The feedback the students give on other student’s work is critical and instantaneous to the enrichment of their Chemistry experience.

I chose to do my final project using Moodle because I do want to control my surroundings until I get a little more comfortable with my options. To prepare my Moodle site for its existence, I spent a considerable amount of time searching through notes & creating assignments, uploading them into files that could be saved on my site for students to view and print off. I realize that I have lots to learn about using my sites to interact effectively with my students and colleagues but I am extremely excited to have found this powerful technological tool.

Moodle wasn’t my first choice. I initially started my final project using a wiki at Wikispaces and then switched to find out what all the hype of Google Apps was. I found both of these sites too wide open for my comfort level but I am learning how to incorporate a combination of all three sites (Google, Moodle and Wiki) into my virtual world; I just need more time to play. I do hope the Google/Moodle combination will provide my students access to my notes, websites, online assignments and allow them to collaborate with each other through homework discussions and tutorials.

I had to laugh the other night. On the way to a Christmas party, my 20 month old son eagerly tried to catch a glimpse of the Christmas lights on all of the houses. I drew his attention to each brightly lit house as we drove by them doing about 50 kph. I turned to my wife and said that it reminded me of the ECI831 class some nights. Topics that were discussed in class shot by me like tracers of Christmas lights to a child. Realizing this, I did find refuge in the phrases, “dip your cup into the river” and “take a mouthful, swallow what you can use and spit out the rest”. I have taken in so much from this course but I wish I had time to do it again to absorb more and to participate meaningfully in discussions that took place. I once dissed the backchannel for adding humour to the over abundant flow of content and lingo but I must retract my ignorance as I do appreciate the need to take a breather or perhaps a chuckle to ease the strain of a new dialect of terms.

I agree that education is a river and not a reservoir of information and I have enjoyed the content relayed to me throughout this course. I am planning to organize some more technology workshops in my school, perhaps through the use of online tools such as using delicious tags and an RSS reader, two tools that made my life easier cruising around the web.  I am excited to further explore other tools and other uses of technology that I have registered for ECI830 next semester. Thank you to everyone who has networked with me to make this experience revolutionary in my teaching practices. Please feel free to view my concept map as it lays out the majority of concepts that I found played a role in my online learning from ECI831.

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It is all starting to make more sense to me now. Throughout the ECI831 course I have listened attentively to what has been presented and collectively I think that I have found what I have been missing…a student focussed learning experience and the need to exchange (share) resources. I entered into this teaching profession to share the knowledge that I possessed in Chemistry and in life skills 101 but I didn’t know where it was going to lead me. I now feel that my educational goals have meaning and a direction and for that I am extremely fortunate.

A big thanks goes out to Dean Shareski for his contagious attitude to share resources. I have been inspired by Dean and many others in this course to share  what little resources I have with others, so much so, that during our Science core meeting on friday I inititated and volunteered to set up a site to share Grade 9 resources to compliment the new curriculum coming next year. I didn’t limit it to just our school but I also sent an email to all science heads in hopes of getting all teachers who teach Science 9 to get on board and share resources on the site. The goal is to get one favourite resource, per teacher, per unit topic and to post them for all current / new teachers to peruse and modify for their teaching. I am excited for this experience and I will be sending out another email to all of the Chemistry teachers in search of the same result.

Taking into account everything that I have learned from this course, I really feel rejuvenated to teach again. Looking back on my teaching practice before taking the ECI831 course, it just seems so primitive to what I feel that I am capable of accomplishing now and with that I thank everyone who has been involved in helping me reach this point. I realize that I have lots of work ahead of me to set up my student directed classroom and I am always looking for activities or labs that students can investigate but I welcome it with open arms as I feel that my students will really benefit from my new found knowledge and practices.

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