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Archive for May, 2010

Playing around with voicethread

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.

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Stay safe, play smart

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?

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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).

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Thoughts About Technology and Teaching

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.

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A bit about myself

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.

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