Thursday, July 26, 2012

Module 3

     Module 3 is all about making a connection with technology in the classroom.  I also interpreted this unit as a way to connect student's ideas and work that is supported by technology, and using it in a way that is beneficial and not a hindrance to how students learn.  My previous post introduced my motivation for the use of online discussion forums and luckily Moodle 2 (which had been down for maintenance)  started functioning this week.  I still explored Collaborize and Campus Pack forums by posting a discussion topic on each and asked for two of my friends (who teach at the school with me, but different subjects) for feedback.  They both picked either Campus Pack or Moodle forums, mostly for the reason is that our students have had experience with Campus Pack in middle school and starting at the end of last year there has been a push to put our courses online with Moodle- therefore the students will be familiar if using these in other classes.  Another benefit of Moodle is the easiness in setting up the discussion topics and it gives you choices how to set the forum up.  I chose the 'Q & A' type where students have to first post their response before reading other classmates' responses. This forum is also easy in that students just have to push one button to respond and the responses are set up under that original comment (reminds me more of the Desire2Learn system versus a forum like Edmodo).  Since Moodle is private, requiring registration into my class I cannot include the link to the forum but will discuss my objectives, steps, and extensions for this project.

Online Discussion Forums 
Objectives:  1)  Present content for out of class discussion  2)  Use case studies to enhance knowledge of subjects  3)  Serves as a collaborative learning process with time for self-reflection  4)  Focuses on problem-based learning

Steps:  1)  Review case studies through National Case Study (for teachers) website  2)  Organize by topics that are related to class curriculum.  The topics come from each unit in E/E Science and in Moodle I also created these topics as separate pages.3)  For each case study decide on 1 or 2 opening discussion topics.  These serve to cover main ideas and hopefully to 'launch' new ideas and communication among students 4) Post either a link to the case study or revamp the case study (depending on how much information the teacher wants to use) and post on the discussion forum as a new topic with the1/2 probing questions.  

Requirements for Students:  1)  Topic will be available during the unit (each is 1-2 weeks) 2)  Students have to post 1st response in first 2 days of introducing the unit. I will create a calender (probably electronic through Moodle) with these deadlines 3)  Students will need to respond to at least 2 of their classmates comments by the end of the unit.

Further Ideas:  1)  Record video on instruction for accessing the forums and how to use it.  Could use
  Screencasting or Voicethread programs to capture the images on the screen with audio instructing students the steps. 2)  Put the discussion into the student's hands by having facilitators that can find their own case studies to share 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Online Forums and Module 3 Plan

      Wow-so many choices that use online discussion forums.  So my background is that I am going to incorporate online forums into my Earth/Environmental classes next year for my Action Research Project.  I did my lit. review and proposal based on hybrid classrooms during last semester's education class. I feel that with 9th graders there are so few that want to discuss issues/concepts presented in class- their shyness or lack of confidence or time for reflection or wanting to say the 'perfect' response hinders a really good class discussion.  I see online discussions as a way to overcome those issues and can be put into practice with my classes.  Since last semester I was going to use Moodle2 (through our district), but its been 'down for maintenance' almost all summer.  That would have been my go-to (and may still be) site, but now I am exploring a forum through CampusPack (also through the district) and signed up for Collaborize Classroom.  For Module 3 I will develop several topics using each of these sties to see which one I would like to use in my classroom.  I am going to pull in several educator friends to give feedback (since we are currently not in school for student feedback) on which site to use.  For this poll I have specific things to look for such as ease in following comments for both teacher and student.

     Our professor has written a blog - Brunsell's Blog on Hybrid Classesspeaking on the same issues that I have faced with asynchronous (or in-class) discussions.  It is interesting because a few of the teachers that he references I know through MSU's MSSE program and have skimmed through their thesis' on which methods to use in the classroom.  I absolutely agree that having a classroom that draws in technology (not only limited to online forums) can foster student learning, interaction, and higher-order thinking skills. But I also think that there are developmental skills that students can only get through a traditional (face-to-face) classroom setting.  Therefore creating a hybrid classroom is ideal and I will be incorporating more technology into next year's classes.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Module 2 Web Tools Project

     Googling: The act of searching the internet for information. However I have been Googling or exploring all Google has to offer in terms of web tools to be used in class.  Module 2 is based on tools that allow teachers and students to create something for class.  I have previously used Google Scholar, Maps & Blogger.
      One large part of Google are the use of Docs, well for those who haven't used Docs in a while you will now have to download Google Drive- which works the same but replaces Docs. I feel I have only scratched the surface of the usefulness of Docs.  You can use them with students to share assignments between teacher and student, as well as student and student.  When these Docs are shared there is an editing tool so students can continuously upload data or make comments as needed.  You can also see others typing right on the document as they edit (in different colors)!  I think the use of Google Docs will be easier to use versus having to attach files to emails or having paper trails, however the issue that I'm stuck on is if I want a student to be able to type in a document (ie notes or data sheet) I will have to convert word/PDF files to Google Docs in order to do so... I foresee a lot of time involved in this.
     A second part I've explored is Google Forms.  These are found under Drive and work like a Doc.  You can create surveys for your students that automatically record data in a spreadsheet that you can leave as a datasheet or create into tables/graphs.
     The third component and focus of my Module 2 Project is Google Maps/Google Earth.  I'm sure many of  us have played around with Maps for locations and directions and Earth to find our house and 3-D tours. With Google Maps you can login and create your own maps.  I immediately thought of a project that I do with Earth Science of locations of volcanoes/earthquakes and relationships to plate boundaries.  They end up creating a paper globe of this information, but how cool would it be to have all of this information in an electronic format where pictures and much more information can be added.  Playing around with Google Earth I created a globe with volcanoes and earthquakes mapped.  Using latitude and longitude from a few websites I mapped out several locations.  And also did you know that Google Earth, through USGS, has an additional layer you can download from their website that shows recent earthquakes and plate boundaries. So I mapped these too.  Below is a screenshot of my Google Earth with one volcano and one earthquake that I located, about 6 other recent earthquakes that USGS mapped, and plate boundaries.

Student Instructions for Globe Project:
1)  Open up Google Earth from your desktop.  You may need to download if you have not previously used Google Earth.  Go to for download.

2)  Login using your gmail account.

3) You will collect latitude and longitude points for 10 volcanoes and 10 earthquakes.  Along with lat/long you need to also record name, date, magnitude (for earthquakes), and type (for volcanoes)
You may create a spreadsheet of this information or enter the information into Google Earth as you go. 
Volcano Locations:
Earthquake Locations:

4)  In Google Earth locate the placemark tool (looks like a thumbtack) on the upper bar.  Click on the tool to add in the specific lat/long of either your volcano or earthquake.  Name it, change the icon to either a volcano or blue waves, and add date, magnitude or type in the description box.  You may also add an image to correspond to the location if you would like.

5)  Continue until you have 20 locations mapped.  Now time for Plate Boundaries.  Go to and click on Real-Time Earthquakes to download.  Ta-da!  Plate boundaries as well as at least 30 recent earthquakes will appear as a layer on your map.

6)  Observe the relationship between plate boundaries and the location of volcanoes and earthquakes.  For interpretation of the boundaries see your teacher for a reference map for convergent, divergent, and transform boundaries around the world.

7)  Write a one page essay describing the relationship between the locations of volcanoes and earthquakes.  Make sure to describe why they may be located at a certain place and how this occurs.

8) To turn in this project 'Share' with the Google Earth Community. I will have set up a folder for our class you can turn in your globe to.  For your essay also 'Share' as a Google Doc under Drive with me.  Make me an editor please so I can add comments.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Case Studies

Our 9th grade Environmental Science book ( Holt) has mini case studies that I have used with my classes that are embedded with the relevant topics.  However, this textbook was published over 10 years ago and even though I like that they are included the material is dated.  I think Case Studies are valuable in that they present an actual happening in science that students feel connected to.  They also tie in problem-based learning techniques for students.  In our class we were asked to read the article 'Generate an Arguement' which presented a model on how students could use data, background information, or even a hypothesis to develop a conclusion based on the given materials. This model gives ideas to students and in turn students are explaining and reasoning their way to a scientific conclusion based on these ideas.  I feel that Case Studies are examples of the Generating an Argument type of model.  They present background information to students and then give the opportunity for so many projects, presentations, debates, further research etc. for your classroom. 

Class Project Idea
Something I would like to incorporate into my Earth/Environmental Science class next year is the use of an online forum on Case Studies.  We use Moodle 2 (an online learning community that our school would like for us to incorporate in our classes next year) in our county and it has online discussion forums.  I would like to set up the background of these case studies as topics, have students discuss initial thoughts at the beginning of the week.  Then I would post probing questions about the specific study and (hopefully) students can make connections with the content from class, or something they have read or seen that links and run with the discussion on their own.  I think online discussion forums are an advantage to certain personalities of students and when all students will have access to the internet it is possible to draw in these electronic resources to use.

National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science: My Brainchild

Friday, July 6, 2012

Module 1 Web Tools Project

     The first theme for our class was 'collection and organization of content'.  Therefore I concentrated on projects more for myself, as the teacher, and not directly for the student.  However, they can certainly benefit from me furthering my understanding and organization of web tools.  For Module 1 I have two things I focused on. The first was this blog.  I finished the organization of it by adding 'my blog list' at the bottom (thanks to Jason B for instructing me on how to add gadgets on the page).  I took our classmates' blog sites and linked them to my page for updated feed, so I can easily see new posts and find posts that I have been following.  The second project involved a site called SYMBALOO (it is free to use at  I just happened to be talking with teacher friends and mentioned needing to organize websites that I have saved in my favorites as well as all of these electronic resources my classmates have been posting about.  One quickly  told me I needed to check out this site.  After registering it allows you to link websites in these 'webmixes'.  I created a webmix for my different classes- one for Biology, Earth Science, one Environmental and another Professional.  As shown in the screenshots below tiles are created with a bookmark of the webpage. You or your students can easily click on a tile to access that webpage, so not only is this electronic resource valuable for organizing/collecting but can be used to incorporate into online projects.

Screenshot for Environmental Science Webmix (Not an active website, so you cannot click on the tiles)

Found an EDU Webmix with a lot of resources we have mentioned in class, can't wait to play around with these! 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner | MacArthur Foundation

Check out this video on 21st century students and their connection with the digital world.  I found that it reflects well for my PLN.  Feel free to discuss!

PLN and Getting Started

     Through-out this course we are asked to begin thinking and then develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN), which is based on the use of technology in the classroom (as if you didn't already know the focus of this class and blog).  For me technology should be used as an aid to develop skills for the 21st century student.  I am not interested in using technology as a subsitute for my teaching in the classroom, but as a way to enhance what we are doing.  Our students are developing new ways of thinking, using what is available to them, therefore the use of new strategies and tools will only benefit them for the future.  A few of the important skills for students to have are critical and independent thinking, which involves self-motivation to access, analyze, then apply information to their life.  Tony Wagner (presented in the 'Getting Started' page from class) has also identified these type of skills as most important for the future of students in application to the workforce.  Also shown in 'Getting Started' the video 'Networked Student' focused on connectivisim- theory that uses connections (leaning more towards web-based) to tie in various ideas and ways of learning.  I think this theory also links to constructivism  where the student takes these connections and forms, or constructs, opinions and applications, therefore actively learning the material.
      As mentioned earlier our school is very focused on the use of technology for next year, having more of our courses accessable online.  My outlook for next year is to use our availablity to use the web as a tool to enhance learning opportunities, more of a hybrid couse then the extremes (either fully online like the flipped classroom or without any use of online resources).  I will continue to build on these resources and work on converting or creating activities for use next year.