Friday, April 24, 2009

Thing 23

I've certainly become more open to breaking into "Web 2.0" in the past 2+ months. When this started, I certainly knew plenty about the web, but I hadn't used much of it because I felt comfortable with the web I knew. I'm glad I took this class if for no other reason than it forced me to acquaint myself with technologies that nearly passed me by.

I'm also happy with the timing of the class. This being my first year of teaching, I'm glad I got a chance to get some first hand experience on my own in a classroom before trying to adapt my curriculum around technology I wasn't all too familiar with. I also am fortunate to have not formed habits that I might refuse to break.

I need to spend some time this summer looking over my own blog posts to remind myself of all the ideas that came into my head these past few weeks. Everything from long class collaborative projects like the Wiki to shorter, individualized assessments like a podcast.

I think the biggest idea that I'll take away from all this is that those who refuse to adapt get left behind, whether you're talking about students, teachers, or just the public in general. The internet first became popular when I was in my early teens, and I was waaay ahead of the curve creating HTML websites and following newsgroups. I feel like I've slipped in the past few years, not jumping on bandwagons until they've nearly passed me by. Hopefully, this can help me catch up lost ground.


Thing 22

Mr. Fuller's Wiki

I definitely like the idea, but the setup at WikiSpaces seems very basic. I'm sure it's fine for my purposes, and I probably shouldn't expect more for a free service.

Blogs and Wikis definitely have their own space and should be able to coexist without any problems. The main purpose of a blog is for one person to share information with a larger group (mainly, teacher to student). A wiki is designed to let a large group of people share information with each other (in this case, students).

I don't think there's any reason a teacher would HAVE to use one over the other, or both, or whatever. Each can be molded to fit the teacher's needs.

Thing 21

Without even looking at the wikis, I started thinking of ideas on how I could use them. We have a lot of hands-on building projects in my physics classes, so the students could pass on helpful info from one year to the next. Ideas on what make the best wheels for a mousetrap car, or where to buy the right springs for a catapult, etc.

We could also use them as a place where students can explain the subject matter to others in their own language. A student masters a particular subset of info, and relates it to both their class and future classes using a wiki written in their own language.

The biggest hurdle I foresee is the continuing problem of access to resources for some of my students. Ideally, students would need computers with internet access available before and/or after school, which my building does not provide. There is a computer in the classroom, but only one, and I can see traffic jams building up from here.

I think if done properly, a Wiki could be a good idea for a yearlong class project. It's one of those ideas that will be extremely rocky the first time out, but will hopefully get better year after year.

For the record, the Wiki that I liked the most was the Flat Planet site exploring environmental issues.

Thing 20

Full disclosure: I hate iTunes. I've used it in the past, both for music and for podcasts, and I just don't like using the program. Thankfully, they're not the only aggregator out there anymore.

I subscribe to lots of NPR shows that I don't get the chance to listen to during the regular course of life. Car Talk, Wait, Wait..., Science Friday, and a series called RadioLab. I used to subscribe to more, but the files would just pile up as I never had time to listen to them all. The NPR website makes it easy to subscribe to the podcasts without using iTunes.

I've occasionally subscribed to other podcasts using various other techniques, but they've fallen by the wayside as I've had other demands on my time this year.

Thing 19

I used to love using podcasting when I had the spare time to listen to the files. Now it's more of a good idea I wish I had the time for.

The first podcast I chose is NPR's Science Friday. I could have students listen to a portion of the 2 hour program (assigned or student decided) and write a brief summary of what they've learned. The topics cover a wide range of science, so it wouldn't be limited to things we're leaning in class - it could be a great way to encourage students to explore other fields of study.

NPR - Science Friday

I would use this second podcast as an example to my students of what they could do with the technology. Students could create a weekly exploration of a new topic, or do a series focussed entirely on equations (we have enough of those in physics to study). Rotating groups of students creating podcasts on a weekly basis could be a full semester project.

Eagan H.S. Honors Chemistry

Definitely a lot of potential using podcasts in the classroom. I almost wish I didn't have to wait until September to get going with a new group of students.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thing 18

I chose this intro lecture on thermodynamics for it's potential to show students what they could do with PowerPoint and SlideShare. I see myself using this tool as a student directed alternative assessment project - they create a ppt presentation after a unit to teach the next class about the subject.

It looks like there is a wealth of presentations on the site, but it was hard to narrow down a search effectively. I also prefer to create my own presentations, because I feel more comfortable lecturing off of material I wrote. At the very least, it could be a chance for students to find an alternative presentation to material that might be difficult to grasp. I know that just hearing something a different way could help understanding it.

Thing 17

I chose Zoho Show for it's ability to host PowerPoint presentations. I use ppt a lot for my classes, and while Internet Explorer tries to allows users to view the slideshows, it often causes more grief than anything.

Zoho seems to work easily enough. I especially like the functionality of exporting files to other formats (.pdf for starters). I could definitely see myself using this as an addition to my classroom website for students who might be absent during a lecture. I'll have to play around with it some more, but I would also like to be able to add audio recording as part of the presentations.

The other functions seemed useful, but I already incorporate much of what they do with Microsoft Outlook and my smartphone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thing 16

The idea of storing word documents on an external server seems like a convenience, but everyone carries flash drives, so what's the big deal?

But, when you get to the idea of collaborating on something like a spreadsheet with multiple users simultanouesly across the globe, you get my attention. Anyone who's worked anywhere in private industry has probably had to deal with a locked Excel spreadsheet and passed it around the office waiting for someone to close it before it can be opened by someone else. It's a huge pain, and something like Google Docs almost sounds too good to be true.

I would love to use this with other teachers, but there is the added wrinkle of it being online and requiring a login. Not a huge hurdle, but it might seem easier to save something to the school's network and leave it there for others to access.

It could also be a great tool for students entering data from a lab experiment and being able to work on it both individually and together without ever physically meeting. I know that would have been a huge help in some college courses.

Thing 15

Ok, I didn't think I would say this, but RSS has really taken over how I read daily websites. The only problem I have with it now is still the big reason I stopped using it years ago. Mainly, I just discovered that I had missed the last few posts at a webcomic I read. A huge deal? Probably not, but it's frustrating that I'm still having basic problems counting on the service to do what it's supposed to.

I will admit, subscribing to a tag in Delicious is appealing. A random assortment of sites on a common theme. It seems like more of a time waster than anything else, but a good way to find new things to read online.

Thing 14

Like I mentioned in the last post, I used under it's old name, way back in 2005. My account is still valid (bfuller181), so I was interesting to get a glimps of websites I followed 4 years ago that I haven't looked at since.

In my brief reacquiantance with the service, I'm still not convinced. I think it could be useful for a group environment like a classroom, but I'm not about to upend the way I bookmark sites for personal use.

I think the technology is amazing, but it's one of those services that I find myself just not caring that much about how someone else tagged a certain site. I'm sure it's just one of those things that's difficult to adjust to because I'm set in my ways.

Thing 13

Tagging is another one of those Web 2.0 things I've just never gotten into. I tried to use the Firefox extension for tagging bookmarks, but I felt it was too cumbersome. I now use another Firefox extension that keeps your bookmarks saved to an external server, so you simply need to log in to an account to retrieve your bookmarks just as they appear on your home computer.

I think tagging can be useful for pictures and even for blog posts, but I never actually use it. I prefer using text based searches when I'm looking for something specific. For example, I used to tag blog posts, but I realized that I never went back and clicked on the tags, so I was really wasting my time.

I could see how tagging might be important if I was creating online content for others to use however. Tagging could make information much easier to reach for students looking through a large website. It's certainly something to think about.

Thing 12

I'm having trouble embedding the code. Everything seems to be pasted fine, but Blogger doesn't want to show the widget in preview, and when I go back to edit it, the code is gone. I've tried added widgets from a variety of sites with no luck. Also, using Blogger's gadgets didn't really work - most of them seemed to have errors and couldn't be used until fixed. I will try to edit this post when I get home and use a different computer.

I prefer to think of online relationships as supplement to the face-to-face variety. I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family around the country, not so much to use it to create new relationships.

I think kids are drawn to social networking sites for the same reasons kids talk and pass notes in class - they enjoy socializing. This is just another form of an old habit.

EDIT: For whatever reason, if I publish without switching Blogger back to "Compose" or "Preview" the widget works just fine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thing 11

I've mentioned this before, but I hate any site that allows anonymous commenting. I feel that users should be required to sign in (even if not done publicy) before commenting to weed out spamming computers as well as internet "trolls" who seem to enjoy putting other people down from the safety of their computer chairs.

When I kept a blog detailing my experiences dealing with the teacher certification process here in MI, I would often get random comments from readers and I absolutely loved it. Like most bloggers, I was really writing it for myself, but to know that a) others were reading it and 2) others were enjoying it made me feel like I was putting my time to good use. 

Commenting is an extremely important tool for educational use. In the one online class I've taken, commenting played a major role. Because we were using a university maintained community, we were posting under our own names, but the distance introduced by using the internet allowed people to speak their mind without actually being anonymous.

I'm not sure how well commenting would work in a class where the students see each other in person everyday, but I feel it would be worth a try. 

Thing 10

One of my favorite YouTube school related videos was done by a teacher demonstrating a piece of equipment that involved burning propane and felt it was best to not bring it to school. 

Most kids will swear it's faked when they watch it the first time because it's so eye-catching. It's a great video and worthy of more press than it gets. 

As mentioned in Thing 9, I am capable of downloading, converting, and burning YouTube videos to DVD. It just takes a while. 

Thing 9

The biggest problem I have with YouTube is the same problem I have with most websites that allow commenting - anonymous commenters. For whatever reason, people have assumed the internet should be a refuge for people that lack the courage to openly speak their mind and have an unalienable human right to comment anonymously on websites.

Like most twenty-somethings, I've logged many hours surfing YouTube (never on company time, of course). Watching episodes of "You Can't Do That On Television," old music videos, and various home movies of people falling down. What's great about YouTube is that you don't need to be looking for anything in particular to be entertained for hours - just click around and follow responses to other videos. 

My district does block access to YouTube from the school's computers, but I've learned how to download the Flash video files that YouTube uses and convert them to a usable mpeg for viewing on other machines. It's a pain, but it gets the job done in a pinch.

Thing 8

I started with this idea from a web comic called xkcd that I read. The author is an avowed math & physics nerd, so many of his comics have references to science. I took that idea and turned it into a fake motivational posted using Automotivator, a site I've used for similar projects. 

This is the end result:

I love playing with stuff like this. I'm not generally a creative type in that I do not create things from scratch, but given a chance to stand on the shoulders of others, I can usually create some interesting images.

The Automotivator is one of my favorites for its ease of use. It would be great to have students play with it for a while and they could simply email the pictures to be display on the classroom projector without wasting paper & ink.

The montager was amazing for how quickly it pulled together so many images. I don't see using it in the classroom as anything more than a "this is one of the things that's out there" demo, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Not necessarily photo-related, but I wanted to decorate my classroom with science related quotations. To add a personal touch, I typed up the quotes in my own handwriting using my tablet laptop. Not everyone noticed, but the kids that did were that much more intriqued to know what you could do with the right tools. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Thing 7

Think of ways you may be able to use Flickr in the classroom or in your work and share your ideas. What issues might you face?

The first idea that comes to mind is a sort of physics photo contest. The AAPT (American Association of Physics Teachers) sponsors a physics photo contest that encourages students to capture live physics in action and explain the phenomenon in simple terms. I could use Flickr to do much the same thing and give the students a common place to view and comment on the work of their peers.

Copyright issues are the biggest obstacle to dealing with putting pictures on the internet. For starters, how could I be sure that pictures being submitted by students were taken by them? Privacy issues are another concern. If students take pictures of other students, how do I check that proper authorization was given to publish those photos online?

As with any new technology, it is my job to ensure that I don't simply rush headfirst into something I might not understand. I have to make sure that any assignment utilizing Flickr is valid and enhances the students' education while also weighing the privacy concerns and copyright considerations involved. It's something to think about for the spring when I have time for students to fill after AP exams.

Thing 6

Why did you choose a particular photo? What is it about the photo that you found interesting?

I searched for photos tagged 'physics' and it returned a wide variety of results. I chose the picture I did because it's indicative of how a lot of physics students feel about the subject. A dizzying array of equations to memorize and not much understanding going on. If I used that picture on a flier to recuit students into my class, I'd be downsized due to lack of interest.

Presumably, this picture was taken in a college physics course. I say that because of the complexity of some of the equations and my own personal experience with the nature of college physics. A lot of knowing, not much understanding.

Originally, I told people I wanted to teach physics because it meant I got to deal with the oldest students in a high school (physics is usually an 11th or 12th grade course), but as I finish my first year teaching, I realize that's not the case. In hindsight, it might be more fun to teach younger students and get the chance to excite them about science in stark contrast to the physics this picture represents.

Thing 5

RSS can be a difficult concept for some to grasp right away - what questions do you have? What didn't work or doesn't make sense? How might you use RSS in your personal or professional life? Find anything in your searching that you'd recommend to others?

I've been using Bloglines for a few weeks now and I think it's finally grown on me. The biggest gripe I have is that not every site I read regularly uses RSS, and even some that do only provide links to the updates (the updates themselves do not get fed into an aggregator like Bloglines).

Professionally, I could use RSS to keep me up to date on education related blogs I read. Or, I could have the students use RSS to follow the newsletter blog on the class website. It's a fairly simple and straightforward technology to use, so I'm confident the students could manage it. Bloglines is a good choice because it's not something that needs to be downloaded, so students that use a public computer like at the library can still take advantage of it.

I haven't found anything of great value yet, mostly just comics and entertainment sites I read, but I would readily share anything I found if I felt others could use it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thing 4

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of blogs out there - how do you handle information overload and how do you think RSS might help with that?

I tried to get into RSS a few years ago when I had an extremely dull desk job staring at a computer screen 8 hours a day. For whatever reason, it never took. I think I liked being able to manually navigate through my favorite websites at my leisure. Additionally, this was at a time when RSS hadn't conquered every facet of our existence, so there were a lot of websites that I read that weren't not syndicated.

In principle, I love the idea of RSS, especially with the idea of using blogging as an assessment tool with RSS to provide notification of the updates.

I don't mind the "information overload," but I enjoy spending huge amonuts of time with a computer on my lap. I take my personal laptop to school, and I even carry a cellphone capable of reaching the internet just to be sure I'm never too far from the www. RSS could certainly help focus my energy on the important sites for those times when I'm being stretched a little thin. I just hope this time around is better than the last.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thing 3

How might a blog support the work you do? How might you use a blog with students? How might they respond to a blog assignment? What concerns do you have about educational blogging?

Right now I know I'm only using my class website and blogs for the simplest purposes (links to class notes, daily schedules, homework assignment listings, etc), and I still don't think many students take advantage of it.

Ideally, I would like to use the class website to extend learning outside the school day. I could probably implement a blog assignment in one or two of my classes, but most of my students lack the basic skills and resources to take advantage of such and assignment.

From the personal blogging aspect of things, I've had to take many precautions to keep my online presence private from my students. The simplest idea is to censor myself in what I write online, whether I think anyone is reading or not. I can also lock blog posts to prevent the public from seeing them, but search engines love to catch things like that and hold on to them.

I used to keep a blog detailing my experiences with the teacher certification process, but I abandoned it after I realized that all I did was complain. Anyone who's been through the process knows its flaws, and I wasn't adding much of substance to the discussion.

I know there are better uses of the technology out there and I'm looking forward to learning them.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thing 1 and Thing 2

It was suggested by a coworker that I participate in 23 Things because I am a new teacher who is moderately tech-savvy. I'm already familiar with many of the "things" we will be learning about, but I lack the ideas on how to implement the technology into the classroom.

Thing 1 was interesting, but contained very little new information for me. I've heard many of those statistics before, and I often find myself disagreeing with many of the assumptions made by the argument that technology is the only way to teach today's youth.

The biggest problem I'm worried about with my students is that many of them do not have access to technology (cell phones, computers, high speed internet, etc) and would be left out of curriculum changes based on the assumption that they do. Secondly, those that do have limited access to technology often have little more than a casual understanding of how to use it. For example, students might be familiar with how to use a word processor on a computer, but often lack the ability to properly type in a URL and rely on Google to find the websites they need. Finally, the assumption that simply integrating technology into a class will somehow magically transform students into self motivated learners is the most troubling for me. I worry that the huge time investment this kind of curriculum requires carries an enormous risk of backfiring if not successful. By that I mean, after spending days or weeks of a technology-related project, if students fail to take it seriously, then we simply lose that much classroom time.

I realize it may sound as though I'm entering this project with the preconceived notion that it will not work. I'm hoping to gain valuable knowledge here that I may be able to use in the future, or with certain classes that are mature enough to handle the increased responsibility.

Finally, I've kept and maintained a private blog for years. About 2 months into my student teaching experience, my students found it and I was forced to take steps to "privatize" my online self. Even now, I have to be concerned with what I write for fear of what coworkers who are reading may see. I don't worry too much about repercussions from my administration because I am careful with what I am putting online, but I do worry about how our society feels that a person's private online life can be applied to their professional performance.