Tech Play 4

It was a toss up this week with two choices but I went with option 2 mainly because I enjoyed Tech Play 3 last week and this seemed similar.  I also wanted to dive more into the content specific apps, namely science.  Though I am currently involved in administration and it has been at least four years since I was teaching in the science classroom I still care about science curriculum yet I haven’t dug much into the latest science related apps/tools currently available.  Here’s somethings I discovered.

The iSeismometer is not a new app by any stretch but would be very effective in teaching geology lessons in the realm of plate tectonics.  Students can watch a video about earthquakes, they can study up of seismographs and come away with some knowledge or they can experience a seismograph in their hands, create their own vibrations and observe the measurements.  Now this is not an actual seismometer but it gives students hands on experience and will enhance lessons regarding seismic waves and measuring earthquakes intensity.  You can also use it to measure sound waves if placed on a speaker and reflect on the differences between volume levels and bass vs. treble.

There is a plethora of astronomy apps, but an effective, user-friendly app I’ve observed used before is Sky Map.  This is used to navigate the night sky.  It can help you locate planets, star clusters, constellations.  It becomes very meaningful in conjunction with a science e-journal.  It can be difficult to yield positive results when giving students maps during the day and give them a night-sky assignment to do later that evening.  The sky many times looks totally different on that paper map and you cannot always be there to assist with sky markers and help identify what needs to be id’d.  Sky Map is the help you would give, but coming from their device.  There are far more sophisticated devices available but this is one of many that does not have much of a learning curve.  Another fun app is the ISS Detector that accurately alerts you as to when you can view the International Space Station orbiting overhead.  These are very flipped classroom friendly apps especially from the stand point of not being at school to observe the night sky.

Have you ever taught about specific animal characteristics like a bats use of echolocation?  A neat app that would help students get an idea of using sound waves to measure distance is  called Sonar Ruler.  Students can measure their distance from a wall or a large object when their device sends out a sound burst and then calculates how long the echo takes to bounce back.  When students can get hands on experience like the concept becomes way more real to them and will “stick” more often then not.

These were just a few of hundreds of helpful apps available in the science content area that will make science lessons/homework more meaningful.  Another great thing about these apps, especially in flipped classroom situations, is that families can get involved and that can make the experience more powerful for the students to see that mom or dad is interested in what they are learning.  I would encourage teachers to review their TEKS and research what apps could be used to enhance instruction in  and out of their classroom.

 

Week 5 Tech Play 3

What a fun tech play this week as we jumped headfirst into some “creativity tools”.  These tools made me jealous.  I would have been thrilled to release my creative energy and ideas by using these e-tools as a kid growing up.  I thought it was cool when my dad bought the TI-99 home computer in the early 80’s.  We thought we had something special.  My kids don’t know how blessed they are.  Two things that enamored me growing up were anything military and anything sports related.  I could not get enough media, specifically newspapers.  We had a subscription to the Tyler Morning Telegraph and that wasn’t enough for me.  I would dig up some coins and ride my bike downtown and try to find a stand with a Dallas Morning News still in it.  I love studying the newspapers.  If I found something interesting I would cut it out and collect it.  It was a type of creative outlet for me.

Researching these creative tools opened my eyes to some wonderful learning/creative opportunities for our present generation.  Before this assignment I never had played with the apps I reviewed, but I couldn’t stop thinking about activities that kids could do with each of them that would help them exercise creativity and grow as learners in the process.  I’m driving a group of GT students to the Ft. Worth Museum of Science and Natural History Tuesday and will speak to their teacher about some of the apps I reviewed this week, encouraging her to give the students access to some of them and report on the field trip experience.

I used the Bloom’s Taxonomy for iPads chart to locate some creativity tools.  Now, most of these tools have been out for a while but have been off my radar, so they are new to me.  I began on the “Evaluating” level of Bloom’s and first looked into an app called Zite.  This is an app that allows you to customize an e-magazine with current news and articles about the subjects you are interested in.  Very user friendly, this app is available for apple or android devices.  You can choose different topics from predetermined categories or a specific search you’ve done.  During the day Zite refreshes the articles, so you are always getting an updated magazine when you open it.  Zite collects data from millions of news sources.  Your e-magazine is Ad free so there is no worries about your students getting distracted by singles in their area that might be interested in them.

Flipboard is a similar customizable e-magazine app, in fact it has acquired Zite and will probably eventually merge the two products somehow.  With flipboard you can build your magazine by following topics of your choice, specific people like scientist, authors, lecturers, political figures, etc.  You can make multiple magazines under your account like a magazine over Space Exploration, or US Foreign Policy, The Texas Longhorns or the Newest Creative Apps, etc.  These two apps could be very useful to students to deeply follow their interest.  I loved it when a teacher allowed me to dig and dig deep into topics that interested me.  With independent study projects, these apps can flood a student with great resources.

Science 360 is another great research and discovery app more geared toward science.  When it opens up you see a great display wall of pictures that may have something to pique your interest.  It might be a link to an article or movie clip, but it is user friendly and kids could use it to dig into a plethora of data over subjects that they are hungry for.  I would use this in a science classroom and give students the tags to search for and let them go a discover what they can over a specific topic and create a Podcast over something new they have learned.  Creating a podcast would put you into the highest level of Bloom’s and there are some exciting apps on that level as well.

I’ll stick with the podcast thought with the use of this next app, Audioboom.  Audioboom makes podcasting so easy and lets you publish up to a 10 minute recording for free.  You need to set up a free account through audioboom.com, download the app, record and upload the content you’ve produced right to the web.  You can actually embed your podcast to your blog or wiki.  I am going to work more on this to share as an artifact by the end of EdTech 524.  Imagine being a student, feeling like a expert over a specific subject or interviewing others who are and you have the outlet to produce podcasts that others can link to and comment on.  I remember recording an interview with my grandpa about the great depression.  The recording is long gone, but what if I could have uploaded it to my audioboom channel to exist forever.  If this technology had existed when I was a kid then my kids could study it today.  This app really opens a creative door for our students.

The last two apps I want to review are Doink and Comic Book!.  Doink is an animation creation app that allows users to easily put together animations to publish online.  Very user friendly and can hook students quickly in my opinion.  You can draw as detailed as you like or simple stick figures, either way users can build some new skills that can allow them to express something they’ve learned or created.  Comic Book! is an app that will allow you to upload photos or take photos and turn them into a comic-art format complete with speech bubbles, thought clouds and even segmented pages.  This would be a creative way for students to document or chronicle an event they participated in or make an essay/story they wrote come to life.

When we talk about assessment, too many times we think about standardized test and we forget about the power of a students creative product.  Students will get more out of producing a creative product using the apps I shared then they would through a classic fill in the bubble exam.  Each have their place, but it is so important to know your students learning styles and be diverse in the way you reach them.

Ed Tech Week 4

This week I worked to set up my e-portfolio further and publish the first draft of my Ed Tech Philosophy.  I look forward to reviewing my peers’ work this week as we explore each others philosophies.  I am frustrated right now with setting up my portfolio.  It is simply not as I envisioned it would look.  I chose to go with Wikia.com last week and at about the middle of this week I began to regret it.  The layout just looks messy to me and I can’t seem to find out how to edit it.  It is a work in progress to say the least.  I am currently also working on a google site that could serve as my final e-portfolio if I can get it set up the way I envision the e-portfolio to look.  In a nutshell, I want the site to pop up with a homepage and easy to find page links (about me, philosophy, communication, etc) on the side.  We’ll see how things progress this week.  I could probably find exactly what I envision if I would be willing to shell out a little bit of money, but I’m just not ready to go to those lengths.  It hard being cheap sometimes.

Tech Play 2 Part Deux

This week I was introduced to e-portfolios.  I realize this isn’t brand new technology but it definitely changed my “folio thinking”.  I graduated from A&M-Commerce in 2000.  My first portfolio experience came through taking Elementary Education classes.  I do recall doing our mandatory portfolios.  We had giant three ring binders and we had to pack them full of lessons, papers, tests, journal entries, notes, etc.  I have to be honest, being the only guy in these courses, the portfolios seemed to be more about fluff than its actual contents.  I kinda viewed them through the same lens as scrapbooking.  Obvious that was not the intention of the standard portfolio.  Ironically, I found my ELED portfolio last week while going through my childhood home.  Its been vacant for years, not much remains, just some stuff in each room, but on a bookshelf sat that giant three ring binder whose rings didn’t always line up right.  I thought, “man what a waste of time.”  Why did I think that?  Because I simply didn’t value it.

After researching e-portfolios this week, I really had my eyes opened up.  This is on a different plane.  Do to advancements in technology we can now store thousands of HD photos and hours of video on disks smaller than our thumbnails.  We can back up computers on drives smaller than our thumbs.  This erases the clutter of the former portfolios I experienced 15 years ago.  This is not merely a collection of documents we are talking about.  I like what Lorenzo and Ittleson said in their Overview of E-portfolios, “E-portfolios encourage personal reflection and often involve the exchange of ideas and feedback.” This is a tool of communication, learning and assessment.  Someone in France and in Australia can access my e-portfolio while I sit in Texas.  There is no snail mail, phone calls, faxing necessary.  No delays.  If I’m seeking employment or acceptance into a school, data I created over a long or short period of time, using different applications, anything from audio-visual to text based, has been collected and can be accessed with an internet connection.

Having a role now in hiring teachers, I know first hand how misleading transcripts, test scores, resumes and letters of recommendations can be.  Much of that is very superficial and doesn’t guarantee you really know who you are hiring.  I believe a well built e-portfolio can assist in the hiring process greatly.  The contents of an e-portfolio can give you more detailed insight into how a person thinks, feels and operates.  Their attitudes and abilities can be spotlighted and be less of a mystery.  I can see test score and grades and possibly see that someone is a good test taker, or I can watch some videos from someone’s e-portfolio that reveals how they manage a classroom.  That kind of documentation matters more to me.  I can look into their e-portfolio and see projects they completed while working as a team with other students or with other colleagues.  This is more relevant to me and give me more depth to an individual.

I feel that I’ve covered the affordances of e-portfolios.  The ability to self-document electronically from not only K-12, but through college, career and beyond, without clutter, cannot be understated.  I will seek to start with a small nucleus of teachers to begin e-portfolios with their students. Specifically, my G/T teacher, because many of their projects would translate into e-portfolios and we could began tracking their academic products from elementary to graduating seniors and beyond if they so choose.

After working with a few e-portfolios this week I settled on Wikia.com and quite frankly I’m still trying to figure it out.  I’m still a little confused on what my address is. Hopefully I’ll get all that worked out soon.  I also looked into a very promising site called PBworks.com.  It looked very user friendly and very professional, offering of course a global, collaborative learning environment.  It was very slick, modern, trendy but in the end I read the line, “Get started for free!”  Which ultimately means you will end up paying in the end.  I’m not ready for that kind of investment yet, but I do see the upside and potential of e-portfolios now.

My e-portfolio link:  edtech524.wikia.com

Tech Play 1 Assignment

I have been fully aware of blogging for years.  I’ve read many for enjoyment, research and even time wasting.  This is my first involvement though from the perspective of the blogger, the one pouring out his thoughts, passions, information and ideas into the world wide web.  I must admit even as I type this, I am the individual who would have to have his arm twisted to start a blog.  If it is seen that this assignment is “arm twisting” then so be it, but I really feel it will be beneficial personally and professionally to finally stop being simply a blog reader and evolve into a blogger.  So thank you Dr. Larkin for the challenge.

I began trying out different blog sites this week.  My intent was to find one that was free and user friendly, the common parameters for most of us I would assume.  The first one I came across was “Svbtle” and I thought I hit a home run.  It was sleek, modern and so simple, yet it was not free.  I signed up for a couple more to play with including “Penzu” and “Tumblr” but I never really felt comfortable with their format for blogging.  It probably had more to do with me rather than the sites’ features, but I truly felt that if this blog was something that I would be working on weekly then I should feel a level of comfort with it.  I don’t know if it was my computer that is in bad need of an update or my wife taking up the majority of our bandwidth streaming “Downton Abbey”, but I could never register for “blog.com” or “blogger.com” despite a few attempts.  That brought me to “wordpress.com”, the site I should have went to first.  I found it to be very user friendly and free..so far.

I see improved communication (promoting my vision/getting the word out) as a major affordance of blogging, especially in my new position.  As a principal, communication is something I have learned to be paramount and the more clearer I can communicate my thoughts the easier it is to get my vision across to my staff, students and community.  One might argue that blogging is only one sided communication, but that isn’t necessarily the case.  There can still be dialogue promoted and thoughts provoked through a blog.

TPACK:

Content- Currently, I send out a weekly email I call the “Panther Press”.  It could be described a one page e-newsletter.  It contains duty reminders for staff, weekly event schedule and reminders, important dates to remember and a short positive reflection/motivational paragraph from me.  While it gives the basics for what the parents and staff need to know, it doesn’t allow room for me to promote my philosophy and vision to the community and staff on a consistent basis.  A blog affords you the canvas to express your ideas and back it up with data, facts, videos, testimonies, etc., all-the-while keeping that information available and catalogued as weeks, months and years go by. The Panther Press reaches only a small percentage of parents who choose to sign up for it.  It is possible that a blog would not garner much more attention, but I don’t want to be that short-sighted because on the positive it could spread like wildfire and give the community and staff greater insight into my passion for our school.

Pedagogy-  To my knowledge, no one on my staff has a blog (outside of their Pintrest boards) that is related to their instruction, classroom vision/activities or teaching philosophy.  I would like to lead by example and provide a level of professional expectation in the blogosphere, thus leading to individual teachers or grade-level departments producing their own blogs.

Technology-  Every staff member, including myself, is equipped with the necessary technology to produce a blog.  Time is the only excuse that could be used in avoidance of blogging.  In reality, through my observations, I see so much time getting wasted on meaningless stuff that sometimes that excuse just doesn’t hold water for me.  I would like to see my communication advance with a blog and eventually lead others to do the same.

Tech Review: CK-12 Foundation: Differentiated, Curated STEM Content

Solve4Why

I am the most evil science teacher in the history of science teachers. I’ve assigned HOMEWORK over Spring Break!! *gasp*

I discovered CK-12 several months ago as an app on Edmodo, where it seamlessly integrates into the LMS.  CK-12 is a learning platform that takes the notion of differentiate instruction VERY seriously.  Started as a repository for online science and math textbooks, it has evolved into a technology driven, open source learning tool that is easy to navigate, customize and distribute to students.

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