Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Just the beginning

This may be the end of the class, but it's not the end of my blogging.  If anything, this class has been an introduction to blogging (among other things).  I've learned a lot from my classmates as well as other ed tech bloggers out on the web. The sharing and melding of ideas is a powerful thing and one I think can be a valuable resource throughout the rest of my teaching career. What I've loved about graduate school thus far is that the things I've learned here have real world applications.  Blogging and mini-blogging (twitter) can have such a prominent place in the classroom that I almost don't know how we did without.  What hit home most for me was our Smartnotebook section.  I know many teachers, myself included, used our smartboards like glorified projectors or fancy blackboards.  They can do a lot more than show videos and take notes.   The tools available to us can impact our instruction and help students better grasp a lesson.

At the beginning of this class I wrote how the teachers I used to work with didn't embrace technology the way I thought they should.  I think that's because they haven't seen the many poweful applications certain technologies can have in a classroom.  Perhaps I have to lead by example and show everyone firsthand what blogging, RSS, sourceforge, wikis, PBL's, webquests, and Smartnotebook can do.  Lets do this thing!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Implications for Education

This first aritcle I read, Good video games and good learning by James Paul Gee, had some interesting ideas.  As an avid gamer myself I've often thought about implications gaming can have on education.  The impact doesn't necessiarly have to come from within the classroom, but outside the classroom where games are traditionally played.  Gee suggests that there is more to gaming than many first percieve and that they shouldn't be written off so quickly.  There's no denying that many games are non-sensical, violent escapes from reality, but those games do not define the entire medium.  Gee points out what he calls "learning principals" found in a variety of games that promote cognition, creativity, and ingenuity.  We should look to incorporate more of these ideas into our classrooms.  Gee mentions that retaining facts is simply not enough to help students become problem solvers.  A combination of critical thinking activities (often seen in games) and fact retention will help to create a more complete student.

Gee's other article, Welcome to our Virtual worlds, brings up some of the same issues as in the previous one.  At first he mentions the drop out rate of high school students, a staggering 50%, and then goes on to explain why this might be happening.  Our students are growing up in a digital world, but our schools don't always relfect the world they live in.  Gee says a way to better connect with studnets may be through video games.  He sites Sim City as a way to learn to manage fincances, get organized, and create a whole world from nothing.  The 21st century learning needs something more.  They need (and want to be) digitally literate in a word that expects nothing less. 



Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jeopoardy.....We meet again.

A few years ago, as a student teacher, I used Jeopardy as a means to review before an exam.  My class was reading "The Color of Water" and we had just reached the half way point.  I thought a review of the book would help students re-visit some of the key plot points and characters from the novel.  This book in particular is a little jarring because it leaps forward and backward in time introducing many characters and places in the process.

When I decided to use the Jeopardy format, the first thing I thought of was integrating a SMART BOARD.   It seemed like a natural fit for something like this.   My classroom was not outfitted with one unfortunately so I had to improvise.  (Even if there was a SMART BOARD, the Jeopardy program I checked out today probably wouldn't have even been available back then.)  Anyway, I ended up using a million notecards and hand writing every question and point amount.  It was tedious to say the least.  Not only that, but I also had to tape each card to the black board for each class. (Other teachers used my room so they had to come down in between periods). The actual game went fine, but the setup and preparation was unnecessarily tedious.

This is where the Jeopardy Template comes into play.  You can check it out here.


Everything is laid out for you.  Just enter the data (questions, answers and such) and you've got a quick game of Jeopardy.  What I love about using this as review (for any subject really)  is that its engaging.  What I noticed last time I did it was how excited student were to be in competition against one another.  A traditional review is flipped on its head and not only do students learn (many exceeded my expectations on the exam) they have fun in the process.  It's a good combo.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rigs of Rods

I tested a few open source programs while searching for just the right one to write about. First off , I was very impressed with the depth and variety of programs available to the masses. There's literally something for everybody, if time is taken to sort through everything.

I used sourceforge.net to look for programs. The first two I looked at were poertry generators. They aided students in finding words that rhymed based on what they had already written and in the proper context of the poem. Pretty impressive. I wanted something a little different though. Something that I normally wouldn't look into. What I found was Rigs of Rods.

Rigs of Rods is a physics based game that allows the user to drive vehicles on various terrain. The physics is what makes Rigs of Rods valuable in an educational setting. I think the simulator would pair well with a technology course. I could also see it being used in a shop or auto design class. Vehicles handle and perform as they would in real life and,based on the conditions in which they are being driven, operate differently. It reminds me of a simulation based game I used in technology. My classmates and I had to construct bridges in order for trucks to pass over a body of water. If the bridge was shoddily built then the truck and the bridge would collapse into the water. We had to consider weight, materials, and cost into our design. Although not as involved as that particular simulation, Rigs of Rods shares many of the same fundamentals.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Student Driven Web Tech Course

This week my inspiration came from WebTech1011.  This blogger runs a course concerning Web Technologies.  Mohamed, the blogger, explained how students were allowed to drive the course in terms of organization and assessment of assignments and projects.  Conducting class in this way can be positive for a variety of reasons.  It fits in with what we're doing with our PBL units.  We aim to get students to think and create rather than regurgitate information we throw at them.  Allowing students to think about what project to create, how to execute it and how their work should be judged will truly challenge them.  There is certainly much less control when you give students free reign over a project.  As long as we set certain parameters and make sure that students know what we expect (in terms of quality and completeness I suppose) then I think conducting class this way can be very successful.  Also, students tend to know a lot about emerging technologies.  They may surprise you with what they know and what they can create.  Check the link for the blog post.....


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mobile Education

This week I'm taking a look at a blog entitled "Effective Teaching, Quality Instruction, and Professional Development.  As indicated by the title, this blog covers a variety of topics focusing on technology's impact on education.  More importantly is how this technology is used.  How will teachers use newer technologies to connect with their students?  How will technology aid in the learning process?  What I found of personal interest in this blog is the bloggers awareness of mobile technologies and how important they are to the 21st Century Learner.

He is aware that the traditional classroom may be in jeopardy.  It's not a bad thing either.  Instead of just 45 minutes for a single period, mobile technologies allow for much more flexibility in one's learning.  With the rise of smart phones (and now even tablets) students can take their classes, books, news, etc..  with them in a single lightweight device.  It makes the learning process much less restrictive.  

In fact, this blogger suggests that reading on a tablet or smartphone is a much more economical and efficient means of delivering books.  Ebooks can be bought, shipped, and shared in a matter of seconds.  Mobile devices can (and in some ways already have) revolutionized how we acquire and read text.  That's just the beginning.  Check the link for more...

Also, in his full blog, he has a list of apps he uses on his iPad.  If you have one you may one to check some of them out.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wii Learn

I absolutely love this edublog.  I have a few passions in life and one of them is video games.  I was so enamored with emerging technology as a kid that video games and I just turned out to be a perfect fit.  Video games always seemed to be pushing the boundaries of what was possible and that got me excited.  The only problem is that playing video games remained a hobby.  It was just something to do in between all the school work.  This edu blog, "WiiLearn", seeks to meld the two in a way I thought impossible.  It's radical thinking to be sure, but to engage students and erase the lines between entertainment and education is sheer genius.

So, how are video games applicable to education at all?  Wii learn has a few answers.  The latest post provides information on how to use Wii Remotes to control a Smartboard.  The benefit?  Several students can interact with a Smartboard at once for quizzes, educational games, and competitive learning experiences.

Another post suggests video games are an emerging medium for storytelling.  Learning to write a successful narrative doesn't have to come only from literature or film.  Physical education is another beneficiary of the Wii.  Wii Fit (as well as  variety of other titles focused on fitness) can help promote healthy life styles and eating habits.  

The "Wii Learn" edublog is a bold way to look at education.  That's what I like about it.  I will continue to follow this blog's progress to see what other ways gaming can have an impact on education.  Check the link....