Thursday, July 28, 2011

Setting the Stage Reflection

After re-reading my setting the stage post at the beginning of the course, I can't say that much has changed on the way of my technology philosophy. I still think that it is very important to integrate technology into the classroom. I still technology should only be used if it is an upgrade from what is already being done. One thing that has changed is my understanding of collaboration. I really enjoyed the discussion and sharing that took place on this course. I want to incorporate that principle into my classroom so that students spend more time building knowledge together. One other major change is that my toolbox has grown significantly. I know have a much better and broader understanding of how technology can be used to enhance learning.

Discussion Reflection

It was interesting to see what others thought about this course. As I mentioned in my post, the best part of the course for me was the discussion with other teachers. When I tell people that I'm taking courses online, they typically say something about how difficult that would be or how can you learn without face to face interactions. I've found this course to be a great learning experience. The give and take with the rest of my classmates has been very rewarding. After reading the D2L discussion, it reminded how valuable forums are. I plan on incorporating discussion board into my class more this year. I think this will increase the sharing of ideas. I've learned so much from my classmates here. I'm sure my students could get the same benefits from the same type of discussion.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Final Project

I have reworked my Moodle page. My goal was to make my Moodle page more interactive. I added the following things to my Moodle; a tutorial on Punnett squares using Jing, cell analogies collage using Glogster, a Moodle assignment where students upload their homework directly to the Moodle, two forums for class discussion, and a Twitter feed that provides current happenings in the science world. I created two Jing videos to show off my Moodle. Here is Part 1 and Part 2. I’ve also been working on setting up a Twitter account for classroom use. I’ve created a document about the use of Twitter in my classroom, and I’ve also collaborated with other teachers (through Twitter) about privacy and security when using Twitter for educational purposes. Here’s my previous blog post about using Twitter.

P.S. Sorry about the slurred speech on the Jing videos. I just had my wisdom teeth removed, ouch!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tool Exploration Week 6- Moodle

Because I decided to go with Moodle over blogs and wikis, I spent a majority of my exploration this week with Moodle. I want to learn more about Moodle so that it becomes more interactive instead of simply a place to store files. I went to and read through their hints as well as a few forum discussions in order to learn more about these tools. The majority of the tools I found pointless and to difficult to use, but there were several that I plan on using.

Moodle Assignments
The teacher can use this to create an assignment. Students can than upload their assignments right to the Moodle. This removes the need to collect papers. There are a couple of ways to set this feature up. One set-up allows the student to turn in a rough draft which then can be reviewed by the teacher. The student then corrects their work and submits a final draft. This feature sounds appealing to me. I think I will test it out sometime this year.

Moodle Forums
Forums are fairly straight forward. I plan on using forums a good bit this year to encourage discussion and the sharing of thoughts outside the classroom. The biggest thing that I need to develop is a policy on how they will be graded and what the expectations are.

Moodle Glossary
A glossary of vocabulary terms can be created on Moodle. This tool has several nice features. Students can create definitions for different vocabulary terms. Students can rate the definitions in order to decide which definition is the best. Using the tips section on Moodle’s help site, I came across some interesting ideas. The glossary can be separated into categories as the year progresses. Also, the class can be split up into different groups. One group will be responsible for defining terms while another group will be responsible for rating the definitions. I feel this is a great way for students to create their own definitions, evaluate the definitions they’ve created, and refine them. I plan on using this tool in my ninth grade general science course.

Moodle Quiz
Quizzes can be created on Moodle. The feature has a lot of flexibility and options. My favorite part of this feature is that it will grade the quizzes for you and provide quick item analysis. This would help give the teacher instant feedback on how the students are doing in class. Additional features include time limits, open and close time for the quizzes, and opportunities to retake quizzes.

Moodle Flashcards
The final feature I like is Moodle Flashcards. Students or teachers can create a set of flashcards that can be used for studying.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blogs, Wikis, and Moodle

The readings about Blogs and Wikis were very informative. I think both have a lot of uses in the classroom. The nice thing about these resources is that they can be used for a lot of things. The research provided in the slideshow was excellent. Posts and discussions on blogs and wikis lead to increased research by the students, increased discussion, increased collaboration, and increased face to face participation. I’ve noticed this through my own personal experience. I’m a relatively shy person. When I was in high school I dreaded being embarrassed by giving a wrong answer or asking a “dumb” question. Even today, I’m more likely to ask for help from other teachers when I have time to write out my questions and thoughts (which is easily done online). For that reason, I love using my blog and Twitter as a place to discuss teaching ideas.

In terms of preference, I think both have their benefits. Blogs are great for reflection and discussion, while wikis have a little more flexibility and allow for more collaboration. Personally, I prefer blogs. Wikis seem bulky to me for some reason. I think it would take more time to get the students used to a wiki as well. Blogs are very easy to start and use. At my school district, we are required to have a Moodle for each one of our classes. For those of you not familiar with Moodle, this is a site that can pretty much do all these things. The site can be used to host documents, videos, pictures, links, forums, and quizzes. It also has blogging and wiki capabilities. Because it does do all of these things, the resources aren’t top notch. You can’t create a blog as nice as the ones we’ve created for this class. It does have its limitations. I need to explore the blog and wiki capabilities of Moodle a little more before I decide whether to create a blog through Moodle or just put a link to a blog on my Moodle. If anyone has used the blog or wiki functions on Moodle before, let me know what you think.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

QR Codes

I read about QR codes a couple of weeks back thanks to a comment on Twitter. I wasn't particularly interested the first time around. I had some extra time this week at our Tech Camp, so I explored it a little more. Here's a link to a livebinder that will give all the explanation you need about QR codes. It also has examples of how to use it in class. I found most of the applications to be not that helpful. I'm going to share two applications that I see using QR codes for. First, I like the idea of having a paperless answer key to go with a worksheet. A QR code can be placed on the worksheet. When a group of students have finished their work, they can check their answers can be scanning the QR code with their phones. Now, they will have access to a paperless answer key. Here's a very simple example of a QR code that I linked to a GoogleDoc. If you scan this image with an app on your smart phone, it will send you to an answer key.  

The second option is adding QR codes to things like posters and science fair boards that the students have created. The QR codes can link to YouTube videos of the students explaining their projects. I don't know if I will incorporate it into my class this year or not, but it definetly interesting learning about.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Twitter Update

I've mentioned earlier on my blog that I want to incorporate Twitter into my classroom this year. I went ahead and created a handout for my students to give them an initial idea of the role Twitter will play in the classroom. Here is a link to the handout I created: Use of Twitter. It is still a work in progress, but I think it's a good start. Any suggestions and improvements are appreciated.

At a district workshop this week, I approached our IT coordinator with my handout and my ideas for using Twitter in the classroom. The IT coordinator seems excited about the idea and is a strong believer in it's use. She is worried a bit about our building principal buying into it. She approached him once before about Twitter and although he didn't completely dismiss it, he has concerns about student safety. I guess the worry is that people besides students and teachers will have access to what students are tweeting about. The IT coordinator is planning on meeting with the District Superintendent to discuss the idea of using Twitter in class. He's a very big proponent of technology, so we will see how things go. I just wanted to let people know about my experience with trying to integrate Twitter into my classroom. If you have any suggestions about selling my point to administrators or minimizing safety concerns, please post it here.

I think Twitter is a great resource, and I want to help students learn how to use it for educational purposes instead of frivolously following celebrities. It's been such a great learning tool for me that I feel obligated to share its benefits with my students.