End of the Semester Reflection

In September I would have said it was not possible to utilize cell phones in a classroom, but now I know it is.  I also know that I want to have my students use cell phones is class.  This way they know how to use them for research and education, too.

As this semester comes to a close, I have been reflecting back on everything that I have learned during it.  The most important thing that I have learned would have to be how to incorporate technology into lessons.  This way I can help my students not only learn physics but also how to use technologies that they will need to know for their future employments.

Even though this semester is at its end, I hope to still explore technology while I continue to grow as a teacher.  I especially want to explore more educational technologies (specifically Google and wikis) in-depth and discover their uses to teaching physics.

This semester in CEP 416 has really sparked my interest in educational technology to the point that I am really thinking about getting a Masters degree in Educational Technology.

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Polling Revisited

Last week I searched for an online polling system that allowed responses to be sent via text messaging.  The main site I found was polleverywhere.com.  I thought it was a great site, but after looking into the cost, I would not use it.  So, I spent this week looking for a cheaper or free polling system that allows text messages responses.  Thus, I found smspoll.net.

 This website is free up to 15 votes per poll, but if you have five classes of 30 students you would need to pay $50 per month.  This cost is definitely a set back, but the system even proves itself better than polleverywhere.com.

Polleverywhere.com does not allow you to do much beyond type the question and multiple choice answers, whereas smspoll.net allows you to select if you want to allow multiple votes from the same person.

Another great feature I liked about smspoll.net was the ability to download the results into a spreadsheet.  So in between classes, you can download the results and then clear the poll within a few minutes (depending on your computer).  When I talk about clearing a poll I mean that you are deleting the votes and preparing the poll for a new set of votes.  Another way to use this is to download the results from a poll at the beginning of the hour and then once you clean the poll you give it again to see if there were any changes in how the students voted.

Polls

In college, I have used multiple different types of clickers.  They have provided a way for some professors to take attendance, award extra credit, and track participation points.  All of these are great since each of those classes had at least 100 students.  In a high school class of maybe 30 students, I cannot see buying a clicker system and a clicker for each student, nor could I ask the students to buy their own clickers.  So, there has to be a way to take the idea of a clicker, but that is cheaper.  Enter polleverywhere.com.

This site allows me to create polls with a minimal fee.  It also makes it so my students can text in their responses.  This is great since almost every student has a mobile phone.  If they don’t have a phone, then they could use a computer to answer as well.

One biggest downfalls that I can see with using this type of polling is that not everyone has a cell phone and may not have enough computers in the classroom to allow access for all students.  This could be fixed by just having the students work in groups and then one person in each group either texts or selects online the group’s choice.

Another downfall I can see is that fact the polling is private.  Thus, as the instructor, I would not be able to see who all completed the poll.  The only way I could see possibly all who responded is by comparing the number of students in the room to the total number of responses.

Beyond the difficulties that arise using these types of polls, I think I would like to use them in my future classrooms.

Wiki

Wikis.  I have heard about them throughout my time in the educational program at Michigan State University, but I never used one until I took CEP 416.

Wikis are not like Weebly websites or blogs.  They are more like a workspace rather than a place with just information or to make comments.  In other words, websites only allow one person to make changes to the page and a blog only allows you to comment on whatever the author wrote.  A wiki allows all those with editing permission to make changes to it.  Thus, it is a great collaboration tool.

Since wikis are great collaboration tools, I could use them better than a class website (like angel).  I can make a page for class discussion where my students can collaborate on homework or on that days topic. An issue that may arise is that someone posts the just the answers or it ends up being used more as a social site rather than an educational page.

Wikis can provide me with a way for my students to show me their work by just posting a link to it similar to what my CEP 416 class does.  We do the assignment and then post a link in the grid next to our name.  The main issue with this is that any student can edit anything on the page.  So, they could potentially delete someone’s assignment.

Currently, I created a wiki about Camtasia, the computer program I talked about a couple of weeks ago.  If you are interested in checking this wiki out please click the image at the beginning of this post.

Viddler

This week I looked into viddler.com. I heard about this through the Educational Technology confrence a few weeks ago. It is currently being used by those secondary education students in their intership year, since their classes are hybrid. It is way for the students to still feel connected to their classmates even though they are not meeting weekly at MSU.

Viddler allows its users to post their own videos and make comments. I think the comment feature is sweet. You can either scroll below and type a normal comment or leave a video comment. The part I like is you can click on the time lne below the video at a specific spot and then make a comment their. Once again you can do either a text or a video comment. Another nice feature about viddler is it is free and you can set your privicy settings.

A problem I had with viddler was the uploading took so long. I waited the better part of an hour to upload the video. Plus, the site says they allow many more types of files, but upload went faster if you use one of the files types listed.

Viddler is a great tool if you are teaching a hybrid class or an online class. Since it brings the students together and doesn’t make them think they are completely alone while taking this class.

Out of School or In School Suspension?

In many schools we punish drugs, weapons, and assault with out of school suspension.  Is that really the best form of punishment for students?

Based on conversations I have had with those that have received out of school suspension, their punishment appears to be more of a blessings.  Many students would prefer to stay at home all day or in some cases they may need more time to work. 

If you look at this type of suspension from an educational view it appears to be more harmful to them.  Stereotypically, many of the students who receive out of school suspension are struggling students.  They need additional help in school, not more time out of it.  When we give out of school suspension, are we not conveying to these students that sorry we tried to help you but we give up?   How many of these students have also had that type of family life? 

I think an alternative to out of school suspension is in school suspension.   In my high school, you spent the entire school day in a room with a supervisor, who made sure you were quiet and completed all of your school work that your teachers sent down.  If you missed a day of in school suspension you either received more in school suspension or then you got out of school suspension.  The in school suspension allows students a second chance and doesn’t look like the school system has given up on them.  So, why can’t it be used more instead of out of school suspension, especially for a first offense?

Camtasia

Over the weekend I attended a workship about Camtasia. This is a wonderful program. One of the greatest ideas I came up with was using it to give instruction on an assignment. You can do this up and post it on the class website after class so if students can’t remember how or what they were suppose to do, they can access this file and know. This would also be a great tool for an on-line class for the same reason.

The problems that I had with Camtasia was it’s not a free program. So, if you’re on a budget I don’t suggest you get this program. Another problem, was during my edits I would have to split some shots inorder to delete them. As I moved on and continued my edit, I would find that my first split had changed slightly. I am sure it was something I did, but it was kind of frustrating.

I know it was my first time doing this, but if anyone else trys this, I highly suggest having a script and every screen you need opened. I had issues with both those things, which made the editing part take a few hours.

Using Google Docs

Looking through the templates on Google Docs I found one that would be great for my teaching. It was a monthly calendar. During high school I had one teacher who handed each student a monthly schedule of the things that we would be covering each day. This was a wonderful way for the students to be prepared for class each and everyday. So, using what my teacher had done for me and using Google Docs I could have a monthly calendar done up for my classes and available for each of them on the web when I share the document with my students. I also want the parents to know what is going on in my class so I would share the calendar with them, too.

Another way to work with calendars and Google is to use Google calendar.  If students have a gmail account you can create a classroom calendar.  Then they will be able to access it on in their emails and on their mobile phones.  You can also embed it into your class webpage.

One other application I found was Custom Search Engines through Google.  They are a great way to have students do a research paper while limiting the sources they can use.  This is great way for them to build their research skills in determining good sources.  Once you create the search engine you can embed it to the class webpage.

Computer Problems…

computer laptop keyboard HP Pavilion Entertainment PC

CC by-sa photo by GoodNCrazy

This week I have spent almost 3 days without a functioning computer and almost 5 hours of my life in the school computer help center. And I learned only two things from this:
1) Always back up your files on an external drive of some kind
2) Always take my computer problems to the Geek Squad

Basically, I spent the beginning of the week with a computer that wouldn’t even turn on. So, the help center suggested that I upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7. This did work, but it caused another big problem.

While it was great having my computer on it sucked that I could not access any of my work, which was all on-line. The following day I went back to the help center. That was a big mistake! They couldn’t even tell me what was wrong with my computer. The only thing they seemed sure of was that it was not a firewall problem. They suggested I leave it for the computer repair people, but I have to pay for that and when you don’t know what is wrong. God only knows how long they could take. Plus, everyone made it sound like my computer was just going to be useless unless I got it repaired. If I got it repaired that could end up costing me just as much as a new computer.

Among all my frustration I called my mother saying I may need to start looking for a new computer. Of course it was my mother who gives me the best advice: take it to the Geek Squad and get an estimate from them. So, off I went to the Geek Squad and they said that I shouldn’t have had to install Windows 7. But the new problem I encountered after the installation, they were able to fix my computer within 15 minutes and it was free. And wouldn’t you know it the problem was a firewall.

I know the computer help center tried to help me and I am grateful, but I think I am only going to let those that have experience working on technological malfunctions work on my computer because I don’t have the time nor the patience to deal with this type of thing ever again.

In the end, I know have Windows 7 (which is great by the way!) and my computer can access the internet. If for some reason you have issues with your computer, I highly recommend taking it to the Geek Squad.

How do teachers motivate students to achieve?

Motivation

CC by-sa licensed photo by PaDumBumPsh

In an English class I observed in last week, the teacher not only encourages the students to do above and beyond the required work, but she requires it for students to get an A.  I think this is a great motivation to students.  It tells students that there are some people in this world that have high expectations in life for you.  For many students they need this because they may not get this kind of push at home, while others this is something that the students hear at home from their parents or legal guardians.  I really think that the best kind of teacher is the one that not only tries to teach their subject but tries to help the students build character.

My only problem with this is how it would play out in say an inner city school.  For example, the physics class I observed in this week.  From the conversations I have over heard the students talking about they all generally care about passing the class, but it doesn’t seem to matter what grade they are passing with.  On top of that, this caring about their grades didn’t even seem to appear until the last couple of weeks.  Is it because the semester is coming to a close soon?  Whatever it is, it makes me wonder if a teacher were to try an implement the grading that the English class has into the physics class, would those students then really care about their grades from the beginning of the semester on?

So, I wonder what would the students do if you take the English teacher’s grading style, of required work gets you a B and only extra credit will get you to an A, and begin the semester with multiple extra credit options (most of which are not just a one day assignment, but ones that take a few days to complete) and begin to diminish the number of extra credit options as the semester comes to a close?  Would this motivate the students to begin caring about their grade at the beginning of the semester or would it deter them from even attempting to get an A?

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