Integrating Science Instruction and Technology

There are many tools available to teachers who are interested in infusing technology into their instruction. Below are a few ideas that may help the science instructor.

Google Earth

This tool continues to grow in importance. At the most basic level, Google Earth allows teachers to guide their students through the exploration of the Earth. For science instructors, the potential is huge. Analyzing the theory of plate tectonics, surveying landforms, and studying weather patterns are only a few of the activities that Google Earth will put at your students’ fingertips. Add to this that you can create a custom tour and save it as a file, and you’ll find that Google Earth is one of those indispensable tools in the science classroom.

Edmodo

In these days in which Facebook is a household name, sites like Edmodo gain prominence. Using Edmodo as a learning management system is not far from your reach. The setup is minimal, because all you do is create a course (First Period, for example) and a code is generated. Give the code to your students, and they now may sign up on their own and join your group.

With Edmodo, teachers can send messages, alerts, links, assignments, quizzes, and polls to their students. Another great feature is the Library within Edmodo. This aspect may be used as a shared drive to upload to and share with students.

Don’t underestimate the value of Edmodo in the classroom.

Discovery Streaming

Many are familiar with this great tool, but not many of us use it to its full capacity. Besides the streaming videos that are available to you, there are also lesson plans, interactives, quiz builders, assignment builders, and the teacher resource center for instruction needs and also for professional development, only to name a portion of the resources at DS. Please see your campus librarian if you do not have your credentials to login.

Response Systems

Make raising your hand a lot more fun! Use one of the many response systems that are on the market. Some exist on campus (Turning Point Clickers available for check out in the library) and others are free online.

Some online possibilities are as follows:

Each of the above tools have varied learning curves and features offered. Make it your goal to use a couple of these in the classroom this school year.
 http://www.stanforddaily.com/2011/02/02/something-just-clicks-in-large-lectures/ 
 

 Google Docs

Google describes their product rather well…

What is Google Docs?

Google Docs is a suite of products that lets you create different kinds of online documents, work on them in real time with other people, and store your documents and your other files — all online, and all for free. With an Internet connection, you can access your documents and files from any computer, anywhere in the world. (There’s even some work you can do without an Internet connection!) This guide will give you a quick overview of the many things that you can do in Google Docs.

 
http://support.google.com/docs/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=49008
 

If you are interested in learning more about using Google Docs in the classroom, let me know, and I’ll give you credentials for you and your students to start using this robust technology tool.

 

Web 2.0

You’ve probably heard the term, but what does it mean, really? Web 2.0 is a term used to describe the next generation of the web. “Back in the day” we used to access the internet strictly for information. Now we can do that plus a whole lot more. We can interact with sites and leave with a product. That’s Web 2.0. That’s empowering students and teachers.

Below is a list of some various Web 2.0 tools you may find helpful or intriguing:

  •  Fodey – generate your own newspaper clipping
  • Lino It – online sticky note message board
  • Educreations – create your own screencast videos with a white board as a backdrop
  • Diigo – collect bookmarks, make annotations and highlights, and organize them in your own library
  • How Big Really – compare the size of events or places in our world and in space with our local zip code.

 

Don’t Forget About SMART!

Remember that you can visit the SMART Exchange and set up a free account. While there, be sure to search for ready-made SMART lessons that can be used with a SMART board, with a slate, or simply with a laptop or desktop. There are many excellent lessons already designed that may be downloaded, saved, and changed to fit your TEKS. Visit the SMART Exchange today!

 

 

Creating a Tour in Google Earth

Screen Shot 2012-07-23 at 11.16.12 AM 2

The following series of videos will demonstrate how to create folders within Google Earth that will allow you or your students to take a virtual tour of the earth. Enjoy.

 

The next video that will take you on a tour of our Texas towns, and show how to adjust the tour settings.

The next video will explain how to add a link and a curriculum-related question to one or all of your Texas towns placemarks.

Watch the next video to learn how to place an image on a placemark, so that it will display as the student travels through the tour.


This video will describe how to change the label on a placemark as well as change the view of a placemark as seen on the tour.

This video will show you how to embed a video from YouTube or SchoolTube into Google Earth placemarks to make a Google Earth Documentary.

The final video in the series will show you how to turn all your work into a .kmz file that can be emailed to others or dropped into the student shared folder, or even uploaded to your teacher web. All these options make your tour available to others.

 

My Apologies…One last video. This one will show you how to direct your students to view the tour.

 

Using Audacity

Here is a screencast that will show you how to use Audacity to produce an mp3 file that could be burned to a CD or shared in Windows Media Player directly from your computer.

You could also use that MP3 file to import into presentations in Moviemaker, PowerPoint, or even into a Web 2.0 site like Animoto.

I used Jing to make the screencast.

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Why I Think Wikis are Way Cool

I recently made the observation that my children gravitate toward digital games like Oregon Trail and others that allow users to build their own “worlds.” I asked them what they like most about these games, and their replies were as such:

I like that you can build things.

I like that you can move around and do things.

I like that you can move everywhere.

It seems the essence of what they enjoy about these games can be distilled to two big ideas: FREEDOM and WORK.

How can those two words be in the same sentence, you say? I scratch my head on this one as well, but it seems to clarify some things for me. I personally enjoy the same things my children enjoy. I like the freedom to work as I think I ought to work. Don’t get me wrong. I am not espousing that all employers should blow the lid off of any company regulation. Neither am I encouraging teachers to allow a free-for-all environment in their classrooms. That can only end in disaster.

What I am suggesting is that students want their own “world” in which they can “move around” and “build things.” Children, just like adults, respond to the freedom to express themselves. They also respond well to teachers who trust them until there is reason not to trust.

Risky, huh? It is. But I know from my own experience that when I fostered this type of environment, the students appreciated it, and I was exhausted, but thrilled at the end of the day. This setting revitalized me as a teacher.

So what am I trying to say? A few things…

1) The technology we have at our fingertips today (infused into our teaching practice) affords us with some amazing opportunities to enrich the lives of our students, and to rejuvenate ourselves in the process.

2) Since children like to “build things,” and respond to the teacher who allows them the freedom to build, I suggest that wikis and blogs should be used regularly in the classroom.

3) I understand that embracing this shift away from traditional teaching is something that mandates plenty of up-front time investment, but that there is a rewarding pay-off in the end. If you make this jump, your students will thank you, and you will be encouraged.

I spent 18 years as a classroom teacher, and I had many varied experiences in this capacity. I grew as a teacher alongside technology as it grew to become what it is today. I left the classroom at the beginning of this school year to become an instructional technology specialist. Had I stayed in the classroom, I would have jumped right into the extensive use of wikis and blogs in education. I dreamed of maintaining a class wiki in which a growing body of knowledge would enrich the lives of my students for many years. The idea of community intrigued me. I hope you are intrigued as well.

Some resources:

The Definition of a Wiki

Free Wikispaces for Educators

PB Works for Educators

Zoho

Mediawiki – for the true geek in you

Ideas:

mrcloudsclass.com – my former web site

https://podcast1.neisd.net/users/dcloud1/ – my former, former blog

Ideas for Using Wikis in Education

Wikis in the Classroom

Using Wikis in the Classroom – YouTube Video

Do You Have 5 Minutes?

Ok.Ok. The question about how much time you have is getting old. But I decided to run with it. I was directed to a site that is new to me today. The site goes by the name of World-Shaker, and the focus is mainly on social media and education. The link is here.

What caught my attention above all of the other great content, is the section called “My Favorite Teacher.” I can easily answer the question, “Who was your favorite teacher?” and it only took me about 5 minutes to write the following description of him to submit it to World-Shaker and add to the growing collection of essays about great educators. I think you should take the time as well.

My favorite teacher in all my years of learning has been Dr. Rodgers. He was my Botany teacher at the University of North Texas circa 1988 (yes, I’m old). He began the year welcoming us to Dr. Rodgers’ neighborhood, and continued the theme when he would pass around his daily “guests” (plants that decided to “visit” us during our lecture.

As the “guests” were passed from hand to hand, Dr. Rodgers would share fascinating details (I’m not being sarcastic, here). The good doctor would tell why this particular plant or that particular plant was a vital part of our ecosystem, how it had been used by humans through the ages, and what uses for the plant might surface in the future.

I learned something profound from every lecture. In fact, Dr. Rodgers had a way of making me feel like the lecture hall full of many people was really a family room where important discussions were had. I wonder if any of his former students feel the way that I do about his teaching style, and how it changed the way I approached my craft as an educator.

Thanks to Dr. Rodgers for making a difference!

Blog vs. Wiki

I have gone around and around with this. I have been wrestling myself over which medium to use, and I think I have come to an answer. As with most of these types of questions, the answer often ends with “both.”

And so it is. I have come to a peaceful conclusion. My blog will serve as the forum for ranting and raving and exposition of something great and new and earthshaking, while the wiki will serve as a repository, or even my place for scribbling in the sand. I like how I can brainstorm real quickly in a wiki and then leave it for another time.

I’m glad I came to this conclusion!

You’re welcome to go to my wiki and have a look around. Everything is new and fresh, and you can still smell the paint on the walls, but go for it.

The address is as follows:

http://mrcloudsclass.com/techwiki/

SMART, Web 2.0, and iPads, Oh My!

Below is the description of my teaching experience today. I taught a lesson with Marguerite Kane at Nimitz Middle School.

We continued today with a lesson about animal adaptations, and our focus was the Tasmanian Devil. We presented some video and pictures of the Tasmanian Devil via SMART Notebook, and we handed each student an iPad, and asked them to visit Today’s Meet at the following address: Today’s Meet

Hint: you’ll have to type tasmaniandevil in the blue box and press enter to see the room we created.

Today’s Meet is a site that allows the user to create a room for discussion and invite others to collaborate with them. You can follow the link above to see what our discussion looked like. The students absolutely loved being able to type in a response, and see it appear on the screen.

Then we had each student bring up the iPad and take a picture of a Tasmanian Devil that was projected on the screen. Once they had the picture, they were asked to open it in a free app called Educreations Interactive Whiteboard, and write about it. If we hadn’t run out of time, we would have asked the students to record their thoughts in Educreations, as it is also a screen and voice recorder. Maybe next time.

Overall, the students were extremely engaged, and the teachers were excited to see their reactions.

Great day!