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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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!

A Twist on Math Instruction

Math has not always been my favorite. I’m sorry to admit to this, but I am just being honest. Today, my opinion may have changed, though. I attribute the change to the way I taught math today. If I must teach math, then give me an iPad!

I had a lot of fun teaching math today. Did I just write those words? I was charged with the task of reviewing the addition and subtraction of mixed numbers, and I turned to a few pretty cool apps to help me achieve this. Educreations Interactive Whiteboard, Airboard, and Sketchpad 3 – Unlimited Canvas are the apps.

I began the lesson with Educreations Interactive Whiteboard to display a few types of problems that the students would encounter. I prepared the videos on the app prior to the lesson, and then connected my iPad to the video and audio connections of the projector. I played the lesson, and stopped the video at critical points for discussion. I think the video engaged the students more than my regular presentation of the topic would have.

Then I presented some word problems using a Keynote slide show that I had converted to PDF and dropped into Dropbox so I could retrieve it and display it on my iPad (I don’t have Keynote on my iPad, but the PDF worked rather well).

I asked the students to solve the problem using either Sketchpad 3 or Educreations Interactive Whiteboard. I continued this pattern for several problems. The students would solve the problems themselves on their own iPads, and then I or another student would solve the problem in front of the class on my iPad to ensure understanding.

Finally, I introduced the class to Airboard by creating a session, and asking each student to join the session with their iPads. Of course, I let the students play with the app a bit. It’s pretty cool how numerous iPads can join a session and how each person can make their input on the same session. It can also get pretty messy in a hurry without some parameters.

After this, I cleared the session, and set up a new problem on my iPad (still in Airboard), and began to ask questions about how to solve it. As input came from the students, I asked them to write their input for all to see. It seemed like a powerful thing – each student (if they chose) had a voice, and could contribute in turn, to the solution of the problem. I hope to use Airboard much more in this type of instruction!

I’ll say it once more…if I must teach math, then give me an iPad.

 

 

Proportional Fun

This post highlights a lesson I taught using an internet site (Math Snacks), Sketch Pad 3 – Unlimited Canvas (free app), Proportion Solver (free app), and of course, iPads.

I had a great time today working with students at Nimitz Middle School. The teacher I was working with asked me to use the iPads to teach her students about Ratios and Proportions (specifically, given a proportional scenario, predict the proportion as it increases).

For example:

For every 3 apples Samantha eats, she also eats 5 oranges. If she eats 25 apples, how many oranges would she also eat?

I decided to introduce the lesson by showing the students the Atlantean Dodgeball video at http://mathsnacks.com/atlanteanDodgeball.php. The video is engaging, and does a great job of presenting a real world ratio problem. The students loved it!

After the intro, I asked the students to recall our time using the app called Sketch Pad 3 – Unlimited Canvas. I asked them to set up the proportion in the app so I could be walking around to check on their progress. I did a problem with my iPad connected to the projector first, to show them what I was expecting.

After I set up the problem, and estimated what I thought would be the answer to “x,” I showed them the app called Proportion Solver. This app does exactly what its name implies: it solves proportions. You put in the three numbers the problem gives you, and you press the equal sign. The correct answer is produced, provided you set the proportion up correctly.

I had fun, and I think the students did as well. I had a few students connect their iPads and do some teaching as well. I think that was a hit!

To culminate, I asked the students to email their teacher a PDF copy of their work on the last problem of the day. The lesson was totally paperless.

 

Today’s Meet

I encourage you to visit the site known as Today’s Meet. It is a site where you can host online discussions, and there is no sign up needed. You simply visit the site, name the meeting room, decide how long you would like the conversations to remain, and send out (to desired participants) the URL that is generated when you create the room. The duration options range from 2 hours to 1 year. This way, you, your students, or peers may revisit the discussions you had on a particular day.

Some classroom applications would be to collaborate with other classes within your school or district, or even buddy with a teacher across the country or in another part of the world to participate in discussions related to curriculum.


A helpful resource for ideas about Today’s Meet is Lisa Johnson’s Blog (another ITS).

Be sure to let me know how it goes if you use this in the classroom.

 

 

 

Google Earth and Environmental Changes

I am teaching a lesson this week using Google Earth. The objective I’m trying to hit asks the question, “How have people in San Antonio adapted to or modified their physical environment?”

I decided to use Google Earth to focus on a couple of facts about San Antonio, Texas. We San Antonians really would like it to rain more, and we San Antonians like to dig quarries, and then build things in the hole that is left over after the quarry is spent.

SO…I pinned places in the city to Google Earth, saved a .kmz file, and then dropped the file in the school’s student_shared drive. Once Google Earth was up and running on the students’ computers, I had them click file/open, and navigate to the file to open it. This brought up all my saved places with the informative notes that I had written about each place.

The places I included are Medina Dam and Canyon Dam (both dams that really changed the physical environment around them), Six Flags and San Antonio Zoo (both built in a quarry), and Olmos Dam (a change to the physical environment that PROTECTS the city from floods rather than causing a lake like the other two dams).

We had great discussions about how these things have changed the environment, and about how to navigate around in Google Earth. As a fun highlight, I pointed out that I had pinned their school to Google Earth. I asked them to look at the place where they spend much of their time. I think this lesson went well overall.

Possible extensions?

One of the teachers at this particular school mentioned that a great way to extend this activity would be to ask each student to find a place in Google Earth where they have visited, and then write about the experience they had in this place. I might have to try that sometime.

A side note…

Just yesterday I did not know how to pin places in Google Earth. I asked a fellow ITS, and she gladly explained it to me, and I am so thankful for that. I mention this to give credit where it is due, but also to emphasize the importance of continual learning. I am always glad to learn new things.

The Answer

I have had this question rumbling around in my mind lately. “How can I use Simplenote for classroom instruction?” I have scratched my head again and again during the last few days. Then I decided to get more brains involved.

I asked my family to help me with this question. First, I described the Simplenote program to them. I told them the following information about Simplenote:

  • Simplenote is a place where you can keep your notes online.
  • Simplenote is also available in app form for iPhones, iPads, etc.
  • Automatic synchronization occurs whether you are entering notes on your PC or mobile device.
  • Simplenote is free.

The brainstorming session that followed really encouraged me. My family and I had a discussion about the technology involved with Simplenote, and a wonderful list of ideas sprang up. We assumed hypothetically that a teacher would have a Simplenote account opened and displayed on the screen, and that the students in the class would have the SAME Simplenote account opened on their laptops or mobile device. Here is the list of lesson ideas:

  • a KWL chart generated by the students – they type in the note, and they see the synchronization results on the screen, since they are using the same account as the teacher
  • the math teacher poses a math question, and students type in their answer, which then displays on the screen
  • mental math contests
  • collaborative research  –  example: students are studying Abe Lincoln, and they are each given a different aspect of his life to research. They type in the results of their research, and a class discussion follows
  • vocabulary review – the teacher asks for the meaning of a word, and the students type what they think
  • students annotate a poem or other piece of literature – this way, other students benefit from their thoughts
  • students type in what they did this weekend, summer, etc.
  • cloze passages – students type in what they think goes in each blank
  • somebody, wanted, but, so, then
  • flash card answers
  • multiple choice assessments
  • test review
  • quizzes – teachers would turn of projector for this one
  • prewriting ideas
  • teaching outlining
  • teaching note-taking – students get to see other people’s notes

I am hopeful that Simplenote can be used profitably in the classroom. I know there are also many more ways to use this technology in education. Let me know if you use it, and please share your ideas.