Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Another online tool that my colleagues and I have been trying is the "Moodle." After hearing some Moodle talk in the science office, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and try it out. I attempted to make an online quiz for my Pre-AP Chemistry class. The quiz was only 2 questions and when I tried it in class...well, let's just say it didn't go well! I had a bunch of settings wrong and did not choose question types that worked well with the assessment.
But after asking LOTS of questions, and taking more time to play around with it have been able to use Moodle for my student's reading quizzes, uploading their lab documents and a quiz retake. Now, I can say that Moodle is awesome! It grades your assessments for you with immediate feedback for the students, sends emails to your students to provide feedback for lab documents, tracks all student activity, etc. As I said, I have not explored even close to what Moodle has to offer, but it has been fun learning about it and using it in class.

Learning 2.0 Class

The Online Learning 2.0 Class has been great! We are constantly introduced to new technology everyday and I always feel overwhelmed with trying to learn it and figure out ways that I can use these various resources in my classroom. This class has helped me discover so many ways to incorportate my blog, wiki, podcasts, etc in class.
At the beginning of this year, it was my goal to create 2 podcasts just to see how it works and benefits my students. I have to be honest, I'm not sure I would have taken the time to check out the Camtasia software and create a podcast if this class did not require it. But since I have done it, I was able to see how easy it really is!
It was really nice to have Micki Wayman and Patrick Carter taking this class along with me. Since we are all in the science department, we were constantly comparing and collaborating about ideas on technology for this class. Those of you who also took this class could probably also see we were a bit competative about finishing first, too!
The technology is still overwhelming at times, but I really enjoy learning about it and integrating it into my classroom.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Social Networking

I have really enjoyed learning more about wiki's, delicious and blogs so far in the online class. I had previously (over a year ago) set up a delicious account to bookmark my favorite web pages. I saved several websites to my account and then I'm not sure why, but I lost track of it! So it was nice to use this class as a way to explore delicious again and add new bookmarks to it.
I had also previously signed up for a wiki to use in chemistry. However, once again, I never came up with an effective way of using it in the classroom. After discussing my struggles with a colleague, they were able to help me with ideas of how to use a wiki in class. The wiki that I have created I plan to use with my Crime Lab class this semester. I plan to assign different groups of students a topic that we will cover throughout the semester. Each group is then responsible to find references, diagrams, examples, etc of their topic. For example, the group in charge of fingerprinting will add images or references that are used to identify the different patterns on fingerprints. They can also link articles dealing with the subject that will help future students in my Crime Lab class.
As far as blogging goes, I have used this blog for reflecting on my lesson plans in the past. It was difficult for me to reflect on my teaching in such a public way, but I have seen the advantages. I am always searching online for new ideas to use in class or activities that I can modify, so hopefully other teachers can benefit from my blog.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Better grades...guaranteed?

You know the commercial on TV about Rosetta Stone...the DVD's that will teach you how to speak a foreign language? Well, the other day on the radio, I heard a commercial for some product that will "teach your child how to learn", so they can "ace every test." The ad stated that your child is guaranteed to get better grades in 10 days or less...or your money back!
I don't know about you, but I would be interested to see how this product actually works.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Article Reflections

Creative title, huh? It was taking far to long to come up with a creative title, so I'll just go. I'll start with my thoughts from the article "The Trouble with Rubrics". This article has tied in a lot of ideas from our previous discussions of grades in 21C. The subject of grades seems to be on the fore-front of most of our students in the last 3 weeks of school. I guessing most teachers this time of year are hearing several students ask "what can I do to help my grade?"

I personally have not used rubrics very often in my classroom. When I have used them, I find a template online that I revise and the students are still given a grade on the presentation or report. From my limited experience with rubrics, I feel that students tend to use rubrics to "play the game" of school to get the A, rather than focusing on the quality of their work or the purpose behind the assignment. I will also admit that I tend to spend less time grading the quality of their work because I just go down the rubric like a checklist and grade the students more for having the required component rather than the quality of that component.

I agreed with the part of this article that said "as long as the rubric is only one of several sources, as long as it doesn't drive the instruction, it could conceivably play a constructive role." As the article later said, our students are not the same, they do not learn in the same way and they should not be assessed in the same exact way every time. I feel that it is important to assess the students in a variety of ways, which will hopefully shift their focus from their grade or score to what they are doing and learning.

Minds on Fire:
I really liked the article "Minds on Fire"; I thought it was interesting and frightening all at the same time. Not only are we trying to prepare our students for careers that do not exist yet, we as educators, are also needed to gain "new knowledge and skills on a continuous basis."
I feel as if our students are starting to grasp the benefit of social learning, whether it is in small groups within the classroom walls or participating in blogs, wikis, etc.
One of our goals of 21C is to promote and model life-long learning, which is exactly what Learning 2.0 is defined as. We want our students to constantly search for more, just as we constantly search for more knowledge and better ways to present the information.

Do Schools Kill Creativity?
I enjoyed this man's humor throughout the video and thought it was interesting. I liked the comment about kids that will take a chance at young ages because they are not scared to be wrong. If they feel like they might be wrong, they are usually not creative and will not take a chance.
I try to accommodate the different learning styles in my classroom as best I can. When students are given time to work in class, I will turn on music, or let them listen to their ipods or MP3 players. I also try to incorporate activities where the kids are moving around the room and working in small groups. This has gotten harder over the years because my classes have gone from around 23 students to 36 students. My students and I all make accommodations, so that we can still do these activities.

Overall, I think all of the articles and video were very though provoking. I feel like I am working to implement these ideas in my classroom, but it will take time to improve and see what works best for my students.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Looking Back...

The big questions from this semester are:

1. Where am I?
2. Where do I want to be?
3. How do I get there?

I wish the answers to these questions were as simple as 1) Arapahoe HS, 2)Home in my sweatpants, on the couch, and 3) the trusty Honda. However, in terms of my teaching and classroom, the answers are a little more complex.

Where I am...
I feel that in the last few years, I have re-evaluated my whole teaching philosophy and previous practices. I have moved from lecturing most days, to planning more constructivist activities. The students in my classes are actively engaged in the material instead of copying down the notes I have on a PowerPoint.

Where I want to be...
Although I use a variety of teaching methods and activities, I want each day to be meaningful to ALL of my students. Maybe I'm being unrealistic, but how awesome would that be to have all of your students be excited to come to class and learn about science!

How to get there...
I guess just by re-evaluating my activities, sharing best practices with others, collaborating within and outside of my department, etc. I still have so many questions about meaningfulness, grading, homework and assessments that my head may start spinning soon. But I have to remind myselt that "Rome wasn't built in a day". These are big questions with very complex solutions that may take years to figure out...maybe I'll never find the "answer". However, the main piece of 21C that I always fall back on is that it's not so much about finding the correct answer, but the process used to get there.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

POGIL anyone?

I recently attended a class at CU Boulder about POGIL - Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. The class was awesome! This method follows the constructivist teaching method, which guides students to learn the information independently through reading models and making generalizations. The instructor had us in groups of 3-4 and assigned us specific roles such as recorder, presenter and manager. The manager read each question aloud on the worksheet or activity and made sure that the group was working together...if we had a question over the material, the manager was the only one allowed to raise his/her hand. The presenter answered the questioned asked by the instructor after the activity / worksheet was completed. Each person completed their worksheet and the recorder wrote down the groups strengths, weaknesses and what questions the group still had.

The instructor said that once she knew her students and their level of understanding, she put them in groups accordingly. The high achieving students would be together and the mid-low achieving students would be in another group. This was mainly to benefit the mid-low level students because they are not intimidated to ask questions in their group and they will develop a greater understanding of the material by explaining it to their peers.

Like I said before, the workshop was awesome! There were about 40 teachers there and about 1/2 were college instructors. The lady who presented said she uses the POGIL method in her lecture classes at a university in Missouri....yes, even large "lecture" classes! She said she got a lot of critisism from her colleagues about using this method at first, so she taught a few units using the POGIL method and then switched to straight lecture. The students performed much better on the assessments after using the POGIL method...and she was able to cover more information than another colleague who strickly lectures.

I have used a few POGIL worksheets in my classroom this week and I have been very pleased. The worksheets break down the information so it is not so overwhelming and the kids are able to help each other out with questions in their group. I also split my classes into "teams" based on their level of understanding. I'm anxious to see how well they do over the next few weeks!

The POGIL website it if you would like to check it out. This method is directed towards various levels and branches of chemistry, but maybe someone else could develop something to use for their class by looking at these examples.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Balancing Act...

After I got Karl's outstanding email about blogging, I knew that I was one who was referred to as "ummmm, not quite as outstanding." when it comes to blogging. I have now been back to school for about 6 weeks now and I am just now feeling like I'm getting back into the swing of a teacher this year and a new mom. I'm not really sure what happened the first few weeks of school...I was exhausted trying to balance school work, planning, laundry, Eli, cooking, cleaning, etc. I know that every person with kids has to find a balance with all of these things, but I didn't really understand the full effect until Eli was here! I can't imagine doing this with more than one child!

I have to admit, for the first few weeks of school, I was teaching "the easy way". Instead of planning constructivist activities, I would explain the information to the students by lecturing and assign homework. (I hope that I am not voted out of 21C by admitting this.) Now that I have had time to adjust to all of my new rolls and that I know my students a little better, I am working to come up with more student-initiated activities for class. I am anxious to see how this change effects my classes and if their understanding improves.