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Monday, May 21, 2012

Reflective Blog Post 4 - Semester is almost over!!!!

This week's blog prompt:

Reflect on the idea that tests are the only objective assessments of student learning.

I had to laugh out loud when I read the prompt to this blog. Many people confuse the words assessment and test. They are NOT one and the same. Webster defines the word assessment as “the action or instance of assessing: appraisal”.  As a teacher, assessing student knowledge is basically assessing if a student has mastered the objectives that I, as the teacher, have set forth.  It is of vital importance that a teacher understand the difference between assessing a student’s knowledge and simply ‘testing’. Most people, many teachers included, think of testing as a written test. There are, in fact, many ways to test for knowledge.
Referring back to the prompt for this week, if the writer of the blog prompt was using the word ‘tests’ in this prompt to stand for a written assessment, then no, a written assessment is not the only objective assessments of student learning. However, if the writer is intending the word to stand for all assessments that are ‘tests’ of a student’s knowledge of the objectives, then my answer would have to be probably!  It is hard to answer the question without being able to completely clarify what the intent of the writer is asking.
There are many ways to ‘test’ a student for knowledge. In science, I use lab assessments that are hand’s on often. A student must prove proficient in the objective that is often a lab skill that must be mastered. I would think in many other classes, there are varying ways that a teacher will ‘test’ for certain objectives. For instance, in a physical education class, a teacher could play the game that they have been studying about and if the student can play the game using the correct rules of the game, that would prove the objectives for that lesson have been met. Many teachers have students create projects or teach others about a certain topic. I think there are so many ways to prove the objectives have been met without a written test but there must be a way to ‘test’ the student for learning goals.
All these paragraphs to say this: It depends on your definition of a ‘test’ to determine if you agree or disagree with the blog prompt!
Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. (2012).  Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tests

Friday, May 4, 2012

Reflective Blog Post 3

Question of the week:
Reflect on the idea of what a technology-infused classroom looks like. How do you plan to have a technology-infused classroom?
My idea of a technology-infused classroom looks vastly different than the classroom I began teaching in over eighteen years ago. My first classroom was filled with thirty-six desks, six rows of six chairs and a teacher’s desk and file cabinet. I had two blackboards and a bulletin board. When I wanted to do a lab or group activity, I signed up for the lab, usually at least a week in advance.
My last brick and mortar classroom had two computers, a smart board, an overhead projector, and a sound system in the room. My room was not set up in rows but in quads so when we worked on the school laptops, at least once a week, sometimes more, the kids could work in pairs or groups to accomplish the task I had assigned. My lab also had a smart board and two computers in it so I could show items on the lab I was expecting the students to see or observe while they were conducting experiments. Many times, they placed their data on the board as they worked so other groups could use the data in their graphing or calculations.
Teaching science, I feel, blends itself well with technology. It’s a way to keep up-to-date on the latest research going on in the field. One of my biggest gripes for years was how out-of-date the textbooks were in science. By the time the book went to print, new information was out and I’d be left deciding to teach from print-outs or just using the outdated text. Now, in a technology-infused classroom, I can use web pages, video clips, and other technology to bring into my classroom the most up-to-date information to my students. They can also research something they find interesting in the class, not always after school or at home.
Since I am now a virtual high school teacher, my classroom is in the virtual world. It’s pretty technology-infused! My students access their reading assignments online and answer quizzes and tests online as well. They still do some labs as ‘wet labs’, which means they do them live with materials my school sends them but we also take advantage of video and virtual labs as well. I do send them video clips to watch from sites such as, Nova, NASA, even youtube or teachertube to extend the learning. If they have a question, I am a mouse clip away on my yahoo im. Just the other day, I was conversing at the same time with two different students about chemical reactions. Multi-tasking is a must in a virtual school!
Even though my classroom is technology-infused, that still means I follow lesson plans daily and at least try to meet all the objectives I’ve set for the week. Technology shouldn’t be the central focus, learning should be. I have a teenage daughter that has begun experimenting with make-up. I tell her all the time, that make-up should enhance natural beauty, not cover it. I feel the same with technology, it shouldn’t take the place of learning objectives, technology should enhance the learning that is happening in the classroom.
Many times, a new technology must be taught to the students, that does take time but there should be a clear objective as to why the time is being taken. When I started using a smart board, there were few applications available that were written for high school students. My smart board was used primarily for projecting my powerpoints and slides for lab from my computer and for showing video clips. As the applications became available, I had to actually train my students how to use the smart board to accomplish the goals I wanted them to meet. It did take some time, but the time was well spent when they could extend their learning on topics in science. As long as there is a clear objective, the time spent teaching the technology is not wasted time.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Reflective Blog Post Two

Well, we're in week 4 of class! Yeehaa! Four down and four more to go! Somehow, this class has been faster than the last one, I think it's because I can ask questions and get quick answers. Didn't happen last time and I stressed big time about things all the time.
This week's blog prompt:
How can visual literacy and the use of Internet impact the teaching and learning process in the classroom? What are some visual-thinking strategies you would like to use in your classroom? What role do you want the Internet play in your classroom?
Everyone loves to be entertained and sometimes teachers feel that they have become entertainers instead of teachers. But the fact remains that even teachers like to be entertained while learning. I, myself, find it hard to pay attention to a speaker who just drones on and on and never has anything to show me. Visual learning in a classroom should not be the only learning style that is offered but with today’s student, it is an important component in a teacher’s arsenal of teaching tools.
Using visual literacy and the internet in the classroom just opens the world to the teacher and students. A teacher can use the internet to extend learning through almost unlimited tools; online journals, blogs, instant messaging, virtual field trips, online science demonstrations, and the list goes on and on. Using sites such as Nasa.gov, a teacher can show up to the minute pictures of planets and the moon. Accessing The Sutton Center (http://www.suttoncenter.org/pages/live_eagle_camera), a student from New York can watch live feed of bald eagle nests in Oklahoma. A student who is interested in studying Dr. Seuss can log onto the website, http://www.seussville.com/, and learn more about Dr. Seuss and his works than any local library can offer and they never have to leave the classroom!
This is an exciting time in teaching when a teacher is no longer just the teacher, but rather, the key holder to vast treasures of knowledge just waiting for their students! Students of today have grown-up using technology to help in every aspect of their lives so it is only natural that they expect a teacher to be knowledgeable and able to assist them in using the internet as a learning tool.  Many students have great video game knowledge on the internet but are rather clueless on how to research and find useful information using the internet. It can be overwhelming when you get one hundred thousand hits as you google something you want to study. Teachers need to understand where and how to guide a student to find useful information.

While I find I use quite a few visual learning tools in my virtual classroom, I would like to incorporate blogs and science journaling next year in my physical science classroom. I would like to start having students make videos of themselves doing labs and uploading them onto a classroom blog. I am also planning to explore the wonderful world of wiki this summer and hope to start posting worksheets and other class projects on a wiki I create.
Since I am a virtual teacher, the internet is an integral part of my classroom everyday. In fact, when the internet is down, I’m pretty much out of commission. I have had to drive to a coffee shop or the library to hold class! I love the quick accessibility I have to my students using instant messaging and think that the internet will continue to increase it’s usefulness in today’s classroom. Visual literacy is here to stay in our classrooms. Our students expect it!

Have a great day and make a difference in someones life!!!!
Took this tonight...outside my house..wide open sky!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Reflective Blog 1

Describe the importance of the using a variety of instructional strategies and the value they add to education of students in the 21st century. Evaluate the role technology plays in the implementation of various instructional strategies. How will this impact your teaching of students?
This is the question posed this week in my master’s degree program class….
In our educational society today, using a variety of instructional strategies is invaluable to our students ability to learn.  Every student learns in a slightly different way and, in the past, education has done a great job of trying to create a box to fit all students. Finally, we, as educators, are beginning to realize that learning isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ box, but rather many, many boxes, exactly one box for every student!  Because of this, in every classroom, there are many different types of learners and we must find the best way to teach each student. 
Reaching students using a variety of teaching strategies is smart, not only for the student, but for the teacher. Reteaching an entire unit is time-consuming and since most of the students may have grasped the concept the first time, can be boring for an entire class. Using several educational teaching strategies within one or two teaching periods to teach small sections of material or chunking knowledge, often leads to greater and deeper understanding of the topic. Mixing up teaching strategies keeps learning fresh and keeps students from getting bored on the topic. Once specific students have been identified as needing more direction to learn the topic, tutorials using computer games and software can be used in small groups or on an individual basis.
Marzano, R. (2009). Helping Students Process Information. Educational Leadership,67, 86-87. Retrieved April 4, 2012, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct09/vol67/num02/Helping-Students-Process-Information.aspx