Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Professional Learning Plan

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You can view the Google Presentation here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Part D - Findings and Implications

As I wrap up this foray into CEP 812 I have the unique opportunity to look back at the projects that I've undertaken and to assess them. There are a few key questions that I'll try to answer to assess the success of the implementation of my project, and how it affected my students.

Did the project get implemented as planned?
There were a few hitches in implementing my project. Our smartboard was rarely used in our school. With the lack of ceiling mounted projectors, or projectors that are readily available, teachers cannot count on having a projector in their classroom at all times. Once I was able to procure a projector, I wheeled the smartboard down to the room. When I set the board up, I began having trouble connecting it to my computer - only to realize that I did not have the correct adapter to connect the ps2 plug to my USB port. This caused a slight delay as I had to have the ISD come out a drop off the converter. Once I had the part I thought that I was all set. This though was not the case. Since our smartboard is not mounted, it has been wheeled all over the school - which has caused some wear and tear on it. One of the plugs had been pulled out of the mounted motherboard on the unit. After taking apart the panel, I connected all of the wires and got the board plugged in and working. Once it was actually connected to my computer, it was fairly simple to get used to using the board, and easy to get it oriented to the projector. It was just the task of getting everything working correctly that was a little frustrating. Overall, the setup took about four hours.

Evidence of success in addressing the problem of practice
I found multiple markers of success after implementing my program. The goals that I attempted to accomplish are followed by the evidence.

1.) Teach an interactive lesson that the students can control - In the lesson students were able to choose which 360Cities panoramic pictures to view. In the book, there were only a set number of pictures to use - but Google Earth allowed students to choose multiple pictures, from all over Cuba. Students also chose different places to zoom in on. One place that students wanted to learn more about was the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Students asked to zoom into where the prisons, armory, and airport were. The class was very excited to see planes and runways. This is something that would not be possible using the book.

2.) Create a geography based lesson that does not rely on the book, but meets criteria of teaching the 5 themes of geography - In this lesson, it was very important that I was able to show the following things: Location, Characteristics, Movement, Region, Interaction. Using GoogleEarth allowed me to show each of these criteria easily. The ability to zoom, show topography and see user uploaded photos gave the students the chance to see all of the nation in much greater detail than the book.

3.) Find additional information on subjects covered in the lecture - This was one of the main goals that I had during this project. One of the topics that came up during this lesson was the Bay of Pigs. I hadn't planned on covering the Bay of Pigs, or the Revolution in Cuba as a whole but it was something that the students were interested in. By using layers in GoogleEarth, I was able to click on an icon for the Bay of Pigs and get more in depth information for the class immediately.

4.) Teach using up to date information - A large problem that I encountered this year was teaching up to date information. Since it's my first year teaching this subject, I am partially in the, learn as you go along phase. This is ok for most subject matter, but very difficult when presented with obsolete books. While teaching the political geography of eastern Europe, I had many questions regarding countries that have changed names and disappeared in the years since the book was published. By using GoogleEarth, I was assured that I had current information on the names, locations and boundaries of each place on my map.

How would you approach another project of this type differently given what you’ve learned here?

If I were to approach another project in my class where I were solving a problem using technology, there would be a few things that I would do differently. First, if I found a technology that I wanted to use, I would sit down with other teachers and ask them about there experiences using the technology. I ran into a lot of problems because I had used a Smartboard before, and assumed that this smartboard would be easy to use. As I mentioned before, it was an absolute headache connecting the smartboard to my computer and there were points where I wanted to scrap the program and start over. A lot of this could have been avoided had I asked some other members in the district about their experiences using it.

What are the lessons learned that others might benefit from knowing about?

A great lesson that I learned during this program was that kids love GoogleEarth. They absolutely love flying over parts of the country that they know, looking at the earth from space, and the really, really love to see their house on the projector. I am really looking for ways to incorporate using GoogleEarth and local maps to teach basic geographic concepts because kids are so excited about using it. Next year when the district "Images" or "ghosts" the computers, I will suggest to them that they include GoogleEarth because it has so many practical applications. To the teacher out there, you need to play with GoogleEarth. It has so many great functions. Your kids will love it.

In what ways will you endeavor to do the same project again, and what will you change or not do?

I will definitely use GoogleEarth and the smartboard again - and I plan to use it frequently. Ideally, I will use this for each and ever unit that I teach, when I get to the part where I explain the five themes. One thing that I will have to change will be the way I set up my unit. Next year I'm going to try and set up the smartboard and projector in a spare classroom - so there will be no set up involved. Teachers will simply be able to sign out the room and then have access to all of the technologies. I will also try and create an outline, and a structured set of questions that the students need to answer. There were many time where the students were off task because the lesson was too open ended. In closing, I will definitely do this lesson again, and my modifications will only make it a more effective lesson.

PART B - Storyboard and Script

Lately, myself, and two group members have been working on a project that will create a stand alone instructional resource that will help people use Google Docs!

Here's a link to view the storyboard of our presentation:

I spearheaded the Google Forms part of the storyboard. I have used it many times and it's very simple - although it is time consuming. Suzy will be discussing the benefits of Google Drawings, and Reaz will be discussing Google presentations.

Our audio will be a mix of step-by-step and also a short tutorial of what you can do with these tools.

We have decided that we will be producing our movie using iMovie. Each group member is going to record MP3 audio for their part of the presentation and then Reaz is going to put that audio into the sideshow that we'e prepared as a group. We already have our audio completed, and since the audio corresponds to the sides, we will transition the slides manually to link up with the sound. The goal is to have this done by Wednesday so we can adjust anything that is needed before it's due.

We will be discussing a lot of this tomorrow during another brainstorming session.

Mobile Learning

I recently joined a website called Classroom 2.0 to explore ways of teaching using mobile learning. Here are some of my results.

What tools did you try?
Flip Cameras in the classroom - We're beginning to discuss economics in my class and I've been beginning to put together plans to have the students us the flip cameras to interview adults in the buildings about personal finance. It would be interesting to be able to get the view of multiple adults and bring them into the classroom.

I also have two students who have iPads who I allow to take notes using their tablet. If it's easier for them, and provides them with a digital copy, they are more than welcome to use it in my classroom.

What ways are you thinking about integrating mobile technology into YOUR classroom?

I'd really like to use mobile technology in my classroom for students to ask questions through a backchannel like . I think that would be a very interesting way for students to ask questions and direct the topic of the lecture or discussion.

What challenges (or inspirations) do you foresee?

I had a few troubles using mobile technology in my classroom. Although I feel the results could have been different in a non-middle school setting, see a few challenges. One problem that I saw was that students were very focused on their phones during this time. The ratio of phones out, to answers received were very low. I don't know what percentage of students used their phone for educational purposes during the activity, but it wasn't too high.

Another challenge that I faced for my students who used tablets in my room was poor wireless signal strength. I'd love for my students to be able to get online and download my lecture notes in a fill in the blank form, but it was just taking too long.

Poll Everywhere

Today I used a a website called PollEverywhere. It allows you to create a poll or question that people can answer via SMS. I used it in my class and it was very interesting to say the least. The kids were very excited to be able to use their phones (since we have a no phones in school policy). But I let them get them out for a few minutes. This service was interesting, but it was no faster than writing. I expected kids to fire out text messages quickly - that didn't happen. It was also difficult monitoring the results. Any kid could have typed anything and it would have appeared on the LCD screen. With 7th graders, responses weren't always appropriate.

I think I'd try this again if I taught high school - I think that would be a productive usage, but I'm not sure about middle school.

Take a look below at a sample of the responses that I received.

Friday, April 15, 2011

PART C - Implementation

Below is my podcast describing what it was like implementing my new program teaching geography using the smartboard, and not the book. Take a listen!

Jing of 360 Cities

Below: Circled and Highlighted Guantanamo Bay airport runway

Below: Picture of 360 Cities Icons

Below:Measuring distance from Cuba to Florida

Saturday, April 9, 2011

PART B - Application of TPACK

For this part of my WPP, I need to explain how my idea fits into TPACK, specifically how the TPK, TCK and PCK relate to my project.

What is the TP knowledge for the solution?
The teaching strategy that I have chosen is to use an interactive smart board to teach geography to my seventh grade social studies class. This meets my teaching strategies and methods in a number of ways. The smart-board will allow me to accomplish many goals in my classroom - ones that any teacher normally would using a regular lesson. Here are some of my objectives, and how I will meet them

1.) Present Information - This technology will allow me to do my most basic task of presenting the information to my students. By using Google Earth in my classroom on a smart-board, the students will gain knowledge on the placement of South American Countries and the Physical Features around them. This knowledge is up to date (more so than our books) and will provide students with a 3D look at the features around them. By adding layers, students will also be able to take a look at climate zones and human characteristics in South America.

2.) Active Learning - A large part of why I wanted to create this lesson was to eliminate passive learning in my classroom. With a smart-board I am able to create interactive lessons that can change on the fly. Classes can choose what to to explore next, what physical features to look at and what information to go in depth into. Compared to reading out of a book, this lesson will allow students to be out of their seat, having discussions and moving the map to help answer questions.

3.) Accommodated Instruction - Another goal of my unit is always to make accommodations for students. Another way of explaining it is that I want to be able to create a lesson that does not need accommodation. I would like to be able to teach, and have all of my students to understand the curriculum with no added help. To do this, I have though about some of the roadblocks that are in my lessons (see my UDL for more information on this) and I chose a technology that would eliminate them. One accommodation that needs to be made is that over 20% of students are not Proficient readers per the MEAP test. By eliminating the reading, and allowing students to be involved and active learners, I will help more students learn.

4.) Remedial Help - Lastly, this lesson will allow me to give students remedial help. A large problem in my classroom is students who are absent. These students become a large part of the students who need remedial help. By creating a lesson on a smart-board I will be able to Jing, or screencast parts of my instruction, add audio, and then save it to my website for students to view at a later date.

5.) Differentiated Instruction - Because the lesson is interactive, it can change. Not all classes will be exactly the same. This means that each class can focus on the concepts that they need more time on. While the book presents the same information for all students, my interactive smart-board lesson will be able to adapt to the needs of specific class and specific individuals.

What is the TC knowledge for the solution?

The knowledge discussed in my problem, understanding location and characteristics of South America, becomes more accessible to all students when using my technology. By saving my smart-board presentation and uploading it to my website, all students will be able to look a back and see key points of the lesson. I would also be able to stage small parts of the lesson that I could post that would emphasize benchmarks that are being covered. Because most students have internet access (per technology survey) and others have use of computers during homeroom - a bank of information created by the use of smart-boards would become very useful.
There are also new representations possible when using this technology. GoogleEarth is a build in cross-curricular machine. There is so much content on GoogleEarth that while I'm teaching about the geography of the land, I'm also able to teach about the history of the people who inhabited it years ago. Layers on Google Earth allow me to show about transportation, climate, cloud cover, 3d topography, earthquake maps and more. While using the book only allows me to teach a limited number of things, this technology allows me to change the subject matter because I now have the means to teach it.

What is the PC knowledge for the solution?

My teaching choices will make the content more accessible to all students for many reasons. Students will be more involved in the lessons because their choices will affect what we cover next. Because students will have an opportunity to pick the next layer (traffic, climate, cloud cover, pictures etc) they will be engaged in the lesson and more apt to remember what is being covered.
I think that students will also be excited to partake in this lesson because it is a change of pace for them. Many times, students do the same things daily in school. There is a routine. By changing this routine students should be more excited to go to class knowing that they are not going to have to read.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

PART A - Brainstorm Session

What web conferencing tool did your group use?

Our group met on multiple days to brainstorm. We used Adobe Connect, and Skype.

What were the advantages to using the web conferencing tool to discuss this project?
Adobe Connect had some nice features like live video and sound, and you were able to share your desktop and chat at the same time.

Skype had its own benefits - it was easier to enter, and easier to communicate. There were no echoes in the video call and it was much easier to get everyone together.

What were the disadvantages to using the web conferencing tool to discuss this project?

A big problem we had with Adobe connect is that we could not get everyone into the chat - and when we did on day 2, not everyone could hear. We had much more success with Skype. One issue with Skype was that I found the multiple windows I had open to be difficult - the chat and the video were not in the same place. Lastly, sometimes in the video chat on Skype, the voices became distorted and hard to understand.

Below is a screen capture from day 1 - Suzy and I were in the chat, while chatting with Reaz through e-mail because Adobe Connect would not let him in.

Here is a breakdown of what our group discussed in our brainstorming session.

1 - We've decided to explore Google Apps and the way they can be used in the classroom.

2. We are trying to find a tool that will allow us to create our presentation. We have discussed Jing and iMovie - and we're leaning towards the latter. We are using Google Docs to collaborate online, and then we're going to use Celtix to create our Storyboard.

3.We've broken up the parts of the project and we will each be exploring two Google Technologies that we can use in the classroom. I will be researching the use of Google Forms, and Google Sites. Suzy will be discussing the Google Calendar and Google Docs. Finally, Reaz will be exploring Google Wave (Great tool btw) and Gmail.

4.) Our goal is to have all of our information posted on our Google Doc by Friday 4-15 so we can turn it into a storyboard the next day. Then we are planning on getting our movie done in the following week.

We've met again and this time our session was recorded.

Watch the Session below:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

PART A - Description of Need or Opportunity

As a seventh grade social studies teacher, a main part of my curriculum is location, topography and physical features of countries around the world. There are multiple benchmarks that deal with spatial properties of locations and population bases. As an educator who wants to create engaging, entertaining and effective lessons for my students, I am looking for alternatives to learning this information out of a book. There are a few reasons that learning this information out of a book is not ideal.

First, as my technology use survey shows, most students are not only proficient with technology, but they use it frequently. This comes in the form of video games, computers, smart phones, and MP3 players. We then ask students to make the transition to textbooks. Reading is passive learning, and not ideal.

Another reason why book learning is not ideal is because books are easily outdated. With political borders and population and other demographics changing rapidly books need to be amended frequently. This is quite costly for schools and it's not feasible to always have up to date books. According to USAToday, schools spent $4.4 Billion on new books in 2006. And while that might seem like cost that only comes around every so many years, it is not. State Standards and Benchmarks have changed many times in Michigan recently, and schools have to meet those changing requirements with new materials. On top of textbook costs are shrinking budgets in Michigan's schools. As schools are forced to trim spending, planned purchases of books have been put on hold in many schools, including my district of Napoleon.

A third problem that occurs when students are learning out of a book is that disabilities, or roadblocks take place. Some students might have difficulty reading or they might need remedial help and standard textbooks do a poor job of meeting these accommodation. In my district of Napoleon, 20% of my seventh graders are not proficient in reading. Statewide, 27% of Michigan students were rated partially proficient, or not proficient. This number is also expected to grow as the state sets higher standards next year.

I plan to address this issue with two great technologies that many people use daily. The first is a SmartBoard which us is becoming more and more common in schools today. The second piece of technology that I will use will be Google Earth and Google Maps. These are both internet technologies that we easily used by many students today.

By projecting these applications onto my smartboard I can manipulate the map to show physical features from all angles. In addition to this, I can use layers to add information to the map. Since layers and KMZ files (which are compresses 2d and 3d map layers) are open source, there are multiple that can be downloaded, edited and created.

This is much better than the standard of using a book for many reasons. First, there is virtually no cost - our school owns a smartboad, and the applications are free. Google Maps and Earth are constantly updated with new information - so there is never a situation where the map is obsolete. Because the image can be viewed on a computer and not in a book, I can create screencasts of the presentation for students to listen to, which helps knock down the roadblocks of disabilities and absences.

When my seventh grade class moves back to Geography (April 14th) I will begin implementing my new plan. I plan on using it in all of my 5 classes which contain about 125 students. This unit will last approximately three weeks, but specific applications of this technology will only be used about 1/3rd of the time.

The real change that will be seen in my curriculum is less work out of the book. By using the smartboard and having students see the physical features and discuss them as a class will have more of an effect than reading silently out of a book.

If successful it will have practical applications throughout the entire year in covering multiple countries and continents, not just one unit. As we approach the end of the year, I would like to use this technology through the rest of my units. At the end of this school year (June) I will reevaluate the technology and how it worked in my classroom. If it is successful and students are engaged and active learnings, I can work on implementing it as a regular part of each unit in the next school year.

I'm excited to start using this technology and there are many sources that I can use to being planning my lessons. There are multiple blogs sponsored by google, and non-google bases blogs written by teachers who use KMZ files and Google Earth. These resources will allow me to create the ideal lesson to meet the learning needs of my students.
Some of these sites are: - Downloadable "flyto" maps for google earth - Google Earth in the Classroom - Own and Mouse - Interactive Maps

I can't seem to find anyone who has used this product the way that I want to, but I have found accounts of teachers who have used interactive maps on their smartboard. I am sure there are teachers who have used Earth and Maps on their board though.,

There are many ways to judge if this is a successful project or not. The political scientist in me would like to have 1/2 of my class use the book, and have 1/2 the class use the interactive mapping lessons and compare results. I think though that the interactive map will improve test scores and it would be a disservice to those students who have to use the book, because again my goal is to engage all students. What I will probably end up doing is comparing test results from students against their average. If students score higher on the mapping portion of their test compared to their average, and the remainder of the test, I would consider it a success.