Saturday, May 2, 2009
Reflection on the IEP Process and What I Learned
In January, it occurred to my principal that our school hasn't had a yearbook in several years. As I am teaching the high school technology course, she asked if we could fit it into the course during the last semester. "Sure," I said, not having any idea of what I was getting into. As part of their preparation, the students reviewed the work of commercial yearbook publishing companies and thought they could do better. They wanted their year/generation to be layered on pictures of the history of logging that established Thorne Bay. So all design and layout was created by the students. Only the final PDFs were sent to a local printer for publishing.
My students and I would need to become proficient in a variety of programs on our Macs to graphically design and manage the business of publishing a yearbook. We needed to create spread sheets for invoices and accounting of advertisement sales, we crafted business letters for local donations, we edited the yearbook pages with Photoshop and Pages, finally all files were saved as pdfs and put into a layout for a 52 page yearbook printed in color. They also did tons of fundraising to raise the 50% deposit to the printer.
As I write this entry, I am in Ketchikan about to bring the semi-final files to the publisher and see how this comes out! Some (low quality) sample pages the students produced for the yearbook can be seen here. Read more of my reflection on publishing a yearbook.
Technical Skills Development and Evidence of my work in Pages. This application has become my go to app for word processing. The first doc was quick and dirty. This document I did for the MAT AK History class, and I like the results.
Classroom Application and Lesson Plans
Last fall my students were studying the Water Cycle, so we transformed an aquarium into a water cycle in the classroom complete with evaporation and precipitation. Soon after they were doing Stream Team where they monitor the health of a local stream. While doing this they collected a small cutthroat trout in the stream bed sediments. Our aquarium didn't have any inhabitants so in went the trout.
Throughout the course of the year that trout has been incorporated into almost every unit we have studied in our science class. Along the way the students have borrowed my camera and taken A LOT of footage of the trout. For our simple machine unit the trout took center stage again as the object of their Rube Golberg Machine's mission. They set their machine up so they could turn the lights on in the morning and it would feed the trout! See the video on YouTube here.
I used a digital story map to guide editing of the huge amount of footage the students collected during the yearlong experience with the cutthroat trout. All though I already had the footage creating the map really helped me fine tune what story I wanted the movie to tell. The project was such a success other teachers in the district have asked for the movie to get their students working with simple machines.
I have joined a few online forums that I refer to quite a bit when I am lesson planning.
The first is a Yahoo! group for Middle School Science teachers. I have only asked one question on this forum but I received several suggestions for a chromotography exercise with my students. Membership is required but not too difficult to sign up for.
Another forum I signed up with is the Teach-Nology teacher forum. My state mentor suggested this resource. I have implemented a series of closure exercises for formative assessment with my students. The closure exercises were based on some entries that were actually in the forum archives. I find that most of my questions can already be answered by a search of the forum.
Finally, in another MAT class, Alaska History: People and Resources and the Curriculum Development course we use a forum for turning in our assignments. Again, you need to have an account for this one, so I have not included a link here. By reading our classmates' entries we are able to cover a lot of area without doing redundant research. This is more relevant to our MAT experience but I hope to incorporate some things I have learned there in the classroom.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The Science Spot is a site I use regularly for my middle school science class, technology and high school biology classes. It is created by a middle school science teacher in Illinois. Her units are well supported with differentiation and a variety of media: powerpoints, website links, interactive links, supply resources and worksheets.
The Biology Project features problem sets and tutorials. It is currently being updated to be compatible for people using assistive technology! The students like to use the site because
the text is considerate and they don't feel like they have to wade through paragraph after paragraph. It is also supplemented with inter-active tutorials.
Nobel Prize My students are used to me saying "let's go visit the folks over at the Nobel Prize". They like the educational games there and I have busted students playing them when they are not supposed to be. The site contains lots of information about all of the prizes and their laureates, and of course lots of fun scientific games.
Megan Fitzpatrick firstname.lastname@example.org March 11, 2009
Assistive Technology for Reading by Hasselbring and Bausch
Overview of the Article
For students with learning disabilities, assistive technologies can act as a lifeline. The two areas of assistive technology discussed are Reading Support and Reading Intervention. Reading Support software helps students with learning disabilities get through reading material for their grade-level. It supports the students as they read. Reading Intervention is a form of assistive technology in that it helps students improve skills with background videos and after-reading support for word pronunciation and spelling. Text-Reader Software is a tool many schools use. It uses a sythentic voice to read text to students with the words highlighted as it reads. Some schools choose their textbooks based on the compatibility of the text with these programs. Of course, learning is best based on quality instruction not just the medium through which it is delivered.
- One brand of Reading Support Software is Read & Write Gold which features word prediction to speed students ahead in their writing.
- Reading Intervention Software mentioned in the article was READ 180 featuring anchor videos and instruction on difficult words.
- Read Write and Gold is an example of Text-Reader Software.
- Word prediction is a feature of this software that suggests words when students pause in typing.
- Textbooks with digital versions get preference when schools go to make purchases so they may be compatible with these programs.
- After use of Read 180, 18% of students in the study no longer needed special education services.
- Video incorporated with the text aids in activating prior knowledge
- Remember the technology is just a medium for delivery, not the teacher.
As soon as I read this article, I searched for the synthetic voice tools on my Mac that I have messed around with before. The students also use these often, but I have never thought of trying to use it with their virtual textbooks. Textbook reading is so loathsome to most of them, that having a synthetic voice read it to them may make it worse.
Megan Fitzpatrick email@example.com February 4, 2009
The Overdominance of Computers by Lowell Monke
Overview of the Article
Monke argues the common assumption that students will not be prepared for the 21st century unless they have access to computers in school. He states "preparation does not necessarily warrant early participation". Educational focus should be on Inner Resources. Computer use should be limited in elementary and increased just before graduation. Class time should primarily be spent compensating students for the screen time they have outside of school with critical thinking skills. The logic he implements is the analogy of driving a car. We let 3rd graders drive cars because they are necessary for survival in the 21st century, there for we shouldn't let students drive a computer, an equally powerful technology, until they are capable of making informed emotional and technical decisions.
- Inner Resources include: Self discipline, Moral Judgement, Empathy
- Unless students have knowledge of the physical world and community relationships, they are unable to infuse depth and meaning to their work
- The more students have access to computers the lower their tests scores (based on one international test)
- screen time needs to be compensated with real time
- Students don't lack technical skills, they need more qualities like parental care, community support, teacher competency, hope, compassion, enthusiasm
- students need to learn how to deal with the mess of technology's waste: nuclear, automobiles, antibiotics, and decisions related with technology like genetic engineering
- Do Jut-In-Time instruction before graduation
- Elementary school tools should be simple
Reflection and Significance
It would be interesting to title the units in my science and technology classes as empathy, discipline, moral judgement and use the content of cellular respiration, energy flow in ecosystems, and spreadsheets as ways to support these important "Inner Resources". Monke seems to consider all computers to be part of a network, which is often the case and is a real source of danger for students and computer use. In our elementary classes, I see computers being used for maybe 30 minutes a few times a week. These computers are only used for specific software. I agree that undirected computer use can be abused by students . I spend hours a week monitoring students explicitly and anonymously and sometimes disciplining them. The car analogy has its obvious weakness, we don't let young students drive but they do ride with us. Likewise we need to be guides of appropriate computer behavior and technique to students.
This is a video I created last semester and lost with my hard drive. The school has given me a new improved computer (and my own domain name for my class websites), but alas I must still work within the parameters of their rules, ie. No YouTube. For the the TechCulture Assignment, I posted to the server. Using the server is out, too, as I am relocated right now so can not re-synch my computer with the school's server. So here is my first successful video upload to blogger.