For my final project in COETAIL I decided to make a series of videos to assist my students in preparing for our final Chemistry test.  For a variety of reasons it was an experience that will stay with me for the unforeseen future.  I look forward to sharing the good, the bad and the ugly with you all during our final class together.


Here is the presentation I’ll be sharing in class.

I’m back.  This semester has been a whirlwind of the likes I don’t ever want to see again.

Attribution Some rights reserved by Lori Joan

Here’s a quick update on where I am with my final COETAIL project.

My goal was to find a part of my curriculum that is being taught in a not-so visual manner and do my best to infuse purposeful visuals into the teaching and learning.   After reflection I realized that as a result of the last year and a half of more purposeful use of visuals, there really isn’t a huge gap to be found.  My goal then shifted a bit and I decided to take on something that I have actively avoided since I heard the phrase “screen capture” years ago.  I’m making videos with Camtasia Studio to provide a preview or review of the most challenging concepts in our chemistry unit.  I hope to have these done in the next week so that my students can use them to review for the final test.

So far I have confirmed that:

-I do not like editing video.  That whole one minute of video represents one hour of editing is actually a conservative estimate.

-I’m completely self-conscious about my voice and image on the screen.

Yes, I will persevere and have something to share soon.  Stay tuned for what I’m sure will be an absolutely riveting chemistry-video series.  (I’m not very good at conveying sarcasm through written text.)

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So I’m supposed to pick a topic that will ultimately flush itself out as a project that will be implemented over the course of second semester.  I can’t even figure out what I’m having for dinner tonight, never mind something I will solely be responsible for, for a five month period.  Sure, I’m an idea person, but my ideas usually involve an implementation time period of 1 -5 days, not months.  Bottom line, I don’t know what to do.  I’ve had a few ideas, but they all sort of fizzle out as I try to sequence them out.

Idea 1: Infuse graphics into visual presentations (Back to School Night PPT, Science PPT, Course Brochure and so on)  These visuals have been rather traditional in nature and could use a spruce up.

Idea 2: Flipped Out, oops, I mean Flipped Classroom.  There are some topics I teach that are rather detailed focused in nature.  I’m sure students would benefit from instructional videos at home and more practice with me. (Balancing Chemical Formulas, Chemical Bonding, Calculating Distance is Space)

Idea 3: Just kidding, that’s all I  got.  As stated earlier, I’m struggling with this.

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Follow My Rules!

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I remember when I had to walk up hill, both ways, to school in two feet of snow.  No, wait, that was my grandfather’s story.

I remember back when I had to organize and tend to laptop carts.  Power cords strewn everywhere, except in their properly labeled bags.  Unsanitized, communal headphones (ick) laboriously signed out from the IT department.  My young son’s life offered as a trade should they not be properly returned.  Oh, those days were rough.  Oh, how we suffered.  Almost more so than grandpa’s cold, snowy trudges.


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Now, my worst struggle is usually, “What!  That kid doesn’t have a Lenovo!  Now I have to work for 1.5 seconds longer to find their screen brightness button.  Geash!”


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Life is good.

Back two years ago I was a nervous wreck about being a teacher in a full on one-to-one learning environment.  I actually crafted my professional goal as:


“Various new forms of classroom management in a one-to-one learning environment will be explored.”



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About two months after submitting this revolutionary proposal I hung my head, shuffled my way back into the middle school office and agreed with my all-knowing supervisor that, yes, this was completely useless and unnecessary.  He was glad I got it out of my system.

Anyways, I discovered that the rules in my classroom did not change, they just received a 21st century facelift.

Then: “Put that game, note, toy or whatever away.  I’m talking to you.”

Now: “Close that screen.   I’m still talking to you.”


Then: “Put your name on your paper.”

Now: “Name your file correctly.”


Then: “No backpacks in my room.  I’m a klutz therefore backpacks are a hazard.  Oh yea, and I teach science.  Flames, chemicals, sharp objects and a room full of obstacles and a klutzy teacher is a bad idea.”

Now: “No plugging in.  I’ll take a header as I trip over the cord.”


Then: “No doodling or scrunched up papers.  Be proud of what you submit”

Now: “Resize your images, your text in blue, my text in black, use 1.5 spacing to leave room for comments, common-use images only.  Be proud of what you submit.”

The rules haven’t changed.  Teachers just have to know enough to adapt the rules a bit.  How can teachers redefine their classroom procedures to adapt to a one-to-one learning environment?  They should steal.


Attribution Some rights reserved by AZRainman


I mean borrow.  Borrow and learn from the best.  I sat in the back of colleagues’ classrooms for a full year and “borrowed” all their tips and tricks.  I learned so much watching these folks in action.  File organization, tips on monitoring students, new and exciting products.  What did they do initially to prepare for computers in their rooms?  They traveled the world to learn from other schools.  They brainstormed and experimented together.

Classroom management in a one-to-one classroom isn’t new.  If you were a good classroom manager then, I believe you’ll be a good classroom manager with a room full of computers.  Don’t be shy.  Look what is happening around you and bring it into your own class.


You’re welcome to visit my room.  As long as you don’t plug in.




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Education 2025…what will it look like?

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I imagine some similarities to the now.

-Students will continue to be students.  They will ride the crests of excitement and wallow in the troths of frustration.  The young mind is capable of so much, but needs a guide to help along the way.

-Teachers will continue to be teachers.  They will support their students, differentiate instruction and set the bar for excellence just within grasp.

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I also imagine some drastic differences.

  – I would image the exposure to and the processing of information becoming more global.  A textbook will no longer represent a complete collection of knowledge on a subject.  Quality information will need to be sought out and sifted through.  The value of sharply honed research skills we be incalculable.

-Learning may become more communal.  MOOCs, tweets, chats, blogs, posts and so on will be created, view, edited and discussed by many.  Share what you’ve learned with others and learn from their work in the same way.

AttributionSome rights reserved by Nina Matthews Photography

Will grade reporting change?  Become less formal?  Dan Pink suggested that people are naturally “active and engaged”.  This being considered, maybe students don’t need to have continual grades assigned by teachers.  Would Pink’s utopia of autonomy, mastery and purpose really transfer from the business world to the classroom?  Hmmm, that’s an interesting topic unto itself.

As I sit here typing this out, my naturally flawed, human instincts kick in.  How will I adapt?  What will I be like in the classroom in 2025?   Or better yet, how have I adapted already?  Yesterday’s future has arrived and I’m living it today.  I’ve changed and adapted over my 16 year career.  Yes, I copied overheads and spent hours shifting piles and piles of papers.  Today it’s a laptop/tablet environment.

Tomorrow’s changes are less hardware based and more process based.  A change in philosophy can be a lot more difficult than a change in mere tools.  Oh my, my hair is already looking like it’s 2025.

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I remember someone telling  me that a toddler needs to sometimes try a food over a dozen times before they accept it as tasty.  I’d like to think my critical reasoning skills don’t require such repeated exposure to something new, but alas, no.  Like a screaming child facing a bowl of broccoli, I too put my nose up at the idea of a flipped classroom.

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For the past 13 months Jeff  Utecht has been putting this flipped classroom idea in front of me and I’ve conveniently determined why it wouldn’t work for me.

-What about all the powerful ways I engage my students during a lecture?

-What about my jazzy PPT files full of powerful and purposeful images?

-What about the fact that I teach adolescents?  Not the most self motivated population on the planet!


Well, I think I finally got it.  It was a real eye opener to watch Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams teach the phases of matter via a vodcast.  I teach that too!  Their video was perfect, scientifically speaking, and just right quality wise.  I could understand what they were saying and follow their annotations, yet it wasn’t a perfectly edited video.  Their efforts went into all the right areas.  Good, clear delivery of instruction.

YouTube Preview Image

Intro to Chemistry: 1.1: Properties of Matter (1/2)

I think the difference for me was actually seeing the videos they produce for their students.  Viewing the product just made it all seems more clear. I’m not one to jump on a bandwagon and toss out my current bag of tricks, but watching these guys in action actually got me to understand the validity of what they were doing and begin to see it as a feasible addition to my classroom.

And hey, they’re pulling some serious coin for each “season”.  Well done!  I wonder if flipped Astronomy, my next unit, would be a big seller.  Hmmmmmm


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How do we know if we are meeting technology standards?  Let’s back up for a moment.  Isn’t technology a tool to help students achieve learning in the content areas?  Wikipedia shared ISTE’s definition of technology integration as:  Curriculum integration with the use of technology involves the infusion of technology as a tool to enhance the learning in a content area or multidisciplinary setting

If that is the case, isn’t achievement in the content areas  a reflection of powerful teaching and learning?

Couldn’t effective use of technology be a contributing factor to this  powerful teaching and learning?

Schools measure their success in a variety of ways.  ERB scores, SAT averages and college acceptance rates to name a few.  Effective use of technology, along with the myriad of tools used by experienced teachers help contribute to a school’s success.

Now, I’m not against the implementation of technology standards.  Teachers and administrators need guidance when making decisions about what should be happening  within the walls of a classroom.


I guess I just feel lucky.

  • I work in a school that has successfully established a thriving one-to-one learning environment.
  • I work with an experienced IT integration specialist who helps  guide technology integration.
  • I work for administrators that allow me to use my professional judgment when selecting learning tools to use in my classroom.
  • I am guided.


Maybe I would be seeking a more structured and dictated technology approach if I was elsewhere, where teachers  didn’t ask:

  • What skills do my students need to achieve our goals?
  • What tools will best help us learn?
  • What do my students need to know to thrive in this world, beyond the walls of my classroom?

Each school needs to find its way.

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Yes, the NETs need to be taught, but by who?

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I really don’t think there is a overarching answer that can be applied to all learning environments.  Schools  need to determine how these standards will be addressed, yet aren’t schools facing these questions of delegation on a variety of fronts?

Who will teach sex education?

How will students learn to be “greener” citizens?

Who will ensure our students are moral?

There is just too much learning to go around.

Attribution Some rights reserved by Phalaenopsis Aphrodite

I joke, yet isn’t there a small truth to this.  Kids need to learn more and more to keep up in this world.  Is there anything they can learn less and less?  Ok, maybe binder organization and cursive handwriting are taking a back burner, but I do fear the standard and benchmark jamming sessions that happens under most educators’ umbrella of responsibility.


How will the NETs be taught?

There is no one, perfect answer.

Some schools will see that the NETs are covered in the core curriculum, and others will elicit the help of a computer specialist.  The best schools will figure out how to empower their students with the knowledge of the NETs without overwhelming them with a deadly case of standards and benchmarks overload. Yikes!

I just hope that whomever is determining how the NETs will be addressed remembers that technology is a tool. A wonderful, exciting, world accessing tool, but a tool nonetheless.

There is so much to learn and…I sometimes miss my red, plastic Trapper Keeper.

When was the last time you actually looked at a periodic table of elements? I mean really looked!

-6pt font
-inconsistent formatting from table to table
-university level information pressed up against the basic facts
-numbers, letters, Roman numerals, color codes, columns, rows, patterns, exceptions…

It really is just too much for most students. I designed the following infographic as a resource for my students during our eighth grade chemistry unit. I hope they find it helpful, or in the least, slightly tempting.

UBD Project Outline

I struggle with the academic application of Presentation Zen.   Most of my ” presentations” are given to a captive audience that are not necessarily natural listeners.   On those days that I spin a tale and tell a story woven through with the facts of science, I do see a marked increase in attention and interest.  But in reality, this can’t happen every day.  I’ve got some facts to get across.

Our school endorses the Understanding by Design curriculum planning model.  An integral part of the process is crafting enduring understandings and essential questions on which an entire unit is based.  I thought that maybe this would be the place for a Presentation Zen type approach.  Enduring understandings and essential questions are usually big ideas.  A visual introduction to a unit could be quite powerful and engaging.  Revisiting this presentation throughout the unit, to asses student acquisition of the enduring understandings and  essential questions, could also be useful.  Students could add their own images/slides to the presentation and provide the narrative justification to the significance.

Below is what I came up with to introduce our upcoming unit on Density and Buoyancy.  I created this in Powerpoint.  The images are linked to their sources, but I choose to put the creative common usage guidelines in the notes section of the presentation.  I also included the original enduring understandings and essential questions in the notes section.  The second slide is an embedded video from the Let’s Color project.