Poll Everywhere

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I was having trouble getting the local clickers we purchased in Taiwan working with resources purchased from the text publisher.  We were encouraged to buy locally because the Taiwan military makes it very difficult to import certain electronics like clickers.  Anyway, because of all this mix up, I came across Pool Everywhere on the internet.  Pool everywhere may be the best solution to my problem, at least in the short term until I am able to get Smart Clickers.

For my project, I will plan a unit using Poll Everywhere clickers in my lessons.  I think the
students will really like this as they will be able to use their cellphones for educational purposes in the classroom…..could be a first at TAS.  I also think this is possible a glimpse of the future classrooms.  As I alluded to in my last post, One-To-One Going Public, classrooms across the globe will be moving towards every student having a handheld (either a smartphone or tablet) in the next 5 to 10 years.  With prices dropping and most students having a smartphone anyway, it is a resource waiting to be exploited by the classroom teacher.  So I will give it a try to stay a ahead of the curve.

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Using the Laptop in my classroom

As a science teacher I find it easy, almost natural to use the computer in the classroom.  Virtually everyday students are using their computers in the classroom.  My classroom has become almost paperless since the school went one-to-one with computers.  Tests are one online Blackboard. Homework is done online with WebAssign.  Many labs are done using the Vernier software, LoggerPro and then the lab reports are written up using Google docs.   All handouts are posted on Blackboard.  Students can follow PowerPoint lessons or SmartBoard lessons by downloading them from BlackBoard.  As well, Dyknow is used  where the lesson appears on the students screens.   There is very little need for me to print something for the class.

As far as classroom management of the laptop goes, I have very few concerns.  Partly because I am teaching Honors and AP classes I have more motivated students than regular
classes.  So I have fewer and less serious misuse of laptop issues.  If I am teaching and I see a student looking at their screens too much, I usually say something smart like, “stop chatting with so and so”.  If the students are on task which they often are, they tell me what they were doing.  If not they usually just get back on task.   I am a little less worried about this near the end of class.  If students have worked hard all class (which they usually do), I usually cut them a little slack and not be overly vigilant near the end.  If they are working on problems or writing up a lab, I usually walk around periodically to see their screens.  As well, I also use Dyknow monitoring when I am giving a test or sometimes just as a random check if they are on task.  Just last Friday I did this by projecting the off task students screen onto the SmartBoard; www.NBA.com.

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One-to-one going public

With computers steadily dropping in price I can see a major change in education on the horizon, especially public education.  Over the next 5 to 10 years more and more schools will be going one-to-one.  As the cost of laptops, tablets, and handhelds drop it becomes that much more affordable and enticing for school divisions to move in that direction.  At some point there will be a tipping point, where enough schools have gone one-to-one that the rest will rapidly follow.  Kind of like scientific calculators where just 15 years ago.  I remember the school I was at then.  They had a class set of TI-83 calculators that teachers had to sign out and cart into class.  The cost back then was more than $100 a pop.  Not that far off what a simple laptop runs today and if you take inflation into consideration probably about the same as a laptop cost today in relative dollars.  Teachers are going to have to adapt.  Colleges of education are going to have to adapt. There will be a flood of new teaching pedagogy coming out on how to use technology in a one-to-one setting.  The amount of resources on the net will explode as more people start to post lessons they are developing.  Curriculums will be re-written to better align with a one-to-one classroom. Certain skills that were once important will be removed from curriculums.

These changes are not just for public education on rich countries either.  Developing countries will be able to afford handhelds too just like they can afford cars.  Countries like India, Venezuela, Brazil, Russia, and China all have programs where car companies put out a line of cars that the lower class can afford.  It is causing an explosion in the number of cars on the road.  A similar thing will happen with one-to-one education in these countries.  An educational handheld model will be promoted joinlty by governments, educational institutions, and tech companies.

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Eye Color

Our school just had a PD day with Dr. Michelle Borba presenting a workshop on building moral intelligence.  There were a few things that really caught my attention.  One was that research says that moral intelligence can be taught. Researchers can tell within seconds which child is susceptible to being bullied and which kids are more likely to bully.  My own 5 year old has been the victim of bullying so I was especially keen to hear what she had to say about this.  Borba says that one way to help children not be bullied is to teach children to make eye contact; to see the color of the speaker’s eyes.  Apparently, this is a big factor in reducing bullying.  My 5 year old never looks people in the eyes.  I know if I work with her on this she will be able to it.  So it was very encouraging to learn this information.

Another thing that struck a nerve inside me was when Dr. Borba read a quote from a holocaust survivor.  I don’t remember the exact wording but the message was that the victim witnessed Doctors do terrible experiments on people, nurses kill babies, and engineers build chambers to mass kill people.  All of them were well trained professionals from a school system.  The person doesn’t trust education.  It kind of made the audience think of the need for a moral education in our schools. I can’t help but think of terrorism today.  There are very intelligent people with great educational backgrounds making  bombs and designing weapons to mass kill in the name of some ideology.    And then I think to myself, what if a former student of mine got caught up in some of this?  Having worked in public education back home, I bet the chances are at least a few former students are up to no good; maybe not to the extreme of terrorism, but likely some are involved in things like organized crime.  God forbid they may be using some of the skills they learned in my sciences classes.

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How can teachers and schools ensure that students are meeting technology standards in their school within an integrated model?

There are many variables and many people responsible to ensure that the technology standards are met in a school.  In the top international schools it starts at the hiring process.  Administrators need to hire qualified people who are not only experienced competent teachers in their subject matter, but also teachers who have the tech skills required for their particular school.  For example, in a one-to-one learning environment it is important the new teachers have the tech skills to not only survive but rather thrive when in a tech savvy school.  They shouldn’t see the tech at the new school as weight hanging over their shoulders, but rather as incredible support for better teaching.  It is hard enough to adjust to a new school let alone learn all the new tech skills at the new school if the teacher is not up on their tech. As mentioned before, the curriculum coordinator must also play an overseeing role in all of this.  With programs like Atlas Rubicon they have the tech support they need to ensure technology standards are being met.  After them there is the principal and department heads.  They too have access
to Atlas Rubicon and should be popping into classrooms to see what is going on.  From informal and form visits they can get an idea of the technology being used in the classrooms and the technology skills that students are learning and using.

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Who’s Job is it to teach the NETs

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I think the question depends on the grade level.  For elementary, there should be a separate class like PE, Music, or Library, where students go for a 30 minute class in a computer type room and a specialist works with them.  I say this from a point of view of a parent of a kindergartener.  My daughter has minimal tech time at home.  He mother and
I want her to be physically active rather than spending hours sitting down using technology like video games, watching TV, or playing with I-pods, I-phones.   So at home she is currently exposed to a nominal amount of technology.  Therefore, I think
the best way for her to gain the skills contained in the NETs would be for the school
to offer a separate class.

Speaking from the point of view of an US teacher, I don’t think a separate class is necessary, or at most an elective course for new students to TAS who don’t have the same background skill level as our current students.   The students that I teach have superb tech
skills.  They can do much more than I can do.  By the time they have gotten to US
they know or are able to learn on their own new tech skills.  For example, just the other day a student asked me how to paste their LoggerPro graph into their Google Doc lab
report.  The simple answer was to ask a classmate as almost all could help them.

To get back to the main question of who’s job is it to teach the NETs standards.  I think all teachershave some responsibly regardless of a school’s programs or make up.  Each teacher should have unit plans that target some NETs.  For teachers who are using
Best Practices, they probably don’t even worry about making sure they are
addressing the NETs in their units planning.  They are naturally just present.
I don’t think individual teachers should be concerned with meeting all the NETs.  Different subjects and different teaching style can more easily address certain NETs.  But if all the teachers are addressing some then the overall program will have all the standards addressed.  The person that should ensure they are in fact met is the curriculum coordinator.  They are the only ones who really take a look at the overall program on a regular basis.  Through programs like Atlas Rubicon they have access to everyone’s unit plans.  They should therefore, be overseeing that all the NETs are not only in the curriculum but are being implemented at a school as well.  If they identify gaps then it
is their responsibility to work with teachers to fill them.  For example, if it was brought to the staff attention that none of the US teachers where addressing one particular NET, then it would be easy for some department to take role in addressing that.


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Term Project

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For the class project, I wanted to create a piece of media myself.  After putting in about 5 hours of work, I felt I had a good start.  I knew what I wanted the finished product to look like and I knew how to get it done.  I just needed another 10 hours or so of time to finish it off.  But when I started viewing the videos I had my students create for their Rube Goldberg projects, I realized that what I was making was inferior to my students.  When I first assigned the project, I gave the students information on how to create a video.  Interestingly, very few said they needed it.  Because the project was in groups, they were encouraged to choose groups that had a balance of talents; making sure to include someone who was good at video editing.  It turns out there are a lot of very tech savvy students in the class and the creation of the video was the least of their worries.  Building the actual rube Goldberg was a much bigger challenge for them.

I came to realize that my students have way more tech skills that I imagined.  I learned that it is alright to assign things with technology that we the teachers are not necessarily masters at.  The students have the skills and if they don’t, they know how to learn them.  Most of my students are leaps and bounds ahead of me in the skills needed to create their videos.  I also identified which students I can now ask for tech help in the future.

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I have heard Michael Thompson speak two times. The first time was a several years ago at a teacher’s conference in Caracas, Venezuela.  His presentation had a real impression on me then, so I had big expectations from him this time around.  I attended his presentation on the Top Twelve Suggestions for Teaching Boys. Since that first time I attended a Dr. Thompson presentation things have changed for me; I am now the father of two small boys.   So I was particularly keen to hear what he had to say.

He gave some pretty eye opening stats about how boys are doing.  Things like sixty percent of college degrees and fifty-six percent of graduate degrees go to young women, in almost all schools girls are dominating the top quarter of a graduating class and boys being in the majority in the bottom quarter.  Colleges are struggling to maintain a 60/40 female to male ratio. Educators have finally acknowledged the growing gap between girl academic achievement and boy academic achievement at all levels.

As the title of the workshops suggests, Dr. Thompson gave 12 suggestions to help.  The ones that resonated with me are:

Give homework that has immediate feedback: When I look back at my own school experience, I used to hate school.  The above list contains some of the things that turned me off school.  I used to hate when teachers gave back work weeks or even months later.  I make a big effect to give back work as fast as possible.  So seeing Dr. Thompson had this on his list really confirmed what I am already doing.

Let them move in the classroom as much a can be tolerated: I need to keep this in mind in my classroom.  I often get caught up in a lecture and can get carried away on the topic not being mindful of my audience’s ability to stay on task for too long.  Breaking up my class into chunks and letting students move about in the flow of the class with certainly pay off.

Authenticity:  Boys often consider school irrelevant to the lives they are going to lead.  This was my and my classmate’s biggest complaint as students. We were in rural Canada.  School was so boring and had nothing to do with what most of us aspired to.  No wonder there were 16 boys in grade 8 and only 5 made it to graduate.  They dropped like flies from grades 9-11.  I need to try to connect assignments to the real world and to their aspirations or risk losing them like my school experience did with my boy classmates.

What are the stakes?:  Boys love competition.  I can’t forget this when I am planning my lessons.  I need to incorporate my activities that involve risk, public performance or competition.  I can do this.  I have things like jeopardy type review games and other activities that accommodate the spirit of completion or place the students in a position of risk.  This can be done in the laboratory, by having bonuses for getting within a certain percent error of some unknown value or turning the objective of the lab into a competition.

Boys love technology: He says we should not condemn their love of technology and video games without understanding why they love it and what it does for them. This is a hard one for me because personally, I find gaming to be a waste of time.  And from talking with my students, it seems for most of them it is negatively affecting their performance at school.  It might give them a sense of control as Dr. Thompson suggests, but from my experience the negatives outweigh the benefits.  In the future, I will have to make a concerted effort to understand where the boys are coming from.

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Max Planck

Max Planck has always fascinated me.  Planck is considered the father of Quantum Theory and received a Nobel Prize for his work in this area in 1918.  Einstein piggybacked on some of Planck’s ideas when he published his famous 1905 paper, On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.  Einstein maybe most famous for relativity and E=MC2, but it was for his explanation of the Photoelectric Effect that earned him a Noble Prize in 1921, not relativity.   Relativity wasn’t easy to accept.

I plan to create a piece of media to use in my AP Physics class either explaining the Photoelectric Effect or some of the history of what was going on in physics at this exciting time.  Either way, I plan to use the Planck Photo.

Courtesy of the Clendening History of Medicine Library, University of Kansas Medical Center. File history in de wikipedia

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Smart Phone Part II

You know those presents you buy someone that you really want for yourself?  Come on we all have at least been tempted to buy our spouses something we really want for ourselves.  This past Christmas I heard of an almost unbelievable one.  A guy from my home town back in Saskatchewan bought his Mexican wife an ice fishing shack for Christmas for their first Christmas together.  Why would a Mexican women new to Saskatchewan want an ice fishing shack for Christmas?  If this guy didn’t sleep on the couch for all of January there is no justice.

The smart phone was about the smartest gift I ever got my wife for Christmas.  Even though, she was quick to point out that the present really was something that I would want (more than her).  But after only a couple days it would have been hard to convince her to return it.  I wouldn’t call my wife tech savvy but she does ok.  However, I would have never guessed she would latch onto her I-Phone like she has.  In the SUNY class this past weekend, when Eric said he sleeps with his I-phone I understood what he meant.  The I-Phone is the last thing my wife looks at before she falls asleep and the first thing she looks at when she wakes up.  She is addicted to it.  She is learning more things to do with it all the time.  Like the translate app.  On the weekend we were looking for something in a store.  We just showed the store attended the translated message in Mandarin via the I-Phone and we communicated!

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