8-C-1 2020 Vision

When we think about the history of education over the past few hundred years, there have not been a huge amount of changes or advancements in technology … until recently. Today, the situation is very different than it was 200 years ago, or even just 20 years ago. In today’s educational world, technology is all around us; and it seems to change so quickly, that we have trouble keeping up with the latest state of the art prototype/version. As we continue to look into the future, the field of education will continue to change at an astonishing rate as a result of advances in technology. If fact, this rate of change is so fast, that many of the standard norms of the current day, will look drastically different in 2020, just 5.5 years from today. In the year 2020, I imagine the world to be a very different place than we know it today. Advances in technology will affect every field and discipline, and changes in these fields will lead to transformations within education.

One of the easiest changes that will soon take place within the next few years is the advancement of medical technology. These changes will probably be the easiest because they will prolong the quality of life for human beings. Some of these changes have already taken place, and I myself have already personally experienced an example state of the art medical technology when I received a pacemaker seven years ago (at the ripe age of 25 years old). At the time, the pacemaker that was chosen by my cardiologist was “top of the line”, in terms of pacing, size, and battery life.

While I am still amazed at the capabilities that this “silver dollar sized” 2007 pacemaker can perform (24 hour EKG, filling in beats within a fraction of a second, transmitting data over the phone, etc.), I’m about to be blown away with the latest innovations in pacemaker technology. Advances in technology have already led to a prototype pacemaker that is extremely small (about the size of a large pill), and operates wirelessly (without implanting wires/leads into the heart) with your body’s electrical signals (The Next Web, 2014)! The best part about this technology is that it is not limited to just the heart. This type of wireless pacemaker also has the potential to set the stage for advances in brain technologies. One type of artificial intelligence called neuromorphic computing uses computer software within the pacemaker to send electrical signals to the brain, and the brain then sends a desired signal to a different part of the human body (The Next Web, n.d.). This type of innovation may have the ability to treat brain disorders such as: headaches, fainting, stuttering, epilepsy, etc.!

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8-A-1: Web Applications

The web application I have chosen to share is Zoho Spreadsheet. I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve never heard of Zoho before this class. I chose to highlight this web application because it is similar to GoogleDocs, but Zoho’s spreadsheet tool has more features and functions than Google’s tool.

How Zoho Spreadsheets Support Individual Learning Styles

I would recommend an application like Zoho Spreadsheet to students who are visual learners, because this program has the ability to “translate” written and numerical information into visual diagrams such as tables, charts, and graphs. This “translation” function of Zoho will also benefit students who have a strong sense of logic and problem solving.

How I Might Use Zoho Spreadsheet In the Classroom

I envision students working in lab groups (in class) to collect data from a chemistry experiment. When the experiment is finished, they must then use some type of graphical analysis program to help them interpret the meaning of their data. Zoho’s spreadsheet tool allows students to collaborate online (outside of class) in real-time on a single project. The goal of the assignment would be for students to collaborate about their data outside of class, and create a document that accurately interprets the findings of their experiment.

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7-B-1: Paperless Classes

Overall, I like the concept and ideas of paperless classes, however, for the particular subject I teach (chemistry), the technology needed to accomplish this task is not yet cheap enough for public education. Before explaining the complications that go along with a paperless chemistry class, it is also important for me to state some of the benefits that have resulted from use of computers and digital technology.

Computers and digital technology (paperless entities) have allowed the concepts of chemistry to “come to life” in a much more realistic way, allowing people to see and understand concepts that never been accurately portrayed on paper. In fact, I wish these computerized molecular simulations were around when I studied chemistry – they would have made my life a lot easier!

And while some of these technologies have truly benefited the field of science, and this digital switch has made life much easier for professional chemists (companies with a lot of money), the software needed to create a “paperless” environment is still extremely pricy. Some of these expensive software and technologies include: molecular drawing kits, chemical equation software, digital reaction and mechanism software, and analytical chemistry software (spectrograph programs). In fact, I (the teacher) don’t have access to these softwares because I don’t have enough money in my school budget to purchase a license for just myself (not to mention a license package for students).  Continue reading

7-A-1 Big Shifts

I have chosen to mostly consider Big Shift # 3 (The Social, Collaborative Construction of Meaningful Knowledge), and incorporate one part of Big Shift # 5 (Know “Where” Learning) which is to create an online textbook for my classes using Internet resources.

Will Richardson’s book sums up a great comparison of how teachers of the past have viewed student work, to how teachers of the future will view student work.

Old School View

  • Students work independently to complete an assignment (“do your own work”)
  • Work is created for a small limited audience to view (usually just the teacher)
  • When the work is finished – it’s done (nothing becomes of it, and eventually it may be thrown away)
New School View

  • Students work collaboratively together to complete an assignment using resources from the Read/Write Web
  • Work is created for a large broad audience (not just the teacher, but anyone who has access to the Internet)
  • When the work is finished – it’s still there, for others to view and possibly continue to work on in the future

I have been a teacher for four years now. While this is not a huge amount of time, my views regarding student work have gradually changed over the past four years.

At the beginning of my teaching career I was adamant about each student working independently. In addition, the work they created was usually only seen by me, and at the end of the year, I generally threw out the folder that contained a compilation of their work (I know that is sad – but it is the truth)

Today, my viewpoints are somewhat different. While I still think there is a place for students working independently, I have also grown to the like the idea of students working with each other and collaborating together to master a concept. In addition, I have also changed my viewpoint of what I do with finished work – I’ve changed some of my assignments to projects, and then displayed excellent works for other students to use as examples.

In the future, I would like to take the “New School” ideas for student work to create collaborative class website that can be viewed by anyone who has the internet. This purpose of this website is to be a helpful resource to my own students, but also serve as a resource for anyone who wants to learn something about chemistry. Another goal of mine is to use this space to create an online textbook for my physical science class, which currently does not have a textbook (Big Shift # 5).

My Vision

Although I teach 3 different levels/courses, I’m going to use my Physical Science course as a template to demonstrate my vision. I would like my online website to contain the following.

Online Textbook

Have students (and myself) use Internet resources (blogs, wikis, discussion groups, other online textbooks) to compile an online text for future classes.

Additional Content & Resources

I will upload the content lessons, but I would like students to find additional external resources (videos, simulations, songs, etc.) for section of the content material. I would also like to create an assignment where current students leave meaningful advice for future students (how to be successful in this course, etc.). I think I will give students options for the format of this assignment (written post, video, podcast, etc.).

Picture Vocabulary

In my traditional classroom, I already have students create picture vocabulary cards- where they define a term using a picture. In the future, I would like students to scan or take a picture of their vocabulary card and upload this card to the website for others to view. At the end of the year, my goal is to have each one of my students help to create a complete set of all the vocabulary terms for the course.

Class Projects

In my traditional classroom, I have students complete an element project and a periodic table project. I already require students to use multimedia tools (Prezi, videos, songs, etc.) in their projects, and so I think it would be relatively easy for them to upload them to our class website.

Scribe Notes

When students are absent (especially for multiple days), it is difficult for me to remember everything we did during the class period(s) they missed. In the future, I would like to have a student-created wiki of “scribe notes”, where one student in each class (I do have multiple sections, in case that student is absent) will include: the date, the general topic, assignments turned in at the beginning of class, today’s agenda, summary of today’s lesson, ticket to exit with explanation, and today’s homework. Using a wiki to create these scribe notes will allow students to continue to add to previous work. The end result will be a compilation of what specific activities we did each day. So … when a student is absent, I (and he/she) can look at the wiki to determine exactly what information was missed.

Everyday Chemistry

I want students to use a vodcast called “Reactions” to find and learn about an “everyday chemistry” topic that they are interested in. A full explanation of this Everyday Chemistry assignment is below on my blog. Basically, students will find a topic, and summarize what they have learned using one of the following formats: written blog post, podcast, vodcast or video, picture lesson, etc. They will then upload their summary and the link to the original vodcast to our class website for others to explore everyday chemistry topics.

6-A-3: Responding to Connectivism

Overall, I generally agree with connectivism being considered a valid learning theory, as stated by Group A’s Wiki. My conclusion for this point of view results from my own belief/definition of what learning is, and also my own learning experiences that have occurred through the concepts of connectivism (some use technology while others do not, but the main concept is present).

I believe that learning can be defined as the acquisition of new knowledge. While other learning theories (behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism) have proven themselves to support this definition of learning, I also believe that concepts of connectivism can lead to the acquisition of new knowledge through the sharing of information and ideas. In addition, I also think that technology and the tools of the Internet have help facilitate the transfer of this knowledge between networks.

Another reason I support connectivism being a learning theory is because I believe the sharing of information is just as important as the content itself, when trying to acquire new knowledge. A few years ago (before the social media boom) I worked in scientific research. To make a long story short, we were trying to develop a drug that stopped the degeneration of neurological pathways that lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s, some cancers, and schizophrenia. We hit a wall when our drug just wasn’t binding to the enzyme site, and our experiment wasn’t working. Instead of going back to the textbook (trying to further master the content), my advisor told me to go to the library and look up research articles regarding the antibody and drug we were using. We called the lab groups who had published the papers and consulted with them about our problems and their problems. As a result of sharing information through our network connections (the scientific community), we came up with a new hypothesis that was successful for our experiment. This experience supports the main concept of connectivism as a learning theory because the acquisition of new knowledge needed to solve our problem resulted more from sharing information with other networks, rather than continuing to master the content at a deeper level.

Interestingly, some of the pictures I took dealing with this experiment kind of demonstrate the concepts of communicating through network connections.  Here is one of them.

Cellular Connections

Today, learning through connectivism is all around us using the tools of the Internet. Web 2.0 technologies and social media sites like Pinterest, Wikipedia, Google, Diigo, Reddit, Blogger, Twitter, and Facebook, allow individuals to acquire new knowledge and learn new information. The acquisition of this knowledge occurs by sharing information between an infinite number of networks. The use of technology facilitates the ease of sharing this information in a manner that is both organized and fast. As technology improves and the field of social media expands, I believe that the concept of connectivism will be accepted as a valid learning theory by a majority of individuals.

 

6-C-2: Skype Ideas

Skype is a technology that highlights some of the best qualities of connectivism. This tool is easy to use, and allows you videoconference with just about anyone in the world. The possibilities of this technology in the classroom are numerous, and as time goes on, I can only assume they will increase and improve.

I have already informally used Skype to teach and within my classroom. The first time I used Skype to teach was when a previous student (who then now in college) contacted me in a panic and needed to learn how to solve buffer problems. I thought about writing an explanation back to her using an email, but it would have been really difficult to type the formulas involved with this concept. So I just called her on Skype, wrote the equations, and solved them with her in real time. The second way I have used Skype in the classroom was to contact an exchange student who had been with our school the previous year. My current class really missed her, so we figured out the time difference and gave her a ring. It was actually really neat because we got to meet her family and she gave us a tour or her Italian home.

What I Hope to Gain

One of reasons that Skype is so appealing to everyone (educators and people in general) is because this technology allows you to kind of “be a certain location”, without physically being there. Another reason that makes Skype extremely appealing is that it offers real-time audio and video communication. One of the main reasons I would like to use Skype within the classroom is to gain accessibility to knowledge from places that are too far to physically travel to/from.

Ideas of How to Use Skype In the Classroom

I would love to use Skype to hold a guest lecture with a famous scientist. I envision the famous scientist giving a small lesson, and then having a question and answer section, where students can actively become involved with the scientists.

Another way that I would like to use Skype in the future is to hold Parent/Teacher conferences! This would solve a lot of problems for parents who work out of town, or even parents who just can’t make it to the school. This format of conferencing would be much more efficient than trying to explain specific situations over email.

Finally, I think Skype could also be used for professional development. It would save districts a lot of money if teachers did not physically have to travel and stay out of town for a professional development seminar. I actually think we will see this situation in the near future, if it hasn’t already occurred.

6-A-4: Blogical Discussion Forum ~ Are Traditional Grades a Thing of the Past?

I recently came across an article titled, “Are Traditional Grades a Thing of the Past?” which argued that traditional grading systems (e.g., report cards and other current common systems used by schools today) are an inaccurate means to measure what students know in terms of content knowledge and cannot be used as an accurate indicator for how students will perform on standardized tests. The author of this article states that traditional grades used to represent a student’s mastery of content knowledge are typically inflated by other non-academic factors, thereby making them an invalid source to predict test performance.

It was after reading the opening paragraph of this article that I thought to myself, “I don’t use a traditional grading system like this one that leads to a student’s content grade being higher than it should be; do I? No … of course not … I’m sure the grade on their report card is an accurate representation of how each student would perform on a standardized test.” And then, I read the rest of the article, and changed my mind. As it turns out, I think a lot of teachers (myself being one of them) use a grading system that leads to the inflation of a content-based grade for all students.

If you take a few minutes to read the article, you will see the problem with traditional grading systems lies with the fact that a single grade (e.g., like the grade on a report card, typically used to demonstrate a student’s level of mastery for content material) is based upon both academically based factors (content knowledge) and non-academically based factors. These non-academic factors are things like: behavior, attendance, class participation, extra credit, late work penalties, and non-academic assignments (e.g., earning points to return a signed field trip form, etc.).

While these non-academic factors have a place in education and may serve as beneficial life skills, the author of this article believes that they should not be factored into a student’s content-based grade, because this combination leads to an inaccurate portrayal of what a student truly understands in terms of content knowledge.  The article concludes with a possible solution to this problem using a philosophy called, “Grading for Learning”, in which a students grades are split into two separate categories.  One grade is based upon content knowledge, and a second, separate grade is based upon behavioral life skills.

Please take a few minutes to read the article (link at beginning of blog in red), and then briefly answer TWO of the questions below.

 Questions to Consider

1.) Would you currently consider yourself someone who uses the “traditional grading system”, like the one described in the article? Why or why not?

2.) Do you think students should receive a single grade that is based upon both “content knowledge” and “behavioral life skills”? Or do you think students should receive two separate grades for “content knowledge” and “behavioral life skills”. Why have you chosen your position (this answer could be dependent on the age-group you teach)?

3.) Do you agree with specific parts of Harder & Bartlett’s experimental design to increase the accuracy/validity of their grading system (e.g., allowing re-testing for certain conditions, percent distribution of content knowledge grades, viewpoint on extra credit or late work, viewpoint on participation, the factors of behavioral life skills, etc.)? If you were to use this model in your own classroom, is this one condition (or more) about their design that you would change?

Sources:

Gordon, M. (2010, November 5). Education.com. Retrieved July 2, 2014, from http://www.education.com/magazine/article/traditional-grades/