Sunday, July 29, 2012

Reflections of the last six weeks

The last six weeks of the summer have flown bye. During that time I have spent two of those weeks in Montana (taking two classes at MSU) and four weeks in Greece (visiting family). It has truly amazed me about the ability to take an online class from anywhere in the world. I never really had a sense of that until I took this class and have spent time in multiple locations in Greece on my computer. The only downside to an online courses is you have to have an internet connection. I was in western Greece at a hotel that only had internet connection outside, which generally is not a problem unless there are swarms of mosquitoes. Needless to say, got dozens of mosquito bites working on this class over the few days I was in western Greece.

Before this class, I had investigated and looked into using more web tools in my class, but did not have any idea about how many different kinds of tools were available. I think the most incredible part is that the vast majority of these web tools are free. I do not believe that I could have found as many different websites on my own, but with the use of a community of teachers, we have been able to find websites from all over(throughout the class I have made a google doc so that I can keep track of tools that I found particularly useful to my classroom).

I was also stunned by the number of online teaching networks. I have joined a few, especially those related to the Flipped Classroom (since I am very seriously thinking about adopting this style for my chemistry class). There is a ton of information that these communities of teachers have amassed on their websites. I have also found Diigo to be good, as I signed up for an education account. (It was a little hard to figure out at first and I am not a fan of the browser application, but it is a decent site). They send me a daily email about education related websites. Through the emails from Diigo, I have been pointed to some great websites. 

I am looking forward to sharing these websites with my colleagues, both in the science department and in other departments when we return from the summer. I think using online tools can really help to engage students as well as give students an additional resource outside the classroom. 

QR Codes

I thought I would share this cool piece of technology that some of your students would find VERY cool. I can not take full credit for this idea, as I have gotten it from a fellow colleague. But he uses QR codes to link to his websites and his homework assignments. So, as his students walk into class each day, he has posted a new QR code on the board. His students take out their smartphones and snap the image, they then have the link to the homework assignment for the night. (He still writes the actually assignment on the board, for the students that do not have smartphones, but it is a very interesting use of technology.)

Some might be wondering, what is a QR code. A QR code is an abbreviation for Quick Response Code. It is like a barcode. When you have a QR reader or scanner on your smartphone, you take a picture of the QR code (which are found on websites,  posters or piece of literature). It will then take you to a website or video or email address. It is very simple to make a QR code, there are a few websites online that will do it for free. I tend to use: Below is an example of a QR code for our Webtools class website (if you have a QR reader on your smartphone, it should recognize the image below). 


Collaborize Classroom

I had an introduction in using websites to connect my face-to-face instruction with online instruction this past school year. I used Edmodo in two sections of my chemistry class. I found Edmodo to be a very easy to use website and was great for posting homework assignments. It also allowed students to ask questions about their homework and sometimes (actually very rarely) a fellow student would respond. I was generally the only one responding. It was not worth a grade, so my students did not really use it much. I was really just using Edmodo as another way to get homework assignments out to my students. 

Even though I have looked around for websites to use in my class, I honestly had no idea how many different websites were available. After looking through many different websites as well as many different examples of high school science websites, I have decided to try "Collaborize Classroom". I have already set-up my website (, but it is password protected in order to protect the students. So, if you decided to click on my websites, you will only see a login page. 

I will be using collaborize classroom for two different functions. The first is a replacement for Edmodo. I will be posting all homework assignments on the website in one section. Then in the second section, I will use it to discuss a science question of the week. Over the last few years, I have had my students research a science question of the week. I give them the question on Friday and they have until the following Friday to report back to me on what they have learned. It has worked out very well in allowing my students to look at concepts that I do not get to cover in my "traditional" curriculum. I think the use of online discussion will allow my students to dig even deeper into the questions. I hope to even allow them to develop a few of the questions towards the end of the year. 

I am thinking about also developing a blog site, so that I can post video's for my classes. I am considering trying to flip my chemistry class. If I do this, then I am going to have to post lots of videos. I might try to do it on the Collaborize Classroom site first and see how easy it is. If it takes too much time, then I will develop a blog site. 

I am looking forward to using online discussion more in my classes. I think it will give my students another way to stay connected outside of the classroom and will build a stronger academic environment.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Screen-cast Assignment

I continue to look at the idea of flipping my chemistry classroom this upcoming school year. I have found that when I lecture in class, the students are not always able to do the problems at home. Having a library of videos online that goes over specific examples, would be extremely helpful to the students when they are at home working on homework. This would also allow students who are absent due to sickness or athletic events to stay up-to-date on the material (which was a huge problem of mine last year). Plus, this might free up more time in class to run hands-on activities.

These videos will mostly be made by my chemistry students. I think the peer to peer instruction is sometimes the best way for students learn. My hope is to continue this project for years to come, so that there is a very in-depth library built up for students to use. 

This project is still very much in its initial stages. I need to set up a class website in order to post these screencast, as well as I need to set up more defined guidelines. I really do not want to make a rubric as I feel like it will restrict the creative nature of my students. 

Here is my example assignment sheet that I will distribute to my students (again, this is just an initial draft):

Here is my first attempt at a screencast (this definitely needs work): 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

 Learning Styles Activity

While I was poking around on the Edutopia website ( I found a learning styles quiz. I find that my students do not know how they learn and so they do not know the most efficient way to study. Once you complete this quiz, the websites gives you tips on how you can best study. I plan on giving this to my students in the beginning of the year, so that they can learn how best to study. Here is the link to the worksheet I developed for this activity:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Welcome to my blog! 

In my short 3 year education career, I have noticed more and more students with smart phones, ipads and other devices. My hope is that over the next 6 weeks and coming years, that I will be able to better utilize these new technology so that my students can become better at critical thinking as well as more self-directed. I find both of these are keys to a successful students, especially as my high school students enter into the college realm.