Saturday, March 26, 2005

Technology Blackout Day

About the Day
Imagine one full day without technology...

The lesson plans, activities and supporting materials within their Website will help you and your students take a journey through time that examines the impact of technology on our society. Imagine the impact that technology will have on students entering the 21st century workforce and the possibilities inherent in a technology literate society.

Modern technologies have revolutionized business and enhance teaching and learning with data driven decision making, curriculum management for individualized instruction, and online learning that helps close the achievement gap and builds teacher quality and retention.

Hopefully through partisipating students, teachers and parents will realize the importance of technology today and it's growing impact on students entering the 21st century workforce as well as the obvious possibilities if our nation develops (delete fully)a technology literate society. The Imagine A Technology Blackout Day can be a short exercise on April 20th, or a more comprehensive process of self exploration throughout the course of a few weeks or a month. Prizes will be awarded randomly to participants who submit their results on or before May 20th, 2005.

Beginning with a brief overview and technology timeline, your students may develop their own definition of technology and analyze the impact that innovation has had on their daily lives and our nation. Addressing state standards in social studies and language arts, Imagine A Technology Blackout Day will also reinforce efficacy, innovation, traditional literacy and technology skills.

Participating in this important excercise is FREE! It is a great way to introduce the topic of technology's role in society and offer some exciting changes to win great prizes when you submit your results!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

NWA Science Students Investigate Light and Sound

March 22, 2005 Dr. Loren Winters and Dahl Clark of North Carolina School of Science & Mathematics (NCSSM) Physics Department, held my NWA middle school science students and later that afternoon my Photography in Science class spellbound. Dr. Winters teaches a physics course at NCSSM titled High Speed Photography. We demonstrated how electronic triggers are used to study motion and sound. In my middle school science class, we prepared for Dr. Winters' visit by studying how observations contribute to evidence of scientific knowledge. We studied basic characteristics of sound. In the demostration, Dr. Winters enhanced the student's basic understand of the characteristics of sound and showed them how the energy of the sound waves created by the pop of a balloon is transfered to a microphone and amplified to trigger a camera flash. Using a digital camera, images were analyzed the next day to the amazement of the students they were are to see even more details of the motion.

Photography in Science students videoed the demonstration and captured still using QuickTime Pro. They then used the stills to produce iMovies about what they observed. Click Here to View Slideshow

Friday, March 18, 2005

Using a Positive Preventive Briefing With Alternative School Students

I have been reading and reflecting on how we discipline or attempt to correct inappropriate behaviors. In an alternative school setting, we have to think outside the box. In searching for ways to meet the increasingly violent nature of students we are required by law (which is another RANT all together and not something I want to be publishing my opinions on) to serve. I ran across this description of a prevention or intervention strategy. An effective technique for avoiding discipline problems is the technique of “Positive Preventive Briefing.”

In such a “briefing,” a teacher offers advice and reminders to students in any situation in which judgment and experience indicate the possibility exists for problems. In reflecting on how I "react" to inappropriate behavior, I think it would help if instead of being sarcastic with students, I need to ask the student to step in the hallway with me and address the behavior immediately with that student. In my positive preventive breifing, calmly explain my expectations. Students we have are always defensive and may not even want to step outside. So, what else can I do? Maybe I could give them a colored card. Yellow means they are being warned. Three yellow cards during the period means they recieve a red card and will be referred to the principal. Hum, can I keep up with this? Probabaly not. Could I use a clipboard and a check list? Oh, better still, give them a "check on the board". Something will work. I need some "best practices". HELP! Post a comment if you have experience working with behaviorly challenged middle and high school ages students.

The objective is to teach acceptable behavior in specific situations when students might not know exactly what is expected of them. This makes sense, but when do I teach? Maybe I should not worry about teaching and go back to school to earn a degree in criminology.

I read that Positive Preventive Briefing should not not confused with the common “teacher warning.” Opps, got me. Colored Cards are classic teacher warning techniques. I have to remember when I am briefing students, a positive attitude is maintained. That is difficult at best. I have to approach the situation from the standpoint of “what students need to learn—and what the student can expect to happen.”

Then when I take positive action to emphasize what students should do rather than what they should not do. So, when I ask them to step out side the classroom, my face to face meeting might go like this: Raheem, learning is important and I expect all students to read during silent reading time. However, since you are in the 6th grade and can not read the words on a stop sign, and can not sit still for more than a nanosecond, and you do not have a techician today, it is not your fault.

I need help! Say a little prayer for me. Go HEELS!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Monday's Moodle Update

While tinkering with my classroom Moodle this weekend, I surfed some Moodle sites I had googled. I searched for Moodle+High School. The results for the search did not surprise me as much as confirmed my sneaking suspsion that more and more teachers and systems are considering replacing their static web pages. I have been writing web pages since we had to hand code HTML using a text editor. Moodles still require some knowledge of basic html if you want to include images in your lessons. However, the key change toward Moodles or CMS (course management systems) is a paradym shift. Webpages are nothing more to my students than the page in their textbook. Sure, there are ways to include online tests, video clips, PowerPoint presentations and even teacher made animations, but, the pages have no user logs. I always felt like my hard work creating a web page for my class was basically wasted time in that I never was able to really document time-on-task. Moodle has a feature that logs user access to lessons, and everything the look at on the class site. I subscribe to all discussions and through the magic of Moodle's database, I received emails as documentation of class participation. I can read their posts and provide immediate feedback, or respond when I have a minute.

This week, I am planning to try daily vocabulary quizzes with my middle school science students. I learned last week that they have an extremely limited science vocabulary. I almost passed out when I realized none of them knew the definition of the term: DOME. 8th Graders?- come on this is a crime. So, in order to boost their voc skills, we are going to try Moodle vocabulary quizzes. I will share my reflections of this effort later.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Using Moodle to Support Our Guest Lecturer

My class has been experimenting with using Moodle this semester. We are trying something interesting with a discussion forum. Our students are learning about how scientists use photography in their studies. In one of the listserves I subscribe to I read a post detailing a lecture in a city three hours away from our school. The presentation was a perfect fit for my students in our Photography in Science course- “using high-speed photography.” I had a schedule conflict and could not attend. So, I sent an email to the physics professor and inquired as to the possibility of having the demonstration presented at my school. My mother always told me "you never know 'til you ask." Within a few minutes, I received a very supportive reply. The professor was more than happy to donate time and expertise to students. But, this was not the best part.

In a follow-up email, I mentioned to the professor how our students have been using Moodle. The professor suggested an interesting preliminary activity. So, I have setup my Moodle course so the guest lecturer can set up and lead a forum discussion with my students. I have no idea how this will work, but what a great example of a learning community. Prior to a guest lecturer, my students will be able to ask questions about high-speed photography. This week, my students are researching the historical scientific debate between the Relativity and Newtonian Mechanics and the nature of light and gravity. They are creating videos of this debate.

I will post updates of how this activity comes out...

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Testing Mac Mini

Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.
Mac Mini must have 512 K memory. Apple should not even offer it with 256K. I was impressed with how easy it was to install. If you have a child heading for college in the fall, this could be a possiblity. It runs the Internet like a work horse, Comes with Keynote (exports to PowerPoint with ease) and will not break the back.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Classroom Activity: Using Moodle Forum

My students enjoyed class the other day. We used an activity we called "Who Is It?" Before a get into the details of what pre-class work this Moodle-based activity required, I think teachers need to know that this activity is based on National Standards.


In learning science, students need to understand that science reflects its history and is an ongoing, changing enterprise. The standards for the history and nature of science recommend the use of history in school science programs to clarify different aspects of scientific inquiry, the human aspects of science, and the role that science has played in the development of various cultures.

The activity motivates students to find the names of famous scientists using the Internet and their digital literacy skills.

Teacher Preparation

This activity is part of our Photography in Science course we offer here at our school. I have been using Moodle with them for only a week now, and this activity was popular. I picked a list of 8-9 scientists that will be included an up coming series of lessons. In the lessons that will follow, students will create videos of great historic scientific debates. This lesson introduces the names of the scientists and will be used to introduce their contributions to modern science. Also, I created some cleaver hints. I then Googled the list of scientists and located their images or portraits and the hints to make sure they were not too easy. I made a mistake on the first two images, and my students quickly hacked the images to find the answer.

Well, one of them did and the rest of the students copied his answer. I monitored the students while they worked on the first two images and discovered how the "hacker" accidentally uncovered the scientist's name. In hast to create the activity, I used the html code that embeds images from another web page on the Internet. When my student that respectfully call my "hacker" started the activity in our Moodle discussion forum, he copied the image and pasted it to his desktop (using OS X). As soon as he looked at the file icon on the desktop, he noticed the file's name had a name that looked like a person's name. I had pasted two images on Moodle Forums for the students to find. I had to quickly add a third image of one of our scientists to keep them working until the end to the class. To show the "hacker" that his little scheme had been uncovered. As a taunt, I renamed the third image file "somescientist.jpg". That frustrated the class. I did not make fun of the students; I thanked them for helping me learn how to use Moodle. I reemphasized that the Moodle is a learning community and all participants can benefit from the activities, even the teacher.

Students can ask the teacher questions about the person, but they can not ask his name or date of birth. Students spent most of their time searching the web for famous scientists look at their pictures. Hints are important, but trying to make them vague enough that they have to thinks is a challenge.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

4Teachers: Tools

This site was mentioned in a educators podcast recently and I just looked at it. This site has been around since 1997. The web designers have been done a really nice job in modernizing the teacher interface of this site. It is much easier to navigate the pages to find their tool resources on the run. I was impressed with the form based Project Poster which provides students with a tool to create and post Web pages for projects. Really neat classroom tool for almost any student! Learning challenged students can use a word processor to spell check and then with a little help, or on their own, copy and paste the info into the form to create their pages.

4Teachers: Tools

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

"Moodling Around" with At-Risk Students

Well, it is not really a bad thing. This week, I have been really focusing on creating content on my class Moodle. I have spent some quality time reading and writing questions on The educators that contribute to the forums have a lot in common with me. I noticed that a couple of them teach in the same kids of school environment that I do. It has been a great learning community.

I am not sure how to explain how this Moodle activity works, but I have to try. The concept of activity is simple-- pick a photo of a famous scientist and post it on a page within the course in Moodle. It would take several paragraphs to walk you through exactly how to do this, but is takes only a few minutes to do it after you know what to do. I know, my sentences are run-ons, but I am trying to watch American Idol and type and make sure my daughter's puppy is not tearing up the furniture. I have no quite time to write. No excuses, I could put the dog in the back room, turn off the TV, and “take charge.” My ADD feeds on the chaos.

The famous scientist photo "scavenger hunt" what a great success with my class. I know it was going well in class when no one asked to leave class to go to the bathroom, students asked for more hints, collaborated, self-accessed digital literacy skills, and peer-tutored. Talk about layering skills and making an activity relevant, it all came together with this lesson.

I have to post this in the Moodle Forum, but they will probably delete it or no one will read it.

So, if you are thinking about trying a different instructional strategy with your class and you want to see their faces light up and hear them talking and joking about famous scientists that they had before never heard of, this activity really works.