Saturday, January 27, 2007

Shrink-wraped version of the future-ready schools discussion?

I have been using Moodle and video or audio clips in my science classroom for some time now. I found a perfect example at Dr. Scott McLeod’s blog Dangerously Irrelevant. His 7-step (60-90 minute) “unit” got my attention. It utilizes Re-useable Learning Objects. In Moodle, it is important to create lessons that save time anywhere you can.

He combines .pdf files, a slideshow from the Fischbowl, an original slideshow, a podcast, and a viral video. He can re-use these materials in future contexts, but more importantly, he posts them to the web and invites others to use them. That is the power of re-usable learning objects of the digital kind.

What could we blend as resources for a lesson on cell mitosis or math or geography?

Dangerously Irrelevant: 100% proficiency on old skills?

100% proficiency on old skills? Here's something if you have a 60- to 90-minute block of time with educators... 100% Proficiency on Old Skills? A Candid Conversation About the Demands of NCLB and Preparing Students for the New Economy

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Monday, January 22, 2007

NC Science Blogging Conference - Teacher Resource

While attending the NC Science Blogging Conference on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2007 in Chapel Hill, one question was asked by a participant: How do teachers know what they are teaching is accurate? That question made me think about the idea of science literacy. As I was going through my email account's spam folder, I ran across this National Science Teachers Association email. Why this email ended up in my spam folder is a different story. In an effort to help science teacher current on crucial themes in the science field, this organization makes a concerted effort to inform its members of what is the truth. When asked at the conference, my mind went blank. Also, high school chemistry teachers can join the American Chemical Society. They have a secondary educational division and a Kids Site

Teaching Science in the 21st Century: Part 5 in a Series from NSTA Reports

The fifth installment in NSTA Reports’ series is titled “Teaching the Nature of Science: Five Crucial Themes”. Written by Nancy Moreno, the piece begins “Many candidate races and ballot initiatives in the November 2006 United States elections highlighted science-related issues and debates. Stem cell research, alternative fuels, and climate change were topics considered in regional and national discussions. To understand and choose among conflicting viewpoints, voters needed to possess two aspects of scientific literacy: (1) comprehending science concepts and (2) understanding how science builds knowledge. Unfortunately, statistics compiled by the National Science Foundation indicate little headway in improving the second aspect of science literacy—understanding the nature of science. In 2004, for example, only 23% of adult respondents could correctly 'explain in their own words what it means to study something scientifically' (NSB 2006)."

This series offers opinion pieces by many of the leaders in science education today. To read the fifth installment in the series, visit To find out more about the book by the same name that inspired the series, visit

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

MemoMic - Lapel Mic for the Classroom

While strolling around the iPod accessories section at the Crabtree Mall Apple, Inc. store today, I noticed a very small lapel microphone almost on out of reach from the the floor. The company, Xtrememac was one that I had read about on a blog. The box was labeled MemoMic. I read the description on the package and it said "This product is compatible with all digital recorders." Hum, could this work with my Belkin mic? Last summer, I purchased a new iPod Video and a matching Belkin TuneTalk Stereo microphone.

Prior to owning the Belkin TuneTalk, I used my iMic with my 4th Generation iPod to record podcasts. My students could not seem to get comfortable with the iPod sitting there. I experienced the same blank stares from my students when I tried record them with the iPod Video and TuneTalk. So, I tried using several different external microphones. I tried using the Griffin Lapel Mic, and a Sony lapel mic. They did not produce quality audio. I can not describe the way they sounded. Maybe I should make a demo of the sound. You don't have to believe me, try it yourself. They just sound crappy.

I left the Apple Store, and went to eat some lunch and returned to the store. The store audio expert tried to explain how the MemoMic was designed to work the XtremeMac's iPod recorder. I just listened to his canned sales pitch and then after he had finished, I asked a simple question. I asked him if the MemoMic would work with my Belkin TuneTalk. I am one of those customers that love to ask questions that stump the experts. It must be all those years I spend running my sporting goods business. Some customers must stay up all night coming up with questions to stump the employees. I was not trying to "show off", I just wanted to know if they had heard about anyone trying to use the MemoMic with with a non-Xtreme recorder. I left the store with that question going round and round in my head. I walked from one end of Crabtree Mall to the other to my truck in the parking lot. I dug in my computer bag and located my Belkin TuneTalk and turned around and went back to the Apple Store.

I walked straight to the XtremeMac MemoMic display, and a different clerk came up to me with one of their new handheld checkout devices that scans the UPC and lets you swip your credit card to complete the transaction. I think the store clerk and audio expert must have seen me come in and ran to keep from having to listen to my crazy question. Well, I bought the MemoMic-- BAM! It would not have been the first or last time I have plunked down money on a tech toy that did not work. I ripped into the box and plugged it into my TuneTalk mic attached to my iPod. The first two test recordings did not work. The audio level was almost inaudible. Then, I noticed the TuneTalk's gain switch on the bottom was in the off position. Moving the switch to on, I tried another short recording. It was very clear and crisp. The background noise in the Apple Store was like a middle school classoom on Friday at 5 seconds after the bell to go home. Well, not that bad, but close.

I was very excited with the way the Xtreme MemoMic works with the Belkin TuneTalk. I plan to use the device with my students this week to record some podcasts. I will link to them when they are posted.

XtremeMac iPod Audio Accessories: MemoMic™ for MicroMemo

Get crisp, clean recordings of your meetings, interviews and presentations

MemoMic™ is a professional-style microphone that clips to a lapel or shirt. This omni-directional mic is designed to pick up meetings, lectures, or any audio hands-free. It's perfect for capturing every word into a voice recorder (like our MicroMemo™), video camera or through a public address system.

You don't have to be a big shot to come across like one. Clip it on, plug it in and you're all set.

* Omnidirectional

* Uses popular 3.5mm plug

* Ideal for voice recorders, camcorders, VoIP

* Inconspicuous 4-foot cable

* Extra windscreen and clip

* 90° angle mini-plug for comfort

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Science Teachers Resource

This is a really interesting article to me. About tens years ago, a group of educators received a tour of regional factories. It was part of an initiative to help teachers better understand the demands industry placed on their workforce. One of the plants we visited made nuclear fuel pellets. They look like dark gray mini marshmallows to me. Today, I read that researchers have learned that reshaping those pellets by basically cutting out the holes like Krispy Kreme dough nuts, will increase their efficiency by half. So, if that is true, them maybe we should invent a doughnut shaped everything. How about dough nut shaped food in our school cafeteria? Doughnut shaped pizza would increase student's efficiency to learn by 50%. How about doughnut shaped coffee cups for teachers. Now, I would be for that. Then I could finish my lesson plans in half the time. I wonder if I invented a doughnut shaped textbook, classrooms would become 50% more efficient? Or, how about a doughnut shaped computer...yeah now that is the ticket...Hey! Steve Jobs!-- I know you read my blog (yeah right-- in my dreams), how about a dough nut shaped iPod? It could increase its efficiency 50%.

I think I need some coffee. Check out this resource for your environmental classroom at

It may be a little over high level for most of my kids, but if you teach AP Environmental, add it to your list of required reading if you have not already done so.

ES Online News: Reshaping nuclear fuel

Reshaping nuclear fuel

Doughnut-shaped fuel can cut nuclear energy's environmental impact.

light-water nuclear reactors

Westinghouse Corp.

When used as fuel for light-water nuclear reactors, the hollow 14-mm cylinders shown here can increase efficiency by 50%.

By reconfiguring nuclear-fuel pellets into "dough nuts", scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found a way to boost the amount of energy that nuclear reactors produce by 50%. The new design also helps diminish the chance of meltdown by slashing the temperature at which reactors must be operated, and it renders the spent fuel more proliferation-resistant.

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