Sunday, October 30, 2005

Internet Safety

Students need to be aware of the dangers associated with the Internet. As there can be a lot of information on the internet, there can also be a lot of false information or information meant to mislead, attack, persuade, or harm children.

Instant Messaging, Chat Sites, Hate Sites, Plagiaristic Information, among other sources of Internet exploration have harmful conotations to students. They can be misled, misinformed, or drawn into consumer propaganda. Many sites on the Internet focus on younger age groups that have not yet developed critical thinking skills as fully as others. These sites tend to misinterpret information or provide only views of individuals (often hateful views). Students tend to believe what they read on the Internet as it is considered a viable source of information. What they need to realize is that what is there... is not always the truth.

There is a wide range of harmful ideas that might be given to children from the Internet. Chat sites may host pedophiles claiming to be young girls or boys who can persuade children to meet them and be attacked. Hate sites disguised as information based sites are propaganda to spread hate and ideas. Instant messaging provides a great forum for random messages with links to pornography or other illegal materials. Web marketing involving video games or other highly popular technology can draw children in to a site that is inappropriate. These are only a few examples and don't include things like being misled, hateful emails, serial killers, etc. Children really need to be aware that there are dangers on the Internet and how to distinguish them and deal with them appropriately. That is our job as educators when the Internet is applied to classroom use.

So many dangers on the Internet are prevalent in this day and age. As adults we have had the time to explore and critically analyze what we have seen and what we have read. We have been victim to many of the above dangers and in being victim have also become guardians against those same dangers. By providing safe tools and reputable sites and guiding searches through our own searches we can help students become aware of those dangers while not having to deal with them themselves. This opens us up to those same dangers though and many adults still have difficulty distinguishing "good" from "bad" on the Internet. All we can do, as teachers, is educate students about the dangers so when they do encounter those situations, they can be cautious and wary.

In conclusion, it is my personal belief that looking at everything as potentially harmful can put people into a state of over-caution and can be crippling to the point students are unwilling to use the Internet. It is best that we make students aware of the dangers of the internet and how to handle them than to always guide them to trusted sites. When we were children our parents said "Never take candy from a stranger!" That doesn't mean we never encountered offers of candy, we just knew what to do in that situation. And so, Internet Safety is about knowledge and about forethought before dealing with situations that might arise. Knowledge is power, and a good knowledge base of potential dangers is a great shield against anything students might run across.

WebQuests!

An effective WebQuest is a collaboration of reputable sites and resources that students can use to explore and discover information on a given topic. A good WebQuest will have a nice format including a topic that needs exploration, questions that relate to the topic, sites that relate to the questions, and finally how the project teaches the students and a basic rationale. A WebQuest is an Internet-based learning tool using sites that have been pre-researched by the creator of the Quest. It is an excellent tool for focusing and shaping the exploration of the internet.

WebQuests could be used for all kinds of things in the classroom. Just like a Grand Discussion, or Jigsaw teaching methods, you can use a WebQuest design to explore a plethora of topics. It allows for peer involvement and social learning at the same time academic learning is taking place. From Ancient Greece, to the Human Body and it's functions, to the Physics of the world, to Art, WebQuests provide an excellent form to include a multitude of good resources rather than referencing from one text. This tool is a wonderful way to engage students in their learning and keep them away from harmful content. It is a way to shape and mold the path to discovery on a topic rather than leaving the students to fend for themselves on an Internet that is not always safe for exploration. WebQuests are a great idea and if done correctly, one of the best tools I have seen to educate! WebQuests Ahoy!!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Teaching Students how to use a Spreadsheet

Spreadsheets are a wonderful idea for use in teaching. They can allow the fast, easy, and orderly organization of data. Through data collection many ideas and projects become accessible. Long surveys with short answers can be done and entered in a spreadsheet, quiz scores and tests, Graph information, among many other useful pieces of data. The spreadsheet allows for all this plus the ease of changing the information into a graph or perhaps timeline. By allowing students to have license to create a work of their own imagination in a format that is easily understandable, we allow for them to learn. They learn technology integration, organization, and professional skills that will that them further into their education and into their careers.

We meet quite a few ICT outcomes by allowing use of Spreadsheet information. We can publish graphs and information on the internet. Students can use websites like:

http://www.usd.edu/trio/tut/excel/

This gives them a place to learn how to use formulas and mathematics in conjunction with their information. They can create line graphs, bar graphs, pie graphs, etc to include in other projects and as a simple visual representation. By learning the capabilities of each spreadsheet program students can also save themselves work and become more efficient in their abilities.

Using Spreadsheets is not only a great idea for use in the classroom at almost any level, it is also a highly practiced discipline. Teachers use spreadsheets for many of the aforementioned reasons and are constantly finding new uses for the technology. As educators we can use this highly organized program to keep our records much more concise and effective. As we learn and develop a structured classroom policy we can incorporate spreadsheets to help us along and keep us efficient.

In the future we may discover more ways to use spreadsheets in our educational goals and to promote learning. As teachers, we use everything around us to teach. Spreadsheets are a wonderful tool that is technology and learning wrapped in one... We should cherish them and continue to foster the use of spreadsheets in school!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Concept Mapping

Concept Mapping in its simplest form is tying ideas together using a graphical organization and ideas that link to one another. These organizers and these "Concept Maps" provide excellent ways to organize ideas about key concepts and the related ideas behind those concepts. The idea was developed by Prof. Joseph D. Novak at Cornell University in the 1960s. As with any good idea there are advantages and drawbacks to the approach and also with any good idea there is an educational application to be considered.

Some advantages to using concept mapping is that it allows students to fully convey their ideas and understandings of a subject or concept and do research into what they don't know to, in essence, fill the gaps in their "web" of understanding. It allows students a quick and easy study reference guide and shows the bigger picture on a miniature scale. This allows students that have to tie everything together in order to understand it a chance to do just that. It also allows students that like to think through their ideas a chance to do that. Many of the same luxuries are afforded to teachers and I can really see the application of a 1st year teacher using the idea of a concept map to grasp the material they are teaching.

Drawbacks of the approach include that the approach is either time-consuming, when you try to take the time to do it right, or rushed and flawed. The ideas can be partial or missing in places. Key concepts can be left out or simply missed. The approach doesn't always lead to the big picture approach. Another drawback would be that some students are uncomfortable with technology and would have to spend much more time representing the same thing by hand. Regardless, there are both advantages and disadvantages to the approach.

In a classroom setting you could have students design a concept map around a topic and then have them check against a teacher prepared version to see what they are missing. This would cover several IT Outcomes:

C6 3.4: Pose and test solutions to problems by using computer applications such as computer-assisted design or simulation/modelling software
P4 3.3: Emphasize information, using placement and colour
C1 3.5: Analyze and synthesize information to create a product
C1 3.4: Access and retrieve information through the electronic network
F3 3.1: Use time and resouces on the network wisely

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Math Activities Online

A+ Math
- http://www.aplusmath.com/

Grade level: 5-12 but mostly usable before highschool

Description: This site involves math games where you have to play Bingo by answering and responding to math questions. A space is filled in when each answer is correct, and you keep going until you win the game. There are games that reveal hidden pictures with each correct answer, and there are also games that involve memorization (which are somewhat frustrating). Each game is timed and allows you to test your skills faster or slower depending on your speed and accuracy in answering the questions. This allows you to improve your time and get faster with answering your questions. Could be done with a piece of paper in front of you while you play the game.

GLO's:
- Apply arithmetic operations on whole numbers and decimals in solving problems. (Number strand ---> Number Operations)
- The GLO's covered with this activity involve operations with whole numbers and solving equations involving them. It mostly uses the number strand of mathematics and neglects the others. It does, however, provide a fun activity for use in dealing with numbers and number operations.

SLO's:
1) Verify solutions to multiplication and division problems, using estimation and calculation.
2) Use a variety of methods to solve problems with multiple solutions.
- Many SLO's carry extra weight in the area of decimals and operations whereas the website only deals in whole numbers and speed testing. This is useful to test skills in whole number operations and speed and accuracy. That is why I have stated it is useful before highschool.

ICT Outcomes:
1) Children will learn to use a website as a learning tool and appropriately engage the software. 2) They will learn how to use a program designed by someone else and how to follow instructions for Java programs and non-Java programs.
3) They will learn how to successfully complete the games and worksheets laid out on a website and be able to translate their work on to paper.
4) They will learn how to utilize the score reporting to make their name memorable and compare against players of equal grade and skill.
5) They will learn how to use a computer activity for both fun and learning.

C6 2.1: select and use technology to assist in problem solving
C6 4.1: investigate and solve problems of prediction, calculation, and inference
C6 4.2: investigate and solve problems of organization and manipulation of information
C6 4.4: generate new understandings of problematic situations by using some form of technology to facilitate the process

Computer Integration:
Using this website to allow children to have fun and experience math in a creative and exciting way is a good thing. Children will be able to develop hand-eye coordination as well and will be able to play a game to learn. Although this site could be more visually appealing to children, it does provide lessons and interactive games. I would personally implement this as an activity that can be played when work is done early and when they have spare time. I could see children playing this as an actual game in their leisure time to try to improve their scores. I can also attest to the fact that eventually it would get boring as you reach a plateau in skill and speed. At that point, however, the site has served it's purpose.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Technology Outcomes

Related Technology Outcome Being Integrated:
C1 3.5: Analyze and Synthesize Information to Create a Product

Subject: Mathematics

Grade: 9

Description:
Using Powerpoint you could write a report, a product, on information that was analyzed and then synthesized. Making a project which would have been done and handed in on paper into an interactive and organized technological marvel. It also allows students to have a little fun with a curriculum that may have been deemed boring and gets them out using technology. They can include charts, graphs, and pictures to bring a project to life and help illustrate it more effectively. By utilizing Powerpoint, children gain an edge on technology and take a little of the tediousness out of something that may have been considered boring. Groups can even collaborate on Powerpoint projects and collectively add to a project of their own. It gives them a little creative license and allows them to make math their own for a time. Overall, a very useful tool in technology integration.

Technology Integration

Technology is as pervasive in our day to day lives as it is in society in general. From street lights being controlled by computers, to rail systems that are monitored to ensure safety, right up to pacemakers that keep people safe and secure. Technology is evident in business, commerce, medicine, and even education. Sometimes we take for granted that which technology has brought us. That being a link to the world around us, a fast access to information, a broad range of media coverage quickly and accurately, among other things.

Technology integration in our schools is not only important for students and teachers but also for the learning process. As information grows and each area gains that much more topic area it begins an ever increasing concern that coverage will not be concise of a subject and that we have to rush to cover "key" areas rather than giving a broad range of topics. An excellent example of good technology integration would be emailing and linking websites that students have the opportunity to browse and gather more information on topics they are interested in. The use of technology such as using interactive presentations, slideshows, Q&A, graphics, etc... leads to increased interest in the presented materials and keeps education fun and exciting, as it should be.

Bad uses of technology integration would be simply outlining course material in a dull, boring, chapter-like manner. If students wanted to read a book they should not be forced to in class. Reading should be done in a reading time, or at their leisure. Cluttering slides in Powerpoint or putting too much information in one lesson is both confusing and overwhelming. I have had this happen in some University courses and I don't like the way the material was presented.

Some barriers to technology integration would be disabled students, learning disability children, or even children who have trouble in their reading comprehension or english skills. These barriers are solved easily with help from peers and with a little encouragement and support from teachers and staff. Any barriers in technology integration might even be helped out with technology, as technology is another teaching medium.

All in all, technology is great for bringing in multiple subjects, and for expanding on conventional learning. You can bring many different media and text into one technology presentation, helping the learning process and fostering more questions to be asked. By having more people look for information and sources and bringing more information to light. Knowledge begets knowledge and in education... it can't be a bad thing!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Blogging and Education: The Value of Keeping a Journal

Blogging, as described by many web forums and articles, has many many practical uses within Education. Students can keep web journals allowing them to keep track of projects they are working on (much like an agenda is used currently), to discuss personal ideas or beliefs with others, to discuss schoolwork with others, and to communicate with the teacher about the class or ideas presented therein. Teachers can use Blogs to keep assignments posted, to update news, ideas, list useful sites, discuss projects or problems, and to open a Question and Answer (Q&A) Forum. The practicality in Blogging also allows many elements of Education to enter the world of technology. In this way, we integrate technology in Education and allow students a chance to explore reading, writing, thinking, learning, and taking an active interest in their own Education.

Blogging also appears to be an acquired taste, some will use it while others will shy away from it or decide not to participate entirely. However, quiet students that may not have spoken directly in class may be much more comfortable expressing their ideas in a web form. They can also create their own Blogs and share ideas with the teacher and with their friends, creating a social atmosphere on the internet which may be a small step towards a more social outcome off the internet.

All in all, blogging seems like a way to show personal reflection, communicate ideas, discuss, and learn. Through blogging it allows a "Web Journal" that can instantly be shared with other people. When information becomes so excessable and can be shared so quickly it allows people to open themselves up more and in a world so full of information also allows people to experiment and explore. This diverse environment opens possibilities for students that may not have had them previously. In short, Blogs are a wonderful tool for Education. With so many practical applications, the usefulness of blogs cannot be denied.

Introduction

My name is Alec Hammond and I am in the Faculty of Education at the University of Lethbridge. My major is Mathematics and my minor is Drama. I have 3 main streams which are Mathematics, Computer Science, and Chemistry. My personal beliefs include: Everyone has potential, A book is never defined by its cover, You never fail as long as you try, and That which is accomplished has been accomplished, relish in your accomplishments. I like to take time out for family, friends, and recreation. Without having fun life becomes a little too much like business, and life should be fun. I look forward to learning to teach and teaching.