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.