27 February 2009

Resistance to Web2.0 is NOT limited to High School

So today I spent some time with @mishelleyb at Southern Nazarene University interacting with Alese Smith and Ray Rose of Rose and Smith Associates.  They were working with the faculty at SNU consulting and working on helping them integrate technology into their classrooms.  I was fortunate enough to participate in "Take your Husband to Work day" at SNU today so I got to sit in on the sessions today.  It was amazing.  Just as amazing as Will Richardson's sessions at the OTA Conference.  The difference was this: today was a full day, Richardson's presentation was only an hour long.  In his defense, I was so impacted by his keynote address, I ended up going to his follow up, one hour, break out session.

So now to the good part: mishelleyb introduced me and told them I use technology in my classroom and I was just along for some faculty development. If you have never seen these two in action, they play off of each other and get the audience involved in their presentation.  Apparently, mishelleyb was a big part of the 1st day's presentation, so they decided I was going to be the interactor for today.  So the presentation goes on and Ray (or Alese) asked "who uses twitter?"  I raised my hand and got called on to share how I thought it could be used in the classroom.  I shared.  I also shared about Facebooking with my students for homework help (which I think could actually be better served with twitter).  Presentation is over, a professor (who also happens to be a mentor) comes up to me and says "how do you have time to twitter and all that?  I don't have time to do that!" I was dumbfounded.  How do you respond to that?  I think he really believes I am just sitting around reading tweets and looking at facebook pictures all day!  Really?  Really?! mishelleyb's response was classic! "We pretty much make time for the things we want to do", to which he who shall remain nameless wholly took offense.

I feel like I am trying to keep up with current technology in my classroom.  This guy was "making video" over the weekend.  I (and mishelleyb) want to know what that means!  He said he made like 10 hours of video over the weekend.  Does that mean he is going to show 10 hours of video?  That's 3 weeks of class time in college.  I'm just saying.   I want to keep up with social networking trends that can be used to truly engage students in the classroom, to try to do things differently than they are being done.  Its not that the current way of doing things are not valid, but if you can do something different, WHY NOT?

26 February 2009

What did the students say about using technology

I read earlier this week, on Will Richardson's blog, about Sara Bernard's call for students to give advice to teachers on how to integrate technology more fully into their classrooms.  What she wanted was for them to send her an email.  I didn't ask my kids to send her an email, although I will send one, but what i did do was ask them to tell me what they would like to see in our classroom concering using technology.  I got some good information from my students.  I like to think physics is the one class in which you cannot help but use technology.

Here were some of the responses I got:

"I think every teacher should have a smartboard".

"One of my teachers had us create a facebook profile about one of the characters in a story we had read, maybe you could do that with a physicist".

"Post all of your notes online so if someone was absent, they would not be very far behind". (this is a common practice in my classroom, so maybe they thought it needed to be reiterated?)

"Use a webcam to record lecture along with ppt capture software which could then be posted online. Students tend to miss out on some interactive parts of the lecture when they just look at the powerpoint". This would be great using some type of camtasia type software, or maybe one of the Adobe gizmos that have this capability.

And finally, "Make some type of video project and post it to YouTube."  This has been done in my class to a very limited extent.  I have some amazing kids in this class who are great videographers.  I have already talked to my lead video guy about an introduction to our classroom wiki that will be done and posted online within about two weeks.  I have also been watching a show on Adult Swim called "Look Around You" which is a humorous science spoof show.  I am considering having my AP class do this project where we make a "Look Around You" about physics.  I think it will be awesome.

There just are not enough days in the school year to do everything I want to do with my classes.  Maybe that year round school is looking better and better every day.

25 February 2009

Teaching Science in the language of Mathematics

Those of you who have never taught math or science may not understand what we go through on a day to day basis here in the blurred world of science/math (aka Physics).  Let me give you some insight into my plight today while I was teaching centripetal acceleration.  I have students who are actually better at math than I am.  I know, I know.  I shouldn't be teaching physics if I don't know more about math than my students, but here we are!  I am learning so much everyday.

So, I had a student ask me a question like "where did the radians go?"  We were converting between tangential velocity and angular velocity and I was doing the unit conversion, just like I always do and I thought "Yeah!  Where DID the radians go?"  Honestly, I don't remember.  I told my students that, too.  "I really don't know."  I couldn't tell them.  I am sure there is some technical phrase like complementary adjacent angles that would perfectly describe what happens (I know its not complementary adjacent angles, so don't even go there); but I just had to tell them: "I don't know".  So, I read in the text.  I can't understand it.  I read again.  I am STILL not satisfied with the explanation to the extent that I am comfortable explaining it to students.

You may be saying about now..."So what happened Bowie?  Tell us! Tell us, please!"  Well, I will:  In walks another teacher who teaches Biology but knows a lot about units analysis (my term for it and I know Biology people do it too, I just don't think about them doing it.)  He and I start to talk about it and are still not entirely able to figure it out to our satisfaction.  Enter E.R. (his initials, not the Emergency Room), the brother of one of my best students from last year and proceeds to give us the vital piece of information required to connect the dots.  Voila!  I understand!  It was as if the light was turned on in my head.  It was something like what I imagine happens on a regular basis to my students when it all "comes together".  The vital piece was that I had never been taught (surely I didn't forget) what the definition of a radian is.  I just simply never bothered to find out! I never had a reason. Now I understand the "why" of the equation C=2πr for the circumference of a circle! I have known the how for a very long time.  I just never knew the why!

No big surprise that I learned something new.  My students never cease to amaze me by teaching me new stuff everyday.  I guess its just as amazing that I am willing to learn it.  Prayer: Lord please keep me willing to learn something new.

Thanks for reading.

24 February 2009

Two years ago this week

I went back to look at the things I had written in the past and thought 2 years was a sufficient amount of time (since I wasn't blogging at all before that time).  This is what I found from February 2007:

This past week student teaching was the most interesting yet. I actually fulfilled the long awaited "takeover" of the class on Wednesday. It was a momentous occasion when the students began to ask where the teacher was and when she would be back. The look on their faces was worth every dreadful hour I spent sitting in my chair wondering what I would do differently, given the opportunity. We are still finishing up genetics for the first two days of next week, but then we start space on Wednesday. I am pretty excited to be able to share some of my passion for astronomy with the students. I hope I will be successful in that. It's a tall order since they are just getting used to me, but I'll do my best. It's hard to believe I only have two weeks left there, but it's exciting to think about going to the high school. It is not, however, exciting to think about learning 100 new names of students. Oh well, such is the life of a teacher.I was able to exercise a little of my classroom management techniques on the class this week. It's been interesting to see how these kids react to me versus the normal teacher. My naturally loud voice really gets their attention when I choose to use it. It is usually followed up by "Mr. Bowie, why you yelling at us?" To which I reply, "You guys haven't heard me yell yet!" I try to be light hearted about that even when I feel angry. It's a real trial to not let the kids get the best of me. It's actually much more difficult than I thought it would be.

Stay tuned for updates on how my job search (had an interview this week) is going and how my last two weeks in middle school goes. Thanks for reading.

I remember that time.  I was still student teaching and couldn't wait to get in front of a classroom.  I thought then that I could do things so much better.  While that classroom was peppered with difficult students,  I was humbled to be in front them as a leader.  It all goes to show education is about relationships and I didn't have a relationship built with them yet.  I have worked on building relationships with my current students; I have worked especially hard on that this school year.  Its tough, but worth the effort.  There are few things in education that are so rewarding as when a student comes to share a personal problem with you or when they ask for a letter of recommendation because they feel you know them better than any other teacher.

I think SNU did another thing well: they taught me to reflect on my past experiences to become a lifelong learner. I hated those reflection papers in the School of Education at SNU, but it is surely helpful at this point in my career. I have, finally, learned reflection as a skill that will help me be better at what I do.

While I am by no means an expert on reflection, blogging is an activity that is very therapeutic for me.  Its like going to a counselor.  Maybe I should adopt that as my new mantra: "Blogging, cheaper than a psychologyist and just as good"!

20 February 2009

Getting Educators involved with Web 2.0

While browsing Sue Waters' edublogger, I was pleasantly surprised to find a contest in which I might be able to win a year of supported blog hosting at edublogs.org.  All I have to do is post about a topic in which I am very interested: Getting Educators involved with Web 2.0 (more than just for checking email).  This topic has been on my mind a lot this week and I have been very nearly obsessed with adding technology to my own classroom, thereby having a positive impact on both my students and my colleagues.

Today at lunch, I was talking to some of my fellow science teachers about using wikis in the Science Classroom.  I was actually surprised at the amount of mocking and cynicism I encountered when I mentioned this.  Mishelleyb sent an article by Ruth Reynard, from campustechnology.com, which was extremely informative for a teacher (like myself) who is considering adding a wiki/blog project to the classroom.  I talked with the lunch bunch about it and got mixed reviews; everything from "You have way too much time on your hands" to "Why don't you send me the link for the article?"  I also heard questions like "what is a word cloud?" and "what's the difference between a wiki and a blog?" I was both annoyed and pleased.  Annoyed because some of my peers probably thought I was neglecting my school work and "goofing around on the 'net"; but pleased that there might be just the tiniest bit of jealousy that a newbie teacher might be making a bigger impact on students than the mature veteran teacher.

Because I want my colleagues to be able to succeed with today's digital natives, I ended up sending the link to every one of our science teachers.  All of the responses so far have been positive.  The majority of tit came from my department chair, a veteran teacher who is motivated to teach 21st century skills in his classroom.  He is excited about the new things we are learning together; we have begun to find good information that we constantly share with each other.  I told him I would be doing some research for my wiki/blog project over the weekend and would give a full update on Monday.

Just as a little side note, I am the only teacher at my school (as of my last check) who does any type of discussion board or asynchronous discussion outside of class.  I was asked to and did give a short presentation about what I do and what I think are the Top 10 Best Practices for using a discussion board  as part of the classroom environment. I gave this presentation to about 60 teachers in my building.  Since I am only a second year teacher, this was the first time I had ever spoken in front of my peers.  Imagine me, a lowly newbie, telling all of those master teachers about what I do in my classroom.  Why would they even care?

Speaking of caring, I have gotten some really positive comments this week from students.  One that stood out to me was this:

"So I have to say first off that you have been very influential to my learning experience. Although I might not always get what we are doing in class, its been a great environment and I really have learned a lot. I like that we're open in this class and it really has helped knowing more about you and people in the class. Thanks Bowie!"

My physics students seem to really enjoy the discussion board when I can provide them with a good topic.  If you are interested in seeing what our discussions are about, email me and I will provide you with a username and password so that you can access that part of our classrooom.

I would really be interested in what you have to say about using the web in your classroom.  Many teachers are considering this move towards technology immersion in their classes but just need a gentle nudge to push them over the edge.  It only took me attending two events in two weeks and hearing an excellent speaker on technology in the classroom.  What will it take for you?

18 February 2009

thoughts about this week.

This week has been both exhilarating and exhausting.  I had the privilege of being invited down to the state capitol to attend Superintendent's Technology Day.  I was supposed to talk with legislators about how I use technology in my classroom.  That didn't really happen since my people were busy with other stuff.  Apparently they were considering how they can persecute a man who doesn't share their value system by voting to not accept his prayer.  I think that's just pitful, but this isn't the time or place for that I guess.  It reeks of religious persecution and I thought our country was founded in part to avoid that kind of stuff. I was able to meet a great guy from the OSDE, @ittosde.  He and I were able to talk some about the online learning environment from my classroom, eg. discussion boards, online homework, and a blogging project I am rolling around in my head for after spring break.

Today was especially exhausting just because I was teaching material that is both important and difficult conceptually to explain.  In physics 1 we have been talking about color, specifically light color, and today was about blue sky, cyan water, and red sunsets. It was great to do away with some long held misconceptions and actually explain and help kids understand phenomena that occur and can be observed on a regular basis.  I think I was just exhausted because both phys 1 blocks were crammed full of material and the kids asked good questions and were engaged and that can be a bit draining.  Very fulfilling though.  I love teaching what I teach.

The easy thing:  I must say that SNU impressed on me the need to make my content relevant to kids.  When you are teaching them observable phonemena that can be seen later in the day or immediately, its really hard not to connect it to everyday life.  Physics is just fun!  Students hopefully leave my class challenged and better informed about the natural world around them.  They used to call it natural philosophy and I am a firm believer there is a reason for that.  It was "knowing" "nature".  Pretty cool.

This post is a bit disconnected and you can probably tell I didn't do a lot of pre-writing; I'm sorry @mishelleyb.  I never was one to make an outline, first draft, and all that other writing stuff you teach in Comp 1.  Maybe you could have the paper resource center look this over and get back to me with some edits.

Thanks for reading.

12 February 2009

I have been reinvigorated!

So I have been inspired this week. I feel as if a breath of fresh air has been breathed into my attitude. I was really struggling over the last month or so. While I was doing okay in class, I had been putting a lot of stress on myself to do better. I didn't feel like I was accomplishing much; but one day off at a technology conference was all I needed.

I heard a great speaker, about educational technology, named Will Richardson who really made a difference in how I was feeling about the current educational climate. It was very nearly a religious experience for me.  I learned about new products offered for educational technology and I heard a phrase for the first time. I am almost embarrassed to say this...21st century skills. Honestly, I haven't been a reader of educational blogs. Ever. Now I have seen that word more often than I care to admit. I even talked to the English Teacher about it. She said, "Yes, that is what you guys (the high school teachers) are supposed to be teaching them before they get to us (the college community)." I guess that goes to show how little she and I talk about technology in the classroom. I mean she helps me with writing assignments, critical thinking activities, and she is a great resource for online activities; but we don't specifically talk about 21st century skills. I guess its just never come up in conversation.

It has been a tiring, exciting, exhausting, exhilarating week. While I am glad its over, I hope to have many more like. Look out Oklahoma legislators, here I come!

06 February 2009

Students leaving my class

I have worried about students who leave my class. I wonder if they are going to "embarrass" me by not knowing anything when they get to college. I wonder if they are going to go somewhere and talk about how they didn't learn anything in my class. I mean what if I am just the "fun class" and they only had fun but didn't actually take anything other than fun memories?

The English Teacher has helped me to realize that no matter what kids do in my class, no matter what grade they get, I know that I am grading them in a fair, objective manner and what they do after they leave my class doesn't matter. They achieved in my class, or not, and they earned what they earned. They go out of my class and reflect on themselves, not on me. My favorite quote of myself about kids is "I can lead those kids to the water, but I can't dunk their heads in it. I'm afraid if I did I would hold them under until the bubbles stop."

I did have a student who sent me a message today: JW is in Physics I at OU and he said "You really taught me how to properly view these problems and now its a breeze!!!! Just thought you should know you did an awesome job man!"

Just let it go Bowie, let it go.