Posted by David R. Wetzel, Ph.D.
What is the Digital Footprint in Your Classroom?
In contrast to the technology teachers use in a classroom for their professional use, what is the technology (or digital) footprint of your students?
Why the concern? Technology tools, both on- and offline, abound today in schools. When these tools are effectively integrated in science and math curricula, your classroom will transform your classroom into a learning community.
So what is your students’ technology footprint?
Building a Learning Community
Through optimizing the power of digital footprint in your classroom, students transform from passive to active learners. When incorporating technology within core curriculum, you leverage students’ prior knowledge and experiences (PKE) with content.
By leveraging students’ PKE with technological tools, they are able to build learning communities within and outside the classroom. These communities are known as personal learning networks.
Regardless of term used, when describing this technology, group work has moved into the 21st century.
Digital Foot Print Strategies by Grade Level
The following are examples of how digital tools support student learning:
Elementary – students work collaboratively and share their work or projects with others in and outside their classroom.
Examples include: Skype sessions, blogs, wikis, creating podcasts, digital storytelling, content specific interactive games and programs, VoiceThread, and presentations with Glogster.
Middle School – students work collaboratively and share data with others in or outside their classroom. Includes data and information collected during science and math investigative activities.
Examples include using tools such as Skype, online surveys and polls, Twitter, blogs, wikis, podcasts, presentations using Google Docs and Glogster, digital storytelling, content specific interactive games and programs, VoiceThread, Screencasts, WallWisher, Wolfram Alpha, and web-based learning centers.
High School – students work collaboratively and share data with others in or outside their classroom. Includes data and information collected during science and math investigative activities. Along with Middle School examples, a classroom’s digital footprint needs to include using technology tools for:
- reading content-related blogs to learn what scientists and mathematicians are thinking and doing.
- creating content-related student blogs focused on solving real-time issues and problems.
- creating podcasts for lower grade students designed as “How to’s.” This strategy helps high school students validate solve problems or investigative techniques.
- participating in online discussions and forums, such as Skype, focused on content-related issues. For example global warming, historic issues, data analysis, math challenges, literature, and finding answers for content-related problems.
- using social networks, such as Twitter and VoiceThread, for creating personal learning networks or learning communities. Examples include seeking advice and answers from content experts, reflecting on their learning experiences, and establishing their own digital footprint.
Tools Within a Digital Toolbox
Examples of digital tools may include and are certainly not limited to computers, iPod Touches, iPads, cell phones, online data bases, interactive offline software, productivity software (word processing, spreadsheets and presentation tools) blogs, podcasts, interactive websites, and many other Web 2.0 tools.
Additional benefits for students when optimizing the use of digital media tools, include:
- improving reading and writing skills.
- supporting differentiated learning.
- learning how to build a positive digital footprint of their own. This is an important attribute, because students in general do not understand the ramifications of some material they post on social media.
- working with peers to make connections within and among content concepts.
- building their confidence for learning.
- learning actively as opposed to passive learning.
- being more involved in research projects which stimulate critical thinking skills
- creating a personal learning network.
So if you are considering creating or expanding your classroom’s digital foot print — the time to take action is at hand!
Posted by David R. Wetzel, Ph.D.
Learning science and math is normally thought of as committing to memory facts and procedures. Because of this we tend to perceive the best way to teach is through rote memorization of ideas, theories, and models.
As a consequence, students experience little opportunity to develop a real understanding of what they are expected learn.
Our challenge is to craft strategies which allow student interactivity within lessons. Student involvement beyond memorization is an essential building block for learning science and math.
Using Technology and Hands-On: Real Indicators of Student Interactivity?
Not really, it all depends on how they are used in lessons. Regrettably, too often:
Technology is just used as an alternative attraction on the road to rote memorization of facts and concepts.
Hands-on is simply a synonym for following directions from work sheets, lab manuals, or textbooks with no thought by students (NSTA Blog).
Creating Student Interaction
Using technological tools and hands-on activities must focus on creating opportunities for students to ask what, where, when, why, and how.
To this end, we are obligated to craft student interactivity by challenging students in learning situations that require them to think.
This is accomplished by incorporating technology, math manipulatives, and science tools built around activities such as:
- problem solving situations,
Ways to Create Student Minds-on Involvement
Although there are many ways to create minds-on activities, the following is a sample of activities to create student interactivity in science and math lessons.
Stimulating Critical Thinking Problems and Investigations
Integrated science and math problems, case studies, projects, technology use include:
- What is the maximum number of eagles that can inhabit an specific area? (biology, fractions, decimals, percents, and ratios)
- How long will it take to repay the investment in a solar panel, based on local electricity costs? (real numbers, statistics, physics, and linear equations)
- What is the math behind a carnival ball toss game? (reasoning, communication, statistics, variables, nature of science)
- What effect does wind have on water evaporation? (nature of science, technology, charts, tables, variables, reasoning)
- Why do engineers use so many triangles in structures? (geometry, physical science)
- What is the biodiversity of your local ecosystem? (number sense, biology)
QR Code Quests
Students use an iPad, iPod, or Smartphone to follow a trail of QR Codes in problem solving situations. These Quests require students to solve a problem or complete an investigation. When complete, they create a QR Code to lead others to their solution and supporting evidence.
Create QR Codes using an Apple App or Android App. Then embed in your class blog, wiki page, Live Binder, or on science and math lab sheets.
An alternative method is to use existing QR Codes in magazines, newspapers, and websites.
Why is this Important?
Our students tend to find science and math a painful exercise in regurgitating information, with little understanding of what they are talking or writing about.
Often, their defense mechanism is expressed by stating:
- Why do I need to learn this!
Creating an environment in which students don’t need these and other defense mechanisms is important for building student confidence and understanding content.
Science and math teachers are always interested in best practices. Do you have a favorite problem solving activity or investigation, why not share it.
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Posted by David R. Wetzel, Ph.D.
Flipping a classroom is not a teaching technique, it is more in line with a philosophy or way of teaching. It involves using technology as a tool, not the main focus, for helping students increase their understanding of science or math concepts.
Effective use of this way of thinking helps reduce student anxiety and frustration when studying science or math, especially when homework is involved. Unfortunately, failure to complete homework is a common problem among students, because they typically work in isolation.
This aggravation causes students to view homework as a maddening waste of time — leading to incomplete assignments and ultimately poor grades as they fall further and further behind.
Contrary to perceptions some may have about flipping a classroom, homework is not eliminated. It uses an entirely different approach (Learning 4 Mastery, Student Impressions).
How does Homework Change?
Homework becomes a series of shortinstructional videos, teacher lecture screencasts, and podcasts on your blog or wiki designed to replace in-class lectures.
Why is this a good thing?
Lecturing Does Not = Learning
Have you ever experienced the glazed look in your students’ eyes when lecturing?
Do you observe them taking copious notes and not really paying attention to you as you talk or place notes for them to copy on the overhead, chalk board, whiteboard, or smart board?
Also, this delivery method provides students limited time to make sense and formulate questions regarding new information, i.e., they do not have time to assimilate the information or make connections.
Impact of Lecturing
Lectures result in a one-way transfer of knowledge that does not pass through your students brains. It goes straight from your mouth or screen to their pen or pencil onto paper — passing go (the brain), proceeding directly to a potentially never opened notebook.
Through your best efforts to teach the important concept(s) in a lesson, they have learned little and typically cannot apply the information. This is why traditional home work is frustrating and viewed as a waste of time by most students. Typically, students do not remember enough from class to complete their homework assignments.
Impact on Homework
Using the flipped philosophy, students learn from podcasts, lectures, or videos at their own pace. Also, they can review them as many times as want. Of course questions will come up, even higher-order questions. Why? Because students now have time to think about what they are observing — this is a good thing. Now lectures and content videos are passing through your student brains! Homework is now useful and a beginning point for the next day’s class.
The following is a short list of vieo resources for science and math.
- Kahn Academy an extensive list of short videos of science and math concepts and procedures.
How Does In-Class Time Change?
Classes now become a center for student learning. You have more time to interact with students on a one-to-on basis. Additionally,:
- you address student higher-order questions concerning homework.
- your opportunity to discover student misconceptions and procedural confusion is increased.
- students spend more time on experiments and investigations.
- students work in groups or independently to solve problems.
- you can differentiate instruction as necessary.
Flipping Your Classroom: Things to Consider
Is this for you and your students? Think about the following, remembering that like anything new it takes time and should be implemented in steps to avoid frustrating yourself and students. A flipped classroom is:
- not a substitute for you.
- a place where you are no longer the purveyor (one way communication) of all knowledge.
- a place where content is stored on your blog or wiki for student review prior to tests and absent or home bound students can review.
Challenging the Status Quo
Why use this strategy? Because in far too many cases the status quo is not working.
Although there are a multitude of reasons why students drop out of school, the process begins as early as elementary school. The leading cause is poor grades and test scores. Students do not feel engaged in school and find it monotonous (California Dropout Research Project).
California Dropout Research Project, UC Santa Barbara, Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, 2008
Learning 4 Mystery, Flipped/Mastery Educational Model: Student Impressions, Accessed December 12, 2011
Should You Flip Your Classroom? Edutopia, October 26, 2011
The White House, President Obama Announces Steps to Reduce Dropout Rate, Office of the Press Secretary, 2010
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