Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sometimes We Make Slime

One of the courses I am privileged to teach is Methods of Teaching Science for PreK-Middle School. There are challenges in trying to find activities and resources that can be used for all of those grade levels (teaching preschoolers is, after all, a bit different than teaching young adolescents!), so I try to include a range of different activities: some that might work better for early childhood, some for upper elementary, some for middle school. But there are a few activities that we do in the course that seem to work well with every age group, or at least, can be easily adapted for use with any age group.

For example: sometimes we make slime.

Isn't this lovely stuff? You can make some too.
(The recipe...)

Slimes are so wonderfully yucky and tactile, almost every kid loves to play with them. Even my methods students--adults!--get crazy and excited when we break out the slime.

Recipes for Slime

Science teachers, make some slime and let the kids play!

I was a middle school science teacher for many years, and now I am privileged to teach future teachers how to teach science. Every science teacher should know how to make slime. The kids love it, and there can be fantastic science learning that happens by playing with slime!

My two favorite slimes are easy to make, and don't require any chemicals other than those you can probably find at your local grocery store. Here are the recipes for oobleck and glurch...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bored in Class

In a recent #satchat on student engagement, a Twitterfriend shared this image: (Thanks to @Mrreiff for sharing, and for his permission to use the image here!)

Image via @Mrreiff, used with permission.
Check out his book, If Shakespeare Could Tweet

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Computers Programming Kids?

For a reading for one of the classes I'm taking this semester, we read part of Seymour Papert's classic book Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. If you are Lego fan and have every worked with their robotics kits--also named "Mindstorms"--you are working with materials developed in collaboration with Papert. And, if you are of a certain age, you perhaps remember Apple LOGO (the "turtle" you could command around the screen?) which was developed by Papert as a way of teaching young children how to program computers.

I don't think I understood it this way when I was playing with LOGO as a kid. I was just messing around...though Papert would probably say that is the point. His philosophy is an off-shoot of constructivism called "constructionism" that involves creating (constructing) physical objects to represent complex ideas. This comes through pretty clearly when you think about the Lego robotics kits, doesn't it?

A functioning model of the Curiosity Rover, created using Lego Mindstorms NXT
Image by Erre [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Reflecting on Social Presence

Those who regularly read my blog know that I am currently in a doctoral program, and I'm conducting my studies at Boise State University in the online Ed.D. program, studying Educational Technology.  Most of our work is asynchronous (we don't all login at the same time to interact), and while it is high-level, interactive, collaborative work, it is online, distance learning, which can be isolating.

But it doesn't have to be.

Since I'm studying online, I don't have the opportunity to have "hallway conversations" with my classmates as you might before or after a face-to-face class. But that doesn't mean we don't still interact outside of the discussion forums and VoiceThreads. In fact, our cohort does a really great job of keeping in touch using tools like Google Hangouts and TodaysMeet and Twitter. How much each of my classmates gets involved in these communication channels varies--not all of us have the same level of wanting to be in touch, I think--but I have personally benefitted greatly through this. I have built real friendships with people scattered across the globe.

If you've never experienced this kind of relationship-building, you might be skeptical about the level of friendship that can actually develop using only online tools. But I recently had an experience that confirmed it for me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Downfall of the One-Laptop-Per-Child Project

One of the courses I am taking this semester is all about understanding global and cultural developments in educational technology. This course has stretched me, but it has been enjoyable too.

As a case study, this week we are examining the One-Laptop-Per-Child Project (OLPC), which began almost 10 years ago. The brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte--founder of MIT's Media Lab--the idea was to create an extremely affordable laptop computer (in the range of approximately $100) that would be rugged and durable and easily deployed to developing nations. Funded by corporate sponsorship and private donors, the plan was to distribute these devices across the globe in places where educational technology was not readily accessible, and hopefully change teaching and learning there for the better. A noble goal, right? An altruistic, humanitarian project with the goal of improving education in areas where an education would be, presumably, a ticket to better standard of living.

Negroponte presented the project in a 2006 TED talk, which I highly recommend you take the time to view if you are unfamiliar with the OLPC project. In 20 minutes, it will give you a good understanding of what the project is about.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Social Presence and Online Video

I was at the Association for Educational and Communication Technology's annual conference this week I had the joy of meeting up with a group of my cohort and several of my professors face-to-face. It was a great time of hanging out together.

One of my faculty sponsors has done quite a lot of research in the field of social presence in online courses. I'm thankful that I have the chance to learn from and work with him, and I am especially thankful that I got to meet up with Dr. Lowenthal in person this week and hear one of his presentation at the conference. His passion and knowledgeability about his research area were inspiring!

Dr. Lowenthal doing his thing.

I am torn on my dissertation topic. I'm sure it will be either examining social presence in online learning or preparing pre-service teachers for the demands of technology integration, but between these two topics there is quite a bit of room. I was in sessions this week related to both of these topics, and I was hoping to gain clarity, but I'm still struggling a bit. I will say that after hearing Dr. Lowenthal's presentation, I feel myself pulled toward examining social presence at least in the short term, if not for a long term project like my dissertation, or at least for a future research topic after this degree is completed.

Here is a link to the slides from this presentation, which was all about social presence and online video. Maybe this gives a glimpse into why I find this so fascinating? (Or maybe you'll be left saying, "whatever, Dave...") :-)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

How Should We Be Using Technology in Schools?

I admit that I'm a technophile, and I generally advocate for the use of technology in teaching (though I take "technology" pretty broadly...I've said before that a pencil is an educational technology...)

I recently came across this article from Forbes via Twitter: It's Time to Rethink Our Use of Technology in Schools. No matter if you consider yourself a technophile or a technophobe when it comes to using technology for teaching and learning, I hope you'll take the time to read it an reflect on what is being presented here.

Several provocative points that stirred my thinking:

"There is evidence that where schools and colleges use technology effectively there is a correlation with better outcomes. But that is not the same as saying the technology is actually aiding learning. It is not the technology that makes a difference, it is the teachers." (emphasis mine)

--> This is very much what I'm thinking right now. We often get pretty wound up about the possibilities of the tools, but good pedagogy still makes the most impact. Technology does not--and truly cannot--replace a great teacher!

"Five ideas for tech integration from Martin Blows:

  • Exchange: swapping traditional ways of doing things with ICT
  • Enrich: engaging learners with a richer mix of media
  • Enhance: encouraging deeper learning through the use of ICT
  • Extend: encouraging students to take their learning further
  • Empower: giving students control over their own learning

It is not the technology itself that is important, it is how it is used. And this requires investment not just in equipment but in giving teachers the confidence and competence to exploit it."

--> I love the five E's here, but I'm not so sure that "Exchange" is a good enough way to use EdTech. If it's a straight up swap, I'm not sure there is enough of a value-add for using the technology vs. not using the tech. My 2¢...

What do you think? Are there other great things that stand out for you here?