Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Web 2.0

So, this week we were asked to use and describe some online sites that could be used in an educational setting.  Only one was familiar to me, and it was a lot of fun (even if occasionally frustrating) to check out the ones that were new to me.  Things certainly could have gone a lot quicker if everything had worked easily, but it always seems that there are (small) glitches.

Bubbl.us- This site allows you to create a concept map.  We'd already used this for an assignment last week, so there wasn't much difficulty in using it this week, save for a few minutes when for some reason I could not type into the bubbles at the very end of my project.  I even changed the batteries in my keyboard, thinking that was the problem.  It wasn't.  So I switched out of Safari (I was informed that FireFox, my first choice, doesn't work so well with Bubbl.) and back to FireFox, and it worked just fine, no problems at all.  I discovered at the end, when I was rearranging and resizing all of my bubbles, that one can make smaller bubbles disappear behind the larger idea bubble and then have them pop out when you want.  I like that, and I know that I will be using this with my students, and will especially teach them how to use it themselves.  It is a fantastic way to organize one's thoughts and a great study tool that I think they'll like using, and maybe actually study!

Glogster-  I am familiar with Glogster, but haven't used it since last year.  I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder!  No, I really do like Glogster, but I had forgotten some of the maddening unexplainable problems I'd run into before, like not having certain pictures show up in the final product.  Right now I am trying to work on my background photo, which I uploaded myself and it showed up in the first few times I viewed my Glogster as a visitor.  It'll show, then it won't show, then it'll show again.  Maddening, and lots of time wasted.  That said, I really do like the whole idea.  The site seems faster at loading videos and pictures than the last time I used it, and this time I even uploaded the sound of thunder to go along with my Thunderstorm bit.  I still have to go back and tweak the background photo and one other photo that refuses to show up in the final product.  Hopefully they're working on those problems and it won't be an issue in the future.

Animoto-  This site allows you to create your own 30-second film (no voice-over) for free, or you can pay a monthly fee to create a longer one.  I uploaded 8 pictures about weather, sorted through their library of free songs to choose from for background music (choosing one called summer sunshine) and created my "Weather" video.  It was pretty boring, but I do see how it could be a great tool if you subscribe for a longer length.  However, if I wanted to make a movie for class, I'll  just use my computer's iMovie program.  Lots easier and looks much better.

Voki- I don't know about this one.  I created one voki, which is essentially a talking head that you can create (down to lips, even).  You talk into your computer's microphone and the voki speaks, using your voice, of whatever topic you want your students to get information about.  I am going to play around with this one a little more, but I do think that I am going to check out one of the other sites that we can chose from, especially the one where you can create games.  I am always looking for sites to create games for review.  I think a game would keep my students' interest more than a voki would, except if they were the ones creating the Voki.  Then they really may be into it.  Sounds good to me, let them create!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Week 2: Should Students Play Games In School?

Video games are a part of our children's lives whether we'd like them to be or not.  As a mom, I fought off the "demand" (by commercials, culture) to get a video game player to have in our home, but eventually acquiesced, much to children's happiness (not without rigid rules, though!).  As my children progressed through school, that video game player wasn't the only place where my kids played games- they also played them on the computer, because they were playing educational games for practice of their academic subjects.  Never would I be able to entice them to practice math riddles or science quests as much as those games.  They loved playing them, and they were all the better for it.

As a teacher, I also see the value in using software to play games.  There is definitely a time and place for those instructional games, but they definitely can and do get kids excited about exploring a topic for the first time or honing their skills.  In my physics class, we played all kinds of games.  Of course, this was a driven group to begin with, so they loved the challenges of the games that were mostly produced by universities, such as the University of Colorado Physics Department.  Great games they had, including being able to shoot a Buick from a cannon, after calculating how high and at what force you would have to use to hit a certain distance.  When we were studying electromagnetism they could position positive and negative particles on a board to try to move a particle into a "goal".  They would race to see who could move the particle the fastest to the goal.  Yes, we had lab exercises where they practiced some of these principles in real life, but nothing like what was available to them via software.   In my Earth Science class, students would love to team up and play a "Jeopardy" game to review a topic.   We could also use software that had been developed to simulate the viscosity of lava depending on characteristics such as water content, silica content, etc., and they could create Hawaii-like "gentle" volcanoes or super explosive ones like Mt. St. Helen's.   These games would capture the interest of almost all my students.

  I would go as far as to say that maybe the naysayers about software games in class are those who are not yet comfortable using a computer, or don't have much experience.  Of course the software has to be evaluated as to its effectiveness, just like any other teaching strategy, and it does not take the place of the teacher who facilitates learning.  That goes without saying.

I can't imagine a classroom without incorporating some of the most effective ways to catch a kid's attention in today's world.  Software games are here to stay and we should take advantage of what we can.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Week 1: Introduction

So here I am, starting a blog.  I never imagined that I would have one- I have trouble keeping up with a personal journal- and I am never usually the person who has a lot to say (though my husband may differ with that statement!).  I like to listen, to people watch, to learn.

I am married and my husband and I have three children; a 17 year old son, a 15 year old daughter, and an 11 year old daughter.  I've been married for just over 19 years, and followed my husband around for several years while he was in the Army.  For the past ten years we've lived here in NY where we both grew up.  We had lived in Virginia, North Carolina, and Alaska, and really loved living in Alaska (Virginia was great, too) but didn't like being so far away from our families, especially once we started having kids.  My husband's family is very close, and I am thankful that our children get to experience that.  But we do dream of moving to another state eventually....even though New York is an absolutely beautiful state to live in.  We are able to do all kinds of outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, swimming in mountain swimming holes, & skiing .  We also like being so close to New York City, which has some of the friendliest people I've ever met.  Every time I've needed directions or help with something, I'd just ask anyone on the street and they've always helped with a smile.  I don't know why they have such a bad rep.  Anyway, I've just mentioned some of the activities that I'm interested in, and I can add that I absolutely love geology, physics, gardening, snorkeling & SCUBA, being with friends, traveling, and most of all enjoying my family as my children grow.

This past year has been a new experience for me as I was laid off from my job last June.  I only got my BS in 2008, but was fortunate enough to get a job that very fall teaching in a high school about an hour away from me.  I loved my job; the first year was tough but each year got easier and easier, and I learned all kinds of new things, mostly about myself.  It was tough being laid off at first; professionally I felt so discouraged, it was hard once September rolled around. But then, each day once school started, I found that I was relishing being able to fix my children breakfast, packing up lunches with food that they really enjoyed (and were hot!),  sending them off to school with a kiss and a wish for a fantastic day, and being here when they get home. Life is short, and soon my kids will be off in their own lives, so I am grateful for this time that I have here at home.  But I can't wait to be in a classroom again, that's for sure!