Ask A Biologist

Arizona State University is offering science students and teachers a great opportunity.  Have a science question?  Post it and let them help you out.  They call the site Ask a Biologist.

While you are there, subscribe to their podcast.  You are going to find some great stuff here!

Thanks to the folks over at the Generation YES blog for pointing it out to me.

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Changing the Learning Landscape and Taking a Dare

Thanks for the challenge, Vicki.  I am going to answer these questions from my new position as an instructional technologist.  My job is to train our staff on integrating new tools into their teaching AND learning.  So here we go…

Do you spend any time talking about proper methods of e-mail?

  • Nope. We have an acceptable use policy in place for this.  Does that negate the need for me to discuss it with staff.  Not at all.  Since this is my first year in a position my school district never had before, I will learn from this idea.  Next year, we discuss it even if we only do it briefly.  I am sure there is a good video out there that would do the topic justice.

Do you have a facebook or myspace profile?

  • No I do not, but that does not stop me from understanding how to navigate the sites.  Proactive is the best policy for me.  I am working on a parent training on this as well.  It will be interesting to see what turns up when the parents start searching these sites.  Eye opener anyone?

If someone wrote about you, is your name hyperlinkable? (Do you have something they can link to?)

Do you know the names of all of your students?

  • Yes, I know my staff pretty well.  Even the new folks are becoming very familiar as I move through the classes and hallways.

If your students have computers in the classroom, do your students make ongoing eye contact?

  • When I need them to, they would.  But if they are like me, they are listening yet still working.

Are you unafraid of what would happen if youtube, myspace, and facebook were allowed in your classroom?

  • Not me.  If you teach acceptable use and ethics first, most of the problems would take care of themselves.  You will never take care of all of the issues, but you can work to lessen them.

Do your students collaboratively create documents?

  • My district recently switched to Google Apps for your Domain, so they now have access to the Google Docs suite.  Already teachers area creating student lists to share with the entire campus (detentions, testing, conferences, etc).  We even have an administrator using them to work out a presentation with another administrator who works in a neighboring district. 

Do you expect your students to complete their reading assignments?

  • Yep.  As an English teacher I did.  But “complete” is a loaded word.  Even I do not read every word in the books/blogs/etc that I read, yet my comprehension did not suffer.  My students will vary with that.  Of course, I pushed those with comprehension issues to pay attention to each word as they went through since one can easily get lost if they already struggle.

Do you assign papers and grade them after reading EVERY WORD?

  • I have, but it was not with every assignment.  As a seasoned educator, it becomes second nature to know where a paper is headed.  I wish the state of Texas chose seasoned educators to grade the state standardized essays.  They spend less than a minute on each paper prior to putting a grade on it, and many of the graders are not even English majors, much less educators. 

Have you ever given assignment and allowed students to create content on the public world wide web?

  • Absolutely.  We have used wikis and blogs for the last few years.  Now my goal is to get other teachers to take the same chances I took with student learning.

Do you allow students to post content WITHOUT pre-moderation?

  • Not at the middle school level with everything.  I do RSS their wikis to be updated ASAP, but they can still post there before I can nix any inappropriate content.  Funny enough, they never posted anything I needed to censor. 

If you allow students to post online, do you subscribe to 100% of their content in your RSS reader?

  • Yes.

Do you comment on your student blogs?

  • Yes, I did.

Is more than 50% of your content relevant “to life?” (Ask your students)

  • Teaching English and reading?  Well, the content itself not so much, but the skills were.  In many cases I gave them the choice of what to write or read about, so the relevancy was up to them.

Do all of your students open their textbook for your class on a weekly basis?

  • Nope.

Do you give reading assignments that include web content?

  • Yes, I have.

Have your students been taught methodologies for assessing the validity of web documents?

  • We spent some time on it, but honestly it was not enough.  The fact that I could fit it into an already packed list of items was pretty good.  It really needed to be taught prior to the students hitting my door (common educator cop-out, I know).  Maybe we can work it into one of our intro tech courses or cycle classes.

you give students projects where they must manage themselves,
multitask, and deliver a comprehensive output that is relevant to your

  • Yes, I did.  Their favorite was designing the classroom of tomorrow.  Interesting thoughts from them, but not much in the way of innovation.  What should I expect of kids who are taught to not take chances in their learning and stick to the rules?

Have you changed anything significant about ALL of the courses you are teaching THIS YEAR?

  • I cannot really answer this, per se, but I have used my previous learning from my personal learning network to help drive my direction in what my new position should be offering our staff.

Do you care?

  • More than I could ever show in a blog post.  I want our kids to be successful.  I want them to walk away life-long learners.  I want THEM to care.

And now Vicki’s Double Dare: Show your administrator. 
I did.  As soon as I became aware of the video, I invited him to watch it in my office.  He agreed with what he saw (having a college-aged daughter helps him to).  He is all about changing our landscape to fit the needs of students of today.  Lucky me.   Seriously.

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Grading the Electronically Submitted Essay

As an English teacher, I always wanted ways to limit the papers I had to lug around. It can be a mess, and at times I had a fear of losing what my students had spent (hopefully) many hours creating. I longed for the electronic submission days, but I always wondered how to find an easy and effective way to grade these and return them electronically with my notations.

Well, in steps a blog post from The Visual Lounge. This blog is mostly about making screencasts of different things, but the one that caught my eye concerns Alisa Cooper, an English professor at Maricopa Community College. Alisa takes you through the steps of creating a custom grading toolbar to add to your Word toolbar area. It is a great little tool. As usual, there will be a little bit of time needed to start with, but once it is in place, it is ready to go for every paper you grade.

So take a look at the screencast here and take a shot at making your own. Have your kids submit their essays electronically to you one time. Assess them using your new toolbar and send them back to them. I view this as more of a conference stage than maybe a final draft grading, but you can decide what works best for you. Let me know how it goes.

And if you are interested in making your own screencasts like Alisa, shoot me an email or a comment below. I’ll see what I can come up with for you.

photo credits

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