Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chapter 11: Generating & Testing Hypotheses

Students’ practice of generating and testing hypotheses is a helpful learning strategy in all content areas because it requires the learner to engage in higher order thinking. Technology allows students to focus their time interpreting data (as opposed to gathering it), thereby greatly enhancing the process. One technology tool that does this are Data Collection Tools. Once the student has researched a problem and formed a hypothesis, they can be used to collect data that either confirms or denies them. While most hypothesis forming and data collection strategies seem to be geared towards the science classroom, such applications can also be implemented in the language arts classroom and in the library. One novel that our 8th grade language arts classes read every year is The Outsiders, a story that centers on gang activity and social conflict. During the novel unit, students can form hypotheses about gangs--why they are formed, why someone would want to join one, and about the existence of gangs in the community. Data collection tools, such as Survey Monkey, can then be used to gather data from peers and local law enforcement officials. Once the data has been collected, students can examine it and use it to confirm or deny their hypotheses. In the library, I can use data collection tools to find circulation information (such as the most checked out book, the oldest book, etc.) and have students form hypotheses about the answer.
A second technology tool that allows students to practice generating and testing hypotheses is Web Resources. There is a vast array of interactive games and simulations available that allow students to form hypotheses about situations and then see the outcome in the virtual world. Making History is a strategy game that engages students in the events leading up to World War II. This would be a fabulous way for students to gain a deeper understanding of the Holocaust, a unit that is taught in 8th grade language arts concurrent with their reading of Night. Such a simulation game could be implemented as part of any historical fiction novel unit. When our 7th graders read The Watsons Go to Birmingham, such a resource could be used to immerse them in the South during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Simulation games draw the learner directly into the action and allow them to become key players in historical events and hypothetical situations; as a result, students are able to see why certain decisions were made and what the ramifications of different decisions are. Our “digital natives” already have a strong gaming and virtual background; web resources allow them to engage in something that they find entertaining while they develop important higher order thinking skills.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chapter 10: Homework and Practice

In an educational environment, homework and practice are important to the process of learning because they give students the opportunity to review and apply what they have learned. Technology aides in these processes by allowing teachers and students to get the most out of their homework practices. Web Resources, one technology tool, give learners the opportunity to practice and refine skills and concepts form their homes or classrooms. Many students enjoy the educational games they can play as a way to have fun while they are learning. The immediate feedback that they give is just one big advantage to online educational games that can be accessed from a students home, the public library, the school, or anywhere that provides computers with internet access. Our students are “digital natives” and playing games online is second nature to them; it only makes sense for us, as educators, to take advantage of their affinity for this. One web resource that my campus is in the process of acquiring is web-based AR (Renaissance Place), a web based program that tracks student reading comprehension via their independent reading, to allow students to take AR quizzes and earn AR points from home. The current system is server-based, so it has many limitations that include only offering students the opportunity to take AR quizzes from a campus computer. Renaissance Place provides a web based resource for students to complete their reading requirements from home. Like some web resources, however, the migration to Renaissance Place is very costly and that remains our biggest obstacle for acquiring it.
Communication Software is a second technology tool that facilitates with homework and practice. Whereas collaborative projects that require some outside-of-the-classroom time can become cumbersome when the communication is done via e-mail (which involves multiple versions of the same document and each member overwriting one another), communication software makes such collaboration much more organized and streamlined. Writeboard is an internet based computer software that offers multiple users the ability to modify and edit a single document (similar to the way a wiki works), all while allowing users to track the changes that have been made. There are also other free software (like Backpack) that further allow students to work collaboratively by sharing notes, calendars, etc. Such communication software can be implemented in the language arts classroom (or any curriculum content area for that matter) any time that a group project is assigned. Students no longer have to worry about organizing and rearranging their schedules to set up a common meeting time. Group meeting, with the help of communication software, can be conducted at each individual member’s convenience. This is a powerful alternative because it allows group homework and collaborative projects to be done at the convenience of each individual.

Chapter 9: Identifying Similarities & Differences

Having students identify the similarities and differences in the materials and concepts that they are learning acts as a powerful instructional strategy because it challenges them to restructure their understanding of the content and leads to a deeper understanding of the material. Technology gives us tools that we, as educators, can use in the process of teaching students to identify similarities and differences--primarily tools that are used to create graphic organizers. Every computer at my campus has Microsoft Word, so Word Processing Applications are a readily available tool that can be used to create graphic organizers that represent the similarities and differences in concepts. The Drawing toolbar of Word can be used to draw and create a variety of templates to organize similarities and differences--diagrams, charts, and other graphic organizers. The comparing and contrasting of text is a TAKS objective in 7th and 8th grade language arts; students are expected to be able to compare and contrast two similar reading passages. Word processing applications offer teachers and students a way to electronically organize such information visually, helping learners to better see and understand how two passages are alike and different.
A second technology tool, Organizing and Brainstorming Software, is created specifically for the purpose of organizing information and offers many methods of facilitating in the identification of the similarities and differences of many concepts. Since software such as Inspiration must be purchased and licensed, some schools may find the expense to be cost prohibitive. If this type of software is available, however, it can be used very effectively to reinforce the concept of comparing and contrasting. The application of organizing and brainstorming software (such as Kidspiration and Inspiration) is so powerful because it provides a visual portrayal of the similarities and differences of concepts (e.g. Venn diagram, comparison template). Inspiration even comes with a Book Comparison feature that is specifically designed to compare and contrast literature. This feature could be used in so many different ways in the classroom to reinforce the concept of identifying similarities and differences, an important (and often very challenging) learning objective. In the library, such software could also be used to reinforce this learning objective by drawing comparisons and contrasts between literary genres, information literacy concepts, and other library concepts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chapter 8: Reinforcing Effort

Although different people attribute success to a variety of sources, individual effort is the one source that is the most within an individual’s control and is, therefore, the source that educators are most concerned with. Reinforcing effort is an important instructional strategy because it allows learners to understand the relationship between effort and achievement, thereby making them responsible for their success. One technology tool that allows educators to facilitate the learners’ tracking of their efforts is Spreadsheet Software. Using a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel allows students to track the effects of their efforts on their success rather than insisting that individual success lies in external factors beyond their control. A teacher created spreadsheet template can be created that students access and fill in with their individual efforts. In the language arts classes, a large portion of each student’s grade comes from the attainment of AR reading points. A spreadsheet for students to track their time spent reading in the classroom, at home, and the number of points they earn each grading period would be an effective way for them to see how much time they spent reading and how it affects their grade. Such a system gives students a systematic way to clearly see how their grade is earned, as opposed to feeling like it is an arbitrary number the that the teacher “gives” them.
Another tool from technology that aides in reinforcing effort are the various Data Collection Tools available to educators. Data is a powerful way to provide evidence of how each students’ effort directly effects their achievement. Giving students recognition is a powerful way of reinforcing effort; data collection tools and technology allow us to move beyond bulletin boards and verbal teacher comments. Along with the aforementioned ways of providing recognition, educators can use the school website to show photographs and examples of students working and tell student success stories. In the library, we can post names of students who make the Reading Team along with a recognition of top point earners. Surveys can be used to gain insight into issues surrounding student effort. I would like to create a student survey that examines the issues of reading to find out why do students like to read, why don’t they like to read, what obstacles do they face in becoming avid readers. I could then use this information to provide motivation (effort) and recognition.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chapter 7: Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is an instructional strategy where students work in groups to enhance their learning, thereby formulating new knowledge via their peer interaction. Multimedia is a technology tool that presents various opportunities for educators to employ cooperative learning. The nature of creating a multimedia project is complex and multi-faceted, so this is a task that naturally lends itself to cooperative learning. Whether it’s a video or PowerPoint presentation that is being created on a particular topic, it is important for the educator to provide rubrics and organizers as tools to keep the learners on task. It is also important for the project facilitator (the teacher) to assign tasks and student roles and responsibilities. In the library, I can see multimedia projects being created to promote books-- book teasers and “trailers” that are displayed on the campus television network seem like an effective way to give new and popular books exposure. This is a very plausible idea because my campus has immediate access to video cameras, editing software, and Power Point.
A second technology tool that facilitates collaborative learning are Web Resources. The nature of the internet creates a “connected” climate, so it only makes sense that web resources make collaboration easier among learners. Such technology is a powerful tool in collaborative learning because is allows students to work together and communicate without actually being face to face in the same room. An everyday resource like e-mail can be used for students in a group to communicate with each other and plan, discuss, and execute a classroom learning project. E-mail can also expand student groups beyond the school campus; it can be used to reach out to students in the next town or state (or even country) to form discussion groups. Another web resource, WebQuests, are teacher designed pathfinders that streamline students’ navigation of the internet when researching and exploring a particular topic. They are effective to use when introducing a new concept or study unit such as a novel. In the library, I plan to create a WebQuest that explores concept in information literacy. It will lead students to biased websites on certain subjects and help them to evaluate their research sources.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chapter 6: Summarizing and Note Taking

Two important and related learning strategies are summarizing and note taking. These two processes are higher order thinking skills because they require learners to synthesize information and put it in their own words. With the help of technology, the practice of note taking can be turned into a learning experience in and of itself. Technology also offers support with the skill of summarization.
Word Processing Applications are one technology tool that provides learners with an avenue to strengthen summarization and note taking skills. Summarization is a vital learning objective in the language arts classroom, so the features that word processing applications offer can act as learning aides to help students master this often challenging skill. I like the concept of rule-based summarizing because it gives learners a process and structure to follow when trying to distill the important points of a chunk of information. The Track Changes feature of Microsoft Word allows users to follow the steps of rule-based summarization while visually seeing the changes that are made. I think that this will prove to be an effective way to help students see how the summarization process takes them from a lengthy chunk of information into a more concise form. I didn’t know about another feature that Word offers--the Auto-Summarize tool. This, too, can be utilized in the classroom. Students can be given a piece of text that the teacher has already entered into Word and be asked to summarize it on their own. They can then see what Auto-Summarize comes up with and compare it to their summary.
Technology also gives us many Web Resources that can be accessed to assist with summarization and note taking. Most of these websites use a collaborative approach that allows students to work with one another when practicing these skills. This approach offers a valuable perspective because many educators approach the concept of summarization and note taking as an individual endeavor. Research tells us that students can increase their sense of understanding of difficult concepts when they work through them collaboratively, so using these web resources really offers educators an opportunity to more effectively teach concepts. Some of these resources are free, so all that the classrooms need are computers with internet access. Students can be divided into groups and then guided to these web resources. One website that I like is NoteStar because it allow students to take research and information from the internet and assists them in organizing it; the MLA or APA citations that it offers are also a valuable asset to student research because it shows them the proper way to cite sources. Think Tank is another free resource that educators can use to help students gather information and summarize it. Students can be introduced to the web resources at the beginning of a study or research unit and then allowed to explore and choose the one that is best for their project.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chapter 5: Nonlinguistic Representation

I was very interested to learn about nonlinguistic representation as it is not a concept that I was all too familiar with. According to the text, knowledge is stored in two forms-- linguistic (language) and nonlinguistic (images and sensations). Most often, new information is presented in linguistic form. With the help of technology, educators can facilitate students’ use of nonlinguistic representation, thereby having a positive effect on student achievement.
One technology tool that can be used to access nonlinguistic representation of concepts is Multimedia Applications. Multimedia applications such as movies/videos and presentations are frequently used in classroom instruction. Most often, however, they are teacher created and presented to the students. Research tells us that if we can flip that process and have the students actually create the presentations they are more effective. In the library, I can envision students creating presentations over books that they have read. Student-created presentations in any curriculum area involve research, so this would present an opportunity for the library to provide a lesson on information literacy and copyright. The Power Point program is installed in all of the computers at our campus, so the students have easy and available access. Multimedia applications also give educators the opportunity to engage students in nonlinguistic representation via student-created animations that can also be done on PowerPoint. I think that this particular application would be appealing to many of our students with an interest in art and graphic design. I have never considered using Power Point to create animations, so I am excited to play around with it and see what I can do. Movies and videos can also be created to formulate nonlinguistic representation of a concept. I like the idea of students creating “movie trailers” of books as a means of getting the word out about our library collection and inspiring students to read.
There are also many Web Resources that lend themselves to the nonlinguistic representation of concepts. There are many sites that offer computer simulations of concepts. It seems that the majority of such websites are geared towards math and science, but there are some applications for the library program and language arts classes. One resource that the book lists is Surviving Everest, an interactive site where students can explore what it’s like to climb Mount Everest. In the library, such a site could be used to promote adventure books such as Peak by Roland Smith. As the librarian, I could introduce the site to students and allow them to explore it. Then I can follow up their multimedia simulation with a short book talk about a variety of adventure books in the library. Language arts teachers could similarly use such sites to introduce novels that are read in class. Other web resources offer resources on Clay Animation in Power Point and Digital Storytelling, both which offer valuable opportunities for nonlinguistic representation.