Saturday, August 30, 2008

The First "Full" Week

So, it seems like the first week is almost over. I just have to grade some labs, grade a test (AP) and finish posting some football video to the Internet. This week contained:
  1. My first week of being sick (boy, are students willing to share).
  2. Not seeing my daughters but a couple of hours each day.
  3. Fighting with technology (some wins, some losses).
  4. The first trial of the football video editing software at a game.
  5. Five or so hours of working with tech support (which did solve the problems, thank you CoachComm).
  6. Back to School Night - where most parents were excited about the cell phone "student response system" that I am trying and a few were fundamentally opposed to the thought.
  7. The first AP test - which had a lower average (by three questions than last year which is a large percentage when there are only 25 questions).
  8. A new squeak from my single speed, fixed gear road bicycle - which really bothers someone with my personality. It is my commuter right now, while the weather is nice.
  9. Staying up way too late watching the DNC speeches.
  10. Doing some chemistry Olympics with the metric system and laughing with the students so hard that my face hurt.
Well, then comes this post on The Fischbowl

Let me say that I am glad to see this post. I do know that I really need some feedback on this idea and I think that Karl is the right person to help me get word out. I am trying to figure out if Blogger or Feedburner is the correct place to publish the xml feed for the podcast. Here is what I am currently wondering...If the class scores on the first part of the unit test in AP Chemistry are lower (by 12%) than last years, is that caused by the lack of direct lecture? or something else? I know that we have not had the time so far to do stuff in class that I would have completed last year but it is not content stuff. Also, I noticed that the set of students this time were not working as fast as they have in the past...Could it be the test itself? While I wonder about the effectiveness of a big test, I know that the statistics of the questions (standard deviation of less than 2 for 25 questions) show that all of the students were in about the same range. So, now what? Oh, I know that I will continue to work on the things that are important in chemistry and I will continue with the podcasts, but I need some help and input. Wednesday of this coming week is the essay portion of the unit 1 test. I think that the students will do better on this part since we have been doing more problems in class.

The big issue that I am now dealing with is the compatibility of the usb wireless mic and the bluetooth interface in my classroom. I have the Bluetooth working now and I am fighting with the mic. Any ideas? The microphone works on radio frequency and the manufacturer says that it should not interfere with Bluetooth. I have updated drivers and stuff but they do not want to work on the same computer right now. I guess if I had a little more time then I could figure it out.

As for the Bluetooth, I am using it to attempt to create a less expensive form of a interactive whiteboard. It works. There is a little bit of work still to be done before I really use it in class but for right now, it is as far as I will get. Perhaps if we had in-service days...The idea comes from a YouTube video (from the Ted conference) of Johnny Lee using a Wiimote and a Bluetooth dongle with some code that was written to calibrate the screen. Then, using a LCD projector and a program like PowerPoint, an IR remote becomes a pointing device like a mouse for a computer. The best part is if you have access to software like Camtasia or SnapKast that can screen capture what you are doing. You can stand at the screen and record what you are writing, when you write it, to play back later. Think of the power of playing back material. The students that miss a day, don't miss out. The students that miss a point, don't miss out. The students that do not have access to AP Chemistry, don't miss out. The whole setup cost less than $60 and I had a student's help putting it all together (he is really into tech stuff). I will post some video when I get it up and running.

Now, I think that I will sit down and read a past edition of the Journal of Chemical Education. There is a lengthy article on the use and effectiveness of small, collaborative groups in chemistry. Who knows, I might even blog about it...


Cara S. said...

Well Brian, let me just say that I don't even understand half of what you just wrote! I'm not sure if that is a compliment to you or a negative statement towards myself, but I think that you are doing some groundbreaking stuff in the high school chemistry classroom and should be commended. So, keep up the good work. You're definitely planting seeds at this point, and will have to wait a while to see what starts to grow. And, I'm interested to hear about the opposition to the text software. We can chat next week...have a good three day weekend! Cara S.

Kathryn J said...

I'm very excited to find your blog. I'm a career changer in the process of becoming a teacher. I start my observation period this week, student teaching during the winter, and - hopefully - a full time teaching job next September.

I look forward to reading more about how it is going with podcasting and your new interactive whiteboard. I've been reading The Fischbowl for a while and followed a link to here.

Renee Howell said...

Brian - I applaud your willingness to test out a new way to help kids understand chemistry. The Woodland Park Chemistry teachers vodcast looks like an exciting model. Thanks for being a teacher and looking for new opportunities to truly engage kids in the classroom. Good luck with all the technical "opportunities" and thanks to Ben for adding in his ideas and checking with you first! Great teamwork...

Hatak said...

Thanks for the kind words. Cara, I am more than happy to sit with you and see ways that this could work in your room.

Kathryn, it is good to hear from you and I wish you the best in your education. Remember, one kid at a time...

Renee, the support that you offer us at AHS is priceless. I know that good things will come when you look at what the teachers are doing.