Thursday, August 21, 2008

Good ideas seem to come in sets.

We all seem to understand that a lot of things happen in threes. Good and bad, the human mind likes to put things into sets. Well, this year I am attempting three new things in my classroom that might alter the way that science is taught at AHS.

The first item is...
Poll Everywhere!

I was introduced to this little bit of web based software at NECC this summer. The craze right now is student response systems (in use at major universities) in the classroom. And, it should be. This tool allows teachers to test student understanding and then alter their lessons to reach the needs of the class. (At least that is how I see it.) The systems are very interesting and have the ability to transform the way that a typical lesson is designed. I was hooked!

Then came the next piece of information. The student could use their cell phones to text their answers (either multiple choice or short answer) to the teacher during a PowerPoint presentation! Just think, a way to embrace the cell phone use in the classroom!

On the first day of class, I asked my students to:
  1. Take out their cell phone. You should have seen the blank looks. One student even told me "I don't even know you" after I asked them to "just trust me."
  2. Answer the question "What scares you the most about AP Chemistry?"

You can only imagine the answers that I got on the screen in the classroom when they realized that it was being shared. The students are interested in what their peers are thinking just like I am, as a teacher. I cannot wait to look at the results when a subject based question is asked. The software does have some simple analysis tools built in.

And did I say that it can be FREE?!!

The second item is...

Podcasts. Yes, chemistry podcasts.

For the past few years, I have felt frustrated with how my classroom was working. I would ask the students to read and they would act like they did, and perhaps some of them did, and then I would lecture over the material on the next class day. It seemed that the students were learning that they did not have to read since I would be covering the exact material in class. Then they would struggle on the homework problems and ask in class and earn average grades on the tests.

However, I felt as though I was doing a lot more of the problems then the students were. So, I started looking for a way to fix this. Enter Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams of Woodland Park High School. They presented at NECC this summer also (I guess you could say that this was a good conference to attend...) on podcasting. So, I borrowed a couple of ideas for the classroom and started posting note guides on web, specifically TeacherTube. This seemed like a good way to cover the background information for the AP chemistry class. I thought that the students might like to get some information this way.

Boy, was I wrong...They seem to really like it. As a matter of fact, they liked it so much that one of the students took it upon himself to help me post the videos to blogger. Then, I submitted the information to iTunes for review and the podcast has now been linked in the iTunes store! The students have decided that this is pretty cool. Or, in their own words:

"I am personally very excited about the way you have decided to use technology to fundamentally change the way you run your class. The way you perceived an issue and saw how technology could be used to effectively address it is a prime example of how the expertise of teachers is key to effectively integrating technology into a class.
The screencasts you have a created are available on teachertube, which is a convenient way to view them. However, I thought that it would be even more convenient if your screencast was also a podcast. For this reason, I used several tools to turn the videos you post on teachertube into an iTunes subscribable podcast.
At this url, I have created a blog where the videos are reposted. It is the process of reposting that syndicates them into an XML format iTunes or other video podcast readers can understand. They are also available for download individually in a format that can be transferred to an iPod or viewed with Quicktime. The "PODCAST HELP PAGE" link on the sidebar goes to a website I quickly assembled that describes how to subscribe in iTunes, download episodes, or even view online
with an iPhone or iPod Touch.
One of the reasons I am sending you this email is to make sure that this is acceptable to you. The screencasts are your intellectual property, after all. If it is acceptable, hopefully this will become a valuable way to access the content." - Ben H

Wow, that was written by a high school student...and we want to be worried about them.

I have been looking for ways to use classtime to answer questions and have discussions without feeling "rushed". I think that this will help. As a matter of fact, the other chemistry teachers at AHS liked the idea so much that we are trying this as a team. Change, or I'm sorry, "Shift Happens." We, I mean my student is trying to show me, are now trying to get iTunes to read the metadata for the podcast so that the information is there.

Please check out some of the podcasts and let us know what you think.

And the third thing...

I received some money from the HACH foundation this summer. They were looking for ways to transform the way that chemistry is being taught. I wrote a short letter asking for help adding some technology to my classroom. Now, You might ask why, afterall Mr. Fisch is at AHS. But this money was additional to all of the help and guidance that Karl gives me.

The money was used to purchase equipment so that the students and I could record what is occuring in the classroom and share it. The focus will be on problem solving and lab experiments with a focus on sharing with the world.
Some of the equipment includes:

  1. A USB lapel microphone(I am really excited about this one)
  2. A Blue Snowball microphone
  3. A video camera
  4. A digital still camera
  5. Camtasia software
  6. and a Portable hard drive to store all of the video.

Who knows, maybe some students somewhere will want to share in this adventure. I have already talked to other AP teachers outside of the US who are interested.

So, There it is. Three things that might change forever the way that learning occurs in my classroom. I have not been this excited about trying new stuff in a long time and the energy from teh students is great. Who knows, they might even learn something...


Jeff Vyduna said...

Hi Brian - thanks for writing about us. Let us know if there's anything we can do to make Poll Everywhere a better tool for you!

- Poll Everywhere

Unknown said...

Are you using SnapKast for the video lecture? Also, who are the students texting to if you said it was free? Jott or something like that?

Thanks, great ideas. Just today the Chemistry teacher at my school was telling me that she wanted to record lectures, thanks.

Hatak said...

Mike, I am using Camtasia. Since I already know some about editing video, it was an easy transition. I do like Snapkast but the limitations were annoying to me. I wanted to do more than was available on the free download so a grant helped me purchase the software. I would love to talk with the chemistry teacher at your school. Please drop a line anytime.

Jeff, is there somewhere that I can send other teachers who want to learn about your product? Could I become an unofficial spokesperson for your product?

Jeff Vyduna said...

Hi Hatak,

Sure,this page is a good start for educators:

Unofficial spokespeople are quite admired around here! We appreciate the support. You can email or call us with any questions you have.

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sarien said...

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