Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tool #8 Taking a Look at the Tools!

1. I have learned how to set up an iTunes account, how to take photos and video on Net books, and how to sync iPad to laptops.  The iPad will be useful for developing and watching podcasts and managing Google docs.

2. For management of the devices, I plan to establish a student centered type of organization in order to free me up for other roles.  Basic safety and respect type rules should be practiced, expected, and monitored in a classroom.  The more I practice, the more familiar I am with tools.  Also, I will need to familiarize myself with Mac Apps.  Hopefully, I will be able to use these in class projects and tools that can generate learning in the classroom.

Students will be allowed to explore and research on these devices.  I suspect that most students will be very knowledgeable about most of the technology.  I plan to use this to my advantage.

Tool #9 Incorporating Classroom-Based Devices as Tools for Learning!

1. The question asked if whether or not technology is useful in the learning environment. I personally think that yes it enhances the learning process and is a tool to engage the learner in the daily objective. If the site is well done the student will complete and activity and through an assessment, get immediate feedback as to their understanding of the topic. That said, these types of tools are useful when used properly. For example, when dissecting or simply observing organisms, there is not substitute for actually experiencing the real organisms. In other words, "hands-on" activities are important in learning what science is all about.

2. We should hold students accountable for the technology stations to ensure that the students are on task and accomplishing the objective.  Technology, when not used properly, may distract the students from achieving the objective. Students need to produce evidence of accomplishing the objective through completion of worksheets, presentations, short descriptions, exit tickets, etc. Another problem emerges with this obvious essential requirement. Surprisingly, my seniors in AP Biology become distracted with trying to figure out the technology aspect and do not focus on the science aspect. They lose valuable time when this occurs and time in an AP class is very important because we have so many topics to investigate. On the other hand, the underclassmen that I teach seem to have less difficulty with this which makes me wonder if students are becoming more comfortable with technology. I certainly hope this is the case because I have found many interesting tools to use.

3. There are so many sites to use. Each year they become better developed. For example, the ENSI website from the University of Indiana is particularly helpful with regard to evolution, Teachers are able to search the site for many activities and then direct students to sources for students to either read and/or complete. One of the best parts is that the site is continuously updated as new information is uncovered about evidences for evolution. 

Another favorite site is on Explore Biology: This activity involves the evolution of various animals using bioinformatics sites. I particularly like this one because we tell students about the significance of protein differences/similarities as ways to show evolutionary connections, but this is difficult to work with. Using ClustalX and PhyloWin, the student is able to produce cladograms that deal with molecular evidences that have been gathered by many researchers.

There are many more sites that are usable in the classroom and many that would be valuable to the student as review at home. Example: is a location for Jeopardy review games. Any student would find this site a fun way to review.

Finally, the following is full of interactive sites: I like many of these because the student is able to complete an activity followed by an assessment that enables the student to get immediate feedback on their understanding. Examples are the following:

All of these are user friendly and students complete the topic and uncover very useful information.  

Tool #10 Underneath it All - Digital Citizenship!

1. Little doubt is my mind that all students need to be taught and encouraged to freely use the Internet, but with caution and correct behavior.  The only way to do this is to make the information available to them.  I always discuss this with my classes, but I particularly like having a number of sites to offer as resources to them.  Hopefully they will become aware of the fact that not all sites are to be trusted and that when they do find reliable sources, to properly cite the source in their work.

2.  I reviewed a number of sites, learning something new from each.  However, I particularly liked  Many different videos are available here to make students aware of the proper etiquette online.

3.  At the beginning of the year, I plan to go over the basics of proper behavior when online.  I will refer them to SBISD sites (  and remind them that I expect all students to follow the proper guidelines.  Each student will sign a safe use contract.  However, due to limited time, I hope that students will come to me with prior knowledge in order to facilitate this process.

4.  As far as parents are concerned, I think they need to sign some type of contract to acknowledge that they are aware of what we expect.  I will, of course, speak about this during Back to School Night.  As we are adding more technology to our classrooms, all parties involved need to be on board with the process that includes proper usage.

Tool #6 Using Web Tools to Promote Discussion in and out of the Classroom!

1. Succession in Biomes

Voicethread is a useful tool for presenting resources that I have acquired, in my case, over time to support topics that are taught in biology and demonstrate the reality of the topic.  In this situation I am using photographs that I have taken on vacations around the country to demonstrate succession in various types of biomes.  Pond succession, Mount St. Helens succession after the volcanic eruption are only two of the ones that I have displayed.

2. Photosynthesis Poll

Poll Everywhere is a tool to enable using the technology that students bring to class with them everyday.  I already have clickers  to check for understanding, but they present some problems such as battery replacement and other maintenance. In addition, some classes are larger then the number of voting devices that teachers have.  Poll Everywhere is an easy, inexpensive way to accomplish knowing where student understanding is in a lesson.  The website has built-in PowerPoint presentations to teach students how to use the site although I doubt that any student will need this.  The point is that this is a user friendly tool.

3.  Both of these will be useful in my classroom setting.  Voice Thread is interesting as a way to make the topic of succession real to students.  In addition they are well traveled and/or well read.  Often they  have material they can bring to share with classmates.  I teach G/T students who are so eager to add to whatever we are covering.  Actually, many of them would  enjoy assembling a thread to share in class in much the same way that I have done.
I look forward to using Poll Everywhere because students always have their cell phones with them and I think they will find this type of feedback will help them stay focused and actively participating in class.

Tool #7 Going Global: Online Digital Projects!

1. Communication between my two AP classes is facilitated by using Google docs.  I have used it a number of times this year.  At the present time, both classes have been assigned group projects to present information about the phylogeny of a specific taxon such as fungi, etc.  The objective is to share the characteristics of the group and basic information about how food is acquired, how the group maintains homeostasis, regulated water, etc.

2. Implementation:  already in use. I will continue to use this type of approach.  Each time I do something with Google Docs, I find an improvement.

3. The tools used will be PowerPoint on Google Docs.
4.. The product will be shared with both classes by posting a PowerPoint on our shared site on Google docs.  The intent is to be certain that the most important facts about each group is available to all students in my classes.  This part of AP Biology is somewhat overwhelming and the time to cover all of this is limited.  Hopefully, this approach will accomplish presenting each student with enough information so that they will have an idea of why organisms are grouped into certain categories.  The assessment will be a multiple choice test and a free response question at the end of the presentations by each group.  To study for this test, students will be able to study from the documents.

5.  To share beyond these two classes, using Edmodo or other learning communities would be a very good option as ways to search for other classrooms studying the same material.  Such an approach is in the plan for next year.

Tool #5 Producing with Web 2.0 Tools!

1. Comix
2. Evolution in Wordle:

3. Using either Wordle or Comix would be a quick and effective way to approach some topics in biology.  For example, finding the main idea in a section of text would be facilitated by inserting sections of a reading into Wordle.  Such a tool helps to focus on the terms that are mentioned most often.  In a similar manner, use of Comix would allow students to be creative as they address a topic.  Biology involves so many ideas that are invisible to the naked eye.  This would perhaps be a format to bring the unseen world to life.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tool #4 Moving Up to the Clouds!

1. Google Docs in our department is very important.  We need to communicate as much as possible and time becomes an impediment to accomplishing this.  We already share a great deal with lab activities, gathered data to increase sample size, etc.  This will simply add one more tool to the effort.

2. Computing in the clouds with Google Docs is a wonderful way for students to take notes during class discussion. A major benefit to this is that several classes may use and modify the document as each class convenes during the day. More complete information will thus be available to the students to review prior to a test.  Teachers and students can post lab data for all class members to quickly access.  For example, if we have lab materials that students need in order to complete a lab report, this would be a very effective common location. The sharing aspect is favorable as well because lab groups can collaborate at any time.  Small (lab groups) and large groups (whole class) can be created in these situations.  Finally, when students are absent, I think this will be the main location for them to visit for missed work.

3. Currently, I have groups established for AP Biology and for Biology I primarily for note taking, but very soon, I plan to develop project based assignments.  I am also interested in using the calendar so that when major assignments are due, students will be reminded via email.  The nicest part of all is that this communication with all students or whichever ones I need to contact, happens without leaving my computer!!!!

Tool #3 Finding Online Video and Image Resources!

1. The video sites are very helpful; however, some of them are not particularly valuable to high school biology, but rather elementary.  I actually found more on YouTube and on the Discovery Education sites.  More biological concepts were located in these two.  I have some concerns that some videos might not be available for any extended period of time.

2.  Videos that I like.....

Check out this video.  It certainly puts a new face on evolution!

No more questions about DNA Replication, right?

3. I have wanted to set up a dropbox account for a long time, but I was not sure how to use it.  Thanks to Terri, I have one established.  As I looked at it, I realized that Google Docs actually is just as useful.  As a result, I suspect that I will most likely focus on Google.

4. I feel a sense of relief about copyright laws after researching some of the suggested sites.  I have learned that as long as I am using copyrighted materials in a secure location for educational purposes, that I am within my rights. Some sites that I use in my flipcharts are particularly helpful in explaining topics.  Whew!!!  I would hate quit using them.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tool #2 Building Community in the Online Environment!

1. I am not sure about how this post is supposed to be fulfilled, but I am contacting authors of blogs that I want to communicate with. One of my first attempts is with David Knuffke, a teacher in New York whose blog is entitled, Pseudopodia. ( I have commented on his post about how he is having his students complete lab reports. I very much want to go to an online format, but have numerous questions because of the AP requirements. Other blogs visited were those of and

2. I have set up a Google reader site and love it. It is attached to my iGoogle page that is attached to another Google account because SBISD has not given permission to use it via Google Docs. I receive feeds from so many different scientific sites such as, and I only go to this one location and all of the current news is there. Fantastic!

3.. I had many reservations with the first few blogs that I visited, but when I viewed ones that concerned my interest of biology and education, my reservations disappeared. I actually had substantive comments to make. In a limited fashion, I have used the blog format with my AP students and now that I have had a bit more experience with them, I think I will be able to expand. Today's students, who use the Internet for social purposes, need to be encouraged to communicate in this way for academic purposes.

Tool #1 Getting Started - Creating your Blog!

1. Setting up my blog was relatively easy because I have done this before.  That said, I had to review several items to refresh my memory.  Hopefully, this time, I will develop a permanent neural pathway that surfaces quickly whenever I need it!  Better yet, I anticipate that this series of activities will be confidence building ones so that I will be able to use these in class without hesitation.