Sunday, November 18, 2012

Is Google Making Us Stupid Reflection

I couldn't agree more with Nicholas Carr's opinions in, Is Google Making Us Stupid?.  Our minds, both old and young are changing faster than ever before.  We read and learn and access information in an entirely different way than we did twenty years ago which was different twenty years before that and twenty years before that and so on. I think what is important to remember is that this change is not necessarily evil which I think is what a lot of the older generation thinks, especially those teachers who have been in the profession for a while.  Students can no longer sit down and read a chapter out of a biology book.  Literally, they cannot.  Instead their minds are malleable and have been reprogrammed to take in, process, and learn information in an entirely new way.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It does mean though, that we, as teachers, need to learn to teach based on this information.  Instead of assigning twenty pages of reading on photosynthesis in class we should use the iPads to do an interactive lab with small bits of reading material to get the exact same message those twenty pages would have across to the students.

Some points I found especially interesting from the article was the fact that the author said with all of the text on the internet, cell phones, etc. it is possible that we are reading more than was read in the 1970's-1980's when television was incredibly popular.  This to me was shocking but it does seem true.  Back then in order to read you had to physically open a book or newspaper and practice reading.  Now it is almost impossible to escape reading.  The only difference is that reading is done in small chunks.  The other thing I found interesting in this article was the reoccurring theme that everyone feared the new technology but it always created much needed improvements.  For example, Nietzsche was having trouble writing, then he got a type writer and he felt that he could write far more easily.  This did, though, change the way he wrote.  This is similar to what we're seeing today.  The way we learn, write, etc. is going to be different, but this may just be the change we need.

I think this article showed that the time has changed and new technology is inevitably here.  Yet, we need to recognize that this may not be a bad thing, there are many positives that could come out of it.  As educators though we need to realize this and adapt our lessons because students literally learn in new ways now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Marc Prensky Article Reviews

I found a lot of flaws in Marc Prensky's two article, What Technology ISN'T Good At and Teaching the Right Stuff.  In the Article, Teaching the Right Stuff Prensky really focuses on three skills that he thinks will help students in the future.  Yet, he admits that like the skills of writing an email, making a blog post and making a power point they will just as soon be a dying skill.  Instead, we should teach our students skills that will never die.  For example, lets teach them skills that are more broad and spend the majority of time doing that so no matter what technology comes along students can apply these broad skills.  We can still spend a small amount of time teaching specifics that may be useful in the future even though we know that they too will die out, for example, making a video.  Some of these skills that will never die out should be things such as how to work as a team, how to be flexible and adaptable, etc.  No matter what technology comes about there will still be cases where students need to work together.  Whether or not that be from behind a computer screen, students will still need to know how to do that.  Being flexible and willing to adapt to new situations is also very important, after all Prensky said technology will change a trillion fold in our students lifetimes.  I think that instead of teaching to specific skills we see being useful in the future we should teach skills we see being useful forever.

Prensky's article, What Technology ISN'T Good At seems impractical to me.  Of course we want for our students to love learning and we want to be the teacher that lights that spark for them.  Yet, if we want to keep our jobs as teachers that cannot be done.  As a biology teacher the MCAS is a very high stakes test.  If students don't pass it they don't  graduate.  The MCAS tests on very specific information and therefore I cannot relate it to the different passions of my 120 students.  There are some topics the students need to just learn; I can't relate it to baseball, or baking or whatever it may be that they love.  For example, the MCAS specifically asks students the function of each organelle in a cell.  If they don't know the answers to these kinds of questions then they will fail and I will lose my job.  I think that it is unfortunate that we need to teach in this way but it is sadly the reality.  I would still love to be the teacher who instills a love of science in students and I think that would be done more realistically through a club.  For example, in college we had a biology club.  We did things twice a month such as going to the aquarium, holding recycling drives, going to a butterfly museum, etc.  all of the fun aspects of science.  I would love to have  a club like this at my high school where we could explore students passions and show them how they relate to science.  Unfortunately, at this time, the school day is not the time or place for that.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kahn Academy Review

This assignment could not have come at a better time.  Since today was Election Day, the students had the day off and we teachers had an In Service Day.  The Science department was assigned to the technology room where we learned about new ideas involving technology that could help us in the classroom.  One topic that came up for exploration/discussion was the Kahn Academy videos.  The teachers had very mixed reactions, but similar opinions to my own.

After watching several of the videos I have come to the conclusion that the videos are good but not great.  First of all, since Salman Kahn makes all of the videos himself he needs to teach himself the information.  This is a lot of information to learn and then teach to someone else and I noticed some of the time he gets concepts wrong or phrases things incorrectly.  For example, in a photosynthesis video he speaks about ATP which is not correct.  Also, in a video about the phases of mitosis he continually says "the 2 nucleuses"  which is incorrect as well.  Nucleus is the singular form of the word and nuclei is the plural.  He instead should have said "the 2 nuclei".  I believe that this shows he understands main ideas but sometimes misses some smaller points that a high school teacher in the subject would not.

Another issue I see with these videos is that the videos are way too high a level for high school students.  The material he covers is information that would be covered in a specific college level class.  Not a general intro to biology high school class.  The information would be far to detailed for the high school students and thus confuse them even more.

The last concern I see is that there are no practice questions for science.  I know that this website contains a lot of information and takes a lot of time and effort but it would be far more effective if there were questions that students could use to test themselves like there is in the math section.

Overall, I think that this is a good website.  The material (with a few exceptions) is very detailed and accurate.  The only issue is that the material is far too detailed.  I could see these videos being used best for college students to help with material they may have missed or misunderstood in class while studying for a test.  Also, it may be useful for some high level students that need additional information.

Phases of Mitosis: Explanation of the phases of mitosis.