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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Education Nation

The 2nd annual Education Nation Summit was recently held in NYC.  As a teacher screener for DonorsChoose. org I was offered the unique opportunity to attend the Teacher Town Hall live on MSNBC at Rockefellar Plaza.  Teachers gathered from across the nation to join in the discussion with Brian Williams.  The media is all too often filled with the voices of every stakeholder in education EXCEPT the teacher. This was a chance to have our collective teacher voice heard.  Topics such as incentive and merit based pay, drop out rates, teacher-led school innovations, and much more were the focus of the day.  You can read more about it by checking out these links.
Teachers gather for Education Nation summit

If you want your voice to be heard, join in with the discussion at this link.
Education Nation

You can also share your 60 sec. response to very specific questions at the
Teacher Wall

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I've had numerous experiences with whiteboards, virtual learning, online professional development, and tutoring via chat rooms.  Most tools are either expensive or have limited functionality.  Today I hosted a webinar using Scribblar.  The process couldn't have been easier.  I provided some information about myself and had a free account in minutes.  I was then able to create a virtual learning room with a custom name and generate a password that kept the room private.  Only people with the URL and password could enter.  It allowed me to add pages, upload images, use video and audio, and much more. 
I fumbled around a little bit, but it really wasn't difficult to generate 5 pages to share during a 2 hour webinar.  The webinar should have had about 30 people attending, but only 3 actually showed up.  The 4 of us were able to have a really in depth conversation about what is working in our science classes.  We talked about developing a science fair and encouraging students to complete science fair projects.  I shared some of my most useful spreadsheets, certificates, scoring sheets, and tips as well.  These are available in a password protected page on my website.  If you want to take a look at them, just leave your request in the comment section below along with your email address and I'll gladly send you the password.  This was an outreach partnership that I agreed to help facilitate between Fayetteville State University and Bladen Co. science teachers. 
I'm excited about the prospects of using Scribblar.  I had difficulty finding a way to archive the pages in a way that others could view each page one at a time.  After the webinar, I copied all of the information to page 1 so that others could scroll down the page and view the links.  That is my only complaint.  I guess that's not too bad.
Hoping to set up some more webinars in the near future.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

NC Essential Standards

This year we are beginning the transition to the Common Core and NC Essential Standards.
On my website, you will find a link to the NC Essential Standards titled "Grade by Grade".
It is my goal to provide useful materials for each of the essential standards.  This will be a bit of a long-term process but I have begun.  Each time I add something, you will find the words UPDATED and a date to the right of the standard.  Currently, I have loaded 3 files.  I hope you will stop by and take a look at them.  If you find them useful or have ideas for ways I can improve on their quality, I'd love to hear from you.  Please leave me a comment here or fill out the contact form on my website.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Pit Crew

Force and Motion is one of my favorite 5th grade topics.  Some of the goals in the current NC Standard Course of Study will be elimintated as we move to the Essential Standards.  Fortunately, Essential Standard 5.P.1 continues to align with my newest simulation.  The Essential Standards are as follows:
5.P.1.1 Explain how factors such as gravity, friction, and change in mass affect the motion of objects.
5.P.1.2 Infer the motion of objects in terms of how far they travel in a certain amount of time and the direction in which they travel.
5.P.1.3 Illustrate the motion of an object using a graph to show a change in position over a period of time.
5.P.1.4 Predict the effect of a given force or a change in mass on the motion of an object.
My newest simulation isn't available for public viewing yet.  Too much fine tuning is left to be done.  I will give you a snippet as a tease, however.  Race car drivers and their pit crew members are scientists. You may think I'm stretching it a bit to say that, but I believe it is true.  They each specialize in an area of expertise whether that is changing tires, checking brakes, or operating a vehicle at high speeds.  Complex calculations and an understanding of force and motion are critical components to ensuring the safety of the driver and optimum operation of the vehicle. 

In this simulation, students must develop an understanding of the effect various materials will have on their toy car.  As we began our simulation, small groups of students have already begun their supply lists.  Materials such as cardboard, wax paper, aluminum foil, carpet, sandpaper, and cooking oil are being requested as variables to study.  The challenge posed is to find out how to control friction to get a desired result.  Too much friction and the car will not go fast enough or far enough.  Too little friction and the car may flip, crash, or drive off course. 

We will be using toy cars of varying masses and taking advantage of the force of gravity as we release cars on an inclined plane at a consistent slope.  Speed could be measured with stopwatches and distance could be measured with meter sticks or measuring tapes.  My students are fortunate to have access to laptops and high-tech scientific probeware that will send a signal to collect measurement data of speed and distance while generating a graph in real time.  This equipment comes from Vernier Technology and is called the "Go Motion" sensor.

Ultimately, it is my hope that the students will come away from this experience with a thorough understanding of the forces at work, as well as the impact these forces have on our day to day lives.  There are few jobs today that do not rely on science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) in some way, shape or form.  My students had no problem agreeing with my statement that the "Pit Crew" are scientists.  My overaching goals are for students to realize that everyone is a scientist, STEM related classes are necessary and exciting.

If you have ideas for improving this simulation, I would love to hear them.  If you've done something similar, I'd love to hear about it.  If you have a question, I'd be happy to respond.  Just leave me a note in the comment section below.  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Green Screen - Take 1

We're back in school and everyone is very excited to have some new tools to use.  I'm not talking about just the typical back to school supplies.  Thanks to the career award, we have some very unique new tools to use.  One of those is the green screen and flip cams.  I've set up the green screen and we gave it a test run today.  Our topic of study is force and motion. We've been learning about Newton's laws.  After several demonstrations and some note taking, we put together a short production with our green screen technology.  It isn't the greatest quality, but I don't think it's too bad for a 1st try.  We used a free app called VideoPad and a free background to overlay on our raw video.  Here's a link to Newton's 3rd Law
We'd love to hear your thoughts on this video and we can't wait to find new ways to share our learning using this technology.  Perhaps 4th grade will do a report about stalactites and stalagmites from the "Giant Crystal Cave".