Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Science Project That is Off the Hizzle!!!!

Dear fellow teachers and administrators, welcome to Tech Savy Teacher! Recently in my classroom, I planned an activity for my 6th grade class that was convenient and easy for both the students and me. My class explored the phases of the moon using a program called Stellarium. The learning objective for this activity can be found on the Utah Core Curriculum website under the category of Science. It is found in standard 1, objective 2.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Stellarium, I will explain what this program is and how to utilize it in your own classroom. Stellarium is a scientific program used to explore the various parts of the solar system. For this particular assignment, the students observed the phases of the moon. However, depending on your solar system course objective, you could use this program to explore the planets, constellations, and their corresponding zodiac signs. The sky is the limit!

The pictures I have provided will be of help to you as you practice and prepare to use Stellarium in your own classroom. Searching for and locating the different phases of the moon was so intriguing and effortless on Stellarium! Here is a list of the steps I followed to complete this project:

Step #1: Click on the Stellarium program and click on the “Search for Object” box. A display box will pop up as shown. I entered in the moon, which can be seen in the picture above. Please refer to the pictures throughout this article, as they are a great reference for you to use if you or your students get confused or uncertain about how to get to the next step in this program. They provide you with a visual representation of what each step looks like.

Step #2: Push the function key and page up at the same time in order to zoom in on the picture of the moon provided.

Step 3: Click on the “Configuration” display box and go to “date and time” tab. In the day slot, you have the ability to type in each day of the month (remember, it takes 28 days for the moon to complete its phases). There is an “up” arrow that you can use if you wish to go to a later date- you can scroll in order to do that. Or you can use a “down” arrow to go to an earlier date. The choice is yours! Experiment with it and get a feel for it.

Step 4: I included pictures of various phases of the moon. The Full moon, Waning Gibbous, and Third Quarter are shown above. If the student would like, they have the ability to change the place from which they are viewing the moon (i.e. different states, countries, or views of the moon). This can be done by going to the “location” tab in the “Configuration” display box and changing it to whatever your little heart desires!

Stellarium is truly a program that is extremely beneficial to teachers and students alike. One advantage of this program is that is time-efficient. Rather than assigning your students to go out every night, draw the moon, and record their observations, this program enables them to perform this same task in a fraction of the time. The students are able to scroll through each day of the month and thus, have the ability to see all of the phases of the moon in a matter of minutes. Not only is this program time-efficient, but it is also helps students to be more excited and engaged in the content they learn. Observing the moon every single night could prove to be boring for the students. Thus, this program keeps their attention, helps them to focus, and as a result of not having to observe for a long span of time, makes it more interesting for them. Another benefit to this program is that it is not affected by weather or gang violence. Students may be unable to go outside to observe the moon due to inclement weather or they may live in a dangerous neighborhood, which prevents them from being able to go outside of their home at night due to gang violence. An additional benefit that this program provides is that of helping students to view the phases of the moon in different states and countries. From this program, students can record their own observations and come to the conclusion that every state in the United States and every country goes through the same sequence of the moon phases. A final advantage of this program is that it makes the process of exploring the moon more personal to the student. The student is able to view the phases of the moon in a short time right in front of his or her own eyes on the computer screen. They are in control of their research, observation, and the conclusions they arrive at. As a result of this independence on the computer, Stellarium provides students with a meaningful use of technology, which further enhances their knowledge in Science. The children will love it and so will you!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Just call me 'TPACK' g-unit!

TPACK stands for "Technological Pedagogical And Content Knowledge." It may sound like a mouthful, but in reality, it is not a complex subject. Prof. Burgoyne first began teaching this topic by talking about each of the knowledge types and helping the students in my class to understand what they meant and how they related to teaching. Pedagogical knowledge can be defined as knowledge that deals with teaching methods, classroom management, assessment, child development and age- appropriate activities, etc. Basically, it deals with the study of teaching. Content knowledge can be defined as knowledge about a particular domain (i.e. the Utah core curriculum- any subject could be considered a domain in content knowledge). Technological knowledge is knowledge of software, hardware, windows or Mac, file formats, programming, etc. TPAC is especially interesting because it combines all of the knowledge types mentioned above into one. The teacher uses technology, pedagogical knowledge, and content knowledge in their classroom. For example, a teacher may use Microsoft Excel [technological] to teach students about collecting data in math [content] and converting it into various charts. Throughout this assignment, the students would ask their own questions (inquiry) [pedagogical] about the data.
It is vital that teachers have all three of the types of knowledge so that they can teach in a manner that will help students to understand material in more than one way. By combining their technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge- the teacher is able to help their students achieve success in the classroom.

I had a fun time using the temperature rods in class this past Monday (Jan. 19, 2009). This was a fun way to explore science! It was amazing to see the temperature from my hands feeding right into the computer and constructing data right before my eyes! I believe that students could use this type of a project on a science fair project in which they measure how temperature correlates to the growth of plants. These temperature rods could prove to be a very effective method to recording large amounts of data, which the student could observe and record throughout the duration of their experiment.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mmm! I've tasted some del.ici.ous readings!

I enjoyed learning about the different resources that are available-literally at click of a mouse for teachers. I never knew that so many incredible sources existed, which is why I am so pleased to be taking this course. I am learning things that will be valuable to me in my future. The RSS feed seems like such a neat resource! I think I will be able to use that very often in my future efforts as a teacher. It will keep me updated with important news and events. It makes looking at headlines easy, as you only have to click on one site to access many of them. I really love the idea of being able to keep up with current educational news. RSS will enable me to do so.
I also loved Goodreads and del.ici.ous! Goodreads will enable me to access important information about pieces of literature that other teachers are implementing and teaching in their classrooms. I am sure that it will benefit me in enabling me to get ideas and to teach my students in an effective, engaging manner. Del.ici.ous will enable me to easily access important bookmarks for various websites and videos, whether they be my own or those of my friends. This will make researching and lesson planning easier for me.
Finally, I am grateful to have learned a great deal about the protocol for what is or is not fair use of copyrighted materials. This helps teachers to know when it is or is not appropriate for them to use certain materials in their classroom. This knowledge will be very helpful to me in the future and will prevent me from breaking any copyright laws.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My technology background

I am fairly experienced with computers and technology. I feel comfortable using MS word, power point, but I am not as familiar with Excel. I also am fairly comfortable using the internet, yet I feel that this class will be extremely beneficial in teaching me how to work with a blog, use moodle, etc. I know that using these things will be particularly advantageous to me in my future teaching endeavors.