Friday, January 23, 2009

Science/Math Technology

I had so much fun exploring the Celestia technology program. I never knew there was such a great program that helped someone explore the solar system. The visual effects and available tools included in the program help the solar system come to life. I was able to see the planets, stars, moons, and eclipses. I saw Earth rotate and revolve around the sun, as well as the moon rotate and revolve around Earth. The movements that occur in the sky were available to me on a computer screen! This program would be great to introduce to students because it is exciting and intriguing. A student would be able to learn a lot and collect visual data just from spending a couple minutes exploring Celestia. Not only is the program fun, but it is academically rewarding at the same time.


TPACK stands for Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge. The seven different kinds of TPACK knowledge are pedagogical knowledge, content knowledge, technological knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, technological content knowledge, technological pedagogical knowledge, and technological pedagogical and content knowledge. The technological, pedagogical and content knowledge are the three basic kinds of knowledge of which TPACK is made. TPACK is helpful to teachers because it explains general skills needed to teach, specific knowledge that exist in particular domains, and how to use various technologies in the classroom. These three kinds of knowledge will assist a teacher in becoming successful in teaching. Often, as stated above, the three kinds of knowledge are intertwined with one another; this intertwining of knowledge gives a teacher a variety of ways to teach. There are so many options for teaching and it is important that teachers understand technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge are not to always remain separated from each other, but in certain learning experiences it is best if they work together. I know I am glad to be able to distinguish the three kinds of knowledge on a level of their own but at the same time know that I can combine them together to teach effectively.
I set up a classroom activity that would let students see the Earth is round. Sometimes it appears to students that the Earth is flat because they see this on two-dimensional maps. However, this activity gives students the chance to take a two-dimensional Earth map and make it three-dimensional. The students have a tennis-ball map on paper. The picture below shows the tennis-ball map paper.

Then students cut out Earth as shown below.

Students then tape the Earth cut out onto an actual tennis ball to see the Earth in spherical form. This activity is valuable because students see different ways to represent Earth, but when it all comes down to it they know Earth is in fact spherical and not flat.

This activity is enhanced through a technology science program called Celestia, which I discuss further below.

The Tech Savy Teacher

I have recently enjoyed the opportunity of setting up a technologically enhanced science activity in the classroom with a program called Celestia. This program brings the solar system to life by zooming in on planets (the picture above shows how a student can zoom in on Earth), showing actual movements that occur in the sky, and displaying the smallest of details such as stars. It is an outstanding way to create memorable visuals for students to keep. Celestia is an easy program for students to learn how to use and it is a great way to bring technology that is fun and safe into a classroom.

This picture shows the physical appearances of the moon and Earth. Students will be able to compare the similarities and differences in the moon and Earth's appearance.

For the science activity, my students explored the appearance of the moon and earth and they also described both Earth and the moon’s movement through the sky. Celestia gave my students a way to explore and see that Earth and the moon are spherical shapes. In addition, my students gathered key similarities and differences between the appearances of Earth and the moon. Celestia provides technology that allows students to actually see Earth rotate and revolve around the sun as well as the moon’s rotation and revolution around Earth.

This picture shows Earth revolving around the sun, and the moon revolving around Earth. Celestia shows these revolutions in motion, but this is just a snapshot of the motion.

The movement that occurs in the sky comes alive and the students feel as if they are a part of space.

The picture to the left shows the sun lighting part of Earth, which allows students to see how day and night occur.

Think of how magnificent this feeling of connectedness to something that usually seems so foreign is to the students! Celestia greatly enhances the students’ learning of the solar system by improving students’ ability to observe, predict, measure, describe relationships, and collect data. Students observe physical appearances of the planets and how the planets rotate and revolve around the sun. Students predict how they think the rotation on Earth’s axis actually works, and then they get the privilege of experiencing the rotation on the screen. Students measure when they see night and day as the Earth revolves around the sun. Students describe relationships they notice between the planets and moons. Students collect data while interacting with Celestia with which data they can later analyze and study. The use of technology does not inhibit a student’s scientific process; in fact, I believe technology adds to a scientific experience through visual and hands on elements. With Celestia, students can ask questions that they have about the solar system, investigate these questions in a technological way, use the program’s tools to gather any desired data, construct sense to the data found, and then leave the program with new knowledge. I have learned that technology is a fun and academically rewarding way for students to explore the world of science. The picture below shows the sun; this picture comes from Celestia and will help give students a visual as to the sun's appearance (color, spherical shape).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

RSS and Web 2.0

Before taking this class, I had no idea what RSS and Web 2.0 tools were. Now, I feel familiar and comfortable with RSS and Web 2.0 tools. RSS stands for “Real simple syndication”. Basically, RSS is a way for content from multiple websites to be placed in one place. A single website, which is called a reader, collects new information from various websites and posts it for easy access and quick viewing. Information only collects from various websites from which the user chooses by subscribing to RSS feeds. Basically, content is pulled from different websites and put into one place. RSS saves people time, and this includes teachers. Instead of searching the web for educational articles and news, a teacher could simply subscribe to RSS feeds that will deliver educational articles and news to one page. A teacher has quick and easy access to educational articles and news. A teacher can even receive news on a reader from his/her school district.
Web 2.0 tools are basically places on the web that allow a person to publish posts/writings/videos/pictures/etc. I like how Web 2.0 tools are thought of as blank canvases. Blogs and Wikis are two main Web 2.0 tools. Blogs are online journals that place the most recent post at the top of the page. Posts appear in chronological order and usually there is only one author for a blog. Wikis are pages where the appearance of posts is completely up to the user; posts do not have to appear in chronological order. Wikis are content driven, and there can be one or many authors. Blogs and Wikis are becoming more and more popular and they are very beneficial for teachers. Teachers can use blogs and Wikis so that students can share their learning with parents, reflect on their learning, respond to questions/discussions, learn about other cultures, and increase motivation. Blogs and Wikis are also becoming popular for families to stay connected.
I have learned so much about RSS and Web 2.0 tools. I feel comfortable with these terms and I am pretty confident that I would be able to use them. I can definitely see myself using these tools in the future. I would set up a blog or wiki in order to communicate with my students and their parents; also, these tools would allow me to keep a class more organized and build a stronger relationship with students/parents. I would use RSS to receive educational articles and news. I really think RSS would save me a lot of time in the future and I am happy I have discovered it so early in my career!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Background Technology

I feel like I have a decent background in technology, but I know I still have a lot to learn. I have a laptop of my own that I can use efficiently, and I have always been able to successfully use my home computer. I feel more comfortable with windows than I do with macs. I am familiar with connecting usb drives, ipods, cameras, and video cameras to computers. I love editing videos and pictures with various photo shop and movie maker programs. There are many things about technology that I do not know yet and do not yet understand. I know that there are many things I still need to learn and I am excited to learn more!