Integrating Technology and Teaching

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Internet Awareness, Web Quests Module #7

I f you want motivation that exceeds the very real human costs that unlimited and untrained access to the internet can incur, how about the personal risk of a lawsuit, or living with the consequence to yourself, your family, or someone else getting hurt, physically, financially, or spiritually. File sharing, emails, chatrooms, blogging, and all the other great things to be done through the internet come with the risk that someone will abuse the freedom, or our trust.

The previous sentence is sensational, and intended as an attention getter. But the message is clear. People of all ages, no matter the gender, or social status, from all walks of life, that have one thing in common, namely surfing the internet, are exposed to risk.

The risk can be from misinformation, loss of personal privacy, or much more serious. Stalker and pedophiles can identify and access their victims by posing as young people on a chatroom. They would look for chatroom participants that show a dissatisfaction with homelife, or an inordinate interest in sex, and then lure the children to a spot to meet the supposed "peer". By then it might be too late.

The internet has many sites which advertise products in a way that is inappropriate for younger children, or that dupes the naive surfer in to providing credit information that should never be sent over the internet. Our blogs are subject to marketing that uses profile information to match up with other people looking for partners on the internet.

The anonymity of the web provides cowards with an ideal method of striking at their victims from behind a wall of invulnerability. The school bully might ridicule a rival student, much the same way some political satirists ridicule the president of the united States, with impunity. Damage can be done and not much in the way of consequences can be imposed on the offender. I have had my business reputation and the competence of employees impuned and though I might guess who said it, the viewer does not get the chance to hear both sides of the story, so it is unfair at the least.

I intend to insure that all students that use the web for information are monitored, and have been thoroughly prepared to cope with the aforementioned problems. Our school does indeed use the horseshoe shaped computer lab, and does make the teacher directly responsible for monitoring the monitors. In addition we are aware of how to centrally track website usage by computer, and each student is instructed to maintain privacy fro their password and ID, and the ID can be traced for which sites it has visited.

Web Quests are a way of providing a structured pre determined course through a set of web based resources in order to develop a lesson plan. The quest may also be designed for fun, or to accomplish an objective. In the case of one webquest the objective is to provide resources and motivation for the intrepid questor to develop a policy for insuring web safety in his or her work, school, or home environment. But chiefly the concern here is to the student, and indirectly to the teacher as the first person responsible for the well being of the student while he or she is in school.

Webquests can be used for all sorts of other purposes, and if carefully structured help channel and guide the questor through the intended web experience and hopefully through some very good learning opportunities. They can be used to self conduct a participant through a guided set of challenges that are not necessarily on different parts of the internet, but are all contained in one website. The particular one that Dr. Dodge developed at San Diego University is the original one and is very interesting. Just Google dodge at san Diego and you will be there. Good Luck.

Spreadsheets, Module #6

I have had extensive experience with a powerful tool, the spreadsheet, and now more than ever, thanks to the internet, teachers will find it very easy to incorporate spreadsheets into their lesson plans, regardless of the subject area, and regardless of the age of the student.

A couple of caveats are in order; in order to be successful, the teacher needs to make sure that what ever is asked of the student is easy enough to accomplish in a single sitting, and the corollary to that is the student needs to be given the time in a lab setting to get the job done. Having interrupted time in a classroom full of distractions or not enough access to a computer can severely limit the success of the endeavor.

Spreadsheets are marvelous tools that provide a structure to data, and provide formatting tools to present and manipulate the data, all in one little package. A common one is Excel, by Microsoft. Large corporations use the program to report financial data to the chief executives in a timely and easy to read way, that is quickly updateable. The data are almost always interconnected somehow, and may come form a number of different sources. The spreadsheet accommodates all the different sources of data, assembles it, and provides clarifying tools to make the information easier to understand. For example if I were to give you 12 months of daily sales information in numerical form, it would be hard for you to draw any quick conclusions. But if I then graphed the data by day, week or month, it would take you no time at all to determine that sales in June were roughly twice what they are in January, and that sales was cyclical.

As a student teacher who intends to specialize in career and technology studies, I am very supportive of any opportunity to incorporate technologies that make life easier, and can be used so effectively in a number of different ways.

Economic and Financial analysis are two areas that are taught in many different ways within the CTS program of studies.

One such site that I have used is from Harvard Business School. The link is at the side of this blog. Please experiment for yourself and discover how a spreadsheet can be used to explain the concepts of the double entry accounting system, and T accounts. Learning about balancing T accounts as a concept is made a lot easier if you remove the mundane and error prone task of adding and subtracting correctly.

The program also formats the output into an industry standard presentation that is consistent with generally accepted accounting standards, so it fits well with one of the key general learning objectives of the program: The student will gain skills which will prepare him/her for participation in a professional career or in further post secondary education.

The biggest issue facing the user is how to begin to use the tool. For that there are a number of websites that offer tutorials to get you started. In a very short time all schools and universities in Alberta will be linked by a government directed initiative called the Supernet. Most have computers available and all should have the latest version of Excel, but in a few classrooms where resources are limited that might not be the case. However the enterprising teacher can always find some way to get the students around a screen and allow them to work through a lesson or two.

Of the tutorials I have seen the ones I like use a teaching style similar to the online help you get from Microsoft directly. These sites come with pictures of the actual spreadsheet, and show which menu items you select to do what and give you clear examples of how to accomplish certain goals. Compusmart's tutorial is one of those, and the link is at the side bar.
The alternative method is to teach item by item what each menu contains and the thought process behind it. Internet for classrooms gives you an example of that. Try the link at the side bar.
Whatever you do, don’t get left behind. Try to incorporate spreadsheets into your lesson plans.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Concept Mapping, Module #4

Concept Mapping is a conceptual approach to communicating ideas that are related on some level. Strictly speaking, concepts, pieces of information, or small sets of words that briefly encapsulate some aspect or part of an idea that could stand alone, are represented by symbols or graphics, and then linked to other symbolic ideas in a web, or meaningful arrangement. The structure is as much a part of the “map” as are the icons or text, and the linkages themselves can be used to convey meaning. At its basic level, the idea is predicated on cognitive learning principles. New knowledge is more easily learned when it is put into a context that the learner is already familiar with, or recognizes components of. Thus the material gains significance, and is recognized within that context. Manipulating ideas and putting them actively into some form of organization that the student constructs and recognizes, reinforces tentative bonds and strengthens understanding.

The concept-mapping tool most in use at present in the educational realm is Inspiration or its elementary version Kidspiration. Teachers can use the tool to assess a student’s grasp of the relations between ideas pulled from a reading assignment, or a test, or a summarization of a lab, or other assignment the student is faced with. It can also be used to “kick-start” the creative juices for a writing task, or a communications objective, tailored for the specific audience. The tool helps the writer focus on the key aspects of the topic, and can be switched from the graphic to outline form to help fill in the blanks for a complete written essay.

If the linkages are incorrectly or inappropriately constructed the teacher can evaluate the depth of understanding quickly. The necessary corrections can be accomplished quickly to not only evaluate a student’s progress periodically, but to move ahead the process of learning.

Visually representing some bundle of information is not new. I think the approach has been used in many ways. An historical example is Egyptian hieroglyphics. Pictures are placed in some sequence or proximity to other pictures to tell a story. The choice of the situation of any particular picture relative to another is a visual form of pragmatics, one of the cueing systems of language arts.

Concept mapping appeals to students grappling with higher order reasoning skills insofar as it is a form of meta cognitive processing that students may be encouraged to develop earlier in their lives than the higher form synthesis and analysis using words alone to convey their ideas. Pictures and graphics that can be used in the context of computers may also tap into an existing bias today’s video gamers have for exciting simulations and computer graphics. There are many more opportunities to be creative.

The onus is on the teacher however to develop an evaluation technique that isn’t too time consuming, as potentially great demand could be put on a teacher’s time, a scarce resource to start with. As the student comes more proficient, they may use the technique for studying volumes of material, analysing a piece of literature, or other body of material.

As with all creative endeavors, a lot of time could be spent on getting started with the tool, so a helpful teacher might “scaffold” the student by doing a step-by-step walk through of the tutorial.

I would use the Inspiration software to have students analyze and construct meaningful representations of different concepts in Micro and Macro Economics. Specifically, students would use Inspiration software to create graphic representations of the different types of market systems, and the characteristics of each. As well we could construct a concept map of the flow of money through the various components of the banking system, and the government. Examples are given in various places, but constructing the concept map from a list of components would solidify and demonstrate competence to the teacher. Finally it would provide a study guide to the student. The tool could be used repeatedlt through the course on a number of different concepts.

In general the approach has many applications, and its appeal as a way of simplifying and visually representing complex multi-dimensional systems is proven. I have downloaded the trial version and look forward to using it in my Micro teach for my teaching seminar.

C7.2.2 Students will use selected presentation tools to demonstrate connections between various pieces of information
C4.1.2 Students will formulate new questions as research progresses.
P2.4.1, 2, 3. Students will Manipulate and present data through selection of appropriate tools, apply principles of graphic design to enhance meaning and audience appeal, use integrated software effectively and efficiently to reproduce work that incorporates data, graphics, and text.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Module Number 3

Note to readers. Please give the links a try and let me know if everything works.



Title of Activity: The Double Entry Accounting System

Reference Section:

Harvard Business Online, retrieved 10/3/05 6:38:27 PM
use HARVARD ONLINE link at side column.

Grade Level: 10
CTS Program of studies Introductory Module Service Business 1 Course FIN1020
use Fin 1020 link at side to view actual Alberta Education Program of Studies
GLO and SLO refered to.

Subject: CTS

Brief Description of Activity:

The student will be able to go to the above reference section and do the exercise contained in the excel spreadsheet doubleentry.xls, after registering with his/her email address and name of school. After completing the exercise the student will submit the completed spreadsheet to the professor by email, and may survey other tools at the aforementioned website.

General Learner Outcome:
• Students are introduced to the accounting cycle. They establish a set of books and record business transactions. Students are also introduced to terminology unique to financial accounting.

Specific Learner Outcomes:
• The student should describe the theory of the double entry accounting system, and analyze business transactions.

ICT Outcomes:C6.4.1, 4.2, 4.4 Investigate, solve problems of prediction, calculation, inference, organization and manipulation of information.
Generate new understandings of problematic situations by using some form of technology to facilitate the process
P2.4.1 manipulate and present data through the selection of appropriate tools, such as scientific instrumentation, calculators, databases and or spreadsheets.

Rationale for Computer Integration:

Provides an accurate easy to use tool that shows how the double entry system balances, step by step, and provides for easy convenient practice for the student, in a form that is easily evaluated after email submission to the teacher.