Back From My Blogging Hiatus

I’m back to blogging after a bit of a hiatus — this time for ECMP 455!

For those who don’t know me, my name is Amy, and I am a fourth-year pre-service teacher in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina. This is me in a nutshell:

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  • I am a Secondary Education student with a major in Chemistry and a minor in English
  • I just completed my internship in December at Thom Collegiate — a high school here in the city — where I taught Physical Science 20, Science 10, Chemistry 30, ELA A10, and ELA 20
  • I am a member of UR S.T.A.R.S. — an on-campus group comprised of pre-service teachers, practicing teachers, and university professors who are passionate about anti-oppressive education and teaching for social justice
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Photo Credit: UR S.T.A.R.S. via Facebook 

  • My interests include running, reading, travelling, and watching ridiculous, over-the-top reality TV shows with my mom (our current show: The Bachelor)
  • And most importantly: I have a one-year-old kitten. His name is Niko, and I think he is the most adorable thing in the entire world.

With only one semester left to go before I graduate, I admit that I am struggling to get back into the swing of things. However, I am looking forward to ECMP 455 this semester and continuing to extend my personal knowledge and skills in using technology in the classroom.

Three learning goals that I have for ECMP 455 this semester are:

1. To expand on my knowledge of different tech programs/sites/tools/etc. and their applications in the classroom. 

After taking ECMP 355 this past spring, I tried to use technology in a variety of ways during my internship. For example, I set up a Google Calendar for my Physical Science 20 class (the class I taught all semester) where I would upload class notes, handouts, and assignments in order to make those resources readily available to my students outside of class. Remind was another tool that I used as a means of communication between me and my students. I also used Kahoot a lot in my classes — it was very popular with my students, and we even started a Kahoot-er of the Week challenge. Now that I have had some experience using technology in the classroom, I would like to explore more in-depth different tech tools and how they can be used to enhance student learning.

2. To learn about some of the controversies surrounding the use of technology in education.

There are social, ethical, cultural, etc. issues often associated with the use of technology and media in education. While I think a lot of the concern stems from a ‘fear of the unknown’ that doesn’t make the concerns any less valid. As teachers, we need to be aware of the concerns/oppositions that may be held by parents, administrators, and other educations and be able to justify our use of educational technology. This semester in ECMP 455, I would like to examine some of the controversies surrounding the use of technology in education so that I have a critical understanding of all perspectives, can form my own opinion, and be able to explain how/why I use technology in my classroom.

3. Continue to develop my PLN

In ECMP 355 I worked on building my PLN and becoming a connected educator. Since then, however, I haven’t been very active online. This semester in ECMP 455, one of my goals is to continue to develop my PLN by becoming more active in different online spaces such as Twitter, blogs, and the class Google Plus community. This semester I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts/learnings/resources/etc. with my classmates and others and learning from them in return.

 

 

ECMP 355 Learning Contributions

Aside from learning how to integrate technology into the classroom in appropriate and innovative ways, one of the main focuses of ECMP 355 was social learning — that is, becoming a connected educator. Throughout the course, I participated in different online spaces such as Twitter, blogs, and the ECMP Google Plus community in order to try to build my PLN, or my personal learning network. By participating in these online spaces, I also contributed to the learning of others!

Here are some of the ways I did this:

Blog Comments

I regularly commented on my classmates’ #LearningProject blogs to offer words of encouragement and support, as well as to provide feedback and suggestions to help further their learning:

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This comment appears on Angela’s blog post “Mixed Emotions…

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This is a response to Amie’s blog post “Why do I HAVE to learn this?”

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This comment is in response to Matt’s post “Finally starting to come together…

I often made comments and posed questions on my classmates’ blogs to help encourage deeper thinking:

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This comment appears on Matt’s blog post “Tweet Tweet

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This is a response to McKaila’s blog post “Maximizing Muscle Growth

I also contributed to my classmates’ learning by providing resources and tips where I thought they might be helpful:

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This is a response to Kelsey’s blog post “Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

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This is a comment I left on Aysha’s post “The Light at the End of the Tunnel (Week)

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This is a response to Shelby’s blog post “Stress Ease

 

Twitter Interactions

Another way that I contributed to the learning of others was by regularly and consistently sharing articles and resources on Twitter that pertained to course content and class discussions:

On Twitter, I also shared articles related to topics/issues that I am passionate about. This allowed others to engage with the content and become informed about various social justice issues:

In order to open up a space for discussion, I posed questions to my classmates and my PLN in general. This often led to conversations with my classmates, some graduate students, and others outside of the course:

I also used Twitter to answer some of my classmates’ questions:

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By being an active participant on Twitter, I went from having 138 Twitter followers to having 207 followers in just six weeks!

Google Plus Community:

I also contributed to others’ learning by being an active member in the ECMP 355 Google Plus community. In the course community, I regularly answered people’s questions and provided resources where I thought they might be helpful:

 

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I also helped a classmate out with one of her assignments by voting in the poll she created and by leaving a comment:

 

Blog Posts:

During the semester, I wrote a blog post in response to my one of my classmate’s posts. In my post, I linked to my classmate’s post and explained my thoughts in relation to her’s.

I was also excited to see that some of my blog posts contributed to the learning of others outside of ECMP 355. My instructor, Katia, shared one of my posts on Twitter, and over 15 people retweeted it — including Carol Todd and Monica Lewinsky!

 

This post highlights some of the ways that I have contributed to others’ learning in different online spaces this semester. That being said, I would like to thank my ECMP 355 classmates and others for contributing to my learning this semester through Twitter, blog posts/comments, and the Google Plus Community. I look forward to continuing to connect with educators and continuing to build my PLN throughout my teaching journey!

 

 

Final Thoughts (And Final Braids)

#LearningProject update:

For the past two weeks I have been learning how to braid, and my end goal was to learn how to French braid my entire head by the end of the semester. Well guess what?

I did it!

But let me just say this: it wasn’t an easy feat. Learning how to French braid is probably the most difficult skill that I have learned throughout this entire project.

 

Before I even attempted to French braid my whole head, I practiced French braiding on small sections of my hair, and eventually, I learned how to French braid my bangs. This tutorial video was the main resource that I used when I first began learning how to braid. As I mentioned in my previous post, I also practiced on a Barbie doll that I borrowed from my little cousin. Although the Barbie isn’t a tech resource (whoops!) it really came in handy — it was helpful to be able to practice my French braiding technique on real (fake) hair

 

When I was finally ready to attempt French braiding my whole head, I watched these two tutorial videos:

Although the videos are very similar, and both provide good instructions, I actually found the second video a little more helpful. When you French braid you own hair you are essentially blind — can’t see what’s going on in the back of your head. The woman in the second video French braids her own hair (whereas the woman in the first video braids her daughter’s hair), so it was helpful to see how to hold and cross my hair. It took me several hours and multiple attempts, but I finally got the hang of it. The braid in the picture above is a little crooked, and it’s not as smooth as I would have liked, but overall I think it turned out really well!

And with that, my #LearningProject has now come to an end; the past six weeks have just flown by. Check out this recap of my entire #LearningProject experience:

#LearningProject Recap

#LearningProject: Making It Meaningful

  • Introduction and rationale for my #LearningProject
  • Pictures demonstrating my level of mastery at the beginning
  • Goals for the end

Buying a Curling Iron: A Not-So-Simple Task

  • Conducting research: what factors to consider when purchasing a curling iron
  • Pictures of my brand new (and first ever!) curling iron

Curling 101

Five 5-Minute Hairstyles That Took All Night

  • “Quick and easy” hairstyles
  • Frustrated by lack of decent resources — pictures difficult to follow
  • Pictures comparing how the hairstyles were supposed to look vs. how they actually turned out

Mastering the Art of the Messy Bun

  • Advantages of working with second or third-day hair vs. clean hair
  • Pictures showing the three different messy bun styles that I tried
  • Struggling with being a perfectionist

#LearningProject: Trials and Tribulations

  • Reflecting on how my #LearningProject has been going thus far
  • Describing the many challenges of learning a skill online
  • Sharing some of my favourite resources (TheSmallThingsBlog.com)
  • Critiquing resources: how-to pictures vs. tutorial videos
  • Sharing personal frustrations

Braiding For Beginners

  • Final task: Learning how to braid
  • Describing regular vs. French braid
  • Sharing braiding resources for beginners
  • Pictures of braiding progress

 

Reflections On My #LearningProject Experience

I have struggled with my hair my whole life — it used to be something that always got me down. My hair is very flat, fine, and frizzy, and the only two things that I could successfully do with my hair were straighten it or put it up into a ponytail. I was bored and frustrated with my hair. I chose to learn how to do my hair for my #LearningProject because I couldn’t think of a more personally meaningful skill for me to learn.

Going into my #LearningProject, I didn’t really have a specific goal or outcome in mind that I wanted to achieve. All I wanted was to learn a variety of hairstyles and techniques so that I could do more than simply straighten my hair. Overall, my #LearningProject wasn’t easy; it was challenging and extremely frustrating at times (check out this post where I describe some of the challenges of learning a skill online as well as my own personal frustrations), but I feel as though I have learned a lot. I went from having virtually zero hair-styling experience to learning a ton of different hair styles and techniques.

It may have not been a smooth learning experience, but I can definitely see the benefits of learning a skill online and sharing about progress openly in an online space. Through my #LearningProject, I was able to learn from and critically evaluate a variety of online resources like blogs, websites, and videos; I was able to share my progress openly through my blog and through the #LearningProject hashtag on Twitter; and I was able to receive feedback and words of encouragement and support from my PLN. Another benefit to learning a skill online is that it is flexible — I was able to learn at my own pace and choose resources that were best for me.

Overall, I’m glad that I had this experience. Thanks for following my #LearningProject journey!

HTML, JavaScript, Python, Oh My!

This week in ECMP 355 we learned about coding! Coding, or computer programming, is essentially a language for machines — it is a precise set of instructions that tells a computer exactly what to do. Coding is what makes it possible for us to create and use computer software, apps, and websites. Learning how to code means learning how to read and write in “machine language”.

Coding is starting to make it’s way into the classroom (check out the #CodeinClass hashtag on Twitter), as it is becoming an increasingly important and beneficial skill for students to have.  For one, many young people are making their living from computer programming on platforms such as Android and iOS. In fact, roughly half the highest-paying jobs in America now require some basic knowledge of computer programming. Aside from making a living, coding also provides students with valuable life skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and digital literacy.

So, for homework, we had to learn how to code — or at least give it a shot. We had two options: We could code a short project using Scratch (a kid-friendly computer programming language), or we could take part in one of the Hour of Code options on Code.org. I chose to do the Hour of Code.

I took three separate screencasts during the Hour of Code to show my learning progress throughout. In the first video I work through puzzles #1 and #2. Puzzle #1 was easy, but the angles tripped me up on puzzle #2 (my geometry teacher would be so disappointed). It took some thinking, but I was able to quickly fix my mistake to complete the puzzle!

In the second video I work through puzzles #5 and #6 after being introduced to the “repeat loop” block which allows you to repeat a line of code x number of times. In puzzle #5 I had to figure out how many time to repeat a given line of code in order to draw a flower.

In the third video I work through puzzle #8 where I was introduced to the “function” block. A function is another type of programming tool to help you avoid repeating yourself. I used the function block to draw three colourful flowers without having to write out the code each time.

The final puzzle, puzzle #10, was a free-for-all — I was allowed to design whatever I wanted using code. Check out what I made:

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Hour of Code Certificate

My Hour of Code certificate of completion

So, how did it go?

To be honest, I went in with  a negative attitude. I had seen formal coding language before (like the HTML view on WordPress) and it always looked intimidating — how was I supposed to replicate something like that? Plus, many of my friends who have taken computer science complain about how hard coding is. I was expecting to hate every second of it. However, I was surprised at how fun it was to learn how to code!

The Hour of Code was challenging, but in a good way — I was forced to think and problem-solve my way through each puzzle. Sometimes it was frustrating when my code didn’t work, but it also motivating — I actually wanted  to back and find where I went wrong so that I complete the puzzle. I also really liked working with Blockly. Code is usually written in text, but Blockly uses visual blocks which you can drag-and-drop to write a program. Underneath I was still creating code, but Blockly just simplified the formal code language which can be overwhelming and confusing for beginners.

After taking part in the Hour of Code, I can totally see the value in teaching coding in schools. In terms of the Saskatchewan curriculum, coding can connect to units in both the Math and Arts. Ed curricula. I even think that coding can connect to English Language Arts. There are many different forms of language; students use a different type of language when they are at home with their families vs. hanging out with friends vs. in the classroom. Coding is just another type of language, only digital, and I think it is important to give students opportunities to practice and develop all these types of languages. Aside from direct curricular connections, I also see how coding can help students to develop important life skills like problem solving, reasoning, and patience.

Overall, I really enjoyed learning how to code; I felt a sense of empowerment and pride afterwards, and I had a lot of fun. However, before I go and integrate coding into my classroom, I need to learn more about it, spend more time practicing, and find good resources. I know what I’m doing this summer!

Know of any good coding resources for students? How/where do you integrate coding into your classroom? Please share with me below!

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Citizenship — Where Does it Fit?

For the past couple of weeks we have been talking a lot about the importance of teaching digital citizenship in schools.  Just because students are online and connected does not mean that they are digitally intelligent — we constantly hear stories about young people using technology inappropriately for things like cyberbullying, sexting, cheating, plagiarizing, etc.  As educators, I believe that we have a moral responsibility to teach students how to be productive, responsible, and contributing members of the digital universe.  Digital Citizenship Education can help us do that.

Not only do we have a moral responsibility to teach about digital citizenship, it is actually a professional responsibility of Saskatchewan teachers as well.  Like Treaty Education, Digital Citizenship Education is mandated in Saskatchewan — schools and teachers are required to teach about it.  Where I get stuck, though, is finding connections between digital citizenship and the Saskatchewan curriculum.

There are tons and tons of resources out there for teaching about digital citizenship — Common Sense Media has designed an entire K-12 digital citizenship curriculum complete with units, lesson plans, and resources.  However, if you can’t make curricular connections, the resources don’t matter.  Part of the issue is that digital citizenship is such a broad topic that encompasses many different themes — it is much more than just teaching about online safety. Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship provides a helpful framework for understanding the major components of digital citizenship.

Photo Credit: www.thinglink.com

Using Ribble’s nine elements, I browsed the Saskatchewan curriculum and came up with a list of subject areas and specific curricular outcomes where Digital Citizenship Education integrates nicely:

Health and Wellness 

Outcome USC9.7 in Health Education 9 has students analyze tragic death and suicide as distressing community issues. I think this would be a fitting space to discuss current digital issues such as cyberbullying and sextortion — issues which can have a huge impact on one’s mental and emotional health. This outcome relates to three digital citizenship elements from Ribble’s framework: Digital Health & Wellness, Digital Communication, and Digital Safety & Security.

The Wellness 10 outcomes W1 and W4 also relate to the Digital Health & Wellness element of digital citizenship. Outcome W1 says for students to evaluate their own understanding of wellness. I think that digital wellness is an important dimension of overall wellness, but one that is rarely talked about. This outcome allows for teachers to have a discussion with students about their physical and psychological well-being in a digital world. Outcome W4 focuses specifically on mental health and its impact on the well-being of self, family, and community. This would be another fitting space to analyze topics like cyberbullying and sextortion, as well to discuss issues like social media depression

English Language Arts (ELA)

Both ELA 9 and ELA B30 have a unit called The Search for Self — a unit where students explore who they are and how they have been shaped by family, friends, society, etc. When talking about identity, I think it is important to also talk about digital identity (and why it is so important to create/maintain a positive digital identity) since the two are so interconnected. The ELA outcomes CR9.1aCC9.1aCRB30.1, and CCB30.1 can all connect to Digital Citizenship Education as they ask students to comprehend and respond to texts that address issues of identity, as well as to create and compose different texts that explore identity. These outcomes relate to the Digital Communication, Digital Literacy, and Digital Safety & Security elements of digital citizenship.

Science

The Health Science 20 outcome HS20-HB2 has students investigate various pathologies and aliments and how they effect cells, tissues, organs, and systems of a healthy human body. This outcome relates to the Digital Health element of Ribble’s framework — it allows for a discussion about the implications of technology on physical health and well-being such as eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, etc.

Social Sciences 

Aside from the three mandatory units in Law 30, educators are also required to teach a minimum of two optional units. The Law 30 curriculum has not yet been updated to the new outcome/indicator format, so I couldn’t make any formal curricular connections to Digital Citizenship Education; however, I think Law 3o would make an excellent space to talk about the Digital Law element of digital citizenship.

These are only a few connections that I have made between digital citizenship and the Saskatchewan curriculum. My hope is that as I learn more about digital citizenship and find more resources that I will continue to make additional curricular connections. Please note that the above list only focuses on secondary subjects, as I am a Secondary Education student.

Where/how do you integrate digital citizenship into the curriculum — specifically the secondary curriculum? Know of any excellent resources to use to teach about digital citizenship? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

 

Braiding for Beginners

As I mentioned in my previous #LearningProject post, the latest hair technique that I have been working on is braiding.  I’ve been learning how to braid for just over a week now, and it is proving to be the most challenging task that I have taken on yet.

I started by learning how to do a basic braid.  For a basic braid, you simply take a chunk of hair, section it into three equal pieces, and then continuously cross the outside pieces over the middle piece, like so:

It took me awhile to get the hang of the basic braid, but now I can do one quite quickly. I think the most difficult thing about braiding is learning how to hold and cross the pieces of hair without losing any of the pieces or without combining them together.  Another problem that I ran into was that, at first, I was crossing the outside pieces under the middle piece instead of crossing them over.  Although this isn’t really an issue for a basic braid, a French braid (the other type of braid that I wanted to learn) requires the overhand technique; if I were to “French braid” underhand, it would technically be called a Dutch braid, or an inverted French braid.

Photo Credit: www.twistmepretty.com

After I mastered the basic braid, I moved on to the French braid.  The only difference between a basic braid and French braid is that you add hair as you go:

Photo Credit: www.pinterest.com

I find that a French braid is a little trickier to do because you’re dealing with more hair; in the middle of a French braid, I often get confused by all the different pieces of hair, trying to keep them separated.  I’m still not a pro at the French braid, but I’m getting there.

So far I have only learned how to braid my bangs in both a basic braid (below left) and a French braid (below right):

This tutorial video was the main resource that I used, and it is a great place to start for beginner braid-ers!  The woman in the video demonstrates how to do different types of braids using only a small section of her hair whereas many of the other tutorial videos that I watched demonstrated how to braid using large sections of hair or even the whole head. When I got to braiding my bangs, I also used this video from The Small Things Blog — one of my go-to resources throughout my #LearningProject. Another resource that I have been using is a Barbie doll which I borrowed from my little cousin. I’ll admit, it makes me look a bit ridiculous, but the doll has been a great tool to help me learn how to hold the hair properly, as well as the overhand criss-cross motion.

My ultimate goal is to be able to French braid my entire head by the end of the semester. Only a week and a half left of ECMP 355.  Stay tuned!

 

#EdTech: Are We Trying Too Hard?

When it comes to #edtech, are we trying too hard? This is a question that has been weighing heavily on my mind lately.

A few weeks ago, my good friend Robin and I co-wrote a post on the pedagogical value of Snapchat — one of the most popular social media apps used by youth today.  Snapchat can be used to live broadcast school events, to communicate with parents and/or students, to showcase student learning, and much more.  However, just because Snapchat has potential educational value doesn’t mean that it is the best learning tool for my students.

We seem to do this a lot; we feel pressure to stay up-to-date on the newest, hottest tech tools, so every time a new website, app, or social media platform come out, we feel the need to “edufy” it to make it usable in the classroom.  This brings me back to my original question: Are we trying too hard? Do all these new technologies really have a place in the classroom when there are a million and one technologies already out there? Are we, in some way, just trying to “have an in” with our students?

Before I go any further, I’d like to clarify something: I am not arguing against the use of Snapchat (or any other new tech tool for that matter) in the classroom.  As I mentioned before, Snapchat does have educational value.  What I am arguing, however, is that we as teachers be more critical of the technologies that we implement into our classrooms and the ways in which we implement them.  I strongly believe that technology integration needs to be planned and purposeful; there needs to be a reason for doing it — it should not be random.  This TED-Ed article outlines three questions that teachers should ask themselves before using technology in the classroom:

  1. What is the primary goal, and how will this technology support it?
  2. How will this technology choice broaden students’ perspectives?
  3. How is this technology choice going to help my students learn?

Teachers can (and should) use these three questions to evaluate a new tech tool before integrating it into the classroom.  Teachers should also use these questions to evaluate the tools they already use to determine if they are still effective.  Amie Reid, a fellow ECMP 355 classmate and someone who is pro-technology, recently wrote a blog post in which she argued against using Twitter in the classroom.  Amie made some excellent points (in a very creative fashion, might I add), but one in particular struck me:

“My 14 yo says Twitter (like Facebook) is old news. She doesn’t tweet.  She uses Instagram, Snapchat, etc. So why force this tech on Ss?”

I think Amie’s point nicely addresses why we need to be critical of the technology that we use in the classroom — both old and new.  Twitter and Facebook may be tried-and-true edtech tools, but these technologies are becoming obsolete to youth.  So, as Amie asserts, why force do we still these tools on our students? Surely there are more engaging apps that we can use to meet students’ learning needs other than Twitter and Facebook.

I guess my point is this: Instead of “edufying” every new technology that comes our way, maybe we should spend our time and efforts making good use of a few technologies that we know are engaging and effective learning tools for our students. This is not to say that we should never try out new technologies, of course we should, but not everything has to be turned into an edtech tool.  In my opinion, the whole point of edtech is to support and enhance student learning — it should not be used just for the sake of it.

 

 

 

EdTech and Chemistry

As we have been learning in ECMP 355, there are tons of amazing edtech tools out there that can be used in the classroom; there are communication technologies like Remind, Edublogs, and Kahoot, productivity technologies like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Evernote, and presentation technologies like Haiku Deck, Nearpod, and Touchcast — just to name a few. While these tools are great, and ones that I will most definitely integrate into my future classroom, as a chemistry major and huge science nerd, I wanted to know if there are any technologies that are designed specifically for a chemistry classroom.  So, I have been doing some research.  These are a few of the resources that I have come across so far:

1. 3D Period Table via Chrome Experiments

I found this resource while browsing the #chemchat hashtag on Twitter, and it is way too cool.  This tool provides a 3D visualization of the periodic table.  When you click on an element, it gives you some basic information like the name of the element, its atomic number, atomic mass, and electron configuration.  You also have the option to “explore an atom” which provides a 3D atomic view of the particular element. Since atoms cannot be seen with the naked eye, students often think of atoms in terms of the static 2D Bohr Diagrams they learn to draw.  However, the “explore an atom” option would help students to visualize what an atom looks and acts like in 3D space. Overall, I think the 3D periodic table is a helpful tech tool for students, and it fits perfectly in the Atoms and Elements unit in the Saskatchewan Science 9 curriculum.

 

2. Interactive Periodic Table via The Royal Society of Chemistry

This interactive periodic table is similar to the Chrome Experiments’ 3D periodic table. This resource allows you to manipulate the periodic table to highlight the different groups, periods, and blocks.  You can also “adjust” the temperature to see how the physical state of each element changes.  If you click on an individual element, it links to a page that lists the chemical and physical properties of that element. One of my favourite features of the site is the “Visual Elements Images” feature in the top left-hand corner; when you click, it changes the periodic table such that each element is represented by a picture that describes the history how it was discovered. Super cool!

 

3. Interactive Chemistry Simulations via PhET

This website offers simulation activities that demonstrate different complex chemistry topics like concentration, molecule polarity, and acid-base solutions.  Aside from chemistry, the site also has simulations that explain concepts in biology, physics, Earth science, and math.  I think these simulations serve as a great learning tool — they allow students to explore and apply the content that they learn in class. Another bonus is that the simulations are versatile — they cover content that corresponds to science outcomes from grades 9 to 12.

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“Acid-Base Solutions” — an example of one of the chemistry simulations offered.

 

4. Science Journal via Google

Science Journal is another tool that I discovered through Twitter (hashtags are a great thing, aren’t they?).  Science Journal is a free Android app that turns your smartphone or tablet into a data logger that can record measurements from the device’s various sound, light, and motion sensors.  The data can not only be recorded over a period of time, but it can be plotted on a graph, annotated with notes and photos, and compared against other measurements taken at a different time.  I have not tried the app out myself, but I think it sounds like a neat edtech tool — it’s like having a lab notebook in your pocket!  Although Science Journal would work for a variety of experiments, I think it would be particularly useful in “Properties of Waves” unit in the new Physical Science 20 curriculum.

Know of any more good edtech tools to use in a science/chemistry classroom? Share with me in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

#LearningProject: Trials and Tribulations

So far in my #LearningProject journey I have written numerous blog posts describing my hair-styling successes.  But the journey, overall, has not been smooth.  We are just over halfway through the semester, so I thought I should take some time to (openly and honestly) critique how my #LearningProject has been going.

I am absolutely in love in the hairstyles that I have learned, but learning a skill solely from online resources has been challenging — for many reasons.  First, there are thousands of hair-styling resources available online, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.  I find that having so many resources available to me makes it more difficult to get started on a hair project; I often spend hours upon hours sifting through all the blogs, websites, and tutorial videos rather than actually working on my hair.  

Between 50 and 90% of people who work in front of a computer screen have some symptoms of eye trouble, studies show.

Photo Credit: www.cnn.com

With a plethora of hair resources online, I also get a lot of conflicting information.  When I search a particular hairstyle, about a hundred resources pop up all describing how to do the same thing, only slightly different.  For example, there are many variations to the Summer Scarf Updo — one of the five “quick and easy” hairstyles that I learned a few weeks ago.  One version of the hairstyle, known as the Tuck and Cover, uses two small headbands instead of a scarf (see the picture below).  This was actually the version that I tried first, but I found it too difficult to work with multiple headbands.

The Summer Scarf Updo

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Photo Credit: cristophe.com

vs. The Tuck and Cover

Aside from the high number of resources, finding decent resources has been another challenge.  The Small Things Blog has become one of my favourite resources for all things hair.  Kate, the owner of the blog, posts tons of tutorial videos that are simple and super easy to follow — even for beginners!  Kate also frequently posts about what hair products and tools to use, and I actually referenced one of her posts when doing research on what curling iron to buy. The majority of the resources online, however, are not as good as The Small Things Blog.

For my #LearningProject, I use a lot of pictures off of websites and blogs. Sometimes I get step-by-step pictures, and sometimes I only get a picture of the final product.  I find it extremely difficult to learn from a picture because, more often than not, there are no accompanying written instructions, so I am usually left to interpret the picture(s) on my own, struggling to figure out how they got from point A to point B (like in the pictures above).  With pictures, I also only get one view of the head, so I might be shown the front but have no idea what is going on in the back.  I prefer learning from tutorial videos because I find it easier to replicate a hairstyle when it’s done right in front of me — I can follow along step-by-step.  That being said, I have struggled using videos as well.

 

I used the above video to learn how to do a messy bun.  At 1:21, the woman in the video says to bobby pin the bun down to keep it close to the head, but I wasn’t sure if she pushed the bun down or forward. It seems like a trivial thing to fuss over, but depending on how I pinned the bun the look of the hairstyle changed.  My mom and I deliberated over this for about 20 minutes.  It would have been nice to have another view of the woman’s head to see what her hair looked like from the back, or even to be able to ask her exactly what she did.

That brings me to my next point.  Perhaps the biggest challenge that I am facing in learning a skill online is not being able to physically talk to someone.  I am a social learner — that is, I learn by talking things through.  There have been many instances throughout my #LearningProject so far where I have been stuck on a hairstyle and  wished that I could have asked the person in the tutorial video a question or to explain something in more detail.

I have also experienced personal frustrations during my #LearningProject.  I am a perfectionist, so every time I attempt a new hairstyle, I expect perfection from myself immediately.  When I don’t get a hairstyle right away (which is often — it usually takes a few hours at least), or when it doesn’t turn out exactly like the picture or video, I become frustrated with myself.  But I guess frustration is part of the learning process — my #LearningProject wouldn’t be as meaningful if I nailed every hairstyle on the first try. Moving forward, I need to learn to expect less from myself.  A few short weeks ago I had virtually zero hair-styling experience — I could straighten my hair with a flat iron, and I could put it up into a ponytail.  That was it.  Since then, I have learned how to curl my hair, I have learned how to do a number of quick and easy hairstyles, and I have mastered the messy bun.  Instead of getting frustrated over what I can’t do (yet), I need to focus on how far I’ve come.

#LearningProject update: I’m learning how to braid! Stay tuned!

 

Amanda Todd and the Myth of Digital Dualism

Digital dualism is the belief that the digital and physical worlds are distinct entities — one space does not impact the other.  After hearing about the story of Amanda Todd, I’m not so sure that’s the case.

This week in ECMP 355 we were to watch The Sextortion of Amanda Todd, a documentary by the Fifth Estate.  The video describes the extensive sexual exploitation, or sextortion, and slut-shaming the young woman experienced after she flashed her breasts to the webcam in an online chatroom upon request of a man she had been messaging.  The man was a capper — a type of cyber-predator who stalks websites and chatrooms looking to flatter women into performing sexual acts, only then to capture and distribute their images.  On October 10, 2012, Amanda Todd committed suicide after having dealt with the blackmailing and slut-shaming for over three years.

On the surface, Amanda Todd’s story seems to be a cautionary tale about cyber predators and the importance of developing and maintaining a positive digital identity.  In my opinion, though, the story of Amanda Todd is less about digital identity and more about the link between our online and offline selves.

It would be easy to say that what happened to Amanda Todd is the result of her one little digital mistake.  But let’s face it — society and its sexualization of women also played a  role. Women are led to believe that their worth is attached to their sexual desirability — the more “wanted” we are by others, the greater our worth.  The media sends women off on tangents to perfect our bodies; there is always an advertisement for some new, hot exercise regime, diet plan, skin care routine, fashion style, etc. designed to help make us more physically attractive.  These media messages are so powerful and widespread that women begin to internalize them from a very young age.  According to Media Smarts, “three-year-olds already prefer game pieces that depict thin people over those representing heavier ones, while by age seven girls are able to identify something they would like to change about their appearance”. Terrifying.

girl_body_image

Photo Credit: www.momsxyz.com

If women grow up believing that their worth is attached to their ability to be sexually desirable, is it any wonder that Amanda Todd flashed the webcam?  The problem, however, is that women face a paradox: they are pressured into being sexy, but then punished for being sexual.  In other words, as soon as we act on our sexuality, we are shamed for it.  Amanda Todd fell victim to this paradox, and she paid the ultimate price.

So, as educators, what can we do about this? What are our responsibilities? 

Of course we have a responsibility to teach about digital citizenship and to educate our students on how/why to create positive digital identities.  But that’s only part of it. Amanda Todd’s story demonstrates how our online and offline worlds are not distinct entities but are, in fact, intricately connected, proving digital dualism to be a myth.  In this sense, not only do we have to teach students how to create and maintain positive digital identities, but we have to help them to develop positive “offline identities” as well.  This means discussing topics like body image, media influences, sex ed, and choice and consequence, as well as encouraging students to develop talents/hobbies, healthy relationships, and critical-thinking skills — things that nurture self-esteem.

So, what do you think? What other responsibilities do we as teachers have in helping prevent tragedies like this from occurring? I’d love to hear people’s thoughts.