Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Internet Resources

The internet is a wonderful wealth of information, especially for a new teacher in a physical science class whose major was environmental science. Over the past year I used the internet countless times to brush up on topics and help come up with lesson plans that were current and exciting.

One of the most useful sites, for me, was the
NASA website. I taught a six week astronomy unit, and I haven’t had astronomy since high school. I was on this website almost daily looking up current events and finding answers to student’s questions. This site could be used by teachers in multiple subjects for history, current events, and even math.

Another wonderful resource is
School for Champions. This site answers multiple questions about science in easy to understand ways. It is a great way to refresh all that information in your brain that has not been used for awhile. I also found it useful to read before a new lesson because many of the questions my students asked were the same questions on the site.

A third resource you may want to look at is
Digital Bits Science Lab . This website has a vast amount of experiments that are easy and fun. I used them throughout the year. It is a great place to look at when you are stuck and need a simple experiment for time filler, or a whole lab.

Monday, May 11, 2009


For my IEP I choose to learn Google Earth and create lesson plans that would go along with the science unit of energy. This unit looks at the different forms of energy and how energy transformations can have an impact on the environment. The standards that this unit addresses are as follows:

Science standards:

The student demonstrates an understanding of how energy can be transformed, transferred, and conserved by: [8] SB2.1 identifying the initial source and resulting change in forms of energy in common phenomena.

The student demonstrates an understanding that interactions with the environment provide an opportunity for understanding scientific concepts by: [8] SA3.1 conducting research to learn how the local environment is used by a variety of competing interests (e.g., competition for habitat/resources, tourism, oil and mining companies, hunting groups).

Technology Standards:

C. A student should be able to use technology to explore ideas, solve problems, and derive meaning. A student who meets the content standards should use technology to observe, analyze, interpret, and draw conclusions; create new knowledge by evaluating, combining, or extending information using multiple technologies.

Learning Google Earth was a lot of fun! I had no idea how much stuff you can do with the program. I can really see this program being used in any subject. Once the students learn how to use the software, they can use it in any class without every teacher taking the time to introduce the students to it. There are many features that could be used in a variety of ways. Having students take the time at the start of the year to learn this program would be very beneficial in a middle school setting where the teachers have a team setting. A plan at the start of the year could have students learn the program in one class, or multiple classes. Then throughout the year they could build on what they know by using Google Earth in other classes.

As you will see in my lesson plans, this tool is wonderful for giving students a great visual and perspective. I read a lesson plan online about using Google Earth for a language arts class where students map out the travels of a character in a book. Once again this gives students wonderful images. As we know from experience any time you give a student more images and ways to remember the material, the more likely they are to remember it. I truly see the possibilities being endless with this software.

To start off I looked at some YouTube videos on the basics of using Google Earth. On a personal note one of my new favorite features is the fly over where you can visually see a location and take a virtual drive there. This is very helpful to a person like me, who gets lost very easily, especially after living on an island with 14 miles of road for the past 5 years. I can see a lot of my students using this feature if they move to the lower 48. Sitka is not a place where many young adults learn to use a road map well.

Another feature that is useful is the Historical Imagery Feature, (the clock button). This feature allows you to see a given area and how it has changed over time. The first thing that came to my mind with this feature is studying how forests have changed over time. With this tool you can literally see how much plant life has changed. You could use this feature in any number of ways to have students see how environments change and how people have a direst impact on the environment.

A great feature for an astronomy unit is the ability to explore both the sky and the planet Mars. You can bring up an image of Mars and explore it the same way you can explore Earth. There are information boxes you can click on that give great facts. It is a fun and interactive way for students to learn about Mars.

The layers tool has a wealth of information that students can explore on their own. You can choose from a variety of topics such as “Global Awareness” and “Animal Tracking”. One thing I really like about this feature is there are so many topics to choose from. When using Google Earth for any number of lessons you can allow students to pick up little facts that are interesting and now they are related to a location on a map for the students. Not just information you lecture to them, or read from a book.

For the energy unit I downloaded many premade applications for Google Earth from the website Google Earth Outreach. This site has a tremendous amount of resources for using Google Earth in the classroom. The applications that I downloaded showed a variety of things including CO2 emissions for countries around the world. I have studied about CO2 emissions before, and have always known what countries are the major contributors, but this visual was even helpful to me. It really put things in perspective and made me think “wow” . This is exactly the effect I want on my students for two reasons. One, it will help them remember the information, and two, hopefully it will make them want to lean more.

The lesson plans listed below are only part of the energy unit. The students have already learned about energy transfer and how much of the energy produced in the world comes from burning fossil fuels. The main idea behind using Google Earth for this unit was to give students better visual images, and a better understanding of human impact of the Earth. The following are the lesson plans using Google Earth. Each lesson plan is designed for a 50 minute class.

Lesson 1 – Introduction to Google Earth
Lesson 2 – Advanced features of Google Earth
Lesson 3 – Climate change in our world
Lesson 4 – CO2 Emissions

Lesson 5 - Where does the oil come from?

If you would like to see some of the images from Google Earth that I talked about please check out the presentations below.

Part A
Part B
Part C

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Social Web

The social web I decided to participate in is called TheTeachersCorner.net. I looked through various sites and choose this one because of a discussion that caught my attention. “How much talking is too much talking? ” I found the comments both interesting and helpful. As a student teacher I was mostly in one class, with the occasional observation outside of that class. I often wonder how much the students chat while they are in other classes. I also wonder if I have been too hard on them. It is hard to tell what is alright once in awhile, and what should be allowed. One comment I really like was: “I personally judged the amount of chatter I put up with by the amount of chatter we as teachers generate in a meeting.” I think that is completely fair to hold students to the same standards that we hold ourselves. It personally drives me crazy when teachers talk during staff meetings. How can you expect your students to listen to you when you won’t listen to your colleagues?

Another discussion that really helped me was “
The Perfect Classroom”. The teacher making the post felt like they could never keep up with all the paperwork. The post was really great to read because I often felt the same way. One response that really put my mind at ease was someone talking about how the first few years it will be that way. With time you will have more lesson plans under your belt and things will come to you faster. They also pointed out how the summer is a wonderful time to reflect, and that you don’t have to get it all the first time.

Overall it was nice to be able to read other teachers comments. It is just nice to have a different perspective on things. I like this website and will continue to use it in the future. I would also like to check out some of the other ones out there.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Digital story

For my digital story I choose to describe the ecosystems of Sitka, Alaska. I really enjoyed making my digital story because I was able to choose a subject that I am very passionate about. Many people don’t know that Sitka is a temperate rain forest or that it has a vast amount of plant life. The main character of my story is “Bendy” and he comes to Alaska with misconceptions about what it will be like.

After completing the movie I thought it would be a fun theme to carry on to other movies. Bendy could travel to other places, or explore different things. This would also be a great project for students to take with them on vacations. Rather than having them do book work they could look at an aspect of the environment they travel to and make a short movie about it.

You can view my
movie, story board, and digital story rubric.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Assistive Technologies for Reading


In the article “Assistive Technologies for Reading” Hasselbring and Bausch talk about how new computer technology can enhance learning for students with special needs. These students are having trouble with school work because they can not read up to grade level. The article points out that all of us have read someone and understood all the words, but don’t understand the meaning of the text. For students who are facing this in all of their subjects learning can be very hard. New software helps these students to understand text and bring up their reading skills to grade level. The software has many features including videos that give the students background information before a reading lesson. Schools that have started to use this technology are very pleased with the results.

Reference Points

“As many as 8 of 10 students with learning disabilities have reading problems so significant that they cannot read and understand grade-level material.”

“Test-reading software creates a more level academic playing field for students who do not decode or comprehend well enough to read grade-level test independently.”

“But simply improving access and delivery will not necessarily improve instruction.”

“Although assistive technologies make it possible for students with disabilities to profit from good instruction, technology is not magic; it is simply a tool of education.”


With technology come great tools to help students in the classroom. What an amazing thing for students to be able to access. I believe any technology that can help students learn better should be used. However, there is also a fear that comes with that. Technology is no substitute for human instruction and interaction. See first hand all the cut backs that are taking place in the Sitka School District I can easily see people being replace with technology. After all if a student improves so much from a computer why have reading specialists at a school? Think of all the new computers you could buy with a teacher’s salary. I have also seen first hand the incredible difference having a reading specialist at a school can make. Having the technology is wonderful and should be used, but it should be used to enhance learning, not to teach.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Overdominance of Computers


In the article “The Overdominance of Computers” Lowell W. Monke talks about how the push for technology in school may be hurting students rather then helping them. In school students are being introduced to technology at a very young age and because of this they may be losing out on other key factors of their development. Students are having less interaction with adults and are learning from computers rather than face to face. Students need to learn important life lessons such as commitment, loyalty and tradition so that when they read the “bottom line” of a spreadsheet they have a greater understanding of what is behind the numbers.

With children in the younger grades educators need to ask themselves if using computers takes away valuable time from other activities. Students need to be engaged in experiences such as free play, outdoor activities, loving relationships with adults, music, and drama.

Reference Points

“…face to face interaction is one of the most important ingredients in reading readiness.”

“…the more access students had to computers in school and at home, the lower their overall test scores were.”

“What students will most need to meet the serious demands of the 21st century is the wisdom that grows out of these inner human capacities and that is developed by community involvement.”

“By compensating for the dominance of technology in students’ everyday lives, schools might help restore the balance we need to create a more humane society.”


I think this is a wonderful article and I wish more people would think about the effect of technology on kids. I have always thought that students are being introduced to technology too young and use it too often. I remember playing in the backyard with my friends after school, when now students go home and go on the internet, talk on their cell phones, and generally have less face to face interaction. In my mind there is no need for a child in kindergarten to be playing on the computer during school. I worked at an elementary school where students would be on computers in the library playing games that read books to them. What happened to a PERSON reading books to them. When I was that age (man that makes me sound old) I looked forward to story hour at the library, it was always lots of fun and engaging. Now we need a computer to engage our students. That’s crazy.

I have to wonder what is going to happen to our schools if we keep going the way we are going. Is it going to be less human interaction? We want to give the next generation so much, but what are we taking away from them. How many children these days sit around and just day dream? I bet a lot less then ten years ago. What is wrong with going out in the woods and playing fort rather than playing a computer game with a fort on it? If schools really want to give students the best they need to look at the whole picture!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Educational Philosophy Movie

Sometimes we become so busy with all the “stuff” we have to do, we forget what is really important with helping our students learn. Creating an educational philosophy and later going back and reading it is a great way to reflect on what is really important. When creating this movie, I went back and reread my philosophy of education, which I wrote about three months ago. What stood out to me the most is how I said it is important to greet each student with a smile. Before you start teaching this seems easy, but after a month, it becomes harder when only one to two students per class smile back at you. However, I have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter if they smile back, it just matters that they know I care! In the future, I will watch and truly listen to my movie every once awhile just to remind myself what is important!

If you just want to read my philosophy here it is!

The most important thing in education is for students to have a warm and welcoming environment. As a teacher I am able to create an environment where students are greeted with a smile and know I am happy they are there. It is crucial to know every student by name and know their strengths and weaknesses. Students also need to be recognized for what they are doing. Part of creating a warm learning environment is making students feel good about themselves and what they have accomplished. Once such an environment is created I can then teach them about the world around them. In science students need to be actively engaged in both learning the book material and with hands on activities. The more I am able to show students the more they will take away from my class. The best way for students to learn about the world around them is to see science in action. This can be accomplished by taking students out of the classroom and showing them how science affects so many aspects of life. Within the classroom there are also many ways to show student science including hands on labs and demos. The more students see science in action the more they will remember and enjoy learning.

If you want to watch the movie here it is!

Educational Philosophy Movie!