Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My Individualized Education Plan for Technology

What a Machine! (And Software)

In the process of completing my Master's of Arts in Teaching program from the University of Alaska Southeast I was asked to challenge myself to improve my technical skills with some type of educational technology to incorporate into my classroom. While there is an incredible array of projects that I could have come with, my decision was pretty much made for me. The Klondike National Park in Skagway, AK received an educational grant about one year ago and with this money they purchased and have loaned 16 Lab Quests made by Vernier to our school. These little hand held data collection systems are absolutely amazing. With the appropriate probes you can take temperature readings, UV radiation readings, analyze motion, track cellular respiration, hook an EKG to someone, test the gas, laws and much more including determine the composition of stars by hooking the spectrometer probe up to a telescope. The Lab Quest tools not only help you record data but it automatically organizes the data into tables and creates graph representing your data.

You may also choose a variety of collection modes and ways to analyze data with individual settings for each mode, such as, Time Based Records, Events with Entry, Selected Events, Photogate Timing, Full Spectrum, or Drop Counting. Moreover, these little guys will determine tangents, statistical information, curve fit graphs, linear fit graphs and examine specific points on a graph. This is not all. The Lab Quest saves files, stores lab procedures, and allows you take observational notes.

With such a daunting amount of skills and applications to learn with this devise, I decided to start with some of the more simple applications and probes for this new hardware and develop lessons for my biology class that would teach them how to use these machines, develop an water quality lab that employs the Lab Quest for data collection, and utilize the accompanying computer software, Logger Pro 3, to analyze and display the results of the collected data.

Individual Goals for this project:
> Become proficient in using the Time Based and Selected Events modes of data collection within Lab Quest.
> Learn how to upload collected data into the Logger Pro software and use Logger Pro to create comparative graphs of collected data.
> Design Lesson plans that incorporate simple water quality analysis and teaches students how to navigate through Lab Quest and some of its basic applications and functions.

At the Beginning:
When I first decided to learn how to use a Lab Quest for my IEP, I had no idea of how versatile this little machine was or what its limitations were. To start I chose the type of data collection I would like to do, gathered the probes I would need, read how to attach the probes and turned on the Lab Quest. By playing around with the machine for just a few minutes I was able to navigate around the home page, found the data table page, the graphing page, and began to see how many types of data collection it was capable of. I quickly learned how to obtain time based recordings but this is not what I needed for my water quality lessons. I wanted to find out how to take different types of measurements for 3 different sample plots at different points in time. I started to explore the "Events with Entry" mode as I thought this may be what I needed to use but soon ran into difficulty.

I created a short video of my beginning trials with Lab Quest. It contains a brief introduction to Lab Quest, setting-up a file, a demonstration of taking temperature readings in the "time based" mode, and a display of the graphed results created within the machine of the 3 readings taken.

After Some Training
The Lab Quest and Logger Pro training seminar I attended in Juneau was very helpful in understanding how this device can be used and what its limitations are. I learned that it was not the "events with entry" mode I should use, but the "selected events" mode and that I needed 3 files, one for each test. As complex as the Lab Quest is, it cannot do everything. Depending on the type of testing you would like to do, some information should still be recorded by hand and the graphing and analyzing capabilities only go so far.

This is where the Logger Pro software comes into the picture. Even though the Lab Quest may not be able to compare different files, by uploading the tests into Logger Pro, or manually entering the data into the software you can create many different comparative graphs and perform statistically analysis of the data. This was probably the most important lesson for me. I was not aware of how to upload and use the Logger Pro software prior to the seminar. As a result, I feel the end results of the labs my students will perform with the Lab Quest will be much more complete and meaningful.

There are 6 lesson plans I created to teach the students how to become familiar with the Lab Quest. The lessons include: How to use the "time based" and "selected events" modes, using the conductivity probe, pH probe, and temperature probe, how to upload and manually enter recorded data into Logger Pro. The lessons are designed to prepare the students for a comparative water quality project for 3 streams/rivers in the Skagway area.

> Picture of Logger Pro Screen displaying the spreadsheet and graphs being created with the Logger Pro software with uploaded data.
> Graphs of sample data for a comparative stream analysis created with Logger Pro and a data table similar to the tables that the students would be expected to create for manually collecting data during the field testing of the streams.

Overall, I am very pleased with the results of my individualized educational plan. It helped me get over the initial learning curve in working with Lab Quest hardware and the Logger Pro software. There are many opportunities for integrating this technology into every one of my science class and making it a major component of lessons and science curriculum. I especially like the field collection of data opportunities with the Lab Quest, how it allows you to store notes and observations directly into a created file, how the lab directions for many labs are stored in the devise to be viewed at any time by the user, and the additional analysis capabilities of using the Logger Pro software to compare multiple files of collected data.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Social Web: Science Forums, The Original

In searching for a science based online community to participate in I was able to locate many, however, finding a site that was useful to me as a teacher who teaches all strands of science was a little more challenging. I first tried NSTA's blog, however, the postings were intermittent and I did not find them very useful. Next was Ning, there were many communities to participate in but most were class sites, highly specialized or centered around one topic, not a broad based science forum with many users. Finally, while searching for directions to prepare nutrient agar from scratch I found Science Forums, The Original. Not only did I find the directions to prepare the nutrient agar for a science fair project but also my online community. The site is very well organized. By visiting the community page you can choose different forums in Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Medical Science, Mathematics, and more. Under each of the these topics you can choose the general science forum for each field or a more specialized topic under the fields, such as, quantum theory, genetics, or organic chemistry. In addition to the forums found directly on site, Science Forums, The Original also provides links to blogs created by the users themselves. This service offers additional resources and continued conversations for topics these users specialize in.

Where I found this online community most useful was in learning alternative approaches to explain science concepts my students were having trouble grasping. Another was finding more material to continue class discussions or to help answer questions from class. While searching and reading threads for various topics many users include links to radio programs, TV shows, or other media that can be used for class readings and discussions. Another great advantage of the wide array of topics and users of this site are the labs, class activities and additional resources to supplement class material that can be found throughout the listed threads. One of the major reasons I think if found this site so useful compared to others I looked at was the shear number of users. While most of the users are not teachers, everyone is interested in science and seems very knowledgeable in their field of study. This allows for feedback from many people with different approaches to a topic or question which I found very useful when trying to find different ways to present or talk about material so that every individual student is given the information in a format they can understand. It also allows for quick responses to questions. On average, I have received a response to questions I have posted within 5 minutes which then starts a continued conversation about the topic with other viewers and as they hold conversations with themselves, I have been able to find the answers I have been looking for.

You can check out this online community by clicking on the link below:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Notes on "Changes in Philbert's Population" a digital story expressing science concepts

As mentioned in my previous post, the topic of my digital story is change in a population influenced by challenges presented by a dynamic environment and changing climate. The star of the story is a long-winged duck named Philbert. Philbert's mate is a short-winged duck named Phylisody. Shortly after having 3 long-winged children Phylisody dies because a drought has made the distance between watering holes on the migration south too great for her little wings to handle. Throughout the story Philbert contemplates what is happening to the land around him and observes the influences these changes have his population of ducks. The story ends with some reflective questions about what might have happened to other populations, it the characteristics of his population had been different and what the future may hold for the ducks that remain.

The main focus of this story was to express the concept of change over time. While creating the story and watching the final product I realized that there are also some underlying concepts that could be reviewed as well. Such as climate change and genetics and probability. As an assessment for students, they could create similar stories where other density-independant or density-dependant factors influenced the change in allelle frequencies.

To view this digital movie click on the link provided below.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Story Map and Rubric for a Science Based Digital Story

For my digital story I chose to express the concept of changes in a population due to challenges presented by the environment. The story presents natural selection through the life and times of Philbert, a long winged duck, and his family who struggle to overcome a drying environment and the increased distance between watering holes encountered while migrating.

To view the Story Map I created for this project and the Rubric For Assessing a Digital Story in Science Concepts click on the links below.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Valuable Internet Resources for teaching science

In my first year of teaching high school science, one of the most challenging concepts for students to comprehend has been the location of electrons around the nucleus (positions of the different orbitals), energy levels and electron configurations, and how the valence electrons determine the chemical properties of an element, as well as, why they will form ionic and covalent bonds with different atoms to become stable. In my searching, I have found 2 very useful websites that offer interactive models to help supplement lessons and facilitate understanding for my students.

The first site is Learner.org and the web page is simply called Interactives. This site provides interactive lessons in science, mathematics, language arts, arts and history. You can click here to go straight to the Interactives site. This site provides an excellent walk through basic atomic theory, atomic structure, electron energy levels, orbitals, and configuration, and ends with a explanation of the information provided in each box of the periodic table and groups and periods of the elements within. The site includes games for the students to play with interactive models to test their knowledge on the concepts being presented that involve identifying atoms, ions, and isotopes of an element. As well as, arranging and properly filling orbitals with electrons in the correct orbital.

The second site is Skool Interactive Training. This site is great for the subsequent lessons on different groups of elements in the periodic table. It does a very good job at explaining valence electron configurations, why certain groups of elements are more reactive than others and how ionic bonds are formed between cations and anions. It visualizes ionization of atoms and the interactions between cations and anions in forming stable, electrically neutral, bonds.

A third site that I have found very useful for different science activities and lesson plans is The United States Geologic Survey website. This site offers information on a very wide range of activities and lessons for earth science and biology. My favorite thus far has been the water cycle game. The site provides you with materials for print, instructions, assessment ideas, and extensions to comprehensively teach the water cycle, energy transfers, and pollution tracking through the water cycle. Complete with key words and information for further study. I have used this very active and engaging activity with both my junior high class and my 10th grade biology class with fantastic results.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Article Assessment #5:

“Assistive Technologies for Reading” by Ted S. Hasselbring and Margaret E. Bausch.


This article discusses how assistive technologies such as, Read & Write Gold by TextHELP and the Read 180 program published by Scholastic Inc., are tools that can help all educators guide and support students through class material with additional reading support and reading intervention or training programs. The authors present findings that 8 out of 10 students with learning disabilities have reading problems. Text-reader software like Read & Write Gold assist students by using synthetic speech to read text aloud with the student as well as provide support for writing and editing by reading back what the student has composed. Technologies like these help the student recognize when they have skipped words or misread material written material and in compositions of their own. Other software programs are known as reading intervention. These systems provide individualized reading strategies and training to students based on their current skill level. . Programs such as Read 180 .....

Click Here
to view the complete article assessment.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Article Summary #1 Spring Semester

"The Overdominance of Computers" by Lowell W. Monke


In this article the author brings to point the adverse effects on our children by the all too early incorporation of technology into classrooms. In a technology driven world computers are increasingly being emphasized in school curriculums and the introduction to computers to students is at an earlier and earlier age. Monke argues that students at young ages are not prepared for the “power” of computers and instead, their education should be focused on strengthening their real life experiences with other human beings, their self-discipline, empathy and other natural, living world skills. Especially when these lessons outside of school are often distracted by computers, video games and other technological entities that distance children from the living world. Monke outlines the “essentials in the early years” and concludes with suggesting that not until high school should digital technologies take a strong role in students education.

Reference Points:

• “The more powerful the tools – and computers are powerful – the more life experience and inner strength students must have to handle that power wisely.”

For the complete assessment and reflection Click Here.