Monday, October 17, 2005

Once again, a new avenue of learning has fallen into my lap, and this time its Webquests. Webquests are a remarkable way to focus and harness effective learning within the classroom. An effective Webquest is one which makes the most effective use of technology on the Web. I think the most effective Webquests for my students would be those that had a lot of attractive colors, animation on the site, and links to interesting sites. Effective web quests force students to analyze information, perceive information from many perspectives, while also allowing the student to present their own opinion on the topic. Effective Webquests also allow for creative expression by the student. A focused Webquest on a particular topic is essential so as to not confuse the student with too much information. An effective Webquest is also one that allows for collaboration with peers in order to create discussion and debate around a topic.

I would like to see Webquests used in the most effective way in my classroom. I would utilize Webquests especially when focusing on specific subjects. I saw lots of great examples on the Web of science related topics such as the sun, the moon, and the specific planets. I would also like to have students collaborate in groups when working with Webquests to allow for multiple navigations through the site, and bringing different perspectives to an assignment.

The need to ensure Internet safety in the classroom is essential, with the reality of students using the Internet in schools every day. We must teach our students critical thinking on the Internet to ensure a safe and rewarding experience on the Web.
Advertising has become a fact of life on the Web, where students are actively targeted. Surfing the Web, students will be exposed to advertising whether playing games, shopping or doing homework. It is important that students are aware of marketing strategies, and why they are being marketed to. It is also important for students to be critical of information that they find on the Web. Unlike a book, or newspaper where facts are checked, anyone can post to the Internet. Students must be aware of this reality in order to decipher through information and become a critical learner.

Excel can be a difficult program to master, especially for a teacher that has difficulty with mathematical logic. Once mastered though, Excel is a tool that can enhance learning within the classroom. I would firstly use Excel within my classroom to clarify the understanding of content in my class, through visual representation. I have always learned content better as a student through visual interpretation of material, especially numbers. I believe it would be a lot easier for many students to understand and interpret facts and figures through colourful bar graphs, pie charts, and intensity maps. Excel would also allow my students to use the software to plot their own data, and again readily interpret it. Excel can also easily convert any chart or data set into a web page, which allows for students to collaborate on projects by discussing data at home, in different cities, and even different countries. Excel allows for multicultural learning. Like many other programs we have reviewed in this course, Excel expands learning and knowledge past the walls of a classroom or a school. I have always had a difficulty seeing the relationships with numbers, but I could utilize Excel in my classes through its ability to quickly produce charts and graphs.

Excel can again be a difficult program to master for both teacher and student, so online tutorials are another tool that can be used to learn to operate the Excel program. Online tutorials not only give my students the hands-on active learning to more readily learn the program, but also give profuse amounts of templates, games and activities for students to incorporate into their classes and learning.

A link that drew my attention was; http://www.lessonplanet.com/search/Teacher_Resources/Technology/Spreadsheets
This link had spreadsheet lessons in anything from dinosaurs to ‘what colours are your skittles?’, to dieting and what you are eating for dinner each night. I liked the site because of its numerous activities, which seemed attractive for students using Excel.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What is concept mapping?

Concept Mapping is a way of visually interpreting and understanding information. This interpretation is done through graphs, which link main concepts and there related categories. These graphs or mind maps link related information, and are easy for a visual learner to connect, in order to clarify and organize the information on paper and screen. The student is therefore able to see this information visually rather than just imagining these relationships within their minds. This concrete and visual way of organizing information allows for students to organize their thoughts more clearly for learning, writing, and presentation purposes.


Advantages of using concept mapping;

In reading over the articles provided as links, I was amazed by the number of advantages to using concept mapping. Concept mapping allows students to brainstorm their ideas, and then organize these ideas into logical categories and order. Especially for a complex concept or essay, concept mapping allows for a clearer organization of information into a concrete visual form, which becomes easier for a lot of students to then understand. Concept mapping also helps connect what students already know with new information in order to visually see students' strengths and weaknesses of understanding within a certain subject or concept. Concept maps are also flexible to allow for students' different and unique learning styles to be incorporated into the organization of their work. One of the links was quoted as saying concept mapping allows students to…"organize information in ways that are meaningful to them." Concept mapping not only helps students, but allows teachers to also increase and expand their creative efforts by having alternative ways to interpret and present information to their classes. Overall, concept mapping allows for active learning to take place both by Teachers and students within the classroom.


Disadvantages of using concept mapping;

Concept mapping clearly appeals to visual learners. Although most students are becoming visual learners within a culture of constant flashing advertisements and television shows, this still does not to imply that all students are visual learners. Concept mapping still might not appeal to students who think more clearly in their minds, are audio learners, or who are more physical learners. Students who encounter problems using the inspiration or kidspiration software might also get discouraged with the concept mapping approach.

Give an example of how you would integrate concept mapping into your classroom;

Although I was not familiar with the inspiration and kidspiration software, I’m aware of the concept of making webs or mind maps. In grade 12, my English teacher was Ms. Adair. Ms. Adair introduced me to the concept of mind mapping in order to more clearly organize my thoughts and information before I was to write an essay. This method allowed me to organize my thoughts more clearly before writing, and greatly increased my skills and grade as an English writer. Looking back, I only wish that someone had introduced me to this concept earlier in my education career. I hope that I will be able to integrate concept mapping as soon as possible with the students in my class. I would have the students incorporate this concept into, (like Ms. Adair did) their planning to write essays, to make group and individual presentations to the class, and even near the end of a unit or subject; to concept map the information that had been covered in a way that was easy for that student to comprehend. Concept mapping allows both me and my students to organize our thoughts and overcome our fear of the "blank page".

Trevor Williams