Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“Setting the Stage” Revisited

As I reread my initial “Setting the Stage” post, I sensed four distinct feelings or thoughts I had at the start of this course: nostalgia for “the good old days”, a sense of being overwhelmed by Web 2.0, a fear of learning new web tools, and a view of technology as something I have to do to keep up with the 21st century.  I am happy to report that except for my feelings of nostalgia (memories are a good thing, right?), my feelings in the other three areas have all changed thanks to this course, Eric, and all of my course colleagues.

My feeling of being overwhelmed by 2.0 has transformed into a feeling of being amazed.  That is a huge change in state of mind!  Being overwhelmed makes me “freeze,” while being amazed gets me excited.  The fact that the Web is incredibly vast has not changed in the past seven weeks, but my frame of mind about that fact has.  Now I feel like I am focusing less on how scary it is and more on how incredible its opportunities are.  I guess you could say that I have moved from a state of apprehension to a state of appreciation!

Fear is crippling.  My fear of learning new web tools prevented me from stepping out into the web tool jungle much prior to taking this course.  Now I am not only wading through that jungle, but I am doing so with much greater confidence.  Maybe someday I will even be running through it!  What really helped me overcome my fear was the supportive environment offered by this course and the knowledge that this support is not ending even though the class is.  I now understand why Eric emphasized the importance of our PLNs.

The last paragraph of my initial “Setting the Stage” post was heavy on the need for me to learn and use web tools in my teaching.  Now I actually want to do so!  That just might be my most important transformation yet.  Desire is a powerful thing.

As I finish my last “official” post for this class, I want to thank Eric and all of my colleagues for helping me grow both as a teacher and as a student.  All of you have played a part in broadening my view of teaching and learning.  When I signed up for this course, I thought I was just going to be adding some new tools to my web tools belt.  Little did I know I would also be gaining a new perspective and a new Personal Learning Network!

Monday, July 25, 2011

D2L Discussion Reflection

I enjoyed our group’s discussion on D2L. The D2L discussion format is straightforward, organized in threads and easy to navigate. Unlike commenting on individual blogs, posting on this discussion board allows us to view all posts and replies in one place. It is much easier to follow and flows more coherently. That is not to say that we should not be commenting on blogs…each format has its own benefits.

The consensus of the group was that this class not only taught us a lot, but it also made us think about how we teach. Many of us, although excited to try out the new web tools we have explored, realize that we need to take it slowly. We agree that we should not use technology for the sake of using it, but as a means of helping our students learn science. We must constantly ask ourselves and re-ask ourselves what it is that we want to accomplish in our classrooms and which web tools (if any) would best help us reach those goals.

Although much more confident than when we started, many of us still feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of web tools available and the knowledge that that number is only going to keep growing! We worry about the time commitment required to learn the new tools ourselves, implement them, and teach our students how to use them. Yet we are relieved to know that our PLN’s have expanded, thus making us feel more connected and supported by others dealing with the same educational issues we are. And isn’t connection what it’s all about?

My Final Project!

I decided to work on my Moodle class page for my final project. For the past few years, my Moodle site has simply been a spot to send my students to link to websites for projects and activities. I had never taken the time to explore all that Moodle had to offer. This course encouraged me to do just that. My first goal was to get my class page set up and organized; my second goal was to include documents and links for my first unit, ecology. I like what I have accomplished so far and am excited to continue to incorporate other web tools and Moodle aspects throughout the school year. Below is a screencast I made to show you my Moodle class page so far. An additional item I had meant to discuss (but ran out of Jing time!) was that I do not plan on having everything for a unit visible from day one; instead, I will hide items until they are needed. I do not want my students to get overwhelmed, nor do I want them to be able to access course content before it is appropriate. That is one thing I really like about Moodle.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

You may also access the screencast at: Kocian Final Web Tools Project

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Week 6 Web Tools Exploration 3: Create a Graph

I am in the process of revising my ecology unit. In the past I have shown them a predator/prey graph of the snowshoe hare and the lynx and asked them to interpret it, but this year I thought I would have them make their own graph using data I provide. And then why not make the graph online with Create a Graph? I found some data at and then made a graph to try it out. Here is my graph:

Week 6 Web Tools Exploration 2: Microscope Camera

I just returned from a 3-day trip to Cornell University in Ithaca, NY in which I attended an ASSET (Advancing Secondary Science Education with Tetrahymena) summer science teacher workshop.  I would recommend this experience to all of you who are biology teachers!  We got to work in one of the veterinary medicine labs on campus and preview ASSET laboratory modules using the very lab-friendly protist, Tetrahymena.  My computer was connected to a microscope camera and then I used my iPhone to videotape my computer screen.  This particular clip is from a phagocytosis lab we did with the protist.  We fed our Tetrahymena black India ink, took a sample every 10 minutes, placed a drop of each sample on a microscope slide, and counted the number of food vacuoles that had taken up the ink in 10 different organisms.  I plan on using this lab and others we were able to sample next year in my biology classes.  This set-up with the microscope cameras allows students to collect real data on a living system!  Wow!

Here is the website for ASSET:
They are airing a webcast at 5:45 PM (EDT) on Monday, July 25 of The ASSET 2011 Summer Teachers’ Workshop Panel Discussion if you're interested.

(For some reason I could not get the video to download onto my blog, so I made a screencast of it through screenr and downloaded that!)

Week 6 Web Tools Exploration 1: screenr

I have been using Jing to create screencasts, but I decided I would try screenr today after it was recommended by my department instructional supervisor. It is very easy to use. Here's the quick screencast I made today to show my students how to build a food web on a webpage from

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Week 5 Web Tools Exploration 3: PLN and Family!

I spent three days this week visiting family in Kentucky, working on my grad classes whenever I had a few minutes.  Little did I know that a GREAT addition to my PLN was right in my family!  I had forgotten that my niece's husband,  in addition to teaching math full time, is the technology coordinator for his high school while working on a master's degree in educational technology.  He gave me lots of websites to look at and some tips from his own experience.  I got a bit overwhelmed by everything he showed me, but I was so excited to know that I had a relative that could help!  I just wish I had realized that about 5 weeks ago!

Here are a few web tools he introduced me to that look interesting...

Gapminder - view fact-based world data

Quizlet - find/make flashcards to help students study for quizzes and tests

Yola - make your own website