Sunday, 16 December 2012

Creating Wikis for the Classroom

Portfolio piece # 7 required my colleagues and me to create a simple wiki that can be used for classroom instruction.  A wiki is a new and innovative classroom tool that can be used for classroom instruction and reinforcement.  It is a website that allows anyone to add, delete or revise content by using a web browser.  You are invited to visit my group’s wiki page that we created to discuss our views on the Department of Teacher Education.  Below is the URL to my group’s wiki.  I hope you will find some meaningful information there!!!

Wikis can be used to improve classroom instruction in many ways.  It can allow easy access to materials used in class such as videos, power point presentations, notes, podcasts and other technological tools at any given time.  Students are given the opportunity to look back and reflect on the materials discussed in class to help when revising for a test or exam.  Another way it can improve classroom instruction is that it can be used to post weekly newsletters for both students and parents.  This allows parents to be aware of what is going on in their children's lives and will be able to help and assist their students when necessary.  Wikis can also be used to showcase students' work and helps to build students' writing skills outside the classroom setting.  Such classroom instructions allows students to collaborate openly, add files, suggest links and create comprehensive documents.  Finally, wikis can improve classroom instruction by sharing resources and links on the same page with just a click that will be very useful and accessible to students. 

The challenges that my group members and I encountered when creating this wiki is that we had difficulty commenting on each others page.  This is because it was the first time we were introduced to such a teaching tool hence, we were amateurs to the process.  However, after fiddling and experimenting for quite some time, we were able to overcome this challenge.  Another challenge that we faced is that we had difficulty adding pictures and pages to the wiki.  However, we overcame this obstacle with the help of our lecturer and some experimentation of our own.  I believe that this piece could have been improved a lot.  I believe that we could have added a few more pages and provide some more information for the audience.  However, this is still a learning process for us and we are still trying to become ICT literate in this aspect of technology.

Creating Videos for the Classroom

For portfolio piece #6, my group members and I had to create a video for classroom instruction.  We decided to create a video on Tourism for a Grade Five Social Studies class.  The video was entitled "Tourism in Antigua and Barbuda" and showcased many of our cultural heritage, historical sites and natural features.  Tourism is the main industry in this twin island state, hence, we chose this topic to sensitize our students about what tourism is and the many benefits it provides to our country and workers.  This video serves as a visual representation of the tourism product in Antigua and Barbuda and will allow the students to get a feeling and taste of what their country has to offer to the world at large.  Creating this video serves as a classroom tool where students are able to view different tourism products without having to leave the classroom.  They will be enthused about what is being displayed and will want to participate in classroom activities.

This video could be used to improve classroom instruction because it will help to capture the attention of the learners thus increasing their motivation and enhancing their learning experiences.  This video will aide in the development of a common base of knowledge about tourism among these grade five students.  It will also provide greater accommodation for the different learning styles that is, visual and auditory learners.  By using videos to teach or enhance a lesson, students will learn about the topic being presented to them without getting bored easily.  Also, I believe that by using videos to assist in teaching a topic could improve any lesson because it helps to communicate non-verbally with the students.  This video on tourism will be used to assist the teacher when teaching the topic of tourism to children.  This will help to appeal to their emotions and dramatize various events and concepts that are happening due to tourism.  Not only will such a video teach important concepts but it will also provide conditions where cognitive learning takes place.

There were a few challenges encountered by my group members and myself while creating this video.  The first major problem was that we had a hard time finding an appropriate song for the students.  We could not choose any type of music to do this video because we were dealing with children, hence we had to find an age appropriate song.  After a few attempts, we were able to come up with Tizzy's song "Expose" as this was quite fitting for the video and was age appropriate for the students.  The other challenge faced was that we were unable to get the music to play at first.  When we uploaded the song to the video, it did not play because there was a problem with the software.  We had to download the software once again and re-add the music to the video.  After several tries, we became successful.  I believe that this piece could have been improved in a few areas.  First, I believe that when we were creating the audio, the music could have been lowered so that we could hear clearly what the narrator was saying.  Another way the video could be improved is that when it reached a certain part, the music stopped abruptly.  I believe that my group members and I could have worked some more to improve this error, so that the video could have flowed smoothly. 

Below is the video that was created by my group members and me about tourism in Antigua and Barbuda.  I hope you will enjoy!!!

Creating Podcasts for Classroom Instruction

The piece that was created for this portfolio entry is a Podcast.  A podcast is a digital audio or video file or recording that can be downloaded from a website to a computer or media player.  The podcast is seen as an essential teaching tool because it provides many benefits to both teachers and students.  It is our belief that education in the 21st century should focus on the development of authentic literacy skills for students.  Hence, we should provide our learners with materials that allow them to become 21st century learners.  As teachers, instead of asking students to write exclusively on a topic, we can now challenge students to publish for global audience via podcasts.  Students are required to use higher levels of thinking as well as exhibit some level of creativity and problem solving skills when using such a device.  A podcast is a cheap tool that can be used to enhance any lesson within the classroom.  Podcasts can also be interactive where teacher uses this tool to give information and then engage in a whole class discussion about the topic.  Students can also use this device to enhance their work and receive valuable information from the teacher about their work.    It is also a great way to develop team work skills in students.  The children will work together to complete a podcast.  Podcasts are also a great way to develop literacy skills for students.  It allows students to develop and practice their speaking and listening skills and they will also learn some amazing ICT skills

The podcast created by my group members and I was for a Grade Four Science class which focuses on the topic the "Human Skeleton."  This device will be used to sensitize students about the human skeleton as well as provide valuable information about the amount of bones and the different types of bones found in the body. First, my group members and I had to decide what information we wanted to put in the podcast, then we each wrote a few things about the human skeleton.  We then pooled our ideas together to compile one information for the recording.  Each of us then read a line or two to create the podcast.  We then edited it and converted the file to that of an MP3 player format.  Using this device to teach a lesson will be one that is very interactive, fun and educational.  Students will be able to develop their speaking and listening skills and learn to work together in a group setting.  

While creating this podcast, there was one major challenge that was faced by my group members and I. While editing the video, there were a few gaps in the recording.  We tried re-recording a few times with no success.  It just did not flow smoothly like if recording a song.  However, we decided to go with it since the software was new to us.  I believe that this piece could be improved by first getting familiar with the software and then rectifying the problem.  I believe that if we were familiar with the software, the recording would have run smoothly.  Also, maybe we could have added a few more information about the skeleton system in the podcast.

Two ways a podcast can be used for classroom instruction are:
  • It could be used to create class reports.  This will be done on a weekly or monthly basis.  Students will work in groups or independently to record what they learned or did in class.  This will help to build their literacy skills where they are able to enhance their speaking and listening skills.  The report could be in the form of role plays, news reports or just talking naturally about the topic.

  • It could be used when engaging in project based learning activities.  Students will create a podcast to demonstrate their research skills on a particular topic.  Here, they will also work in groups or independently.  They will learn the importance of group work as well as enhance their public speaking skills.  It is also a form of authentic assessment where teachers can assess students instead of using traditional pencil and paper tests.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

PowerPoint Presentations

Today, as I reflect on my experience with the use of Microsoft PowerPoint, I cannot help but smile as I feel a sense of great accomplishment.  For this portfolio piece, we were asked to create a PowerPoint presentation accompanied by a lesson plan for a class of our choice.  In our presentation, pictures, audio/movie, chart or labelled picture, animations and slide transitions were of utmost importance.  After creating this piece, I have gained a wealth of knowledge in which I plan to use as I re-enter the classroom.  I plan to utilise Microsoft PowerPoint in my lessons as it is a very convenient method to use to help assist in the teaching-learning process.  However, creating this piece was not an easy task.  I encountered a few challenges as I created this piece.  Firstly, when creating a hyperlink, I got stuck when I reached a certain part.  I sought assistance from the text book but I was still lost.  Hence, I had to surf the net in order to understand what I was suppose to do clearly.  After receiving valuable information from the Internet, I was able to resolve this problem.  Another problem I faced was when I had to insert a movie or audio.  I found a nice video on Youtube but I could not get it downloaded.  After fiddling with it for some time, I remembered my lecturer informing us of a downloadable software (Mp3 rocket) that could assist us in downloading videos from Youtube.  After creating this piece, I realised that I could have made some improvements to my piece.  I believe that my presentation could have had one or two more slides giving information about the eye.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Utilizing Spreadsheet Software in the Classroom

For this portfolio piece, my colleagues and I were asked to create a spreadsheet whether it be of grades for one of our classes or a learning resource (e.g. a rubric).  I decided to create a spreadsheet of grades for one of my previous Grade Four classes.  After creating the spreadsheet, I created a graph comparing how students did in Language Arts and Mathematics.  The results proves that students are not performing as they should in Language Arts and are however, excelling in Mathematics.  I enjoyed creating this piece and the knowledge received will be shared with other members (whether it be family, friends or coworkers) informing them of how beneficial the spreadsheet software is.  Also, when I re-enter the classroom setting, I will be making use of the spreadsheet software to help me in calculating students grades as opposed to me doing it manually (that is, with pen, paper and calculator).  Not only will I be using it to create grades for my students but I will also be utilizing this software to create rubrics, achievement sheets and Mathematics learning tools just to name a few).  However, although I enjoyed creating this piece, I encountered a few challenges.  Firstly, spreadsheet requires you to remember formulas in order for your work to be correct and the one I had some difficulty with was the 'If' formula.  I had to retype the formula several times before I could get it right.  Another challenge faced was that when creating the graph, I did not know exactly what information I would use to create the graph, hence, I had to re-do my graph a few times.  Finally, I believe that although my graph looks  good, it could be improved with just a few minor changes.  I believe that I could have used a different colour scheme for both my spreadsheet and graph.  I also believe that I could have laid out some information on the graph differently as well as on the spreadsheet.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Working With Visuals - Learning Tools

Tell me and I will forget
Show me and I may remember
Involve me and I will understand
                                     -Chinese Proverb-


     Before I begin my reflection, I came across this lovely Chinese proverb and decided to share it with you.  I am in full agreement with this quote because it is only by involving students that they will fully understand the concept of what is being taught.  The piece that was created by my colleague and I was a flip chart.  We decided to use a flip chart to teach the topic “Food Groups” at the Grade Two level because it is an appropriate learning tool for this age level and will help to illustrate and give students a clearer understanding of the Six Caribbean Food Groups.  It will also help to capture the attention of students and this would encourage healthy classroom interactions.  The flip chart would also be used to show students examples of different foods within each food group and they will be able to identify those they know and have seen as well as those they are unfamiliar with.
     However, creating this piece was not an easy task.  There were a few challenges faced by my colleague and I in the creation of this piece.  Firstly, although we were able to come to an agreement with the subject and topic to be taught, we were indecisive of what learning tool we were going to use to teach the topic.  First, I thought of making a chart but my colleague thought that although it was a good idea, almost everybody in the class would be making charts.  She thought that "it was good to be different at times."  This was an excellent point to consider and we continued sifting through our other options.  She then decided on making a brochure.  Although this was an excellent idea, I thought that this type of learning tool would be inappropriate to teach a grade two class.  We also thought about making a poster and a booklet for our learning tool.  After giving it much thought, we decided to make a flip chart.  
     Another problem faced was that this learning tool had to be computer generated using word processing.  Hence, we could only use images, and texts that were from the computer and specifically, created in Microsoft word.  My colleague and I thought about how we were going to get the pictures printed in colour as this assignment was being graded for the use of colours and creativity.  She was not able to access a printer with coloured ink and although mine had coloured, it was low on ink.  Although this was a challenge, it was a minor one.  This issue was resolved by me getting assistance to print the pictures and words in colour from a friend.
     After completing the creation of this learning tool, and as I reflect on it, I thought that although it was attractive, easy to follow and an excellent idea, a few things could be done to improve it.  Firstly, I believe that for some parts of the flip chart more colours could have been used.  For example, in the section where we spoke about the benefits of eating right, the text box with words could be in different colours instead of plain white.  Also, when we defined what food is, we could have added some more pictures of food.  Another way in which this learning tool could have been improved is that we could have added a page or two in which students would classify foods according to the different food groups.  This would help the teacher to see how much students remember and is an excellent reinforcing idea.
     In closing, I thought that this portfolio piece was an excellent idea and it helped to bring out the creativity in us as teachers.  It also helped me to realise that it is very important to have learning tools when teaching any subject matter because it will help students to want to participate more in class and it helps to cater to the different learning styles of students.

Pictures of the Different Parts of the Flip Chart



Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Importance of Lesson Plans

I believe that ALL good teachers should have some type of lesson plan when they walk into the classroom.  Lesson plans serves as a road map or checklist that guides us in knowing what to do next.  I think that we as teachers should always have lesson plans because it is proof of what we did in class.  It is also a valuable resource so that we can use to help us prepare tests, exams and so on.  Lesson plans ensures that teachers are prepared for class and will allow the class to run smoothly.  In closing, lesson plans are extremely useful tools that serves as a combination guide resource and historical document reflecting our teaching philosophy.