Monday, October 22, 2012

End of Course Reflection

While I have not yet had the opportunity to implement my GAME plan with students, planning the unit was beneficial in many ways. First, I was forced to look at different methods of instruction by following the parameters of the assignment. I was able to design a problem-based lesson, an online collaboration lesson, and a lesson that utilized digital story-telling. Normally in the planning process I might have tried to stick with the "old" way of doing things or made smaller changes, but this task really forced me to rethink the unit and come up with more creative ways of instructing and assessing students. Second, I have a really good idea of where I want my students to be and what I want them to produce at the end of this unit. I can better prepare my students now for what is coming. 

I have a feeling I will need to modify the timing and potentially the way I introduce the lesson. After implementation I will learn whether the time I have planned will be sufficient and whether or not I need to provide further instruction in either the guidelines or the new forms of technology. 

I definitely plan to get more creative with the lessons, units and assessments I create for my students. The completion of this work gave me so many ideas as to how else I can implement these strategies. For example, I plan to make digital-storytelling a regular part of the class since it works so well to visually communicate procedures and findings in scientific investigations. I can also work to center our experiments around larger problems that allow students to work toward a goal. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monitoring my GAME Plan Progress

If you are just tuning in, my GAME plan centers around two goals: creating labs based on online simulations and sharing my work with my peers online. So far I have had success finding the information and resources I need, and I owe a thank you to my classmates who have posted helpful links for me to explore. I also came across this article that discusses the difference between virtual labs and simulations. This gave me the idea to search for both, and I have since been able to locate more resources using this method. I have also decided that I can share the labs I create via this blog. 

Currently I do not see a need to alter any part of my action plan. So far I have learned that there are many resources out there, but the tricky part is finding them. Asking around and varying the terminology in my search terms has been helpful. I also have only been looking for resources that are free of charge, as many are not. There are still some concepts for which I have not been able to locate simulations or virtual labs, and there are other concepts that have many options. This has led to some questions: How are these simulations and virtual labs created? Who is doing the research and determining the best method for allowing students to explore concepts virtually? Are there opportunities out there to participate in the research and creation of resources like these? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

GAME Plan Update

As described in my previous post, my GAME plan involves creating labs using online simulations and sharing them online with peers. In order to carry out my plan I will need a collection of websites that offer free science simulations that correlate with my essential learnings and a platform in which to share the resources I find and create. 

So far I have managed to wrangle up a few promising websites. PhET is one of my favorites that I have been using for a couple years and has some great simulations specific to astronomy. Thanks to Lauri's comment on my last post I have now been able to begin browsing a couple different online lab databases: and I have also begun searching for simulations relating to the units I am currently working on, and found this collection of resources relating to Properties of Matter:

My next step will be to choose a simulation for my next unit to begin designing a lab around. I also need to identify a good place to share the labs I create, specifically for those that do not use PhET simulations (PhET allows you to upload lesson plans to their website). In the meantime, I would be interested to know if you have any other simulation resources you like or if you recommend a website for sharing lesson plans for online labs. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Developing My GAME Plan

While exploring the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) National education standards for teachers (NETS-T) this week I reflected on where my strengths and weaknesses lie currently. Based on these thoughts, I have decided on two goals I will be working on to strengthen my confidence and proficiency.

The first goal is based on NETS-T standard 2a, which is: “Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity” (ISTE, 2008). My goal is to design more labs that utilize online simulations. I will be limited to the simulations available that are relevant to the content I am expected to teach, so that will determine how many labs I am able to create using these at this time. I am hoping to be able to create at least one digital lab per unit of study. In order to reach this goal, I will begin by searching for simulations that address the concepts I teach. Next, I will create procedures and questions that guide students through the simulation and help them to reach an understanding of the concept. I will monitor my progress by setting the timeline of one digital lab per unit in order to keep myself on track. I will evaluate my learning by monitoring student learning and creativity to see if my work has had a positive impact.

My second goal relates to the first and is centered around NETS-T standard 1d, which is: “Model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students, colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments” (ISTE, 2008). I will share the digital labs I create online with peers. I often use internet resources as a jumping off point when creating learning experiences, so it is time I started providing resources that other teachers may be able to use. I will take action by posting each lab I create on the website where I found the simulation used. I will monitor my progress by ensuring that I have uploaded one lab or lesson plan for each unit. I will then extend my learning by finding other ways to share my lessons with colleagues.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). National education standards for teachers (NETS-T). Retrieved from

Sunday, April 15, 2012

End of Course Reflection

In Week 1 of this course I developed my own personal learning theory. Looking back on this assignment, I see that my theory is heavily based on constructionism. While I wish to keep my previous ideas, I would add more after completing this course.

Previously I identified that students learn by connecting new ideas to old ones, and that it is therefore important to draw out prior knowledge in order to have something to build upon. In Theoretical foundations, Lever-Duffy & McDonald (2008) state that “knowledge is a constructed element resulting from the learning process.” While my previous idea describes a process, there is more involved here that can be supported by other learning theories. I now believe that learning is more complicated and is a combination of many different methods and ideas.  Each theory has its own applications, some are more successful than others, but all are important to be aware of. The most important piece is knowing why you are using a strategy or tool, and that is where knowledge of each theory is essential.

I have been adjusting my approach to planning lessons throughout the course as I have learned more about each theory and been introduced to new technology tools. While there are many, many amazing tools available, it is important to have a basis for selecting one to use in the classroom. My new strategy is to assess each tool by ensuring it can be used for learning rather than instruction. This means that the tool is student-focused rather than teacher-focused, as Dr. Orey discussed in his video (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). One learning technology tool I plan to use with my students is concept maps (I plan to use for note-taking because it will allow my students to better organize the information and include images, links and video. Another is, which I can use to quickly assess student thinking. This is great for quick multiple choice questions or for longer-response questions and allows students to see how their answers compare to those of the rest of the class. I am grateful for the long list of technology resources I have been introduced to during this course.

I have set two long-term goals for myself in changing my instructional practice in regards to technology integration. One is to have students move from keeping a paper science journal to an online portfolio. This would be a means for students to keep track of their learning and share that learning with others. This will be a big change, so I plan to start on a smaller-scale with one unit and then build from there. We are waiting to find out what sort of learning platform we will be using next year, so once I find out I will be able to experiment with the options available and figure out if I need to supplement with another resource. If anyone does something similar on a small or large scale or has ideas for resources, please comment and share!

The second goal I have is to have one technology-based lab or WebQuest for each major concept. I have already begun working on this but it will take time to ensure there is one for every topic. So far I have two labs that utilize online simulations and two WebQuests. This is a great way to extend the learning that takes places in the classroom and have students transfer their knowledge to a new situation. It is also an easy way to differentiate because I can do more extension for students who are ready to move on while I work with students who are still struggling.  


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program thirteen: Technology: Instructional tool vs. learning tool [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2008). Theoretical foundations (Laureate Education, Inc.,    
       custom ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cooperative Learning, Social Learning Theory and Resources

In Using classroom technology that works (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007), I read about the strategy of cooperative learning (chapter 7). According to the text, in order “to be prepared for the fast-paced, virtual workplace that they will inherit, today’s students need to be able to learn and produce cooperatively” (p. 139). This is consistent with social learning theories, which involve collaborative and cooperative learning (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). There were a number of resources that I found helpful.

One resource was, which is the original WebQuest site. I performed a search for energy and found several options that would work in my classroom. I have used WebQuests often but I generally create them myself so they are targeted to what I want my students to see. I include links to videos and simulations and pose questions for students to investigate. However, I do not usually have a final product other than the answers to the questions. I think turning this process into a collaborative effort with an end product would yield more success. Students would be able to talk about what they’re seeing and work together to create something of their own.

Another resource I found helpful was The University of Wisconsin, Stout’s collection of ready-to-use rubrics. There are rubrics for everything relating to cooperative learning from Power Points to Video Projects. I want to use rubrics more but I always have trouble making them. I am excited to find the work has been done for me!

Which resources are you most excited about?


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program eight: Social learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Voicethread Attempt

Have you tried Voicethread? It allows you to collaborate using artifacts such as photos, documents and video. You can record your own thoughts through video, audio or text and then others can do the same. 

For this week's assignment we created a Voicethread that could either pose a problem we want feedback on or a problem we would present to students. I created a short video to introduce a lab. You can view it here:


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Constructionism, hypotheses, and technology

Generating and testing hypotheses is a strategy that is used beyond the science classroom. We frequently observe phenomena and form explanations (really predictions) about why we think this is occurring. In science the natural next step is to test these predictions. This process is consistent with constructionism, “a theory of learning that states people learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011) because we end with a conclusion about our findings we can easily share. We are striving for equilibration by creating balance between our current understanding and external reality. We are altering our understanding based on what we experience while testing predictions.

I explored a website called Astro-Venture that allowed students to create and build their own planet. In order to accomplish this they had to learn about concepts and apply them to the situation. In the end they have a final product, and they are engaged in the process along the way. This and other project-based, problem-based, and inquiry-based learning activities allow you to make predictions and test them while creating the final product. Activities can be designed to guide students toward the desired result or we as teachers can facilitate this process. For example, in the Astro-Venture activity, students may predict that a larger star will produce more energy for their planet. They will then discover that a red giant star is near the end of its life cycle and therefore may not be the best choice for their planet. In this way, students are able to test their ideas and still reach the desired outcome.

By having students create or build something, there is a specific goal. Students become so focused on the goal that the learning required happens almost by accident. Suddenly the content becomes less daunting and students are more engaged. The final product serves as evidence that students have achieved not only the project goal but also the learning goals along the way.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Field Trip to the Moon and Concept Mapping

One of my assignments this week was to use a virtual field trip with my students and create a concept map based on the experience. I am so excited about what I found that I thought I would share it here:

For my virtual field trip I used Google Earth to travel to the Moon. It was so easy and did not cost a thing. My students can easily access it from home if they want to explore further. All you need to do is download Google Earth and select Moon from the toolbar. From here you can explore on your own, view actual images, locate landmarks, or take a guided tour. There is a tour of the Apollo 11 landing, part of which is narrated by Buzz Aldrin (the second man to walk on the Moon). This is the option we chose, and the essential question I used was "What would it be like to walk on the Moon?" Here is the concept map we created using this field trip. We were even able to take screenshots like the one below and easily upload them into the map!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

cognitive theory, technology, and cool astronomy field trips

In this week's coursework we looked at how specific strategies align with cognitive learning theory. The strategies are from Using technology with classroom instruction that works (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007) and are discussed below in two categories: 

Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers
This section of the book (chapter 4) describes different methods for helping students learn to retrieve, use and organize information. The focus here is on providing tools to help students organize their thoughts prior to learning about a topic. At the center of this process is the essential question, which "is one that requires the student to make a decision or create a plan. It requires more than simple research and regurgitation of answers." (page 75). The book lists Joyce Valenza's article For the Best Answers, Ask Tough Questions as a resource for essential questions, and I found it both interesting and helpful. 

The strategies in this chapter utilize 1. word processing applications and spreadsheet software to create advance organizers and 2. organizing and brainstorming software and multimedia to provide cues for students. Both of these strategies align with the cognitive theories of elaboration and the network model of memory. Elaboration involves building as many connections as possible to information in order to be able to retrieve it when needed (Laureate Education Inc., 2011), which these strategies encourage students to do. I think the organizing and brainstorming software in particular encourages students to make their own connections to topics. In addition, both of these strategies present information in an organized way where the ideas are connected. This network of ideas transfers well into our network memory. 

Summarizing and Note Taking
Chapter 6 of the book describes how we can use technology to help students summarize information and organize it in a concise way. The authors suggest using word processing applications, organizing and brainstorming software, and multimedia to aid in the process of summarizing and taking notes. Some of these examples are particular representative of cognitive theory. For example, one suggested method for note taking is something called "Combination Notes". This style of note taking has students take notes in one column and draw pictures or import images into the other column. The dual coding hypothesis states that information is stored as both images and text (Laureate Education Inc., 2011), so having students make these associations while processing information will likely help them to remember it better. The organizing and brainstorming software ideas follow a similar organization style to the strategies for cues I discussed earlier, and therefore align with the network model of memory and elaboration theories for the same reasons. 

In addition to researching strategies and making connections to cognitive theory, this week we have also been working on applying these ideas through investigating virtual field trips and creating our own concept maps using brainstorming software. The virtual field trips allow students to gain a multisensory experience as they can see and hear experiences they may not otherwise have access to. This will allow them to better remember the information according to the dual coding hypothesis. The concept maps support elaboration and the network model memory theory. 

I have been busy exploring this collection of astronomy virtual fieldtrips gathered by Edutopia. One of the programs is Starry Night, which we currently use often in my district. Some of the programs were new to me (and free!) like Celestia. This one looks like it would answer so many of the questions my students are always asking about the universe, like "what will happen when our Sun dies?" Here's a screen shot from the program that shows the orbits of asteroids and major planets: 


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

behaviorism, technology, and an idea

This week’s coursework centers on behaviorism and technology. I began by watching a video entitled Behaviorist learning theory (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). In this video, Dr. Michael Orey discusses how prevalent the theory of behaviorism is in classroom technology in the form of tutorials and games that allow for practice and rewards for correct answers. I had never considered this before and it has made me think about how I currently use these tools in my own classroom.

The second resource I examined was Using technology for classroom instruction that works (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). In focusing on the chapters surrounding “reinforcing effort” and “homework and practice”, I saw many parallels to behaviorist theory. Behaviorism is all about reinforcing positive behavior, and effort is certainly considered positive. Therefore reinforcing effort is unquestionably based in this theory. This text suggests using spreadsheet software to monitor correlations between effort and achievement, and data collection tools to compile and display data supporting this same correlation. Both of these strategies would allow students to reflect on their effort level and see the connection between good behaviors (effort) and rewards (better grades).

Behaviorism also calls for practice, which brings us to the “homework and practice chapter”. This book recommends that homework should focus on “specific elements of a complex skill or process” (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 188) and suggests using word processing applications, spreadsheet software, and multimedia. I chose to focus my attention on multimedia since that is the area I find most useful in my own classroom. According to this text, “multimedia homework is an opportunity to deepen understanding and gain proficiency” (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 192). In science it is difficult to find meaningful homework that allows students to practice the skills we have done in a lab. Multimedia provides us with many more options to make this possible.

Currently my students are investigating why we see lunar phases. I found this tutorial ( which has some really nice animations. Something like this would be great for students to complete individually so they can take their time. This would be a good homework assignment after completing the modeling labs in class because it reviews the concept and presents it in a new and different way. While this would not necessarily require practicing a skill, it does require students to practice going through the process of thinking about what is happening to cause these phases.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program four: Behaviorist learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

End of Course Reflection

Over the past several weeks, I have gained so many new ideas for how to incorporate new technologies into my classroom. I have always been on board with learning new technologies, but I often struggle with coming up with creative ways to utilize them in my classroom. Specifically, I have learned about ways I can use blogs, wikis and podcasts with my students. Though I was not concerned about a lack of skill, I do feel more confident now having used them all myself for academic purposed. 

The greatest insight I have gained into the teaching and learning process is knowing the difference between doing things differently and doing different things. Using technology to complete the same task or activity does not provide the same benefits as taking advantage of a new and different opportunity made accessible through technology. This requires a great deal of creativity for us as educators, but fortunately there are a number of resources out there to give us ideas. 

I have also learned that the way I like to use technology may be different from that of my students. Some of my students prefer to use computers, some do not. Every student has a different learning style. In this way, my perspective has become more student-focused in recognizing that students have different interests and skill levels in technology just as in everything else. 

One way I plan to expand my knowledge in this area is to continue following the resources I have discovered through my coursework. There are a number of blogs I am now following that share information about new resources and how to implement them into the classroom. Following these will keep me abreast of what is new out there and help me come up with ways to use it effectively with my students. 

I have set two long-term goals for transforming my classroom environment. The first is to have students create blogs and write blog posts. This will require a great deal of setup on my part as well as verification with my district as to what sites are allowed and what precautions we will need to take. However, I learned in this course that I enjoy writing much more when it is in blog format. I have a feeling many of my students will feel the same way. In addition, this format allows for interaction between students outside of the classroom. I will need to make sure I can monitor what students post. 

The second goal I have is to fully implement the Partnership for 21st Century Skills framework into the standards I currently teach. Many of the pieces are there, but I want to formalize it and make sure I include all areas. I will start by determining which standards best align with each area of the framework. Then I can re-work or re-create lessons in order to accomplish both goals. This will take time and will need to be taken on one piece at a time. 

After completing my goals checklist in the beginning of the term I was made aware of several areas I had not considered when it comes to technology in the classroom. After completing this course, I have been able to most some "rarely" checks to the "sometimes" column and even some "sometimes" checks to the "often" column. Mainly I plan to use this checklist as I reach goals and set new ones for myself. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Student Technology Usage Survey and Podcast

This week I had 14 of my 9th grade homeroom students participate in a survey about their usage of different technologies. I have created a podcast to narrate the results below. 
Please click play and then scroll along to hear my thoughts on the information I gathered. 
Student Technology Survey Discussion by Holly Odle on Grooveshark

You can click on any graph to view it larger. 
I have to admit I had way too much fun analyzing data and recording my podcast...
Thanks for reading/listening! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

21st Century Skills

I spent quite a bit of time this evening exploring the website belonging to the organization The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. I was reminded of my district's Student Profile, which describes many of these same skills.

I also made connections to the Benchmarks for Science Literacy produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), although their work focuses on specific sequenced learning goals rather than overarching skills. 

Overall I found the website interesting and was able to answer many of my own questions using the resources available. I do not disagree with the ideas presented, rather I found myself wanting to focus on how to better implement the teaching of these skills into my classroom. I would like to highlight a few of the resources I found particularly interesting:

  • Framework for 21st Century Learning --"When a school or district builds on this foundation, combining the entire Framework with the necessary support systems—standards, assessments, curriculum and instruction, professional development and learning environments—students are more engaged in the learning process and graduate better prepared to thrive in today’s global economy." 
    • This document provides a succinct overview of the goals and mission of this movement. I particularly liked the explanation quoted here because it describes the way these skills are meant to be used in combination with support systems already in place. 
  • Assessment of 21st Century Skills --"Most K-12 assessments in widespread use today—whether they be of 21st century skills and content or of traditional core subject areas—measure a student’s knowledge of discrete facts, not a student’s ability to apply knowledge in complex situations. High stakes assessments alone do not generate evidence of the skill sets that the business and education communities believe will ensure success in the 21st century." 
    • Whenever I plan lessons, I use the method outlined in Understanding by Designwhich requires beginning with the end in mind. Therefore after reading more about the skills themselves I wanted to find out what the skills would look like and how we could assess them. One particular example that I feel I could implement in my own classroom without help from outside resources is the example from Coventry high school in Rhode Island, where students post online portfolios "demonstrating not only their mastery of a content area, but how they mastered it". I love this idea! Has anyone seen or tried something like this before? 
  • 21st Century Skills Science Map -- "This document is neither a set of standards nor a comprehensive sequence of activities, but rather a starting point for ideas and discussions that begin with current practice and look forward." 
    • There are maps for many curricular areas, but I chose to focus on science since that is what I love and teach. I was pleased to see that this was designed in cooperation with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). This document provides a description of each skill along with outcomes and examples for various grade levels. This reminded me again of the Benchmarks I mentioned earlier. This is something that would be helpful to keep with my planning materials as an easy reference. I highly recommend checking out the map for your content area! 

Overall I feel excited about what I have gathered and learned from this website. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these and other resources you discover while exploring. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chain Notes

Have you read this book? It is full of awesome techniques to measure student learning.

One of the activities in the book is called "Chain Notes", and would work well for a discussion board and maybe even a blog. Normally this activity starts with a question written at the top of a piece of paper, such as "What is matter?". The paper is passed around and each student adds one or two sentences to the list; adding a new thought or building on previous statements.
This could easily be adapted to a discussion board or blog. As the teacher you can pose a question, and every student can add a comment that expands on the answer. Students may also correct any false information. This would be a good way to review a concept at the end of a unit.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Idea for incorporating "real world" science

One way I would like to use a blog in my classroom is to post about and discuss current events in science. Classroom time is mostly spent doing lab investigations and it can be hard to find time to tie in connections to what's happening right now in the world of science. A blog would be a perfect venue for students to locate, research, and post about topics. Students can then respond to these posts with questions, comments, or connections to the classroom. 

How this could work: A different student in each class period is in charge of posting about a current event in science each week. I teach six class periods, so this would mean there would be six new postings each week. Every student would be required to comment on one post each week, so the 170 resulting comments would be spread out across the six posts. 

What do you think? Could this work? Have you tried anything similar?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


As part of my masters program, I get to blog. I have been blogging for a few years about daily life, so I could not be happier about using this particular format for educational purposes. I am trying hard to limit my use of exclamation points, and I already used up my quota in the title of this post...

This blog will be dedicated to three things: science, technology and education. I am excited to document my journey into exploring new ways to use technology in my classroom.