Blog Archives

Instructionl Design Project

This link goes to a copy of the Instructional Design Project submitted for the EDTECH 503 class, summer 2011.

MGetz_FinalIDP_Summer2011 (pdf portfolio)

Final project in Word (in Google Drive)

I was trying to come up with a way to help Advanced Candidates for the NBCT process see what their writing contained or was missing. I still want to somehow help Advanced Candidates, but got so involved with other things that I have unfortunately let this idea slip onto that list of things I really want to do.

Enjoy!

School Technology Evaluation Assignment

Teach Me High School Technology Evaluation Summary

Demographics:
Teach Me High School is located in an urban environment. The population is roughly 25% African American, 25% Caucasian, 25% Asian, and 25% Latino. The predominant language spoken on campus is English, however more Hispanic families are immigrating into the school. Teach Me is a charter school and by district policy, its demographic statistics mirror that of the city. By state or charter school policies, students are chosen randomly through a lottery, however to be in the lottery parents need to know the school exists and they need to formally apply. The school has roughly 425 students, about 100 students per class. About 98% of graduating seniors indicate they are going to continue at a community or four year college after graduation.

Administrative:
Administratively the school falls in the integrated realm because each department gets to have a say in the technology available to that department. Ultimately, though, all decisions are approved by the principal. Even though there is an Instructional Technologist on staff full time, he still has his purchases approved by the principal before they can be executed. The school moved to the Google platform, much like what Boise State does. They use Google docs to collaborate and communicate, however what happens at in-person meetings is not documented well for those who are unable to attend. The online access to all information is also somewhat convoluted and it can be difficult to find all of the documents or to remember all of the documents and databases that need to be monitored.

Curricular:
Attendance is taken online every block. Grades are managed by PowerSchool so students and parents have access to student grades 24/7. Teachers are given deadlines by which they need to update grades so parents and students have a somewhat continuous idea of how well the students are progressing. The school has chosen to not use a Scantron type of system which also means they have chosen to not use a computer database to automatically track multiple choice assessments. Grading is still done by hand and some teachers utilize students to grade multiple choice tests. Since grades are managed by PowerSchool, teachers are forced to adapt to a percentage-based grading system.
When teachers have long-term assignments, they will take students to the computer lab daily so students can do research. Seniors have to do a project that requires online research and also requires they make a website, however I am not aware of any formal training the teachers or the students go through to learn how to make the websites. Many teachers incorporate having students figure out things for themselves as a deliberate way of having the students be engaged with the technology. Not all teachers choose to use the computer lab. Many teachers will show PowerPoint presentations via a LCD projector. In 2010, the last year I worked at the school, no classroom had an interactive whiteboard or a clicker system to do any formative assessments.
More teachers are having students make websites, however their construction still follows a predominantly linear organization. The dynamic properties of the web do not seem to be integrated into these electronic assignments yet. Given that much of what is done for classroom use or assignments is determined by more than one person, the school is beyond the emergent stage. Since the cycle of feedback is usually limited to a few adults, the school still behaves as islands of expertise.

Support:
For support the school falls mainly in the integrated stage, however some features fall in the intelligent zone whereas others fall in the emergent phase. Since the school has one designated full time adult who knows technology on staff, much of the support the school needs is there. There are times when he is budgeted a support person who will assist with machine and software needs. Whenever something changes globally with the school’s systems, the staff goes through training during a professional development time. It is normal to have updates at every faculty meeting to help new teachers understand the policies or to let the entire staff know when changes are being done and the consequences of those changes. Some teachers are able to get training because they become affiliated with a grant that is based on using technology. Other teachers pursue learning about technology on “their own time.”

Connectivity:
The school falls between integrated and intelligent for the connectivity. The entire school has wireless access to the Internet and email. Staff that need to bypass the filter are given a password so if they want to use a YouTube video in class they can. Specific sites are restricted due to state law or school policies. Being a charter school, there is very little communication with the district. The school has zero dependence on the district for its technology hardware or software so there is very little need to be actively involved with a district WAN.

Innovation:
Innovation happens between islands that are somewhat integrated. No staff member deliberately shuns technology, however not everybody chooses to embrace new technology. For example, I wanted to do asynchronous discussions with my students so our IT person made our Moodle shell accessible to my class. He had not been trained on how to use Moodle yet but he did not let that stop him from letting staff members who wanted to figure it out to try it. Sure the Moodle set-up was messy, but we were able to do an asynchronous discussion. If a teacher wants to use technology that is available, they are more than welcome to use it. The bulk of the staff, however, is still in the frame of mind where using the overhead projector counts as technology and using the LCD projector makes it easier to show PowerPoint presentations.

Overall rating:
The school falls mainly in the integrated realm with a few spikes into intelligent. Compared to other schools I have either worked at or been involved with, they are much further along with embracing technology.

SchoolEvaluation_GetzM.docx

MGetzmatmodlevalsht

Technology Use Planning Overview

Before I get too wrapped up in following the instructions for this assignment, I need to express my joy with having someone who may be able to change how things are done in America state that our system of education is archaic and that we need to change the length of the school day and recognize that learning and schooling is a 24/7 event. Although Transforming American Education, Learning Powered by Technology, was not attributed to a single author, it was written in parts in first person so I am going to call Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, the author. In the Executive Summary, he states that we need to rethink “seat-time”(page xiv), a notion that I have fought with for years at the schools where I have taught. I wanted to teach classes from 4:00 – 6:00 pm, but my administrators always had a reason why I could not run my classes at that time. Similarly, I wanted students to do work online via a forum I set up in Moodle or by working on creating a Google site on “their” time. My students for some inane reason fought me because they claimed that their responsibility for doing their work ended when the class period ended. WT-Heck? I am overjoyed that we may finally break away from the agrarian structure of schools where the school year and school day were based on letting children out of school so they could work in the fields. Although, I know from having been a part of our dysfunctional school systems that this type of change may never happen. My philosophy of teaching being a 365 day a year job, of which I get to spend some of the time with students, may never actually be formalized by mainstream people, especially those who teach because they think they have weekends and summers off. It is a joy, though, to read that I am not alone in the pursuit of schools being run as if they are in session 365 days a year and as if learning is something that should be happening 24/7. To my delight, I am happy to read that there is a strong desire to make some of the 24/7 time being spent in online classrooms because that means I may be able to be a teacher who has “her own students” again. Now that I have put my personal opinions in, I should follow the assignment’s instructions so I can actually earn points for doing the readings and thinking about their realistic impacts on education.

Following the assignment’s guidelines, I will talk about:
1. Do I agree that 5 year plans are too long?
2. How do I define technology use planning?
3. How is the National Educational Technology Plan 2010 (NETP) an effective resource when making a technology use plan?
4. John See wrote technology planning articles at the website, National Center for Technology Planning. We are to evaluate his comment, “effective technology plans focus on applications, not technology?”
5. I also need to address, “What experiences have you had with technology use planning and what have you seen for outcomes (both good and bad?)”
6. And finally, I am to “use this assignment to reflect upon technology use planning and how you might address it in your school or business.”

1. Do I agree that 5 year plans are too long?
Simply put, yes and no. I agree with John See in his article, Developing Effective Technology Plans, “Technology is changing so fast that it is almost impossible to plan what type of technology will be available for use five years from now.” If we plan to have iPads in classrooms within the next 5 years, which iPads are we going to put in there? We can get a great deal on the iPad1 and soon we’ll be able to get the iPad2 for a good price because I think the iPad3 is supposed to be coming out in the next several months. Ok, so perhaps we say we want tablets in every classroom but don’t specify the brand. With the speed of technology, there is no practical way to foresee what will be relevant or still in use in five years. For example, I bought a new laptop in 2010 because my 2004 laptop could no longer handle Elluminate sessions and the incredibly complicated LMS of the company for whom I was working at the time. I spent enough on the laptop that I am sincerely hoping I can still use it in 2015. Even so, I’ve already upgraded the RAM to 8 Gb, the maximum it can hold. If we bought laptops today for the classroom, how much RAM would we put in them and would it be enough even two years from now? If we put that much memory in them, we would have to be extra careful to make sure the computers are locked down at the end of the day because they may be so enticing that someone would want to steal them. What about if we checked laptops out to students and held them responsible? Have you ever seen what happens to textbooks we check out to students or how many books never get returned at the end of the school year? What makes us think the consequences for laptops will be better? So to plan for 5 years of machines or objects that will be put in students’ hands or in classrooms, we are looking at a huge expense that will have to be repeated more often than every 5 years. I do not mean to steal Mr. See’s ideas, but to save you time from having to flip back and forth to his article, I am putting a huge excerpt of what he wrote here: “If you do develop a long-term plan, tie it to your district’s budget cycle. Pull the plan out every year during the budget process and review it to make sure you have not tied yourself into buying outdated equipment. Do not let a technology plan lock you into old technology and applications just because it says so in the plan. Newer, more powerful, lower cost technology may be available to replace what you have specified in your plan.” My skepticism even goes beyond the useful suggestions he poses because the idea of having an “annual” plan that gets seriously examined and updated every year, while a requirement for accreditation, is rarely taken seriously. Where I live, schools are usually visited by the accreditation team every 3 or every 6 years. Schools rarely do a thorough self-examination at any time other than the year preceding the accreditation visit. The annual report that is supposed to be updated annually or the five year plan that is supposed to be updated annually rarely is. Schools are working on lots of last-minute crisis behavior. The idea of having a plan that actually involved all stakeholders and is updated annually is a lofty and worthwhile goal, but is becoming unrealistic as schools are asked to do too much with too little time and funding.

2. How do I define technology use planning?
First, how the Guidebook for Developing an Effective Instructional Technology Plan, version 2.0, defines technology planning: “Technology planning is an activity that provides direction and helps users understand clearly where they are now and imagine where they want to be.” (page 9)
I thoroughly agree with the optimism expressed in the Guidebook, but can’t seem to stifle my critical voices that remind me of what I experienced in the school where I tried to be a part of the group that did the planning for our Digital High School grant and at the school where I was merely a teacher who wanted to do as much technology based activities with my students as I possibly could. In the former school, our planning committee did NOT involve all stakeholders through the entire process even though they masqueraded as if they were. To give you an idea of what they got away with… they eliminated our Mac lab which cost our technology person her job and denied teachers of a computer lab with machines that actually worked, switched us over to a PC platform that was not designed to handle the bandwidth needed for the equipment they chose, and within two or three years all of these “leaders” were off to be either with other schools or businesses where they could use this item on their resume to build a false impression of what they really contributed to our school. Our school was left with machines that did not work properly and continuously needed upgrading and various other challenges that should have never happened because they should have been anticipated. I want to point out that my husband bought them enough optical mice to stock one of the computer labs and gave them one of his “old” servers which was still good enough to become the school’s main server. Even with the digital high school money, the school was still in a position where they were surviving on the generosity of people affiliated with the school instead of on a well thought out plan. The later school was very good about having meetings, but I could never figure out when they were being held. I only heard about them after the fact.

I’ve given you the Guidebook’s definition of technology use planning and what my opinion is of what adequate technology planning is not, so I should step up and tell you what I think it is. I want to embrace the Guidebook’s optimism that there can be places where “planning is a fluid, ongoing process.” (page 10) I would like to imagine a living document that has the memory of a wiki, the collaborative possibilities of a Google doc, and the power of what what is turned in to the visiting committee before an accreditation. The document has a survey that is always live so they can accept stakeholder input 24/7. In addition, the survey results are updated and are made public so anybody can engage in a discussion of what others are saying. It is like doing a Google form whose results land in a blog that can thereby be continuously evaluated and considered. I want to see the leadership team for the technology plan to be people who have long-term investments in the school, the district, or whatever facility will be using the plan. I agree with the idea of focusing on applications, however I will share that opinion later in that section.

It is funny how the description of the process and document produced for the technology use plan mirrors what is expected of schools going through an accreditation process. The Guidebook suggests having a Vision Statement, a Mission Statement, a description of the demographics of the institution, a list of who was a part of creating the document, data collected, interpretations of the data, what the school plans to do as a result of the data they collected, and what will their “action plan” include. In accreditation terms, the action plan is the process the school plans to follow so they can address the needs that were exposed during the self-study process. I find this process to be universal and logical. I see no reason to change what the Guidebook suggests for the process of making a technology plan.

3. How is the National Educational Technology Plan 2010 (NETP) an effective resource when making a technology use plan?

The NETP has many inspiring phrases that make people like me happy. For example, on page one, they say, “schools must be more than information factories; they must be incubators of exploration and invention.” Oh how I tried to manifest this in my classroom! The NETP goes on to say, “Educators must be more than information experts; they must be collaborators in learning, seeking new knowledge and constantly acquiring new skills alongside their students.” You have no idea how difficult it is for me to curb myself from going on another tirade about my past and what I’ve experienced, and how it contrasts this optimism. Since this entry is already probably much longer than it should be, I will force myself to focus on answering the questions.

I would like to see their embrace of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) not only be implemented, but be something that happens because it has to. I want UDL to be automatic for everybody, not just those who have to prove they have a disability of some kind. Of course I’m speaking from personal experience, but it is more than that. The idea of us (the people without disabilities) and them (the people with disabilities) is a farce. All of us can and will benefit by making access to information easier. Even people without documented disabilities benefit from closed captioning. Since I have disabilities, documented and probably some that are not, I can’t use myself as the best example of how “normal” people benefit from the things that exist so that people like me can physically get from one place to another. In a more appropriate setting I will be happy to point out the numerous ways compliance to ADA has failed. To undo the “digital exclusion” (page 20), the technology use plan needs to seamlessly integrate how it is going to allow for all populations to not only have physical access to objects, but the digital ones as well. I dream about the time when universal design for textbooks is a reality. The hours I have wasted trying to maneuver the paper text used in 503 is ridiculous. Although I contacted the disability department at BSU, nothing came of my request for help. First, I should not have to contact a disability department so I can get “special treatment” to get a textbook that I can manipulate. Second, nobody should have to go outside the normal route to access a textbook they can use. Not only should objects be available, but we should not have to prove we are eligible for these special objects. These “special” objects should automatically be a part of the mainstream. It would be amazing if what the NETP describes on pages 19 – 22 not only became possible, but it was so much a part of society that the “accessible devices” would not be seen as an add-on to what is normally done. Inclusion should be automatic not an after-thought.

Another passage that would be ideal is for the assessment philosophies and suggested practices to become reality. I would love to see students engaged beyond the multiple choice exam, even the online multiple choice exams. Shifting to using the Internet and online courses has to go beyond making the Internet a cesspool of paper products that have become digitized. In the second section, Assessment: Measure What Matters, they not only detail how assessment can go beyond regurgitation factoids but how it can include authentic interactions and experiences. I would love to see their ideas reach not only the populations they feature as exemplars of how the assessment can happen, but the designated under-served populations, as well.

The third section is about training teachers. That, too, is something I have experience with and have seen how it can be done poorly. Again, this is already long enough- I will have to tell that story elsewhere. I see their philosophies and ideas about how teachers need to be trained in how to utilize technology in the classroom as once again, a dream that I hope becomes reality. Some of what they give as examples of what is already happening such as, online collaboration, PBS TeacherLine classes, or Twitter networks, are things I am already doing or have been a part of. That part of the dream is already a reality, but how do we pull in the teachers who are still uncomfortable using a computer or those who think the school day ends thirty minutes after the students leave? While I don’t mean to be pessimistic with all of my approaches to a technology plan, it will still be several years before the teachers who are not embracing the Internet or use of technology retire and make way for those of us who want to properly challenge our students by expecting them to use what is available. I need to pause on what is mentioned on page 47, the Growing Demand for Skilled Online Instruction. The NETP was not my inspiration for choosing to earn a degree in Educational Technology, but I can attest to the importance of what they say. “Crucial to filling this need while ensuring effective teaching are appropriate standards for online courses and teaching, and a new way of approaching online teacher certification that functions across state lines.” What is currently in place is archaic and needs to be revised. I am a Nationally Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) which essentially means I’ve proven that I care about students, what they learn, and how they learn. Even so, for me to teach online in a state outside of my own, I need to get a credential for that state. While that should not be a big deal, since the country went berserk over the Highly Qualified Teacher, just being a NBCT is not enough for some states. I’ve taken one of the Praxis tests to prove I actually know chemistry (and missed the high ranking by one stinking point.) Even so, for some states I have to jump through other hoops to prove that I know enough chemistry factoids to teach online. What exactly does online teaching look like? Can anybody walk into an online classroom to see what is being taught and how it is being taught? I have not figured out how to do that. I did manage to get hired by an online teaching company for a very short period of time. What I experienced while in that position is what was one of the primary motivating factors for me to earn a degree in Educational Technology. What I experienced were some of the worst ways to teach students chemistry. I fear that if the government pushes this move to online learning, that the companies who have already established a strong foothold in the online school market will be the ones who determine what online schooling will be like. Since so much of it that can be seen is merely theory and what is not seen is hidden from the non-paying public view, I fear that if what is described in section 3 is not carefully monitored, we will only be reinforcing the horrible behaviors we see manifesting themselves in the face to face classrooms of under-served populations.

Sections 4 and 5 are probably more applicable to a technology use plan than other parts of the document. Section 4 discusses ways to reach their technology goals and section 5 explains the resign and transform process. A few parts that were especially interesting to me include:

      – Figure 4, page 59, the Framework for software services in a technology-empowered learning environment
      – The idea of embracing continuous improvement, page 65
    – And the process of reorganizing teaching and learning, page 68

4. John See wrote technology planning articles at the website, National Center for Technology Planning (NCTP). We are to evaluate his comment, “effective technology plans focus on applications, not technology?”

I agree. Mr. See says that we need to focus on the output more than the input. For those of us who do not think in those terms, what it means is we need to focus on the products our students can make and emphasize less on the machines they will be using to make those products. In some cases we should focus on the “input” if it is software that students will want to learn so they can grow along with it as it becomes upgraded. Even then, what we are focusing on is what can the student produce? Can they make a website? Does it matter which software they use to make the website? Given that there are now places online where for a small fee (or less) your website practically creates itself, unless they are planning to be the designers of that type of software, they probably don’t need to learn Dreamweaver or other expensive commercial software. I completely agree that we need to empower students to be problem solvers who can maneuver through technology’s barriers to produce a product that can be understood by anybody who encounters it.

The article says, “Trying to standardize your district’s purchases on one brand or model of computer and make it perform all present and future applications of technology is impossible.” Again, agreement. Technology changes too quickly for you to get hung up on loyalty to a brand. Heck, we can’t even get IBM quality Thinkpads anymore. (Trust me, my 2010 machine came from Lenovo.)

5. I also need to address, “What experiences have you had with technology use planning and what have you seen for outcomes (both good and bad?)”

I have included many examples of bad experiences throughout this dissertation. Some of my experiences I have not included are:

– Working at a school that chose to download and make accessible a Moodle environment (2009-2010)
– Working at a university that used Blackboard and provided free professional development to instructors so we could learn how to set up our own class (2005). Setting up my own class in Blackboard.
– Working at the same university where I could take classes for free in Dreamweaver, Access, and other software. (2004 – 05)
– Working at a school that let me download software off the internet and place it on every machine so my students could do the virtual DNA fingerprinting lab (2001 I think). Not only did they let me download it, but that night they pushed out a new image to all of the machines so I got to download everything again. Oh joy!
– I don’t know if this applies but I was allowed to create my own biotechnology class where I was able to integrate any technology I could afford or acquire through begging, borrowing, or dumpster diving. (1998 – 2004)

6. And finally, I am to “use this assignment to reflect upon technology use planning and how you might address it in your school or business.”

At the moment my school or business are merely hypothetical entities. My business, a survey company, lives on my laptop and Yahoo’s servers. I’ve had the company for 5 years and even though I don’t have any clients at the moment, I’m happy with what I’ve done and accomplished. At the moment I don’t want to do another technology plan for my business.

I am otherwise unemployed. I want to be hired as an online teacher so I can see how bad things really are. My first experience was dreadful and I am really hoping I was misunderstanding the way things were done. I would love to play a role in designing the software used for teaching online and am hoping that the degree I earn from Boise State will facilitate that to happen. I understand that I’m to create a technology use plan, but at the moment I am too worn out from all of this writing to be creative enough to state what I would do if I was able to follow the lofty goals that I have been reading and writing about for this entry.

RSS Feeds for Education

I am not so confident about this lesson as I have been with others because I look at other people’s posts in the discussion area and I’m thinking that I missed something in the directions. My listings in my reader are really short. I will have to investigate if that is a consequence of the sites I’ve chosen to subscribe to and forward to my shared reader page or if I am not sharing to my shared page in Google reader correctly.

This is the link to my Google reader shared page:
http://www.google.com/reader/shared/02742614477662887712

A couple things- I need to know if you can not access the shared page. If you are using your broncomail email address, you should be able to access the page.

I created an EDTECH 501 contacts group and put the entire class in it. I am only sharing my shared page with the EDTECH 501 group. I tried to start a reader in my boisestate gmail account but I could not find a link to reader, even under the More tab in the top navigation bar. Even searching the Google apps for Reader was unsuccessful so I’m using Google reader at my normal gmail account. If you see Ntropi, that is because I am ntropi (aka entropy). My husband has made me way too paranoid to make everything I do open to everybody. Until I get a better feel for how reader works, my shared page is going to be private. I wish I could create a share page for each group. If that can be done, please share with me how to do it.

I would like to be able to create a share page for each group because it would let me easily create a share page for each class / section I teach. Most 6-12 grade teachers have more than one section of students per day. You may want to do a project with one section, but not another. I would use the RSS links to help guide students toward useful information for the projects. It would let me provide structure as well as help show students which resources can be trusted online. Ideally I could set up a RSS page for each class or project- then again there are so many RSS applets that I bet there is one that will do it and I’m just too ignorant at the moment.

I can see myself use RSS like I’ve started using Twitter. I’ll read my Twitter feed to get an idea of what the most talked about topics are- cute little snippets that I can usually click on to get to the article if I want to read it. The RSS feeds are similar in that they are usually a 2 sentence summary (more or less) about the article they are linked to. I would just need to get myself in the habit of checking my RSS feed. I did add the RSS gadget to my iGoogle page so maybe I will check the links more often. I am sure there is an RSS feed app I can put on my iPad. Yep, if I did that, then I’d be sure to become addicted. In the past few weeks I’ve become very fond of getting information quickly to keep up to date without getting stuck in opinion wars or a bunch of “facts” that really don’t have much use to me at the moment.

Again, please let me know ASAP if the link does not work. Thank you!

I added a reply to my discussion post in the EdTech 501 RSS feed discussion. This is what I said:
I was answering the questions based on what was on the discussion page where we enter our responses. After looking at other people’s entries, I see that either I misunderstood something or I was not paying attention to details or something….

I now have a post at my Learning Log.

Thinking about it, I am even more confused because you can’t specify a Google reader shared page to be about a specific topic- what I mean is that I can’t have an educational resources page, a political page, a science page, etc. I have to put all of my shared links on one page.

Am I supposed to have multiple Google reader accounts? I am not sure I can even do that because I can’t even figure out how to use Google reader through my Boise State gmail account. I started a Google reader page in my personal Google account a year ago and since it is already in place, I don’t know how to change it to make it specifically about Education or how to make pages directed to specific audiences.

If you have a clue- please advise me what to do. I’m not trying to be a slacker. If anything, I’m overwhelmed this week with all that is happening (outside of this class) and I tried to post this early to be ahead of the craziness this week. Do I chalk this up as a “FAIL”?

P.S. I’ve started investigating the iPad apps and so far most of them just seem like a way to tap into Google reader. In fact, it seems to be the only reader they want to connect with. I was thinking I could get a reader account at Google and someplace else that organizes RSS feeds (which I have not found yet), but nope, it looks like all of it goes into Google’s reader. If I find differently, I’ll post a reply to this post and let you know what I found.

Update July 15:

I don’t know how it happened, but I can now use Google reader with my Boise State gmail account. This is supposedly the link for the shared page with the Boise State gmail Google Reader: https://www.google.com/reader/shared/02036754982538207421

I still can not be logged in to my melissagetz@gmail.com and my melissagetz@u.boisestate.edu email accounts at the same time, but I think if I open them up in different browsers, I can access both email accounts relatively simultaneously.

I plan to use this Google reader account for topics relating to Educational Technology, teaching, or online learning. I’ll keep my other Google reader account for non-career or silly things. Plus I don’t feel like I need to make groups for the Boise account because someone would probably have to know me or have the link to access this reader account. I am hoping that I don’t lose my Boise acct if I graduate. I thought the days of revoking email accounts from students as they graduated were over. (My UCDavis email account was taken from me when I graduated in 1994.)

I am still looking into how to make more than one Google Reader shared list and it appears that if I have more than one gmail account, I can do it. It would be one Google Reader shared sheet per gmail account. How many teachers want multiple gmail accounts for every class or subject they teach? I will keep trying out iPad and iPod apps to see if any of them let me classify feeds into particular shared pages. So far all I’ve found are apps that let me import my feeds that are already registered with a Google Reader account.

If I find out more, I will come back and post yet another reply to myself to let you know what I’ve found.

Technology Trends

Technology Trends: Augmented Game-based Gesture Learning Analytics

Although my title may suggest an inability to make concrete decisions, to me it reflects my imagination. While reading/listening to the Horizon Report 2011, I imagined things I currently do or thought about how to expand on activities I’ve done with students. Now what I would like to create is a game that is augmented by being in a biotechnology lab environment, game-based because it involves solving a murder mystery, gesture-based because it involves three dimensional pieces of equipment students can manipulate in a 3 dimensional space, and analytical because the students will do labs that generate data that can be pulled from databases and used to determine whose DNA is at the crime scene. I’ve already done much of this in the classroom, but it was with real lab equipment and I gave them copies of data and made up scenarios for them to calculate genotype frequencies with hypothetical situations.

The outreach person at CEPRAP, Barbara Emberson, created an augmented game several years ago that I’ve used with students.

Image of virtual DNA fingerprinting lab "game"

Image from the DNA fingerprinting software game.

http://ceprap.ucdavis.edu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=71&Itemid=137 I used it to introduce students to the idea of what we’d be doing in the lab before we did it. It helped some students understand what we were doing with the micropipettors and why we were doing the labs we were doing, however in some ways because it was completely virtual with students not actually using equipment, it was somewhat a waste of class time. If given a choice between having students do a virtual lab and having them do a real lab where they are working with real lab equipment, my vote is for the real lab.

Not every school can afford the real biotechnology equipment and now that science education companies are getting into the biotech scene, much of what is made is a bunch of junk.  It would be more economical for a company to design a micropipettor that can be hooked up to a computer system so the user can get immediate feedback on their technique.  They’d have to dial the numbers correctly to micropipette the correct amounts of liquids, run the gels, stain them, photograph them, and gather their results with the three dimensional and computer equipment. Although I was not able to use the software with my students, computers now map the location of bands and do all of the calculations necessary for the sizes that are in each lane. Although I used the electrophoresis method to teach students how to draw a graph using a linear regression curve, I don’t know that they have to know how to do that by hand anymore. One of my former students who is now getting a PhD in microbiology laughs at me when I talk about the sequencing gels I ran when I was in grad school. She does not do any of her own sequencing. She sends her sample to a sequencing service on campus and several hours later she gets her results. We can simulate this for high school students by using the various technologies mentioned in the horizon report. Below is an image of student working with a micropipetter. In this picture you can also see the carbonless copy lab notebooks we used.

picture of high school student using micropipettor

picture of high school student using micropipettor

Electronic books- Imagine lab manuals that can call off the instructions to the student and they automatically get checked off as the student physically does that step in the protocol.  I don’t know if I want lab notebooks to be virtual, but my student also informs me that the carbonless notebooks that I have students use in the biotech class are now being replaced by typing in results in the computer. I can only imagine equipment becoming sophisticated enough that it automatically logs into a data sheet what the human did during the lab. In my simulated biotechnology lab game, if the student micropipettes 42.6 uL of liquid, then it could automatically be written into an electronic lab notebook.

Augmented reality- the student could view their manual actions taking place in a virtual biotechnology lab. Their gestures get recorded as they use plastic equipment that mimics real laboratory equipment. The difference is that the student will virtually make a gel and pour it. They wear gloves in the lab anyway, so why not have them wear gloves that keep track of where they are moving their hands. They can make the agarose, heat it up, let it cool down, and pour it. We’d write the game so that if they poured it too soon, the gel would be brittle and have lots of unnecessary bubbles. Imagine being able to measure the gestures so well that in the virtual lab, students would have to demonstrate the same techniques they’d have to really do in the lab.

Game-based- to make the lab game based, all we have to do is immerse it in a context. Frank Stephenson wrote much of the BABEC lab stories that when I had the time to embed the labs in a story, I did. Link to  BABEC curriculum:http://www.babec.org/node/6 BioRad has also submerged many of their labs in a context. For example, I used to use the BioRad primers to test foods for evidence of genetically modified organisms (GMO) with my students. Link to BioRad GMO investigator kit: http://www.bio-rad.com/prd/en/US/adirect/biorad?ts=1&cmd=BRCatgProductDetail&vertical=LSE&catID=1128f1a0-662c-4450-ad12-1b3634f4f18b Although BABEC also provided primers, I liked the BioRad ones because they made the purpose of the primers much more obvious. Imagine doing a lab like the GMO lab with classrooms all over the US instead of just with the few samples done with my students. This particular lab does not have to  be a virtual one; I’m just brainstorming about how I could have expanded the GMO lab to include data that went beyond our local grocery store and our few results. All it would take is a little imagination to turn the GMO-PCR lab into one that either stayed hands-on with real equipment and foods, or became virtual where our samples being tested were already ones sitting in a database.  If done hands-on, then I would love to see the lab expanded to a global context. The could even collect data outside the US as genetically modified foods become more global.

Gesture- based- If we turned the biotech labs into virtual settings with “real” equipment analogous to the models used in Wii games, then we could have gestured-based learning. With this type of biotech equipment, there would  be nothing to wash at the end of the period. I would not have to have multiple sets of equipment that would have to stay “in use” by one section while another section did a multi-day lab. The $200 micropipettor would hopefully be replaced by a less expensive plastic one that was connected to a computer so its physical use could be monitored. Imagine being able to have eight sets of lab equipment for what it used to cost to have one or two sets.

photo of students working in a high school biotechnology lab class

Students collaborating in a high school biotechnology lab class.

Learning Analytics- one thing I detest about most of what is available for high school students in the biotech classroom is imaginary lab settings that can not be directly connected to what is done in a real forensic or research lab. For example, I even had a graduate student come in and want to do a simulated crime scene lab with me where the students used restriction enzymes to discern the human DNA found at a imaginary crime scene. While restriction enzymes (RE) have their purpose in the lab, mainly for cloning pieces of DNA into a vector, they have not been used for human identification for years. You need too much DNA to do a RE digest. The grad student seemed so offended that I shot down his idea of wasting my students’ time by doing a lab that had no basis in reality anymore. I was appalled that he had the nerve to suggest I waste time doing something with my kids that was antiquated and now a part of the history of forensic science instead of being a current trend. When you watch a tv show that suggests using RFLP analysis, you know the show is dated because that is now a waste of time, money, and human energy. Plus, it requires too much DNA for it to be practical. Using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is now done to categorize DNA and its patterns. Last year I tried to create a scenario where my students used genotype frequency data to determine the likelihood someone’s DNA occurs in the population. I was basing the data on a list of specific allele frequencies that have been identified in a population. Finding this data was not easy, nor was it easy to show my students how to use it. Link to article with data I used with the class: http://www.melissagetz.com/biotech0910/handouts/Allele_Frequencies_for_26miniSTRs.pdf Two of my students demonstrated how ineffective the exercise was when for their final project they decided to use data that resembled what one gets by doing RE digests of DNA.  I was furious when I saw that this is how they wasted their time and ours, but unfortunately since it was the end of the year I did not get to express to the class how what we just did was completely inaccurate and demonstrated how not to use DNA to find answers to questions. Now if I had access to a database where students could have used software to easily do the math that shows how multiple allele frequencies need to be used to show the rarity of a specific genotype, then I would have been less likely to have students who chose the easy way out for their assignment.  Since the entire class would have been able to follow the math involved with the allele and genotypes easier by having a computer program that let them play with the numbers, the entire class would have seen the students’ final project was a bunch of junk and it would not have had to fall on the teacher to be the only one who understood what was going on. I would like there to be an online database of allele frequency data so that biology and/or biotechnology teachers could use the data and have students calculate or figure out whose DNA was found at a crime scene. Is that too much to ask for?

Other images of students doing work in a biotech lab:  Imagine what could be done in a virtualized setting…

image of students using pH meters
Image of pH equipment- hand held meter and more expensive ones in background
student cutting a leaf for plant tissue culture
Imagine being able to teach plant tissue culture techniques that could be monitored

How we should spend the money for digital needs?

This is an assignment for EdTech 501. We were given 7 recommendations and were asked to evaluate them, followed by our suggestions on how to spend the money. I made a PowerPoint presentation that can be accessed at: http://www.slideshare.net/ntropi/suggestions-for-state-allocations-of-technology-funds  There is no audio at the SlideShare link.

In addition, I made a video in Camtasia, but it turned out to be huge. I don’t know if you’ll be able to open the video. Here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/MGetz501mod3