Discriminating Websites

This week for my Instructional Media Resources class, we focused on internet resources and how they can be effectively used in teaching and learning.  I found the Building Treehouses resource (Lamb, n.d.) interesting and useful as it mentioned web sites that I can use in my classes.  Though I usually frequent the Enchanted Learning website, as well as resources for quizzes listed in the document, there were listed resources that I was unfamiliar with, or have heard of but have never really visited before.  I had checked out the Edheads.org interactive website and found the weather activity challenging.  Now if I could just throw it into my Earth Science classes. 🙂

I have to admit, despite the sheer volume of information that I could lay my hands on using the internet (for my lesson plans and activities), there are times when I sometimes feel dissatisfied with the results displayed on the page.  Other times, I feel lost and overwhelmed with the amount of information available that I don’t even know where to begin.  The latter I feel despite my background in research.  Sorting through all that information takes time.

It was a good thing that Glencoe (2006) had listed five basic criteria to evaluate the appropriateness and credibility of websites.  It also helped me make sense of “web speech” and what those tildes (~) and percent signs (%) on URLs mean (that is, they are usually found in web sites authored by individuals).

Apart from being useful to me as a teacher, I think that these resources will also be invaluable to my students especially since they have investigatory projects that they need to review literature for.  The world wide web is like one big library. But as with any old library, we need the skills in discriminating which reference is good and which is not; which source is relevant and which is not.  We need to teach ourselves how to properly use it. Only then can we teach the “net generation” how to responsibly and critically utilize it, just like how we teach them to use printed, audio, and video resources.

Helping our students to evaluate web resources also helps them develop critical thinking skills.  And isn’t that what we all want our students to develop?

References:

Glencoe. (2006). Evaluating web sites – five basic criteria. Available at http://www.glencoe.com/sec/teachingtoday/educationupclose.phtml/10

Lamb, A. (n.d). Selecting & integrating resources: Teaching and learning with internet (Chap 4). In Building treehouses for learning: Technology in today’s classrooms, 119-158. Available at http://eduscapes.com/treehouses/TG4Internet2.pdf

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Sound Bytes: Not Just for Teaching English and Music

This week, it took me a while to read the module on audio resources.  We have just finished working on a major homework (submitted on June 12th) and I found myself busy preparing decorations for my classroom, in time for the opening of classes on the 18th.  Coming in from the summer holidays, the full days spent at school left me tired when I got home.  I was chiding myself for my excuses but for my part, I was trying to squeeze in reading the required resources while I was in school, setting up my classroom and finishing my lesson plans.

Anyway, the module for this week was about audio files.  I have forgotten how audio can be effectively utilized in the classroom.  As a kid, we had Oral Language books where sentences had rising and falling lines.  I remember getting excited whenever my Language teacher would enter the classroom with a cassette player in tow.  That was a signal that for the next period, we would be moving our heads up and down to follow the intonations indicated in our workbooks while we repeated after the person in the audio cassette speaking.

As I grew up, audio use in the classroom was mostly limited to English and Music.  In college, when I enrolled in a class on Radio Broadcasting, our professor used audio files to demonstrate sibilance.  As a teacher, some colleagues (who all taught English) made use of audio files in the classroom.

I guess I was just so used to using video clips in the classroom when teaching Science that I have come to overlook the usefulness of pure audio in lectures, thinking that they are more of an “English thing” than others (remember how I admired Tony Stark’s holograms?).  Reading about digital media (JISC Digital Media, 2013) and audio cassette tapes (Smaldino, Russell, Heinich, and Molenda, 2004), as well as how audio resources can be used in the classroom (Centre for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA), 2015) has made me rethink the media.

It may be a challenge to use audio in my Science lectures but I have thought of a few ways to incorporate them in my classroom activities this year when we try to simulate earthquakes in the classroom. I hope that by using the sound of rumbling earth will help my students perform in the drills better.  Much like the thundering music in a film’s action sequence, I hope that using audio in my classes will also motivate them better and make the class encounters more interesting this year!

References:

Centre for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA). (2015). Using audio (Parts A, B, & C). Available at http://www.carla.umn.edu/LCTL/development/mod3a.html)

JISC Digital Media. (2013). Using audio in teaching and learning. Available at http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/guide/using-audio-in-teaching-and-learning/

Smaldino, S. E., Russell, J.D., Heinich, R., and Molenda, M. (2004). Audio (Chap 11). In Instructional technology and media for learning (8th ed), 264-280. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. Available at https://navelmangelep.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/instructional-technology-and-media-for-learning-8th-ed.pdf

Creating Visuals: A Work In Progress

Visuals are materials that usually contain words and pictures that are used to support or enhance instruction.  Visuals are of two types: non-projected or projected.  The difference is that projected visuals are those that are displayed using a screen while non-projected visuals include charts, posters, and models that may displayed on walls.  Regardless of whether they are projected or not, visuals should be designed carefully.

Just like print materials,  it is important to know what message you want to convey, to consider the setting and the available resources in preparing them, and to be clear with the purpose of using them (Lamb,  2005).  Of course, you must know your audience’s experiential and intellectual knowledge (Smaldino, et. al., 2004).

I remember this one scene in The Big Bang Theory where the characters played Pictionary.  Sheldon, one of the lead characters who played a physicist in the show, kept on drawing complicated stick figures to depict such words like a chocolate chip cookie and nail polish.  Bottom line? It is all about keeping things simple.

Selecting visuals to put in presentations is just like choosing your words when writing a composition.  No matter how wonderful the words may sound, if your readers do not understand them, then you will not be able to communicate your message effectively.  The same is true when designing visuals.  It is true that a picture paints a thousand words and when we choose visuals haphazardly, students may interpret them the wrong way.  This is why, aside from taking caution and careful planning in designing visual aids, we should also teach our students how to look at images and “read” them.

Design principles in creating visuals focus on simplicity, unity, emphasis, and balance (Smaldino, Russell, Heinich, and Molenda, 2004).  The choice of font type, size, and color as well as use of contrast is important.    Reading through the resources that outlined the importance of alignment, and spaces between letters and lines of text, I felt that I was on the right track, at least where non-projected visuals are concerned.  Whenever I design my bulletin boards and my classrooms, I always try to achieve a unified look.  Using themes are a great help in doing this.

We have LCD projectors and screens in the classrooms and I usually conduct my lessons using PowerPoint presentations.  I do leave plenty of white space in my slides but I still have to make them simpler.  Lamb, in his book Building Treehouses for Learning: Technology in Today’s Classrooms (2005), again emphasized on keeping things simple by using pictures instead of words as a visual guide during lectures.  I find this reminder challenging because I need words as cues while I go around the classroom as I deliver instruction.  The only time that I make use of just pictures in my slides is when I give morning reflections to students which I read off from a piece of paper. I guess you could say that when it comes to projected visuals, I am still a work in progress.

 

References:

Lamb, A. (2005). Designing and developing resources: Projected materials (Chap 9). In Building treehouses for learning: Technology in today’s classrooms. Available at http://eduscapes.com/treehouses/TL9projected.pdf

Smaldino, S. E., Russell, J.D., Heinich, R., and Molenda, M. (2004). Visual principles (Chap 4). In Instructional technology and media for learning (8th ed), 79-105. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. Available at https://navelmangelep.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/instructional-technology-and-media-for-learning-8th-ed.pdf