2-11-12 Snow

Because mid-Michigan has had a winter with such small amounts of snow (and quickly disappearing when it comes), I had to go out and take the Fozzie out and drive through the Winter Wonderland last Saturday.  This video is a small token of proof that it has snowed this winter in Michigan, though most of the winter has been spent looking at grass and mud, not drifts of snow like winters past.  There was enough snow on this evening, though, to drift over country roads, ice over Mason’s city streets, and cover streets in the Capital City.  It’s hard to not go out and have fun when you have AWD!



I know the snow is out there globally, just mainly in Eurasia as described HERE on WOODTV’s blog (thanks to Charlesimages for posting this!).  I’ll just have to hope we get at least a couple more good snows before the winter gives way to a potentially active spring!

Wicked Problem Project Summation

The Ingham Academy High School is a unique learning environment. The Academy is an adjudicated youth school (grades 8-12) that is run with a partnership between the Ingham County Circuit Court, Highfields, and Ingham Intermediate School District. Students are added to the Academy whenever openings become available, which is usually when current students complete the Michigan Merit Curriculum or are dropped from court jurisdiction.  Students enter the academy with a variety of credits and abilities and are placed in available classes that will complete their middle or high school credits needed for promotion or graduation.  Because of this it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to create homogeneous classrooms in terms of progress through a given course or even the courses themselves.  This creates a learning environment that is heavily differentiated with some class periods having students in physics, biology, chemistry, and Earth science.  To make the situation more complex, attendance can be low due to outside and judicial situations involving students.

Providing for the successful understanding of content material at the Academy is, to say it lightly, challenging.  Not having as much access to the traditional solutions of teaching such as lecturing, collaborative group work, and a lesson plan that will fit an entire class period, I turned to technology to find solutions to the inefficiencies I have found.  The main problems I planned to address were poor attendance, seemingly insufficient class time to help all students effectively, and the limits of using a textbook to introduce topic material.

In order to address these problems, I enlisted the help of Moodle, an online course-ware management tool much like Blackboard or Angel.  Using Moodle, I was able to create lessons with multimedia questions, guiding questions within lessons, quizzes to check progress, and feedback options for all questions answered in Moodle.  This helps to reinforce correct responses and guiding those answering incorrectly to the right answer.  To begin this implementation, I chose my 8th grade physical science class.  This class is more homogeneous than most others I teach, because every student in the class is taking physical science, but due to absences there is still a need to reach students in different spots in the coursework.  There are also topics in physical science that aren’t presented well in a textbook when compared to a video, noting that multimedia presentations appeal to more learning styles than a textbook can ever attempt to cover (As outlined in Tips for Using Instructional Video and Public Television Programming in the Classroom).

To make sure that my plan to use Moodle for multimedia presentations, quick feedback, and increased lesson interactivity (with feedback on questions) was a good idea, I asked myself if it was worth using technology, or if I was just using a computer because they were there.  This analysis is based on Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge, or TPACK.  In short, if a lesson has TPACK, the use of technology enhances the pedagogical strategies and better fosters content knowledge when compared to a non technological solution.  To help ensure that my solution fit with TPACK, I was guided by three questions.

The first TPACK question I addressed was, “how does the technology I have chosen support the teaching strategies and methods I have chosen?”  In my integration of Moodle into my 8th grade physical science class, my chosen technology, specifically the Moodle system, videos, and quizzes applies to multiple learning styles.  Students don’t only see a picture, read text, and ask questions when they think they don’t understand something.  Using my Moodle lessons and activities, students are viewing video, hearing lecture during that video, answering questions and receiving immediate feedback on their understanding.  In addition to this, Moodle being online, students who aren’t present on the day(s) of a lesson can complete the lesson at home or at a later date in school.

The second TPACK question I addressed was, “how specifically does this technology make the content in my problem more intellectually accessible?”  Traditional lessons involve reading through material, listening to some amount of lecture, answering questions, and getting feedback when you ask questions and when you get your homework graded.  This is about the best that this system can do, at least at the Academy.  When using Moodle, things change.  The content, being multimedia, should be more engaging and is better equipped to show things in motion and outcomes of interactions.  Possibly more beneficial is the feedback that is built into Moodle, because students get feedback after answering a question that either reinforces a correct response, or redirects an incorrect one.  This allows near instantaneous feedback that can change the course of a student much quicker than with a traditional lesson.  It is also relevant to intellectual accessibility that, using the traditional model, a student who misses a lecture doesn’t have a chance to hear that lecture again.  Using Moodle, if a student misses a lesson, it will still be there for them to hear, see, and complete.  This allows students to be redirected away from misconceptions more quickly, and to not miss the essential building blocks of knowledge that are presented in the Moodle lessons.

The third and final TPACK question I addressed was, “how specifically do your pedagogical choices make the content in your problem more intellectually accessible?”  Using Moodle presents several benefits over the traditional educational model in terms of pedagogy.  Moodle creates a learning environment that is more relevant, is better accessible because absent students don’t miss the experience of the lesson, and quick feedback to both students and teachers.  I try to introduce new topics by a demonstration, activity, or lecture that makes my students think about the topic and how it relates to them or past experiences they have had with the topic.  Being able to use multimedia presentations and guiding questions in Moodle, I am able to introduce a topic by showing relevant material and guide their observations to what is going to be covered in a subsequent lesson or unit.

Below is a screen-cast of my project’s implementation and reflections:
Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Professional Learning Plan

In choosing to take CEP 811 and 812, I hoped to expand my knowledge of educational technology so that I could better use technology in my classroom. Teaching in a court based school, any tool that I can add to help students have more options is a good one. Though each teacher only has two computers in each classroom, and one fifteen computer lab that is in use by computer classes for a few hours of the day, there are many opportunities to integrate technology in the classrooms. I have worked with my principal to look into a Computer On Wheels lab (or a COW), and it looks like we will have one with between ten and twelve computers available next school year. Because of this, and my experience, I want to make sure that I am a leader in my school, if not my district, in bringing technology into the classroom as a way to solve problems in unique learning environments. I hope to do this by:

An audio-cast of this plan is HERE in mp3 format.  Below is my Professional Learning Plan outline:

  • Continue taking classes in education and educational technology
    • Keep on the forefront of each field
    • Integrate new technology as it becomes available
  • Look into getting my educational technology certificate and possibly masters degree.
    • Get the tools I need to get on top of the technology available
  • Keep connected with resources that will keep be up to speed like MACULspace
    • posting
    • joining groups
    • attending MACUL conferences?
    • Connect with other educators through Facebook, my blog, and other outlets
  • Integrating use of technology in all of my classes
    • Search for relevant technology in each class that I teach
    • Use technology to present information how students desire learning
    • Continue implementation of Moodle into all of my classes
      • Expand upon Wicked Problem Project use of Moodle in physical science class
      • Use Moodle to present lessons and to gain quick assessment of student achievement
      • Use Moodle to integrate other technologies into each class
  • Championing use of technology throughout my school, alternative education, and my district
    • Encouraging other teachers to integrate technology in their classrooms
    • Teaching other teachers what I have learned, and learn what they know or are learning
    • Head professional learning experiences that expand colleagues set of tools
      • Have teachers leave PD with new tools, not just a new goal
  • Work with my Principal and district to make sure we have relevant technology available
    • Ask how I can help in acquiring technology
    • Learn more about grant writing and opportunities
      • In science (such as NASA space grant) and at risk youth
  • Keep relevant
    • Monitor educational research on Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge
    • Poll for student interest and success of technological integrations
    • Change strategies based on assessment data in and outside the classroom

Group Leadership Project

My group in CEP 812 has completed the Group Leadership Project on creating a lesson in Moodle. We split our presentation into three parts, the introduction, and the conclusion. Scott took the intro, I took creating the lesson, Scott took embedding media into a question page, and Becky took the question pages and the conclusion. Each of us used a screen-cast program to do our pieces, and they were to be spliced together using Windows Movie Maker (WMM). I accepted the task of splicing the videos together using WMM. This way, each of us was able to take a sizable chunk of the project, creating a project without ever meeting in person.

The basic idea being described above didn’t seem like it would be that much of an issue, but as it is said: the devil is in the details. Scott and I used Screencast-O-Matic (SOM) to create our portions. Becky used Jing. Becky did have some issues with her microphone but was able to get her audio recording. Scott ran into some issues with Teacher Tube’s videos not integrating into Moodle (or even my website for that matter) very well. We decided against using Teacher Tube videos because of this, though I hope to find a solution for Teacher Tube in the future. My difficulties didn’t come until the splicing in WMM.

Much to my delight, SOM allows you to download created presentations in AVI, MP4, or FLV formats. AVI integrates wonderfully with WMM, so I used thatfor this project. Jing, much to my dismay, only outputs in .swf flash. I am speaking of the free versions, let it be known, and the paid version of Jing does allow MPEG 4 output. Not having access to the PRO version of Jing, I had the task of converting the tricky .swf file of Becky’s presentation so that I could integrate it into the WMM project. Having converted files between formats before, I figured this would be easy, but it took many tries and the better part of an hour to find a program that could successfully convert Jing’s .swf into AVI format. Several programs, including MOYEA, Quick Time Pro, Real Player couldn’t convert the .swf into anything. Surprisingly, MOYEA actually crashed upon every conversion attempt, and I’ve used it before quite successfully. I was able to get it converted with iWisoft Flash SWF to Video Converter. Many kudos to the creators of this software!

With the video finally converted, I was able to splice all of the videos together, trim off some time, and add ending credits. The video was uploaded to MSU’s AFS space because of the size, and is linked at the bottom of this post. Because we each took many takes with our screen-casts, little trimming was needed. Even so, it is always good to have the option to take out some repetitions and dead space with WMM.

After completing this project, I would definitely not use different screen-cast programs because of the difficulties in splicing. At the least, I would make sure that the output of each screen-cast program is actually compatible with the program being used to splice the individual pieces together. As for now, unless it’s PRO, I’d rather not deal with Jing due to compatibility issues. Pre-planning was also very important in this project, and I would work to ensure that as much as possible would be completed in all aspects of a project. I am also planning to look into changing from WMM to another movie maker program that is more compatible. The main reason for this is the difficulty that I had getting the .wmv to work in Firefox. MP4 would be a more compatible format in all browsers, but luckily the .wmv can still be downloaded and played in Windows Media Player, or played in Chrome and IE. Linux has some great movie making software options including Cinerella that I might look at in the future. Compatibility is a nerd’s best friend sometimes, and I plan to find more tools that are more compatible for future projects.


Group Leadership Project If this link doesn’t play nice in your browser, right click and “Save link as” to download the video.  Firefox hasn’t been playing as nice as IE and Chrome lately. I was able to save it as a MP4 here, but the size is too small for detail.

3 EXPLORE – Mobile Learning Lab

Looking at the advantages and possibilities of mobile learning, it is exciting to play with different ideas to make the curriculum more at the level of what students are doing in their day to day lives. So much in the world has changed, and so much in the classroom has stayed the same.

Looking ahead to the uses of mobile technology, such as cell phones, isn’t without pitfalls though (as I posted on the Classroom 2.0’s thread about Cell Phones).

In my school, student cell phones are banned outright. My students are picked up by van from their house, and shouldn’t even have a cell phone there because of school and court regulations. If they do have cell phones, they are confiscated upon entering the building and going through security (which includes a metal detector and x-ray machines). Because of this, I am limited in mobile learning possibilities that involve cell phones only outside of the classroom. Because of the rules surrounding cell phones at my school, I plan to further research cell phone contact with students before utilizing cell phones at all, but a potential application could be polling students about school content being used practically over a weekend. I have created a poll that could be used for this type of an assignment using Poll Everywhere.

This technology to help communicate with teachers in my building, but I am in a unique situation of working with only five other teachers in my school, of which I have daily contact. In time, I will look for appropriate uses of this technology and integrate it in some fashion to promoting educational outcomes.

Using links and descriptions provided in the Mobile Learning Lab of CEP 812, I looked into several mobile technologies that I plan to attempt to integrate. These technologies include MP3 players, USB drives, book E readers, Flip Cameras, and Laptops.

The use of MP3 players could be easily implemented in my classes. These could have lectures about different topics. If the MP3 players have a microphone, it could be used to record student answers. What excites me about MP3 players is that they are cheaper than an iPod and can be restricted to only the files that I want students to have access to.

USB drives are a thought to help students store projects and documents they are working on. My only concerns deal with USB drives walking away and use potential within my school. Student accounts on existing computers ban the use of USB drives, though teachers have access to student drives. Because of this, luckily, a backup of student files could be made by any teacher. We are also planning to purchase a Computer on Wheels (COW) lab that should allow USB input. The use of a COW makes USB drive use more practical, and would help keep student work more organized since access to the central school network might not be possible with the laptops.

Electronic Books are a promising idea after the cost of the available readers come down. Many textbooks are made digital these days, which would make e-books and interactive textbooks relevant media to be used with the readers. As I thought more about these options, I determined that other subject areas such as English and drama might have better uses because of the volume of reading material that is used in those classes, but it is something I will be keeping my eye on next time we are looking for textbooks.

When I looked into flip cameras, many ideas came to mind. Our school has a camcorder, which could serve the same purpose. I hope to use the camcorder in my forensics class to have groups record mock crime scenes and create tutorials for crime scene analysis techniques. The possibilities are quite endless in forensics, but it could also be helpful in core science classes. Whenever one is required to explain a topic, one must know more than if one was only asked to recite answers. Because of this, having students or groups of students record explanations of key concepts could greatly enhance student understanding.

Finally, I looked into the use of Laptops. Students bringing a personal laptop to school would fall into the same situation as cell phones, as they are a personal electronic device, and are banned. Even so, because our school is looking into a COW for next year, laptops should be there for students to utilize. With laptops, students can give and get the near instantaneous feedback that they would have using mobile phone polling. Students also would have a multitude of resources at their fingertips without the inefficiency of smart phones concerning typing and creating documents. Having online course-ware already in use before the arrival of the COW is just another benefit that I plan to take advantage of as soon as our COW arrives.

Given all of this technology and opportunity, I am thankful for the options that I have. Cell phones may never work in my adjudicated youth setting, but that doesn’t mean that mobile learning is out. A cell phone may do many things that a laptop can, but I will have laptops that can do more than any phone soon. Students might be able to use their phone to play music and listen to a podcast, but so can a laptop or desktop with headphones. In this day and age, many opportunities are out there for mobile learning, regardless of what type of technology is used. I look forward wondering what new applications will be thought of and made possible by our ever changing and advancing technological society.

WPP Part D – Findings and Implications

Hoping to increase instructional time and add instructional supports to my students, I implemented some online Moodle based coursework. Doing this I planned to pencil in about one day a week for an online activity for my physical science and physics classes. I decided to focus on physical science first, and then expand to the physics students as I roll out more physical science lessons. This decision was made because the attendance of my physics students has been sporadic to the point where data collection would be problematic. In the implementation of the physical science lessons I quickly learned that the messenger capabilities in Moodle (like AIM or any other instant messenger) can be quite a distraction. For the first lesson, many of the students spent time when they should have been watching videos chatting with other students. Even while roaming around, I was out-nerd-ed on several occasions by crafty IM-ers. I had the messaging capability turned off after this first lesson. The second lesson was a quiz on what the students had been learning in the new quarter thus far (which has been two weeks). That assignment worked out pretty well, because even if students changed their answers their first answers (and therefore what they probably thought first) were recorded. This was a simple true false quiz, but it gave data that most students were doing well, and one student needed some additional reinforcement. I plan to continue the once a week implementations of Moodle activities, but I will also vary the types of activities from just lessons to quizzes and reviews as well. This is mainly because I am able to gain a snap shot of the class knowledge base before moving on. Overall, I am happy that I was able to implement the Moodle lessons to my physical science class.


Putting together this project, I determined that I should see two things if this implementation was a success. First off, I would hope to see grades increase. I would also expect to see behavior points increase during the Moodle lessons, compared to the points earned while doing book work. In order to determine this I selected four students that had the chance to complete both integrations of Moodle thus far. I plotted their third quarter grades (Q3), fourth quarter (Q4) grades thus far, behavior points during Moodle lesson days (Points Moodle), and behavior points during book work (Points Book) days. These have been plotted on this table:

Looking at the data in the table, each student’s grade is better in the fourth quarter than in the previous quarter. This is promising and shows better comprehension than without Moodle integrations. I am hoping that the instantaneous feedback and multimedia integrations of Moodle are helping with this. For the behavioral points, three of the four students earned better points during the Moodle lesson days than on the book work days. One student did not, but this is partially because that student quickly found the messenger capabilities of Moodle on the first assignment and didn’t take well to redirection given. With these findings I can say that so far the Moodle integration is correlated to higher assignment scores and behavioral points. I am looking forward to continuing the data collection in this class to see how well the students do throughout the remainder of the quarter.


In implementing a project like this in the future, I am hopeful in creating more lessons that catch students wherever they are, and bring them to a higher level. With this project, specifically targeting Moodle, I had a preconception of what I wanted to do to help with my problems of low attendance and difficulty in attaining quick feedback on student understanding. Knowing that I will undoubtedly face new problems in my teaching career, I hope to refine my problem solving approach. As previously stated, I mostly knew from the start that Moodle is what I wanted to implement. Because of this, I spent little time researching other methods (or even people using Moodle) to meet my goals. In the future, I hope to spend more time researching problems and solutions on places such as MACULspace to make sure I am not re-inventing the wheel and am spending my time as efficiently as possible. It is also imperative to see things from different perspectives as can only be done by researching others’ work, so new ideas can be integrated and improved.


In addition to making sure that I do more research, I plan and would also suggest some troubleshooting before the launch of a project. I went through my integrated science Moodle lessons first, and even had my wife go through the lessons once. When my students actually went through the lesson, though, I received more valuable feedback than I could ever create without actually having students try the lesson. During the first “field test” of my Moodle lesson, I found that my students could have benefited from better explanations, or possibly even a screen-cast, of getting logged into Moodle and getting the lesson started. Once the students were in the lesson, most were quite adequate at making it through. Because of this, I plan to field test new educational expeditions with a student first if possible, so that I can work out more of the bugs and see what explanations I have over thought or have completely missed. Knowing the wealth of feedback that students can give, I also hope to improve upon each lesson that I create by the feedback that they give.


As I look forward to additional implementation of Moodle lessons and other online coursework throughout my classes, I hope to expand on the what I have started in physical science more methodically. I will be able to better plan this through the summer as I gain more information on the computer on wheels (COW) lab that our school is planning on purchasing. As it stands there are some periods in which only two computers maximum can be accessed at a time, because the computer lab is in use. With the COW in the picture, there would be up to twelve computers outside of the lab available throughout the day. Either way, I plan to integrate Moodle activities in all classes. Minimally I would use Moodle as a tool to gain quick knowledge on how students are progressing through the material. Optimally I would use Moodle to introduce topics and to expand upon material that a textbook is at a loss to cover. As I expand the use of Moodle within my classes, I will also teach other teachers how I and others have used Moodle so that more options can be available in all of the courses taught at the Ingham Academy.

WPP Part C – Implementation

Attached is a podcast describing my thoughts after having my 8th grade Physical Science class go through a Moodle lesson.  I also created a webpage for my students to access the Moodle pages that we will be using, and a calendar used to tell students what they missed if they were absent.  This can also help students to keep up if they are gone for an extended period and have computer access.  I am glad that I have launched this project, and look forward to expanding it in the future!

Attached Podcast: WWPPartC

Group Leadership Project: Part B – Storyboard and Script

Scott, Becky, and myself (Group 5) have been working together to get our presentation on creating a lesson in Moodle created. We tried to get a meeting going on adobe connect, but we couldn’t get Becky into the room. Scott recorded a little of our brainstorming HERE, but funny as it may sound, when we gave up on AdobeConnect and fired up Skype, our audio got better! I wish Skype had screen share in a conference call, but that is something I’ll look into in the future, because one on one, you can share your screen. I got around this when we were in our conference call in Skype by pointing my webcam at the screen.

We decided to put our thoughts together on a Google Presentation, of which I was a bit skeptical at first, but it worked out beautifully.  I picked up the first section, creating the Moodle Lesson, Scott is doing the embedding and adding text to the question page, and Becky is covering the questions and feedback portion of this.  We will be all individually screencasting our sections, and will then splice them together most likely with Windows Movie Maker.  I am looking forward to the finished product, and I have learned more about Skype, Google, and Moodle in the process thus far!  A PDF of our Storyboard and Script from our Google Presentation is HERE.  It is awesome that three people can create something like this without ever leaving their respective computers!

Group Leadership Project: Part A – Brainstorm

As our group gathered to iron out the details of what project we should teach to our colleagues, we used Adobe ConnectNow to meet and discuss. This allowed us to web-cam chat, share our screens, and take notes during our conference. Scott and I met to iron out exactly what we would do our project on, and we decided to tackle building a Modle Lesson with a video integration and a question with feedback. Our full video can be found HERE. In this discussion, Scott and I decided it would be good to split up the project into three sections, of which each group member would complete a slide-cast on using screencast-o-matic or jing. Both of these services output windows media player compatible videos, which we can then add together and create our final product. The three sections we will cover in our lesson on Moodle will be as follows:

1) Creating a lesson – lesson page setup.
2) Entering text and videos into the Moodle lesson page.
3) Setting up questions with answers and feedback.

We met later when Becky was available and again used Adobe ConnectNow and screencast-o-matic.  The second full video can be found HERE.  Becky was having some issues with her microphone, but we were able to continue with her using the chat box with Scott and I talking.  We decided that the three step video would be a good idea.  I showed Becky the Moodle lesson that I have created and the piece of the lesson that would be most easily integrated into a 10 minute lesson.  The question page setup should take that long, and not have any lack of detail in the parts.  Becky will be handling the creation of a lesson and initial setup page, Scott will be covering how to enter text and video into a lesson, and I will be covering how to add questions with feedback into the lesson.  It seems that both Becky and Scott have more Moodle experience than I have, so I am eager to learn!

All of this will require a dummy account of Moodle so that we can create this lesson, and so we decided to all check into getting a practice classroom setup so that we can all have access to it as we create our lesson on a screen-cast.  We were able to put down these roles and put a fail safe meeting time of Tuesday on the Shared Notes in the meeting.  Whoever gets our classroom created first will let the others know, and we will be using our Google doc with the group 5 forum to keep in contact throughout the next week so that we can get our storyboard and script for this presentation done.  Hopefully by Tuesday we will be well on our way to getting this project scripted!


Scott and I just held a web conference using Adobe ConnectNow to discuss our project. We tried to use VYEW, but ran into a road block since registrations were down for the program. Scott, having signed up for a trial account, invited me into the room, and we immediately enjoyed the benefits of ConnectNow, because it at least appears more user friendly than VYEW. We will scatter our trial versions throughout the group so that we can keep in contact through this method. Scott recorded the video using screencast-o-matic, which allows up to 15 minutes of screen-casting to be recorded at a time.

As Scott started recording our conference, I tried to share my screen and I got dropped from the conference for a bit while I added the necessary plug-in. In the future, I will do my best to make sure that the plug-ins are installed before we start recording, to minimize dead time in a conference. Even so, I found it to be very useful to use ConnectNow. We were able to use our webcams and chat boxes to talk and troubleshoot audio problems that occurred. I was able to share my screen, after the plugin was installed, and show what I was thinking about our project in Moodle. It was very useful to be able to show exactly what the screen looks like, and it will be useful in the planning stages of this project as well. It was also nice to be able to take notes of what we were talking about, so that all wasn’t lost once we logged off of ConnectNow. This helped guide our conversation and keep us on the same page.

I could see this type of tool being useful in situations where teachers want to collaborate on teaching a particular lesson, but are in different buildings. With how my program is setup, I could potentially reach out to a fellow science teacher in a different program, and we could team teach using the projector, so that the students could get two perspectives on the same lesson. An expert could also be introduced using this technology, especially if that expert is far away or not able to be there in person. It would also be interesting to look into using this as a tool for when I must be absent due to illness, so that I could still lecture or at least check in with the substitute every now and again.

I don’t know about the logistics of how it would work, but it could also be a tool for parent conferencing or tutoring students, though integration of that might be tricky and would definitely need to be recorded. I am open to looking into new ways to use this in the classroom, but more research would need to be done to use it other than as a collaboration tool between teachers and staff.

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