This is me-now, Josh Krikke on Blogger. I hope you enjoy my reflections.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Module 7: WebQuest

Based on my inquiry, I think that effective WebQuests have a diversified purpose. The effectiveness of WebQuest is that they can match a teacher’s style and strengths. Some WebQuests are designed for efficiency—to reduce wasted classroom time, others are made to promote collaboration and create discussion among students. WebQuests can also promote higher level thinking, like analysis and opinion forming, while other WebQuests are set up to use Web technology to its highest potential. From my readings, I have seen that a WebQuest is much like an online lesson plan in which students can be self-directed and inquiry based. Like any good lesson, an effective WebQuest ought to have an introduction, a statement of task, a step-by-step process to complete task, a way to evaluate learning of the task, and a conclusion.
I might use WebQuest in the classroom for an inquiry-based novel study. Each student would be given the same novel and they would use WebQuest as a novel study guide. The WebQuest could incorporate links to websites about the author of the novel, require the creation of an Inspiration Concept Map based on plot, characters, or literary devices in the novel. It could have links to a discussion board in which students must submit a personal response to the story. Other students could view one another’s responses and would be asked to reply to 2 or 3 of their peer’s opinions. Bonus activities could be included for students to go beyond the requirements of the WebQuest tasks, and students would be active learners in their discovery of the novel. The WebQuest could be supplemented with class discussions based on WebQuest tasks.
One area of concern with Web-based learning is the need to ensure Internet safety in the classroom. I am sure students are well aware of the content available on the Internet, for as I read on the Media Awareness Network website, “Forty-five per cent of students use the Internet for homework, and two out of ten kids and teens have their own personal Web sites.” The Internet can hold misleading or incorrect information and students need to be taught skills in information analysis and proper search methods. There is pornography available on the Internet which students need to ask themselves what pornography teaches about sex and relationships and they, in response, ought to ask what their actions should be. Chat rooms, blogs, instant messaging, and discussion boards are public domains and they pose a threat to student privacy. Students need to understand what personal identification is safe and what is unsafe to publicize on the World Wide Web. There are Internet sites that promote dangerous or illegal activities, like the online recipe for the drug: Crystal Meth, and students need to recognizethe danger of utilizing the Internet in deviant ways. The best thing I, as a future educator, can do is raise student awareness of the potential dangers of the Internet, and allow students to express their opinions about Internet safety and come to their own judgements about how to use the Internet safely. After all, the Internet is the greatest resource we have available in our homes, jobsites, and schools and ought to be used for its richness rather than its deceptiveness.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Using Spreadsheets in Education

In any classroom, a good teacher wants students to think critically and analyze information and I believe spreadsheets are just the tool to help students with this process. Spreadsheets are effective for helping students to analyze data and to present this to an audience in a clear and organized manner. Spreadsheets are also a way for students to use data as a vehicle to formulate answers to questions and hypotheses. For example, imagine the possibilities when using spreadsheets in a Grade 4 unit project on: Waste and Our World. Students could collect and analyze data on the different types of garbage the school generates on a given day, either biodegradable, reusable, or toxic wastes. Spreadsheets could be made based on the collected data. Then, students could formulate graphs demonstrating averages to prove which type of garbage is most generated at school. Finally, students could think of practical ways to implement reducing, reusing and recycling to reduce the amount of garbage their school produces. This is an example of using spreadsheet technology as a tool for analyzing data that results in a hands-on activity to reduce school waste. Now that’s authentic learning!

In order to implement a unit project like this in the classroom, I think an online tutorial on spreadsheets would be an effective teaching tool. I would use This site contains about 125 interactive Web "mini movies" that are perfect for teaching yourself or others how to create a spreadsheet. Following the “mini movies” I would walk students through a spreadsheet activity of our own relating to data we had collected on types of waste. Hopefully, this would be enough training for students to get started on making their own spreadsheets and then I could monitor the groups and help them individually. I definitely want to try using spreadsheets when I enter the classroom and I think students will love using computer software to make graphs.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Module 4: Concept Mapping using Inspiration

Ever wonder how the brain organizes new information? Well, making a concept map using Inspiration Software could be considered a visual representation of how the brain encodes information. When you receive new information, your brain has to file it away and place it within an existing framework based on former knowledge and cross-linking of concepts. Concept mapping is a technique for visually representing the structure of information—how concepts within an idea are interrelated. It stimulates former knowledge and visualizes a framework for information to be organized. You see? The processes are so similar!

Some advantages of concept mapping in education include: it organizes and prioritizes student’s thoughts, it increases and expands creative efforts, it serves as a basis for projects and writing activities, it can link web resources to a student’s idea, it can be used for studying, it’s good for assessment because it reflects student’s thought processes, it’s a tool addressing different learning styles, and it gives students ownership of their perspectives. The only disadvantage that I see in concept mapping is it’s subjectivity. There is no single correct concept map so teachers need to create specific assessment rubrics to give students structure to their concept maps. Also, just a little modeling of concept map creation will help students stay on the straight and narrow. Guidelines in concept mapping are important so students connect concept mapping with understanding how elements of a concept fit and relate together.

In the classroom, I would use concept mapping to create brainstorming webs on writing ideas, to describe novel characters, to visualize plots in literature, to create essay outlines, and to make poetry skeletons. All these ideas are integrating ICT General Outcome C4 which states: Students will use organizational processes and tools to manage inquiry, and General Outcome C7 which states: Students will use electronic research techniques to construct personal knowledge and meaning.

I was personally impressed with all the practical uses of concept maps in education. It seems to me if concept mapping is similar to how the brain works, then students really ought to create concept maps and view their own learning process. What better way to make critical thinking so hands-on?