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Monthly Archives: March 2016

The usage of technology in this day and age has certainly had a rapid effect on society. Its effect can be used for either good or bad, and either way, can reach and services thousands, millions, perhaps even billions of people. When bad, however, its effects can be like fast poison: gripping, unstoppable, potent, and lethal.

 

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For those that do not know, there will be an Earth hour in which lights and electronics will be turned off in an effort to raise awareness about global warming and the impact our electricity usage has on it. On my way home from school today, I was listening to the radio. Now let me tell you, this is something I never do, as half the nonsense they speak about on the radio is just frustrating to me. However, I had already started driving and did not want to plug my phone in to listen to my music instead. The radio announcer, on one of the most listened to radio stations for the younger society, was mocking the idea of Earth hour. He went so far as to say how perfect a time it would be to download a bunch of stuff, as many people wouldn’t be on their electronics at this point.

The radio speaker, in a position of power to do good, turned a serious issue into a mockery. Rather than taking the time to say how cool it would be for his listeners to participate in Earth hour, his remarks had the exact opposite effect. His fast poison reach certainly does not stop there, though – it trickles through to the peers of the listeners, where it continues to spread even more rapidly: more and more people see such a critical event to raise awareness as a focus of mockery rather than a real scientific issue.

The importance of using media in an advantageous manner cannot be overstated. We think about Facebook, blogging, texting, emailing, anything that involves technology – how do we use these to do good rather than bad? Rather than spread poison, why not spread euphoria?

 

At Warner, a lot of the time is spent sitting in classrooms, doing whatever it is that needs to be done. It’s often difficult to retain what we did, because I’m usually just fixated on how much I don’t want to sit in the same chair for 3-4 hours. But we are constantly being pushed to come up with active ways for our placements and what we will utilize in the future when we are employed as educators. I consider myself to be a student who has the same needs as any learner would – needs to be interesting, needs to be engaging, and needs to be relevant in order for me to get anything out of a lesson. But many classes at Warner do not employ such practicality – what’s up with that?

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Let me start with the following disclaimer: I am 110% appreciative of my Warner education. I love the University of Rochester and to be here for another year is a dream come true. But there are some things that could certainly change to employ better practicality in such a theory-intensive program. I think the hardest part of being in a theory-heavy graduate program is that sometimes, the practicality does not transfer well. Sure, utilization of standards is of the utmost importance, and necessary on all fronts to be able to work backward from in an effort to create a viable, well-thought out lesson plan. But there are so many more engaging ways to become better acclimated to using standards than simply listing them.

It is true that when we are able to experience something for ourselves, we can better employ it into practice. If we are able to get up and move and be engaged in what’s going on, we will be able to see the difference between being engaged or doing work silently in chairs – some days, this is of course fine and often necessary, but others, it is just not feasible, especially after a full day of teaching student for whom we’ve planned a slew of engaging activities.

So my question is this: how do we get Warner professors to start switching over to practicing what is preached about engagement in the classroom? Certainly this won’t be an overnight switch, but it’d certainly be helpful in coming up with more engaging ideas for our students.

When I first got to middle school placement, I told myself that I was going to countdown the days that I had to be there. My dream is to teach physics, not middle schoolers, and my first week at middle school only had enhanced this feeling. I felt they didn’t care about what we were doing with science, and that they were just there to be there. Their attendance was horrifying and a lot of them had nasty attitudes.

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 But I found a way to connect with them relatively early on – they like that I went to a city school like them. But just because we had this connection, it didn’t make them want to work – they saw me in a position that I got to UR because I worked really really hard, which was true. But they felt they could never work that hard to get to such a position. I had to convince them that they were scientists and that they could do a great deal of work.

In the last week and a half, we’ve been working on an endangered species project, an intensive research project involving the study of an endangered organism of their choice. Their research has to discuss the organism’s scientific name, habitat, ways of obtaining energy, both in terms of considering what an organism eats as well as creating an energy pyramid and food web, identifying threats to their organism, and explaining the ways that saving their organism will impact the ecosystem, or how the extinction of their organism will impact the ecosystem.

The turn around attitudes in this project have been phenomenal. Every student that has had at least moderately acceptable attendance has finished the research portion on time, and the students can answer any question about ecology that you throw at them. It was only recently that they understood they could do this without having to take notes or having to have information given to them rather than getting the information on their own, which they did. Along the way, they were corrected in their errors or lack of explanations and given immediate feedback, which students were very receptive to and fixed it correctly on the first try most of the time. Students are now seeing that they too are scientists without having the science fed to them through notes – they did their own research and they have the ownership of the science.

Students are now much more receptive to my being there. They like that I am letting them own the science rather than me forcing it to them. The authority that they have been able to take in this project has opened new doors for their views on science, which has altered my thinking about how I will approach the rest of my remaining time at IATHS. One thing’s for sure about the remaining time I have there: I’m not paying such close attention to counting down the days that I’m going to be there, as things are finally improving and looking up.