Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Excel as a Classroom Tool

Microsoft Excel is a very powerful program that can be used in many different types of work. One of the places where its features can be best exploited are in the classroom. There are a number of ways that the functions of the Excel program can effectively used in an educational setting.

Here are some example lessons that integrate Excel into a social studies curriculum in a secondary school classroom:

  1. When learning about the electoral process, students could conduct opinion polls by surveying classmates and other people outside of school. Once this is completed the students can enter the information that they gather into a table using Excel. Once their table is complete, they can using the graphing tools on the program to make a pie chart that compares people's opinions on issues that are significant to the upcoming election. (NETS-S Standard: 3b - Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media)
  2. When learning about bubonic plague, the teacher could provide students with annual population totals for a specific area that was effected by the plague. The students could enter this information into a table in Excel. Then, using the graphing tools, the students can create a line graph that traces the population of the given country through the duration of the plague. (NETS-S Standard:  3d - Process data and report results)
  3. When learning about the Holocaust, students could use the filtering tools on Excel to sort through Holocaust records that the teacher would provide. The students would be provided with a pre-made spreadsheet containing the records and could use the tools to help them locate specific people or specific camps. They could fill out a worksheet asking them to find specific things within the records. (NETS-S Standard: 3d - Process data and report results)    
  4. When learning about World War II, students could make a bar graph for the total causalities that each country suffered. The students would be provided with the death tolls for each country and put the figures into a table. They would then use the graphing feature to create a bar graph that compares the casualty totals that each country suffered. (NETS-S Standards:  3d - Process data and report results) 
  5. When teaching economics, students could create spreadsheets that track the profits of a company. They could break the chart down  by month. They could enter gross income in one column of the table and expenses in the next one. After this, they would enter a formula in the next column, making the number in the cells equal to the gross income for that month minus the expenses for the month. The students could then create a line graph to chart the profits. (NETS-S Standards: 3d - Process data and report results)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Copyright for Teachers

Copyright laws are an ever-growing issue in our world today. It is especially important for teachers to follow these laws. Lessons offer numerous opportunities for teachers to violate copyright laws if they are not careful and well-informed.

I learned a lot in my recent exploration of copyright laws. Copyrights protect the original work of the inventor of a product. The inventor must apply to have their product copyrighted. Once a copyright is attained, it will last for a lifetime plus an additional 70 years. Copyrights can come into effect, even in a classroom setting. It is technically illegal for a teacher to use copyrighted material (such as videos, movies, or other original works) in lessons. There is a clause in copyright laws for "fair use," which allows teachers to use copyrighted material as long as they can make the argument that they only used the minimum amount of the copyrighted material that was necessary. One aspect of copyright laws that really surprised me was the ambiguity of the laws. Similar copyright cases that have been taken to court have received different rulings based on different interpretations of the laws.

I have seen copyright laws violated in the classroom before. I have seen teachers use videos, movies, and images in their lessons year after year without having any type of license for to use them. Outside of the classroom, I have been aware of countless numbers of people who have downloaded music for free off of the Internet. Although the music downloading is a more publicized type of copyright violation, both are still illegal.  

As a teacher, I think it is important to make students aware of copyright laws. We have increasingly less privacy in this information age and law violations are becoming easier to uncover. The future will certainly see increasing numbers of copyright violation accusations. A teacher can help students understand copyright laws without taking too much time out of the class period. Teachers should do their best to follow copyright procedures and explain to their students how and why they are doing so. For example, if a teacher obtains a license to show a movie in their class, they could take a minute to explain why it is important to have a license for showing a movie in school, how to do it, and what the consequences might be.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Interactive Whiteboards

Interactive whiteboards are one of the hottest new teaching tools. Using a projection system that creates a touch-screen, the teacher is able to have all of the capabilities of a whiteboard and a computer in one tool. It can be used in a variety of ways to enhance classroom instruction and interactive learning.

The interactive whiteboard can enhance teaching and learning in many ways. It allows teachers to combine traditional note-taking and interactive activities on the same tool in an efficient manner. This will benefit teachers because it gives them the opportunity to reach more students with different learning styles. The use of interactive activities, videos, and demonstrations that the interactive whiteboard offers allows for more student involvement and a more diverse arsenal of teaching tools for the teacher. Students will benefit from this because they will be more involved in their own learning and, through the diverse teaching tools the interactive whiteboard offers, have their learning style fulfilled. Teachers and students also benefit from the computer capability of the interactive whiteboard because it allows from the publishing of lessons that were taught in class on the internet. This will allow students who were not in class to have access to them. The student will benefit from this because they will not fall too far behind in class and the teacher will benefit from this because they will be able to keep all students on the same page and up to date with the material.  

While the SMART Board software was different than any other program that I have used before, it was not overly difficult to learn to use. The tools were generally straight-forward and easy to use. While they were easy, they went a long way in enhancing my lesson. The straight-fowardness of the tools (such as the "Magic Pen") also was beneficial because I could let students use them at the board during my lesson.

There are both pros and cons to having an interactive whiteboard in your classroom.

  • Gives the teacher an incredible amount of teaching tools
  • Consolidates the number of technological devices needed in the classroom
  • Class notes can easily be made accessible outside of the classroom through online documents

  • The're expensive! You have to be careful not to break or damage them
  • Some teachers won't be able to use the software properly
  • Just as any computer, they are subject to bugs and viruses 

Here are some lessons that I have personally taught that could make use of interactive whiteboards:

  • Pearl Harbor - I could have used the whiteboard to pull up a Youtube video of Franklin Roosevelt's speech.
  • Lines of Longitude and Latitude - I could have made an interactive map where people could find specific locations on the map. 
  • The Calvin Coolidge Presidency - I could have made a matching exercise to help students learn the important people of that era.