Monday, February 8, 2010

A Few Software Applications of Note

I tested a new software called SpellQuizzer.   The main page can be found at  (http://www.SpellQuizzer.com).   It was designed to compliment a teacher's spelling and vocabulary curriculum by allowing them to create their own spelling lists.  The built-in spell checker recognizes both US and UK English spellings and warns the teacher if they make a typographical error while creating their own spelling lists.  That is an important feature because we all make typos at one time or another.  The teacher makes recordings of themselves pronouncing each word and can put it into a sentence to foster the correct meaning and spelling of those pesky words that are spelled more than one way depending upon their meaning.   The software also gives you free downloadable spelling lists at their website:  http://www.spellquizzer.com/Spelling-Lists.htm.   There is also a community area where collaboration is encouraged through discussion forums and places to share your spelling lists.  This software is not free, however, the creator, Dan Hite, is currently offering SpellQuizzer free to any educator who contacts him at http://www.SpellQuizzer.com/Contact.htm.  

Another great application that I have found is the Visual Mathematical Toolkit.  This is a free download at http://amath.colorado.edu/java/ .  This software came from the University of Colorado at Boulder's Department of Applied Mathematics.  This is a very powerful mathematics tool that can be used to simulate the visual learning of Calculus and Differential Equations. 

MVT, as it is known, contains visual and computational tools which are designed to help students visualize the concepts of Calculus. MVP contains several tools such as: a Scientific calculator, Plotting tools, Numerical tools, Linear algebra tools, Differential equations tools, Content-specific applications, Other Calculus visualization tools, and has a Tutorial-style help system.  This software is extremely powerful and can be used for high school as well as for college mathematics. 

Another math tool that is free that can be used on-line is Visual Math Learning.  This web 2.0 tool can be found at:  http://www.visualmathlearning.com/.  
 VML is an interactive multimedia software program  that can be used as a pre-algebra and elementary algebra tutorial.  Included in the tutorials are lessons, exercises and games to keep students engaged and learning!  Teachers, parents and students can all benefit from using this tool.  It does not require any registration and the sites goal is to simply improve math education.

I encourage you to give these tools a try.  Please feel free to give me feedback about them.  

Monday, February 1, 2010

Why is Technology So Important in Education?


Many people may ask this question because education in many ways is different today than it was when they were in school and they want to know why. The answer to the question isn’t always so obvious either. However, the plain and simple truth is that today’s world has changed. No longer do our children learn in the isolation of a classroom. No longer is memorization of facts and figures the goal. To keep up with our ever changing global community with all its complexities, our children must learn to be complex problems solvers, to be able to work collaboratively, to be good digital, global and community citizens, to develop their higher order thinking skills, to become experts in something that they are passionate about, to be able to discern good information from bad and to be competitive in the global workplace regardless of their chosen career.

Technology assists our children in obtaining all of these skills. More so today than every before in history, students have the ability to research any topic. They are not bound by classroom or library walls. Technology has opened doors to a seemingly infinite well of information, which is not always accurate. Therefore, they need to learn how to sift through it all and get the “good stuff.” This seemingly infinite well of information and current bank of technology has also allowed students to truly invest themselves in their education by developing personal educational plans or studying fields of particular interest to them. When students are actively engaged in their own learning to reach his or her own ultimate potential, everybody wins. For example, perhaps a social studies teacher wants their students to do a project about the Roman Empire. Each student could choose a particular part of the Roman Empire that sparks their interest such as politics, fashion, or the technology of the time. Assessments could then be differentiated by allowing students the leeway to choose their product such as a fake blog where students pretend to be political figures in Rome and discuss politics or a wiki is developed where students collaboratively design the latest Roman fashion. Local history could be studied by students gathering oral histories from senior citizens and then creating a podcast of the project to put on-line and share with the community! The possibilities are endless all thanks to technology and teacher/student creativity! To quote Edutopia, an on-line publication, “Learning through projects while equipped with technology tools allows students to be intellectually challenged while providing them with a realistic snapshot of what the modern office looks like. Through projects, students acquire and refine their analysis and problem-solving skills as they work individually and in teams to find, process, and synthesize information they’ve found online.” For more information on educational technology, you can find this article at: http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-introduction.

In short, we are not teaching our students to work in jobs existing in the past or perhaps even the present, we are facilitating our students’ education so that they will be able to succeed in the jobs of the future! These may be jobs that do not even exist today! So in this ever-changing global society of ours, we need to keep focused on what is in the best interest of our children by providing them the opportunities and tools that they will need for their future. Here is a YouTube video from Dr. Howie DiBlasi that addresses these issues with some shocking statistics! http://tinyurl.com/diblasi.