Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Blogpost #3 Khan Academy: the Pros and Khans

As a non-traditional student returning to college after 20 years, I definitely needed extra help in math and chemistry. I found this help through Khan Academy and after having completed four years as an undergraduate, I have had the chance to develop a close relationship with it. Khan Academy is a website comprised of over 2400 videos offering instruction in math, chemistry, physics, biology, finance and the humanities. A student can watch a tutorial video on their subject of interest or they can participate in practice problems. The practice problems feature offers 3 hints to the student and then if the student is still unable to generate the correct answer it will show the student how the problem should be solved. The site is very easy to use and best of all it is free. Even with the thousands of positive comments that have been left on the Khan Academy site it is not without its flaws and criticisms which I will explore but first let’s take a look at the site itself.

After logging into Khan Academy and setting up a free account, the student is greeted by name and the home page “The World of Math”. This application allows the student to take a short math placement quiz so that the site can start math lessons at the proper skill level for that student. If math is not what is desired, then a simple search can be typed to find the topic of interest

I personally used Khan Academy extensively for help in chemistry. After searching Chemistry, I was given a choice of topics to choose from. After choosing one of the topics, a detailed list of videos was provided from which I chose the exact topic that I needed help with. I could also have chosen to type in a specific topic at the search prompt and my selections would have been narrowed down to that topic only.  For chemistry I limited my selection to video tutorials which, for the most part, were very helpful. I loved the fact that I could back a video up and re-watch a segment over and over until I got everything down on paper. I did have a problem with the spectrometry segment of Organic Chemistry because the videos approached the subject differently than the teacher and their focus was on a different perspective than my teacher thus leading me down a different path which was not very beneficial.
Khan Academy’s evaluation as a successful form of instruction as viewed in the media is controversial.  The main discontent that is construed by teachers is the fact that it lacks conceptual content. This fact is true but I do not believe that it is the intent of Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, to provide anything more than tutorials and practice problems to help a student. The structure of Khan Academy is to walk a student through basic skills in a stepwise fashion, each skill building on the one that came before. Khan Academy is based on basic procedure. It does not have the intention of replacing the classroom teacher but it can be an effective aid for a struggling student. It may provide a slightly different way of explaining a subject or skill that some students may relate to and find better success with than they did from the instruction provided by their teacher. Sometimes a different explanation of something is all that it takes for a student to get that “ah ha” moment and finally understand what a teacher is trying to convey. A teacher can use Khan Academy as a supplemental instruction tool to bring a student who is lagging behind up to class level without wasting valuable class time. Assignments can be made for homework and the parents can follow along and assist the student to ensure that he or she is successful. Khan Academy can also be used with ambitious students to allow them to move ahead. Challenging assignments can be made for those students and they can work at their own pace which can prevent boredom they may find in a normal classroom setting.
A criticism that has been made of Khan Academy, by Karim Kai Ani, in The Washington Post: ”Khan Academy: The Hype and the reality”, is that Sal Khan has stated that before he makes a video he often does not know what he is going to say. He is compared to an unprepared teacher and would be fired if he was in a classroom setting. It is my belief that the content of the videos is not based on what he plans to say. What is relevant is that he knows the skill that he plans to teach and is able to work through the concept clearly and in a stepwise manor. This is comparable to a classroom teacher with a lesson plan. A teacher does not have to know exactly what she is going to say. If she knows her subject then the words will come just as Sal Khan is able to complete his task unscripted.
For the most part, the instructional videos are correctly presented but there has been documentation of incorrect instruction. This is a continued concern of Karim Kai Ani and others. As with any information obtained on the internet, unless it is from a peer reviewed scholarly journal, it is always best to proceed with some amount of caution. Teachers should always view videos for accuracy, before using them to supplement their own instruction. A teacher should also encourage their students to seek out multiple sources of information.  Mr. Ani has an instructional site of his own called Mathalicious but it cost 185.00 per teacher per year. Unfortunately, not all schools or teachers can afford the luxury of access to this site.
Khan Academy does not herald itself as the fix all for mathematics or other subjects that it represents. Unfortunately it has been presented in the media as something similar to “the outsider that rides in to save the town”, The Huffington Post "Khan Academy: Good, Bad, or Ugly". Khan Academy is not changing the rules but adding to the multimedia experience in education. Thousands of users have been helped to increase their knowledge and understanding in multiple subject areas. This knowledge may not have been afforded to these users by any other means. It is my opinion that the successes that have occured due to Khan Academy have far outweighed the failures that it is criticized for. Khan Academy deserves a place in education now and in the future. They have already proven that they can learn from their mistakes and make corrections to instruction that have been brought to their attention to be wrong. With support from teachers this site is destined to become an even more valuable resource in the future.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Blogpost #2 Search Engines

As always, this week’s assignment on search engines was a major eye opener for me. Before doing this research I was a devoted Google user. I had tried other search engines that invaded my computer, always to with the same results, disappointment and frustration. I now feel like I am armed with a multitude of new friends to help me find exactly what I may be looking for and to direct my future students in the most effective and safe manner as they conduct their own searches.
 Icurio is a search engine designed specifically for teachers and students. This site allows teachers to access standard based lessons and activities organized by grade level to help them provide stimulating daily lesson plans. Icurio also is a safe and well organized way for students to search the web because all the material that is allowed for viewing has been filtered for age appropriate media. This site also provides a way for students and teachers to easily organize the material that that search in order to come back to it easily. The only downfall I found for icurio is the fact that one must have an access key to use it. This key would most often be provided by a school for use by their students and teachers.
 DMOZ is a search engine that breaks content down into easy to search categories. The researcher can start with the selection, “Kids and Teens”, then move to a specific subject area. Each subject is broken down into even more specific components such as; Biology, Chemistry or Physics. Within each subject unit one can access content material, experiment, homework help and much more. This site is easy to use and no subscription is necessary. I feel like this would be a very useful for my students to use in the classroom and at home to enhance in class lectures. No subscription is required to access this tool. 
Ixquick is based in the Netherlands since 1999 and claims to have the highest privacy level and does not charge you for its service. It will not store your IP address, use cookies, or record your searches. It also claims to block NSA surveillance. It utilizes multiple search engines while at the same time being encrypted to protect your privacy. I have never done any work on the internet that I would want to hide but if I ever do I will definitely use this one. 
Carrot2 organizes search results into topics. This seach engine is very well organized and I was able to easily access lesson plans, worksheets, activities, and test questions. The topics are clearly presents and allows a teacher to quickly find what he or she is looking for and there is no required subscription. 
SweetSearch has many useful features. This tool will only search sites that have been reviewed by research experts and education professionals to insure that all content is appropriate for students. There are topic specific search engines contained within the main link and they organize material by subject matter and grade level. It also includes a site that provides a daily feed of interesting , valuable and fun information with students in mind. It includes: today in history, web guides, comics, words of the day, poem of the day, and much more. 
 Wolfram Alpha is a search engine best used for numbers and computations. It provides valuable help for subjects such as Algebra, Trig and Calculus. It provides a scientific calculator that has advanced functions such as plotting and graphing. This site would be great for math teachers and for students struggling with homework problems.

Google Scholar is wonderful for research papers. Dr Strange said not to include Google but this is not just your basic Google search. This search engines limits material to peer reviewed articles form scholarly journals. From this search, a student can be assured that the information contained is reliable.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Blogpost #1 Plagiarism: What Do They Really Know?

comic of student telling his teacher that his facts must be right because he copied them right off the internet
Plagiarism is a word that is too often not clearly defined. Teachers tell their students not to plagiarize but never clearly tell them what plagiarism is. Before reading the material on plagiarism, I thought I knew what it was and how to properly give credit to people for their work. I was surprised at some of the facts that I didn’t know. I did not know that it only takes 4 words to be considered plagiarism. I knew that if you made a long quote that it should be indented but I did not know exactly how many words was considered a long quote. I was fortunate to have been taught that summarizing someone else’s words is plagiarism if they are not given credit for the ideas. I have found that many students believe that if they rephrase an author’s words then giving credit is not necessary. I often wonder if teachers just tell their students to just put it into their own words and it will be alright. Students definitely need to be taught all the details of what is considered plagiarism and this education needs to start with the first papers that they are assigned to write whether it be in elementary or middle school. The repercussions for plagiarism at the college level can be devastating on the future of a young person. Until there are standards for teaching students about plagiarism, as teachers we cannot be sure of what our students have been taught previously. Unless we make the rules clear by having a discussion with our students, handing out clearly stated guidelines for plagiarism and putting posters on the wall we cannot assume they know anything. The only way we can punish students for committing plagiarism is if we know that they know the rules. We are teachers so let’s teach and then hold our students accountable.

Monday, February 10, 2014

the name Allison in fancy letters
I am changing my name on my blog. It has always been Elizabeth Sells EDM Classblog. Since I go by Allison this name has always felt strange. Sorry for any confusion this may cause any of you but it will now be called Allison Sells EDM Classblog. Also, some of you may have been wondering why my url had EDM310blog while everyone else has an EDM510 url. This is because I took EDM310 4 years ago. I did not want to lose any of the work that I had done on this blog so we merged it into my blog for the EDM510 class. I feel like there is some valuable information here for anyone who wants to check it out, please feel free to.