Technology Bites Back Sometimes.. Who decides what is STEM and what expectations should we have for teachers using technology?


I am glad I am mentoring teachers for technology use with a solution for their technology problems. The online course that I decided to take after reading posts on the ECTC Journal was a wrong turn that I took recently. I went in unprepared to be found wanting.

ETC Journal

A journal for educational technology & change has great articles and so I was convinced I needed to make sure my technology was up to date.

Because I am not currently taking a course and did not go to ISTE, I decided to re-up my skills by taking the Certification Course for the National Geographic. It’s new, it’s different and I have been working with the National Geographic for a long time. Who could have predicted that I would be found wanting? But let me explain. There is a new technical divide and I could not qualify.

Here is the course National Geographic Educator Certification and it is a good one. You meet international people and explorers and you have a group of people who support you in your work. I am working in a community based organization with nothing but my laptop and tools and my intent was to start new technologies and inspire kids with all of the resources that National Geographic has to offer. I ran into a technical divide.

Who knew that some of the course was misleading?I do videos of field trips on the way back from the field trips. I used Google Glass to make a video for a school in Russia when I was working in exchange. So listening to the cohorts and viewing the expectations, I surely did not worry. They passed off the video as a minor kind of thing. But what they referenced as tools to work with . ouch!!!

Here is what they said…

Bringing it All Together: Teaching About the World

“At National Geographic, we believe that a well-rounded education provides young people with the knowledge of how the human and natural worlds work at local, regional, and global scales. This type of education also teaches young people to use different perspectives to understand the world.”

So I jumped at it. The course was beautiful until I got to the Capstone part. If there had been a real person or a time when you were face to face with a mentor I would not have failed. I believed them when they said that creating a video was not a big deal. It was a big deal. It was a painful learning process which I learned. Relearned , relearned, relearned..until I got tired.

They said “
We know that for many of you this will be your first experience creating, editing, and sharing your work in video format. Not to worry: most certified educators made their first movie in this course! We want the certification experience to challenge and push you, and the capstone video is a compelling way to tell your story. At National Geographic we have a long history of storytelling through a variety of media, and we are excited to welcome you into the National Geographic family through this valued tradition. Just like you ask your students every day to learn something new and take risks, we hope this helps you go further in your own work as an educator, storyteller, learner, change maker, and explorer. They estimated nine hours of work/ I don’t think so.

Nowhere did it say that the tools that they suggested would cost if you published them. I worked on a Powtoon for my submission ( Free)well free until you wanted to download it. A matter of money. And the tool was not thoroughly vetted . On one browser it had voice over, on another different qualities for color , and there was always the subtle suggestion that for a fiver, they would do it for you. IMovie is excellent except it kept going dark. Why? I did not have time to find out.

When you have spent hours learning to do something and you have to pay to use it and you did not expect to.. that’s a bummer. I spent about a hundred dollars trying to make a Powtoon video. I actually made a pretty good one but I could not regulate the sound and the instructor complained.

I did not expect that. I expected a guiding question to help me know what was wrong.

So I chose another one that was suggested. Many programs, after you create have , had a paywall. ARRGH!! $210.00 and we have a Movavi Video.

Here is what I said…

I was pretty sure of my use of technology before this course. With the video I was a basket case. I had gotten used to making animated sharings and small movies on Google pictures. I struggled with the video. Why? I guess I did not know the components of what. The instructions were clear, but inside some of the offered programs were paywalls and valuable time was wasted. The video I submitted was probably not my best. I had a beautiful one on Powtoon but the sound was so loud I could not share it. I had no way , except to pay some more to get that adjusted. I used every program they listed in the course to find one that was comfortable. I did not have IT support. I wanted it to be me based, or teacher based like we often are across the digital divide. That did not work.

I stumbled through several programs and really liked a few, but paused when the paywall came up and I knew that it would be published since it was “free” One of my baby steps in creating a video is sadly available.

Things I did not do that would have made it better. I should have changed to the PC when I could not right click instead of asking what was wrong. I should have upgraded my browsers and I did. I loved the IMovie. It was awesome. But since I have toys, IPad, Mac, IPhone before this course, I used them very separately for the most part. I learned the value of integrating them into a system. I actually completed a video using IMovie, but I kept getting a dark screen from time to time. Technology mistakes gave me and everyone around me a headache. I had a friend who is the ultimate in tech support but I felt that I should be able to do it without cheating.

There were ideas offered but I saw those before I went down the video trail. MP4? I think I suggested a boot camp for video but as in education, each person has their own store and set of tools, and know how and individualized learning even with stumbles was invaluable. The journey to completion or acceptance of a certain system is personal. It helps a lot if an IT professional is in person.

I have never so believed in ISTE or GenYES.

My students did outstanding work from understanding what our sources of water are our watershed, to understanding what an estuary was , to creating a watershed runoff model, to understanding global water needs and how to be a citizen scientist.

Not bad for a community activist trying to make a difference. Amount of technology where I work? Zero. At the aquarium,in ecosystems and exhibits.

How do I know they understand run off? We made a model city and polluted it and collected the water for evaluation. See above.

We learned about the Global Impact of Water. We loved this book and the online video.

The Water Princess – YouTube

How do I know that they understand shorelines and estuary?


Where did I learn my teaching techniques, well working for the National Geographic KidsNetwork.

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center was outstanding .

Here is what we did…

This program was adapted for a range of ages. It focused on science as narrative, and a collection of facts, procedures, and observations that lead to understanding the world. The guiding question of the trip was, “How do scientists tell the story of clean water, and how do people fit into that story.” We focused on science as fact based, though hands-on inquiry at each station.

Plankton/ Microscopes
Students began with a short introduction about the difference between clean water, dirty water, and treated water. They then discovered how plankton plays a role in clean and dirty water, specifically related to humans. Students were given a plankton sample and filamentous algae from the Bay, and then were asked to sort phytoplankton and zooplankton.

Oysters and Model Oyster Reef Sorting
Students began by exploring the different types of bivalves that live in the Bay, and then learned about how oysters live together and their biological function. They then attempted to build a model oyster reef to determine its habitat structure and then sort through a model reef that has been colonized by fish and invertebrates from the Bay. They sorted the organisms and learned about the role that oysters play in clean water and Bay habitat.

Seining
Students began by discussing how researchers might study nearshore organisms, and learn how SERC researchers use seining nets to catch fish and invertebrates. They will discuss the term “biodiversity” and how biodiversity might be an indicator of water’s health.

They then collected data by donning waders and use seining nets to sample the populations. Students concluded with a short discussion about their findings and what they might mean.  

Watersheds
Students explored how a watershed works through narrative and a 3D watershed model. They then demonstrated how material gets into and is carried through a watershed. After this they discussed how the properties of water can be described, and then demonstrated by using a secchi disc and sounding lead as well as a hydrometer.

Blue Crabs
At this station students were introduced to the anatomy and biology of blue crabs. They learned about their natural history, from what they eat to when and where they migrate. Students then visited with a live blue crab and studied its anatomy and movement up close. They then finished with a short discussion about blue crab research here at SERC and look at crab pots with excluders. I had cooked crabs on ice for them to take home to eat.Eat a crab lab if you will.

Science should be inclusive, not exclusive.

I believe in the seven E’s .There are seven stages which include elicit, engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate and extend.

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