SEM Bliss


SO COOL!  On Friday 7-2, I received a little dose of scientific awesomeness.  Matt Oleksiak (UD Undergrad Researcher), brought Roy Murray (UD Graduate Researcher and my appointed leader) and I to the engineering imaging lab in Spencer.  We were able to see Matt prep the scope, prepare samples, image them at 12,000x, and performa an analysis of molecular structure (forget the name – my cup really runneth over).  In one week we will get certified to use the scope ourselves.

As a Biology Teacher, I appreciated this technique more than any other, because  I was most familiar with it.  SEM is a technique we discuss with biology students, but obviously can’t do.  It was exciting to see the SEM in action, knowing that we will get to use this again.  This is what I consider, high-quality professional development.  So how will this improve my teaching?

1-  Its exiting, we can’t discount the power of  a professional development opp. that simply sparks a flame of enthusiasm for ones teaching.

2- This is an outreach connection – I see an opportunity to video conference with researchers using the SEM, bringing students to see it, and even get student samples analyzed (renting scope time?, grant opportunity?).  This opportunity, as well as the NISE-RET experience  in general, has opened  a door form me that I was unaware existed.  In addition, my expertise level is now at a point that I feel more comfortable guiding students into more open inquiry-type experiences involving STEM topics.  Again, this is “NISE!”

My Cup Runneth Over!


Sputtering, I like the best;

Spin coating, Spray coating, PLD,

Evaporation, and XRD;

eVs, x-rays, BCC, FCC crystal structure map,

Semiconductors, reusing gloves, THE BAND GAP!

In a mere 2 weeks – attempting to know,

All these theories and methods, has caused me to grow;

These theories and methods – I know NOT,

A picture of “real” science, STEM in action, I’ve got!

Immediate Immersion – The “NISE” things about research…

I admit, I expected the NISE-RET program to provide an “overview” of an engineering research lab.  The key assumption of mine being that we teachers would observe, reflect, relate, and share the experience to our colleagues and students through presentations and lessons.  I was wrong…(we always forget about the “unkown, unkowns“)  We ARE going to observe, reflect, relate, and share.  But we are doing science (intentional present tense used here).

We are reading chapters of engineering textbooks and journal articles (which most of us have no background in), we are getting trained in materials synthesis and analysis techniques (with the intent that we will use them), and we have been welcomed into a scientific culture that exists inside a black box for most students in our schools.  What an opportunity?!?!  All things considered, (the fact that I took a summer job that assigns unpaid homework,  for example) this experience has been surprising, difficult, and exciting… aren’t those essential ingredients for learning?

I hope, at this point, to achieve these things – in order to capitalize on this opportunity and learn as much as possible:

  1. Document this experience, through this blog, photos, videos, and my lab book in a way that it will influence the way I teach and enable me to fully share what experienced.
  2. Make connections that can create opportunities to bring students to the labs and continue this partnership between UD Engineering and Delcastle HS.

The NISE-RET program, though not what I expected, has already “energized me into the ‘pedagogical’ conduction band” and motivated me to think differently about my teaching.  The authenticity of the work we are doing and the opportunity to grow as teachers is truly, “NISE!”

Shout out to my peeps, Alia and Tara.  Also, a “woo! woo!” to my materials science posse – first, to Ismat, for welcoming us into his beloved family; second, to Diksha and Rory, for their acceptance and patience with me trying to play catch up; third, for their acceptance and comaraderie  Emre, Rojillio, Luke, Matt, Bakhtyar, and Nopporn; Last but not least, Hassnain (a.k.a. Lil’ Ismat) and Aftab, for being such good teachers.

US NISE RET 2010 – New Peeps!

Alia, Tara, and I met everyone in the lab, chose our projects, we are very exited to start our training.  Ismat, and all of his students, have been very positive and welcoming.

Getting prepared to make organic solar panels!  Tomorrow we learn about x-ray diffraction.  I am surprised, excited, and impressed with the level of immersion we are going to experience in our labs.

Just Like Riding a Bike?

Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of very part of your life.”          Brian Davis

Life is like riding a bicycle: you don’t fall of unless you stop pedaling.”          Claude Pepper

The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.”          Sloan Wilson

The use of internet technologies in the classroom is like riding a bike:  1- Using them well takes commitment and work.  2- Technological integration requires constant “peddling;” a teacher must scaffold and manage the use of technology to ensure its done well.  3- Children can benefit immensely from the use of the internet in the classroom when they are well supported, but have the freedom to be creative, explore, and collaborate online.

As a Biology teacher, for many years, I viewed the integration of technological applications such as webquests, online research, multimedia presentations, and class management using web pages as unnecessary, but beneficial.  All of these activities augmented lessons, giving them an x-factor, curb-appeal, or icing on a good cake.  I have just begun to understand how naive I was.  I was missing two very crucial understandings that limited my ability to utilize the technology that was available to me, to its utmost potential.  The first, was that I was stuck in a teacher-centered approach to tech use, versus putting the task on the students shoulders and giving them the freedom to complete it. (Ironically, as a science teacher, inquiry-based lessons were a normal part of my lab structures, but I was not experienced enough to create online lessons that were problem-based, or collaborative)  I was essentially using the internet as icing, when it could have been the cake.  I needed to get the students involved and actively working, creating, evaluating, and collaborating online.  This is the way that online technology can open doors in a classroom and transform learning experiences.  The second misconception that inhibited my ability to more effectively integrate technology into my lessons was that I assumed my sole duty was to teach the science standards.  I was not even aware that the Technological Literacy Standards or National Educational Technology Standards existed!  I now realize that it is every teachers job to integrate and teach technological litereacy.  We are living in a “flat world” and according to Thomas L. Friedman it is our duty to teach our students “the right stuff”  As he defines it the right stuff has 4 components: 1- Ability to learn how to learn.  2- CQ  +   PQ  >  IQ (creativity + passion > intellignece)  3- Ability to Play well with others.  4- The Right Brain Stuff – “artistry, empathy, seeing the big picture.”  (Friedman 2007)  In a world where most individuals will change jobs over 10 times before the age of 40, it is not just factual knowledge that we must teach, its technological skills, creative talents, and the ability to collaborate and self-teach.  I believe it is the duty of all teachers to teach technological literacy, and in effect teach the right stuff.

Interestingly,  my development as a teacher of technology, has mirrored that of my history as a bike rider.  Lets just say, it took me a while to get the hang of the two-wheel thing… but I kept trying and now I’m decent (seriously, I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 9).  I was misguided at first, as a user of technology, but I’m getting it.  I’d like to think that I’m on the verge of making some very powerful changes to the way I teach in regards to the integration of online lessons into the curriculum I teach.  More than just adding stuff, I am reorganizing and revamping.  As Michelle Davis describes, “While teachers are feeling more and more confident with the technology they have, they’re layering it on top of what they’re already doing, not doing things in new ways.” (M. Davis 2008 Edweek)  I have layered upon layered extra “stuff” into my cirriculum, but the fact is, as they say, “less is more.”  I plan to cut and paste this year.  The initial jump into the realm of the tech-integrated class is daunting because, in a standards-based system, most teachers feel they already have too much to cover.  In addition to problems with computer availability and connectivity (what I believe is the greatest hurdle to tech integration) teachers must figure out a way to make room for in depth lessons that involve the embedded ongoing use of technology.  This is not any easy task for even the most tech savvy teachers, but to this we are charged.

For me, the web 2.0 revolution began last year.  I dabbled in podcasting, blogging, and video conferencing, but was only moderately successful.  Though most of my students were very excited about the activities, my skill level, and in effect, confidence level, was limited.  Therefor, I did not scaffold or manage the activities as well as I could have.  Experience with a particular technology, website, or application greatly affects a teachers ability to efficiently manage it and stay organized.  I think I bit off a bit more than I could chew.  I also did not thoroughly integrate any of the applications listed above.  For that reason, the students did not get a chance to become proficient in any of the online applications we used.

This year I’ve done some revisiting, cutting, and pasting.  I have benefited immensely from this class – EDUC632; the exposure to various applications like voicethread, scribble, jing, and windows movieo maker was cool.    Also the informative activities on LoTi, CIPA + COPA and the issues of internet safety, and the need to teach students how to search and critically evaluate resources online was eye-opening.   Tops on my list of applications and tech lessons to be implemented are a WikiPage for projects and daily class summaries, Live Blogging in class, the use of smart web searching tools and bookmarking sites, in addition to the multimedia tools such as windows movie maker, photostory, gcast, ect.  I also think that lessons to develop awareness of online information quality, ethical use and safety online, and information ownership (CIPA and COPA) are important.  Honestly, some of these topics I will merely discuss in an attempt to develop some awareness, but now that I have a better understandind of these issues I can weave questions and examples into my lessons that will raise awarness of them.

The key change that I need to make is to not just use the technology, but as was discussed above, develop lessons that get students creating and collaborating with it.  According to Vicki Davis,  “research-based think-pair-share and post lesson summarization are employed effectively whether you use paper, oral discussion, or online collaborative learning tools such as the wiki. The basic methodology (and result) is the same although the medium is different.” (V. Davis 2006)  It is combination of student-centered lesson structures and the use of online applications that enables a teacher hit both content standards and tech-literacy standards simultaneously.  The LoTi scale is a useful tool for teachers because the upper levels of the scale are indicative more of collaborative, creative, and affective lessons, not just the use of technology.

This year I hope to start peddling fast, but I am prepared to keep peddling and finish the race.  Ideally, at the end of the race – I won’t be the one on the bike!

Sources Cited

“Children’s Internet Protection Act.” Federal Communications Commission Consumer & Governmental Affairs Burea. 20 Jul 2008 <>.

Davis, Michelle. “NEA, AFT Report Outlines Ed-Tech Problems.” Education Week June 25, 2008 <>.

Davis, Vicki. “Wiki Collaboration Across the Curriculum.” K-12 Online Conference Blog October 23, 2006 19 Jul 2008 <>.

Friedman, Thomas. The World is Flat. 2nd. Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publication , 2005.

Day 10… “The Whirlpool!”

Well, we have equated this class with a “stream” of conscious thoughts and ideas flowing past us so quickly that no one could expect to take it all in, we could merely “sip from the stream.” Truly, we have our notes, blogs, wikis, protopages, ect. – our metaphorical “cups” full of the knowledge we sampled. Well, here I am sitting here reflecting on what we learned in class and starting to plan for next year and I think someone punched a hole in my cup. The water is flowing out so fast its formed a whirlpool. In my case I may have to call it a Disney whirlpool. The effect of 1 full week with no internet access, (honestly, I just wasn’t paying 10 bucks a day to get on the net) a lot of good food, and more lifesize Disney cartoon characters than any grown up wants to see, while sober.  Anyway, I’m back in DE, back online, and back into mode “2.0”.  So what are the BIG plans for next year? I can truly say that I have been affected by this class. I have tried to DO as much as I could so as to not lose what we learned.  Already, the whirlpool effect is taking place, but I think I’ve got few new tricks safely stuffed into the old “bag .” Here’s what I’m hoping to use next year: 1- Oh yeah! – A class blog. Every student in the class rotates and writes a summary of the days big ideas and events. All students are free to comment. At the end of the semester, we have a review outline of the course. 2- I intend to use the Ethics project that Conrad, Carol, and I developed. I will use it in my senior honors bio course and hope to collaborate with honors english – this will include a separate blog, wiki space, protopage, and video apps. 3- I plan to write a proposal to get at least one more computer in my room (HP grant, ect) as of now I have access to a laptop lab, but I only have my computer in my class full-time. 4- I’m really digging the google docs, google video, wikipedia, online resource apps and I plan to use them extensively. 5- Protopage, luv it! nuff said. 6- Podcasting, this is awesome. I have started listening to a number of podcasts and will continue to use this as an efficient way to be a “lifelong learner” -a necessity in a web 2.0 world, rite? Also, I’m excited about this, I am going to podcast a weekly overview with daily homework assignments for GrossBiology 07. I’m pretty fired up about it. with that said please check out the mebgross tech podacast at:

Let the stream flow! Would love to get any feedback you can give…

Peace out.

EDUC639 – Day9

Grant funding:

I was talking to Pat about getting the technology we need to use these tools into our classroom. Here are two links. The HP grant is collaborative and is not to difficult to get from what I hear. The DonorsChoose link was suggested by Pat and sound awesome. Unfortunately they do not servce our area yet… If we all registed it would push them to serve DE.

1-HP Technology Grant

Trends: Web 3.0 “The semantic web” -IT seems as if what got us here is going to leave us if we don’t stay on track. One thing that I noticed and really like about all of the applications and technologies that we have learned about in this class is that they are all internet based. What this really means is that we, as educators can go really high tech, with our old school low tech hardware.  All you need in a web2.0 world is a computer and an internet connection.  For once, my 4 year old Dell laptop (though stressed to its limits with installed apps) still works great for all of the communication tools that we have discovered in this class.  This just makes me think how realistically doable tech integration is, even in a low tech non-supportive school.

Using blogging in class – I can not think of a subject area in school that could not benefit from the addition of blogging to a teachers repertoire of lessons structures.  As I mentioned above -it doesn’t take much to get on line and write. – using it in class.  What can I say this is a great way to share.  I tend to assume that “collabortation” is a dynamic amongst students.  Really, the instructor and student need to operate on a more level playing field – with the instructor acting as more of a coach.  This brings us back to the old days of Locke, Rousseau, and my boy J. Dewey.  These homeboys all described the need for a more democratic approach to teaching.  OK, what does this have to do with delicious?  This tech app. is a great way to bridge the gap between student and teacher – whereas a teacher can give the student all of their resources and the class can collboratively add to this body of knowledge.  A delicious site combined with a wiki, as a data collection/storage site, topped of with a reflective and analytic blog piece… BAM! you have education in the 19th century, 21st century style.

EDUC 639 – Day 7+8 = Drinking from the stream…

I lost a blog section for day 6. Interestingly, I realized this log of thought needs to be timely completed. When I went back to re-write the log I couldn’t remember much of what I has discussed. In comes the idea of the “stream of conciousness.” If you do not drink from the stream while a particular topic/lesson is being discussed it will be lost. If we are going to use these technological tools in our class and teach in this streaming format – we need to give kids the skills to sample the water continuously as it flows. Examples of skills: having kids type in word or notes on paper as the class flows, but don’t expect detailed typed outlines of what needs to be understood. You should have clear goals to lessons so students have a direction, be sure to give appropriate and frequent feedback, and integrate time to allow students to get organized and track class discussions. Also, we just can not assume that students will have the organizational skills to multitask in a way they could remain on top of things in class. Old school teaching is like drinking from stillwater – a pond (some teachers offer a mere bucket of options and info) Using this collaborative technology is like getting kid to sample from the stream, actually its more like the amazon river! – they need skills, a boat, cup, something to enable them handle all of the information at their disposal.

Comments on blogging:

Comments on projects:

EDUC639 Day 5+6 – A lot to say…

Well, I am extremely relieved to have the presentation under my belt. A huge thank you to my partner Conrad – very thorough and detailed. He did an awesome job of picking apart the book and pulling our so many pertinent examples. This was (and still is a fascination process) I realize a large part of the power of this presentation format was that we were forced to practice what we preach. We had to collaborate using the web to get this done – that is what this class is about. We are in a teaching class, not a tech class. We have just experienced the power of using this web 2.0 technology to enhance learning. Wooohooo!!! Here is what I learned: 1-Blogs rock. You get 100% active participation, you have instantly accessable formative assessment data, you not only foster, but in effect, require higher level evaluative and synthesis thinking, and you have a created a permanent log of your lesson activity that can easily be reviewed and reflected upon by students to further process ideas and self-evaluate one’s learning. Interesting note, it was a bit uncomfortable for me to relinquish control of the class discussion. As much as I use cooperative structures and student centered formative assessment in my class, the fact is my teaching style is to be a showman. I like to hooke’m and lead’em where they need to go. The presentation itself was almost secondary to what was actually going on in class.  You really need to change you style when your using blogs in class.  Focus on big questions, give time for processing, learn/train yourself to monitor the blog and add comments when necessary.

EDUC639 Day 4 – The Ball is Rollin’

Was is me or did today just fly. I really “digg” this class! I thought everyone’s project ideas sounded really cool. This is the fun part for us as teachers – the creation of lessons! What can we do to hook them, motivate them, and work them towards our goals and objectives. Carol, Conrad, and I came up with some great ideas and had a good discussion about the power of interdisciplinary collaboration and the importance of using relevant material / problems in our lessons. I will post an outline of our project on the class wiki. I hope try out as many of the tech apps that we’ve been exposed to so as to better be able to keep them in my “bag of tricks” and also get a better idea of how to teach the skills to the kids. Here is an attempt at using a few apps: a cool video from my classroom and a a podcast of my thoughts on the project. Use the links below.

I also had some thoughts on a few of the readings that really applied to the project and how we applied technology. Kuropatwa stated that all of his classes are “hybrids” having both a face to face and an online component – he used student’s as scribe posts keeping class records on a blog. I think this use of web 2.0 technology is really powerful. I like how in the article from Day 3 – “Naked Independence vs. Performance Support,” the authors described technology as “eyeglasses.” It has the power to increase learning in whose who are not receptive to standard methods- which is most. We have to teach more to more. More information and better problem solving to more students – actually, all of them. In light of the Information Literacy Standards and National Education Technology Standards, it because obvious that not only should we use technology to enhance our teaching – we must use it. I not just about enhancement its about making our students technologically literate. We would not give a kid a license, if they had not proven that they could drive. Yet its OK to graduate students into at technologically “flat” society, that are not experienced in using this technology and understanding its impact on society.

I have often thought of myself as lucky, because I have a laptop, LCD projector, and access to computers at Delcastle, but not dependable daily or even weekly access to computers for my students is not possible. Do we need this computer access? Is it essential? In light of NCLB, the answer is YES. We need to educate all of our kids and these technological “glasses” make this task more realistic.

Its time we take our teaching to a “whole nutha level” – check out this mad TV video from utube:

Other stuff:

Very cool link on the TeachinHacks website that discusses the ability to attach RSS feeds to multiple file types and aggregate them in one single location so that students can view them.

MySpace and 2ndLife – WOW! These sites are so powerful and just amazing. I’d like to see the Harvard School in 2ndLife.