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May 29, 2014

Image courtesy of Nemo

For my course five final project, I’ve initially targeted THREE very different units with unique possiblities.  My teaching schedule next year includes co-teaching science with my current co-teacher and solo-teaching a co-planned English for Academic Purposes (EAP) class geared towards English Language Learners (ELL’s).


The science courses that we have taught this year integrated and increasing amount of technology in the lessons and activities as the year progressed.  The units selected below are units that come early in the year, units into which we did not as effectively integrate technology as those that came later in the school year.  There are some interesting opportunities for tech usage in both of these units.

The EAP course is one that I have never taught before.  I’ll be co-planning with a colleague (and fellow COETAILer) who taught the class this year.  Her unit includes the use of a lot of online resources but not the use of any interactive technology.  The students are asked to access online information but are not asked to interact or create using tech.  There are a lot possibilities for enhancing and expanding this unit using technology.

Choice 1: Matter and Interactions

When we taught this unit this year, we were really trying to wrap our heads around co-planning and co-teaching set up.  We were really flying by the collective seat of our shared pants.

Part of integrating tech into this unit would be laying the groundwork for our tech routines and protocol for the rest of the year.  It would be during this unit that we would familiarize our students with the manner in which we want them to use technology.  We would teach them how we want them to interact with Moodle, how to properly manage files in Google Drive, proper presentation techniques, and more. This isn’t unit-specific but important nonetheless.  Additionally, this unit would involve the students’ first experience with experimental design. Coming up with an effective way to integrate tech into the planning procedures and documentation observations during experimentation would be very worthwhile. This would be an interesting challenge because we often ask students to stow their laptops during the experimentation process.


One opportunity for this unit involves games.  My co-teacher has developed a card game to help students familiarize themselves with elements of the periodic table, what the different numbers on this chart mean, and most importantly, how the various groups of elements interact.  It would be great to take this card game and somehow make it into a computer-based game.  What other opportunities for games already exist for the periodic table?  How could we integrate them?


Another opportunity for using tech would come during the portion of the unit where we touch on environmental concerns.  This year we engaged student in a unit that asked them to reflect upon the environmental impact of commercial products.  Students were asked to present their findings in poster format.  This unit could be enhanced by giving students a selection of presentation techniques.  Giving options that encouraged (or required) student interaction through technology (Voicethread, blogging, website creation, etc) would make the project much more rewarding.

Choice 2: Motion and Stability

This unit is basically introductory physics.  We managed to get really bogged down in this unit this year.  I’m not really sure how it happened but all I seem to remember from this unit is endless discussion and debate on the difference between elastic and inelastic collisions.  We got tired of explaining it and the kids got tired of hearing about it.


One way to help make Newton’s laws stick  a little better might be to have students create animations of the different kinds of motion and collisions.  If the work our eighth graders did this year is any indication, I think that our incoming students would totally be capable of creating this kind of animation.  We could even split the students into groups, assign topics, and have them teach the class using the animations/films they created.


Teaching in a city with a thriving film industry gave me another idea.  Everyone knows about Bollywood, but do you know Kollywood? Kollywood is the name given for Tamil language cinema, centered here in Chennai.  Bollywood and Kollywood action movies are marked by some pretty ridiculous action scenes.  Check out Tamil superstar Rajinikanth in action below.


Note the lack of any physics logic.  Wouldn’t it be fun if students deconstructed a scene from their favorite ridiculous Hollywood, Bollywood, or Kollywood film and explained how it breaks the laws of physics?  They could continue by explaining how the scenes would have played out in real-world circumstances.  I haven’t yet completely sorted out the role of tech in this project.  Students could surely submit thier findings in movie format, using technology to capture and edit their findings.


My concerns with this project include copyright issues and the time commitment for grading.  Since beginning my COETAIL coursework, I’ve been much more aware of copyright protocol.  I’d want to try to adhere to that when completing this project.  Also, when students are asked to produce film for a project, it always entails a lot of grading time.  Watching inevitably takes a lot of time.  There isn’t any simple  way around this problem.  One possible solution would be to provide students with a selection of movie clips and asking them to analyze and re-envision the more realistic scenes.  These realistic scenes could be presented in ways other than film.

Choice 3: Speech/Public Speaking for ELL’s

During the speech unit there are six targeted skills:

  1. Students will write a speech incorporating the five key elements(organization, development, style, purpose, and audience) found in presentations.

  2. Students will memorize and present their speech in a logical sequence.

  3. Students will speak using appropriate eye contact, volume, and pronunciation.

  4. Students will read a variety of genres and types of text with fluency and comprehension.

  5. Students will produce oral work that demonstrates synthesis of multiple informational and technical sources.

  6. Students will summarize, make judgments, and evaluate the content and delivery of oral presentations.


The unit already has students researching the content of their speeches online and accessing tutorials and models of effective speaking on  This is a great way to begin integrating tech, but how can we make it even better.


This year I noticed that we, the English as an Additional Language (EAL) do a lot to help students become better communicators but correcting accents is not something we do very well.  This may not seem like a big deal but we have students who are proficient readers and writers who are barely comprehensible when speaking due to thick accents.  They mispronounce words so badly that they cannot be understood.


I’ve already spoken with the middle school tech integrator about creating some sort of language lab using the technology we already have in place.  When I took French classes in university we would have phonetics class in a specially designated room.  The room included stations for each student with headsets and microphones.  We recorded our voices on cassette and listened to our teachers coaching and instruction on proper pronunciation via the headphones.  One great aspect of these lessons was that the teacher could isolate any student and listen to him/her without us knowing.   Suddenly she’d pop into our ears and tell us to go back and re-read something with the correct pronunciation.  She’d stay with us until we got it right and then move on.  It was great because the person next to you might not necessarily know that the teacher was talking to you.  There was no stigma.  I think that this tool would be fantastically effective and there must be a way to duplicate or emulate it using iPads, smartphones, or even laptops that already exists.  We just haven’t found it yet.  For the time being, I don’t think I’ll be able to do the coaching in real time but there are a number of apps that would allow me to listen to student recordings and respond immediately.  This would be close to what I was looking for.


Another essential part of this unit would be processing.  It is terrifying to speak in front of a group in a language other than your mother tongue.  I try never to forget this when I’m working with ELL’s.  This fear has to be managed.  I think that collective reflecting on overcoming this fear lends itself to blogging.  I would like to ask students to regularly reflect on the speaking unit on a class blog.  Our students already have e-portfolios in the form of a blog, but I’d like to either create my own, giving students limited access or have student created specialized EAP blogs where they could write for their ELL classmates and discuss their challenges.  Hopefully, this would evolve into a support system for the students.


I’m sure there are other opportunities for integrating tech into this unit but I’m waiting for further inspiration.  I’m looking at you Ms.Paula.


In closing… for now…

What is great to think about is, whatever choice I make for my official project, I know that ideas from each of the choices I’ve laid out above will make their way into the classroom next year.  I’ve really started to think more deeply about tech in the classroom this year. The biggest challenge I have now is to strike a balance between opposing points made throughout my readings on classroom tech.  We’re told at times that “A lesson should not fail or win – because of the laptop or lack of,”(Playable blog) but to also strive for redefinition of our lessons; that we should be using technology “for the creation of new tasks, inconceivable without the computer.” (Edutopia)  They seem to be mutually exclusive.  Are they?