On the Horizon for Esemplastics

This class has done me a great service, pushing the way I view teaching in a more digital direction.  I have always seen myself as a bit more forward thinking in the realm of education, utilizing a SmartBoard, student response systems, and digital video in my classroom, but, as many of us in the education system, have been handcuffed to the old ways of using pen and paper.  Long have I wished for the days of not having to hear, “I forgot my homework at home!” or “My dog/turtle/baby sister ate it!”  This PLE may just be a partial solution to this problem, among other things.

By November 2011, I will be three months into a new school year.  By that time, I will have set up my PLE’s front page with articles having to do with each of my classes’ discussion topics, under their corresponding sub pages.  By that point, I will have also set up the moodle section of my PLE so that their is a course for each of my classes, that my students will enroll themselves in, and we will have weekly assignments that they will be able to collaborate on, much like the classes we take here at Post.  Hopefully, this will save me time on grading, and possibly save a few trees as well.  The educational world seems to be going in this direction anyways, with the wide use of smart devices, and rise of the use of eBooks, mentioned in the 2011 Horizon Report.    But I will still have a technology section on the PLE which I plan to use almost as a “hotline” for my fellow teachers at school, where they can post questions or concerns about their use of technology in the classroom.

By May 2012, I will have begun utilizing the PLE for showcasing and critiquing of my Media Arts classes’ projects.  Instead of having to wait a full weekend to ask me a question of how to do something, whether it be about filming or editing, they can post the question with a video of their problem.  I also plan on using Pixlr to add a whole new dimension to my art lessons.  I know nothing can beat actually sitting down with a nice thick art paper and pastels, but digital art is starting to be used more widely, as I found out in this class.

I feel that I want utilize my PLE more for my students, rather for the general public.  As an educator in today’s world, I am in charge of getting my students ready for this flattening digital world.  I think this PLE will be a good start for that.

Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., and Haywood, K., (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

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“Those who know, do. Those who understand, teach.”


My name is Robert Jones. I am the current Earth and Space Science Teacher at Chaminade Middle School in Chatsworth, CA and this is my eleventh year teaching. I was initially a Film major after my undergrad, even working for Sony Television for two years, until I realized it really wasn’t what I wanted to do. I went back to school and earned my M.Ed in Instructional Design and Technology and have been teaching ever since.

I took the KISA personality test, which resulted in a classification of Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging. The test deemed me a “punctual” “inspector”, with a “keen sense of right and wrong” and a “devotion to duty.” Most of these descriptors would sum up my life as a teacher, and what I feel makes me a good teacher that holds his students accountable and allows me to connect with them. The results of my Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire were also not much of a surprise. I am slightly more Reflective than I am Active, but I lean much more towards Sensing, Visual, and Sequential. I have a photographic memory, which means I have always learned better with visual aids, and I can understand material more clearly if in a sequence, rather than looking at the big picture first.

Both my personality type and learning style lend to my choice of teaching Science, as well as leaning towards favoring Math over the Language Arts. Science, especially the when conducting experiments or labs utilizing the Engineering Process or Scientific Method,  are very sequential, and require you to look at all of the pieces in order to understand the big picture. You cannot just say Continental Drift without first understanding the processes that drive it, like sea-floor spreading, convection currents in the mantle, and the slab pull of the plates themselves. 

I have always been an advocate for “the little guy” and make sure that my students are treating each other with respect.  As my Science classes tend to be very project and lab based, I want to build a sense of camaraderie between myself and my students, as well as each other. I always tell them that Science cannot be conducted in a bubble, and sharing information builds trust with each other and could possibly lead to further discovery. Accountability is also something I hold my students to. If they do something wrong, or break trust with a fellow student, I feel that owning up to what happened is much more productive than making excuses, and allows everyone to move on from the situation. I have noticed over the years, that my students trust me more and more to help them resolve conflicts, even in other classes. 

When explaining concepts, I rely heavily on visual aids. With the large concepts of Earth and Space Science, or the really small concepts of Chemistry, students need a visual cue to the information that is being relayed to them, rather than just an explanation. It is also very important for these concepts to be explained in a sequential, broken down format in order for the students to understand the larger concept.

One of the newest things I have begun utilizing this school year is an interactive notebook. Students are given definitions and summaries of a concept, and they then have to fill in questions that the definitions and summaries are answers to (Cornell Notes). On the other side of the notebook, students are then tasked with creating visual aids explaining these concepts, or constructing visual cutouts. This has really helped with sequencing the topics, as well as providing visual aids to check for student understanding.

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Asteroid vs. Meteor vs. Meteorite

There are many things floating out there in our solar system other than our sun, planets, and their moons. But there is usually a lot of confusion of what really to call these things. According to Discovery Education, an asteroid is “one of the many small or minor planets that are members of the solar system and that move in elliptical orbits primarily between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.” In laymen’s terms, it is any of the small, rocky bodies that revolve around the sun. This can include both comets and meteoroids. So, not all asteroids are meteoroids, but all meteoroids are asteroids.

The vast majority of the asteroids in our solar system are found in the asteroid belt that separates the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and serves as the dividing line between the inner and outer planets. There are two main thoughts on how this asteroid belt formed. The first is that it was originally a pair of planets or moons that collided with each other. The second and more widely accepted theory is that the asteroid belt is made up of material that Jupiter’s gravity prevented from becoming a planet.

With the large amount of these asteroids floating about, our solar system has become a cosmic shooting gallery. Asteroids can range in size from the size of a golf ball to larger than the state of Texas (Armageddon anyone?) Asteroids of this size are global killers, and it is theorized that this is what wiped out the dinosaurs almost 65 million years ago. The asteroid would have ejected tons of material into the Earth’s atmosphere, blocking out the sun’s light. This would have led to a global climate change, and put a stop to the process of photosynthesis. Without large amounts of plant material, the large herbivore species of the time would have perished very quickly, thus cutting off the food supply for carnivores. Those that did not die off in this manner would not have been able to adapt quickly enough to rapid the decline in global temperatures. A bleak picture of a possible future? It is possible that at some point this may be the fate of mankind, but our asteroid detection and monitoring systems have kept an eye out for any of these planet killers. Our moon is a testament to how close many of them have come.

But we cannot overlook the fact that these small rocky bodies enter our atmosphere every day, the vast majority no bigger than a bowling ball and most about as small as a golf ball. Any time you see a “shooting star” in the sky, it is actually the friction caused by our atmosphere burning these rocky bodies to dust. Once these meteoroids enter our atmosphere, they are now known as meteors. If these meteors survive their entry into our atmosphere and crash into our planet, they are then known as meteorites.

This video is a rather catchy way of remembering all of this.

Posted in Physical Science, Science | 4 Comments

Make Your Presentations Informational (And Visually Appealing)

Being born in the 80’s, I have experienced many different teaching styles throughout my educational career.  Elementary school showcased the old-school way of education, with my teachers writing notes up on the chalkboard or whiteboard.  High school brought with it the use of overhead projectors and the power point presentations.  College had a distinct combination of teaching styles, depending on the professor.  Some would just stand there and talk at you, which I distinctly hated, while others put together presentations with graphics and video.  I found these instructors much more effective, and I have tried to take a queue from them in my own lessons.

When reviewing 11 different studies, Clark and Mayer (2008) found that “students who received a multimedia lesson consisting of words and pictures performed better on a subsequent transfer test than students who received the same information in words alone”(p.66).  The choice of image is also important.  Decorative images only really add decoration to your presentation, without adding much information.  I do use these to catch the attention of my students, but I try not to saturate the presentation with decorative graphics. Representational, organizational, relational, transformational, and interpretive graphics serve much more of an informational purpose, and each of my slides will have one of these.  Overall, I try to make my presentations visually appealing, utilizing the premade PowerPoint themes that match colors, fonts, and backgrounds, and then inserting my own graphics, ensuring that the graphics compliment the text and not detract from it.


Clark, R, & Mayer, R. (2008). E-learning and the science of instruction: proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. San Francisco: Pfeiffer & Co.

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The Rise of the Wiki

As an educational system, we are experiencing a dramatic shift in how technology is utilized by our students. Nearly one hundred percent of our student population will utilize the Internet for informational research and to answer questions that they normally would have posed to their teacher, and almost all of the students will own and utilize a web capable device, such as a computer or smart phone to obtain this information.  According to a report by Becta (2008), several studies show that there is an already growing trend amongst teenagers and younger students to possess multiple pieces of technology, including laptops, mobile phones, and mp3 players.  About 50 percent of nine-year olds own and use a mobile phone or mp3 player, increasing to around 75 percent by age 15.  Since 2007, there has also been a 45 percent increase in the use of the Internet to watch video and webcasts by this age group.

The shift to Internet based research will affect the teacher’s role as the all-knowing, omnipotent source of information, changing it to that of mediator and filter for this Internet based information, which the 2010 Horizon Report identifies as an emerging trend for many teachers.  Teachers must be prepared to mentor and prepare students to analyze this information, sorting out the factual from the contrived.  This will also lead to a rise in what the report calls “just-in-time” and “found” learning (p.4).  The role of classroom will also change from the main arena for information delivery to the student, to more of an area of collaboration between students and teachers.  The Horizon Report shows that this is a fast growing trend among many educational institutions, where the “challenges facing the world are multidisciplinary, and the need for collaboration great” (p.4).

The utilization of social Internet programs, such as wikis, will arise from the trend of collaboration in the classroom.  In his article, Professor Missal (2009) states that the time in creation and utilization of classroom wikis will begin to overtake the amount of time actually spent in the classroom.  Students will be able to contribute to discussions and desegregation of information with fellow students and teachers at their leisure wherever they are, instead of waiting for the next school day’s lecture.


This is how I am planning to use the Moodle program.  My students will be able to collaborate on group projects without having to find out whose house they will have to go to or what parent will be dropping them off.  It will change the way group projects are done in my class forever.


Becta. (2008). “Analysis of emerging trends affecting the use of technology in education” Research to support the delivery and development of Harnessing Technology: Next Generation Learning 2008–14. www.becta.org.uk

Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Stone, S. (2010). The 2010 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Missal. (2009). 12 eLearning Predictions for 2009 : eLearning Technologyhttp://elearningtech.blogspot.com/2009/01/12-elearning-predictions-for-2009.html


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