Friday, July 8, 2011

When am I ever going to use this stuff?

One question students always ask is, “When am I ever going to use this stuff?”  The same can be said for this blog.  A blog can be a great tool, but if nobody uses it, then what benefit does it provide?  Today, I will attempt to answer this question.  As I stated in my first ever post, I plan to start small.  Once I get comfortable in the blogging world, I will expand it to include all of my classes.  For now, I want to limit it to my AP Physics class who are all seniors.  This should be a relatively easy transition to my other physics classes once I achieve a certain level of proficiency.  The content (at least initially) will be similar.
I see this blog having a few purposes.  First I see it as a means of communication.  When I assign certain homework assignments, I can post them here.  I could also use this space to elaborate on the details of the homework assignment.  I could include due dates for assignments and post test reminders.  I could also announce pop quizzes on the blog.  Students who visit the blog get a heads up about an upcoming quiz.  Students who complain they did not know about the quiz are basically announcing that they did not visit the blog.
Along the lines of communication, another area where this blog may prove useful is when I am out of school one day.  When I am out, I am required to submit an assignment to the office for students to do while another teacher babysits, ahem, I mean proctors them.  I could save a lot of work for the office and the sub if I could just say, “Students should check the course blog for their assignment for today.”  I could post the assignment on the blog, writing to them in a manner they will understand.  There is nothing like trying to explain a physics lesson to an English, history or math teacher who knows nothing about physics.  I mean no disrespect to educators of those disciplines, just that many are not familiar with physics jargon.  This is no different than me trying to help students in a history or English lesson.  Assuming I am able to do so, I could be logged on to the blog during class in case there are questions about the assignment. 
This blog will also be used as a venue where students can interact and ask questions of me and each other about content area.  This could include homework assignments or general questions about the material we covered.  Having students interact like this allows them to learn from each other, and not just from me and the textbook.  Students may also feel more inclined to post an answer to a blog than to raise their in class to answer a question.  In class, there is also the fear of answering a questions wrong and feeling embarrassed.   A blog can help alleviate that to an extent.  There is one drawback here, however, in that the blog is asynchronous.  Students may have to wait for their answers unless other students are online.  An RSS feed may help with this.
A third use of this blog could be for AP Exam review.  I am looking for ways to improve my AP Exam review.  Printing out old exam questions and telling students to work on them does work to an extent.  However, there may be a better way.  I am thinking about printing out an old AP Exam questions to post on the blog.  Students should attempt to complete the problem.  Students are free to discuss it on the blog, but each should post a solution to the problem with explanation.  AP Exam questions recently including “explain” and “justify your answer” type questions where students need to write out an explanation.  This could be a great place to practice this writing skill.  To be honest, our school has undertaking an initiative to increase student writing abilities.  A blog may be the perfect place for this to happen.  I think I will pass this on to my principal to see if we could incorporate it into our school.


  1. Hi Tim,

    I am going to play devil’s advocate for a moment. I was wondering your thoughts on students without the resources you require for the class. What if a student does not own or have access to the internet? What if a student works immediately after school, takes a full load at school and does not have the opportunity to get to an internet source? Highly unlikely in an AP class I am sure, but nevertheless a reality for some families.

    I have been guilty of assuming that all of my students could at the very least afford a scientific calculator for my classes. In fact, I have presumed that all of my students are college bound and thus in need of a graphing calculator. Realistically, I have truly taken for granted that students and their families had the resources needed for my classroom.

    Now I understand not all districts have the same demographics, nor does an AP class. But I guess I am wondering if you have any suggestions on how to incorporate your thoughts on blogging in lower level classes. I realize this idea may be in its infancy, but as I am sure you agree teachers need to try to make an education equitable to all students. I am just trying to figure out how to get the resources to those without the resources.

    As far as your review of concepts and ideas in a blog, you should check out my ideas on my blog pertaining to unit and semester reviews. I would ultimately start a blog for students to discuss each unit then have students develop a Wiki of notes and review problems. This way, the general public could edit notes and add to them if needed. Not only could students do this for each unit, but they could compile the information from the semester into a review for the final exam. I am really looking for some constructive criticism on the blog and could use a little polishing up.

    All in all, I think we are both on the right track with respect to incorporating blogging into the classroom. I think its boundaries are limitless because student collaboration will foster many valuable perspectives. I just hope we can find a way to open these tools of technology to all levels of curriculum and level the playing field for more disadvantaged students.


  2. Joe,
    You make some good point about availability of resources to students. However, I teach in a private school where students pay over $11, 000 per year to attend our school. In addition, our students have to purchase their own textbooks. We have every right to require our students to have a graphing calculator as part of their course materials. Students in my AP Calculus class are required to have a minimum of a TI-83 graphing calculator (or similar) for the course. I have always told them about the sales at the stores in late August every year. Students have a school issued email account and are required to use it to email teachers. Each class has an Edline web page where teachers post homework assignments, worksheets, class notes, videos, and updated grades. Students are required to check this page daily. Students who do not have internet access at home have alternatives. Students can use the public library. Student can use our school library (which has computers) or our computer labs which are both open before and after school. In addition, each of the science classrooms have several computers available to students. Also, most classrooms have at least one (usually there are two) computers available for student use. Students have alternatives to a home computer with internet. On a rare occasion, a student may have an early dismissal due to a sporting event, and may not be able to get to school early in the morning due to carpool issues. Students in this situation should inform the teacher about the situation and usually we can work something out. The bottom line is that students still need to get the work done. Many students like to use their lack of a computer at home as a crutch so they do not have to do the work. Too many people in society expect handouts without putting forth much effort. This attitude can (and has) infiltrated our schools. When there is a will, there is a way. Students who honestly have issues with not having access to technology, and who ask the teacher for advice on how to get their work done, usually work something out with the teacher. Teachers in my school are more than willing to bend over backwards to accommodate these students. In my school, there have been teachers who have used their own money to purchase a $100 textbook for a student because his parents have no way of paying for it. It does not happen often, but it does happen. 99.99% of the students in this situation get their work done and do not use it as a crutch. It is the ones trying to get away with not doing homework that are the culprits here.