Today’s seminar marks the end of not only this course, but also the entire MT Program. It’s been a long two years, but also a really fast degree. Sometimes I can’t even believe how fast two years have flown by. It doesn’t seem like so long ago that I was sitting in my first Prosem class. Even more surprising is that today is also the end of 20 years of formal schooling. From kindergarten all the way to the end of a second undergrad degree, it’s been a long journey to get here.

Our SIPS class has easily become my favourite on-campus course of the entire program. The focus on technology and how it can be used to great benefit in the classroom has been both engaging and exciting in ways I’d never imagined before. It’s been such a great class, that other classmates have even agreed that this is the course that everyone should take. I’ve probably gained more from this single semester seminar than I have from several different seminars combined. It is THAT influential.

The technology SIPS seminar has had several different sections to it. The first was a selection of student showcases covering a number of different educational technologies. We saw everything from SMART technology to online scrapbooking, even a little bit on sports technology as well. Following the showcases, we started working on our first “Great Tasks.” These were a chance to see what inquiry work/projects look like and to attempt to complete one. Finally, we would begin work on the creation of our own Great Task, one which would become a unit that we could use as beginning teachers.

For my showcase, my partner and I did a presentation on SMART technologies because every teacher will soon be faced with a SMART Board in their classroom. One of the driving issues behind our presentation was that not every student enjoys getting up and using the SMART Board in front of the entire class. So I found a website called Befuddlr to solve that little problem. Befuddlr takes pictures and jumbles them up, like those small puzzles where the pieces have to be moved around to see the final image. It has several categories, and you can choose if want easy puzzles or hard ones.

Then we covered the basics of the SMART Board (how to calibrate it and where the Tools are), and finally moved into the Notebook software. Notebook is a handy piece of programming because it has access to the Toolkit which contains widgets that can be used for any subject. The widgets can be searched by grade level and by subject to provide ideal toys with which you can play as part of your lessons. We demonstrated a biology widget which had students put a human heart back together through knowledge of the various chambers.

Overall, it was an okay presentation, but I still think it could use some refining, though I’m not sure when I’d be presenting this material ever again. Part of the difficulty of presenting in this format is knowing how to bounce the speaking parts back and forth between a partner and yourself. I think that was the hardest part of the entire thing, it had almost a jarring quality to it but we succeeded nonetheless. (At least I assume we did since our presentation was requested by another professor.)

The first Great Tasks we also did in groups. For my group, we looked at a neurobiology-focused inquiry project which dealt with the basics of neurobiology as well as a small part on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease for short). This task we found on the IO network, and we selected two components from it to complete as exemplars. The first was a simulation of how neurons function, and the second was a newspaper article.

It was my job to complete the simulation, which I accomplished by using Apple’s Keynote software. The original plan had been to use the iMovie program to create the simulation, but the more I tried to get that to work, the less progress I was making. So I chose to use Keynote instead (which is a power point type of program, for those of you who don’t use Macbooks). Once I got it started, it became almost like an obsession. I could barely stop myself from working on it, I was so engaged. Part of that obsession came from the integration of music into the show, which when you see it is perfectly timed to one of the segments (make sure you watch it with sound).

Our project received wonderful reviews, in small part due to the success of the video. Something you should know about the video is that it was created while I was in Vancouver during the second half of the 2010 Winter Olympics. So despite having tickets to Olympic events like hockey, curling and the Closing Ceremonies, I was still engaged enough to work on the project. To me, and according to IO, that is what inquiry work should look like.

For our own created Great Task, I selected a project that I had originally designed for my first year practicum but never got the chance to implement due to time constraints. I’m not going to detail it here because it has its own post, you can find it here.

Along the way, guest speakers came in to talk to us about inquiry work and technologies that they use in the classroom. We were fortunate enough to hear from Neil Stephenson, a teacher at the Calgary Science School who had devised the Cigar Box inquiry project which you may or may not have heard of. We also got to hear from Sharon Friesen who is part of the power behind Intelligence Online. There were many others who came to see us, but those are the two who stand out the most for me during this semester.

Overall, it’s been a fantastic experience being a part of this seminar, and I hope that the MT program can find a way to integrate it into the mainstream portions so that everyone can benefit from the learning that we were part of. I truly believe that this singular seminar was incredibly helpful in figuring out what inquiry work really looks like. Without it, I feel as though I would have been going into classrooms blind.