Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Schools get smarter about ed-tech energy use

Schools across the country are starting to take measures to reduce both energy and costs by rethinking their information technology systems. The Rio Rancho Public Schools in New Mexico were featured in this article. The executive director of technology in this district noted that “we’re estimating saving about $30,000 per year, and that’s [mainly] by consolidating servers.” According to CDW Government LLC, If schools do not start taking action like Rio Rancho, greenhouse gas emissions from IT data centers will surpass those emitted by the airline industry in the next ten years. The district has found this project to be changing their school in many ways. The $30,000+ a year savings could be redirected towards something that the school needs such as extracurricular activities, paying teachers or new technologies. Another big expense for many schools is air conditioning. In the article Romeo, the executive director of technology, described how they are replacing light bulbs that emit heat with high efficiency LED bulbs.
I found this article very inspiring and uplifting. So many stories in the news show schools negatively through cutting programs and laying off teachers. We've also talked in class about how districts are building excessively elaborate school buildings but not having the funds to run them. This school on the other hand, is doing something extremely positive and effective for the environment and their schools alike. I hope that more schools can adopt this concept to improve our environment and redirect where money is being spend. It excites me to know that this New Mexico district is so focused on making such improvements.

Webquest Project Response

Prior to this project, I have always had really negative experiences with webquests. In middle and high school we did them for my classes, but they were mainly a series of websites on a worksheet that we had to find specific information on. Oftentimes, the links were inaccessible and the process became extremely frustrating. To be honest, I was not thrilled with the idea of creating my own webquest when the project was assigned. It seems as though many of my fellow classmates have also had similar negative experiences with this type of technology in the past. However, after beginning my project and taking note of what my classmates were doing, my opinions begin to change. I did not realize all of the higher thinking that could be involved in the project, considering the mindless tasks I was asked to complete in high school. I really appreciate the ways that students can browse the web and find information on their own. Sometimes teachers can get into the habit of just "spewing" information at their students. This can be overwhelming and not very helpful for learning. Webquests allows the students to work at their own pace and study the information as much as they need to.
To be honest, the webquest project has not been my favorite assignment. I have enjoyed projects such as smartboard and digistory because they involve more artistic and visual creativity. However, I will definitely incorporate the webquest technology into my future classroom and student teaching experiences.

Webquest Response

Before attempting to make my own webquest, I was really unsure about it. I had tried looking at some of the examples that are already available online and was actually really disappointed. The tasks on a lot of them sounded great. They involve higher order thinking, independence and/or group collaboration, an alternative method for gathering information that had the potential to be fun. However, I have some reservations about webquests. A lot of the ones I came across when trying to do research for my own had a lot of broken links. It's kind of a Catch-22, the internet is always changing, which is great, but it also makes creating online based lesson plans rather difficult. I suppose it makes a difference as to where the sources come from too. I tried to make sure all of the ones I used were either government based and/or from some sort of an educational institution because I think those websites change less often.

I also find graphic organizers extremely helpful, no matter what the capability is for a student. I feel like anything that can make something clearer and easier to grasp is necessary in the classroom for all students. It kind of amazed my how many different kinds of organizers were out there and how few I had been introduced to as a student. If I had had those I feel like I could have been a much more organized and overall better prepared student.

WebQuest Reflection

I had no idea what a WebQuest was until we worked on it in class. I really wish that my teachers had utilized them on certain projects in high school. A WebQuest is, in a lot of ways, an eco- and user-friendly version of most of the hand-outs I received. A teacher would hand me a paper that explained the assignment and included most of the information I needed. A WebQuest is, to me, very much a hand-out, but is more explanatory and easier to comprehend. I love that it has the task, process, evaluation, conclusion and notes all in one place without wasting paper. A WebQuest is also, in my opinion, a better alternative to hand-outs because useful websites can be hyperlinked and if the students or teacher wished to, the finished assignments can easily be posted on a class blog for other classmates to evaluate and give suggestions. I think WebQuests are a really great piece of technology that can give a different feel to classroom assignments.