Flickr in the Classroom

Have you ever heard of Flickr? If not- it’s a great resource to use! (You can find it at Flickr is a website where people publish their personal photos and share them with others, allowing other people to use the photos for certain situations. Flickr is a great place to find photos to use in education and many of them are free to use, with certain requirements such as attribution to the photographer. Here is an example of a sample activity that I plan to use with my online Biology class, during the first couple days of class. 



Image Editor (2008, August 16). Fields of Science. Image Editor’s photostream. Retrieved March 14, 2013, from

Look at the above image as you think about and answer the following questions.

1. In your opinion, what is science? How would you describe the field of science to a friend?

2. How do can you tell that the picture is about science?

3. What do you think we will be learning about science in this class?


I would use this quick introduction lesson to explain the nature of science and what students will learn in the class, as well as focus them on the specific area of science that they will be learning- Biology. I always find it very interesting to hear about their perceptions of science at the beginning of the year and see how those perceptions change over time. 

In addition to this type of lesson using Flickr, I would encourage students to use Flickr as a source of photos or images for projects, to upload their own photos to Flickr (possibly ones that can be taken in class from experiments or projects), and to find related images for units that we are in. These are just some of my beginning ideas on how to incorporate Flickr into my teaching- I am sure I will learn lots more as I explore and get ideas from others!


Using Wikis in the Classroom

I recently created a wiki with another teacher on the topic of using blogs for reflective learning. It was a interesting and rewarding process. The biggest difficulty was getting started- determining our topic, content of the topic, and what sections to write about as a part of the overall topic. I was not very familiar with the topic initially, though I did have some of my own ideas on how to use blogs for reflective learning. Once I researched the topic and found some websites that explained it, the topic was very easy to write about in our wiki. I learned a few things from this project- namely, the actual topic of how to use blogs for reflective learning. I gained some new, great ideas on how to incorporate this into my classroom. I also learned the ins and outs of wiki creation. I have previously contributed to a wiki but it was a simple typing in of some info, not as in-depth of using and making a wiki. 

My opinion of Wikipedia has changed some this week. While it is more reliable now than maybe several years ago when misinformation was not updated quickly like it is now, it is still not a resource that I would want my students to use for a formal, research paper or project. But it is a great source to look up quick information. 

I so far am not encountering resistance to using wikis in my classroom. I think students would enjoy using wikis, once they were taught the ground rules from me for their appropriate use. I will need to determine how to best incorporate wikis in my online classes. 

To Grade or Not to Grade? That is the Question…

A hot-button topic in education over the last few years is grading and assessment. Should teachers give homework? Should teachers allow late work? Should teachers give zeros for grades? What does a grade really mean? These are just a few things my district has discussed over the last couple years, as we adopted a new grading policy. The three “no-budge” components of the grading policy are: 1) Teachers must allow retakes. 2) Students cannot have a zero has a part of their final grade. 3) Teachers cannot take points off for homework being late.

This new policy caused waves of indignation and anger through the teaching staff. We had been discussing grading and assessment and then it seemed to us like this new policy came out of the blue, without enough input or discussion with and from teachers. I have completely revamped how I assess students now, because of this policy. I never allowed retakes (unless under rare or extreme circumstances) before, and now students are retaking tests all the time. I grade homework and give feedback on homework, but the scores don’t count in the students’ actual grade and are weighted 0% in the gradebook. I no longer count off late points on homework, but do count a responsibility grade for each assignment, that also counts as 0% in the gradebook. So what I explain to students and parents now is that I still consider homework important and students need to complete it for their learning of the content. But their actual grade shows how well they understand the content and their responsibility grade shows whether they are keeping up with the class and completing work on time. But I now have many problems where students don’t see the benefit of homework and choose not to complete it, no matter what I tell them. So they have several zeros, because it just doesn’t count in their grade.

Many teachers agree with me that we understand the intention of the grading policy and why it’s important, but it wasn’t or hasn’t been implemented effectively. We realize that a student’s behavior should not be part of their grade (hence- not counting points off for late work) but how does that reinforce responsibility in daily life? We understand the crucial importance that learning the information is a must and if that learning takes place before the summative test- great! But if that learning occurs two weeks later- how will students show their teachers they now understand? (Hence allowing retakes). But we have seen that most students only care about the points and their grade and actually wanting to learn the information has taken a seat on the back burner.

Here are two blogs that discuss the topic of grading and assessement- blog #1 and blog #2. These blogs make for some good food for thought.

So- what are your thoughts? Should zeros be allowed in grading? Should retakes be allowed? How accurate is a letter grade to demonstrate a student’s knowledge in your content area? I have an open ear to your thoughts and opinions. I still have a lot to learn and digest myself.

Next up: Social Bookmarking!

Another new, exciting web 2.0 tool I am delving into is social bookmarking. Sites such as or can be used to find, keep, and share websites for your own personal use or to share with others. I plan on using my delicious account for my own professional use and resource-sharing with colleagues. The other members of my department and I are always sharing websites and resources through old-fashioned methods and then when you want to go back and find something, it can be very difficult. As the members of my department have grown (from 3 when I first started teaching 8 years ago to 5.5 starting next year), it gets harder to collaborate and keep track of everything. I think it would work well to convince my department to start their own delicious account and create a group tag, so whenever a teacher found something worth sharing, they could bookmark it and everyone could see it also. We could also expand that and create a custom tag for all the staff members in my school to use, so they could tag and share resources and whoever wanted to create an account and take part in the sharing would be able to. These ideas are making me very excited for the benefits of using social bookmarking! So… I will talk to you later, I’m going to go bookmark some sites! 🙂

NetVibes Resource Page

I have recently created a NetVibes page, to have easy access to feeds and information that interests me. Included on my resource page are some sources for my career- science, education, and web 2.0 tools, as well as some blogs I follow and feeds for various news sources to keep up on what’s going on in the world. Click the link below to check it out!

RSS Feeds- The Way of the Future

I have been exposed to RSS feeds a few times over the last few years, but never really had much interest in spending time setting one up for myself. I am starting to change my mind about the benefits of having an RSS feed and very slowly, my interest in using an RSS feed is outweighing my lack of interest. There are a few reasons I think having an RSS feed would be beneficial. In my personal life, I would like to follow blogs and websites about parenting. Anything from activities to do with my daughter, to fun snack ideas, new clothes, or parenting advice- anything that would be beneficial as I raise my daughter. I would also like to follow education and science news, since that is my career. Gaining new learning strategies or ideas would be great, as well as keeping abreast of changes in the education world or new technology, or really any new, current education information. I would also like to follow science news because that is what I teach and I always find it fascinating when I hear or read what is going on in the science world.

As a teacher, RSS feeds would be beneficial to incorporate into my lesson plans. Some ideas I have would be to set up one RSS feed for every class period, asking students to brainstorm some things they would like to follow as a class and then check it once or twice a week. It would be fun and create collaboration and class bonding I think. I would also have my students set up their own RSS feed for their own personal interests that they want to follow, and ask them every few weeks something they saw or learning or remember from following their RSS feed. These are just beginning ideas, but are a good place to start I think!

Update- My Comment on the Student Blog

I wrote a comment on the article by Jack Andraka from my last post. The comment said:

“Great story, Jack! I teach high school AP Biology and Anatomy & Physiology, so this is right up my alley! I am very impressed with your drive to not let the paywalls get in your way and how dedicated you were to learning more about pancreatic cancer and its detection. You are a great role model to young scientists everywhere and I applaud you! Check out the post I wrote about your story on my blog:

Good luck in your future, keep up the great work!”

Listed below is the link to the blog again, with my comment. (Though my comment hasn’t shown up yet because it’s waiting to be moderated.)