Upcoming professional development opportunity for New Hampshire science teachers, the New Hampshire Science Teacher’s Asscociation northern meeting will be at the Grand Summit Hotel in Bartlett this Sunday and Monday (October 25-26). I am very pleased that all the Middle School Science teachers in SAU 9 have signed up to either lead field trips or make presentations. Find out more on the NHSTA web site.
October 24, 2009
June 11, 2009
As we look to our portfolio implementation next year, these are the guiding questions for faculty discussion.
- Why would a portfolio benefit students?
- What would a good portfolio to show?
- How can the core values be reflected in the portfolio? What school experiences could be included in the portfolio?
- What type of work would you include from your class?
- How could the portfolio be used as a tool for learning in your classroom?
- How will we ensure that all stakeholders value portfolios as the central ongoing assessment piece?
February 5, 2009
So, yesterday, I posted, Then and Now: Changes in a Learning Activity. The post is about how I have modified a single learning activity over time, integrating more technology. And then I updated my Google Earth. This is something I should do more often, but I just don’t seem to get around to it. Today I was inspired by the new underwater features I read about on the Google Earth Blog. After the update I noticed some new buttons in the toolbar. After clicking around I found the sunlight button. I could watch an animation of the sun at any location over an extended time. Doing this for Arctic Bay Canada was quite dramatic.
So now I can say that the next new peice to my Earth-Sun System unit will include sending students on virtual field trips to watch the change in sunlight at their three locations.
February 4, 2009
There is a particular unit of study I have taught for the past seven or so years in my middle school science classes. The science content is in the area of climate study. In particular my class is trying to understand how the Sun-Earth system work together to cause variability in our Climate. Ultimately this involves understanding the tilt of the Earth’s axis, the Earth’s revolution around the sun and seasonal changes in solar insolation due to sun altitude and hours of daylight. These are the content items. When I began teaching with this learning activity, those were the only real learning outcomes. Today, with the influence of a few online tools, I look around the room and I see so much more going on.
From Teacher Provided Data to Online Data Gathering
As a class we all studied temperature, sun altitude and the hours of daylight for three different locations on Earth. There was one arctic and one equatorial location. We also collected data for our own town. All students worked with the same three locations.
I provided pre-made tables with the relevant data for three locations on Earth.
Students were provided with: latitude; longitude; relevant sun altitude, hours of daylight and temperature data. Students were required to graph the data on graph paper, discuss the graphs and answer some questions. I used an overhead transparency to display example graphs for our discussions.
Assessment involved students turning in graphs and questions. I would go through these providing feedback then hand back as soon as I finished.
Students are given a lists of equatorial and polar locations (cities or towns) and asked to choose location from each. They are then to find the latitude and longitude for each place. I suggest a variety of resources they may use.
Students are then told to get the data for themselves. I give some specific instructions on how to do this and provide a link to the database, but they are sent to the form to mine the database. They also need to figure out the time zone for each location. This requires them to know where the location is on the globe. Again I suggest some tools for that.
All the data is stored on their Google Docs accounts. Usually they graph with Google Docs, but the hours of daylight data is too sophisticated for Google Spreadsheets so they have to export that data and deal with it using a desktop spreadsheet (either Excel of Open Office).
Discussions take place in small groups with occasional regrouping and larger collective class discussions. The latter are very short and focused, sharing student observations, routing out remaining misconceptions and dealing with the key learning outcomes.
Assessment involves me looking at their work with them at their computers. All errors and omissions must be addressed. Through conversation I can help students clarify their written ideas on the spot. I can bring other students into the conversation and regroup based on immediate needs (technical problems, misconceptions, skill development…)
Science Lab Activities
We do a variety of hands-on science lab activities with this unit some were originally middle school science labs while others I modified from some high school science lab activities. These hands-on activities are pre-designed and meant to address key learning outcomes by demonstrating science content. I did this before and I do it now. These learning activities work. The only significant change I have made over time is to use sensor technology. Currently I am using the Vernier LabQuest as a platform.
Student Led Science Inquiry
One of the key science learning outcomes of my course is that students can ask a good question. At every step of this unit, students are asked to write a research question. While we do not have to time to address all of these, students are required to choose two questions of interest and find an answer. One choice must involve an experiment, the other can involve online data gathering. The results of these investigations need to be shared in some way.
Today my students still address the same science content they did when I began teaching this, back when I had only one computer in my classroom. With more classroom access to technology, my students can now address this learning using 21st century skills. Over the years I have been able to add in these new ways of learning or new learning outcomes, adjusting a bit more each year. As I have made changes I have observed an increase in student engagement. More importantly, I have witnessed an increase in student independence. They are becoming learners, becoming more capable of finding their own answers to their own questions.
January 24, 2009
Ari Shwartz talks with NPR On the Media about technology and the new administration. It seems the White House and government in general have some battles in common with educators when it comes to implementing modern technologies in the workplace as we try to catch up to the rest of the pubic world.
“Everyone in government should be able to use modern technology… we should be able to figure out the policy to work with the technology.”
Everyone in education should be able to use modern technology. This is students, teachers, administrators and support staff. Too often policies are in place that limit the ability of members of each of these groups from utilizing technology to the fullest.
“The biggest potential threat is that we don’t try to figure out how to do this [use technology in government] at this time.”
And so too in the classroom. Putting technology into place effectively involves taking risks, changing practice and moving towards a new vision of learning in our classrooms. Along the way there will be lost days, extra hours, new managment challenges. But there will also be new opportunities for students and teachers, new learning for everyone in the classroom. Without the risk to find and adapt to new ways of learning where will we leave our students and ourselves?