Friday, June 22, 2012

EDU App Review: Cell Defender!

Cell Defender is an iOS app to help students learn more about cell biology in the form of game.  The player becomes a part of the storyline!  

While learning about the role of organelles, the player also learns about how the functions of the different organelles contribute to the cell's overall health and homeostasis.

This app could be used to introduce cell biology to students (the Explore portion of a 5E lesson) or as a review.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

EDU App Review: Tinkerbox!

EDUApp Review: Tinkerbox!

Tinkerbox is a FREE iPad app where students of all ages can figure out how to manipulate mechanical systems to achieve stated goals for different levels or create their own systems.

This app would be great to use in physics or physical science courses to help students learn how to apply physics concepts like force, motion, vectors, gravity, etc.  Each level has a different goal that could be linked to national or state standards.

Tinkerbox could also be used in guided inquiry or project-based learning  Teachers could have students show them when they have figured out the solutions for each stage or have them create a system according to a rubric. Students could record and post their efforts to a blog or learning management system as a performance-based assessment.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Anticipatory Guides and Collaborative Learning in the Flipped Classroom

While teaching an ecology unit in Biology, I decided to turn a True/False assignment into an anticipatory guide.

First, I told the students to answer the questions about energy flow through ecosystems based on current knowledge.

Next, I told them to find evidence to support their answer or change their answer from the textbook by incorporating the Kagan structure Rally Coach.

I told the students to work in groups of two. Partner A would find support for the first statement. Partner B would find evidence on the second statement, and so on. The students were told to write the page number to support their answer. Partner A was the person whose birthday was closest to that day.

I also told them to correct the incorrect sentences.

When pairs finished, they could confer with another pair (Kagan structure Round Robin).

Finally, we discussed our findings as a whole group.

Things I liked about this activity:

  • Prior knowledge was acknowledged and utilized
  • Misconceptions were discussed and addressed
  • Cooperative learning strategies were incorporated
  • Students were allowed to be experts
  • Struggling students and students who engage in off-task behavior were on-task and helping other students

In flipping my class, I need to provide engaging activities from bell to bell. This particularly important because Our classes are on a block schedule. As I work to improve my teaching, I will continue to update this blog.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Teaching Higher-Order Thinking Skills in a Flipped Classroom

As a Chemistry teacher, I spend a great deal of my time helping students figure out how to solve word problems. Currently, my students are learning how to use gas law equations. While my students know how to use algebra to solve problems involving variables, some students struggle through the problems. My experience has been that just giving students more problems doesn't improve their understanding of the concept.  I have to figure out what steps are giving the students trouble.  Often, there are steps I do in my head that I may not always verbalize.  

Here are some of the decisions students have to make when solving problems: 

  • Determining what information is given in the problem 
  • Matching given quantities with variables based on units  
  • Determining whether one or more sets of conditions are provided in the problem 
  • Determining which equation to use based on variables provided and conditions 
  • If ideal gas law is needed, determining the correct value of universal gas constant R to use based on units used in the problem. 
  • Converting Celsius temperatures to degrees Kelvin 
  • Determining how to rearrange equations to solve for specific variables - involves knowledge of manipulation equations with fractions 
  • Determining how to substitute quantities for variables correctly 
  • Performing calculations by hand or with calculator correctly - some students will do all steps correctly and then incorrectly use the calculator 
  • Using knowledge of direct and inverse proportions to determine whether calculations make sense 

After students performed below my expectations on their first test, I decided to re-teach gas laws with more attention to the individual steps listed above and the relationships between the variables.  One of my goals in flipping my classroom is to incorporate more metacognitive strategies and math review into my chemistry videos.  I also want to relate science content to other content areas to help students bring those foundation skills into the science classroom.  The attempt to flip my classroom has been a work in progress, but overall flipping has helped my teaching.

Monday, January 30, 2012

5 Reasons Why Flipped Instruction Is More Than Video

1. Video is only one type of content.

Video is just one of many tools available to teachers who want to flip their instruction.

2. Flipping is about engaging students with 21st century learning tools.

Teachers could present content online using Prezis, Google Presentations, audio podcasts, and other tools.
3. Flipping is about increasing students' responsibility for their learning.

When students own their learning experiences, they seem to be more likely to understand and add information to their long-term memory.

4. Flipping is about leading students through rigorous and relevant learning experiences.

Flipped instruction creates more class time for activities. Teachers should fill this time with activities that are hands-on, project-based, inquiry-based, and career-oriented.

5. An expectation of making videos for all topics during the first year of flipping may be unrealistic in some cases.

I don't have the expectation that I will be a master at flipped instruction in year 1. Making instructional videos has given me a better idea of how I can make better instructional videos in the future. Also, making instructional videos must be balanced with planning engaging classroom activities.

Working as an individual teacher flipping instruction is possible, but educators may want to consider collaborating with other teachers in creating content. While I agree that the a teacher creating content for their students is ideal, giving students access to multiple experts benefits students of all teachers involved.

Bottom Line - Flipped instruction should be more about what students are able to do and less about what method of online instruction the teacher chooses.

5 Reasons to Flip Your Classroom Now!

1. Additional time for student practice

Allowing students to watch videos outside of class allows students to practice in class instead of at home.

2. Additional time for teacher feedback

Practicing in class allows students to get help and feedback from their teacher as they work through problems or activities.  Previously, students would work alone at home without help, possibly reinforcing misconceptions or allowing them to give up because they did not have help.

3. Additional time for collaborative learning

The additional class time provides more opportunities for collaborative learning and project-based learning activities.  Students should have more opportunities to create products that are authentic learning experiences, rigorous and relevant, and prepare them for college and careers.

4. Increased student engagement

Students should be more engaged at home and in class.  Freed from the traditional lecture format, students can stop, rewind and pause videos to increase understanding.  In addition, they can find additional learning materials online of their own choosing to help them attain mastery of content.  This allows students to own their learning experiences.

5. Increased time for planning activities instead of planning lectures

Instead of planning lectures, teachers can plan activities for students to learn through hands-on experiences.  This also creates more time for reflection on how to further improve your students' learning experiences!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Building a Better Science Teacher

This academic year marks my 5th year in the teaching profession. I am thinking more about what I want students to know and do as a result of my teaching. While I am guided by state and national standards, I also have ideas about what skills I want students to develop in my courses:

- technical writing

- making and interpreting tables and graphs

- presenting lab data and science content in multiple formats

- thinking/inquiry skills

- reading and vocabulary proficiency

- content knowledge

This semester I will design activities to balance content and skills development. This is consistent with efforts to flip my classroom and incorporate standards-based grading practices. While my students do hands-on activities and experiments on a regular basis, I want to be more deliberate about what I want my students to learn from these activities.

One way I can more deliberately incorporate process skills is having all of my students compete in the Google Science Fair. My intent is to break down their projects into small assignments they can complete before the submission deadline, April 1st.

First, I want them to develop their own research questions. I want them to understand that they can apply the scientific method to many subject areas.

I am hoping that participating in the Google Science Fair will get my students excited about science and help improve their Science understanding and skill set.