Sunday, May 2, 2010

Final Reflection

As I reflect on the 2009-10 school year, technology has played a key part in my teaching. This was particularly true in the first semester when science 7 worked on Populations and Ecosystems, and at the start of the second semester with the Rice-Hunger unit. The obvious technology links for chemestry are not so evident, resultingly, with the exception of Panthernet (some genuine, some mandated), technology has recently taken a back-seat in my day-to-day classsroom practice. And the kids have never been more engaged - far from enraged!

Looking ahead to next year, I already forsee cutting some of the tech add-ons that seemed like great applications at the time. But is more than curious to realize that with the completion of the COETAIL classes, so too ended my embedding of tech learning tools.

The question that emerges from this reflection process is one that has surely been arrived at by many tech-savy educators in the past decade. Did I get carried away in the excitement of a new toy? Was I changing my lesson for them, or for me? Or my course requirements? Or my resume?

ISB is definitely on the cutting edge of technology in the classroom. As we charge forward to a one-to-one middle school, we must ensure a good starting point is established for our pilot group for next year. Students and teachers need to be realistic about expectations- making sure that technology is only used when it is in fact the best practice for learning.

And just to tie it all back together, technology, as it was employed in Mr. McGovern's January Rice Unit for Science 7, was best possible practice and truly raised the level of learning above that which would have otherwise been possible. Amongst those in the scrap pile, this unit will most definitly be retained and highlighted for next year's groups.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rice Growth: Day 12

When the date was set to upload the images, the number of groups that arrived without their USB cables or had ran out of battery life on their camera grounded the day’s activity to a screeching halt. The class time was used instead to better develop the script and search the internet for appropriate photographs to include in the introduction and conclusion.
This turned out to be time well spent, as all groups were well busy developing a variety of aspects of their projects. By observing how engaged the class was on refining the story board and image selections, it became clear that this was a necessary step in process, and needed to be formalized with guidelines and a checklist.
The following check list was developed as a way to keep students on track.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rice Growth Day 9

At this stage of the science lab, students have taken photographs of the first several days of rice germination, and they been able to witness which of the two samples of rice seeds has shown more growth: the test pot or the control pot. In most cases, and particularly at this early stage, the results were varied, and still inconclusive.

By now, each group had collected anywhere from 10-20 photographs of their lab, and were ready to start planning their digital story. The specifics of the rubric were outlined, and the groups began writing their script for photostory3. As a tech-focused international school, I was surprised by the level of confusion that developed amongst the students. As photostory3 was new to many of the students, some showed apprehension to using a new simple movie-making program, and wanted to stick to programs that they were familiar with. Others remained unclear that they were in fact making a simple movie at all. Exemplars were needed to help clear up the confusion, and demystify the new program.

Another ‘new technology’ pitfall was students not knowing how to transfer images from their various devices ( to computers. Or in some cases, students lost their cameras altogether.

This could be overcome by reserving the school’s supplies of digital camera for the duration of the four week unit, establishing a standard for the cameras, or by collecting and storing cameras for each group at the end of each class.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Start of the Digital Lab

The digital science lab
Seventh Grade Science has begun the second semester with a four week mini unit titled Soil and Rice: How to Feed a Hungry Planet. The focus of the unit is to explore the issues of global equity and access to food, and the role that science plays in developing ways to grow more food on a finite amount of land.
The students have been given the challenge to find a technique that will cause rice seeds to germinate and begin to grow at a faster rate. Each group independently indentified and tested different independent variables against a standardized control pot containing eight rice seeds planted in potting soil.
Some of the variables students researched and tested included: florescent lighting, loamy clay, concentrated levels of CO2, yeast, and competition with other plant species (bean plant).
With a previous class, the final product was a written report including data charts with results and a conclusion. This year, I wanted to students to make real world connections by giving them a more authentic role as a research scientist making a recommendation to a genuine audience of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
By taking digital pictures of the materials, the lab set up, and the rice growth observations, students were able to document their lab. For the final production, the photographs were loaded onto Photostory3 and became the framework for their recommendation.
A story board was used to assist students as they developed strategies to report their findings and make their recommendation. When asked to reflect on how scientists communicate their findings, students effortlessly created outlines for their recommendation that very closely matched each step of the scientific method.