I was at the Google Apps for Education Summit a few weeks ago. Lots and lots of great stuff, interesting talks, interesting discussion between talks. But there is one thing I learned that I really REALLY must not forget as I plan my courses for next year.
You see, the GAFE summit was held at a high school in Kitchener, and I spent two days sitting in chairs, at desks and in the auditorium. And dammit, it was uncomfortable. I mean ass-numbingly knee-bangingly miserable. And yet, when we see kids being fidgety in class, we often think it’s because they can’t sit still.
Previously I have written about how textbooks get it backwards, authenticity, using challenge, and all kinds of posts on pedagogy, ed tech, and “21st Century learning” (a phrase I am growing tired of, because we are well into the 2nd decade of the century…). I have also written about various challenges dealing with recent cohorts of students, and how the trend for general disengagement from learning in even a progressive classroom seems to be on the rise. It really is time for wholesale change.
There are lots of strategies I would like to try in my classroom, but I’m not always sure how they would work. But here are a few of the ideas I have been tossing around, in no particular order:
- Make MUCH more use of google tools – I picked up a lot of great ideas at the GAFE summit in April, and I’m dying to put them to practical use. Pages, shared resources, research tools built in, no losing documents.
- 20% time – based on the Google model, where employees spend 20% of their time on a project of their choice.
- On the Fly response forms – using a generic response form and creating questions each day to go with the questions, and/or using it as an exit ticket
- more portfolio, journaling, less testing – build emphasis on ongoing learning, break the dependency on cramming and memorization
- “tests” as formative – Despite making practice tests available, I find students rarely make good use of them, and then doing poorly on a test comes as a complete surprise. I have considered giving tests, just as they are, as a means of providing feedback on what students still ned to know before they complete their work on the unit – whatever that might be.
- “streamed” course for layering/differentiation – allow students more choice in how they complete each unit. Offer perhaps three “pathways” through a unit, from more traditional reading/lecture/worksheet, to grad-school like complete independent research, with a kind of hybrid/pbl in between.
- change the way I assess. I need to a) make students more independent and responsible for their own learning, b) make it more meaningful, ans c) make it less onerous for me.
- flipped classroom/blended learning – get more videos up, migrate my notes online, build the course in google sites as a sort of online textbook, complete with embedded docs for students to contribute like a wiki
- Project/inquiry based learning. I really like the concept of the modelling method. The problem is that much of the material in grades 9 and 10 is purely factual, which leaves little room for inquiry.
- introduce students to formal logic early. Hey, it’s science. Causation vs correlation is something science students really need to know.
- make simple interactives. Flash, Construct 2, whatever. But something that can be embedded.
- 3 before me – help to emphasize that I may be AN expert but not THE expert, and help break their dependence on me as the sole source of knowledge. They have to consult three other sources (classmates, textbook, internet, for example) before they ask me.
- provide a road map of the course, that students must fill out as they go, with links to their work - students often ask what we did last class, or what we are doing next class. If i provide them with a syllabus/sequence on google drive, they can make a copy, and turn each heading into a link to their own work as we go along.
- change the way I assess – Definitely.
- “do I get it” self-assessment checkpoints
- Incorporate Karplus learning cycle – important, particularly in science, but tricky to make relevant when the information is predominantly fact-based.
- have students measure and graph everything they possibly can – It’s science. Measuring and graphing are what we do.
- Maker Spaces – I love the idea of a maker space classroom. Making something is an incredible exercise in problem solving in the real world, and students don’t get nearly enough of it.
- Change the way I assess. ‘Nuff said.
We live in a pretty safe world. Or at least, where I am it is pretty safe. Despite the excessive portrayal of violence in the news, the chances of injury from either accident or crime has been on the decline for some time. Parents may become (needlessly?) overprotective, and students can develop a sense of complacent protection. That is, if there is possible danger, that Someone is Taking Care of It.
So yesterday we were talking about the flotsam and jetsam of the solar system – comets, asteroids, meteors etc, and we were discussing the recent bolide over Siberia, the close approach of 2012DA14 on the same day, and the Tunguska event of 1908 – when one of the students asked “So what do they do when they see that one of these is going to hit Earth?”
I haven’t posted in a while. A long while actually. Looking back my last post was in November. Eek. Why? I’m not quite sure. I’m not one who sets an arbitrary “I have to post three days a week or I’ll hang myself” mandate, nor do I feel a compulsion to poset every little thing that comes up. I do this because a) I want to share ideas, b) I want to let others know that they are not alone, and c) the creative process is better than being idle.
I have not been entirely idle in these last few months however. I had the opportunity to lead a terrific group of kids on a trip to Costa Rica, which I will write about someday. I went to the Google Summit for Education, which was awesome, and I had a student die in a tragic accident, which was horrible. But all the while I have been thinking, and slowly putting those thoughts together. Some of those thoughts I think are ready to start leaking out onto this blog…
Chances are you know someone who can’t follow a recipe. When they try your favourite recipe, it comes out as a disaster. Why is that? Why is it that someone following step by step instructions can mess it up so badly?
I don’t know the answer for sure, but I suspect it has something to do with lack of familiarity. It seems perhaps ironic that in order to follow a set of step by step instructions you need to know what you are doing already, but I think that is what is required, and here’s why: If you don’t know what you are doing, you won’t know if you made a mistake, whereas if you have an idea what you are doing, you can recognize mistakes and correct them along the way.
I love how people think, and I love teachable moments.
We were using extracted red cabbage juice as a pH indicator today, and a student came to ask what he should do if he made a mistake. I asked what had gone wrong, and he said “Something happened with our strong base sample. It’s yellowy green, but it should be dark blue”.
Since this was the part of the lab where we were observing what the colours were, I asked him why he thought it should be dark blue. His reasoning went like this: neutral is purple, mild acid (pH=3) was light pink, strong acid (pH=1) was red. Mild base (pH=9) was blue, and therefore, strong base should be dark blue. Rather than simply correct his misconception (which was, after all, a hypothesis based on extrapolation), I simply had him take another sample.
Last week I attended the ECOO (educational Computing Organization of Ontario) conference, titled “Learning in the Now Century”. It was a wonderful event – I have lots of new tools I am eager to try out, and lots and LOTS of information I am still trying to parse.
One of the themes that carried through the keynotes, and echoed by many of the presentations, is the level of technology and the pace of change. During the panel discussion, Jaime Casap of Google pointed out that “the worst technology today’s students will ever know is the iPad 1. It’s their Commodore 64″. And look how far we have advanced in the last two years.
My grade 9′s are doing ecology first this year, and like last year, I kept the number of teacher-led lessons down to a minimum. But this year, instead of everyone working with invasive species, they are allowed to choose their own project (or projects, the number is unimportant) as long as it address the effects of human activity on ecosystems (one or many), water, and soil, and it must include one original hands-on investigation.
Since the investigation part seemed to be the part that was throwing them, the other day I told them that by the end of the 80 minute period they had to submit a description of what, exactly, they intended to do as an investigation, where and when they would perform it, and what specifically, they would be looking for (qualitatively or quantitatively).