Sunday, March 18, 2012

Blast Off!

This year my colleague and I made an effort to use more Smarter Science inspired lessons/labs in our department. We taught SNC 1D0 together last semester and used the Blast Off lab that used to appear in the applied 10 textbook as the formative lab for chemistry. We wanted it to be about the fun AND the scientific process more than it was about the content of Grade 9 Chemistry (we do start reactions in grade 10 and talk about chemical change, so that part is relevant regardless). This semester I am teaching SNC 1D0 and 1P0 so used this lab in both classes.

I am finding the 1P class challenging this semester. I have 21 students including 11 with official IEPs, 1 with an unofficial IEP, and 3 low level ESL students. The range of the class is astonishing and it is impossible to engage all of them for an entire period. I try to get the fast workers to be helpful and work with other students, but it does not always work out that way. I won't delve into the depths of my class though.

The point is that I used this lab and combined the use of the first two Smarter Science posters (with both classes actually) to help get them started (a process they had seen in full already) and combined it with the format that they would see for the summative and final performance tasks (we have taken the stance in the department that having them complete formal, typed labs during the semester and then use a hand-written format for culminating was counter-productive). They seemed to really engaged in the lab itself and really liked that they got to pick their own indepedent and dependent variables and were trusted to create their own procedure (with support and guidance of course). In the end the class averaged a 70% on the lab write up (which is awesome for the first one, even though it was heavily supported). I am pleased with the results (and also hope to continue getting the support of the school's student support teacher - there is a mini task force being set up to come up with an action plan for this group (in multiple classes)).

Challenge accepted!

Now imagine a class of film canister lids flying off - amazingly simple :)

Tweet Chat 1

I followed through with the steps from my previous post and the SPH 3U0 class had a Tweet Chat on Motion two days before their unit test. We had picked a date and time as a class. The day before I showed them some basics on twitter (how to write a tweet, what a hastag was, searching, following, dealing with spam and other safety concerns) and we talked about the importance of using the hashtag and internet safety. I also posted an online resource on Netiquette onto our class website. I ended up with approximately half the class logging in and indicating that they were at least watching the chat.

Here are some of the things we did and that I noticed during the chat:

- Some people made themselves known but many were hesitant to participate in the chat
- I started them off with 4 or 5 starter questions. They used a couple of them and added a couple of their own (or modified ones I had used)
- A few of them were very comfortable with twitter already
- They were respecful when answering a question or correcting someone's thought/idea/answer
- They got confused if I did not acknowledge a correct answer

Here is some of the feedback I got from the students the following day (in an "I learned, I liked, I wish" format):

- some had trouble following the conversation and got confused
- some liked the conversation as a whole and found it helpful
- some would rather just do it in class
- some liked the clarification especially related to the idea of "negative acceleration"

Here is some of the things I have interpreted and want to use going forward:
- more instruction is needed on using the reply function on twitter and only trying to follow one or two questions/lines of conversation via the hashtag - especially the idea that it is OK to get into a side conversation and not read the rest!
- I recently downloaded TweetDeck and LOVE it: I can follow both of my accounts at the same time (my professional handle is @TchngPassion); you can customize the columns it shows, the order they are in, and how many you use; AND it updates live (which is more than I can say for browser and smartphone apps I've used so far)
- I am going to show my class TweetDeck and recommend it's use - I think it will help them follow the tweets better since they live updates instead of appearing in chunks
- future tweet chats will be for part of the communication section of the corresponding unit test - there will be multiple chats per unit (which should make them less dense/confusing) and they have to post at least one question or answer in a set number of the chats to get full marks for it

I think there is going to be some resistance to the continued use of tweet chats for the time being (even though there was a chunk of positive feedback given to me by some of them) but I am hoping that with time passing and the modifications that I am going to make that it will go in a positive direction.

I have my VP on board with the process. I update her on what is going on (i.e. sent her the archives of the chat so should could see the conversation, participation and how the class handled some inappropriate comments) and hopefully we will get this to a place where she will be comfortable allowing me to share the endeavor with my colleagues. It is such a positive use of social media and has been a way for me to model its use to teenagers who know so much more about it than their parents do. If we, as educators, don't start to do this we are going to end up with a generation of our population that never grows to use the internet in a positive light and the cycle will have started with the next generation.

It is up to us. And we have to act now.

--- An aside
There was a phenomenon the week before March break on Social Media with a video link to "Stop Kony 2012" that went viral (the narrator even stated in the video that it was a social experiment). These are the types of things that are teachable moments in our classrooms. I had some great discussions with my students about responsible use of the internet and the idea of not taking everything you read/here/see to be truth without doing your own research. We discussed at length the idea that you have to know what you are sharing/tweeting/etc before you do it and about the media reports that "only 31% of the funds raised were actually going to the cause" (so we also talked about statistics and how they can be manipulated especially if we don't know what to compare them to)!

Here are the links I used as part of the discussion if you are interested
- Twitter hashtag search
- Invisible Children's website
- George Stroumboulopoulos' Blog (which had been updated to March 8th at the time)
- and the music video for Black Eyed Peas "Where is the Love" (as a wrap up we discussed social justice and how there are many causes, we have to decide what is important to us and fight for it)

Happy teaching!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

10 Things To Do

According to Patch Adams, M.D.
(I found this list in the Bonus Features of the movie "Patch Adams" - based on a true story, for those who have not seen it)

1. Pick up all the trash in an area in your hometown; be its guardian. Tell others about it.

2. Be friendly to everyone at all times; experiment outrageously.

3. Offer a shoulder or foot rub in any environment.

4. Always speak up for justice, no matter how much it costs.

5. Go once a week to nursing homes to cheer people up as a friend.

6. Turn off your TV and become interesting. Perform yourself.

7. Consider being silly in public. Sing out loud. Wear funny stuff.

8. Find ways to need a whole lot less money; share beyond belief.

9. Have potlucks frequently, with neighbours, co-workers, strangers. Work toward living in extended families.

10. Take your vacations in your own hometown and spend the money working on projects there that help build community.

Thought it was worth a share.

If you have never seen Patch Adams - go find a way to see it.