Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Science and Ethics

Every year as part of my Genetics topic I set aside a couple of hours to talk about morals, ethics and ethical frameworks. I am still using an awesome outline I got from a session at Biolive in 2009 that Fiona Anderson presented that uses some great resources from the Science learning hub Ethical analysis page. I ask my students to try and think past there ideas of ‘right and wrong’ and identify why they think so. Yesterday was the first time I got asked

‘Why are we doing this in Science Miss? Isn’t this social studies?’

Which was both a great teachable moment around science and ethics, and a little bit of a downer that somehow throughout the year I hadn’t made an impact on to why ethics might be important for Science. That said, you do need a relationship with the class so it is a safe space for students to ask questions and share ideas – you can end up talking about some fairly heavy stuff.

So I thought I’d share how I approach the ethics ‘lesson’ and I need to keep pondering where else I could include ethics.

So, as I mentioned, I still follow most of the ideas from the presentation from Fiona in 2009. (The slides were shared at the time, so I hope Fiona doesn’t mind me sharing the presentation now – the links are from the old biotech learning hub that have moved to the Science learning hub – link are smattered down below)

Essentially, you identify what bio ethics and ethics is first up

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Then distinguish between morals and ethics – there is a explanation video HERE on the science learning hub.

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I also tell a personal story of when I was working in research, and, without thinking, when my flatmate asked how my day was when we were at the supermarket and I casually replied I’d had a nightmare day because I’d ‘processed’ 150 odd mice, I got ‘attacked’ by a person who overheard and screamed that I was a monster for a good 5 minutes. She and I had very different morals around animal testing. I just tried to diffuse and ignore their leather shoes…. sigh.

And in responses to the ‘why are we doing this in Science question’?, I talked about Mengele and some of the horrific experiments during the Holocaust. And how just because ‘Science’ can, doesn’t mean ‘Science’ should. And how I thought Genetics was a relevant topic to discuss there issues, as genetic screening and IVF techniques become more advances and common place, society as a whole needs to be aware and educated so informed choices can be made.

For my class yesterday, I asked them about the ‘anti smacking law’ (which possibly lead to the social studies question….) as I knew it was something they would all have an instantly moral feeling about – but when I asked them why they thought that, or felt that way, they had a hard time explaining it to me….. we spent about 10 minutes talking through some of these ideas, and of course they all come up with questionable moral and ethical situations in order to ‘trick’ each other. But I have asked with different class and students about euthansia, ‘paying’ for addiction treatments or should the youth wage be less than or the same as the minimum wage.

I then called them back, and spent some time talking about ethical frameworks…. Video HERE

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And then we watched the example of the ethics of whaling, and how you can apply these ethical frameworks to decision making.

And then they class had definitely had enough of me, so I put them into groups, gave them a framework to work with and gave them a task of deciding if we should screen ALL embryos for susceptibility to cancers. (You can have ‘real’ fun with the groups if you like…. in another year I asked about vegetarian versus omnivore diets and put some ‘farmers’ in the values group….) (I thought about vaccinations – should ‘we’ pay for the treatment of some-one who is really sick because they didn’t get vaccinated, but I’ve already had a couple of vaccine debates with this class this year)

And of course, ‘chaos’ ensues. Mostly that awesomely good chaos as students argue, talk over each other, go hang on, I need to look that up…. what do you think?

I LOVE talking about ethics with my classes. It really stretches there thinking. It allows ‘non science’ kids a chance to shine and fully participate. It always opens my mind up to different ideas and morals. It is a great chance to bring up historical cases, or talk about the ethics proposal systems in NZ (it is a rigorous process to gain permission for animal experiments for example, and research can’t be published unless ethical approval was obtained. And students are often quite interested that ethics doesn’t extended to insects….). But can I fit it anywhere other then Biology? Even the story of Rosalind Franklin and the use of her work ties in with DNA. I touch on it with the story of Alexis St Martin who became a living experiment on the digestive tract – and how his family ‘hid’ his body when he died so it couldn’t be used for further research. But I’m not sure how it could fit into Chemistry, or physics quite the same? Maybe around ideas of space travel? Was sending the dogs and primates into space ethical? Or climate change – is it ethical for people to allow building new building consents for ‘water front properties?

I’d love to know where you fit ethics into your Science curriculum 🙂

 

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Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Thoughts on Computational Thinking

I’m not super sure when I first heard the term Computational thinking, but the first time I took proper notice of it was in March this year when I was fortunate enough to hear Lisa Anne Floyd speaking at E2 this year. Even then, I thought, this is nice, this is a way to get people thinking about thinking and problem solving, rather than, this is life changing. But as I have delved a little deeper and been planing our digitech module for next year, I’m really liking the ideas behind computational thinking, and the links I can make to multiple other ‘thinking’ thunks, like Nature of Science, or using taxonomies. To my mind, the ‘computational thinking’ strategies seem a little more visible, maybe because they are based around problems and finding solutions, rather than just meta cognition and thinking about thinking. I then read this fabulous paper about a pedagogical framework for computational thinking which got me onto other papers and other ideas.

So what is computational thinking? There are lots of fancy definitions, like this one

‘an approach to solving problems, designing systems and understanding
human behaviour that draws on concepts fundamental to computing’
Wing 2006″

but to my mind, it is breaking a problem down into a flow chart, and working through the steps to solve it, with some iteration or corrections. A bit like this

Core education also has a nice page and video with Tim Rice talking about Computational thinking… and I have shared this video before but it is still a good one

 

So, how can I link this to my ‘Science lessons’? Lets say I want to know how the pH of an acid effects how quickly a piece of magnesium corrodes. There are various ways I can measure this . -how long it takes for a piece of Magnesium metal to disappear. Or how long it takes for a jar or test tube filled with water to be displaced by Hydrogen gas. I would need to ensure both of these measures were ‘fair’ so I could need to use pieces of Magnesium that were not only the same mass, but they same surface area. i would need to start the stopwatch at the same time and stop it at the same time. I would need to use the same gas jar or same water displacement to measure Hydrogen production. I would need to do a test run to check I could accurately measure the timings or that the volumes produced where sensible.

And then you get to the fun stuff of how do you accurately measure the pH of a solution anyway? In junior school we use universal indicator, but when you get into the senior school this isn’t specific enough – both HCl (a strong acid) and CH3COOH ( a weak acid) turn red in universal indicator. Yet CH3COOH has a lower pH because not as many Hydrogen ion dissociate, which you can pick up using a pH probe or different indicators. So while 10mL of 1 mol/L HCl and 10mL of 1mol/L CH3COOH will make the same mass of magnesium metal corrode and disappear, and the same amount of Hydrogen gas to be produced, the HCl will happen much faster, due to the lower pH/high concentration of reactive particles in the solution. Or do I just use different concentrations of HCl and test the impact of decreasing pH that way?

If you don’t teach Science, chances are the above 2 paragraphs make no sense at all. Even though I am pretty confident that every student in NZ in the last 60 years has put some magnesium metal in some acid and maybe done a pop test, you are definitely excused for not following

So if I put these steps into a flow chart, they become clearer…. and the steps required to determine each factor that might impact the conclusion become more explicit. And like the friendship algorithm above, it can be amended or changed if the process doesn’t work. The ability for iteration to be used and not perceived as a failure is massive.

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So while this might not have been the best or clearest example to use, it is one that came to mind. A simple junior science experiment that is actually a lot more complex than it appears, or we even teach it. And when I ask my yr 13 chemistry students to do this, they get a bit a stumped. They have been taught fair testing in terms of nature of Science, but not how to go back and find a solution is the results are inconclusive, or what processes are available to find solutions.

I think these also applies to writing frames and other tools we use to organise our students thoughts, and try to get them to think about their thinking. Perhaps I have been using aspects of computational thinking all along with out realising it, but this now just means I can refine it and make it more explicit when I am trying to get my kids thinking ‘scientifically’ and following a process.

And this isn’t to say that computational thinking is the answer to everything. One thing I really like is the idea (to quote my colleague Kevin) if you can put a problem into a flowchart, a computer can solve it. If you can’t, then the problem needs a person (or several people). People have the ability to think creatively, which is also so important to problem solving, but only if you have a robust system in place to identify the problem.

Posted in coding, Minecraft, Professional learning

Getting my code on at #kiwipycon

This morning I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a session at the Pycon conference being held in Dunedin. I have been playing around with coding for a little while without ever really getting a grasp on it, and thought this would be a great opportunity to spend some time on it. Python is a language that can be used with Minecraft, the conference was in Dunedin, it didn’t require relief as it was a Saturday morning, it cost $10, perfect professional learning really. And I learned loads.

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I took this photo partially to hide my confusion – it has been a while since I went to a conference where I knew NO ONE to talk to…. thankfully there was tea 🙂

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Firstly, I meet lots of cool people. The session was a mix of people which meant a range of skills. I was a little disappointed there were only 2 other teacher there…. but there were several programmers looking to find ways to help schools, or to help their kids learn how to code. So there was a whole lot of skill in the room.

We were working on computer that we running off a raspberry pi. I knew those we machines were grunty, but I didn’t realise how so.

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To start with , we got a series of tasks to work through – it was based on this book which I have now ordered.

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Doing this task I learned about the language around programming. For example, how important syntax it – I kind of new this, but a lowercase where an uppercase letter should be causes chaos in the code. But it was cool to be fluffing around and getting the hang of things. And teleporting all around the map was cool to – Sitting next to a pro programmer meant I got some additional help and got into writing some loops (this said, I was able to show him how to move around in Minecraft… was awesome). He also teleported to 0,0,0 and got stuck as he went to where the world was generated from (we think…).

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We also learned how to create blocks – which was very exciting for me as I would like to make some ion blocks and use minecraft for Ionic formula. So I am going to talk this through with my Yr 10s next week and see what they can do 🙂

The second part of the task was AWESOME.We got to ‘hack’ into the raspberry pi and do a little bit of electronics stuff using a bread board.

After a couple of false starts (including putting the LED in the wrong orientation – teacher fail) We got this little puppy flashing 🙂 So very satisfying 🙂 Especially when changing the times meant the flashes slowed down or speed up 🙂

 

I didn’t get up to the stage of then turning the LED of and on in Minecraft as I ran out of time, but I will ask the robotics teacher at school if we can set this up so I can have another go.

So it was an amazing 90 minutes. I got to play around with some of the tech people keep talking about and actually see what it can do. How easy it could be to do the same activity in a classroom – and I am sure my kids would be way ahead of me.

So moving forward, I want to make some time to keep playing around. And for next year, re think how I teach our electronics unit for yr 10 – currently we build some circuits and solder a device that gives an electric shock. But if we can solder up an arduino and then incorporate some programming into it, it would SUPER rock.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Uncategorized

Taking a deep breath…

On Friday I went to a TENZ mini conference hosted at Tahuna intermediate. I had meet Bill at the 21 st century learning design session in the last holidays, and was honoured (and flattered) to be asked to open the conference by talking about strategies for implementing change in Education. And while I could only stay for a while as I had to get to the uni to sort stuff for Hands on at Otago (I can not recommend this for your Yr 11 & 12 students enough) and then back to work,  I got to hear some super cool stuff that these Tech teachers were doing and the how they were working around challenges.

I thought a LOT about the presentation I was to give. Once I had decided what to talk about and what angle to take, it didn’t actually take too long to prepare. And, as always, forcing myself to take stock and arrange my thoughts was far more beneficial to me than I had imagined, and I hope my audience got something useful. I chose the Koru based on a presentation from the awesome Nikkie talking about unfurling ideas. And I chose some Kea’s for my ‘pack’ as a reminder not to be too destructive

Because when I thought about it, there are an amazing array of resources out there to help teachers upskill themselves. I have used some, and (as always) mean to use more. When I thought about it, things are changing. Maybe not with the urgency or pace I would like, but I also need to remember to change what I can and try to not let the rest bother me so much. And to not let frustration cloud better judgement and inhibit what I am trying to achieve.

And talking to this amazing group of tech teachers and how they are looking to move their courses and learning forward was super inspiring. Often, the tech teachers in intermediate schools are isolated from the rest of the staff. While they see a lot of students, they only see them for a short time and relationships are hard to build. They are specialists in their particular fields, be it art, hard materials, music, textiles, food, and they were all amazingly passionate about their areas. Job security, funding issues, communication with the main part of schools, or secondary schools they were trying to prepare their students for, where all talked over as challenges with possible solutions.

I was super impressed with how some of the school were doing their reporting. It was live, real, all online and collaborative. If internet access was an issue for the family, printed versions could be made. I am so jealous – especially as I am coming up to report writing time in a couple of weeks.

Also present was Otto, who is Auckland based in industry and is reaching out to schools who are wanting to build there own 3d printers rather than just buy one and run with it. Really really cool stuff.

So while I could only go for a couple of hours, it was very well worth it. It made me remember I am not alone. That there are passionate, awesome, fiery educators the country over who are working hard for change. And while it is frustrating that there isn’t more support for all of these amazing educators, it was inspiring to see them still working towards their vision for better experiences for their students.

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Do some work

For context, I am writing this post in a unit in the Gore camp ground. Metservice tells me is 2.5 degrees C outside (feels like 1 degree C) and I have a heater on a timer…. so it is going to be chilly. While the students are in shared bunkrooms (4 per room) their heaters at least stay on.

I am here because we have a football tournament tomorrow in Wyndham. We were supposed to play today but the weather got in the way – tomorrow is supposed to be just as cold, but with no snow. YAY

The drive down was pretty horrendous at times. As it, is this getting to be an unsafe snowstorm and level of snow on the road type horrendous. Lots of ‘why am I doing this’ type thoughts crossed my mind.

The trip wasn’t all bad… playing in the snow was fun (and cold… one of my ratbag even got me with a snowball. HMMMMmmmmmm)

However, I know why I am doing it. Because I really place a value on experiences and trips like this. Stopping at the Clinton horses and getting a photo. Learning the Gore Trout and Sheep are Pokémon gyms (I am purposely not playing Pokémon…. I am too competitive and would obsess over it). A great group of girls from yr 9-13 having a good time playing in the snow and having a trip. Despite the time away from my family, despite the work for relief, despite the COLD, I also really enjoy these trips. I learn a lot about ‘my kids’ on them and it helps to strengthen relationships.

Yet I couldn’t help mull these words from Miss D the Teacher in my head as I was wondering in the van on the way down…. (thanks Danielle for again making me think about life and learning….)

idea

Because I do tell my students to get back to work. (In some cases I beg, bribe, cajole, threaten and rage to get students to ‘do work’)

So what am I meaning when I say that…..??

When I left school today, one of my year 13’s was there (it was open day at school today and he was showing people round) and I said to him – do some learning tomorrow. Instead of doing some work. I did like how it sounded.

But while I like how it sounded, is it true?

Some people do need to ‘work hard’ for their learning. Think of a little person learning to walk. They fall over heaps and heaps and heaps. It isn’t considered work I guess because they are little. I consider myself as having to work hard to learn some things (like coding…. I am still waiting for it to click….but also I keep getting bogged down in other stuff and so lose some of the gains I make) and other things come really easily (like new software – which makes the coding thing even harder….)

In a physics sense, work = force x distance. I don’t think you can force learning on others – at least not the sort of learning you want (despite my best efforts). However, you can use self discipline to force yourself to stick something out.  And what roll does distance play?? Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome was insanity – but then why do somethings finally just click when you have done them enough times?

And how can I reconcile my ideas around valuing experiences and student centred learning and this belief I have that sometimes you have to work for things. How can I get my head around the idea that I want my students to learn themselves, but some of the things I need to teach them can’t be taught. Or others need to be practiced and learned through sheer hard work.

For now I am left pondering, as I need to go and do some work…..

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Reflections from the PPTA ICT meeting

I was very thankful to be invited to the PPTA ICT committee meeting last Friday. It was a REALLY worthwhile trip and I enjoyed the whole experience. Thanks must got to the PPTA (and hence every PPTA member) who paid for my flights etc so I could attend the meeting. Also a huge thanks to the two TELA representatives who came along and where so willing to listen and talk.

You can find a recap at my previous blog post about TELA HERE

I’m breaking this post into two – 1 about the TELA ‘hour’ of the meeting and 2 about the other things at the meeting that I’m pretty sure I can share about.

  1. TELA

An hour of the ICT meeting was set aside for the TELA issue and two people came to represent them. I put my foot in it right from the start by stating I was the one that sent the ‘angry letter’ but they had no idea of any letter…. turns out key points had been summarised and sent away by the PPTA to them to come and discuss. so I learned (another… I am a slow learner sometimes…) valuable lesson around the ‘proper’ processes and policies around stuff like this.

The TELA people talked about the scheme – along with some history from some members of the PPTA – apparently the started with Principals receiving a computer from the scheme so the ministry could ensure everyone could receive information from e-mails. It spread to teachers a couple of years after – and even until the last 5 or so years, it wasn’t completely uncommon to get untouched devices back after the 3 year less term as teachers just didn’t use them (this did my HEAD in)

In terms of numbers, there are over 46,000 TELA devices in schools. Given that there are over 100,000 registered teachers, this seems to me to fall a little short. There was a person present who’s BoT didn’t fund the TELA laptops, which HORRIFIED me. They just didn’t have access to the scheme in their school. Plenty of others weren’t aware of the choice of devices that was available as they were simply just given one. No-one seemed to reveive any training on how to use their device. There was discussion around why don’t the ministry just remove they layer and provide devices for al teachers (as the boards paying the TELA fees from the ministries grants is a bit backwards…)

Then there was discussion about the devices themselves. Screen size was an issue for many present – and set up around doing admin tasks. As we were getting into details about devices I did try to say ‘what about the teaching and learning?’ ‘How can me make these devices more accessible for teaching to use for more than just writing reports and playing videos.

The best question that got asked from the TELA reps was

‘how do you think it would look?’

I have absolutely no idea how it would look. I would like it to look like a more flexible task driven system where different teachers can take agency for their choices. But as some-one pointed out, not all teachers have the competence to know which device is best. Or what if it changes? Others wonder about tech support in school – a lot of PPTA members present also were in charge of the devices in their school and spoke of the difficulties of managing different devices – so they didn’t offer choice. So how can we also ensure adequate tech support in schools? How can we ensure tech is seen as a tool, not a barrier and also not the be all and end all? How can we ensure that teachers know what they are actually entitled too? How can we better support part time teachers who do not currently qualify for a TELA laptop?

I guess maybe the best I can suggest is a good look at the vision and values of the NZC

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This bottom line is key for me. How can ICT open up new and different ways of learning if all teachers are using their devices for is writing reports and watching videos?

secsource for TELA laptop use data.

So I want it to look like the NZC says. That learners (including teachers) are competent and confident users of ICT to communicate with others, are able to use new technologies to secure a better future for out country and are able to explore new ways of learning.

In terms of where to next, a user reference group is being set up (I’m not actually too sure what this means if anyone cares to enlighten me…..) and there is also some movement towards providing more information on the TELA website which has currently got next to nothing. So I am glad that something at least is happening, but will keep poking with a stick to see if this could cascade into some sort of change. I would love to see the TELA scheme to change a focus from solely devices into having a more teaching and learning/pedagogy focus, but this might also happen around some other things that are possibly changing.

I am also aware that there is a multifaceted change that needs to occur for the shift to occur. TELA is a start 🙂

And if you have ANY ideas of how this might look, I’d love to hear from you, or get in touch with your local ICT or PPTA rep to get your ideas heard.

2. All the other stuff.

N4L has got a single log in for students and teachers for a wide range of APPs called TAHI. It looks pretty cool and I need to have a proper explore of what it means.

There is a project to link SMS data together called SISI (student information sharing initiative). You can read the report HERE. Amongst some 1984 type concerns, it would be (IMO) nice to have a more centralised system for tracking students. It also links in to the vulnerable children’s act (there was some discussion of what trumps what, privacy vs health and safety vs vulnerable children’s). It is a complex issue so make sure you read the report and have your say if you are interested.

Creative commons was also discussed – basically this is a HUGE issue and a non-issue all at once. Again, I wonder why (along with some others at the table) if we are all ministry employees (on a salary so even if you do work in your ‘own time’ you are still on ministry time) why doesn’t the ministry just do a creative commons agreement for all schools rather than relying on individual boards. I have shared loads of resources and had them shared back ( when we were at TCOL we actually handed around a flash drive to snaffle everything……) and there is potential that even though I would never sell them, and even though I use them solely for education, I could get in trouble. But actually, would anyone actually prosecute? Is it a storm in a tea cup? Perhaps better to be safe than sorry

Along the same lines was discussion around the use of personal equipment at school. Especially for part timers this is a hard one. For instance, if I’m using my phone to take a slow mo video (which is something my phone can do and my TELA laptop can’t) and a student bumps me and I break it – who pays for a new one? What if I’m taking photos at football to post on the sports facebook page and it gets hit by a ball and breaks? Again, better to be safe than sorry – but it wouldn’t stop me using my phone if the tech I am given can’t do that task. I completely understand for others it might.

A very exciting thing was a presentation from NZQA about the digital moderation platform. If they can pull of what they are thinking about it will be AMAZEBALLS cool. Simply (as I understood it) NZQA hope to have a flexible space were you can upload work to be moderated by other teachers. Discussion (with limitations… ie max number of posts so individuals can’t get too carried away) will be available. If everyone agrees, no action required. If there is discussion around a grade boundary – maybe have a looksy. If grades are all over the show, NZQA will get the moderators to have a look. NZQA are aiming to have this up and running by next year – so watch that space. Also linked to this was NZQA would like more appeals – currently way less than 0.01% of tasks get appealed. NZQA would like this to be at least 1% so they can also make sure their processes are working. So get appealing people 🙂

There were a few other things that came up too that I’m not sure if I can share in an open forum. But the PPTA webpage is getting changed so hopefully it will be easier to find the minutes of such meetings and get yourself informed.

So again, it was a really worthwhile day. And I got to catch up with some super cool #wellyed peeps. And meet some really passionate switched on educators from around the country and also see a bit better what goes into the PPTA. There is a bit of a wall I think for ‘everyday normal teachers’ to see the policies and processes behind managing education so it was a good insight for me. Thanks again to everyone who gave me their thoughts, support and to the PPTA for inviting me up

Job isn’t finished though – rest assured I will keep poking the bear 🙂

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Do students need to be TAUGHT?

My L1 Science class has just finished up their Mechanics Unit. To try and gently shift this class into being more independent, I used a OneNote I had prepared for my class for revision last year as the main source of information. There were lots of relevant notes, videos, office mix walk throughs of old exams (eg)and some practice worksheets. As we went through, I also included a forms quiz at the end of each page to as a way to keep up with where the class was at with their learning. We also use the SciPad, which is has some good notes and example questions.

 

Some screen shots of pages in the OneNote and quiz results.

On the whole it has worked well. My biggest concern is that my students are still struggling with managing themselves and I was feeling a little like I was leading the horse to water, but not getting it to drink. I was hoping that I would be able to use more of my class time answering questions and doing some practicals (we did do some practicals – popping balloons for pressure questions is AWESOME….) but it just didn’t quite work out that way. When I surveyed the students, I got the common theme that they liked notes from the board. ARGHHHHHHH. That they liked how I helped them when they needed it, but they wanted more up the front teaching. I already felt like I did way more than I wanted to. And (as in the pictures above) some of the OneNote pages where even like writing on the board…. sigh.

So I am back again to the drawing board. How can I make sure students feel like they are still learning things if they are managing their own learning? The test results were ok, but even with that students didn’t feel like they had learned anything, even when they clearly had. Why do students feel that they need to be ‘taught’ things in order to have learned them. Do I need to listen to this student voice and be up the front more rather than deliberately staying away.

In pondering this, here are some ideas (I went for pen and paper… so I could vigorously scribble) around why maybe students feel they need to be taught something rather than learn it.

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There are lots of reasons why – to find out more I guess I need to ask my students some more questions around why the like to ‘learn’ in different ways.

And I need to think just a little bit more about how and why I am trying to model learning to my students.

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Of these two definitions, I definitely like the second one. So how can I better model learning by example  or experience? What learning experiences can I give my students that makes them feel like they are being taught?

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Purposeful play

Lately I have been thinking about how to describe my ‘classroom practice’ that has a positive impact on my students – for an interview/article if you are interested in why I would think about such things so explicitly. It has also been appraisal docs time, and report writing time, and at the moment I just need to have some things clearly written down.

Which is a problem. For me anyway.

Take unit plans for example. We have some beautiful, reasonably useful lesson plans that I am working through and trying to embed various activities into – eg where it says use a kahoot quiz, have the link to the kahoot quiz embedded in. This is an effort to make the unit plans even more useful, so you don’t have to go back to the folder and find the document blah blah blah. Want the ‘powerpoint’ click and it takes you to it on the shared document library on sites. So the unit plan is hopefully going to become more of a one stop shop for resources – and people can be collaborative as we are all able to contribute different activities or resources by popping in a link to the activity

However, this isn’t how I see my unit plans. A ‘unit’ of work isn’t independent of other ‘unit’s of work. I’d really like to some-how see a yr 7-13 flow through of what we want our students to be able to do after that time doing Science (or after yr 10 when they can opt out of Science if they want to) (cue sobbing).

So I have been thinking about jargoning up how I really want to let my students play. In a purposeful way of course, but actually just explore ideas, work together on stuff they are interested in (or individually), learning so called ‘soft skills’ that are really important like time management and prioritising and using digital tech efficiently. How I want them to explore and make their own discoveries rather than listen to me drone on about the discoveries of others. How I want them to make connections between ideas, between observations, between contexts and subjects. Today I got onto the power of one because I was talking about diamonds being hard, so then diamond drills, then Peekay and Botha in the mines in power of one. Made perfect sense really.

And in thinking through this, it is interesting I got onto literature today, when I am struggling to find the words to express what I am wanting to achieve. I know what it feels like in my classroom – a purposeful hum of noise that ebbs and flows as discussions build up when there are questions or problems to be solved, a focused sort of energy, students critically questioning without fear of being wrong or mocked (gently mocked maybe….) and models being drawn or built or made, or practicals being designed rather than just carried out as per the instructions in the book.

And don’t get me wrong, I don’t always get there. Sometimes it turns into hell fire confusion with flaming curtains (literally with a particular yr 10 class one time) but when it works it is AWESOME. It is messy, hard to describe, loud and quiet, focused and random, and it is purposeful, meaningful learning.

I still don’t know how to put that into a unit plan.

Posted in Teaching and Learning

Letting it go…… with Yr 10 Staying Alive

I LOVE year 10 Science. There is more freedom (still have to do standard tests/assessments that all the other classes are doing and have the exams at the end of the year but there doesn’t seem to be the same pressure….)  and you can take a little bit of extra time to get to where you need to go. We are introducing the Science Capabilities into our curriculum this year and so we got an investigation in there as well.

So this year I decided to tackled this topic a little differently and want to make it more inquiry based for the students while still within the constraints of the shared assessment tasks. I explained to them that they could have a mixture of ‘me’ class time where we went over what was going to be assessed and ‘them’ class time where they could explore an idea or complete an investigation of their own. I didn’t really like the me and them terms, but couldn’t really think of anything better at the time – teacher lead vs student lead might have worked but sounded a bit OTT when I was talking to the class.

For the ‘me’ stuff, I made up a document with pretty much all the information on it they would need for their assessment. Learn that and pass the test type stuff. I emailed parents and let them know I had given some notes and there was additional info on the class ultranet page. A few parents requested access to this, so I re did the ultranet pages as OneNote pages so students and parents could access the info. And for most lessons, there would be 20-30 minutes of me time (whether it be a ‘lecture’ or an activity etc) and 30-40 minutes of their project time.

Students did a great job of working on their projects – and there were some outstanding learning throughout the unit. I learned some thing to – mostly around minecraft but also about brain function and memories, more about blood types, a little about diabetes. A group did some amazing work on Minecraft building a heart and lungs, a group made a prezi presentation, other groups just did an open end research project about the brain (they made a poster but talking to them they preferred just reading up about stuff), so group/individuals did a resources sheet or a revision sheet (think crosswords etc). One group made this video about the heart

The topic has ended and on the whole the students achieved very well in the end of topic test. A couple didn’t do so well, which lead to a good opportunity to talk about how we can work together to improve for next time – students identified a number of things that could help but a couple could definitely have done with a little more structure.

I surveyed the students to get there thoughts too. (NB, while I am Office 365 in most things and at a 365 school, google forms are awesome for a quick survey of students. I have signed up for the 365 forms preview, hopefully we get on board with it soon)

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So most students enjoyed the individual project – the show of hands for who wants one in the next topic showed this too – they definitely want to do another one.

I asked what could have made the project better…. most thought it was fine or had practical suggestions, but a small group thought this

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Which is a little soul destroying…. but also these are highly motivated students who want to do well. So for next time, I will maybe offer 5-6 topics that relate more to the assessment so students who wish to can chose those options – while gently reminding them that life isn’t all about assessments 🙂

The other interesting piece of feedback I got was this…

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Which reminded me about the POGIL talk from BioliveChemED last year which talked about the fact that students didn’t feel like they had learned anything unless the teacher had said it, even if they had worked it out doing the work themselves. So despite the fact that most students got top marks in both pieces of assessed work (or missed out for something silly like UNITS which they will remember next time) they still felt like they needed more of me up the front. The videos were a mixture of youtube clips and Office Mix clips I made, so next time I need to distinguish this better on my survey!! The ‘other’ suggestions included a practice test (fair call) and more homework sheets/structure around home work. I am going to think about the home work one – part of the idea of this was to get students to be more independent… but if they have identified the need for more structure, then maybe this counts….

So for the next topic (electricity) I am going to change it up slightly, and have 2 normal lessons and one inquiry/own learning lesson a week. I will still provide an information booklet/OneNote with all the notes and some extras as a ‘safety blanket’ for myself and them so that those who ask for more notes can copy them down from them. I am also going to make the homework option but have a lollipop or something when someone hands in 3 sheets for feedback as a middle ground I think. I’ll ask the class tomorrow what they think and go from there.

My last survey question was what do you want to learn about for electricity.

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I loved the question about lightning hitting the sea, can’t wait to see what my minecraft fans come up with, and LOVE LOVE LOVE that there is a history question in there too – we are going to have some fun. I can see another attempt with the Lord Kalvin water dropper happening and some maker stuff and some motors and ……

Have fun

 

Posted in Teaching and Learning

Tinkering

So, forever ago, I showed this in class when I was talking about ions and electric charge (I had been procrastinating the night before watching hunger games clips and ended up completely changing the lesson plans to talk about this)

I wondered if were even possible to do. At the time, we had a good discussion around it, and we went on to talk about static compared to current electricity etc.

Turns out, it is ‘totally possible’*  to do. The ‘device is called Lord Kelvins water dropper (or variations) and with the help of this clip

a student and I gave it a go after prize giving practice.

And it didn’t work……

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Which was a little vexing. We tried shifting the cans, altering the flow, drying the containers and using fresh water each time to ensure the water was earthed.

In the end there was one student and 3 teachers all pondering how we could get the bugger to go. So, despite the disappointment at no spark we still had a pretty cool discussion, I learned some physics and my student was involved in a conversation with teacher were he was equal. So even though it didn’t work, it was still an awesome learning experience for him, and some fun, learning and tinkering for all.

My solution is duck tape. So post exams, we are going to try again, but with duck tape like the other video has. Surely that will fix it – but will allow us to get the flow of water closer to the outside of the cans than the skewers could. I also wondered about cutting up some old steel gauzes to get a finer stream of water, or maybe hacking up some mesh from a sieve, although I’m not sure if that would have a coating on it.

But it was my first real attempt into a makerED type scenerio. It worked for me, but it was with one very keen student prepared to give up his free time. Not quite sure how I would upscale just yet…. Have to get the prototype working first 🙂

* like all physics experiments in my experience, they are all totally possible to do, I can just never seem to do them 🙂