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 Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

New Onenote Addins (stickers, forms and immersive reader) are making me smile

I am already a big fan of Microsoft OneNote. My school uses OneNote with most of our classes, and our Science department in particular has shared Onenote resources stored on our share point site. We are using Microsoft Classroom, which makes the classnotebook really easy (as long as you go to the manage tab in classroom) and the students can always find them. Distributing work to the class, or groups of students is easy, and really helpful for setting relief. As we are not a BYOD school, the new addins for the online version of onenote are especially useful.  (On a side note, I am at times frustrated with the difference between OneNote desktop, the OneNote App and the online version… hopefully they might be all the same soon. Still love onenote though). Our students like OneNote because it keeps everything in the one place, and works well with the Office 365 suite of apps. So far I have had a play with stickers, the forms add in, and the online immersive reader.

Stickers

This tool is fun, and my juniors in particular love it. There are stickers that are customisable so you can tailor feedback. So while not super efficient, or super powered pedagogy, they are fun for the teacher and the students, who enjoyed seeing them on there work. Even the boys liked them 🙂

An example of the feedback I gave to students reflections on the topic. I also used the voice recording option with inking.

Forms addin

This is mostly just a time saver – it is really convenient to just click the button and add the form. If you have one already made up, you can slot it in there. Or you can make a new one. Making a new form opens a new tab – it would have been super nice to have it in the same side bar so you could look at the content on the page as you write the questions. That said, it is super easy to split the screen (especially on the surface) and get the same effect when writing the form.

I like using forms for quick formative assessment on content – it means I have more time to talk to students during class while still getting that data to inform my next teaching steps.

Immersive reader

I have already gushed about the learning tools function in OneNote and the other accessibility option that are coming for the Office 365 suite of software. But with this now being available in OneNote online (and word online) it is now so much more accessible for our students to use – again coming back to we are not BYOD so having the tools online is so valuable. They flexibility of this tool is amazing, with a click or two you can change background colour, font, font size and spacing, and highlight part of speech

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the tool captures the text on the page, and give you options to change it
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You can easily change the back ground colour and spacing
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There is a read aloud option, and you can make the voice go fast or slow
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You can also ID parts of speech

I am currently working with our RTLB (resource teacher – learning and behaviour) for how this tool can help students with learning difficulties access the material, and have been really impressed with how staff at my school are already using this tool (especially our ‘shop’ teacher who won’t let me specifically share his work, but he is doing amazing things with some of his students to help them get trade qualifications and a real sense of achievement and success)

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Getting Schooled

This year, I have a student who made the Olympiad training group. He sat the next round of selection exams last week. I have to say I am really proud of him, he has worked hard and independently, and has enjoyed the challenge.

But it has reminded my just how much I have forgotten. The Chemistry is essentially first year, and I just have had no idea. My Maths was as rusty as anything…. ratios and percentages should have been easy but I really struggled. I have tried to catch up, but time, time, TIME. Essentially, I thrust old text books at him, frantically googled tutorials when he wasn’t sure, sat and puzzled over problems through lunch times, and then admitted I needed more help and reached out to the amazing Dave Warren at Otago Uni. So this student now heads into the uni once a week to get the help and extension I couldn’t give him (I have to say, this is an AMAZING arrangement for him, and the uni seems really happy as well, so win win. And I got away with a minimum amount of paper work too…. Extra win).

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I used to be able to show mechanisms……. not any more

This experience has made me think on a few things.

  1. If you don’t need the learning then, it so easily forgotten. I used to be able to do that Chem with ease – but my chem papers where the best part of 15 years ago (sob). And it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to learn the second time round – perhaps I really did leave it too long. So I really need to make sure I make more of a point when I am trying to get students to commit details for NCEA exams to memory that I bring them up again and again through out the year – not just finish a topic and move on.
  2. Learning stuff in isolation is hard. Often sitting with this student, we will talk through and stumble onto the correct strategy or answer, when we have both failed to do so. So having a partner is crime is so valuable.
  3. Even for a moderately driven teacher like me, it is easy to get lazy. I did a 100 calculus paper 6 years ago to strengthen up my maths as part of PD from my last school. But then at my new school I haven’t taught maths, and all that knowledge is gone. Maybe not completely gone, but very deeply buried. So I need to get out of my comfort zone somehow to keep that skill set going.
  4. The content from the Olympiad is presented is a very old school dry way. I know it must be difficult to cater to such a diverse group, and cost is probably a factor too, but a thick printed off black and white ‘text’ is pretty hard going.

So how can I keep that knowledge I worked so hard to get? The old saying is ‘you use it or you lose it’ so do I really need that knowledge? In my ‘day to day’ teaching, obviously I hadn’t, but this is enormously frustrating when I find myself unable to push a student on to what they are capable of. Has my inadvertent ‘laziness’ limited my students and what they can achieve.

From these internal musings, I have come to the conclusion (with the help of the fabulous Paula) that more needs to be done to help isolated students and teachers who might not always have access to that next level of learning. The sole ‘nerdy’ kid in a school where the teacher is struggling to get the other 28 kids in the class to their A, M and E’s, and so just quietly ignores the one who is getting it without causing trouble, or maybe suggesting they do Hands on at Otago, or the Rotary Science camp in Auckland, or a competition or Science fair. And I am exploring some ways to do this….. Time or no time, there is a definite need.

And I am (again) re-evaluating what I need to do to make sure I can be the best teacher I can be. In this case, I need to brush up on my chemistry, to make sure the information I have forgotten is not negatively impacting my students. That my knowledge isn’t limiting theirs.

So I have been schooled by this experience. I need to make sure I am not just doing what I ‘need to’ and I keep pushing along above what I need to know.

Bring it

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

‘Wasting’ a friday afternoon

It is period five on a Friday and I have my Chemistry class. They are super engaged, collaborating, being creative and not doing any Chemistry.

The trigger was these kinex kit carousels that the year 7 class had made. They are doing a simple machines unit, and so had made the carousels to investigate gears.

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To be fair, the carousels are really cool. I had been playing with them on and off all day, each one has a different sized gear that means it spins around at a different speed.

So of course my year 12’s wanted to play with the kinex. And given we are where we need to be, I decided to run with it and say sure.

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It is still fascinating me as I sit here and type – they are soooo into them – especially the boys, although a couple of the girls have joined in. There was an interesting discussion about following the instruction versus using your imagination – or youtubing how to make something. There are rubber bands flying about as they test the rubber band guns that made, and go back and modify the design to see if they can make them go further. Cranes, tractors, wheels, guns, it is really nice to listen to the quiet hum of the class as they have fun and just have a play.

I don’t quite know how to get the same enthusiasm for exam revision… I wish I did. But for now, it is nice to be having a fun friday P5 with some engaged students – even if ewe aren’t doing exactly what we should be.

Maybe that is why it is so good 🙂

Posted in random ramblings

Can you tell that to my parents….

Today I was having a ‘pep’ talk with my yr 11 science class about their practice exams in 2 weeks. About how they really need to give them a good go so that 1) they know how much more of a good go they need to put in and the end of the year and 2) if they honestly give it a good go and it goes to custard, we have some time to try and find some different strategies for them to achieve success in the externals.

It lead to an interesting discussion around ‘why do we do so much other stuff in yr 9 and 10 – really we just need to start working for NCEA exams then’. When a student said this, I died a little inside. Part of it was justified in a way – the ‘extension’ yr 10 class has the opportunity to sit some L1 stuff in yr 10. So a kid in the not extension class was feeling aggrieved that as a ‘not smart kid’, why was he given less opportunities to get his credits? He kind of has a point from his point of view, which was further soul destruction.

I rebutted with learning to learn, scaffolding, maturity levels, having some fun etc and also ‘it isn’t all about the credits you know…’. To which, one kid replied

‘Can you tell that to my parents please.’

All of my kids in this class (I’m lucky, it is a small class) are awesome human beings. Many already have part times jobs doing this or that, some are in the senior sports teams or are involved with cultural groups. They have learned this year to question and challenge (in part the reason for this discussion…..). I have no doubt they will all go on and be perfectly reasonable contributing members of society…. whether they pass L1 sci or not. But they, their families and perhaps even me at the moment are all about the credits.

Of course, credits do effect subject choices, and we spent some time talking about what entry requirements there are etc. I also talked about how L2 is a step up (especially for Chemistry, many of our students struggle for the first little bit in yr 12….). Some kids are already altering their career choices because this or that subject it too hard, or I’m going to take that english course because it has no externals. And it seems that all of their parents are at them about getting down to work and getting some credits.

So I don’t know what the best practice is here? Do I back off and give them space? Keep up the pep talks (I’m so sick of myself….) What is the purpose of these exams? I mean, what are the kids learning? But it is part of my job to get these kids passing the damn things – I even got asked today if it reflected badly on me if they failed (I said I got paid regardless and valued them more as people than exam stats… not sure how much they believed me….)

And how do I stop having these conversations with myself. Despite my best efforts and trying some different approaches, push has now come to shove, and the credit hunt is on. I am lecturing these kids on how to get through the exams 😦

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It is only a little comforting to know that regardless of credits, these kids will be ok. They are good kids. I guess that is really what I should be telling their parents…. and what I need to keep telling myself

Posted in NAPP2016, Professional learning, random ramblings

My thoughts on leadership

For the last year or so I have been trying to build a picture in my head of what leadership looks like for me. I’ve done some readings, listened to some amazing speakers, bounced ideas of amazing leaders and educators and watched some youtube clips and TED talks. They all were great, but still didn’t quite fit.

The idea of self was hard for me. All through out NAPP we have been asked ‘who are you, and what do you value?’. I kind of brushed over it with an awkward feeling – what exactly is my ‘moral purpose’? Who am I to ask/demand these things?

But part of my roll is around leading change. And I think I’ve finally got an idea of what I want my leadership to look like

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Ko Rakaia te awa

My river is the Rakaia

My river is the Rakaia because my family has a crib at the south side of the river mouth. I grew up on holidays there, fishing for whitebait and salmon, swimming in some of the creeks, being terrified of the waves from the sea (the drop of along that stretch of coast is crazy) and hearing of stories of flood and destruction. It fills me with sadness that my son might not get to see pods of Hectors Dolphins skimming the waves after Kawhai like I did as a child. My Grandfather spent countless hours constructing flood protection along the banks to stop the Rakaia huts getting flooded. Every time I drive home from Dunedin to Christchurch, I cross over the bridge and look at the water – is it high or low? rough or like glass? Multiple braids, or a solid stream. I am linked to this river more than I realised as a young person – we moved house, I moved cities, but the crib has always stayed the same and the awe inspiring power of the water still fascinates me.

I want my leadership to look like the Rakaia river.

Multiple sources feed into the river, contributing diverse ideas. The river might separate out into individual streams, develop eddy’s (thanks again to Karen Hopai for this idea) that can either suck ideas under or propel ideas forwards. At times, the river is sluggish and slow, other times rapid and raging. The river comes together only once in the journey from the mountains, at the Gorge, before it all streams out again finding a unique path to the sea.

Care is needed to ensure the river does not become a flood or a tidal wave that people become afraid of and can also wash away a lot of good things that are happening. Or that people will put up barriers to protect what they deem as essential or what are genuinely to good to throw away. A lack of ideas and input would dry up the rivers flow. Taking to much from the river will also dry the rivers flow so we need to carefully nurture and respect each individual drop on water.

The water also shapes the landscape around it, carrying rocks and earth and nutrients, hosting multiple lives along the length. It provides enjoyment, sustenance and occasional danger along its banks. Occasionally new paths and streams are forged, either by a flood of water in a hurry, or water gently carving away at a bank, or water building up due to some obstacle. And it might so happen that that direction is not as fruitful as first thought, and the water needs to change course again, either in a flood or bit by bit.

But all of the water, no matter the path it takes, eventually reaches the ocean. The rivers goal is clear – doesn’t matter how you get there and what uncertain paths you take, the water gets to the ocean. Which is where another fabulous idea that I learned this year comes in (thanks to Judith Forbes for sharing this at the Dunedin NAPP day)

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The challenge for me is to not be the ‘Tsunami’ and allow people to find their own path. Respect that people will take a different route and maybe a different speed. If I can encourage people to ‘long’ for a more meaningful education for our young people that empowers them to become better citizens of this world, it doesn’t matter if they take a slightly different path.

‘ I took the one less travelled by, and it has made all the difference’ (Frost). So long as the end goal is the same, it doesn’t matter what path you take.