Inserting a picture directly from the webcam of your computer into a Google Document is a, IMO, freaking powerfully simple strategy in the classroom. It was gone, but NOW IT'S BACK! YES! This feature embodies the kind of classroom technology I love: simple, efficient, and purposeful. Below are just a few of the many ways I have used this technique in my classroom:
Because I am completely obsessed with the revising my curriculum each year, I have always struggled with meaningfully integrated a textbook. Past integration efforts (homework, reading, classroom sets, etc.) represents moves I am ashamed of and weak spots in my pedagogy. My efforts weren't wrong per se, but I never invested the time, until now (I hope) over the past 17 years of teaching to critically think about how to integrate a text in meaningful, thoughtful ways. All attempts, to be completely honest, have been out of a fear of not being taken seriously by parents or students. Or, since we are on that topic, take seriously by myself (#impostercomplex). Below is what I plan on doing this year:
Click here to access the template.
Last week, in an effort to keep both my sections of Honors Chemistry moving at the same pace, I found myself with a day to spare in one section. With a unit on lab techniques, specifically titration, quickly approaching, my thought was to pre train this section on the specifics of the laboratory procedure.
Simultaneously, a more playful side of me wanted to bust out the MakeyMakeys from summer science camp and give students some time to explore conductivity, and tinker around a bit repurposing everyday materials to build something just for fun. Then it hit me: Why couldn't we do both?
Back to titration. Digital Drop Counters used to measure the precise volume titrant added to a flask are nearly $100 with the need for more complex software companions for reading data. This it hit me: Could we recreate a Drop Counter using MakeyMakey (along with the pH probes we already have) to simulate the tools we needed for a successful titration? Yes. Sort of! But super fun.
With the help of a few students we devised a simple workflow: First, students wrote a simple program using Scratch that counted clicks when the space bar was pressed. Then, using some fancy graduated cylinder action measured the approximate volume of 1 drop from our Burets, and added a variable to their program that also counted the volume (in mL) of liquid added along with drop number.
Then for the MakeyMakey! By positioning two wires (one connected to ground and the other to the space button on the MakeyMakey) above the Erlenmyer flask with just enough room for a single drop to complete the circuit, and adding some code to delay the click function for any drops that "stick" to the wires, we were able to accurately measure drops added! Finally something more than a video game controller or banana piano!
"Show Your Work!" by Austin Kleon was a very important book for me as an educator. Albeit short, and a bit polarizing, the book reminded me that it sharing the process of my work, not just products, and encouraging my students to do the same, can be a very powerful process if curated strategically.
Not all work is worth sharing, however an attitude of curating the journey towards a final product can yield excellent feedback and subsequently empower one's learning community. Keeping this in mind, I have decided to take Kleon's call to action a step beyond simple tweeting, blogging, and encouraging my students to keep blogs.
This coming year, I will be doing ALL OF MY LESSON PLANNING (classroom teaching AND science camps) on my public website: cyclesoflearning.com. Thus, my website will serve as our classroom LMS, and be an interactive space for all lesson prompts, links, documents ,etc. (Click here to be directed to specific sub page where lessons will be kept).
I am hopeful that this approach will not only share work I find effective with other colleagues, but also force me to organizes my work for students in a more user friendly fashion.
I am blessed to teach at a school that incorporates an "Intersession" program into the month of January. Upon returning from winter vacation, students sign up for a two-week-long, 9am-3pm, course of their choosing. Courses are offered by individual teachers and represent areas they are deeply passionate about and would not have time to expose students to during the normal school year. Courses spanned from Fly Fishing, to Mural Painting, to Molecular Gastronomy, to Virtual Reality and even a course designed to break as many Guinness Records as possible in two weeks. Needless to say, it is incredible to see what students can produce an do, when the pressure of grades are removed and students are given ten full days to slowly dive deep into a subject area.
Over the past two years, in addition to my role as a high school science instructor, I have have developed a growing passion for facilitating youth science camps. The MakeyMakey, given its simple implementation, and incredible potential for open-ended invention has always been an an important tool for sparking an interest in science and invention at my camps. See the two videos below to learn more about the intricacies and development of the MakeyMakey.
As is evident in the above videos, while it is an extremely flexible design tool, when introducing young students to the MakeyMakey it is very tempting for them to immediately begin designing video game controllers. While not inherently a bad thing, the potential for more meaningful invention is incredible. Keeping this in mind, I have always wanted to teach a class that leveraged the MakeyMakey as a tool to empower students with either severe physical or intellectual handicaps. The ability to repurpose everyday objects to interact differently with a keyboard, as well as the ability to program and interact with a myriad of different online modules using physical, tactile objects, opens up a world of possibilities for creating Assistive Technology.
My desire to develop such a course was amplified when I stumbled across this website and the below TEDx talk by educator Tom Heck.
Tom and his students brought to life the exact experience I was dying to create, and his website provided a detailed roadmap for how to make it happen! I immediately contacted Tom, and shared my ideas with him. Tom was gracious, excited to collaborate, and eager to discuss his process.
Back to Intersession. My growing passion for leveraging the MakeyMakey as an invention tool, interest in Assistive Technology development, and Tom's TEDx talk serendipitously overlapped at the right time and it was clear that Intersession would be a perfect opportunity to create such a course! After establishing a strong relationship with a local middle school teacher of exceptional students, a few months of brainstorming, I developed this course, and Assistive Technology devices that leveraged not only MakeyMakey, but also Arduino and Scratch, were created and delivered by a passionate team of 11 Sonoma Academy students. Needless to say, it was one of the most powerful two weeks of my career as an educator!
Below is a playlist with three videos captured when delivering the devices to students.
Below are a myriad of different pictures taken during the two-week Intersession course.