New, SIMPLIFIED, Student Portfolio System (or "feeling the fear of not being 'innovative' enough this year")
In past years I always had students create either a blog or a website to publicly share their work and curate their progress. Click here for an example.
While I believe deeply in students archiving their work in a public space, after reading Show Your Work, an outstanding book by Austin Kleon, I began to put an incredible amount of pressure on myself to empower students to create beautiful space to showcase their work.
In short, I lost track of the pedagogy, in replace for aesthetics. It's not Austin's fault. It's mine. Please read his book, it's hecka inspiring.
I reflected on the lack of improved student metacognition despite my enhanced portfolio systems, and student comments such as "Do we have to do another portfolio post. I never look at it...".
I began to ask myself: What really actually works? (in my classroom, with MY students).
I remembered another comment from one student specifically: "Can we just put everything we did in this topic in a Google Slide presentation. It's SO much easier to include pictures and videos...".
My initial reaction to this statement was one of hesitation.
No way! Kleon calls us to share our work in a space we are proud of. Nobody is going to look at your Google Slides! Your work needs be in a beautiful website to be taken seriously!
Again, aesthetics before pedagogy. Not a good choice.
This year, I am putting down my tired attempts at doing what I think is the most "innovative" approach, and following my gut regarding what I feel and my students feel is the most impactful!
I am taking my students advice.
I created a Google Slide template for each unit, including spaces for students to link all of their major work (Labs, Case Studies, etc.) and a template for built in student reflection.
Click here to access the Google Slide portfolio template, and click here to access our class website which will house "view only" version os the portfolios.
Yes, not as beautiful as Weebly, SquareSpace, WIX, or even the NEW Google Sites. Ironically however, in just two days of class, I am already noticing a shift in student focus on the project at hand, and not where or how they report it.
And...in the end...nothing is stopping us from embedding their Google Slides in a beautiful website. Wink.
I have written before about my use of medical case studies as entry points to inquiry cycles in my Biology class. Although a powerful way of forcing awareness of an information gap on various topics and bringing, "real life" problem solving to the classroom, this process also forces students to confront their fear of public speaking and ability to create a concise, clear, and engaging presentation to their peers.
In the past I leveraged student presentations sparingly. Here and there when it was appropriate to share but nothing that formal. Medical case study diagnosis in Biology has forced me to think about the how I how I train students to give good presentations. I LOVE my students, but man...sometimes sitting through a challenging presentation full of overused animations and bullet points [God forbid Comic Sans] can be painful.
Enter "Death by PowerPoint" by Comedian Don McMillian (see below). I stumbled across Don's incredible comedy sketch accidentally and found myself laughing hysterically! Then it hit me...Don's presentation was the RUBRIC I WAS LOOKING FOR! Simple, clear, and a fun way to share my expectations with students before class presentations in a way that wasn't me yapping at them about what a bad presentation looks like.
I took it one step further and converted Don's bit into a "Dead or Alive" scoring Rubric. Click here for your copy!
If you found the information in this message useful to your practice, I invite you to learn more about becoming a site member. Monthly membership includes, but is not limited to, frequent distributions of detailed online video courses, lesson plans, teaching websites, curricular resources, and access to webinars exploring the world of curiosity, inquiry and technology in the classroom. Additionally, you can find a copy of my new book, "Spark Learning: 3 Keys to Embracing the Power of Student Curiosity" here.
* Click here if your are not familiar with the MakeyMakey
#1: Assistive Technology Development
If you found the information in this message useful to your practice, I invite you to learn more about becoming a site member. Monthly membership includes, but is not limited to, frequent distributions of detailed online video courses, lesson plans, teaching websites, curricular resources and access to video webinars exploring the world of curiosity, inquiry and technology in the classroom.
1. Use a Learning Cycle Template. (click here for an example)
Lesson planning can be an empowering, but also arduous process. New teachers often fall into the trap (as did I) of lesson planning day by day, often losing site of the lesson's big picture. In my recent book, Spark Learning: 3 Keys to Empowering the Power of Student Curiosity, I note the serendipitous connection between the 5E Inquiry Learning Cycle, and then traditional cycle of the Hero's Journey as outlined by Joseph Campbell. The above template, designed with the 5E/Hero's Journey connection in mind, can help streamline and empower the lesson design process by providing a more holistic approach, empowering us to lesson plan in chunks, with a focus on student curiosity, and leveraging lecture as a responsive, rather than directive tool. The template also provides a structured space to outline necessary tech interventions at each step, promoting pedagogy, before technology.
2. Leverage a Google Slide Template to Collect Student Work (click here for an example).
As a science teacher, collecting, curating and grading student work during and after various class activities (labs, projects, etc.) can be a complicated process. Over the years I have tinkered with using paper notebooks, type written lab reports and a myriad of tech interventions to empower this process (Evernote, Google Docs, Google Science Journal, etc) . Each method has had its benefits and drawbacks, ultimately simplifying some steps in the process, but overcomplicating others for students. Although not as aesthetically appealing or as "innovative" on first glance, Google Slides allows for easy text editing, photo inclusion, table production, and video embedding, four features that are essential to student documentation of work. Moreover, upon conclusion of the year, students can then embed each presentation in a Google Site, creating a very simple, self-curated portfolio of work.
3. Teach from a Website (click here for an "in progress" example).
Much like the the collection of student work noted above, many different options for structuring how the information is presented to students in class exists. I have tinkered with teaching from slide decks (PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides, etc.), printing handouts (my least favorite), and the every popular, "just winging it", method that I embraced for my entire first year of teaching. As is evident from this blog post, I value simplifying the process for myself and students. Keeping this mind, I have transitioned to a system where unit plans are transported from my template (see #1 above), to a website. By using a website for class "presentation", teaching can be done using any device with internet access, and in a one-to-one environment Google Documents can be linked with various tasks and information, but sharing permissions can be altered to promote the gradual release of content that inquiry learning values.
If you found the information in this blog post useful to your practice, I invite you to learn more about becoming a site member! Launching on July 15th, site subscription include, but is not limited to, monthly distributions of detailed online video courses, lesson plans, and access to video webinars all exploring the world of curiosity, inquiry and technology in the classroom.
Slowly but surely, my Biology class has transitioned from a typical high school class with a focus on the "Double Helix" and mechanics of "Mitosis" to a class that leverages such structures and processes to tackle human disease and illness. Essentially, a Medial Biology class. I am blessed to teach at a school that allows me this freedom. A huge focus of the course has been leveraging student diagnosis of medical case studies as entries into inquiry cycles. For example, our unite on Cellular Respiration began with students diagnosing a patient with Type II Diabetes. Click here for our class website which contains templates for all case studies.
Given this approach, it is natural that our typical class text book does not serve my/our needs anymore. Although images and vocabulary related to such things as Cellular Respiration and DNA are nicely represented in the text, my current pedagogy catalyzed more questions about the current state of diagnosis, research and disease pathology. To this end, I found myself curating journal articles for students to read rather than assigning reading fro the text. Although the literacy skills of 9th graders makes this process challenging, feedback from them has indicated that they enjoy the challenge and actual scenarios so long as the reading is not "too long". I love 9th graders!
Next year I plan to structure and pre-curate articles for them to read. I have played around with many different ways of doing this, and have decided that including them in one spreadsheet would be best. This way, students can make a copy of the sheet, share it with me, and then in ONE PLACE they can have the article link, a place to summarize their reading, and a place for me to offer feedback. Although a google form submission, or a website with embedded pdfs for example, sounds nice, the accountability and simplicity associated with all work being in one place, in my mind, will decrease Extraneous Cognitive Load while also creating a single, easily visible resource. Click here for the current template. Note, it's a work in progress and the plan is to stock this sheet with all the readings. See a screenshot below.